Who stole the limelight in '05?
THE 2005 TennisReporters.net AWARDS
Who stole the limelight in '05?
By Matthew Cronin and Ron Cioffi, TennisReporters.net
As tennis players pause for their measly month off from the tours, the tennis media marches up to the line to serve up our 2005 awards.
TennisReporters.net's co-owners vote here. But, you can vote, also. Click here to go to our readers' poll. Your choices will be reported in the last week of December. Voting ends Tuesday, Dec. 27.
Player of the Year/men
Matt: No need to discuss why Roger Federer, his two Slams, his 11 titles and 81-4 match record gets the nod here.
Ron: Hard to believe that Rafa Nadal could win 11 titles and defeat the No. 1 player at Roland Garros … and not get the top player award. But, he's no Federer. And, nobody else is.
Player of the Year/women
Matt: Kim Clijsters and her first Slam at the US Open as well as a tour-high eight other titles is an easy pick.
Ron: The feel-good story of the year belongs to the top woman: Clijsters.
Newcomer of the Year/men
Matt: Gael Monfils is strong, fast and the best thing to happen to French men's tennis since Yannick Noah. We like Andy Murray, too, but Monfils had a bigger impact on court (but not off).
Ron: While his first half of the year wasn't all that noteworthy, Murray has the potential to make a huge impact in tennis-hero-starved Merry Ol' England.
Newcomer of the Year/women
Matt: While Czech Nicole Vaidisova has more titles, I'll take 18-year-old Serb Ana Ivanovic, her better Slam performances and her soaring marquee value.
Ron: You can't argue with Vaidisova's three titles in her sixteenth year.
Most Improved Player/men
Matt: Nadal. Let's not forget that the Spaniard was around in '04. But in '05, he took his fitness, forehand and mental toughness to a whole new level.
Ron: Let's do the math: Before this year, one title. In 2005, 11 titles. It's Nadal all the way.
Most Improved Player/women
Matt: Dinara Safina: Remember when Marat's slow-footed baby sis couldn't keep a ball inside Red Square? She's far more accurate now and without her mom around, she cracked the Top 20.
Ron: Didn't I predict that the 30-year-old Mary Pierce would get to two Slam finals in '05? No, but I wish I had.
Veteran of the Year/men
Matt: We may want to call this award the "Andre of the Year." Although the 35-year-old Andre Agassi struggled with injuries all year long, he stole the show at the US Open and nearly stopped Federer in the final.
Ron: Ivan Ljubicic lost only one match as he propelled the smallest country ever – Croatia – to capture the Davis Cup.
Veteran of the Year/women
Matt: At 30, Pierce, reached the Roland Garros and US Open finals and nearly won the WTA Championships. She's a smarter and far player than she was when she won the AO in '95.
Ron: See most improved player above: Pierce.
Match of the Year/men
Matt: From a playing standpoint, you could take Marat Safin's stunning upset of Roger Federer in the Australian Open semis, from a drama standpoint, Agassi's spectacular 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (6) comeback over James Blake in the quarterfinals of the US Open is the one that comes to mind.
Ron: Not only was Safin's win over Federer in Australia a great match, it also snuffed out any chance of a true Slam for Roger and also could have rekindled Safin's potential to be a truly dominant player.
Match of the Year/women
Matt: It's tempting to go with Serena's gutsy three set win over Maria Sharapova in the AO semis, but you just can't beat Venus Williams' heroic, heart stopping 4-6, 7-6, 9-7 over Lindsay Davenport in the Wimbledon final.
Ron: Venus over Davenport not only redefined Venus' career but also drew more attention to Davenport's ability to be stay at No. 1 but inability to win Slams.
Matt: Tim Henman. After a terrific '04, he could never stay healthy, lost his confidence and was a mere afterthought at the Slams.
Ron: Gustavo Kuerten tried and tried to make something happen again. While the most disappointing award usually goes out to players who stop producing, this is more a sympathy vote for a hobbled champion.
Biggest disappointment, women
Matt: Svetlana Kuznetsova. After her RG choke to Justine Henin-Hardenne, she had one of the biggest sophomore slumps in Open era history.
Ron: With her Aussie Open win, Serena got us all believing that one of the game's great stars and money players was ready to dominate again. Honorable mention goes to Henin-Hardenne who just couldn't get her health back on track after a surprising spring.
Coach of the Year/men
Matt: Tony Nadal, the no-nonsense uncle of Rafa, seemed to make most of the right moves at the right times.
Ron: Gotta go with the coach of Team Nadal.
Coach of the Year/women
Matt: It's tempting to go with David Pierce as he works so well with his older sister, but Mary did fall in three major finals and he was not pleased. The pick then goes to the now vanquished Marc Dehous, Kim Clijsters' coach all the way through the US Open. All her major '05 titles were won under his steady hand.
Ron: Mary Pierce talked all year about a new-found calmness and maturity as a secret of her success. Brother David Pierce's familial influence earns him my nod.
Personality of the Year/men
Matt: The fun-loving Nadal, hands down, as he completely revitalized Spanish tennis and gained himself millions of fans worldwide.
Ron: Gotta go with Nadal (again).
Personality of the Year/women
Matt: Sania Mirza is bold and well spoken off court and has added tremendous sizzle to women's tennis in Asia. Now if she could only back it up on court with more well thought out game plans.
Ron: Clijsters is the pleasant personality of the year. But, Sharapova was the (pretty) face of tennis – on TV, in advertising, in the press – and has kept search engines revving and bankers busy.
Djokovic after his Madrid 2009 Semi with Rafa: “Next time I’ll probably take two rackets on the match point and try to hit with both of them. It’s frustrating that when you play so well you can’t win.”