- Chris Wilkinson
And the winner is...Chris Wilkinson December 13, 2011
With the season wrapped up for another year, Chris Wilkinson takes a look back over a memorable 12 months in tennis and hands out his awards for 2011.
ATP Player of the Year - Novak Djokovic
You can't look beyond Novak Djokovic for player of the year. What he achieved in 2011 is nothing short of astonishing. Winning ten titles including three grand slams and overhauling Rafael Nadal as world No. 1, going 43 matches unbeaten and picking up record prize money. He ended the year in disappointment, but nothing can take away from his achievements - you can hardly blame him for running out of steam, and of course it all started at last season's Davis Cup. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain that kind of level next year, but whatever happens, 2011 will always be remembered for his record-breaking year.
WTA Player of the Year - Petra Kvitova
In a season where we had four different grand slam winners, Petra Kvitova was the player who stood out. Wimbledon champion, the Czech won the year-end finals and the Fed Cup. Ranked at No. 34 in the world at the beginning of the year, Kvitova came under the radar for the first half of the season, but was thrust firmly into the spotlight after her victory at the All England Club. She has struggled with consistency, and I don't expect her to enjoy the kind of dominance that Serena Williams had a few years ago, but I do think she will give Caroline Wozniacki a run for her money at the top of the world rankings and she is definitely capable of winning more slams next season.
Breakthrough season - Milos Raonic & Bernard Tomic
Both Milos Raonic and Bernard Tomic have had such impressive seasons that it's hard to choose between them. Ranked outside the world's top 150, Raonic has climbed to 31 in the world in the last 12 months. His season started with a great run to the fourth round at the Australian Open, and he backed it up with a title in San Jose just a couple of weeks later. He has a monster serve, but he has showed he has more to his game. Tomic, meanwhile, was ranked No. 208 at the beginning of 2011, but is now up to 42 and has overtaken former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt as Australian No. 1. The highlight of his season came at Wimbledon, where he came through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals, knocking out Nikolay Davydenko and Robin Soderling en route, before eventually falling to Djokovic. The variety Tomic brings to the court is refreshing and a pleasure to watch.
Comeback player - Sabine Lisicki
Having been ranked outside the top 200 earlier in the year, Sabine Lisicki showed tremendous guts to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon. A nasty ankle injury last year sidelined her for five months and required her to learn to walk again, but doubts over her mentality surfaced at the French Open, when she was carried off the court on a stretcher having been 5-4 up against Zvonareva. After blowing three match points against Marion Bartoli at the All England Club, Lisicki showed real grit to reach her first grand slam semi-final. Her serve is a real weapon, and there's no doubt she has the game to win a major.
Surprise package - Mardy Fish & Janko Tipsarevic
Mardy Fish is a good player but even he will admit he excelled himself in qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals and breaking into the world's top ten this season. He lost a lot of weight after knee surgery a couple of years ago and he has worked hard to make it to where he is now, but he must have surpassed his own expectations this year. Likewise Janko Tipsarevic is definitely punching above his weight - he is not a top ten player, but through a lot of hard graft and a bit of luck has broken into the top ten, and like Djokovic has taken a lot of confidence from Serbia's Davis Cup win last year. Players occasionally make a brief appearance in the top ten, but to finish the year there is a great achievement and both will look back on 2011 and be more than satisfied with their achievements.
Biggest surprise - Sam Stosur
Australia's Sam Stosur finally fulfilled her potential when she won the US Open, but it was the manner in which she finally cracked it which was the real surprise, beating red-hot favourite and 13-time grand slam champion Serena Williams in emphatic fashion. I don't think it was a one-off for Stosur - I think the result will help her build her confidence and we could see another major win for her in 2012. Winning that first slam is the hardest - with that hurdle cleared, that could well pave the way to further success.
Biggest disappointment - Fernando Verdasco
This time last year, Verdasco was comfortably ranked inside the world's top ten and I really thought he had a promising season ahead of him. But he's dropped down the rankings and is now down at 24. His attitude has been disappointing and he appears to have lost his mojo. When you look at how well Spanish tennis is doing at the moment, Verdasco is bringing down the average. He has more natural talent than David Ferrer, but while Ferrer is at No. 5 in the world through a lot of hard graft and dedication, Verdasco is trailing in his wake. Natural talent isn't everything, and it's about how much you want to win and whether you are willing to put in that extra hour's training. For me, Verdasco hasn't done that.
Failure to kick on from 2010 - Caroline Wozniacki
Finishing the year No. 1 for a second season is a great effort (it hasn't been done in the men's game since 2007), but Caroline Wozniacki will be first to admit her failure to win a grand slam is disappointing. Unlike Verdasco, there's no doubting Wozniacki's effort or desire, she simply hasn't got the game to win a major. She needs to make serious changes to her game if she wants to triumph at the highest level.
Best match - Roger Federer v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Wimbledon quarter-final
Roger Federer had never lost a grand slam match from two sets up, but that unblemished record came to an abrupt end at the hands of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon. Two sets to love up on grass and you'd bet your life on Federer, but Tsonga took the game to the six-time Wimbledon champion, and earned a few fans in the process, throwing himself around the court in a thrilling display of gung-ho tennis.
Best moment - Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer, US Open semi-final
Djokovic showed just why he deserved to be world No. 1, saving two match points before beating Federer to reach the US Open final in an epic 6-7 (7) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5 victory. With Federer serving for the match at 40-15 in the fifth set, Djokovic was the picture of calm as he unleashed that breathtaking cross-court return. I remember it vividly. If you could sum up Djokovic's season in a single point, that would be it.
Controversy of the year - US Open weather delays
Hurricane Irene's arrival in New York brought serious disruption to the US Open, and the inevitable scheduling delays piled further pressure on organisers to follow Wimbledon's lead and build a covered court. It all came to a head during Andy Roddick's fourth round clash against David Ferrer. After days of rain delays, the players finally made it onto Armstrong Stadium court to resume their match, only for Roddick to discover a crack in the court. Cue a classic Roddick rant as he vented his frustration at the umpire, tournament officials and anyone else who was listening. There was a growing discontent among the players at that time, which later resulted in Andy Murray's strike threat.
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1