1. The comeback king
A year ago, Rafa was on the canvass, aches and addles everywhere, his future unknown. Out of the picture for Melbourne and his Monte Carlo clay fiefdom surrendered to Novak in April, he nonetheless stormed to his eighth French crown and second US Open with a roller-coaster force rarely seen before. The comeback king and world No.1 once more, no question.
And in December he even beat the worldʼs top player from another sport, poker, in a charity match. Novak must be sick.
2. But slippery on grass...
Just 21 days after Rafa took the French title he paired up against Belgiumʼs Steve Darcis at Wimbledon. Older, smaller, lighter, the Belgian won just one game in their sole encounter three years before. It was only Darcisʼ third Wimbledon and the 100-1 odds of him winning in straight sets looked generous.
Three sets later Darcis was through to round two but a shoulder injury ended his tournament there. Darcis only won five matches in 2013 while Rafa won 70 more. The king of clay also has an outstanding Wimbledon record, upsets donʼt come any bigger.
3. Thirty-six in a row
Drawing Roger Federer in a grand slam is never a good thing and Sergiy Stakhovsky wonʼt have looked forward to his round two opponent at Wimbledon. Roger doesnʼt do early exits and had reached the last eight in his previous 36 slams. He hadnʼt lost to anyone outside the top 100 for eight years. Heʼs King Roger on grass.Sergiy wasnʼt listening and played a blinder. Four tight sets later heʼd won, breaking serve only twice but losing his own just once. Stunning.
4. Keep on keeping on
Twenty-eight-year-old Marion Bartoli didnʼt drop a set at Wimbledon to win her first grand slam, at the 47th time of asking. A triumph more popular with the public than her own body, which she said just one month later, could no longer cope with the injuries. And that was it, retirement. Gone. Unlike her fellow new Wimbledon champion Andy Murray who wants more. A 13 minute, multiple match point final game saw him home against Novak.
5. Top dogs
Marinko Matosevic can be overshadowed by Hewitt and Tomic but a world high of 39 in February showcased a mightily improved player who sat atop of the Australian rankings for much of 2013. He also revealed himself to be a dab hand at doubles, partnering with Lleyton in March to beat the Bryans. Canberraʼs Nick Kyrgios took the boys’ title in an all-Australian final against Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kyrgios was ranked 840 last January but goes into the 2014 main singles draw at number 182. Superb.
6. Serena and Sabine
A last 16 exit to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon wasnʼt on the cards but in hindsight the omens were there. Serena held three of the four slams coming into the tournament and was on a 34 match-winning streak when she met the 23-year-old German. But Lisicki had beaten three reigning French champions previously at Wimbledon... A 6-1 second set thumping seemed to have the top seed back on track but Lisicki held her nerve and big serve and went on to reach the final, shaking and sobbing joyously post match.
7. Hired ʻnʼ fired
After just 34 days and one match as Maria Sharapovaʼs new coach, Jimmy Connors was unemployed again in August. "Every good round starts with a bogey. Not the start we wanted, so back to work tomorrow," tweeted an optimistic Jimbo after Shazaʼs loss. “Not the right fit at this stage of her career,” countered Mariaʼs agent.
It looks like Roger Federer is seeing greater commercial earnings off court as he set up his own athlete management firm, Team8, in December. The slams may have dried up for Roger but with Del Porto and Dimitrov signed up already, the champion is spreading his bets nicely. Itʼs positioned as a ʻboutique agencyʼ but with Fedʼs long time agent Tony Godsick in tandem and a billionaire backer in tow too, it already promises much, much more.
9. Verbal spats
Sloane Stephens sent Serena home from the Australian Open. A last eight shock though not as explosive as the ensuing verbal jousts. “I made you,” tweeted Serena post loss. “Sheʼs not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way, not been in the same room with me since I played her in Australia,” replied Sloane.
10. Boris for Nole
No-one came as close to winning a grand slam in 2013 as Novak Djokovic but the Serb ended up with just one, the Australian Open. He also finished the year as world No.2, the all-conquering dominance dropping only marginally, but enough to rethink and regroup. Marian Vajda, who charted much of Novakʼs ascent over the past seven years, stepped aside days before Christmas and in trotted Boris Becker as head coach. Shades of Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl in 2012, to bring home slams you need to bring in the serial winners. Brave but it could make all the difference.