PARIS: Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic enjoyed breakthrough triumphs at the Australian and US Opens, but at the end of 2014 it was business as usual for Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer
Djokovic was world number one for the third time in four years after winning a second Wimbledon title for his seventh major.
The 27-year-old collected seven titles in all, suffered just eight defeats in 69 matches and by the end of the year he was World Tour Finals champion once again.
The Serb even found the time to get married, become a father and take part in the knockabout International Premier Tennis League along with the likes of Federer and Serena Williams.
With Federer in sight of his 34th birthday in 2015 and with continuing doubts over the fitness of Rafael Nadal, it is Djokovic who will be the man to beat in the new year.
After a second Roland Garros final loss to Nadal in three years, the world number one’s priority is a first French Open title and the completion of a career Grand Slam.
“Roland Garros is still one of the biggest goals that I have,” said Djokovic, who now has four Australian Open crowns, two at Wimbledon and a single US Open triumph.
Djokovic’s roll-call of titles in 2014 read Wimbledon, Masters crowns in Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Paris as well as the Beijing trophy, all topped off by the World Tour Finals in London secured when Federer scratched from the final with a back injury.
Federer failed to add to his record 17 Grand Slam titles, falling in a five-set title match at Wimbledon to Djokovic.
He still won 73 matches against 12 losses with five titles to take his career tally to 82.
The veteran also ended 2014 a winner, securing a first ever Davis Cup with Switzerland after 16 years of trying.
Nadal had another ‘now you see him, now you don’t’ campaign.
A shock defeat in the Australian Open final to Wawrinka, who also finished 2014 as a Davis Cup winner, was followed by a ninth French Open triumph at Roland Garros where his record stands at 66 wins against just one loss since his debut as a 19-year-old in 2005.
But a fourth round defeat at Wimbledon at the hands of Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios led to a three-month absence from the tour to nurse a wrist injury.
Nadal only played three more events, missing the defence of his US Open title, before a bout of appendicitis required surgery, shutting down his year.
On way out
Andy Murray lost his Wimbledon title in a quarter-final defeat to Grigor Dimitrov, but made headlines by hiring a female coach in the shape of France’s Amelie Mauresmo after the Briton split with Ivan Lendl in March.
That move wasn’t the only shock of the new in 2014.
Wawrinka became a first-time major winner at the age of 28 in Melbourne while Cilic, with Goran Ivanisevic pulling the strings, won an equalling surprising maiden Slam at the US Open.
The 26-year-old Cilic eased past Federer in the semi-finals before brushing aside Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the final in straight sets.
Nishikori became the first Asian male in the year-end top 10 at a career-high number five while fellow young gun Milos Raonic became the first Canadian and first player born in the 1990s to finish in the top 10.
Nadal admitted that the winds of change in the men’s game, if not yet at hurricane speed, were certainly beginning to gust.
“Our generation is on its way out,” said the Spaniard.
The women’s game said goodbye to Chinese trailblazer Li Na.
Li, 32, captured the Australian Open in January to add to her historic 2011 French Open breakthrough.
She had also reached number two in the world before early exits at Roland Garros and Wimbledon prompted her stunning September 19th retirement announcement.
“After four knee surgeries and hundreds of shots injected into my knee weekly to alleviate swelling and pain, my body is begging me to stop the pounding,” she said.
Serena Williams showed no sign of slowing.
The 33-year-old overcame early losses at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon to clinch a sixth US Open — without dropping a set — and her 18th major.
For good measure, the American ended the year as world number one and with the WTA Championship in her possession.
Maria Sharapova won a second French Open for her fifth career Grand Slam title in a thrilling three-set final victory over the much-improved Simona Halep.
Petra Kvitova claimed her second Wimbledon before finishing the year with a flourish by leading the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup. AFP