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2009 Men's Year in Review

Roger Federer won his sixth Wimbledon title in 2009 to set the all-time Grand Slam record.
Juan Martin del Potro won his first career Grand Slam title at the 2009 US Open.
Rafael Nadal won the 2009 Australian Open.
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com

As we approach 2010, we look back on the men’s professional tennis season in 2009, a year in which we witnessed records broken, history made, old stars shine, new champions crowned and said goodbye to some great players along the way. Here is a refresher on some of the memorable moments and matches from this past year:

January – Just before the beginning of the 2009 Australian Open, Juan Martin del Potro started the year ranked No. 9 and wins the Heineken Open to move up to a career-high No. 6. It would just be the beginning of great things for the Argentine in 2009. The year’s first Grand Slam then began in Melbourne with much of the drama surrounding whether Roger Federer could win the title to tie Pete Sampras’ all-time Grand Slam record of 14. During the tournament, defending champion Novak Djokovic is forced to retire against Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals, and Fernando Verdasco begins a great season with a run to the semifinals.

Verdasco defeats Andy Murray in the fourth round in five sets and gave world No. 1 Rafael Nadal a run in the semifinals, pushing the match to five sets and over five hours before Nadal prevailed to reach his first Australian Open final. Federer eases past del Potro in the quarters and Roddick in the semis to set up another Federer-Nadal final. And the two friendly rivals play another classic five-set match, with Nadal winning his first Australian Open for his first major hardcourt title and denying Federer his 14th major title. Americans Bob and Mike Bryan win the doubles crown for their seventh Grand Slam title.

February – Murray wins his second title of the year at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, and Tommy Robredo captures titles in back-to-back weeks at the Brasil Open and Copa Telmex. Roddick wins his first title at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, and Djokovic wins his first in Dubai.

March – The first round of Davis Cup was the first event of March, with the U.S. defeating Switzerland (Roger Federer was to play but withdrew from the competition), 4-1, in Birmingham, Ala. Other winners were Argentina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Israel, Russia, Germany and Spain. And next up were the spring mini-majors in the U.S. in Indian Wells and Miami. Nadal continued his hot start to the year and helped silence more of his critics with another hardcourt title in Indian Wells, where Roddick and Mardy Fish took home the doubles crown. At the end of the month, Murray wins his second title of the season in Miami, defeating Djokovic in the final. Del Potro reaches the semifinals (losing to Murray) to reach a career-high ranking of No. 5.

April – As the calendar turned to April, so did the ATP Tour to the European clay-court season, aka the time of year when Nadal usually begins to dominate. And this April was not much different as the Spaniard won back-to-back-to-back clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, twice defeating Djokovic in the final. The title drought for Federer now reaches four months into 2009.

May – After talk of Federer’s title drought continued to grow, he ends it in May in dramatic fashion: with an upset of Nadal on clay to win the Madrid Masters for his 15th career Masters title. The loss snaps Nadal’s 33-match win streak on clay. Roland Garros begins a few weeks later with Nadal, however, still a heavy favorite to win his fifth straight title. Murray also displaces Djokovic as the No. 3 player in the world in mid-May.

June – At the start of the year, it seemed the least likely place of Federer’s record-tying major title would be Roland Garros, given Nadal’s complete domination of the event since 2005. But it happened. Roland Garros was the site of arguably the most shocking defeat of the year, as Nadal lost in the fourth round to unheralded Robin Soderling. Soderling became the first man to ever defeat Nadal at Roland Garros and quickly became a history trivia answer and a household name. Soderling advanced to the final against Federer, where the mighty Swiss won in straight sets and dodged a court-running fan, to complete the career Grand Slam with his first French Open title and tie Sampras’ record, dropping to the court in celebration. Federer became just the sixth man in history to complete the career Grand Slam. “It is maybe my greatest victory,” Federer said. Soderling then surges up to No. 12 in the world from No. 25 after the tournament. Shortly thereafter, Nadal reveals that he is suffering from knee tendinitis and, as the defending champion, is forced to withdraw from Wimbledon, setting the stage for Federer to perhaps reclaim the title he held for five years and set the all-time major mark. Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy are the doubles champions at Roland Garros.

July – At Wimbledon, hometown favorite Murray reaches the semifinals for the first time but is unable to reach the final, falling in four sets to Roddick, who reaches his third career final at the All-England Club. Also reaching the semifinals for the first time was 31-year-old Tommy Haas, who upset Djokovic along the way. He would lose in the semis to Federer, setting up another major final between Federer and Roddick. The final turns into a classic match for the second year in a row after the unforgettable Nadal-Federer final of 2008. Roddick and Federer battle into a marathon five sets and over four hours, as Federer serves his way with 50 aces to a sixth Wimbledon crown. With the win, he becomes the men’s all-time Grand Slam leader with 15 majors, and he breaks Roddick just once in the entire match – but in the fifth set – to win it, 16-14. It was also Federer’s 60th career title on the ATP Tour. Just after his victory, Federer surges back to the world No. 1 spot, after relinquishing it to Nadal in the summer of 2008, and stays there through the rest of 2009. In doubles, Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor win the title.

After Wimbledon came the Davis Cup quarterfinals, where the U.S. falls, 3-2, to Croatia. Also moving on were the Czech Republic, Israel and Spain.

The Olympus US Open Series kicks off in Indianapolis in mid-July, with Robby Ginepri winning the first title. The men then moved to the LA Tennis Open, where Sam Querrey takes the singles crown and the Bryans win the doubles. It is the third straight tournament final appearance for Querrey and his fifth ATP Tour title. Outside the Series, Nikolay Davydenko – who missed a few months earlier in the year with a heel injury – wins titles in Hamburg and Croatia.

August – The Series continues with the Legg Mason Tennis Classic and a win for del Potro, who defends his title with a three-set win over Roddick. Murray then wins the Rogers Cup over del Potro, becoming the first player with 50 match wins on the year. The win also helped boost Murray up to his career-high ranking of No. 2 in the world, behind Federer. Also at the Rogers Cup, Nadal makes his return to the ATP Tour for the first time since Roland Garros, losing to del Potro in the quarterfinals. Federer then continues his great summer with the title at the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters. And in the last tournament of the Series, Verdasco wins the Pilot Pen heading into the US Open.

September – The tour then turned to the US Open, where Federer attempted to win six straight titles and the tennis world envisioned another potential Nadal-Federer final. But that was not in the cards, as del Potro easily defeats Nadal in straight sets to advance to his first career Grand Slam final, where he is the underdog to the five-time champion. Federer advanced with a win over Djokovic in the semifinals. After seemingly on his way to his sixth straight title, the tide turned in the second set of the final, when del Potro pulled it out in a tiebreak to pull himself back into the match as Federer uncharacteristically struggled with his serving throughout the match. Del Potro won the fourth set in a tiebreak and then scored the upset. He was a Grand Slam champion for the first time, with a 6-2 win in the fifth set to firmly establish his place in the upper echelons of the men’s game. “My dream (is) done. It’s over. I will go home with a trophy, and it’s my best sensation ever in my life,” del Potro said of his win. Among the other upsets in the tournament, Marin Cilic defeats Murray in the fourth round, and John Isner defeats Roddick in the third round.

The Davis Cup semifinals are late in the month, with Spain defeating Israel and the Czech Republic defeating Croatia to reach the final.

October – Djokovic opens the month with a title win at the China Open and mid-month moves back up to No. 3 in the world. Davydenko wins the Shanghai Masters – the start of a great end to the year for the Russian – defeating Nadal in the final in straight sets and Djokovic in the semis. Federer withdraws from the event.

November – Murray opens November winning the title in Valencia for his sixth title of the year – tops on the ATP Tour. Federer returns to the ATP Tour at his hometown tournament, the Davidoff Swiss Indoors in Basel, but Djokovic spoils the homecoming with a three-set victory over the three-time champion in the final. The last Masters tournament of the year is in Paris, where Djokovic continues his end-of-the-season hot streak with a three-set win over crowd favorite Gael Monfils in the final for his fifth title of the year. Federer bows out in his first match against Julien Benneteau, and Marat Safin loses in the second round to del Potro in the final match of his career. Safin, 29, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1, had announced that 2009 would be his last season on the ATP Tour. After his loss, a group of fellow players joins him on the court to celebrate his last match and career.

The ATP season came to a close at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, where Federer, Davydenko, del Potro and Soderling reach the semifinals. During the tournament, Federer officially clinches the year-end world No. 1 ranking and was crowned ATP World Tour Champion for the fifth time. Soderling defeats both Nadal and defending champion Djokovic in the round robin in his first appearance in the season-ending tournament. Davydenko upsets Federer and then goes on to win the title against del Potro with a straight-sets win in the final for his first victory at the tournament. In doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan surge back to the top of the rankings, winning the championship and capturing the ATP World Tour Doubles Champion title for the fifth time, as they end the season as the No. 1 doubles team in the world.

December – The last tennis event of the season is the Davis Cup Final, where Spain wins its second straight title in Barcelona with a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic. Nadal and David Ferrer each win two singles matches, and Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez clinch the tie with a victory in the doubles rubber over Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek.

On to 2010!
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