THE 2010-2019 BUZZ
SIMPLY PUT: The last decade was shaped by three kings and a queen – that would be Roger, Rafa, Nole and Serena.
BEST STRATEGY: Pat McEnroe said the best way to get to Federer is to bore him.
BIGGEST PHENOM: Coco Gauff
INNOVATIONS OF THE DECADE: The Laver Cup, the new Davis Cup, UTR, pickleball, Net Generation, the WTA’s on-court coaching, shot clocks and time limits.
MATCHES OF THE DECADE: Djokovic’s epic Wimbledon 2019 triumph over Federer and John Isner’s 2010 three-day Wimbledon win over Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 in 11:05. Isner said, “We played the greatest game in tennis in the greatest place in tennis.”
MOST STUNNING UPSETS: Nick Kyrgios, 19, beat No. 1 Rafa at Wimbledon and Roberta Vinci stopped Serena from completing the Calendar Slam, but the most impactful upset came at the 2012 French Open, when France’s Virginie Razzano shocked Serena in the first round. Williams promptly hired coach Patrick Mouratoglou, and then won 8 of the next 13 Slams.
SHOT OF THE DECADE: Djokovic’s screamer forehand return of serve when he was down match point to Federer in the 2011 US Open semifinal.
MOST SURPRISING WINNERS: Monica Puig at the Olympics, Marion Bartoli at Wimbledon, Jelena Ostapenko and Francesca Schiavone at the French Open, and Flavia Pennetta at the US Open.
BEST PLAYERS NOT TO WIN A SLAM: Karolina Pliskova, Milos Raonic, David Ferrer, Jo Willie Tsonga, Dominic Thiem, Jelena Jankovic, Tomas Berdych.
BEST US MAN: Isner finished the year in the top 20 for ten consecutive years.
BIGGEST FAIL: Next Gen players, tournaments in California, US men.
GREATEST CHARACTERS: Nick Kyrgios, Li Na and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
BEST SHOT ANALYSES: Brett Haber said Rafa’s forehand “has so many RPMs on it that it creates its own wind.”…Andy Roddick said, “My best shot is my between-the-legs topspin drop shot.”
MUST TUMULTUOUS MATCH: Naomi Osaka’s 2018 US Open win over Serena.
UNDERACHIEVERS: Nick Kyrgios, Genie Bouchard, Bernard Tomic and Mexico.
IF IT’S SO BAD, WHY DOES IT FEEL SO GOOD? The Davis Cup was bought by a Spanish soccer superstar and a Japanese billionaire, and eliminated most of its great home and away matches. The new format was called “blitz tennis.” Critics howled. It was hardly televised in the US. Yet, in so many ways, it was fabulous.
BEST COMEBACKS: Petra Kvitova, Andy Murray, Bob Bryan, Serena and Juan Martin del Potro
BEST 15 MINUTES OF FAME: Wimbledon qualifier Marcus Willis stormed the All-England Club in 2016.
BEST SEASONS: In 2011 Djokovic won three Slams. In 2015 he again won three Slams, plus the ATP Finals and seven Masters titles. He reached 15 straight finals. Last year Rafa won two Slams and led Spain to the Davis Cup championship.
FEUDS OF THE DECADE: Sharapova vs. Serena and Kyrgios vs. the world.
BABY OF THE DECADE: AlexisOlympia Ohanian
THE CRYING GAME: After losing the Aussie Open to Federer, a weepy Andy Murray said, “I can cry like Roger. It’s just a shame I can’t play like him.”…Reflecting on the teary Scot at Wimbledon, Simon Barnes wrote, “The tears fell like rain and the rain fell like tears.”…Stan Wawrinka had a crying spell and a panic attack before going out to play the 2016 US Open final…After bad losses, Andrea Petkovic said that she locks herself in her room and watches “really sad French movies [to] cry myself to sleep. But [then again] I do that every night.” She added that “In politics, if a woman cries, she’s done for life.”
THE SOUNDS OF SARASOTA: After missing a shot in Sarasota, Donald Young was penalized for yelling, “Son of a biscuit, man! Biscuit, man! Biscuit!”…As loud sounds of ardent lovemaking from a nearby apartment interrupted his Sarasota match, Frances Tiafoe called out, “It can’t be that good!”
QUESTIONS: Will Federer, with his 20 Slam wins, retain his narrow lead? Who will be the next great US player? Who will be the next teen to win a Slam? Who will be the next big name to retire? Jon Wertheim asked, “What would US tennis do for a charismatic 19-year-old who could beat Nadal on Centre Court?” A French reporter asked Richard Gasquet after a loss, “Which pain is worse: the one in your soul, or the one in your body?” Has there ever been (as Neil Harman asked) “a more contented champion than Federer?”
JUST A SLIGHT EXAGGERATION: In 2010 Federer said Andy Murray would “like to win the first [major] for British tennis in…like, 150,000 years.”…Navratilova said Aussie Open semifinalists Li Na and Zheng Jie “had a billion Chinese on the edge of their seats”…The Tennis Channel said John Isner had a big advantage “by being 42 feet tall.”
DOUBLES TEAM OF THE DECADE: The Bryans – who else? But sadly, the singular duo recently conceded, “Our chest bumps are getting lower.” Tennis’ great brothers plan to retire after the US Open.
OBVIOUSLY: The BBC insisted, “Most rain is wet.”…Federer recalled that when he had lunch with the queen, she was “very polite.”…Roger confided, “There’s no secret I’m definitely a very talented player. I always knew I had something special, but I didn’t know it was like that crazy.”…Sam Querrey said, “I think I’m a real good No. 65 in the world.”…Mary Carillo quipped, “Where there’s a will, there’s a Williams.”
BEST TATTOOS: Janko Tipsarevic’s “Beauty will save the world” and Stan Wawrinka‘s tattoo that features Samuel Beckett’s adage: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
BROUHAHAS: Justin Gimelstob, Neil Harman, Ray Moore and Doug Adler.
BEST RECONCILIATION: After 14 years, Serena returned to Indian Wells. Fans cheered and WTA boss Stacey Allaster said it was “her Martin Luther King moment.”
IN A WORD: When asked why the big five men – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka – won so often, Federer explained in five words: “dominance, mind, fitness, tenacity and talent.”…When asked to describe himself in three words, Bernie Tomic said, “Set for life.”…Tennis Canada boss Michael Downey said the two tennis words he likes least are, “Quiet, please.”…When asked to describe himself in a word, Federer replied, “elegant.”
STATUARY REPORT: Statues of Althea Gibson and Rod Laver were installed in New York and Melbourne. The statues of France’s Four Musketeers disappeared in Paris, and Fred Perry’s Wimbledon statue was demoted.
SAY THAT AGAIN: Fernando Gonzalez claimed, “I’m playing with such predictable inconsistency.”…Mary Rhodes said the very vocal Vika Azarenka was “quietly working her way through [the draw].”… David Goffin told a Rotterdam crowd, “I’d like to thank my team, family, girlfriends. Girlfriend – sorry, without the s.”
LONG LIVE THE QUEEN: When the queen came to Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years, Amy Jenkins claimed, “The feeling in the air was one of absolute devotion. We may as well have been wearing animal skins while making obeisance at sunrise to some kind of stone goddess.”…Humorist Jan Moir claimed, “The Queen and I have a lot in common…She lives with a grumpy old moaner who’s always putting his foot in it. I’ve got one of those at home, too. She likes lots of horses and has her face on a stamp. I’ve got lots of stamps and a face like a horse.”…Federer said the Queen told him that he “should hit more backhands down the line.”
TOO MUCH INFO: McEnore wears Bjorn Borg brand underwear.
DREAMIEST COMMENTATOR: When Torben Ulrich was asked about the butterfly that once flew by him at the French Open, he wondered, “Was I then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?”
AN UNBREAKABLE RECORD: John Isner hit 113 aces during his Wimbledon marathon against Nicolas Mahut.
MOST IMPORTANT WOMEN IN MEN’S TENNIS: Federer’s wife Mirka and Murray’s former coach Mauresmo.
MOST IMPORTANT MEN IN WOMEN’S TENNIS: WTA chief Steve Simon and Patrick Mouratoglou.
FASHION: When Rafa began to wear more subdued colors and shirts with sleeves rather than sleeveless shirts, one critic suggested that he came off “looking like a teenager whose parents have forced him to go back to his room to change into something more appropriate. And practice his piano and put away his skateboard.”…Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ inventive fashion statements became increasingly tame…Serena said the bodysuit she wore at the French Open was an homage to mothers, and added, “[Mothers] can be a mom and still be a bad-ass.”…Venus said one of her dresses was “about nudity and illusion.” One fan said the outfit “was good for my imagination, but it didn’t require much.”…According to S.L. Price, when the follicly-challenged Ivan Ljubicic dons a headband, it looks like the rings of Saturn.
HAIR WE ARE: After Caroline Wozniacki‘s hair got caught in her racket at the US Open, ESPN said, “She got Rory [McIlroy] out of her hair, now she needs to get her racket out of her hair.”
TO DO OR NOT TO DO THE DISHES: Billie Jean King recalled, “I was seven when I told my mother I was going to do something great with my life. She said, ‘Dry the dishes and let’s go – you’ve got homework to do.”…When Kim Clijsters spoke of leaving tennis for the joys of domesticity, a sign pleaded: “Our dishes are dirty, too.”
BEFORE YOU GIVE ME S–T: Taking the initiative during a courtside squabble with Ernests Gulbis, ump Pascal Maria said, “Wait, wait, wait. Let me finish and then you give me s–t .”
BEST MOVIE: Battle of the Sexes
BEST NAMES: Katie Volynets was asked, “Is that your real name or did you just want to be a tennis star?”…When Tennys Sandgren was struggling at the US Open, a voice in the press room asked, “Is Tennys dead?”
VOLUNTEER OF THE DECADE: Katrina Adams
FOOD (AND DRINK) FOR THOUGHT: Sharapova came out with the candy called Sugarpova…After being fired as Sharapova‘s coach, Jimmy Connors said he wanted a vodka on the rocks…Venus said she was now a “cheat-an,” a vegan who also eats meat.
FAKE NEWS: When CoCo Vandeweghe began choking on an apple at a press conference, a panicky reporter pleaded, “Please don’t die – they’ll blame it on the media.”
THE VALIDATION MACHINE: Sharapova noted, “Almost every player has the exact same post-match habit: Walk into the locker room…[and] grab their phone…and search through their mentions…It’s like an Opinion or Validation Machine…[But] I don’t need to know what people are saying about me. Knowing that they’re saying…has always been enough.”
BEST NEW PHRASE: “The mumble tank” (Brett Haber’s reference to the self-loathing Andy Murray‘s snarky mutterings).
STINGY FELLOWS: After Roger and Rafa had won 21 of the last 23 Slams, McEnroe joked they were “nasty, stingy people. They are not sharing a lot of majors.”
THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS: A blindfolded Dominika Cibulkova successfully identified the four different brands of balls used at the four Slams just by smelling them.
RAFA QUESTIONS: One observer asked, “Nadal wears a $690,000 watch, so why can’t he figure out how to serve on time?”…When informed that the new five-minute warm-up clock starts when a player puts his bag down, Rafa asked, “What if you don’t put your bag down?”…Will he ever lose the French Open?…Will he end up as the GOAT?
WHERE’S PABLO WHEN YOU NEED HIM? Mary Carillo said Parisians were reluctant to cheer Rafa, because they “want more artistry. They want a player who uses a paintbrush, not a steamroller…They want flair. They want humans. They like weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This guy doesn’t have too many.”
DOUBLES TAKES: John McEnroe said, “Doubles is on life support.” But at the Davis Cup finals, the doubles play was scintillating…The Bryans conceded, “It’s in the back of our heads: where does doubles go from here, once we’re done?”…Liezel Huber said her mixed doubles partner, Bob Bryan, “wants to chest bump, chest bump, chest bump. I’m like, ‘No! Do it with your girlfriend! Don’t chest bump me!’”
PROOF THAT ONE MAN CAN’T HAVE EVERYTHING: Federer hasn’t won an Olympic Gold singles medal.
AN ARISTOCRAT ON COURT: Rafa’s autobiography said Federer is “suave and effortlessly superior…[an] aristocrat who strolls on court waving airily to the multitudes as if he owned Wimbledon, as if he were welcoming guests to a private garden party…Federer belongs to a type one might have seen in the 1920s, when tennis was an upper-crust gentlemen’s spirited exercise following afternoon tea.”
HONORED: Speaking of aristocrats, Andy Murray was knighted.
COACH ‘EM UP: Celebrity coaches like Becker, Lendl and Agassi were everywhere …Laura Robson’s coach Mauricio Hadad told the Brit, “There is just one little thing we need to work on – everything!”…When young Dasha Kasatkina was playing Venus, her coach Philippe Dehaes came on court and told her, “She’s 37. You’re 20. So make her work. You agree with me, yes? So I go back to my office and sit.”…Who is more underrated as a coach, Toni Nadal, Boris Becker, Magnus Norman or Patrick Mouratoglou?
MOST UNSUNG HERO IN TENNIS: Federer’s longtime trainer Pierre Paganini
TOUGH LOVE: Pat Cash said that Bernie Tomic, with all his sense of entitlement, needed “to go and work in a factory and see what it’s like to really work…He’s too rich, too early.”
BEST NICKNAMES: McCoco for Caty McNally and Coco Gauff…Tomic the Tank Engine for Bernard Tomic…Crocodile Dunblane for Andy Murray at the Aussie Open.
A BREAKTHROUGH LIKE NO OTHER: After Inside Tennis was a clue in a New York Times crossword puzzle, Times writer John Branch tweeted, “Forget about the Pulitzer, I don’t think you’ve made [it] in business until you’ve been a clue at NYT crossword.”
POWERED BY AWESOME: World Team Tennis coach Luke Jensen said his New York Empire team would “lead the league in fun and be powered by awesome.”
MONEY MATTERS: When, after winning the US Open, Sloane Stephens was asked if she hoped to win another Slam, she quipped, “Of course, girl! Did you see that check that lady handed me?…If that doesn’t make you want to play tennis, I don’t know what will!”…The ITF signed a 25-year $3 billion deal with the investment group Kosmos…Shenzhen, China will pay about $1 billion to host the WTA’s championships until ‘28…The ATP turned down Larry Ellison’s offer to add $800,000 of prize money to the BNP Paribas Open.
WEDDINGS: Serena and Alexis Ohanian, Rafa and Xisca Perello, Caroline Wozniacki and David Lee, Indian Sania Mirza and Pakistani cricket star Shoaib Mali.
FAREWELL TO: The Davis Cup as we know it. Men’s tennis in Los Angeles, San Jose, Key Biscayne, Las Vegas, Memphis and New Haven. WTA tourneys in LA and San Diego. The US Open’s Super Saturday. The two-week break between Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The International Premier Tennis League. The French Open’s Bullring Court, Wimbledon’s old Court 2, the US Open’s old Grandstand. The World Team Cup, the Hopman Cup. Blue clay courts.
ELECTED: Katrina Adams – the first African-American and former pro to be the USTA president. Todd Martin – CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. David Haggerty – ITF.
HIRED: Micheal Dowse as USTA CEO. John Embree by the USPTA. Steve Simon as the WTA CEO. Andrea Gaudenzi and Massimo Calvelli by the ATP. Martin Blackman as head of the USTA’s Player Development program. Tommy Haas as the BNP Paribas Open’s Tournament Director. Mardy Fish as US Davis Cup Captain.
SUSPENDED: Sharapova, Hingis, Marin Cilic, Viktor Troicki, Dan Evans, Shamil Tarpischev, Ilie Nastase, Abigail Spears.
RETIRED: Andy Roddick, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, Li Na, Amelie Mauresmo, Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake, Goran Ivanisevic, David Ferrer, Dinara Safina, Tomas Berdych, Ivan Ljubicic, Fernando Gonzalez, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Agna Radwanska, Tommy Haas, Nikolay Davydenko, Jelena Dokic, Esther Vergeer the wheelchair champion, Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci, Agna Radwanska, Elena Dementieva, Carlos Moya, Taylor Dent, Sebastien Grosjean, Dominik Hrbaty, Fabrice Santoro, Janko Tipsarevic, Shahar Peer, Marcos Baghdatis, Gordon Smith.
IN MEMORIAM: Players Pauline Betz, Tom Brown, Margaret Osborne Dupont. Ken Flach, Art Larsen, Barry MacKay, Gene Mako, Gussy Moran, Jana Novotna, Whitney Reed, Pancho Segura. Media members Russ Adams, Bud Collins, Frank Deford, Dick Enberg, Pat Summerall. Coaches Jelena Gencic, Vic Braden, Dennis Van Der Meer, Officials Peter Herb, Marv Heller, Mark Hurd, Bob Kelleher, Tim Heckler, Mark Manning, Harry Marmion Mark Manning. Seniors Dodo Cheney, Gardnar Mulloy, Alex Swetka.