2016 LWOT ATP End of Year Awards Roundtable

The 2016 men’s tennis season is over, at least at the highest levels of play. There are still awards to be given out, potentials to be discussed, and future years to look forward to. Several of our writers have penned their opinions on the match of the year, upset of the year, player of the year, newcomer of the year, and comeback player of the year. Our writers are myself (Yesh Ginsburg), Niall Clarke, Glenys Furness, and Niall Murray.

2016 LWOT ATP End of Year Awards Roundtable

Player of the Year
Niall Clarke:
Novak Djokovic–It is really a tossup between Djokovic and Murray, but despite the Brit finishing the year as the #1-ranked player in the world, I still think Djokovic overall had a better season. Grand Slams are seen as the pinnacle of the sport and Djokovic won two of them and made the final of another. To me he was the player of the year.

Niall Murray:
Andy Murray–This has been without a doubt the best year of Murray’s career to date. Novak Djokovic may have made history in the first part of the year, but 2016 belongs to Andy Murray. After losing in the finals of the Australian and French Open, the Scot went on to win a second Wimbledon title and become the first man to successfully defend Olympic singles gold. He finished the year as the World #1, winning five tournaments in succession including the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Glenys:
Andy Murray–After 7 years at number 2 (with a slight blip in 2014 due to back surgery) to overhaul an 8000 point defocit behind Djokovic to claim the top spot, then to win the World Tour finals to claim his 5th title on the trot and his first WTF to secure the end of year #1, it’s got to be Murray.

Yesh:
Andy Murray–This is an absolute toss-up between Murray and Djokovic. Djokovic won the first half of the year while Murray won the second. And, of course, Stan Wawrinka got a US Open win in the middle. I’m going to go with Murray, though. Even though Djokovic did better overall in the Slams, which is what history will care about, Murray was more consistent in the Slams and Masters together, which matter more in the short-term.

Comeback Player of the Year
Niall Clarke:
Juan Martin Del Potro–It cannot be anyone else, can it? The tour feels like a better place now the Tower of Tandil is back blasting forehands. After multiple wrist surgeries you could forgive Del Potro for deciding to call it quits, but he returned and finished the year inside the top 40 and arguably playing at a top 10 level. To cap off his incredible comeback, the Argentine led his country to the Davis Cup title.

Niall Murray:
Juan Martin Del Potro–I’d be surprised if this award wasn’t a clean sweep across the board. About two years ago Juan Martin del Potro could barely move his wrist, never mind dream of playing top level tennis again. The big Argentine has defied the odds to turn in some memorable performances since returning in February of this year.

He’s won big matches, most recently when he defeated Marin Čilić in a marathon five setter in the Davis Cup final. That said it was his performance in the Rio Olympics which was most outstanding. He ousted Novak Djokovic in the first round before defeating Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, only to fall to Andy Murray in a scintillating gold medal match. Ironically, his biggest wins – against the likes of Murray, Djokovic and Nadal – didn’t even count towards his ranking, so in reality he could have finished the year higher than #38.

Glenys:
Juan Martin Del Potro–No doubt about it. Having been out a while due to wrist surgery, and dropping down the rankings as a result. The Argentine proved his mettle by making it to the Gold Medal match in Rio, and then defeating Murray in the semifinals of the Davis Cup and following it up by leading Argentina to the title.

Yesh:
Juan Martin Del Potro–How can it be anyone other than Del Potro? He was expected to be the one to finally break the Federer/Nadal stranglehold on tennis, only to be derailed time and again by wrist issues. He’s finally back, reaching the Olympic final and winning the Davis Cup. He still hasn’t won a Slam since 2009, but with the track he was on this season it might be coming in 2017.

Newcomer of the Year
Niall Clarke:
Lucas Pouille–The Frenchman is not a newcomer to the tour, in fact he has been known about for a while, but he is a newcomer in terms of reaching the upper echelons of the game. Pouille made the quarter finals of two Grand Slam tournaments on his way to finishing inside the world’s top 16. His game has improved drastically this year, and it will be interesting to see how he builds on that next season.

Niall Murray:
Taylor Fritz–It’s been quite a year for Taylor Fritz. After finding success on the Challenger circuit in 2015, the 19-year-old has stepped up and started making his mark at ATP Tour events. This has culminated in him reaching the top 100 – he currently lies at number 76, although he’s had a highest ranking of 53 this year. He made the first round of ever y Grand Slam in 2016 and also became the youngest American, since Michael Chang in 1989, to reach an ATP Tour-level final. The good news for Fritz is that he has the weapons to make even more of an impact in 2017.

Glenys:
Taylor Fritz–One to watch during 2017, the American made his first ATP final in only his 3rd tour event. He has taken Roger Federer to a close 3 set match, and another American Jack Sock to five sets twice in Grand Slams.

Yesh:
Alexander Zverev–Zverev didn’t completely come out of nowhere this year, but he did make his huge jump in 2016. He defeated Federer in Halle and won his first title in St. Petersburg, beating Wawrinka in the process. Zverev became the youngest man to reach the Top 20 since Novak Djokovic a decade ago.

Match of the Year
Niall Clarke:
Davis Cup SF: Del Potro d. Murray 64 57 67(5) 63 64
Murray had denied Del Potro an Olympic Gold medal earlier in the year, but the comeback player of the year was to get his revenge in Glasgow. Argentina faced Great Britain in the semifinals and kicking off the tie was actually the main event of the weekend. Del Potro and Murray battled for over four hours but the Argentine proved too much, being one of only few men to defeat the Brit in the second half of the season.

Niall Murray:
Rio Olympics Gold Medal Match: Murray d. Del Potro 75 46 62 75
Sure there were a few contenders here, but in terms of quality tennis and pure emotion this one runs out winner for me. Murray was aiming to make history by winning consecutive gold medals and del Potro was trying to cap off a fairy tale journey back to the top of the men’s game. What ensued was a true titanic battle with 15 breaks of serve and 102 unforced errors between the two.

With Brazilians cheering on Murray and Argentines supporting their hometown hero, the atmosphere was electric. After over four hours of play, the Scot eventually emerged victorious.
The two players emotionally embracing each other at the net was one of the lasting images of 2016.

Glenys:
World Tour Finals SF: Murray d. Raonic 57 76(5) 76(9)
With so much on the line, and Murray coming off the back of the longest WTF match in history (before this match), the new #1 and the Canadian had a battle royale. There was so much on the line in this match. Raonic was trying to end the year as #3 (his highest career ranking ever) and Murray needed to outperform Djokovic at the event to secure the end of year top spot. Over three long sets and two tiebreaks Murray came out on top, but the match will go down as a classic.

Yesh:
Istanbul Challenger F: Malek Jaziri d. Dudi Sela 16 61 60
From a tennis standpoint, this was actually a pretty bad match. However, it was by far the most important tennis match played this year. It marked the end of the Tunisian boycott against competing with Israelis in sports, and should have been a tremendous sign of progress to the entire world–especially shortly after an Olympics that was rife with controversy. It might not have been the best match of the year, but it was certainly the biggest.
Upset of the Year

Niall Clarke:
Wimbledon R3: Querrey d. Djokovic 76(6) 61 36 76(5)
Nobody saw this coming. Djokovic had been dominant up until this point, he held all four Grand Slam titles and was looking likely to achieve the calendar Grand Slam–then Querrey happened. The American put in an incredible performance to send the World #1 packing in the third round–nothing comes close to this.

Niall Murray:
Wimbledon R3: Querrey d. Djokovic 76(6) 61 36 76(5)
Novak Djokovic seemed untouchable coming into Wimbledon. And after breezing through his first two rounds, nobody expected Sam Querrey to trouble the Serb at SW19. Djokovic was the defending champion and the firm favourite and had made the quarter-finals of ever Grand Slam dating back to the 2009 French Open. However that didn’t matter as Querrey played one of the matches of his life – his serve was unplayable at times. Even the match being postponed by rain couldn’t stop the American as he deservedly won in four sets.

Glenys:
Rio Olympics R1: Del Potro d. Djokovic 76(4) 76(2)
Although the Serb had lost at Wimbledon in the 3rd round, he was still a force to be reckoned with as the #1. Delpo was still on his way back from the injury and this was to be a rematch of the Bronze Medal match four years earlier, which Del Potro won. Once again Djokovic was beaten by the Argentine in what must count as the Serb’s worst loss of the year.

Yesh:
Wimbledon R3: Querrey d. Djokovic 76(6) 61 36 76(5)
It’s hard to pick anything else. Djokovic played an awful second set, but Querrey did a tremendous job coming back after a delay and holding on to win the fourth set and the match. The American didn’t really turn this into a resurgence like many hoped, but it was certainly the most shocking upset of the entire season.

Main Photo:

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