In honor of American Thanksgiving, we discuss the things we’re thankful for in another Changeover Chat, a quick back and forth between the writing staff at The Changeover.
Lindsay: So Amy and Juan José, what are you guys most thankful for in the tennis world?
Amy: I’m most grateful for the fact that we don’t have to speculate anymore on when Andy Murray’s going to win a Slam. Of course, now we get to speculate on when he’ll win Wimbledon. But I refuse to partake in that.
Juan José: Along with Wimbledon, now it’s “When will Murray be No. 1?”, too. But seriously, thank you Andy Murray for ending the very annoying “will he ever win a big one?” media thing.
Lindsay: I’m very sad about that. I miss it already. The British angst was so entertaining.
Juan José: I am thankful for the WTA Championships, because watching that tournament enabled me to finally “get” Serena Williams’ greatness. I’ll always remember when it was that I realized how incredible Serena is. It was at Istanbul in 2012.
Amy: How on earth can it be just THEN? Just this year, she won Wimbledon! And the Olympics! And the US Open! Do elaborate.
Juan José: Hey, better late than never. Even though I grew up loving women’s tennis in the Graf-Seles era, I really only recently started paying close attention to the WTA. In Latin America, it’s quite difficult to actually watch women’s tennis – no regular events are broadcast on TV, so the only matches you get are Slam matches starting at the quarterfinals. Also, when Serena was incredible at the beginning of the decade, I wasn’t watching much tennis at all. So I missed it.
Amy: That makes sense.
Lindsay: I’m thankful for Venus Williams. I mean, I really don’t think we make enough of her comeback. It’s phenomenal how she has learned to manage her Sjogren’s syndrome this year and still remain competitive. Her comeback in Miami to launch her Olympics campaign was inspirational. Then to follow that up with winning doubles at Wimbledon and the Olympics, then making it to the Cincinnati semifinals and winning Moscow at the end of the year to get back to No. 24 in the world, it’s just been a blast to watch. Plus, her match against Kerber in the US Open was one of the most entertaining matches of the year. I’m just in awe.
Juan José: Agreed. That was pretty fantastic. I’m very thankful for Djokovic’s semifinal win over Murray at the Australian Open, and the epic follow-up, the final against Nadal. The final especially, it was an incredible experience to be a part of as a fan of his, and as a fan of the sport. Particularly the last two sets. It was just awesome to watch those two guys throw everything and anything at each other, and push themselves over the edge of what seems physically and mentally possible for a human. It was the most titanic clash of wills I’ve ever seen. Not the greatest match ever, but the most nerve-wracking, probably. Also, it had one of the greatest trophy ceremonies ever, with both guys struggling to stand up, and the awkward speech from the KIA guy in the background.
Amy: That was the longest speech ever.
Lindsay: That was a great trophy ceremony. I wasn’t a huge fan of the match, but I do recognize that it was an impressive battle of wills. I thought it was a little over-hyped, but it’s really hard to impress me during the Australian Open because I’m much more cynical when I haven’t slept.
Juan José: What I disagreed with is people calling that Djokovic-Nadal final the best Grand Slam final ever. That made no sense. Half of it was pretty mediocre. But the second half … that was spectacular.
Amy: I’m thankful that Roger Federer was able to (temporarily) silence the people who prematurely retired him. There’s nothing worse than reading about how someone’s washed up, even though they’re ranked in the Top 3. I think there should be a rule that you can’t start asking top players about retirement until they’re out of the top 50. I mean, people were calling Federer washed up this year while he held the No. 1 ranking. What the heck is that?
Lindsay: I agree with that, Amy.
Juan José: Didn’t Ferrero and Roddick just retire from within the top 50? Well, it’s kind of funny how the Federer discourse changes so dramatically depending on his results. After Wimbledon, all praise. After losing the World Tour Final final, the guy is old, the end is near. Yet he’s comfortably in the top 2.
Amy: After Davis Cup, he says he needs a vacation. Suddenly, he’s on the verge of retirement.
Juan José: Oh, yeah. That was funny.
Lindsay: The short sighted nature of tennis journalism and writing is one of my least favorite things about this sport. (Of course, I don’t think it’s limited to tennis.)
Juan José: Well, it’s just laziness. They’re easy narratives to write about. It happens in other sports and life in general, too.
Lindsay: It’s just a by-product of the headline-driven society we live in.
Amy: It’s incredible to me.
Lindsay: I’m thankful that Roddick won two tournaments this year, and that he retired on his own terms, even though I wish he was still playing. Can I just link to my “Thank you, Andy Roddick” article here? Because if I start talking about it any more I’ll cry. There were so many greats that retired this year, and I know it’s cheesy, but I’m just thankful for all of them and what they gave the sport. I didn’t start watching tennis regularly until most of these guys were just starting out, so it’s tough watching the generation that brought me into the sport start to go. Roddick, Gonzo, Ljubicic, Ferrero, and Clijsters … among others. It just makes me thankful for the memories.
Amy: Agreed. It’s been a sad year for saying goodbye to so many greats. At least Roddick got the best hug ever on his way out.
Juan José: It’s always so easy to forget just how many people left the sport this year. It was particularly sad to see González go out like he did. His match wasn’t even on TV. One other thing I’m thankful for: the end of the stupid blue clay. Thanks for outlawing it, ATP! A little late, but whatever.
Amy: I’m thankful for Tomas Berdych. Tennis is so dominated by niceties, which I do sincerely appreciate most of the time. But sometimes they’re disingenuous. I like that Berdych brings some honesty and even some trash talk to tennis. It’s not everyone’s thing, but I like to see a little excitement off the court sometimes.
Juan José: Does Berdych’s trash talk count if he back-tracked from it?
Juan José: Another thing I’m thankful for: Kerber and Azarenka playing one of the best matches of the year, if not the best. Actually, it was probably the best. It was excellent from start to finish. So I’m going to give it the “Best Match of 2012” title, in a year without a whole lot of great matches.
Amy: That’s definitely my pick too.
Juan José: Kerber-Azarenka would’ve contended in other years – it was that good.
Lindsay: I’m thankful for Maria Sharapova, because it is great to have her back winning Grand Slams. Obviously she’s important to the sport from a marketing standpoint, but she’s also just such a competitor that she raises the level of the whole tour a notch when she’s on her game.
Amy: Good one. It’s funny to me how she’s become a bizarrely under-the-radar World No. 2 in the shadow of Azarenka and Serena.
Juan José: I’m glad Sharapova finally won a big final. She had been awful in so many of them recently, it was getting awkward. Maria “Cow on Ice” Sharapova won the French Open. It actually happened. I put that right up there with Sam Stosur winning the US Open – things you have to remind yourself actually happened, because the facts themselves don’t seem plausible.
Amy: Yeah, I’m thankful for Sharapova the clay GOAT. To me, it’s one of the funniest storylines in women’s tennis. But it’s also a story that should give other players who think they can’t play on clay confidence.
Juan José: I’m very thankful for Jerzy Janowicz, because following his Paris run was probably the most fun I’ve had watching tennis all year, with the added bonus that I got to write about it. It was random, it was refreshing, and it was entertaining as heck. I cannot wait to see what that guy does next year.
Lindsay: Good one.
Amy: Janowicz’s Paris run was one of those situations where I couldn’t tear myself away from his matches. I even watched a few of them twice. I rarely ever do that unless I’m writing about a match I haven’t seen recently. But watching Janowicz play with such incredible confidence was astonishing. It’s probably an unkind comparison given the events of 2012, but that’s how I felt when Tomic made the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year.
Juan José: Well, Tomic was quite fun to watch during that Wimbledon.
Amy: He really was. I mean, he even pushed Djokovic pretty hard for part of that quarterfinal match. But hopefully Janowicz’s efforts next year will be better than Tomic’s 2012.
Juan José: I’m thankful Ferrer finally won a Masters 1000 title. That was a lighter variation on the Murray Slamless thing. Glad they’re both over.
Lindsay: I’m thankful that the WTA next generation started to show some chops this year. Robson’s run at the US Open was impressive. And I do think that Sloane Stephens and Heather Watson, among many others, will be fun to watch in the next few years. In my opinion the WTA is set up a lot stronger for the long run than the ATP.
Juan José: I would agree with that. I think that by the end of the ATP Big Four Golden Era, the WTA will emerge as the stronger tour. They have some young players who seem intent on taking women’s tennis to another level. As always, these things are cyclical, so I do fear that a Dark Age is coming for the ATP.
Amy: I’m thankful for Caroline Wozniacki’s fight after dropping out of the top 10. I liked seeing her push back against the narrative that her time was done. Of course, that’s no guarantee she’ll be able to stick with the top players next year, but I like her determination not to let a bad year crush her spirit.
Juan José: I am thankful for the Shanghai final for two reasons: first, because it was probably the best Masters 1000 final of the year (for two sets, anyway), and second, because during it, Novak Djokovic found himself again. Of course, he found himself when he was down five match points, but still. At the time I remember wondering if that final meant something. But after what happened in London, I am convinced that Shanghai made the unbeaten run at the O2 arena possible.
Lindsay: I am thankful that Djokovic backed up his 2011. It was good for the game. But I’m also thankful there was no more streaking because too much domination kills me.
Amy: I’m thankful for a healthy Juan Martin del Potro, and that he finally managed to beat Federer. He cruelly lost to Federer in virtually every tournament in the first half of the year. In fact, until late March, every one of his losses came at the hands of Federer except one. Plus the heartbreaker at the Olympics, of course. His Basel final win and World Tour Finals round robin win against the Swiss were an especially meaningful way to end his season.
Juan José: DelPo winning Basel made me think, “Okay, he’s back.” So now it’s all about moving forward, and doing better in Masters 1000s. That’s the only way to get that ranking up.
Lindsay: I’m thankful Nadal took a decent amount of time off to try to really heal his knee and didn’t rush back, because the sport would be missing so much if he couldn’t keep competing over the next few years.
Juan José: It was the right call for Nadal.
Amy: I’m in the “let’s wait and see” camp with Nadal. But I’m certainly glad he’s practicing again.
Juan José: I think he’s coming back with a vengeance until his knees once again let him down.
Lindsay: I’m so thankful for Agnieszka Radwanska. Her first half of the year was thrilling to watch because I’ve been a fan for five years now. Her Wimbledon run was wonderful. The crazy up-and-down quarterfinal vs. Kirilenko, the flawless tennis she played vs. Kerber in the semis (a very underrated match), and then the fight she showed in the final vs. Serena. It was all amazing.
Juan José: I also think Radwanska can go up a notch. She’s still way too passive for her own good in big stretches during matches, when she’s perfectly able to dictate more. So I don’t expect a letdown from her at all. There’s more to that ninja than meets the eye.
Amy: She learned to control matches so much better than she used to. She plays aggressively without huge, powerful groundstrokes, which sets her apart from the prototypical top player.
Lindsay: She did what Wozniacki can’t seem to find the courage to do – she split with her dad. She made the hard decisions. It’s paying off big time. She struggled a bit to keep her World No. 2 level at the end of the season, but I was so glad she played well at the WTA Championships and made it to the semifinals there.
Juan José: What I like about Radwanska is how even-keeled she is. There’s very little drama about her abilities. She just goes out and does her stuff these days.
Amy: I’m thankful for Stan Wawrinka’s improvements this year. For a long time, he was just playing so poorly. I don’t know why he struggled so much, whether it was injuries or something else, but it’s nice to see him in better form.
Juan José: I’m thankful for Super Saturday’s death! Super Saturday actually died! One of the dumbest things in all of sports is actually over!
Lindsay: I was thankful for the Olympics, particularly the men’s doubles. They were too much fun.
Amy: Agreed, and I’m thankful they had the Olympics at Wimbledon, the most iconic tennis venue in the world, not to mention how meaningful it was to see Murray win on home soil.
Juan José: I am thankful for the Tokyo men’s final. Raonic and Nishikori put up a great, underrated final, and it was so nice to see Nishikori become the first Japanese player to win that event. I’m also thankful for Nishikori’s steady improvement – he’s a lot of fun to watch.
Amy: I’m thankful for Tommy Haas.
Juan José: For the endless comedy he supplied with his assorted collection of tennis shirts!
Lindsay: I’m thankful for the times Tommy Haas took off his shirts.
Amy: No argument on either count.
Juan José: I am thankful for Brian Baker and his comeback. Following his run in Nice was one of those warm and fuzzy sports moments. It’s too bad he faded as soon as he hit the American hard courts, but I still think he’ll do well next year.
Lindsay: Yeah I hope he really focuses on the fitness in the offseason. That’s clearly where he needs to improve. I’m also really thankful that Sam Querrey’s back. Jokes aside, I was worried that he wasn’t going to make it back to the top 20, and now it seems like he might even climb higher. He seems wiser and more ambitious, and it’s a great thing for the game. He has a great personality and a rather fun game to watch and maybe people can see that now, and get past the fact that he’s not some alpha-male jock.
Juan José: I agree – I had given up on him. I’ve always loved his forehand – one of my favorites out there. But I was seriously wondering if he wanted to partake in the endless grind that is being a tennis pro. Querrey has it all – it’s just a question of whether he can get some joy out of the trials and tribulations of a full season. I was very happy to see him make that run in Paris, far away from his comfort zone.
Amy: If only Querrey would stop making me scream at my TV for his shot selection, I’d be all about the Querrey bandwagon.
Lindsay: He gets a bad rap, but his upside is huge, and maybe at the end of the day this time off and having to basically start from scratch will do him some good.
Juan José: I’m thankful Djokovic dumped Tacchini.
Amy: I’m thankful for Ben Rothenberg bringing up Lukas Rosol in Tomas Berdych’s US Open press conference.
Lindsay: I’m thankful for Ryan Harrison’s most awkward apology ever at the Olympics. I am not thankful that there seems to be no video of it.
Juan José: I am actually quite thankful for that Abu Dhabi-Federer thing. So freaking hilarious.
Amy: Of course you are.
Lindsay: I laughed until I cried.
Juan José: I mean … you couldn’t have scripted better satire, no? And it’s not even a satire – just IMG being petty and hilarious.
Lindsay: On another cheesy (and perhaps closing) note, I’m once again thankful for the tennis community. It’s been quite a year for me. From the support for my book, to the new friends I’ve made, to the start of this site. It’s just been awesome.
Amy: I’m thankful for the amazing response to our site’s launch. It’s already been such a fun ride.
Juan José: Yes! I am so thankful for that. It’s just overwhelming, and I can’t be thankful enough.
Thank you to all our readers!