We're entering into the heart of the "Five Best" or "Ten Best" part of the year, a sure sign that tennis is as dead as a pond covered with a foot of green scum. But anyone can come up with a "greatest hits" type listing, because we all tend to remember great matches. And all you have to do to find them is go back through the draws and look for a score line that looks like it came off a Powerball lottery ticket.
So let's go the other way and single out the worst matches of 2012. Of course, we saw a lot of lousy matches in the course of a year, and not all of them featured Donald Young or Jelena Jankovic. And we're not going to look at any of those 6-3, 6-1 wins by Serena Williams. (Is it just me or does she hammer everyone 3-and-1?)
Also, we'll stick with matches that were either important or intriguing (I mean, does anyone really care that Iveta Benesova beat Nina Bratchikova 6-1, 6-3 at the U.S. Open?), but delivered far less than they promised. And we'll just go tournament by tournament, according to the calendar.
Granted, Azarenka was on fire in the early part of the year, and she was overdue to win a Grand Slam event. But Sharapova was the vastly more experienced player, and she jumped out to a 2-0 lead, raising hopes among the Masha faithful that she would win this one in a blowout.
However, Azarenka reeled off 12 of the final 13 games and finished off Sharapova in 1 hour, 22 minutes. It was such a surprise that the first words that left Azarenka's lips when she turned to coach Sam Sumyk were, "What happened?"
Monaco was one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour going into this one. He had won titles in Vina del Mar and Houston, and he had back-to-back wins on the hard courts in Miami over hometown heroes Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish.
By the time the French Open rolled around, Monaco was up to a career high No. 15 in the rankings. But his longtime PlayStation buddy Nadal was merciless when the two met at Roland Garros.
Nadal won 17 games in a row in an execution that lasted a mere hour and 46 minutes on court Suzanne Lenglen. The only excuse Monaco could fall back on was the weight history: He had never won more than three games off Nadal in any given set in their four previous matches on clay, either.
Yeah, I know, little (5-foot-9) David Ferrer is a warrior. Perhaps the most dedicated player on the planet. Ranked in the top five since the crash of the Hindenburg. I don't care. At 30 years of age, Ferrer was giving away six years and a solid 9 inches of height to Delpo.
It would be one thing if this match were on clay. But it was on a grass court that pays enormous dividends for players who can rain down aces and scorch the turf with big forehands and backhands. That Ferrer so thoroughly flummoxed the No. 9 seed was simply astonishing.
Clijsters' victory lap seemed to take forever. It seems like she's come back for the equivalent of a farewell concert more often than Elton John. She made a great effort in Australia but lost a tough three-setter to Azarenka in the semis. Clijsters missed Paris with an injury and raised hopes at Wimbledon even though she went in unseeded. But it was to no avail.
Sure, Kerber was a high seed. But unlike Clijsters, she's not a Grand Slam champ, nor has she been anywhere near the No. 1 ranking. That double-breadstick blowout was a real buzz kill, especially because Clijsters had not lost a set en route to what turned out to be the match that doused her hopes of ever winning Wimbledon.
London, Olympic Games, second round: No. 2 Novak Djokovic d. Andy Roddick, 6-2, 6-1
Nobody actually expected Roddick to beat Djokovic or win a gold medal, but Roddick's outstanding history at Wimbledon (where the tennis event was held) and the best-of-three format ensured that he was probably the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw. But he came up woefully flat, and Djokovic just belted him off the court.
The only good thing that came out of it was my choice for the ATP quote of the year. Roddick said after that loss: "I feel like it's extremes with me right now. If I win one, it's like career appreciation day. Then if I lose one, it's like we should take him out into the field and shoot him in the head."
We're gonna miss this guy.
London Olympic Games, final: No. 4 Serena Williams d. No. 3 Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-1
I'm going to make this really simple. How does a No. 4 seed do this to a No. 3 who just weeks earlier completed a career Grand Slam?
U.S. Open, second round: No. 20 Andy Roddick d. Bernard Tomic, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0
Everyone wanted to see Roddick do well at his home tournament, the only Grand Slam event he's ever won, especially after he shocked everyone by declaring after his first-round win that this would be the final ATP tournament of his pro career. But people were hoping to see a match, not a shockingly unprofessional performance that earned the 19-year-old Tomic one of the all-time great nicknames, "Tomic the Tank Engine."
I'm sorry if I missed any of your favorite stinkers. I'm sure we'll have plenty more to sift through in the upcoming year.