2011 Tennis Baggie Awards
Novak Djokovic was fantastic in 2011, while Petra Kvitova burst onto the scene
After missing much of 2010, Juan Martin del Potro made a strong comeback
Andrea Petkovic's personable YouTube videos provide a fun look at her personality
Can I get a water? Or am I gonna get violated for a water? Really, don't even look at me! I promise you, don't look at me, 'cause I am not the one. Don't look my way!
Oh, sorry. Didn't realize this mic was live. Is this thing on? It is? OK, then. It's time for our 2011 Baggie Awards. Thanks everyone for coming to our award ceremony tonight. And to think this event wasn't even mandatory. Forgive me if I'm a little off tonight. I have a hotel room with Li Na's husband on one side and Victoria Azarenka on the other.
Anyway, we had a controversial egg, and an ascending Fish. We dined out on Chinese but cut the gluten. On the men's side, we were asked to choose among three familiar entrees. (By entree, we mean "main dish," Mardy. We heard somewhere that you don't speak French.)
On the women's side, the menu was constantly changing. Which is to say, in 2011, tennis served us another steady diet of the delightfully unexpected.
Because "tennis offseason" might be the biggest oxymoron this side of "anxious patient" -- apparently the offseason falls on a Tuesday this year -- we have only a few hours to squeeze in these 2011 honors. First the cut and paste from years past: Before dispensing gifts to our winners, a detour into sappiness. 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 athlete's foot -- are read. Think of this as a sincere invitation to belly up to the bar in '12 and we'll do it again. And we have vowed to start up some podcasts.
So, the votes have been certified by PricewaterhouseCooper and Jack Valenti. The envelopes, please ...
Player of the Year, Men
Novak Djokovic. Three Slams. A top ranking. A 10-1 mark against the other two guys in the Big Three. One of the great single seasons in the Open Era. Plus he discharged his duties like a pro. There is simply no other credible candidate.
Player of the Year, Women
Esther Vergeer. The Dutch wheelchair world-beater won the Grand Slam yet again and pushed her winning streak to 434 matches, a span of almost nine years. Oh, what's that? The award winner has to come from the WTA? In that case we'll take Petra Kvitova, who won Wimbledon, achieved the No. 2 spot and then looked the part of a future No. 1 at the WTA year-end soiree.
Newcomer of the Year, men
Another game for Milos. Milos Raonic, that is, the young Canadian whose game recalls Pete Sampras in the early years. After qualifying for the Australian Open, Raonic went on a winning bender. Even after being laid up with an injury he amassed enough points to finish at No. 31.
Newcomer of the Year, women
It's always tough to draw lines of demarcation, and there were no standout candidates. So we'll go with Irina Camelia-Begu of Romania, 21, who started the year outside the top 200 and finished inside the top 40.
Coach of the Year, Men
It's worth pondering how many fine ATP coaches are not Grand Slam winners, but rather rank-and-file on the order of Darren Cahill, Michael Joyce, Paul Annacone, even you, Brad Gilbert -- men who played at a high level but really had to learn the game rather than rely on limitless native talent. Add Marian Vadja to list. As a player, he reached No. 34. As coach of Novak Djokovic, he's helped his employer reach the mountaintop.
Coach of the Year, Women
The coach-player relationship tends to be a shot-term gig, even in the best of times. But David Taylor and Sam Stosur stuck together through some inexplicable losses. The loyalty paid off in September. Stosur was able to amalgamate her gifts, keep her nerve and deploy a perfect strategy, winning the biggest title of her career at the U.S. Open. And Taylor was right there. Here's Stosur speaking with the Aussie media last week: "We just really trust and respect each other and always listen. We both learn lots of things from each other. Sometimes it's hard to know how a coach-player relationship is going to turn out, but I can happily say that this one has gone very well."
Comeback Player of the Year, Men
Thanks to a wrist injury -- and, if we're being honest, a crisis of confidence -- Juan Martin del Potro missed most of 2010 and started this year ranked No. 258. Finally healthy, he won nearly 50 matches and finished the year ranked No. 11.
Comeback Player of the Year, Women
After a nasty ankle injury threatened to end her career (YouTube if you must), Sabine Lisicki got back on the court earlier this year. A wild card at Wimbledon, she upset Li Na (who had won the previous major) and reached the semis before falling to Maria Sharapova. The hardest server in the women's game, Lisicki will be a player worth watching in 2012.
Doubles Team of the Year, Men
Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor (ages 34 and 39) won the French Open and the London year-ender. But the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, won a pair of Slams and finished at No. 1.
Doubles Team of the Year, Women
Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, whose combined age is pushing 75. They won the U.S. Open and the Istanbul year-ender and it will be a farce if they are left off the 2012 Olympic team.
Quote of the Year
After making the Australian Open final, China's Li Na explained that it almost didn't come to pass: "I am so happy to be the first Chinese player to be in a final. I didn't sleep very well last night, my husband was snoring and I was waking up every hour."
Quote of the Year, Runner-up
Asked whether she planned to see the film Kung Fu Panda 2, Francesca Schiavone enthused: "Ah, si, si, si. Is coming the second one. But I know that there are a lot of problems with the Chinese culture. They said that they feel pissed because we are joking with their culture. Did you read the paper? I read like this and was bad, because I think that movie cartoon can teach us not just for kids, but is for us, for other people. So I hope is coming soon."
Match of the Year, Men
The Federer-Djokovic U.S. Open throw-down in the semis is the obvious winner. But what about their encounter three months prior? If Federer doesn't win the semifinal match at Roland Garros -- snapping Djokovic's six-month winning streak -- man, this season could have gone much differently.
Match of the Year, Women
Francesca Schiavone def. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in a Grand Slam-record 4 hours and 44 minutes in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Shot of the Year, Men
We should mention this (again): If Djokovic miscasts this return by a few inches, he loses the match -- and with it, all reasonable claims to the Best Season Ever.
Shot of the Year, Runner-up
What did your mother teach you about playing tennis indoors?
Point of the Year, Women
But, really, the players don't care about grunting. At least that's what the WTA brain trust tells us.
The Gymboree Award
David Ferrer, admirable in so many ways, will not be available for babysitting.
Jack Sock playing a U.S. Open match with actress Elisabeth Shue in attendance.
Name to Watch Award
Francoise Abanda. Mark our words.
Breath of Fresh Air Award
Pro tennis players fill their ample downtime in various ways: shopping, modeling, sacrificing countless hours before the altar of Twitter. Andrea Petkovic, 24, a quirky German and up-and-coming star on the WTA Tour, has a more creative avocation. She initiated her own YouTube channel and then created "Petkorazzi," a video alter ego, who fights crime one week and holds a Chinese dance-robot show the next. (Don't ask.) Often filmed in her hotel rooms, the skits on Der Video Blog are alternatively noirish, hilarious and just plain weird -- a cross between Saturday Night Live's Dieter from Sprockets and scenes from David Lynch movies. This amateur film making is exacting no price on Petkovic's tennis. She is ranked No. 10 and made the quarterfinals of three majors in 2011.
'She Lost Her Head While Others Kept Theirs' Award
During the Australian Open, Agnieszka Radwanska came up with a new way to lose a point.
Pot Assessing the Kettle's Pigmentation Award
Asked about boisterous spectators in suites talking during points, Victoria Azarenka -- a player, sadly, known more for her cacophonous soundtrack than for her tennis -- told The New York Times: ''As a player we would all like to have a bit of respect and quietness."
All in the Timing Award
When ESPN2 went to a commercial break at 14-13 in the exhausting third set of the Schiavone-Kuznetsova Australian Open match, the next words we heard were the opening of a Hoverround commercial: "Do you have a hard time walking...?"
All in the Timing Award, Part Two
At least twice in 2011, immediately after Roger Federer lost matches, the next series of commercials including the spot of him lugging his trophies for Net Jets.
The Edward R. Murrow Award
To the intrepid scribe who massed the courage to ask Serena Williams the following at the U.S. Open: "I'm liking the nail polish that you have on. How is that going for you?"
Ethical Lapse Award
Philipp Petzschner. The video speaks for itself. Won the match, lost the reputation:
The Henry Higgins Award
After having mispronounced her name "Gorgeous" and then "Georges," a Wimbledon chair umpire then overruled a call to the detriment of German player Julia Goerges. She let him have it: "You need glasses. This is the first time you have opened your mouth and it is a call on an overrule on set point. Also, learn how to pronounce my name properly."
So Long, Farewell
Adam Helfant, Ken Meyerson, Jim McManus, NBC's Wimbledon coverage (R.I.P.), Patty Schnyder, Julie Ditty, Gaston Gaudio, Stefan Koubek, Mario Ancic, Daniel Koellerer (pending appeal), Dinara Safina, Wesley Moodie, Thomas Muster (again), Justine Henin (again), Nicolas Lapentti, Ashley Fisher, Sybille Bammer, Katie O'Brien, Martina Mueller, Alina Jidkova, Mara Santangelo, Stephanie Cohen Aloro.
Have a great holiday, everyone, and hope the ball bounces your way in 2012!!
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