2005 Men's Year In Review
Player of the Year
The near-untouchable Roger Federer of Switzerland, who lost just four times in 85 matches this season. He collected 11 titles, including trophies at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and has been atop the rankings for 100 consecutive weeks.
Alone in second
Spain's teen wolf, Rafael Nadal, who chased and won just about everything Federer didn't. His reputation for dominating on clay (where he was 50-2) is well-deserved, but he signaled a readiness to run with the big dogs on hard courts as well, winning his first career title on the surface in Montreal.
35 is the new 30
The former number being the candles on Andre Agassi's last cake. If only his classic form, verve and unwavering discipline could carry him another decade.
Agassi quote of the year
Always a hard choice. I'll go with his Federer-Pete Sampras comparison after losing to Federer in the U.S. Open final: "Pete was great. I mean, no question. But there was a place to get to with Pete. You knew what you had to do there's no such place like that with Roger. I think he's the best I've played against."
Comebacker, with a bullet
Rocketing up the charts and into fuzzy chartreuse hearts was James Blake, whose horrific 2004 (neck injury, outbreak of Zoster virus and partial facial paralysis, father's death) gave him new resolve this year. Blake got rolling in August with a win in New Haven, Conn., and handled the spotlight gracefully in his late-night, five-set U.S. Open quarterfinal loss to Agassi. Then Blake quietly went on to win the Stockholm Open, his first title on European soil. Ranked as low as 210 in April, he finished at No. 24 -- his highest year-end ranking.
The ATP's move to change doubles scoring, shorten matches and shrink draws prompted a lawsuit by top players. Proponents of the changes argued that the tandem format is an increasingly low-interest money loser. Players maintained the tour has underpromoted and undermined the game. In the last few weeks the ATP has made several substantial gestures to appease the dubs lobby, but the suit hasn't been withdrawn.
The International Tennis Federation's recently announced eight-year ban on Mariano Puerta for a second doping offense was the latest in an increasingly embarrassing series of drug-related revelations affecting players from Argentina. This season alone, Guillermo Canas was banned for two years after testing positive for a diuretic used to mask drug use and doubles specialist Mariano Hood also admitted using a masking agent.
Nadal's calf-length "piratas" (also known as "clam-diggers" or "man-pris," after women's Capri pants) didn't do anything for me either, but I realize there may be a disconnect between U.S. and European tastes.
Observers of all nations, however, agreed on Dominik Hrbaty's "peek-a-boo" black-and-pink shirt -- think Madonna top worn backwards -- with half-moon-shaped cutouts over the shoulder blades. The outfit provoked Lleyton Hewitt's much-repeated quote about beating the Slovak at the U.S. Open because he couldn't bear to lose to "a bloke in a shirt like that."
Or to a bloke from Argentina
Hewitt's contentious victory over Guillermo Coria in a Davis Cup match in July was followed by a mutual hissy fit. Coria said through an interpreter that he wanted to "kill" Hewitt. "Lleyton cheers for other people's mistakes," Coria said. "I would rather not win a single tournament [than] be like him.'' Hewitt jabbed back. "He's arrogant and he's looking for every excuse in the book," said the Aussie, who had previous dust-ups with Coria's fellow Argentines David Nalbandian (who Hewitt said delivered a shoulder bump on a cross-over) and Juan Ignacio Chela (who spat toward Hewitt) at the Australian Open.
Touchy-feely moment of the season
Ball attendants at the U.S. Open applying sunscreen to Hrabaty's exposed wings at his request. A tan line tragedy in the making.
Too much air play
References to Andy Roddick's "mojo." Cease and desist order hereby issued to all tennis media and corporate sponsors.
This bears mo' attention
Roddick's endearingly sportsmanlike gesture in a match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco at the Masters Series tournament in Rome. Verdasco was down 5-3 in the second set and facing triple break and match point when he hit what initially appeared to be a bad second serve. As the crowd began to applaud Roddick's victory, the American informed the chair umpire that Verdasco should have been awarded an ace. "You know, the ball was in," Roddick said afterward. "The referee would have come down, he would have seen [the mark on clay], he would have called it in, so I just saved him the trip." The point proved pivotal as Verdasco scrapped back to win the match.
One-man string band
Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic single-handedly derailed U.S. Davis Cup hopes in the first round, winning his two singles and one doubles match. Then Ljubicic proved it was no fluke by going on to an 11-1 record and helping Croatia to its first championship.
Moneyball, Part II
|Sliding scale, '05 prize earnings|
|No. 1 Roger Federer||Switzerland||$6.14 million|
|No. 25 Tomas Berdych||Czech Republic||$914,846|
|No. 50 Florent Serra||France||$250,204|
|No. 100 Yeu-Tzuoo Wang||Chinese Taipei||$133,393|
|No. 250 Simone Bolelli||Italy||$23,800|
|No. 500 Orest Tereshchuk||Ukraine||$12,768|
Freelance writer Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.