Smaccolades

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

These year-end award stories coming at us from all directions can get a little boring, so instead of handing out more accolades, let’s pass out some anti-awards, or smaccolades. Try not to get your shorts all in a bunch if your favorite player ends up on this list—we’re all human, right? (Okay, maybe not Rafa, but nevertheless.)

Train Wreck of the Year: Can this be anyone but Bernard Tomic? He got off to a great start in 2013, winning Sydney as a preface to reaching the third round at the Australian Open. But life blew up in his face—once again—shortly before the Madrid Masters when John Tomic, Bernard’s father and coach, beat up Bernie’s hitting partner.

John Tomic ended up banned from tournaments, but his son wouldn’t repudiate him; in fact, he complained about the way the ATP handled the sordid affair. The controversy lingered and Tomic failed to improve on his so-so results for the rest of the year, although he did finish one measly tick above his year-end ranking of last year. Given the circumstances, perhaps that was an accomplishment.

Burnout of the Year: Less than 18 months ago, Yaroslava Shvedova became just the third pro in the Open era to record a “golden set,” winning every point in the first set of her third-round match against Sara Errani at Wimbledon. But it’s funny how quickly gold can turn into dross.

After that 6-0, 6-4 win, Shvedova went just 8-8 for the rest of the year and ended 2012 at No. 29. Partly because of that golden set, Shvedova was named WTA Comeback Player of the Year for 2012. This year, Shvedova has slipped all the way to No. 80—while Errani is still going strong at No. 7.

Most Frustrating Player of the Year: This one was a close call, but we’re going to go with David Ferrer over Maria Sharapova, mainly because Sharapova had to leave the tour with injury before Serena Williams could continue to punish her.

Ferrer, though, was around to the bitter end. Granted, he did hit a new high-water mark, a ranking of No. 3. But that was thanks to Andy Murray pulling the plug on his own fall season in order to have minor back surgery. The Spaniard failed again to break through at a Grand Slam. Fair enough, how many guys do? But Ferrer also failed to add a second Masters 1000 title to a resume begging for at least a few more hefty entries.

Ferrer won two titles in 2013, and posted an outstanding 60-24 singles record. But he lost in a Grand Slam final (French Open) and in the two Masters finals he played. The first of those (Miami) was especially painful, as Ferrer had a match point against Murray but squandered it when he stopped in the middle of the action to issue a challenge that failed. 

Ferrer will be 32 in April and he’s been a model of consistency. But you have to wonder how the guy managed to play for so long, with so much day-in, day-out success, and have nothing more to show for it when it comes to big titles than a solitary Masters 1000 title (Paris, 2012).

Go-Back Player of the Year: Think of this as the opposite of the “comeback” player of the year honor. This award is dedicated to a player who’s regressed considerably from the previous year.

Comeback players are often rebounding from injury, but we’ll leave injury out of the equation here. Our slumping winner this year is Samantha Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion. Her ranking slipped from No. 9 at the start of 2013 to No. 18, and she posted a dreary 5-4 record in Grand Slam play.

Everything about Stosur’s 2013 was weird. As usual, she gagged her way through the Australian leg, but didn’t do much better in the ensuing segments, either. At her best on clay, she could do no better than one quarterfinal (Rome).

Stosur showed signs of life during the summer hard-court events. She won Carlsbad (highlight: a win over No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska) and seemed to be rounding into form. Then she inexplicably fired her long-time coach David Taylor just days before the U.S. Open. The result: Stosur lost in the first round to ingénue Victoria Duval.

Granted, Stosur finished strong (she won 12 or her last 15 matches), but by then who really cared?

Worst Match of the Year: Marion Bartoli put in a great effort at Wimbledon this year, and so did her opponent in the final, Sabine Lisicki. But the Wimbledon championship match between them was a cringe-inducing bore.

Bartoli didn’t come close to losing in the run-up to the final—she won every match in straight sets without having to play a single tiebreaker—while Lisicki, then ranked a lowly No. 23, beat three Grand Slam champions—Serena, Stosur, and Francesca Schiavone—as well as 2012 finalist Radwanska.

While Bartoli brought her A-game to the final, Lisicki could not. An emotional basket case, she choked and cried away the opportunity. Were it not for a brief flicker of resistance when Lisicki was already down 1-6, 1-5, this match would have borne comparison with Steffi Graf’s 6-0, 6-0 win over Natasha Zvereva in the 1988 French Open final.

Least Improved: When Caroline Wozniacki finished No. 1 for a second year in a row in 2011, some stalwarts still believed that with a few tweaks to her game, the right coach, a little more experience, she could punch through and win a Grand Slam title. It didn’t work out that way.

Wozniacki slipped to No. 10 at the end of 2012, and is still ranked at that same final spot among the elite as this year ends. In the interim, Wozniacki has experimented with various coaches and appeared to make a few adjustments to her game—but without noticeable, long-term benefits. The only title she won in 2013 was at the last tournament she played, Luxembourg.

This award is such a prestigious smaccolade that we’ll give out one for the ATP as well. And the winner is Tomas Berdych, who treads water as well if not better than Wozniacki.

While Berdych slipped just one notch to No. 7 in the year-end rankings, he made almost exactly $3 million in prize money for 2013. That’s a pretty nice paycheck for a guy who didn’t even win a single tournament. Heck, Ivo Karlovic won a tournament (Bogota), and he earned just $362,000 and change for the year.

You know you’ve got it all figured out when you can make millions and wind up in the Top 10 without actually winning anything.

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