Welcome! In this episode of the Changeover Chat, a quick back-and-forth exchange between the writing staff at The Changeover, we discuss our own picks for the ATP player awards, plus some new categories. Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Let us know in the comments section of this post!
Amy: So, the infamous Player of The Year award. Who do you give it to?
Lindsay: Julien Benneteau.
Juan José: Easy! NIEMINEN! Oh, wait – I thought you asked about the “Infamous Player of the Year” award. That one always goes to Nieminen for as long as he’s on tour.
Lindsay: My Player of the Year is Novak Djokovic. Though a clear argument can be made for Federer as well, when things are close I always look to the rankings and the World Tour Finals for clarity, and Novak has the clear edge there. He also has a win in Australia, two other Grand Slam Finals, and three Masters Series titles. It’s an impressive year even if it’s not a runaway victory.
Amy: I don’t think there is a clear-cut Player of the Year, to be honest. I mean, the media can make up an award for it, and vote for the winner, but there are different arguments to be made for any of the three top guys.
If you value consistency, Djokovic is clearly your guy. If you marvel at Federer’s lifetime achievement and his 300 weeks at World No. 1, he’s your guy. If you want to give the award to a player having a breakout season with the biggest highs, Murray’s your guy. They all had incredible years, and I couldn’t possibly predict which one of them might be the best player on the ATP Tour next year.
Juan José: There are 2655 reasons why Novak Djokovic is the Player of the Year. Just look at the rankings. Before Djokovic headed to China earlier in the fall, this didn’t look certain at all, even after making three Slam finals and being a set and a half from clinching the Djokovic Slam. However, the World Number 1 successfully pulled a Federer and nabbed three titles at the end of the year, capping it all off with the big World Tour Finals win on Monday over the other top candidate for the award, Roger Federer. That was an emphatic way of Djokovic saying, “I’m the Player of the Year, and you’re silly for thinking otherwise.” You also have to consider that Djokovic was backing up one of the great seasons of the Open Era – not an easy task.
Lindsay: I think since Amy and I both think it’s up in the air that we should all just give it to Benny. Check.
Amy: Okay! Moving on. Most Improved Player?
Lindsay: Let’s start the conversation by looking back at the last 7 winners of this award: ‘05- Rafa; ‘06- Djokovic; ‘07- Djokovic; ‘08- Tsonga; ‘09- Isner ‘10- Golubev; ‘11- Bogomolov; ‘12- Matosevic.
Juan José: Hey, that’s confirmation that we’re heading for the Dark Ages with the ATP: Golubev, Bogomolov and Matosevic for most improved after Nadal, Djokovic and Tsonga.
Lindsay: Hah, that’s so very true.
Amy: I’ll give my vote to Klizan for his steady rankings ascent.
Lindsay: You know who deserves a mention in the improved category but doesn’t really get it? Andreas Seppi.
Juan José: Seppi achieved a career-best rank of 22 this year, won two titles (Belgrade and Moscow), which is double his tally for his whole career.
Lindsay: He started the year ranked outside the 100, was a total afterthought, and then he made four finals – one on each surface, and won two titles. He’s 28 and had by far the best season of his career.
Juan José: That deserves some kudos.
Lindsay: In Rome he beat Istomin, Isner, and Wawrinka all in a row. The match against Wawrinka that he won in three tiebreaks was one of the matches of the year. I thought Rome might explode. And then a few weeks later he pushed Djokovic to five sets at Roland Garros in the fourth round. Yes, improved to Seppi. Case closed.
Amy: Newcomer of the Year?
Juan José: Jerzy Janowicz. He started the year ranked 221st in the world, finished 26th. That’s one violent ascent. Also, he made a Masters 1000 final, which is more than quite a few top 15 players can say.
Amy: I second that. It’s been an incredible run for Janowicz.
Lindsay: I think there’s a clear case for Klizan too. He won a title and made the fourth Round of a Major by beating Tsonga and Chardy. He was so far out of the picture at the beginning of the year that he was playing a Challenger in Germany instead of the Australian Open, and now he’ll be seeded. But the Janowicz story is hard to beat too. Maybe a tie?
Amy: Next question: Who is your Biggest Disappointment of the Year?
Juan José: This should be the “Marin Cilic Biggest Disappointment of the Year” award, or the “Ernests Gulbis Biggest Disappointment of the Year” award.
Lindsay: That’s perfect. For the recipient, it depends on the level of disappointment. I was disappointed in a lot of people, but Tsonga’s record against the top guys this year was particularly disappointing. But so was Isner at the Majors. And, as Juan José says, so was Marin Cilic.
Amy: Those are all good suggestions. Personally, my biggest disappointment was Bernard Tomic. I was a koolaid drinker who thought he might have a really good year. Obviously, that was not the case.
Lindsay: Though I am not yet a Tomic believer, I will say the young guys as a whole were disappointing, except perhaps Milos (who was still kind-of disappointing). I was convinced Ryan Harrison would make strides this year. He did not.
Amy: Next category: Comeback Player of the Year.
Juan José: Since I’m all for sharing, I want this award to be shared by Brian Baker and Tommy Haas. Baker’s story is well known – he finally got healthy and made a crazy run to the final in Nice and had some good results at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Then he kind of lost his way.
Haas came back from injury all the way into the top 25, and beat Federer in Halle at the age of 34. Both are impressive enough to merit the award, I think. I wouldn’t want to leave either of them without it.
Lindsay: I agree with Juan José. Both stories are too good to not win. Brian Baker gives hope to everyone who had dreams but never could break-through due to injury and money problems and life. Haas is an inspiration to has-beens everywhere.
Juan José: I mean … Haas is 34!!! That’s like being 50 in baseball and 45 in basketball.
Lindsay: I know you guys will laugh, but if Querrey’s year had gotten better earlier he’d be in the mix for the award. He’s ranked No. 22 right now, he won a title, he beat Djokovic, and he started the year barely in the top 100. But Baker and Haas’s stories are too good.
Amy: I have to give it to Haas. Not because Baker’s story isn’t amazing, because it is. But for a 34 year old to have fallen completely off the face of the earth due to injury, and then to make it all the way back to the top 20 is just unreal. He was ranked as low as 896 last year. One of the reasons I’m inclined to give it to him is that he’s almost playing well enough to beat anyone on a good day. He could be an actual threat to the top guys next year. While Baker had some amazing wins, I don’t get the same impression with him for 2013.
Juan José: Well, the thing is, Haas got to No. 2 in the world at one point. Baker didn’t even get a chance to HAVE that first career – he was barely starting when his litany of injuries took him out of the game.
Amy: Exactly, so Haas’ is more of a “comeback” story to me. Next category: Best Sportsmanship! Go.
Lindsay: Isner was a good sport because he let so many people beat him that shouldn’t have beaten him, thus spreading good will across the land.
Juan José: Agreed – Isner is so charitable
Amy: Though I believe Federer is a worthy pick from the ATP players, I’m going to go off the beaten path here. If we’re giving it to one of the top guys, I’ll go with Andy Murray.
I think the British media have put so much pressure on him. For years, he’s dealt with absolute non-stop questions about the fact that he’d not won a Slam, and I thought he handled everything with great dignity and poise. Many others, if put in that position, would get angry or moody after addressing the same questions over and over. But not Andy. He was gracious at Wimbledon in defeat, and gracious at the US Open when he finally achieved his lifelong dream.
Juan José: I’m going to give this one to Ferrer – someone who everybody on tour seems to like, is always gracious in defeat or in victory, and will always leave everything there is to leave on a tennis court. He had a lot of the guys tweeting congratulations to him when he won Paris. That has to mean something, no?
Lindsay: I actually think Murray and Ferrer are great choices. But after thinking about it I’m going to go a bit deeper into the rankings and pick someone that everyone seems to love … Pico! Is there anyone that guy is not best friends with? He’s the Playstation and Panteras buddy of the ATP, and there should be an award for that.
Amy: Now for some fun categories: Worst On-Court Fashion. Or is that automatically given to Fernando Verdasco?
Lindsay: I think we have to pull a Juan José and say the “Fernando Verdasco Award for Worst Fashion goes to…”
Juan José: Verdasco, naturally. His outfit from the beginning of the season was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Murray’s outfits during the Djokovic match at the World Tour Finals were horrific as well. And Radek Stepanek showed up to the US Open with a shirt that had the Statue of Liberty on it.
Lindsay Gibbs: I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night having nightmares about Murray’s pants. So they win.
Amy: My vote for worst on-court fashion is a two-way tie between Verdasco’s hotdog outfit and Murray’s hideous World Tour Finals garb.
How about Best Dressed?
Lindsay: This is random, I know, but I always think that Mikhail Youzhny’s Adidas kits look perfect on him. He always looks great.
Juan José: You know which ones I love? The stuff only Gilles Simon gets to wear. He had this green one late in the year that I thought was amazing. How does he get to wear the cool Adidas stuff?
Amy: I’m going to give this one to Roger Federer. I loved his US Open baby blue shirt with crimson accents. The blue and purple polo shirts with black trim he wore in the last few tournaments of the year were also great.