• Review of the Year

2012: The year that Murray broke his duck

Chris Wilkinson December 24, 2012
© PA Photos

For the first time since 2003, we end the season with four different men in possession of the four grand slam titles.

Novak Djokovic started the year in the same vein as he ended the last - on top - as he defended his Australian Open title - coming through a gruelling semi-final against Andy Murray before surviving a marathon final against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal surpassed Bjorn Borg to become the first man to win seven French Open titles, and then Roger Federer repeated the feat with his seventh crown at Wimbledon to equal Pete Sampras' mark.

Andy Murray reached his first Wimbledon final, only to fall to Federer, but had his revenge as he won Olympic gold against the same player, on the same court, just three weeks later. The Scot then ended Britain's 76-year wait for a men's grand slam champion, beating Djokovic in five nail-biting sets in the US Open final.

In the women's game, Victoria Azarenka won her first major in Melbourne to become world No. 1 for the first time, a position she held for most of the season. Maria Sharapova completed her career Grand Slam at the French Open, but the second half of the season belonged to Serena Williams, who won both Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as Olympic gold at London 2012.

It's been a glorious year for tennis so let ESPN review the biggest moments, the dominant characters and the memorable controversies of 2012.

Novak Djokovic capped his season with victory at the ATP World Tour Finals © PA Photos

ATP Player of the Year

Winner: Novak Djokovic

Runner-up: Andy Murray

It was always going to be difficult for Novak Djokovic to replicate the kind of form he showed in 2011, but in many ways Djokovic surpassed his achievements in 2012. Although he only walked away with a single slam after winning three in 2011, Djokovic won more matches in 2012 and showed greater consistency throughout the season. Finishing the year at No. 1 for a second successive season, Djokovic underlined his top ranking with victory at the ATP World Tour Finals. In a year that the four slams were shared equally between the world's top four players, Djokovic backed up his astonishing 2011 and was consistently the best player throughout the season.

World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was second best to Serena Williams © Getty Images

WTA Player of the Year

Winner: Serena Williams

Runner-up: Victoria Azarenka

Looking at what Serena achieved this season, winning Wimbledon, Olympic singles (and doubles) gold, the US Open and the WTA Championships, it is astonishing that she has only ended the year as world No. 3. She may not play every week, but I think she has played some of the best tennis we've seen from her. Her serve has improved and taken her game to another level - and she has an aurora on the tennis court - all her rivals are scared of her. In all honesty, I think I'd be pretty nervous about standing on the other side of a net from her!

Heather Watson and Laura Robson have spurred each other on to bigger and better things © PA Photos

Breakthrough season

Winner: Laura Robson

Runner-up: Heather Watson

It's hard to separate Laura Robson and Heather Watson. Even as juniors they were well matched - a little over a year after Robson won the girls' title at Wimbledon, Watson responded by winning the US Open juniors. This season they have spurred each other on to bigger and better things. Less than a month after winning Olympic mixed doubles silver with Andy Murray, Robson caused a stir at the US Open, where she upset Kim Clijsters and Li Na before eventually falling in the fourth round to Sam Stosur. She rode a crest of a wave all the way to Guangzhou, where she reached her first WTA final. Watson then became the first British woman since Sara Gomer in 1988 to win a WTA Tour title. It's healthy to have a rivalry spurring each other on and of course it's great news for British tennis. At No. 49 and 53 respectively, it has been a breakthrough year for both Watson and Robson and let's hope they continue to kick on next season.

Tommy Haas is back up to No. 21 in the world rankings © PA Photos

Comeback Player of the Year

Winner: Tommy Haas

Runner-up: Paul-Henri Mathieu

Tommy Haas was not even ranked back in May 2011, but he ends the year just outside the top 20 and ended a three-year title drought with a stunning win at Halle. Haas, who has struggled for form in recent years following surgery on his hip and shoulder, stunned five-time champion Roger Federer to win a title on home soil. Similarly, Mathieu slipped out of the rankings earlier this year after missing all of the 2011 season with a left knee surgery. He's back up to No. 58 after reaching the semi-finals in Basel.

Jerzy Janowicz started the season outside of the world's top 200 © PA Photos

Surprise Package

Winner: Jerzy Janowicz

Runner-up: Sara Errani

There was no contest for this particular accolade. What Janowicz achieved in Paris was nothing short of incredible. He beat five top 20 players, including US Open champion Andy Murray on his way to the final - which saw him leap from No. 69 to 26 in the world rankings - having started the year outside the top 200. What makes his story even more amazing is that he wasn't even planning on playing in Paris. He was originally supposed to play a Challenger event, but decided to enter qualifying, having toyed with quitting not too long ago. With his big forehand and big serve he is already being compared to Ivan Lendl, he looks set to be a star of the future. Meanwhile, Sara Errani ends the year at No. 6 - up from No. 45 at the end of last season after winning four singles titles. She was a surprise finalist at the French Open and reached the semi-finals at the US Open.

Lukas Rosol claimed the scalp of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon © PA Photos

Biggest shock

Winner: Lukas Rosol

Runner-up: Virginie Razzano

Rafael Nadal's defeat to Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon was not just the biggest upset of the year, it was one of the greatest shocks in tennis history. Granted, Nadal was not at full fitness (he has not played since with a knee injury), but nobody, not even Rosol in his wildest dreams, saw that coming. It is the first time Nadal has lost that early at a grand slam since Wimbledon 2004. Rosol played his socks off and hasn't been able to replicate that performance since - and in all honesty I doubt he will.

Equally, there couldn't have been a more popular upset at Roland Garros, when Virginie Razzano stunned Serena Williams in the first round - the first time the American had ever lost in the first round of a major. Almost exactly 12 months after losing her fiancé Stephane Vidal to a brain tumour, Razzano rallied from a set and 1-5 down in the second set tiebreak to claim a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory.

Bernard Tomic has fallen off the rails © PA Photos

Biggest disappointment

Winner: Bernard Tomic

Runner-up: Caroline Wozniacki

A two-time junior grand slam champion, Bernard Tomic has long been vaunted by the Australian press as the successor to Lleyton Hewitt and a future world No. 1. He looked set to finally live to his potential when he reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, where he fell to eventual champion Novak Djokovic - which saw him break into the world's top 100 for the first time and replace Hewitt as the top-ranked Australian. But he has been plagued by off-court issues and seems to lack focus and has failed to kick on from then.

In the women's game, she got the same unfortunate award last year, but Caroline Wozniacki has failed to live up to the hype once again. She started the year ranked as world No. 1 and ends it at No. 10. She has chopped and changed her coaching setup - hiring former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson for just five months. A quarter-final appearance in Melbourne was her best offering at the majors - crashing out in the opening rounds at Wimbledon and the US Open. I think she is going to struggle to get back to the top - she is a tough competitor and a great character but just lacks the weapons to compete with the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could hardly stand after their Australian Open clash © Getty Images

Best match

Winner: Rafael Nadal v Novak Djokovic, Australian Open final

Runner-up: Serena Williams v Victoria Azarenka, US Open final

We have been spoilt with some great tennis this year and some classic matches, so it was hard to pick out a winner in this category. It may have lacked the finesse of the 2008 Wimbledon final, but the sheer physicality of the Australian Open final stands out. Neither the victorious Novak Djokovic or the defeated Rafael Nadal could stand - they had to bring chairs out for the prize-giving ceremony. At the time I called it Rumble in the Jungle meets El Clasico - it had absolutely everything you want, not just from a tennis match, but from any sport: drama, endurance, skill and hunger.

Andy Murray finally ended his grand slam drought © PA Photos

Champagne moment

Winner: Andy Murray winning the US Open

Runner-up: Maria Sharapova completes career Grand Slam

We knew it would happen eventually, but in September, Andy Murray achieved his lifetime's ambition and landed his maiden grand slam title. With four defeats in major finals behind him, Murray finally banished those demons and ended Britain's 76-year wait for a male singles champion. The manner in which he did it- beating world No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the final - just made it even more special. It was a great moment for him, but also for the sport - he firmly announced himself as one of the 'big four' in a golden era for men's tennis. And what a story for Sharapova - eight years after winning her first major as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon, the Russian completed the set with victory at Roland Garros.

David Nalbandian defaulted for injuring the line judge © Getty Images

Controversy of the Year

Winner: David Nalbandian's Queen's DQ

Runner-up: Threat of a player strike

We've had threats of a player strike, and scheduling issues continue to rumble on, but the biggest controversy of the year was David Nalbandian's disqualification in the final at Queen's. Kicking the advertising board by the line judge's feet is unforgivable, but what made it worse was his reaction. He failed to properly apologise, instead using his speech to attack the ATP. It was neither the time, nor the place to air his frustrations. In many ways, it detracted from Marin Cilic's victory and was negative press for the sport.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.