The year's best, from Federer to nude men in lockers
Posted: Tuesday December 6, 2005 12:51PM; Updated: Tuesday December 6, 2005 5:32PM
The biggest storyline of '05? Maybe we could make a case that this guy had a decent year.
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
Yes, it's that time of year. Stampedes at Wal-Mart. Yule logs on cable access. Physically exhausted, mentally frazzled tennis players repairing during the offseason by ... traveling across oceans to play exhibitions. And the Baggie Awards.
This was a year that saw Roger Federer lose fewer times than all but a handful of NFL teams. Rafael Nadal won 11 titles -- only to finish a distant second in the rankings. Venus and Serena Williams both added to their Slam haul while, improbably, finishing 10th and 11th respectively. Kim Clijsters broke through. Andre Agassi is still trying to put time in reverse.
The ATP tried to kill doubles and then doubled back. The injuries and ailments afflicting players could fill a season of Scrubs -- one show in which Serena did not appear. At the wizened age of 25, Martina Hingis announced her return to the fray. All of which is to say it was business as usual in the Tennis Republic, a strange, but ultimately, lovable culture that persists in spite of itself.
Before we start dispensing gifts -- and we always open envelopes and read the cards before unwrapping -- I'll take our annual detour from cynicism and snarkiness to say thanks for another fun year. The mantra holds: If you get half as much pleasure (guilty to be sure) from reading this column as I get from writing it, we're all doing pretty well. Your questions and observations are, reliably, thoughtful and informed and passionate, and please know that every last one -- even the ones wishing me incurable cold sores -- are read. Think of this as a sincere invitation to belly up to the bar in 2006 and we'll do it again.
That out of our system, herewith the 2005 Baggie Awards:
MVP, men: No, really?
MVP, women: Clijsters. She won more titles than any other player on tour, including the U.S. Open -- her long awaited Grand Slam breakthrough. That about seals it for us. That she started the year injured and had to shave more than 100 points off her ranking to finish at No. 2 makes it an even easier call.
Newcomer of the Year, men: Since Nadal, Tom Berdych, Richard Gasquet, etc. are really sophomores, we'll go with Gael Monfils, who, with the help of some key wild cards, made an awfully smooth transition from the juniors to the big league. His game is still carpaccio-raw. But, monsieur, is there a lot of potential there.
Runner-up:Andy Murray. One of the better Scottish exports this side of Trainspotting.
Newcomer of the Year, women: It's always tough to draw distinctions between freshman and sophomores. But we'll go with Nicole Vaidisova, the hard-hitting Czech who won three events and is ranked No. 16.
Comeback Player (and, lamentably, the field is always rich given the frequency of injury these days), men:James Blake. The Connecticut Yankee was as low as No. 210 in April. He finished at No .24.
Comeback Player, women: Clijsters. She was outside the top 100 when she began her charge at Indian Wells. She finished at No. 2.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim covers tennis for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.