2006 MEN'S SEASON AWARDS
By Jason Brown, USTA.comPlayer of the Year: Roger Federer
The three-time defending US Open champion just keeps on raising the bar.
Even more impressive than his spectacular 2005 season, Federer claimed three of the four Slams, compiled a 92-5 singles record and earned a record $8 million in prize money.
Finishing the year with a flourish, the Swiss won five titles in a row, culminating with a dominating Masters Cup performance in Shanghai over James Blake.
At this point in his career, Federer is playing for two things: his place among the elite in tennis history and winning the only Grand Slam event that has eluded him, the French Open.
Breakthrough Season: James Blake
What would James Blake do for an encore after a triumphant return from a career-threatening neck injury, the loss of his father and a bout of shingles -- a comeback that featured an instant classic against living legend Andre Agassi in the 2005 US Open quarterfinals?
Taking his game to the next level, the classy American cemented his standing as a top five player, winning a career-best five singles titles and was rewarded with a well-earned place in the elite Masters Cup field for the first time.Best Moment: Andre Agassi’s Farewell, US Open
The 2006 US Open was a tournament of tearful goodbyes and memorable indoctrinations, none exemplified better than on a sun-splashed Labor Day weekend of tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Playing in his 21st and final US Open, Agassi gave the capacity crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium something special to remember him by, lifting an entire sport that he carried on his back for so many years with an emotional farewell speech.
Continue reading for more reflection on Agassi’s final trip to the US Open
Most Improved: Andy Murray
There was a noticeable maturity in Murray’s game this year and new coach Brad Gilbert was a big reason why.
The 19-year-old captured his first ATP title at San Jose (defeating Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt), reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, and was at his absolute best during the US Open Series hard court season, which included a stunning upset of Roger Federer at Cincinnati -- the biggest win of his young career.
Look for the irascible Brit to take an even greater step forward in 2007.Best Quote: Andre Agassi, US Open
September 3, 2006: “The scoreboard said I lost today, what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. And over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty.
"You have pulled me on the court and also in life. I’ve found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I’ve found generosity.
"You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams that I could have never reached with you. Over the last 21 years, I have found you. And I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life. Thank you.”
Newcomer of the Year: Marcos Baghdatis
If not for James Blake, the Cypriot would also be a leading candidate for breakthrough season honors. In January, the crowd-pleasing shot-maker captivated Melbourne Park by reaching the Australian Open final after surviving five-set miracles against Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian, and also made an improbable run to the Wimbledon semifinals.
While he began to fade during the second half of the year, including a memorable loss to Andre Agassi at the US Open, Baghdatis established himself as a future Top-10 player, and one of tennis’ most consistently entertaining talents.Doubles Team of the Year: Bob and Mike Bryan
The California twins would be the first to admit that they’ve compiled better years in the past, but any team would gladly welcome their 2006 resume.
The Bryans started with a bang, winning the Australian Open and Tennis Channel Open.
After consecutive finals’ losses at Indian Wells and Miami, the Bryans fell in the French Open final, but quickly rebounded with an impressive championship run at Wimbledon.
Dominating the US Open Series with wins in Los Angeles, Washington, and Toronto, the Bryans were odds-on favorites entering the US Open, but were surprisingly upset, a rare blemish to another sterling season.
Mainstays on the U.S. Davis Cup team, the Bryans were a perfect 3-0 representing their country.
Best Innovation: Instant Replay Technology
The first major tournament to introduce electronic review technology, the use of on-court player challenges at the 2006 US Open was a great success. On August 28 at 2:15 pm Eastern Time, Mardy Fish of the United States made the first-ever player challenge in a Grand Slam event.
Playing in Louis Armstrong Stadium in his first round match against Frenchman Simon Greul, Fish challenged a winner hit down the sideline, and the call was upheld. 229 player challenges were called over 88 matches. 72 of those challenges – 31 percent – were successful.
Following suit with the US Open, the 2007 Australian Open will adopt the electronic line-calling for the first time in its history, with other Slams soon to follow.
Click here for complete instant replay statistics from the 2006 US Open.
Match of the Year: Andre Agassi vs. Marcos Baghdatis, US Open
Hands-down the toughest ticket to find of the 2006 US Open.
Like his memorable nighttime encounter with fellow American James Blake the year before, this match featuring Agassi had a little bit of everything.
Riding his adrenaline, the great champion stormed out to a two-set lead, before the eighth-seed clawed back to force a fifth set.
The 63-minute final captivated the capacity Ashe Stadium crowd, and they were rewarded with one of the most memorable Agassi victories of his career, a triumph that has the legs to replace Connors-Krickstein as one of the most replayed matches of all-time.
Comeback Player of the Year: Mikhail Youzhny
Tired of being labeled as a chronic underachiever, the 24-year-old Muscovite made an investment in himself, paying dividends at the US Open where he upset second-seed Rafael Nadal and made a surprise trip to the semifinals.
A great team player, the man they dubbed Misha also helped lead Russia to its first Davis Cup championship since 2002.
Most Compelling Encounter: Blake vs. Roddick, US Open Series
A dream all-American final in Week 1 of the US Open Series at the RCA Championships in Indianapolis, the two close friends and Davis Cup teammates went head-to-head, with Blake coming out on top in an evenly-matched contest, 4-6, 6-5, 7-6(5).
While Roddick would go on to claim overall US Open Series honors for the second year in a row, Blake would finish the year ranked ahead of him for the first time.
Greatest Humanitarian: (tie) Andre Agassi & Roger Federer
For years, Agassi has raised money for underprivileged youth in his hometown of Las Vegas, and founded a school built around his strong belief system.
Meanwhile, in his new role as an international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Federer has carved time out of his schedule to help ensure the health, education, and protection of children around the world.
A neat novelty item – and a great holiday gift for the rabid tennis fan in your life – “Feder-Bear” Beanie Babies benefiting UNICEF are on-sale.
Best Television Tandem: Cliff Drysdale & Patrick McEnroe
Consistently the most informative, insightful tandem in the business, Drysdale and McEnroe bring thoughtful commentary to the broadcast booth.
Both former players, Drysdale has a wealth of historical perspective, while the current U.S. Davis Cup captain can break down points and talk match strategy with the eye of a coach.
Honorable mention in this category goes to Ted Robinson (play-by-play) for his work during the US Open and Brad Gilbert (color commentary), whose experience coaching Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Andy Murray provides a unique viewpoint.
2007 Tournament Calendar
Get an early peek at the slate for next season by checking out the new ATP Tour schedule.