Men’s Tennis in 2016: The Winners, Losers and Honourable Mentions
January 04, 2017
At the end of 2015, the immediate past, present and future of men’s tennis could be summed up in two words: Novak Djokovic. After all, the Serbian star had dominated the previous 12 months, reaching all four Grand Slam finals and winning at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
2016 has seen a change in the status quo, however, despite Djokovic winning his inaugural French Open title at Roland Garros with a stunning performance against Andy Murray in the final. While this victory helped the Serb to secure a career Slam, it also marked a reversal in fortunes for Djokovic and saw a significant power shift at the top of the men’s game.
With this in mind, let’s take a brief look at the men’s 2016 tennis season and consider the winners, the losers and those who achieved success against the odds: –
The Winners: A Grand Slam Roll of Honour
Of course, 2016 started well for Djokovic, who secured a record-equalling sixth title at the Australian Open in January before his emotional victory in Paris. The Serb seemed to suffer a decline in his physical and mental sharpness after the win, however, as he was dumped out of the third round at Wimbledon in a four set defeat by American Sam Querrey. This paved the way for Andy Murray’s second title at the All England Club, as the Scot resumed his partnership with Ivan Lendl to devastating effect in the second half of the year.
A second Olympic gold followed for Murray in Rio, before Stan Wawrinka devastated an under-par Djokovic to claim his third major and the US Open title in September. The Serb’s inconsistency towards the latter part of the year, coupled with Murray’s incredible form under the guidance of Lendl, ultimately saw the Scot triumph at the ATP Tour finals and London and emerge as the world number one for the very first time before the end of the season. This is reflected by the bookmakers, who have made Murray the narrow Australian Open favourite ahead of 2017.
The Losers: Who Struggled in 2016?
While Murray and Djokovic continued to trade blows throughout 2016, their fellow ‘big four’ members were conspicuous by their absence. Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, who have won a combined 32 Grand Slam titles between them, failed to compete for any of the major honours in 2016, as injury and the increasingly competitive nature of the tour began to take their toll.
Nadal endured a stop-start season, withdrawing from several tournaments due to a significant and recurring wrist complaint. This included a emotional exit prior to the third round of the French Open, while 2016 also saw the Spaniard’s first opening round departure from a major after a surprising five set loss to compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open.
In contrast, Federer followed up an impressive 2015 with a solid if unspectacular start to the new season, excelling before a five set, semi-final defeat to Canadian Milos Raonic. This marked an abrupt end to the season for the Swiss, who reported that a long-standing knee injury would keep him out of action until the beginning of 2017.
Welcome Back: The Return of Juan Martin Del Potro
Finally, we cannot let 2016 pass without making an honourable mention to the courageous and incredibly gifted Argentine (and 2009 US Open winner) Juan Martin Del Potro. Having started 2016 injured and ranked 590th in the world, he closed with a 32-12 record and rose to an impressive ranking position of 38th (while earning the ATP’s coveted Comeback Player of the Year award).
The highlight came in the Rio Olympics, where Del Potro stunned Nadal in the semi-finals before losing a gruelling and keenly contested four set final against defending champion Andy Murray. He then gained revenge over the Scot during the Davis Cup semi between Argentina and Great Britain, laying the foundation for a final win against Croatia and a maiden team title.
Although Del Potro has ruled out appearing at the Australian Open in January, he is set to ruffle some more feathers in 2017 and resume his place in the ATP top 10.