Serena Williams and Andy Murray cap off their successful summers — The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
He had to wait an extra day for it, but on Monday night, Andy Murray got the monkey off his back and did what no other British man had done since Fred Perry back in 1936 – he won a major singles title. A lot of things went right for the Scot that fortnight. Nadal withdrew, Berdych took care of Federer, he got one more day’s rest than Djokovic, but most importantly of all, his game was firing on all cylinders. This was particularly important in the latter rounds of the tournament as the blustery winds made for tricky conditions. He handled those conditions better than Berdych, and he certainly coped better than Djokovic in the championship match. After a finals appearance at Wimbledon and gold-winning performance in the Olympics, Murray’s victory in New York made for the perfect way to cap off his summer. His US Open run puts him at No. 3 in the rankings, firmly cementing his place in what can now truly be called “The Big Four.”
Keep on Rolling
The “Summer of Serena” reached what many felt was its inevitable conclusion when she won the 2012 US Open. As she did at the Olympics, Serena steamrolled the competition up until the final where she ran into current No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. After the first set, it appeared that the American would continue her domination, however, the Belarusian found her game while Serena’s started to go awry. But as she has so often done in the past, Serena hung around to force her opponent to beat her, and in the end, a combination of Serena’s winners and Azarenka’s errors saw her come back to claim her fifteenth major singles title. It’s up in the air whether or not she’ll go for No. 1 to end her year, but if Serena continues to stay motivated, it’s going to be a tall order to knock her out of any event next season.
They both came up short in Flushing, but applause should be awarded to the singles finalists at this year’s US Open. Though it had to hurt given how poorly she played the game when serving for the championship, Azarenka has much to be proud of. She fought through two tight three-setters against both Stosur and Sharapova before bowing out to Serena, and she showed her tenacity, as well as the all-court game she’s continuing to develop. She’s had a great season, and it would be surprising if she didn’t add to that in 2013. As for Djokovic, after 2011, 2012 was bound to be a letdown. But let’s not forget that he did win a major down in Australia, reached the finals of Roland Garros in addition to his US Open run, and it was a good effort by him to push Murray to five in the final. He’ll need to work on his attitude and game to better adjust to tricky conditions, like wind, but expect him to have a great next year. Congrats are also in order for the Bryan Brothers for setting an Open Era record of 12 majors with their win in New York, as well as the Italian duo of Errani and Vinci, who grabbed their second major doubles title of 2012.
The ATP Board of Directors is doing a three-month trial of no-let serving at the Challenger level, but the bigger news story is their plan to implement a new penalty structure for time violations at the most elite level of the game next season. Under the new system, players who take longer than the allotted 25 seconds will first be given a warning. Any further violations over the course of a match will result in a fault call if the player is the server and a point penalty if the player is the returner. As most time violations in men’s tennis tend to be committed by the server, presumably the change to call a fault rather than a point penalty is designed to encourage chair umpires to enforce the rule more frequently, knowing that the penalty isn’t as stiff or as likely to result in an outright break of serve. It’s good to see the ATP attempting to respond to a growing issue, but when it really counts, hopefully the officials will enforce this altered rule, irrespective of the rank of the violator.
Professional tennis lost Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick during the US Open, and it will lose another come the Valencia Open. On Wednesday, 2003 Roland Garros Champion Juan Carlos Ferrero announced he will retire at the conclusion of his home event. Injuries have kept the Spaniard from competing and performing at his best the last few years, so it wasn’t a shock when he stated that his injuries and the inevitable lack of ambition that comes with them led him to his decision. There will be more discussion on the accomplishments of Ferrero when he officially walks away from the game next month, but it’s worth noting how his announcement just further underscores how great the game has been the past decade. Every season sees its share of retirements, but this time feels just a little different with Clijsters, Roddick, and now Ferrero (with Hewitt possibly to follow) hanging up their racquets. They may not have been in the same league as Serena or Federer, but they are all great champions who made the game fun, and they will all be greatly missed.