By Mridubha Kumar
While Novak Djokovic broke Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal domination in men’s tennis, a new star was born in the women’s tennis, Petra Kvitova. The most consistent team of the Bryan Brothers set an array of records in doubles, while tennis “Expresses” parted ways. Here’s a look at the highlights of the 2011 season:
The Serbian blitzkrieg!
Just when tennis had become a battle of supremacy between Federer and Nadal, out of the shadow arrived Djokovic! The Serbian wrecked havoc on his rivals as he made the 2011 season virtually a one-man show. Djokovic started the year by winning the Australian Open, beat then top-ranked Nadal in four straight ATP Masters finals as he built up a 41-0 winning streak. The Serb ultimately fell just one win short of John McEnroe’s record set in 1984, when Federer beat him at the French Open semifinals. But Djokovic hit back by beating Nadal to win the Wimbledon final and dethroned the Spaniard as the new World No.1, the first Serbian male to achieve that feat. Djokovic capped off a spectacular year by clinching the US Open title, thus denying Nadal in a title clash for the sixth time in the year. His 10 titles and a 70-6 win-loss record see ‘Djoker' head into the 2012 season 4,035 ATP points ahead of second-ranked Nadal.
Like Djokovic, there was another fairytale being scripted on the WTA circuit. Petra Kvitova took the world by storm when she won the 2011 Wimbledon by beating former champion Maria Sharapova for her first-ever Grand Slam title. Kvitova finished a dream year with six titles, including the WTA Championships which lifted her to No. 2 in the world. She also led the Czech Republic to their first Fed Cup win in 23 years when they beat Russia in the final in November.
Li-Hesh back on track, but only just!
Indian veterans Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes joined hands once again to play doubles on the ATP tour after nine years. The two started the year by winning the Chennai Open and then finished runners-up at the Australian Open. However, inconsistency got the better of them from there on, though they managed to win the Miami and Cincinnati Masters. The duo made a startling announcement of parting ways at the end of the year. That was followed by the Indo-Pak Express of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi splitting as well, with Bopanna choosing to partner Bhupathi in 2012, keeping the London Olympics in mind.
Li Na ends China’s Grand Slam drought
After ending as runner-up at the Australian Open, some consistent tennis paid rich dividends for Li Na. She finally grabber her slice of history at the French Open to become China's first-ever Grand Slam singles champion with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/0) victory over Francesca Schiavone.
Nadal rules on clay again
After being bruised and battered by Djokovic repeatedly, Nadal showed once again that clay is his turf. The Spaniard beat Federer 7-5, 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 6-1 to equal Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles. Prior to the French Open, Nadal had also bettered his own record for consecutive titles at a single tournament by winning a seventh Monte Carlo Masters crown before he lost to Djokovic in Rome and Madrid.
Sam proves her worth
It was long due but better late than never as Samantha Stosur claimed her first Grand Slam title at the US Open with a sensational 6-2, 6-3 victory over Serena Williams. Serena had not dropped a set on her way to the final but could not replicate that form in the final against big-hitting Stosur, who became the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.
Indo-Pak Express joins the Masters club
Bopanna and Pakistan star Qureshi finally won their first-ever ATP Masters tournament by taking the Paris Masters crown. The two beat French wild cards Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut 6-2, 6-4 for their third title of the season, having also won the Gerry Weber Open at Halle and the Stockholm Open.
It was perhaps the most disappointing year of his career for Federer until he clawed his way back to prove he is still one of the best in the business. It was the first time since 2002 that the Swiss ace failed to win a Grand Slam event in a year. Surprisingly, he made the final in just one, but he made up for it with a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title, his 70th career title in his 100th career final. Federer beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in the final. But en route to the final, he beat Nadal 6-3, 6-0, a win that must have given him a lot of confidence. Federer came to London with back-to-back titles in Basel and Paris Masters and with this win, he ended the year on a 17-match winning streak, moving back to third in world rankings.
Sania-Elena, what a year!
When Sania Mirza teamed up with Russian Elena Vesnina for the first time at the Dubai Open in February, not many would have imagined the partnership would take the WTA circuit by storm. The Indo-Russian duo captured two Premier- level events at Indian Wells and Charleston, finished runners-up at the French Open and semi-finalists at Wimbledon. As a result, they moved up to second in WTA teams’ rankings. The Indian ace then broke into the doubles top-10 for the first time after the US Open. Unfortunately, a knee injury ended her 2011 season and jeopardized their participation at the WTA Championships.
The unstoppable Bryans
2011 was a special year for American twins Bob and Mike Bryan. The duo leveled the Open era record of 11 Grand Slam doubles titles, shared with Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, by winning their second Wimbledon. They took their team total to an Open Era record 75 titles, clinched the year-end No. 1 team ranking for a record seventh time in nine seasons and broke John McEnroe’s record of 270 weeks as World No. 1 with both tied at the top in the individual doubles rankings on December 12.
Spain win fifth Davis Cup title
Nadal led Spain to their fifth Davis Cup title by seeing off a determined challenge from Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in the first reverse singles rubber in Seville. Nadal came from a set down to secure a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7/0) win which saw Spain beat Argentina 3-1 in the final. The world No. 2 had beaten Juan Monaco, while David Ferrer had beaten Del Potro in the singles rubbers. Argentina managed to win the doubles with David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank beating Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco.
By Mridubha Kumar