It has been a hectic year for men's tennis.
Yes, it ended with the same guy on top as it had begun, Novak Djokovic, but the rungs just beneath him shifted quite dramatically over 2012, with Nadal, the second-ranked player in January now fourth-ranked, Federer having moved up to his place and Andy Murray ending the year one rank higher than he did 2011, at world No. 3.
It was perhaps the story of the Big Four yet again in 2012, and while they made up much of the tennis headlines, again there were also interesting side notes—one of which caught the headlines in capital letters for a day, at least.
So, in no particular order of importance, here are the key milestones of a defining year of men's tennis:
1) Rafael Nadal Wins His Seventh, Record Breaking, French Open
As it had been expected and maybe overly eagerly fore-appraised, it finally happened—Rafael Nadal got over the record six-title tilt of Bjorn Borg in another sublimely dominant fortnight in Paris.
He won his seventh French Open in eight years, and in setting a record that is unlikely to be broken for a long while maybe secured his all-time greatness on clay.
2) Roger Federer Captures Record-Equalling Title at Wimbledon
Rafa's seven titles at Paris left the tennis world in awe for a month after the French, although Roger Federer's achievement over the two weeks at London was in many ways no less great.
It equaled Pete Sampras' feat at the All-England Club, and given the much more aleatory and hit-and-miss nature of grass court tennis, a statistic that may continue to be underestimated. That is, until Federer should break Sampras' record in 2013.
3) Andy Murray Wins Olympics and Maiden Grand Slam
The long-awaited triumph had been heralded by a long predicted anytime-now. Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer in a best-of-five set match, on grass, for the first time ever at the Olympics and backed it up with a gut-wrenching (for all the good reasons) victory in the US Open final over Novak Djokovic.
A maiden gold medal, and a maiden grand slam, to definitively break the four-year Grand Slam curse that had haunted him since his first Grand Slam final in 2008 (at the US Open which had been held just after the last Olympics, too).
4) Novak Djokovic Defends Year-End No. 1
Not for five years has the year-end No. 1 ranking been defended, and it was Djokovic who put an end to this unfriendly statistic.
The Serbian seems a cheerful and positive fellow, and certainly managed his several finals losses in 2012 well to clinch two big titles at the end of the year at Shanghai and London.
Whether he will maintain the marginal dominance he wields over the tennis world in 2013 is to be seen.
5) Andy Roddick's Retirement
Lastly, an obituary.
Andy Roddick's starry career finally came to an end in New York on the court which had witnessed his career apex, his only Grand Slam win in 2003.
It was a forehand out wide that was his last professional tennis shot, but as it is with these things his career will be measured instead by his 600 plus match wins, 32 career singles titles, that monstrous game-changing serve and most importantly, his personification of the American ethic of success through industry.
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