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It's been an odd year for tennis.

On the men's tour, Roger Federer has provided book-ends to the beginning and end of the year: his shock defeat at the Australian Open to Marat Safin (the eventual champion) and his shock defeat at the Masters Cup to David Nalbandian. The #1-ranked Federer and world #2 Rafael Nadal have, however, stamped their dominance on the tour this year: both men won four Masters Series titles apiece and took the last three Grand Slam titles (Nadal won the French Open on his first try, while Federer defended his Wimbledon and US Open crowns). The ninth Masters Series title came as another shocker, going to the unheralded Tomas Berdych instead of one of the other top-ranked players.

The women's tour was dominated by resurgent players but in the end fell to injury and fatigue. The Williams sisters Venus and Serena weren't expected to win anything this year but defied those expectations. Serena was down several matchpoints in her Australian Open semifinal against Maria Sharapova, but outlasted the Russian to win in three sets and then overcame Lindsay Davenport in the final. At Wimbledon, Venus outplayed Sharapova in the semifinal and defeated Davenport in the final. The French Open and US Open titles were taken by the two Belgians who had been out with injury in 2004: Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, respectively, both besting Mary Pierce in the finals. Clijsters also went on a tear through the year, winning her first tournament back from injury at the lowly rank of #134 and shooting up to #2 by the year's end. Still, the tour championship concluded with none of the Slam winners in its final. The two players healthy enough to compete at their best at the end of the tennis year battled it out, and Amelie Mauresmo came out the victor over Mary Pierce.

2005 is notable for some infamous first-round exits. After breaking through and becoming the first Russian woman to win a Slam, Anastasia Myskina also became the first defending champion at the French Open to lose in the first round. The US Open registered not one, but two high-profile first-round exits. Myskina's fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2004 US Open champion, didn't put up a fight in her first round match. This fact, however, was eclipsed by Andy Roddick's loss to Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in straight tiebreak sets. His loss tipped the balance of his year from "could have been better" to "worst year since 2002." Still, Roddick sort of managed to salvage his 2005 by becoming the only man this year to win tournaments on five different surfaces (San Jose: indoor hard; Houston: clay; Queen's Club: grass; Washington, D.C.: outdoor hard; Lyon: indoor carpet).

This year has also seen controversy rage in the ATP concerning men's doubles. The ATP announced radical changes to the scoring and ranking system which would take effect after the US Open. Doubles specialists began a campaign to save doubles, filing a lawsuit against the ATP saying that the rule changes will effectively kill doubles. As a compromise, the ATP will be instituting milder scoring and ranking changes next year that it says should help promote doubles.

The doubles debacle was only one of the big controversies on the men's tour. In August, Guillermo Cañas was suspended because he tested positive for a banned diuretic. At the time of his suspension he was ranked #10 in the world, having reached a career-high ranking of #8 two months earlier. As a result of his suspension, Cañas will be taking a two-year break from professional tennis, including being in the stands as a mere spectator.

Andre Agassi's year has also been full of long breaks, although these were due to injury. His sciatic nerve problem kicked in during the French Open first round, taking him out of contention through Wimbledon. He showed up in late July to win a US Open Series title in Los Angeles, after which he took a break. Then he played through to the final of the Montreal Masters Series tournament in August (where he was defeated by Nadal) and took another break until the US Open proper. There he made an impressive showing, outlasting and outplaying two younger American players before facing off against Federer in the final. After that, Agassi took another extended break before showing up in Shanghai, playing one round-robin match, and then packing his bags due to an ankle injury.

The most heart-wrenching reason for a prolonged absence belongs to Alicia Molik on the women's tour. After a strong late 2004 run, good 2005 Australian Open results (she lost to Davenport in the semifinal), and two good tournaments in February, Molik had risen to world #8. Then she was hit by vestibular neuronitis, an inner-ear infection that affected her balance and left her with residual nerve damage. It forced her to sit out the French Open and Wimbledon, and a slew of early-round exits ensued. Slipping to #29 at the end of the year and eventually realizing she needed more recovery time, Molik decided to take an indefinite break from tennis until her doctors could find a solution.

Barely more than a month lies between now and the 2006 season kick-off at the Australian Open in January. The tennis off-season, albeit short in comparison to other professional sports' off-seasons, will give the players time to rest, rethink their strategies, and refit themselves for next year's long-haul race. Who will get off the blocks first, rested and raring to go? Even more importantly, who will reach the finish?

Those are questions only 2006 can answer.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Danke schoen Fraulein Deb! Vee luff tennis, nein? :hug:
 
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