No other individual sport captured the imagination of the world as tennis did in 2014. The men and women with racquets in their hands took tennis fans and sports enthusiasts on a rollercoaster ride. Right from January up until December, the unpredictability of the ATP and WTA tours made for great viewing. Upstarts upset the apple cart, legends said goodbye and new peaks were conquered in 2014. The edge of the seat excitement was captured by the fact every Grand Slam had a different winner.
Here, we chronicle some of the best moments, that people would like to remember in years to come and events that defined an incredible year in tennis.
Stan Wawinka leads a new wolfpack
Stan Wawrinka set the tone for 2014 when he conquered the Australian Open slaying Rafael Nadal in the final to capture his first career Grand Slam. En route the final, Stan won a humdinger of a five-setter against Novak Djokovic, to signal that monopoly of the Top Four in men's tennis could well and truly be over. In doing so, the 29-year-old showed he has more to him than just that sumptuous one-handed backhand.
Wawrinka’s conquest Down Under gave a newfound belief to tennis players that they too could achieve the seemingly impossible. That belief reached its apotheosis at year's final Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were at the receiving end of a tennis clinic from eventual winner Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals respectively.
Two other players that arrived on the big stage were Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. Both made huge leaps in the rankings and added to their growing reputation on the tour. Raonic broke into the top 10, while Dimitrov is likely to do the same in 2015.
Switzerland taste sweet smell of success
Davis Cup 2014 final eventually became all about Roger Federer. The 17-time Grand Slam champion hadn't won a major in 2014. In the build up to the final against France in Lille, the Switzerland team was rocked with twin problems and their greatest ever player was right at the centre of it.
Reports surfaced about a falling-out between Wawrinka and Federer over a remark (crybaby), Mirca, Federer's ever-supportive wife passed on court at ATP finals in London, as her husband was engaged in a duel with his good friend Stan.
Also, Federer pulled out of the final against Novak Djokovic of the same tournament citing injury that raised concerns over his availability for the Davis Cup final. Eventually, Roger braved pain and joined hands with Stan to help win his country's first Davis Cup. Federer beat Richard Gasquet in straight sets in the reverse singles to add the missing piece of a Davis Cup crown to the jigsaw of his tennis immortality.
Legendary Li Na bids farewell to the sport
Chinese sensation Li Na bid adieu to the tennis world in 2014. China's greatest ever tennis player scaled new peaks in the year as she conquered the Australian Open in the blazing January heat in Melbourne. Though she will no longer be around to defend her title in 2015, the tour will miss her presence. Li was one of the most liked athletes on the tennis circuit, evident from the scenes at the China Open, the venue of her swansong. Like the basketball star, Yao Ming, Li too inspired a generation of tennis players in her country.
IPTL – Professional tennis undergoes a facelift
One of India's greatest ever doubles tennis player, Mahesh Bhupathi and his associates drew inspiration from franchise-base sport leagues across the world to give birth to the International Premier Tennis League. The league, being first of its kind, was based out of four Asian countries – India, Singapore, UAE and Philippines. Adhering to it's tagline of 'break the code', rules were altered and the format of tennis was tweaked in the IPTL. With legends, past and present, assembled on one platform and a bit of song and dance thrown into the mix, tennis in its new avatar made for compelling viewing.
Teenagers torment the Spanish Matador
Rafa's year began with Novak Djokovic challenging him for the right to be called the No. 1 men's tennis player on the planet. Sadly, unlike 2013, 2014 culminated with the Spaniard being displaced from his top spot to number three. Though, the 28-year-old proved he still was the unquestioned King of Clay, Rafa's year was disappointing and a tad embarrassing.
Fearless teenager Nick Kyrgios blew then World no.1 Nadal off the Wimbledon Centre Court in four sets. The showboating Australian even hit an incredible reflex Tweener to pile on the misery for his opponent. Later in the year, Rafa suffered at the hands of yet another teenager, this time at the Swiss Open in Basel. Cocky Croatian Borna Coric humbled Nadal in straight sets to offer emphatic proof of his potential to the tennis world.
Roger, Serena remain the gold standard
After early exits at the hands of Garbine Muguruza and Alize Cornet at Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively, Serena Williams began the early part of the season on the wrong foot. However, the American was back in her element to rock the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York as she won a historic 18th Grand Slam. Serena's consistency ensured she ended the year ranked number one.
Though Roger Federer failed to win a major in 2014, he probably won over each one of his staunchest critics. In a remarkable display of fitness and mental strength, the Swiss maestro tussled with Novak Djokovic right till the last few months of the calendar year to narrowly miss out on the number one ranking. Unfortunately, Federer pulled out ahead of the final against the Serb at the ATP Tour finals with an injury. But, the 17-time Grand Slam winner overcame pain to end the year on a high by winning the Davis Cup.