(December 19, 2012) -- I'm sure you've all had your fill of Top 10 lists, so I'll try my best to veer off course and tap into one of the most rewarding elements of being a hopelessly devoted tennis fanatic: emotions.
More Year-End Lists: Top 30-somethings/ Surprises/ Wackiness/ Disappointments
Tennis has always been a highly emotional game; there's no denying that. Anyone who has picked up a racquet knows first-hand that the mind's delicate hard-wiring can go haywire pretty quickly when things don't go well. Perhaps it's because the sport forces participants to shunt the emotional side of their brain in order to more effectively and efficiently focus on the maddening tasks at hand (Don't think -- play!).
Tennis players are all out there fighting their emotions, keeping them toned down, stashing them beneath the surface where they won't get in the way, where they won't disrupt the even keel that is necessary to excel on a tennis court.
And on top of those emotions are other distractions: the sun, the shadows, the nagging pains all over, the wind, the netcords, the clueless (or are they disrespectful?) fans who refuse to keep quiet when you serve, the cameras flashing, the umpire who never overrules when he should...
So when we conquer the distractions, keep the emotions in check, and give it all we've got in the court, the battle can lead to some pretty euphoric displays after match point is over. The celebration and relief comes in many flavors.
For some, like Roger Federer, it flows freely. Valves open up and the stuff just oozes out. For others, like Agnieszka Radwanska, who gave one of the most touching runner-up speeches at Wimbledon after getting bonked by Serena Williams in the final, the words trickle out tentatively, hesitantly. Aga's run to the Wimbledon final was just one of a countless treasure trove of emotional high points in 2012. Here are a list of a few more, in no particular order:
- Kei Nishikori won the Rakuten Japan Open to become the first Japanese man to hoist that event's trophy in its 41-year history. Not only for Japan or for Asia, Nishikori's electric aura juxtaposed alongside his gentle, sensitive persona made for a different kind of celebration; it was heartfelt, warm, subdued. In short: Beautiful.
- Juan Martin del Potro stormed Novak Djokovic at the Olympics to take the bronze medal match. In an emotional post-match celebration, the Argentine dropped to his knees and bowed down so that the crown of his forehead touched the grass while the crowd, remarkably in tune with the magic of the moment, roared.
Wanna have a quick cry? Watch the video below...
Yes, the 2012 tennis season was replete with emotional color, pitch, and gravitas. We came, we laughed, we cried.
At those very same Olympic games, Murray came out of his shell and celebrated like a made-for-Hollywood actor after he beat Federer to claim the gold, while Mike and Bob Bryan embraced on Centre Court after completing their career Golden Slam. "That's the longest we've hugged," Bob said of their celebration. "We've spent 50,000 hours together and probably 30,000 on the court. That hug right there was a culmination of it all."
At the Slams the world watched and wept when Maria Sharapova rejoiced in her first French Open title, when Roger Federer won his seventh Wimbledon, and when Rafael Nadal won his seventh French Open.
But I'd like to remind you of the moments that didn't get the mainstream coverage that the aforementioned heroics did; ones that were a little bit off the beaten path. Like when Venus Williams lost a horribly disappointing first-round match at Wimbledon to Elena Vesnina and boldy declared "There's no way I'm gonna just sit down and give up because I've had a hard time for the first five or six tournaments back. That's just not me."
Venus' prophetic words were proven to be sincere when she claimed Olympic Gold with her sister in doubles, bagged a title in Luxembourg, and capped the season ranked seventy-nine spots higher than she did in 2011 (she finished at No. 24). I get choked up just thinking about everything that Venus has done to overcome the challenges facing her this year, and she wasn’t the only one.
Alisa Kleybanova came back from Hodgkin's Lymphoma to defeat Johanna Larsson in Miami earlier this year. "I was just happy to be playing points, feeling all the emotions again," said Kleybanova afterwards. The Russian may not be front page news to mainstream sports outlets, but we die-hard tennis fans know a thing or two about what it takes to be a hero on the tennis court. It takes guts, it takes drive and it takes emotions, and Kleybanova had all three of those in spades.
So did Brian Baker, who returned from a seven-year, injury-addled spell of bad luck to show the tennis world that he still had game (and love for the game).
So did Janko Tipsarevic and David Ferrer, who played the must overlooked and unsung (and perhaps best) match of 2012 at the US Open quarterfinals.
So did Lukas Rosol, who showed the world that even in tennis anything can happen on any given day when he shocked Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.
Virginie Razzano taught us that the same thing is true on the women's side, after making us squirm for three hours and three minutes before she finally upset Serena Williams in Paris.
Whether it was the bitter-sweetness of Laura Robson's defeat of Kim Clijsters in New York, or the muted good-bye of Andy Roddick a few days later; whether it was the not-quite-over-the-hill-yet theatrics of thirty-somethings like Tommy Haas, Lleyton Hewitt, and Radek Stepanek, there was quite a bit of emotional candy to chew on in 2012.
Luckily for us, the cameras kept rolling long after the matches were over. Agony and ecstasy, euphoria and sadness; the best of times and the worst of times; ripe emotions and wild-eyed relief.
How it made us feel -- not necessarily who won or who lost -- is what we’ll remember forever.