Tennishead 2018 Awards
After a memorable year, we honour the men and women who have shone on the world tennis stage in 2018
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
For the first six months it felt like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would again dominate, but by the end of 2018 Novak Djokovic was back on top of the world after winning Wimbledon, the US Open and the Cincinnati and Shanghai Masters 1000 titles. In an astonishing run from July through to the end of the year he won 35 matches and lost only three.
Simona Halep did not win a match after mid-August but still ended the year as world No 1, more than 1,000 points clear of her closest rival, thanks to a wonderful first six months. She won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in June, having lost in the Australian Open final in January, and also won the titles in Shenzhen and Montreal.
COMEBACK PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori both made excellent comebacks following injuries, but nobody could match Novak Djokovic. Having resorted to elbow surgery following a painful return in January after a six-month break, Djokovic won only three matches in his next five tournaments. After that, however, he was all but unstoppable.
Ajla Tomljanovic and Belinda Bencic both climbed more than 100 places in the rankings and Bethanie Mattek-Sands crowned her return with a Grand Slam title, but Serena Williams made the mother of all comebacks to reach two Grand Slam finals. After a 14-month maternity break Williams played only seven events but ended the year back in the top 20.
NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR
Alex de Minaur
Alex de Minaur won a wild card play-off to secure his place at this year’s Australian Open but after climbing 177 places to No 31 in the world rankings since January the 19-year-old Aussie is set to be seeded in Melbourne next month. Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Jaume Munar, Ugo Humbert and Hubert Hurkacz also made big breakthroughs this year.
Aryna Sabalenka ended the year at No 11 in the world after a fine first full season on the tour. The 20-year-old Belarusian, who won eight matches against top 10 players, won titles in New Haven and Wuhan and was runner-up in Lugano and Eastbourne. Amanda Anisimova (aged 17) and Sofia Kenin (20) also made an immediate impact at tour level
MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Stefanos Tsitsipas started the year ranked No 91 and ended it as world No 15. The 20-year-old Greek beat Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson to reach the Masters 1000 final in Toronto and won his first title in Stockholm. Karen Khachanov, Kyle Edmund, Daniil Medvedev and Marco Cecchinato also made big strides.
Elise Mertens (up from world No 35 to No 12) and Aliaksandra Sasnovich (up from No 87 to No 30), both made great progress, but neither could match Danielle Collins. The American was world No 167 at the end of 2017 but is at No 35 after consistent success, including victories over Madison Keys, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka.
DOUBLES TEAMS OF THE YEAR
Mike Bryan and Jack Sock
Mike Bryan was the outstanding candidate, but with which partner? The Bryan brothers won two Masters 1000 titles in the spring, but after Bob injured his hip Mike joined forces with Jack Sock. They won Wimbledon, the US Open and the Nitto ATP Finals.
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova
Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos won the Australian Open and year-end WTA Finals, but the Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova finished just ahead of them in the rankings thanks to their triumphs at the French Open and Wimbledon.
WHEELCHAIR PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Stefan Olsson won Wimbledon and Alfie Hewett the US Open, but Shingo Kunieda was again the outstanding male wheelchair player. The 34-year-old Japanese took his tally of Grand Slam singles titles to 22 with his victories at the Australian Open and French Open.
Diede de Groot
Diede de Groot won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year but at 21 the Dutchwoman has quickly established herself as the best player in women’s wheelchair tennis. De Groot won three of the four Grand Slam titles in 2018 and was runner-up in Paris.
COACHES OF THE YEAR
Marian Vajda guided Novak Djokovic to all his early Grand Slam triumphs and his return to the Serb’s side was a major turning point in his 2018 campaign. Vajda’s influence on Djokovic quickly became clear after they reunited at the start of the clay season.
After her struggles in 2017, when she fell from No 1 to No 21 in the world, Angelique Kerber appointed a new coach, Wim Fissette, who encouraged her to add more aggression to her game. The German went on to win Wimbledon and return to No 2 in the world.
MATCHES OF THE YEAR
Rafael Nadal featured in several of the year’s best matches, but his Centre Court meeting with Juan Martin del Potro topped them all. A match full of stunning rallies left Andy Murray, commentating on the BBC, rating the fifth set one of the best he had ever seen.
Australian Open women’s final
Caroline Wozniacki’s victory over Simona Halep was every bit as good a contest as you might have hoped from the world No 1 and No 2. Wozniacki in particular struck the ball with great power and stunning accuracy on a sweltering night in Rod Laver Arena.
SHOTS OF THE YEAR
Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon
With John Isner serving at 24-24 and 0-15 in the fifth set of their semi-final, Kevin Anderson fell over, got up, picked up his racket with his left hand and hit a left-handed shot to keep the rally alive. He won the point, broke serve and won the match minutes later.
Karolina Pliskova at the French Open
Karolina Pliskova was struggling when Maria Sharapova thumped a big forehand down the line. However, not only did the Czech get the ball back but she also hit a stunning angled backhand from the back of the court which Sharapova had no chance of retrieving.
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