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Golden year for Murray; Nadal hobbled by injuries

By Reuters in London (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-26 07:57

For Andy Murray, 2012 marked a golden milestone, for Novak Djokovic the year was an emphatic reminder of his status as the world's best male player, and for Roger Federer and his army of fans it was proof that the old master's magic still sparkles.

Serena Williams used the second half of the year to demonstrate she continues to be head and shoulders above her rivals in the women's game, whatever the rankings suggest.

Of the sport's marquee names, only Rafa Nadal will reflect on the past year with regret after six months out with a knee injury, and all eyes will be studying the 11-time Grand Slam winner's form once the new season swings into action.

Nadal, one of four different winners of the men's Grand Slam titles this year, has not played a match since a shock Wimbledon defeat by Lukas Rosol.

He hopes to return at the Australian Open, although he has sensibly lowered expectations of an immediate impact.

In any other era the absence of a player of Nadal's caliber would be an impossible void to fill, yet such is the quality at the top of the men's game that the Mallorcan's extended lay-off merely took a little gloss off what was otherwise a vintage year.

Murray began it with a new coach in Ivan Lendl but still without a Grand Slam title on his CV, having lost in his first three major finals without taking a set.

The Scot became Britain's first male Wimbledon singles finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938, but Federer's grass-court brilliance deprived Murray of the title.

Three weeks later, Murray returned to the All-England Club lawns like a man on a mission and he rode a wave of national euphoria to thrash Federer in the Olympic singles final.

Golden year for Murray; Nadal hobbled by injuries

Fueled with belief, Murray then strode into New York and when a fifth shot at a Grand Slam final duly arrived he rose to the occasion to beat Djokovic in a five-set epic.

It was a setback for Djokovic but the Serbian, who began the year by beating Nadal to retain the Australian Open title in the longest-ever men's Grand Slam final, finished it off as year-end world No 1 for the second season running.

"Considering the circumstances that I had to face on and off the court, expectations, all these things, I believe that this year has been even more successful for me," Djokovic, who won three major titles in 2011, said after beating Federer to win the ATP Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena.

Top spot

Though Federer's year ended in defeat, the 31-year-old Swiss will look back on 2012 with pride.

A record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title took his Grand Slam haul to 17 and propeled him back to the top of the world rankings long enough to surpass Pete Sampras's record of 286 weeks as No 1.

The father of two is expected to scale back his schedule in 2013, but will still be a force to be reckoned with when the big prizes are up for grabs.

"I think it's been a fantastic season to be part of," Federer said. "Four different Grand Slam champs. Then having the Olympics, as well, was obviously very unique."

Fellow 31-year-old Serena Williams had a relatively slow start to the year, but after losing in the first round of the French Open to Virginie Razzano she was unstoppable.

The American won a fifth Wimbledon title, completed a golden slam by winning the Olympic singles gold in London, as well as the doubles with sister Venus, and a fourth US Open title and capped the year by not dropping a set at the WTA Finals in Istanbul.

Belarus's Victoria Azarenka ended the year as a worthy No 1, having captured the Australian Open and five other titles, while Maria Sharapova completed a career grand slam at the French Open, but Williams was rightly named WTA Player of the Year.

(China Daily 12/26/2012 page23)

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