I’ve highlighted some of the best players, moments and matches from the 2018 tennis season for recognition.
There’s also plenty of stupid stuff for you to enjoy as you read on the toilet.
Let’s dive right in…
Players Of The Year (ATP & WTA)
Novak Djokovic & Simona Halep
Djokovic rose from a ranking of 22 in June to top spot at year-end thanks to back-to-back majors (Wimbledon, US Open), two Masters 1000 titles (Cincinnati and Shanghai, and a couple of finals in Paris and London (ATP Finals).
Meanwhile, Halep copper-fastened her standing as world no.1 with a first major triumph in Paris, cups from Shenzhen and Montréal and a run to the Australian Open final.
Young Players of the Year (ATP & WTA)
Alex Zverev & Daria Kasatkina
Zverev beat Roger Federer and Djokovic to capture the biggest title of his burgeoning career (ATP Finals) and is the clear ATP choice here.
Like Zverev, Kasatkina is 21 but while the German boasts formidable power, the Russian relies on intelligence and feel to pay the bills. Alongside a title in Moscow, ‘Dasha’ made the final of Indian Wells and the last eight at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Breakthrough Players (ATP & WTA)
Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka, Karen Khachanov & Stefanos Tsitsipas
Osaka made the biggest statement of this group with her dominant performances in Indian Wells and Flushing Meadows.
Aryna Sabalenka, another WTA prospect with heaps of power, looks certain to join Osaka at the peak while Khachanov and Tsitsipas had superb campaigns on the ATP Tour.
Matches Of The Year (ATP & WTA)
Djokovic defeats Nadal 6-4 3-6 7-6 3-6 10-8 (Wimbledon semi-final) & Osaka def. Sabalenka 6-3 2-6 6-4 (US Open fourth round).
These two magnificent clashes went the distance and showed us the best of their competitors. Osaka and Sabalenka began a rivalry that will light up the WTA while the final set of Djokovic v Nadal is one of the greatest spectacles I’ve seen.
A Match Only Fr. Stone Could Love
Kevin Anderson def. John Isner 7-6 6-7 6-7 6-4 26-24 (Wimbledon semi-final)
They say in certain time zones, this match is still going on. The match took so long (396 minutes) to complete that the tournament organisers decided to change the fifth set rules so that it can’t be repeated in future.
Shellackings Of The Year
Aliaksandra Sasnovich & Kei Nishikori
Ever deliver a presentation with your fly open? Well relax, even professional tennis players have shocking days at the office. Poor Aliaksandra was handed a double bagel by Osaka at the US Open while Kei might as well have played with a spoon as he lost 11 games in a row against Kevin Anderson at the ATP Finals.
I guess I didn’t feel the ball today, said the Japanese after losing 0-6 1-6.
Meltdown of the Year
Benoit Paire at the Washington Open
In the space of a minute, the Frenchman netted a smash, fell on his arse, smashed three racquets, kicked a chair and received a point penalty. Fine work all round.
The…Oh…This Is…Awkward Award
Ken Rosewall burns Dominic Thiem after French Open final
After the Austrian lost in straight sets to King Rafa, he probably thought the worst was over in Paris. Then a microphone was handed to Aussie legend Ken Rosewall during the trophy ceremony:
“The match today, I think, like everybody, we would have liked to see a few more sets. Rafa was just a little bit too good and Dominic was a little bit disappointing in his own game today,” said Rosewall.
Cue shot of Thiem’s face on the giant screen as we all tugged our collars Simpsons-style.
Best Outfit Of The Year
Roger Federer at the Australian Open & Simona Halep at Roland Garros
Federer captured his 20th major in Melbourne sporting a classy white kit with subtle River Plate-style stripes. At Roland Garros, Halep looked every inch the world class athlete in turquoise as she grabbed her first major.
Worst Outfit Of The Year
Nike men’s gear (Various events)
I’m not sure which outfit I disliked more: Grigor Dimitrov’s pink liquorice nightmare (Australian Open), Juan Martin del Potro’s ugly pink & black gear (Miami) or the crazy orange/navy getup that the Next Gen wore at the US Open. I’ll choose all of them so.
Nick Kyrgios Moment Of The Year
With Kyrgios a set and 0-3 down to Pierre Hugues-Herbert in the 2nd round of the US Open, it looked as though a coat would soon be required on court 17. Nick was drifting out of the tournament … so umpire Mohamed Lahyani decided to step in.
Lahyani popped down from his stoop and gave Kyrgios a pep talk in the manner of Vince Lombardi. The Aussie went on to win the match and Lahyani was later suspended for two ATP tournaments as a result of his well intended, but highly unusual, intervention.
Player/Umpire Exchange of the Year
Serena Williams and Carlos Ramos during the US Open final
Of course it’s THAT outburst. Some of the lines would work in a screenplay:
“Code violation: coaching. Warning Mrs. Williams”
“I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose!”
“Code violation: racquet abuse. Point penalty Mrs. Williams”
“You owe me an apology!”
“You are a liar!”
“You stole a point from me. You’re a thief too!”
“Code violation: verbal abuse. Game penalty Mrs Williams,”
Osaka won by the way…
And Finally…Weird Exchange of the Year
Fernando Verdasco & Thanasi Kokkinakis on court at the Miami Masters plus Nick Kyrgios on Twitter.
During a third round match in Miami between Verdasco and Kokkinakis, the Spaniard was disgruntled with the behaviour of a spectator and this disrupted Kokkinakis’s service motion.
A lengthy row ensued between the players as they tried to work out who the culprit was. Then this happened:
FV to TK: “I’m not trying to disrespect you. I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the guy in the crowd”.
TK: “No, he wasn’t disrespecting you. It’s my dad. It’s my dad. So it’s affecting me”
FV: “No, it’s not your dad. It’s the guy on the left. It’s not your dad.”
TK: “Which one?”
FV: “The one on the left with the hat, sorry”
TK: “Which hat?”
FV: “With the glasses”
TK: “That’s my f#cking dad!”
During the match, Kokkinakis’s mate Kyrgios tweeted ‘I hope TK wins this match, Verdasco is the saltiest dude, must be frustrated at his past success against Aussies,’ and later deleted it.
After the match, which he won, Verdasco replied on Twitter with:
@NickKyrgios when you have the courage to put a tweet insulting another player you need to have the same to don’t delete it.
— Fernando Verdasco (@FerVerdasco) March 26, 2018
And finally from Kyrgios
I would honestly have told it to Fernando’s face, the reason I deleted my previous tweet was because I didn’t want to cause unwanted attention, but I’m just gonna leave this here. Thanks for blocking me, I’m sure that took a lot of courage x
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) March 26, 2018
It makes you imagine what would have happened if Twitter existed when John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl played!