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By Chris Oddo

Serena Williams French Open (Dec 11, 2012) -- Some things went as expected in 2012 -- Novak Djokovic finished the year as No. 1, Rafael won the French, Serena Williams won Wimbledon -- and some things turned the sport on its head.

Case in point: If we started off 2012 with a pronouncemen that Andy Roddick would beat Roger Federer and would hang up his racquet in the same year -- would you have believed us? Probably not.

Here's our list of the Top Ten Tennis Surprises of 2012. (Did your list of suprises make ours? Tell us in the comments section below!)

1. Serena loses in the first round at Roland Garros

"It was a meltdown as epic and complete as any in her career," wrote Greg Bishop of the New York Times after Serena Williams had blown the final six points of the second set and the first five games of the third en route to a stunning 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 upset at the hands of world No. 111 Virginie Razzano of France. What was most surprising about this dramatic upset was that Williams was 17-0 on clay coming into Roland Garros, and she had never lost a first-round match at a Grand Slam in 46 previous appearances.

2. Roddick Retires Out of the Blue

We all knew Andy Roddick was having trouble getting his body to respond to the rigors of life on the tour, but the 30-year-old had a milestone victory over Roger Federer and two tour titles under his belt when he headed to New York to play his thirteenth U.S. Open. Who knew it would be his last? Why close that door at an age that is considered by many to be the age where career resurrections begin? Only Andy knows...



3. Rosol Sends Rafa into Hibernation



Which was more surprising: the fact that Rafael Nadal lost to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon or the fact that Rafael Nadal would not play again in 2012 after the loss? Both were pretty surprising, but Rosol's near-perfect fifth set under Wimbledon's Centre Court roof, with all the world watching and holding their breath, has to be the bigger surprise. Rosol hit seven aces and twenty winners in that final set. He also made 19 of 23 first serves and lost only one of the 19 first-serve points he played. It was a stunning, comprehensive beat-down by a journeyman also-ran against one of the greatest players of his generation just two weeks after his seventh French Open title, and it happened on the game's grandest stage jam-packed with onlookers who were shocked to the core.

4. Brian Baker Breaks Out In a Big Way

Qualifying for the French Open was one thing, but reaching the Nice final in the lead-up, after defeating Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko? But Brian Baker's inspiring rags to riches story didn't end on the red clay in Paris. The former World No. 2 junior qualified for Wimbledon and proceeded to reach the fourth round. When the grass clippings had settled, tennis fans everywhere were familiar with Baker story: the five surgeries that cut short a promising career, the soft-spoken, wildly refreshing humility and soulfulness, and now, the sparkling return to form that made the Tenessee native the feel good story of 2012.

5. Murray Gets the Monkey off His Back

We knew it was going to come someday, and with Andy Murray's arch nemesis Rafael Nadal on the sidelines licking his wounds, late summer was clearly a perfect time for Murray to host his coming out party in New York at the 2012 U.S. Open. But timing has never been Murray's thing; painful losses, however, have. So to see Murray rise above all the pressure with a command performance was indeed surprising to many who had become accustomed to him losing in the most painful, tantalizing manner possible up to this point in his career.

6. Federer Wins Wimbledon

Of course Federer won a 17th Grand Slam and a 7th Wimbledon title this year. He's the greatest tennis player of all-time, so why is it surprising? In a lot of ways it's not, but when you consider that Julien Benneteau was perilously close to delivering a depressing knockout blow to Federer's 2012 campaign when he went up two sets to love in their third-round tilt at Wimbledon, you realize that Federer's 17th Slam was anything but a sure thing at Wimbledon this year.

With Federer's last Grand Slam title happening two a half years ago, it wasn't a far-fetched notion that Federer's Slam total might actually be permanently stuck at sweet sixteen -- he wasn't getting any younger, after all.

That all changed in the final, when Federer outclassed Andy Murray and fell to the grass like a man who had been shot by the bullet of his own dreams coming true yet again.

7. Janowicz and Klizan Steal the Show From Harrison, Tomic and Dimitrov

We've heard so much about the latter three and so little about the former two, that it really is surprising that as 2012 drew to a close, Jerzy Janowicz and Martin Klizan were both inside the top 30 while Harrison, Tomic and Dimitrov were not.

8. Laura Robson Finishes the Season 19 spots Ahead of Svetlana Kuznetsova

Robson caught fire after linking up with Zeljko Krajan last summer, and the difference in her game showed in her footwork and intensity. Meanwhile, Kuznetsova's best shots were hit on Twitter. The Russian was downed by inconsistent play early in the season and injuries late. She did not play after Wimbledon and reached only one semifinal in 2012 (Auckland). Robson reached her first final in Guangzhou and netted the WTA's Newcomer of the Year award as well.



9. Grigor Dimitrov Tries The Craziest Shot In Tennis History, and Makes It


We'll let the video tell the story for Grigor Dimitrov on this one...



10. Sam Stosur Goes Titleless in 2012

It would have made complete sense if Sam Stosur's 2011 U.S. Open title ended up providing the necessary belief to propel her to World No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam winner. But the fragile-nerved Aussie didn't get the memo. Her titleless run in 2012 (including failing to defend her U.S. Open) and subsequent fall out of the top five has to be one of the most disappointing developments in 2012.


(Photo Credit: AP)

 

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