Changeover Chat: Reviewing the 2014 ATP Season


Lindsay: Hey guys! With Andrew now onboard, we would like to get back to one of our favorite regular Changeover features, The Changeover Chat! It’s certainly been too long.

Why don’t we start by looking back at this ATP season, which was certainly not a typical one. What players were you guys most and least impressed with?

Amy: At the risk of incurring Fedfan wrath, I’m tempted to say Federer for both.

Lindsay: Haha, please explain!

Andrew: I’m intrigued …

Amy: His season was really impressive considering the way he struggled in 2013 — that’s important to remember. But he still failed to add to his Slam total, and no matter how his fans spin it, I think that’s a disappointment. If he’s healthy and ranked No. 2 in the world, and Novak and Rafa aren’t infallible (they certainly were not this year), there’s an expectation for him to be winning Slams. Winning Davis Cup was big, but I’m sure it bugs him that he didn’t win No. 18. I think I say that particularly because of the chances he had this year at Wimbledon and the US Open.

This is too harsh, given that everyone thought he was totally done, so take it with a big grain of salt. But that’s just what popped into my head. I mean, he lost in a Grand Slam semifinal to Marin Cilic in straight sets.

Andrew: I don’t think I buy into that. Did anyone expect Roger Federer to win a slam in 2014, except maybe Federer himself? For him, maybe it’s disappointing not to manage that particular achievement this year, but I couldn’t call it a disappointment from an outside point of view, because I really expected him to be ranked around 8 or 9 at this point. Or maybe I was just being harsh last year!

Amy: Yeah, I’ll admit that calling him most disappointing, that’s not true. But it was just a weird year for him, with how well he was playing everywhere except in the late stages of the Grand Slams. I just think he played a lot of very good tennis and came out with not that much to show for it, other than a great ranking and winning Davis Cup.

Lindsay: The only reason why I think it could be seen as a disappointment is because of the U.S. Open. The draw is not likely to be that favorable for him again.

I was most impressed by Stan Wawrinka, despite his ups-and-downs. The ups were certainly high enough to make up for his inconsistency.

Amy: Stan had an incredibly impressive year. Winning a Grand Slam, winning a Masters 1000 title, winning Davis Cup, that was amazing. Sure, it wasn’t the most consistent, but going back to my earlier point, would you trade Stan’s uneven year for Fed’s consistent year? No way.

What’s so funny to me about Stan being a top player is how many fans seem to suddenly dislike him, just from him being more successful and relevant. Because most people didn’t even have a strong opinion one way or another until this year.

Andrew: I agree, Stan had a great year and deserves a lot of credit.

Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, for me, were the really impressive names this year. Raonic made the last 8, and I know he didn’t then make much of an impression in London, but I think he deserves credit for flying the Canadian flag on the men’s tour under the shadow of Bouchard. (Wow, Eugenie Bouchard has a shadow. That’s a thing in 2014.)

Lindsay: I agree that Nishikori and Raonic impressed, and I’d add Dimitrov to that list too. It was nice to see some semblance of progress from that generation. But Marin Cilic won a Slam, so behind Stan, I was most impressed with him. The “Who Impressed Linz” rankings, based on expectations going into the season, would go: 1. Stan, 2. Marin, 3. Nole, 4. Fed. Disappointing for Delpo. Disappointing for Nadal.

Amy: My biggest disappointment: Delpo missing another year.

Andrew: Del Potro is a consistent disappointment for me, probably because, like most people, I really like him and rate him as a tennis player. That semifinal against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2013 is easily one of my favorite matches of the last 10 years. It’s sad when he’s not around to add his own stamp to the tour.

Amy: I saw him more on my desktop background than on the tennis court, which is not ideal.

Nadal had a weird year, although of course he managed to continue his amazing dominance at the French Open. He’ll be a big question mark yet again as 2015 begins, just because he missed another chunk of time from the Tour.

Lindsay: For disappointments, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was pretty awful. Except for that one magical week in Toronto.

And Andy Murray was disappointing–I know he was coming back from back surgery, and that he was being emo about losing Lendl, but I still expected him to do better.

Amy: I need to add Berdych to the list of disappointing players. (*Lifetime achievement award)

Lindsay: Ugh, yes, forever and always.

Andrew: Berdych confuses me. He had an awful year but somehow made it to London … I don’t know how he did that.

I also want to say I’m actually a little bit Dimitrov-jaded at the tail end of 2014.

Lindsay: Do explain, Andrew.

Andrew: I’ve found him a really entertaining player for most of the season – he’s crazy talented and he’s got the whole Stretch Armstrong bendiness thing going on, which is impressive, but recently I haven’t really sensed much drive from him. He seems a little too content. I don’t know, maybe he was just weary after a great year pushing up the rankings. His attitude to the ATP Finals didn’t help.

Lindsay: His attitude at the ATP Finals was very blah, and he does not lack any self love, but I think he’s motivated and works hard. At least I do now–he made strides this season.

Andrew: I don’t have a problem with a little bit of arrogance, I must say. If you’re that talented, I’m happy for you to really own it. Let’s put it down to battle weariness, for now, as I’m still looking forward to his efforts in 2015.

Lindsay: Agreed. What young ATPer impressed you the most in 2014? (Please do not say Nishikori, Raonic, or Dimitrov. They are not young.)

Amy: Borna Coric and Stefan Kozlov – I saw them play each other live in the US Open qualies, and that was really cool from the perspective of wondering if you’ll see them playing big matches five or 10 years from now. I’m also really excited about Jared Donaldson, and I never get excited about American men. I’m thinking he’ll do some really great things. Based on what I’ve seen, his talent could take him into the top 50, top 10, top 5 even.

Can you tell I’ve been more interested in the Challenger Tour than the ATP Tour? I just love that the ATP archives Challenger live streams – it’s so wonderful to have that resource.

Lindsay: I agree with all of those, Amy, but I really love Kyrgios. I mean, I can tell I’m going to hate him often, but he’s going to be so much fun.

Andrew: YES, Kyrgios. He’s the big one to watch, I think. Now THERE’S somebody who has arrogance, and that arrogance could win him some big matches yet. He’s flashy and talented and a good divisive figure for the tour.

Amy: I’m not sold on Kyrgios yet.

Andrew: Thiem was mega.

Lindsay: THIEM. Thiem’s Facebook posts were one of the best things about 2014. BAMOS!

Andrew: Thiem has probably been more impressive as a commentator than a player, actually, but it’s nice to have a few very different characters appearing in the ATP.

Amy: Alex Zverev’s run to the Hamburg semis was fun.

Lindsay: Agreed–I do like Zverev.

Andrew: There are definitely a few interesting names bouncing around, it’s certainly not reached the level of the young WTA yet though.

Lindsay: But at least it’s something. This time last year there was … Tomic.

Andrew: Ouch.

Lindsay: What was your favorite Cinderella run at a Slam?

Amy: Bernard Tomic winning Bogota. Oh wait, that’s not a Slam … yet.

Lindsay: Hah!

Andrew: Well, Cilic, probably.

Amy: Stan.

Andrew: I find Cilic a bit more Cinderella than Stan, just because I think Stan was more a relevant player anyway than Cilic was. In terms of which player I enjoyed seeing win more it would definitely be Wawrinka.

Lindsay: Ernie’s run to the semis at the French was fun. Kyrgios’s run to the Wimbledon quarters was a blast too. I’m not sure there were any others that were really Cinderella-esque.

What about the best match? There are very few that stand out on the ATP this year …

Amy: I guess I’ll go with Stan-Djokovic from the Australian Open. That was the de-facto final, and I think it was pretty decent, though it’s been a while, so I don’t remember it well.

Andrew: Wow, this is depressingly difficult, it’s really not been a great year for the guys at all. I guess maybe the ridiculous form of Cilic in the US Open semifinal was the match that left me with my jaw dropped open. It was a bit Kvitova-Genie-like, in terms of a beatdown.

Amy: Kyrgios-Nadal at Wimbledon was interesting, but Rafa wasn’t at his best. I guess the Wimbledon final was … long. Not particularly great tennis, though.

Andrew: Haha, it was certainly long. I have gripes about the concept of five set matches between any two members of the “Big Four” immediately being labeled classics, by the way, but maybe I’ll save that oncoming rant for another day.

Lindsay: I really enjoyed Wawrinka/Nishikori in the US Open quarters, just given the circumstances. Nishikori was just crazy impressive battling through the heat right after such a long match with Raonic.

Andrew: Can I nominate a favourite supporting character from 2014, who I’d really like to see again in the new year? Because I think this character has been hugely important…to do so, I need to ask you both a really important question:

Do you believe, in the sleeve?

Amy: Aghhhhhh


Andrew: I believe, you guys. I’m here for the sleeve.

Lindsay: MOVING ON. Least favorite match? The Australian Open final was just bizarre.

Andrew: It was bizarre, but I couldn’t call it my least favorite because I was a big fan of the result, which I felt was well deserved.

Amy: Every match at the World Tour Finals except Fed-Wawrinka. That was such a lame tournament.

Lindsay: I’m going to nominate every Berdych/Anderson match ever. Also, every Sam Querrey match this season that I watched in desperate hope that something would be different. Oh, and the Wimbledon semis–much hype, no drama.

Andrew: My least favorite match is kind of a strange one, but it’s because I was forced by French television to watch it in its entirety when lots of other great matches were happening. It was the second round of the French, Granollers vs Dolgopolov. It was FIVE SETS. And it was LAME.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how irrelevant it would prove to be. Granollers d. Dolgopolov 1-6 3-6 6-3 6-0 6-2. I still have stress dreams about that match.

Lindsay: Favorite quotes? Anything else to add? I’m finding it really hard to remember things right now.

Amy: It was hilarious when Federer said he would rather be no. 1 than win a Slam. No way, dude.

Lindsay: That was great. I’m going to nominate all of the quotes about Spain’s Davis Cup captain as my least favorite, and all of Murray’s quotes about Mauresmo and female coaches as my favorite quotes. I’ll give an honorable mention to all of Thiem’s facebook posts and all of Berdych’s tweets.

Amy: My favorite thing about 2014 was that Isner lost to Kohlschreiber again at the US Open. May the trend continue in 2015!

Lindsay: Uuuuggghhhh.

6 Responses

  1. q10
    q10 December 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm |

    nice read!

  2. Andrew Burton
    Andrew Burton December 15, 2014 at 4:13 pm |

    OK, I’ll bite on the Federer question.

    And I can use this as a reference:

    I wrote back in February “If all the top ATP players stay healthy, I don’t expect Federer to be one of the top two players. So in that sense, I don’t expect Federer to come “back” as he did in 2011-2012 (and you’ll remember I did call that shot early in 2012).

    I do expect to see Federer play at the ATP World Tour Finals in November again: Being in the 3-8 range in 2014 is much more likely than one of the top two seeds, provided he stays fit. And there’s another tantalizing prospect: The Swiss have a decent Davis Cup draw, and Stan The Man Wawrinka is Australian Open champion and Swiss top dog.”

    Federer did finish the year in the ATP top 2 (so I got that one wrong). But Nadal missed most of the last third of the season (get out clause).

    Federer went 3-2 against Djokovic this year, but he lost the two biggest matches they played – IW F (final set TB) and Wimbledon F (final set). Close, but no cigar. Federer didn’t play Nadal again in 2014 after the AO SF defeat, and the two times he played Murray after the February SI piece was written Federer won comfortably in straight sets.

    I think the February interview holds up quite well 10 months on. “Everyone thought he was totally done…” – er, no.

    It would be an interesting thought exercise to imagine tennis historians in a parallel universe writing about a year in which Wawrinka’s and Federer’s records were swapped (with Stan’s wife calling Fed a crybaby in London….)

    I imagine those historians would be kinder – but only because this era venerates Grand Slam titles above all others. In 2014, Federer went 73-12 (plus one w/o vs Djokovic). That’s 85 matches: Djokovic played 69, Nadal 59, Wawrinka 56, Murray 79 (major sprint to London), Berdych 77, Ferrer 78.

    Fed’s still playing because he loves playing tennis. He plays quite well. Amy doesn’t have my wrath, but she does have my wry bemusement.

    1. Amy
      Amy December 15, 2014 at 4:48 pm |

      I didn’t say Fed didn’t play because he loved tennis or that he didn’t play quite well in 2014.

      I think his year was both impressive given last year (though you did not think he was done, plenty of people in the tennis community were writing his obituary), but also strange/unsatisfying because his primary rivals weren’t invincible, yet Fed failed to add to his Slam total even though he had one especially good chance to do so.

      If you disagree with my comment that nobody would trade Wawrinka’s year for Fed’s year, I suspect you’d be in the minority. If you asked most Fedfans at the beginning of 2014 whether they would want Fed’s 2014 accomplishments or Wawrinka’s 2014 accomplishments, I am confident that at least 90% of them would go for Slam No. 18. Perhaps this era venerates Grand Slam titles above others, but that’s the era we’re in, hence my comments. I’m not going to arbitrarily choose another era’s most important criteria to judge Fed’s year.

      Fed’s year contributed to the greatness of his legacy by demonstrating his incredible longevity, but was otherwise pretty forgettable, other than winning Davis Cup.

  3. Matt Vidakovic
    Matt Vidakovic December 16, 2014 at 6:31 am |

    As usual great read – love the Changeover Chats!

    As for Federer, I think that anyone (Federer himself included) would swap his year with Wavrinkas in the blink of an eye – as evidenced by his Single Wimbledon Tear. Its all about the Slams – and that’s the reality; just ask Marin Cilic.

  4. Jason
    Jason December 16, 2014 at 1:47 pm |

    The end of the year really could have been much more exciting. The only two matches that were truly engaging IMO in the last month of the season were the ones with Federer and Wawrinka on-court at the same time–WTF SF and Davis Cup doubles.

    Also, I was disappointed Federer didn’t end the year #1, because I was reallly looking forward to seeing how the media and everyone reacted to a Slam-less YEC on the ATP this time after all the annoying whining/hand-wringing a few years back re:WTA. Could’ve been quite funny. Oh well.

  5. skip1515
    skip1515 December 17, 2014 at 9:44 am |

    Were Wawrinka and Federer’s 2014 accomplishments to be swapped, I’m not sure Federer’ year would be seen as a triumph so much as a final rage against the oncoming darkness of impending retirement or, harsher yet, irrelevance. This would be especially easy to posit if Federer’s alt universe Grand Slam title was also Australia, followed by a pretty spotty year (really, a first round loss at the French, losing the 5th at love?), an inexplicable up and down WTF, with an admittedly key performance in Davis Cup.

    I think that’d strike all of us as more reminiscent of Sampras’ last few years than not, and no one holds them up as highlight years for him outside of the final US Open. I could retire quite comfortably if I had a nickel for every question he fielded about retirement in those years. It wasn’t pretty.

    It seems to me we can use whatever metric we feel is defendable to define the success or disappointment of an athlete’s year; we’re neither beholden to the modern Slams Are All That Matters (Because They’re Easily Quantifiable For Non-Rabid Fans), nor to the idea that some level of consistency less than outright titles is the mark of greatness. Me, I tend to the latter, but always making the quarters wouldn’t cut it, so there *is* a standard that must be upheld.

    The original question for this Chat was “most and least impressed by” during the year, and not so much “most v least successful.” In that case was there a less impressive year than Tomic’s, in both results and public attitude, given the run up?

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