(Dec 13, 2012) -- The 2013 season is creeping up on us rather quickly, and while I'm sure some players wish the vacation would last forever, it's fantastic news for a few others. There are a handful of them, in fact, that will relish the fact that the year will be over in just under three weeks, because it means they'll have the chance to begin a tennis season anew, with the slates wiped clean, and the scoreboards reset to zero.
Here's a look at five names that didn't quite make the grade in 2012. And here's hoping that each will find that key to unlock their potential in 2013.
More Year-End Lists: Top 30-somethings / Surprises / Wackiness
1. Caroline Wozniacki
After finishing year-end No. 1 in 2010 and 2011 Caroline Wozniacki got the rude awakening that many felt she had coming to her in 2012. She fell to No. 10 by the end of the season, and was knocked out of the year's final two Grand Slams in the first round.
She'll be 23 in July, but Wozniacki's lack of maturity and willingness to dabble exceedingly in off-court interests don't bode well for a return to the top of the game for her.
It's not that the Great Dane doesn't have enough tools to be a top player, but without a gargantuan work ethic and total commitment both mentally and physically (something she seemed to possess during her No. 1 years), it will always be a struggle for Wozniacki, who doesn't have many weapons and must rely on defense, tactics, guile and heart to excel. She failed at it in 2012 (some would say miserably but in reality how bad can a top ten finish be?) with what was perceived by many to be a lukewarm effort. Perhaps in 2013 the light bulb will click again?
2. Milos Raonic
I made a bet with a colleague at Indian Wells in 2011 that Milos Raonic (you may know him as the maple leaf missile) would be No. 1 in the world by 2013. Thankfully the bet was only for a beer, something I can afford, because Raonic is clearly not ready to unseat Novak Djokovic at the top of tennis's food table at the moment.
Not that the tall, cool Canadian didn't have an awesome year in many ways in 2012. He did. He showed promise; He showed determination; And, and of course, he showed off that mammoth serve which is second only to John Isner in the men's game.
But Raonic didn't show the ability to play that step-up type of match that could really be considered a breakthrough. He missed out on huge chances in the Slams and in Masters events numerous times. He lost to Monaco in five sets in the French Open in a match where he played entirely too passive. He got bullied by Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in the second round when he should have been doing the bullying. He blew back-to-back chances to reach his first Masters semifinal in Toronto and Cincinnati this summer against players he could have beaten (Isner and Wawrinka).
The list goes on and on. And, on.
Still, Raonic is only 21, and he was so close on so many occasions in 2012, one can only assume that all his frustrations will give provide him with the hunger/ spark he needs to have the breakout that many have been expecting in 2013.
3. Gael Monfils
LaMonf couldn't stay healthy in 2012, and a lot of paying customers missed out on the magical mystery tour that is Gael Monfils when he is going good as a result. The 26-year-old started the year with a bang, beating Nadal to reach the Doha final in early January, but from that moment on it was pretty much all bad news and worse news for Monfils. After blowing a two-set lead in the third round of the Australian Open to Mikhail Kukushkin, Monfils didn't even play another Grand Slam. That pretty much says it all...
4. Ion Tiriac
The quirky, eccentric impresario has done great things for tennis over the years, but Ion Tiriac's insistence on pushing this blue clay thing in Madrid put the player's collective health in jeopardy and ended up being a PR disaster in 2012. On paper, it wasn't such a horrible idea--TV viewers agreed that the ball was more visible and that was a good thing--but the execution was flat-out horrible. Players slipped and slid all over the place on the makeshift surface, and they complained, complained, complained about it to no end.
In the end the problem with idea was not necessarily the clay but Tiriac's haste. The Romanian billionaire clearly rushed this idea and it showed. Had he taken the time to ensure that his clay played in a manner similar to red clay, he might have been able to win over some traditionalists.
But since he rushed things, he ended up looking silly, and he might have alienated Rafael Nadal, the tournament's biggest draw, from ever playing it again.
Shame, shame, shame.
5. Bernard Tomic
It seems like the Australian No. 2 (that's right, Marinko Matosevic is the Aussie No. 1) is more interested in racing the police around Queensland in whatever new sports car he has just purchased than actually continuing to develop his game so that it can stand up at the elite level. Bernard Tomic, a wildly gifted youngster who is still only 20, is exhibiting many signs that he may be a burnt-out prodigy instead of a future star of the game at this current time.
It's sad because after his nice run at Wimbledon in 2011, and his fantastic display at the 2012 Australian Open, many of us had him pegged for the top 20 or maybe even top 10 by the end of this year.
Instead of reaching those lofty marks, Tomic's season instead devolved into accusations of tanking (whether or not he tanked, he was horribly bad in New York), testy press conferences that displayed his immaturity and angst, naked hot tub wrestling, and being thrown of the Australian Davis Cup team.
It went from bad to worse for Tomic in 2012, but like all of the aforementioned disappointments, the sweet sunlight of a new season will soon be upon them.
Better things may indeed by on the way.
(Photo Credit: Mark Corleve)