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Best of 2012: TSN.ca looks back at the year in tennis

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TSN.ca Staff
12/25/2012 7:12:16 PM
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As 2012 winds to a close, TSN.ca looks back at the stories that made the year memorable. TSN.ca's writing staff reflects on the best tennis moments from the past 12 months including the return of Roger Federer, the rise of Andy Murray, Milos' marathon and Serena's stunning turnaround.

Barry Riz on the Return of Roger

If you kept an eye on the last dozen Grand Slams prior to the summer of 2012, you likely arrived at the same two conclusions that I did when it came to men's tennis.

Roger Federer was a has-been, and Andy Murray was a never-to-be.

Harsh, yes. But in the nine grand slams beginning with the 2010 French Open, the scoreboard in wins read Rafael Nadal 5, Novak Djokovic 4.

And Federer and Murray, zero.

Federer's brilliance as a 16-time grand slam winner was unquestioned, but as he turned 31 this summer his recent results told the story - Roger seemed to have lost a step, and was getting beaten regularly by the younger Nadal and Djokovic. It was simply their turn, their time. The prospect of Federer winning any more slams and regaining his No. 1 world ranking seemed a long shot at best.

And as for the 25-year-old Murray, he appeared to be a victim mostly of bad timing. His talent was evident, but he was playing in an era where the trio ahead of him had won 30 of the previous 32 grand slams since 2005.

The stakes, then, were high at Wimbledon in early July when, with Nadal out in the second round, the third-seeded Federer was able to oust world number one Djokovic in the semis to set up a title match with Murray.

Shane McNeil on Marathon Milos

The fourth-ranked Scotsman, a runner-up in three previous grand slam finals, was vying to become to first player from Great Britain to win on home soil since 1936. And when Federer beat him in four sets to capture a seventh Wimbledon crown, it was Murray who was reduced to tears while addressing the crowd afterwards.

London would also provide the stage for what may be Milos Raonic's biggest performance to date.

While Raonic has had his fair share of success in his young tennis career and has even won a pair of tournaments early in 2012, it was his epic second-round match against world No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that resonates as his grand achievement.

After trading 6-3 victories in the first two sets, Raonic and Tsonga tested each other's endurance in an epic match that would set a new Olympic record, with the third set lasting an almost-unfathomable three hours.

Raonic and Tsonga would fire serve after serve at one another with neither giving much ground once the third set got past 6-6, and it just kept on going.

Audiences tuning in expecting it to end "any minute now" saw a testament to the will of both men, as Tsonga would eventually take the third set 25-23.

The Olympics would see another marathon in the semifinals when Federer and Juan Martin del Potro played a third set that lasted two hours and 43 minutes.

Why is it that the "fifth major" doesn't believe in ending things in a quick and logical way, again?

Riz on the Great Scot

The drama was heavy and the irony fresh when Murray and Federer met again at the All England Club centre court just four weeks after their thrilling Wimbledon finale at the London Olympics with a gold medal at stake.

And as so often happens in sports, the rematch looked nothing like the first meeting. Where Federer won in four sets at Wimbledon, Murray completely shut down the Swiss superstar on the very same court at the Olympics.

With momentum now in hand, the US Open in New York provided Murray a final stage to pursue one last piece of business. But there would be no third meeting with Federer, who was ousted earlier in the quarter-finals.

It would be Djokovic that Murray faced in the final, and after surviving a pair of tiebreaks and a five-set marathon, Murray could finally raise his arms as a Grand Slam winner.

In the space of just two months, Murray went from never-to-be to a Grand Slam and Olympic champion. And Federer reclaimed glory and added another chapter to his legend.

Superb and satisfying on both accounts.

McNeil on Serena's Snap-back Summer

Serena Williams' year started on a pretty low note.

Entering 2012 ranked 12th in the world, Serena had not won a major in over a year. To compound matters, she stumbled through the first half of the year.

She withdrew before the quarters in Brisbane before crashing out in the fourth round at the Aussie Open to complete a forgettable January.

She would win a pair of minor tournaments in Charleston and Madrid in the spring, but would kill that momentum by losing to 111th-ranked Virignie Razzano at the French Open.

However, something switched on with Serena once summer hit and the player that had been so dominant in the 2000s returned.

She would drop just one set from the quarters onward to win the Wimbledon women's singles title. Less than a month later she'd win double gold at the London Olympics, including a masterful singles title where she lost just one game to Maria Sharapova.

Serena would come back from the brink to beat Victoria Azarenka to win the US Open and then go on to take the WTA Tour Championships, finishing the year ranked third in the world.

Some have complained that women's tennis was in need of a personality injection in recent years… perhaps it just needed an old face to return.

Tennis Year in Review (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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