Here, the Spin's favorite and just downright notable on- and off-court exploits of 2012, as we shut the door on a year that surprised and revived and good-byed numerous times.
BEST DRESS: If you blinked, you quite likely missed it—well, aside from that 22-minute final game. Serena Williams succumbed in the first round at the 2012 French Open to her own nerves and to hometown girl Virginie Razzano in Paris. That was sad in a sartorial sense, as the hues of green on Serena's frock, coupled with her skin tone, made for a most striking sight against the red clay courts. Unfortunately, Serena didn't strike the ball as well as she looked, and the "power and precision" tagline on Nike's marketing materials for the dress make its short-lived career on court all the more ironic.
BEST STORY: Serena's stunning turnaround during the year, from a desultory Australian Open loss and a frightful Roland-Garros showing—claiming everything that truly mattered post-Paris—surely wins as the most amped-up headline. Sportswriters were suitably thrilled about it: a star, re-staking her claim to the sport's throne. Andy Murray's season stacks up well, though, as he overcame the Grand Slam curse afflicting British men since 1936, beating the player of the year, Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final. Many took notice, including Charles Barkley and Grantland, which named Murray, alongside people and things named Jay-Z and Gabby Douglas and Tumblr and Instagram, one of the best among "who won 2012."
BEST ONE-MAN BLITZ: Lukas Rosol took it to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, still the Spaniard's last professional match, seemingly catching the cliched "lightning in a bottle" for a few hours in June. What's most memorable to me in the clip below is how Rafa slipped at the 3:05 and 4:35 marks. In addition to the brutalizing of opponents that he perpetrates, especially on clay, it's of note how brutalized his own body can be. And so we all eagerly await his return to the sport, and to its apex, after the Australian swing in 2013.
BEST PACT WITH THE DEVIL: Fernando Verdasco had a lackluster year on the whole, but one day in Madrid, on that much-maligned blue clay court, he found victory. That came at Nadal's expense, of all people, and was shockingly his sole loss on clay all season.
BEST ARRIVAL: Where did he come from? Well, in a word, Poland. Jerzy Janowicz bum-rushed Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, and more before David Ferrer stopped him in the Paris Masters final toward year's end. The young Pole's newfound success shouldn't be a complete surprise, however: He was a two-time junior Grand Slam finalist.
BEST MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Tomas Berdych can't seem to put together three great victories in a row. He would've certainly had one of the greatest Grand Slam performances of all time had he beaten Nadal in the 2010 Wimbledon final (where he earlier took out Djokovic and Federer). He again defeated Fed in a Slam, this time in their U.S. Open quarterfinal in September, but he couldn't put it together over seven (or even five or six) matches to claim his virgin Slam title. With Federer removed and Nadal sitting out, it was definitely his best chance yet to win huge. Can he shirk this shortcoming in 2013? The jury is still out.
BEST SURPRISE VICTORY: It didn't lack for star power, and Andy Roddick's three-set takedown of Federer in Miami "improved" his record to 3-21 lifetime against the Swiss master. Aside from his U.S. Open run, his final major tournament campaign, that win had to be the most rewarding of his 2012 season.
Disagree with these picks? Have others in mind? Eager to read from you below.
Happiest in 2013, Spin readers. I hope you've enjoyed restful holidays and that you, and the pros, relish a healthy new year.
—Jonathan Scott (@jonscott9)