- Peter Bodo, Tennis
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This wasn't a very good year for the crowd that hands out year-end awards. The male Player of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year were one and the same guy: Rafael Nadal. On the WTA side, Serena Williams dominated even more thoroughly than Nadal, and there was neither a resurgent player nor a newcomer who created a sensation.
So here's an idea. Let's name the Duds of the Year -- the male and female players who most disappointed their ardent fans and pundits in 2013. This year, both of them hail from Down Under. One of them lives in the town called Gold Coast, the other just takes lap dances there.
Let's start with the ATP's Bernard Tomic. Has anyone had as horrific a year as this "complicated" former prodigy?
In 2012, Tomic finished at No. 52 in the ATP rankings, a 10-place drop where he ended 2011. The most amazing thing about Tomic's 2013 may be that through all the turmoil, he actually improved his year-end ranking by one tick (to No. 51). That's not exactly what pundits predicted when, at just 18, Tomic qualified for Wimbledon and made the quarterfinals.
Tomic had a good start in 2013; he won the title in Sydney and made it to the third round of the Australian Open. But when the tour moved out of Australia, he began to sputter. And soon after the European clay-court swing began, his support system collapsed. In May, right before the Madrid tournament, Tomic's coach and father, John, beat up his son's hitting partner, Thomas Drouet. That's right -- beat him up. The attack left Drouet with a broken nose and stitches, and Tomic was forced to deal with the controversy and its consequences for weeks on end.
Although Bernard Tomic never denied his father's culpability, he wouldn't renounce the man either. He also accused the ATP, which suspended John Tomic from attending tournaments indefinitely, of mishandling the situation. Tomic felt the ATP acted imperiously in disciplining his father without reaching out to the Tomic family in a discreet manner.
As Tomic fielded question after embarrassing question regarding his violent father, his game hit the skids. Although he had a decent Wimbledon (he made the fourth round with an upset of year-end No. 9 Richard Gasquet), the controversy dogged him and he won just seven of his final 20 matches in 2013.
The events seemed further proof that Tomic is a trouble magnet. Just days ago, photos emerged of Tomic enjoying lap dances at the "Sin City" nightclub in Surfer's Paradise. It added further to Tomic's blossoming reputation as a kind of male Lindsay Lohan of tennis.
Samantha Stosur kicked and clawed and finished 2012 at No. 9. But this year, a downward spiral carried her to a year-end No. 18. It could have been worse had Stosur not finished on an upbeat note, winning 12 of her final 15 matches. In fact, it might have been a lot worse.
Stosur's decline through the past two years borders on the astonishing, given that in 2011 she seemed to fulfill the potential that had always been obvious to onlookers when she upset Serena Williams to win the US Open. Players who hit their stride that way rarely fade so quickly without mitigating circumstances. But the only thing remotely like one for Stosur was the fact that she fired David Taylor, her coach of many years, just nine days before the start of the US Open.
That might help explain Stosur's sensational loss to 17-year-old American ingenue Victoria Duval, but the fact remains that Stosur fired Taylor partly because of how poorly she'd played for so long earlier in the year. She never made it past the quarterfinals until she won Carlsbad in July. But the US Open was a debacle, and she plummeted to No. 20 before she launched her late-season push in Osaka.
It was too little, too late, too often -- and that's not likely to change when the new year begins. Stosur goes to pieces playing in her native Australia. And right now, it's hard to imagine her fellow countryman and Gold Coast habitué Tomic doing much better.