2015 mens season wrap up: Djokovic on a high
Never can one predict what a year will hold at its outset. The unknown and untapped possibilities hover above the tennis calendar each January, like a tennis ball tossed up for a serve and awaiting the thud of the strings of the racket.
No player grabbed that possibility and opportunity with more fervor than Novak Djokovic, the 28-year-old Serbian registering what would turn out to be his most masterful season – and one of the most historic in the sport’s history.
What were the other storylines that played out in 2015 in men’s tennis? Here, a list of the most memorable as the brief off-season descends on us and next year is just weeks (weeks!) away.
Novak’s Masterful Effort
The numbers that depict the world No. 1’s speak for themselves: Djokovic won three majors, reached the final of a fourth (at Roland Garros), went 82-6 overall with 11 titles in full and stayed atop the rankings end to end, finishing 2015 with his fourth consecutive ATP World Tour Finals title, giving him nearly double the number of points versus world No. 2 Andy Murray (16,585 to 8,670). Djokovic was particularly stirring at the end of the year, capturing 26 of 27 matches from the US Open onward. That lone loss – a round-robin defeat at the hands of Roger Federer in the ATP Finals – he avenged just days later, beating Federer in the championship match.
And while the talk of tennis was Serena Williams’ oh-so-close chase for the calendar Grand Slam, it was Djokovic who (in theory) came one match closer than Williams, having gone 27-1 in 28 major matches played.
Stan-ding Above the Rest
Only one other men’s tennis player aside from Djokovic won a major title in 2015, that being Stan Wawrinka in his inspiring run to hoist the Coupe des Mousquetaires in Paris. It was a moment of great triumph for Wawrinka, who at 30 solidified himself as one of the best of his generation with a second Grand Slam in 18 months. The way he did it was most jarring, first shocking countryman Federer in the quarterfinals and then – as an epic underdog – blasting 60 winners inside Court Philippe Chatrier, including his patented one-handed backhand down the line on championship point, to hand Djokovic his lone major loss of 2015 and deny the Serb of his maiden Roland Garros crown.
Roger – and Andy – On a Mission
There would be no major titles between Roger Federer and Andy Murray this season (Rafael Nadal was left out of that haul, as well), but they both made their fair runs at Djokovic and collected respective more-than-fine seasons along the way. For Federer, it was two heart-breaking runner-up finishes at the majors, at Wimbledon and the US Open, though he did go 63-11 on the season, winning six trophies and registering three wins over Djokovic – however none on the biggest of stages. Murray, meanwhile, finished the year a career-best No. 2 in the world on the shoulders of four titles, 69 wins and a 19-4 record at the majors, including a run to the Australian Open title match.
Rafa’s Slow Resurgence
While it was the first year since 2004 that Rafael Nadal didn’t finish the season with a Grand Slam trophy to his name (his five-year win streak was snapped in Paris by Djokovic), the 29-year-old clawed his way back from a low ranking (by his standards) of No. 10 this summer to finish the year at No. 5, and emerged seemingly 100 percent healthy having been beset a year ago by first a wrist injury, and then an appendectomy. “2016 [is] going to be a new year,” Nadal told reporters this month. “Hopefully better one for me.”
The Next Generation
Who will be next big thing in men’s tennis? That answer became both more clear and harder to answer thanks to 2015, in part because of stop-and-start results for the likes of Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov, but also because of a continuously crowded field of early-20 and teenage contenders.
Should you throw your weight behind 19-year-old Borna Coric? Or is Dominic Thiem, now ranked No. 20, the wave of the future? Australians Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis made inroads this season, as did American Jack Sock, Hyeon Chung of South Korea and German Alexander Zverev among others.
A Double(s) Shakedown
While Djokovic further solidified his spot as No. 1 in singles, Bob and Mike Bryan – the American duo that finished atop the doubles game in 10 of the last 12 years – vacated their throne, the team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau taking over after their ATP World Tour Finals tournament victory. Rojer/Tecau were champions at Wimbledon, while – like Nadal – the Bryan brothers failed to win a major this year for the first time since 2004.
So Long, Farewell
Plenty of familiar names bid adieu during the 2015 season: American Mardy Fish, a former world No. 8; Jarkko Nieminen, the Finn once ranked as high as No. 13; Frenchman Michael Llodra, a serve and volley specialist; and 2005 US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri, among others.
Lleyton Hewitt has played to up to the final act of his career: the 2016 Australian Open. The two-time major champion and former world No. 1 will finish out his illustrious career in Melbourne, in his 20th appearance at his home Slam before taking over as the Australia Davis Cup captain moving forward.
While there was no Grand Slam in the year for Murray, the British No. 1 again put his nation on his shoulders, officially buttoning up the 2015 season with an electrifying performance to lead Great Britain to the Davis Cup title, the country’s first since 1936. Murray went three-for-three in the final, winning both his singles rubbers against host Belgium and teaming up with older brother Jamie Murray for the crucial doubles point. Murray went 8-0 in singles rubbers in 2015, and 11-0 in live rubbers. His 3-0 final record made him the first player to register such record in a Davis Cup final since Pete Sampras in 1995.