Sunday, December 18, 2011
Updated: December 19, 5:56 AM ET
100 memories: Wozniacki finds love
Editor's note: The tennis season now over, it's time to look back. Novak Djokovic was no doubt the player of the year, but there were many memories to savor. Beginning Dec. 12, Ravi Ubha is unveiling his top 100 memories of the 2011 season. Check back each weekday until Dec. 23 as we count down to No. 1.
50. Project 45 accomplished
It wasn't long after Kei Nishikori hit the pro tennis tour that "Project 45" was born: The goal was to reach No. 45 in the world and thus become the highest-ranked men's Japanese player, one spot ahead of Shuzo Matsuoka.
Nishikori reached that milestone this year, and with room to spare.
"Shuzo Matsuoka has been a great mentor and teacher for me," Nishikori said. "It is an honor to be able to break his record."
Nishikori is now inside the top 25, with Roger Federer recently suggesting -- as Rafael Nadal did years ago -- that he can move up further.
49. Caroline's love match
Which couple is higher profile: Andy Roddick and actress/model Brooklyn Decker or Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy, golf's reigning U.S. Open winner?
After initially denying they were boyfriend-girlfriend, McIlroy confirmed they were a pair in August.
"Why it's going so well is that we have so much in common," McIlroy said. "Obviously different sports, but we're pretty much in the same position at a young age and we can talk about things that probably a lot of 21-, 22-year-olds can't talk about. It's nice to have someone that sort of understands what you're going through."
48. Murray mauls Nadal
Nadal endured some tough losses this year, but no one overmatched him more in a single set than Andy Murray in the final of the Japan Open in October.
Nadal was bageled in the third set, winning a paltry four points.
"I've lost a few sets 6-0, of course," Nadal said. "You prefer it doesn't happen, but he played fantastic, and in the third set he started to play at a really high level. Accept. That's it."
Nadal lost early in Shanghai the next week.
47. Marion ends Serena's Wimbledon
Marion Bartoli, how dare you prematurely end Serena Williams' uplifting run at Wimbledon? Williams had only returned to the tour earlier in June following a life-threatening illness and injuries.
A nervy Bartoli, once the Wimbledon finalist, squandered three match points trying to serve it out in the second set at 6-5, and Williams saved another match point in the tiebreaker before succumbing 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the fourth round.
"I obviously would have loved to do better, but considering the condition I was in, considering a lot of things, I really feel I did well," Williams said.
Better things were in store at the U.S. Open Series.
46. Venus' illness
Venus Williams' injuries were piling up. She had little idea of what was happening to her body. However, the 31-year-old finally received a firm diagnosis at the U.S. Open.
She has Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that, among other things, causes fatigue and joint pain. Williams pulled out of her second-round match in New York and didn't play another competitive encounter in 2011.
"I'm eating different things and that's helping," Williams said this month. "I need to try and be stronger for next year."
45. Bernard's breakthrough
Given where the banged-up Lleyton Hewitt is at in his career, men's tennis in Australia needed a big lift.
Bernard Tomic's timing, then, was perfect.
The highly touted Tomic, whose game resembles that of Murray, broke out at Wimbledon, becoming the youngest man to reach the quarterfinals since Boris Becker in 1986. Tomic was 18 at the time.
"I tell you, a star in the making," Becker told AAP. "I really liked the way he played, his composure."
Tomic will be under the spotlight next month in Melbourne.
44. Razzano plays through grief
No one would have blamed Virginie Razzano for skipping her home Slam, the French Open. Her fiancé, Stephane Vidal, who was also her coach, died shortly before the tournament at the age of 32 after being diagnosed years earlier with a brain tumor.
But Razzano, following his wishes, played at Roland Garros, donning a black ribbon in his memory and also wearing a necklace she once gave to him as a Valentine's Day gift.
The first-round loss didn't matter.
"I tried to pay tribute to Stephane today," Razzano said. "It was almost a mission impossible, but I did my best."
43. Roddick's Memphis match point
It wasn't a great year for Roddick. A rash of injuries played a part in a subpar year. But that paled in comparison to the sudden death of his agent and good friend, Ken Meyerson.
But there was one shining moment: hitting one of the best shots of the year. It came against Milos Raonic in the Memphis final -- on match point.
Roddick dived to his right and pushed a forehand past a stranded Raonic to collect his lone title of 2011.
"That's the best shot I've ever hit in my life, considering the circumstance," Roddick said.
42. Woz can't put away Li
How would the year have turned out if Wozniacki beat Li Na in the Australian Open semifinals? Would that have propelled her to the title and even more majors in 2011?
We can ponder.
Wozniacki, though, couldn't take advantage of a match point and was ousted 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in Melbourne. The bubbly Li fended off the match point with a flat forehand down the line to leave Wozniacki flattened.
Wozniacki teared up in the locker room minutes after the defeat, according to those who saw her.
41. Fish qualifies for London
When he was in his mid-20s, Mardy Fish probably couldn't have imagined that he'd one day compete at the year-end championships. He always had the talent, but his fitness and commitment let him down.
But by now you know the tale: Fish lost 30 pounds, and he subsequently played his best stuff in 2011 to indeed qualify for the elite eight-man event.
Fish wasn't overly annoyed that he went 0-3 in the group stage.
"I had a great experience just being a part of this," said Fish, who turned 30 on Dec. 9. "It gives you a lot of ammunition to want to come back next year."