The 2017 tennis season will certainly live long in the memory with no shortage of thrills, spills and surprises.
Players at the top of their game at the start of the year have slipped down the rankings, while there have been plenty of comeback kings and queens, in what has been a truly unpredictable 12 months.
No member of the top-five at the end of 2016 is in the top-five now, while only two members of last season’s top-five WTA stars (Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova) have ended inside that bracket again.
Rafael Nadal and Halep ended the season at world No. 1, but they certainly didn’t have things their own way throughout the year…
World No. 1: Nadal
Australian Open: Federer
French Open: Nadal
US Open: Nadal
Davis Cup: France
World No. 1: Halep
Australian Open: S. Williams
French Open: Ostapenko
US Open: Stephens
Fed Cup: USA
Here we take a look back at some of the best and worst moments and honour the heroes and villains of an unforgettable 2017…
Most Impressive Grand Slam win: Serena Willams – Australian Open
Honourary mentions to Federer’s crusade to beat many formidable opponents – many of which were in five-setters, and for Nadal for winning his TENTH Roland Garros crown, but come on guys… Serena was pregnant!
She downed her sister Venus in the final while she was lugging an eight-week old foetus around in her womb. What a hero!
Biggest Shock: Jelena Ostapenko’s French Open win
The young Latvian stunned the world to win her first Grand Slam title, becoming the first unseeded Roland Garros champion since Margaret Scriven in 1933.
Downing Halep in the final 4-6 6-4 6-3, Ostapenko became the first player from her country to win a major, having never even won a WTA title before. Amazing.
Villain of the Year: Bernard Tomic
Honourable mentions go to the idiocy of Dan Evans for his cocaine ban and the vitriol spouting of Ilie Nastase, but Tomic really wound the tennis community up with his actions throughout the year.
For those working hard every day to reach the top of a sport they love, it must be infuriating that a player with so much talent describes playing at one of the pinnacle events of any career as ‘boring’.
His ranking has now dipped to 142 and if he continues in this vein, it will only continue to slide further.
Best Breakout Season: Denis Shapovalov
The world got a rude introduction to the young Canadian during a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain at the start of the year, when he spanked a ball at umpire Arnaud Gabas’ face.
But boy did he turn his season around. Shapovalov stormed to the fourth round of the US Open, having come through qualifying, and became the youngest ATP star to break the top-50 since Nadal. A serious talent!
Shambles of the Year: Wimbledon scheduling
Not Wimbledon’s finest year.
Booting eventual champion Garbine Muguruza out onto Court 2 to take on 2016 runner-up Angelique Kerber was nothing short of a disgrace, while the organisational skills (or lack of) that saw Novak Djokovic unable to take on Adrian Mannarino despite Centre Court sitting empty for hours on end was just baffling.
With the courts also below-par for much of the fortnight, there’s plenty of work to be done going forward…
Match of the Year: Jo Konta v Simona Halep (Wimbledon QF)
Wimbledon may not have been at its best on an organisational front, but Johanna Konta’s match-up with Simona Halep was a real delight.
A great spectacle of attack vs defence, the Brit ultimately triumphed 6-7 7-6 6-4 to reach the semi-finals of her home Slam.
Most Improved: Alexander Zverev
There’s plenty of work to do for the young German at the majors, but to have two Masters 1000 titles under your belt at the age of 20 is no mean feat.
When you consider he’s beaten Djokovic and Federer in those finals, it’s been a serious step up in top-level performances for Zverev.
Disappointments of the Year: Novak Djokovic/Andy Murray
This is no particular slight on either of them given their injury problems, but when you consider they started the season as the top-two ranked players and the dominant forces in tennis, to win only three relatively minor titles between them was rather disappointing.
Their lack of form and fitness saw them set up just one clash against this season’s top-two ATP stars Federer and Nadal – where Djokovic was beaten comfortably by the Spaniard in Madrid – which meant there was a disappointing return of ‘Big Four’ contests.
Comebacks of the Year: Petra Kvitova/Sloane Stephens
Two of the feel-good stories of the season without a doubt.
Kvitova was the victim of a horrific knife attack in her home in December, which saw her need surgery on her playing hand, and somehow returned some five months later at the French Open.
The Czech then went on to win the Aegon Classic in Birmingham just a month after to complete a fairy tale return.
While Stephen’s absence was not on the same level of sheer horror, the American’s own comeback was simply remarkable.
A foot injury had ruled her out for a year and saw her ranking drop to 957 by the end of July.
But she stormed back through the summer and incredibly won her home Slam at the US Open to end the season just outside the top-10.
Best Moment: Roger Federer’s Australian Open win
Without a Grand Slam title in five years and returning to the tour aged 35 after six months away with a knee injury, it’s fair to say many had written Federer’s chances off before the start of the year.
But, as ever, the Swiss upset the odds and overcame an incredibly tough draw – and plenty of five setters – to see off old foe Nadal and win his 18th Grand Slam title.
His emotional response was a sign of just how much it meant to one of the true greats of all sports.
Funniest Moment: Rafael Nadal’s unfortunate head hit
The action just keeps on coming…
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 10, 2017
Nadal is a man of strict routine but he was a victim of his own preparation ahead of his fourth-round match at Wimbledon.
Just before heading onto court to face Gilles Muller, the world No. 1 jumped up and gave his head an almighty whack off a door frame.
To add insult to injury, he went out in five sets…!
Worst Moment: Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ injury
Mattek-Sands ( ESPN) pic.twitter.com/HK8q3HfFc5
— Ilya Ryvlin (@ryvlin) July 6, 2017
Her panicked cries of ‘help me’ won’t be forgotten quickly after suffering the cruelest of injuries at Wimbledon.
The 32-year-old dislocated her knee and ruptured her patellar tendon during a singles match against Sorana Cirstea in innocuous fashion.
While the injury was painful enough, the fact she was chasing her fourth consecutive Grand Slam title with doubles partner Lucie Safarova.
Player of the Season: Rafael Nadal
The undisputed player of the year, Nadal won two Grand Slam titles and became the oldest player to end a season as world No. 1.
His 10th Roland Garros title was the obvious highlight, particularly having been without a Slam since 2014, while his clay-court season as a whole was near faultless.
More: Andy Murray
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