Top fives 2012

The tennis review takes a look at the top five winners and losers of tennis 2012.

Let’s start with the winners:
1. The ATP and WTA tours. While the ATP has had a solid top 4 for a good few years now with the much desired revenue creating rivalries, the WTA finally, after nearly a decade in the wilderness, got all its major winners back to the top of the rankings. With Azarenka, Maria and Serena taking the big prizes and the top three spots, the WTA distanced themselves from the criticisms that come with having top-ranked majorless players. While there is still some work to do on the rivalry front, with Serena handily dominating the top two, Vika and Maria did at least put on a couple of good shows in their matches in New York and Istanbul, but perhaps not enough to scent over the stinkers of Australia, Indian Wells and Miami. Still, it will be baby steps for the WTA to recover from the abyss that was 2007-2011 (some might argue it goes back further than that, to 2004) but they are definitely heading in the right direction. As for the ATP, the top four put on some epic shows in the big matches and though criticism abounds about tennis being more a grindfest than a game of tennis skill, fans are regularly treated to awesomely competitive matches with spellbinding rallies. The athleticism on display in matches between the top four, notably their battles in the semis and the final in Australia, and the ferocity of the rallies has been, at times, electrifying. It might not be tennis as the purists yearn for but it is definitely a game worth tuning in to.

2. Anti-grunters. The WTA finally caught on to the catalogue of complaints about the assault on the ears which is a match between some of its stars. An initiative has been put forward to spread the word among coaching academies and the pro ranks that grunting above a certain level is not acceptable and plans are in place to put gruntometers on courts so that offenders will be punished. It only took them two decades to decide to do something about what is one of the most ridiculous elements of modern tennis. Now, if only they would start to clamp down on time taken between points, too, then all the grumps would stop going on about that, too.

3. Anti-blue clayers. The Madrid blue ‘clay’ only lasted a tournament.
Players complained it was not clay as they slipped and made early exits.They had a point. It was too fast for clay with the winners being Federer and Serena, the best fast-courters on their respective tours and with no red clay results between them the past few years. ,The ATP listened and, much to Ion Tiriac’s displeasure we imagine, duly got rid of the much maligned attention-grabbing surface.

4. British tennis. Andy Murray’s victory at the US Open, Heather Watson’s title at Osaka and Robson’s run at the US Open gave Britain its most successful year since…time began? One woman is to be credited of course, Ms. Judy Murray. Not only has she given birth to two Major champions but her influence in the Fed cup and its overspill onto its squad’s performance has been huge and she should be damed asap. She is the one reason why I would vote for Scotland to stay part of Britain.

5. Olympic tennis. Murray’s success in the Olympics brought tennis a huge home audience and the excitement generated by the competitors must
have spilled over to other world’s media. That excitement and that of the fans showed the sporting world that tennis does matter in the Olympics. Granted, it is not the pinnacle of the sport, but the respect it garners the medalists and the contribution it makes to the event makes it worthy of inclusion.

Top five losers.
1. Women’s tennis fans in European regions. The announcement that
Eurosport will not show women’s tennis outside of the majors was a blow
to tennis fans throughout Europe. The free-to-air service provided many a tennis fan with an enjoyable afternoon in front of the box and now they have to be lucky enough to receive a satellite channel that airs matches and probably have to pay for it. The rumour is that the WTA wanted more money than Eurosport were willing to pay. Surely, the WTA needs to look into getting its own TV channel or online subscription service, or the tennistv service needs to show WTA outside of the US. Whatever happens the WTA needs to act fast. After a resurgent 2012, it would be a pity, nay a crime to tennis, if the WTA could not get its ‘product’ to the audience who have been both keeping it afloat and loyally waiting to see it get back on its feet.

2. Officials. This year saw some absolutely horrendous officiating. Starting in Australia with that dreadful decision against Nalbandian and going on right through the year, the professional standard of the officiating was not level with the professional standards demanded of the players by the different tours. With millions of dollars being generated by the game, one would think that quality officials would not be hard to come by. Granted,there is always going to be human error, but during the course of the season as we watched one horrendous officiating call after another it seemed a lot more erroneous than the percentages would allow. It’s time to hook the umpires up with TV screens, allow instant replays for bad calls even if the player is a little late in making the call and time to start inflicting
penalties for officials who make lousy calls more than they humanly should just as the tours penalise their players when they screw up their job.

3. American men’s tennis. With Roddick now gone, and a 27 year old Isner still not breaking through to the second weeks of Majors, where is the next Amercian star? The women have a couple who might break through but the men’s field is looking decidedly bleak. With America hosting a whole host of tournaments and with a huge potential fan base, the USTA needs to get a move on with developing the next big stars.

4. ATP World tour finals attendees. One singles match and one doubles
match a session? In Istanbul, the WTA YEC goers are getting three singles matches. And paying between a third to half the price for the pleasure.

5. The US Open. 2012 and still roofless. With THE biggest stadium on the circuit but with that stadium being empty come the last stupid, sorry, super Saturday due to the wind and rain, the US Open continues to look like the bucket shop run by a crew of drunks of the Majors, (closely followed by the French who once again seem to be sipping bucket loads of champers during the championships but cannot seem to get lights installed when every year play is suspended due to bad light). Yes, we know its open tennis and all, but it is also 2012 and with almost all of the rest of the game having been tinkered with the last 20 years, what harm would there be in getting a roof so the players can have some security in their schedule and perform their best? Aaah, that’s it. That stadium is just too huge for a roof. Ok, now whoever made that decision to build that stadium, put down
the bottle and get yourself down to AA.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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