On The Line's 2004 Year-End Awards
by the On The Line staff



Once again this year, some of the On The Line writers and editors got together to hand out two and three cheers for the highlights and lowlights of the last tennis season. This year's judging panel consists of Chris Gerby, Peter van Mierlo, Beth Knizer, and Ken Kamlet.


Player of the year
Newcomer of the year
Comeback of the year
Most improved player of the year
Flop of the year
Match of the year
Most memorable media moment
Nice moment of the year
Not so nice moment of the year
"Farewell, you'll be missed" award


Player of the year
Chris G.

R. Federer

L. Davenport
Peter v.M.

R. Federer

Russian Girl
Beth K.

R. Federer

L. Davenport
Ken K.

R. Federer

M. Sharapova



Consensus: For a second year in a row we have chosen triple Grand Slam champion, Roger Federer on the men's side.
Our top female is either #1 ranked Lindsay Davenport or a Russian player.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: I think even the red states and blue states could agree on this one. Without the services of a coach, Roger Federer put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport. The only blemish on his 23-1 record in the Slams was a loss to three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten. Cool under pressure and possessing a virtually flawless, multi-dimensional game, Federer appears poised to rewrite the record books.
Women: Injuries, illness, and inconsistency marked a year of parity on the WTA Tour, with nobody emerging as a clear-cut number one. The only player who looked dominant for any stretch of the season was Lindsay Davenport, who scooped up four consecutive titles on the American hard courts. That remarkable run most likely would have ended with a US Open championship had Davenport not suffered a hip injury prior to her narrow semifinal loss. All in all, not bad for a woman who'd been openly contemplating retirement.
Peter v.M.:
Men: Rarely has anyone been so dominant as Roger Federer was this year. He managed to lose only six matches all year (to Henman, Nadal, Costa, Kuerten, Hrbaty, Berdych), but none of them to a top ten player (at the time of the match). His record in finals was perfect, and he won multiple titles on all surfaces.
Towards the end of the year he suffered a thigh injury, forcing him to withdraw from Paris. This must have worried some fans -- after all, some people are never really the same after an injury (Magnus Norman, and to a slightly lesser extent, Gustavo Kuerten come to mind). However, no lasting effects were in evidence at the year-end event in Houston, where the Federer Express was back to full steam.
Women: Let's be slightly flippant, and give this one to Anna Kournikova. With the notable and commendable exception of Svetlana Kuznetsova, few Russian women have admitted her influence, often being adamant about not wanting to be compared to Anna. Still, you have to think that without Anna's obvious success, even if it was perhaps more financial than athletic in nature, a lot of the great current crop of Russian women would not have taken up the sport. Perhaps the likes of Maria Sharapova would do well to acknowledge this fact, especially considering that Sharapova herself would no doubt be a lot less popular if she didn't have her good looks.
Beth K.:
Men: I have no doubt the On The Line editors will be unanimous with the pick of Roger Federer as our player of the year. The Federer Express was nearly unstoppable. His tennis strokes are poetry in motion on the court. He did extremely well, sans a coach, in 2004. Perhaps a 'Grand Slam' year may be beckoning him in '05?
Women: The WTA Tour had its share of injuries and illnesses. I agree with Chris that there is really no clear cut number one, but Lindsay Davenport completed a feat she already did once in 1998, and that was sweep the California Hard court tournaments (Stanford, San Diego, Los Angeles) in 2004. She ended the year at #1 and I do hope she closes the door on any thoughts of retirement and comes back in 2005.
Ken K.:
Men: Roger Federer. No contest. He had an extraordinary 2004, one of the greatest seasons any ATP player has ever had. Is this just the beginning for this 23-year old? Already comparisons are being made to all-time greats such as Laver and Tilden. His remarkable dominance has created obvious fear and angst amongst his peers. Example: Andy Roddick?s shocking dismissal of Brad Gilbert as his coach ? a clear sign of panic if ever there was one.
Women: Maria Sharapova receives this nod because of excellent results but also because of a process of elimination. 2004 was a year of confusion and disappointment for the women. The story of the first half of the year was more about who was absent than about what was happening on the courts.

Sharapova?s stunning run at her first major championship at Wimbledon was historic and inspired. That Sharapova followed with an uninspired (although acceptable) summer, was simply a sign of her coping with new-found pressure. She stepped it up in the fall and ended the year in dramatic fashion. Facing the best of the best of 2004, she was impressive and composed in claiming her first-ever WTA Tour Championships.

The ITF named Anastasia Myskina as their player of the year because they also had to include Olympic and Fed Cup results in their determination, but Myskina has been very inconsistent since her French Open win and has no other major title to her credit. Sharapova, through no fault of her own, was not selected to play crucial Fed Cup matches and was not named to the Olympic team as the selection was made before her Wimbledon triumph.

Lindsay Davenport, ranked #1 on the WTA Computer, had an outstanding summer season, but didn?t win a major at all in 2004.

Amelie Mauresmo?s ascension to a very brief stint as the WTA #1 ranked player was the biggest joke of the 2004 tennis season. Her lack of titles and her lack of quality results at major events make her the least deserving of the #1 rank that the WTA has ever had. Clearly, the WTA ranking system does not award enough bonus points for excellent results at the biggest events and Mauresmo earned the #1 rank mostly by showing up more often than many of the other contenders than by putting together a superior year or by beating other top players.

Ironically, despite missing most of the year due to illness, Justine Henin-Hardenne ends up a close #2 for Player of the Year distinction for 2004. Her triumphs at Australia and in the Olympics were her highlights, but her disappointing results in Paris and in New York (as well as her no-show at Wimbledon) make it impossible to give her the edge over Sharapova.


Newcomer of the year
Chris G.

G. Monfils

T. Golovin
Peter v.M.

R. Nadal

K. Sprem
Beth K.

No pick

K. Sprem
Ken K.

Tomas Berdych

Shenay Perry



Consensus: None on the men's side, though we expect our choices will produce headlines in 2005.
Karolina Sprem gets two votes, but there's no consensus about the best new female player either.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: I have seen the future and its name is Gael Monfils. This dynamic, athletic 18-year-old from France swept the first three legs of the junior Grand Slam before setting his sights on the pro ranks. Playing before an ecstatic crowd in Paris, Monfils posted a thrilling come-from-behind victory over veteran Thomas Enqvist, then tested Lleyton Hewitt in a pair of close, action-packed sets.
Women: Charismatic and poised beyond her years, Tatiana Golovin took the tour by storm in 2004. The Moscow-born Frenchwoman posted wins over Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova, reached a singles final in Birmingham, and shared the French Open mixed doubles crown with Richard Gasquet. Playing under WTA age restrictions didn't prevent the 16-year-old from finishing her rookie season ranked 26th in the world.
Peter v.M.:
Men: It's always tough to determine when a player stops being a newcomer. I'm inclined to give Rafael Nadal the nod here, even though he had a pretty good year last year. This year was more substantial, with victory over Roger Federer in Miami, and stellar Davis Cup performances, including an impressive win over Andy Roddick in the final. Roddick is no great clay court player, of course, but Nadal needed some game to pull of that defeat nonetheless.
Women: Karolina Sprem played some very good matches. Of course, her most memorable match for many will be the umpire-tainted defeat of Venus Williams at Wimbledon. Venus was right, and yet extremely gracious, to state that one umpire-tainted point in a tie break does not make a match. However, Sprem had already come close to beating Venus some weeks earlier in Berlin, whacking the ball every bit as hard as Venus ever did. It wasn't pretty, but it was pretty impressive.
Beth K.:
Men: No pick.
Women: I'll agree with Peter's pick of Karolina Sprem. From January 5th's singles ranking, Sprem improved 40 places to end up at #18 (as of November 22). She had many good matches, though the one that many will remember was the umpire "tainted" win over Venus Williams to reach the quarterfinals, her career best grand slam performance.
Ken K.:
Men: Tomas Berdych. His win over Roger Federer at the Olympics was the most improbable upset of the year and trumps all other results by an ATP rookie in 2004.
Women: Shenay Perry. A spirited, determined competitor with an impressive game, Perry is the best new North American player to come around lately and, although already 20 years old, this late bloomer vaulted to #69 in the rankings in only her 2nd year on the main WTA Tour, and first season playing in all 4 grand slams.
Honorable mention to 15-year old Nicole Vaidisova who is already at #75 in the world rankings despite a limited schedule due to the much needed age-restriction rules.


Comeback of the year
Chris G.

T. Haas

K. Hrdlickova -- now K. Peschke
Peter v.M.

T. Haas

Williams Sisters
Beth K.

T. Haas

No pick
Ken K.

L. Hewitt

A. Frazier



Consensus: Tommy Haas is our pick as the men's comeback player after being off tour for the entire 2003 season.
We have varied choices on the women's side.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: There were a slew of reasonable contenders here, but successfully returning from a 15-month absence gives Tommy Haas the edge. Rotator cuff surgery wiped out the German's entire 2003 season, but the former world #2 showed quite a few flashes of top form in '04. A comprehensive 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Paradorn Srichaphan at Indian Wells was the first sign that Haas was back in a major way. He confirmed it by snaring titles in Houston and Los Angeles.
Women: If you want to put together an impressive comeback without anybody noticing, get married and change your name. Kveta Hrdlickova suffered a knee injury in November 2002 and was away from the game until April 2004, when she returned as Kveta Peschke. The powerful Czech wasted little time breaking back into the Top 100, winning three challenger titles along the way. Peschke even took a nice run at Jennifer Capriati in their second round French Open meeting.
Peter v.M.:
Men: Tommy Haas's comeback gets this one by a landslide. Many people might have doubted his ability to come back (see Norman and Kuerten, above), but Tommy pulled it off with aplomb.
Honorable mention, through gnashing teeth, might go to Lleyton Hewitt, who seemed at the end of his fifteen minutes of fame in 2003, but resurrected his game pretty well in 2004.
Women: I'll give the nod here to the Williams sisters, perhaps more so to Serena than to Venus. Despite deep personal tragedy at the end of 2003, and while battling injuries and (perhaps) an inability to commit fully to one task at hand, they put together a pretty decent 2004.
Elsewhere, Amy Frazier has been praised, and with good reason. Some thought she had retired, but she had merely fallen off the radar (and out of the top 50). She finished the year ranked a very nice 26.
Beth K.:
Men: No denying Tommy Haas's return to the ATP Tour. After right shoulder rotator cuff surgery in December 2002 he underwent an arthroscopic procedure in July 2003. Tommy came back in February and slowly improved his ranking. In April, he captured his first ATP clay court title in Houston (defeating Roddick). He ended up the season with at 37-22 record and a ranking of 17.
Women: No pick.
Ken K.:
Men: Lleyton Hewitt. He?s back in the world top 3 after a disappointing 2003 campaign and he?s a strong contender once again. He?s a swinging single making tons of money with a chance to get back to the grand slam winner?s circle. If only he could figure out a way to enjoy life and stop sweating the small stuff.
Women: Amy Frazier. After 17 years (SEVENTEEN YEARS!) as a top ranked American player on the pro-tour, she finds herself back in the world top 30 after slipping all the way into the ITF circuits and qualifying events. A solid year all-around, she?s once more a threat to pull off the occasional upset and maybe even add a few more titles to her already distinguished (yet vastly overlooked) career.


Most improved player of the year
Chris G.

J. Johansson

M. Sharapova
Peter v.M.

R. Federer

E. Dementieva
Beth K.

R. Federer

Russian Girl
Ken K.

R. Federer

Mashona Washington



Consensus: Our pick here on the men's side is the seemingly unstoppable Roger Federer "Express" -- still improving after all these years.
The Russian Revolution dominates the women's side.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: After opening the season a nondescript 95th on the ATP computer, Joachim Johansson finished just one spot outside the Top 10. The man they call "Pim-Pim" unleashed one of the most dangerous serves on the circuit in wins over the likes of Canas, Kiefer, Srichaphan, Fish, and Schuettler. Most impressive was Johansson's quarterfinal win over Andy Roddick at the US Open, snapping the 11-match undefeated streak A-Rod had compiled at Flushing Meadows.
Women: Were this an award for the most surprising improvement, names like Molik, Jankovic, Washington, and Jidkova would be bandied about. However, it's safe to say none of them made a bigger splash than Maria Sharapova. The Siberian Siren came into her own in 2004, crushing Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final and repeating that result at the season-ending championships. Those performances alone made the feisty glamour girl a candidate for Player of the Year honors.
Peter v.M.:
Men: Roger Federer should actually be considered here. While in 2003 he was occasionally unstoppable (at Wimbledon and in Houston), he did not end that year ranked first. In 2004, he was such a force that he cannot lose the number one ranking until the summer of 2005, even if he does not play at all. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the improvements were, but his toughness and his backhand come to mind. Federer has gone so far as to thank the other players, trying to avoid that devastating forehand, for playing to his backhand so much!
Women: Why not give this one to Elena Dementieva? She managed to reach two grand slam finals, even though her serve (especially the second serve) is so weak it's pathetic. I tracked some of her serving statistics at the grand slams, and she managed those two final appearances pretty much without ever serving to the opponents' backhand (assuming right handed opponents, as I think all of them were). Any player who can lob in balls so slow that a milk float would overtake it easily has to have improved some part of her game.
Apparently Elena promises every year to work on her serve during the (short) off-season -- and she never manages it. What a player she could be if her serve managed to ever become too fast to be timed with a sun dial!
Beth K.:
Men: I'll agree again with Peter about Roger Federer as the most improved. Though he won Wimbledon in '03, he was more than just pretty much a force to be reckoned with!. Can the Federer Express keep up his winning ways in '05? Many think Safin can provide a challenge. I don't even want to consider how Roger's year could have ended if he didn't have that spell of injury.
Women: I'll go out on a limb, and instead of picking one player, I will pick the Russian women's invasion on the WTA Tour. They won three of the four Grand Slam titles, hold 3 of the top 5 spots, 4 out of the top 10 and 7 out of the top 20. The Russians aren't going away anytime soon. I suspect if both Belgians (Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters) aren't back at 100% or Venus and Serena aren't at their peak, there will be many more Russians challenging for Grand Slam singles titles.
Ken K.:
Men: Roger Federer. Already an established star at the beginning of 2004, he brought men?s tennis to a new level. Without a serious weekly rival, only injuries or his own head seem to be his only possible threats.
Women: Mashona Washington. After surviving years of struggling on-court through the minor leagues and qualifiers and off-court with an offensive and highly controversial father, Mashona Washington has hit her stride and at the ancient age (in tennis standards) of 28 she has finally broken into the top 50.


Flop of the year
Chris G.

M. Philippoussis

J. Dokic
Peter v.M.

P. Cash

Russian Serving
Beth K.

US Olympic team

M. Alves, umpire
Ken K.

McEnroe brothers

Williams sisters



Consensus: Uncharacteristically, the jury cannot agree on anything here!


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: In a turn of events befitting his rollercoaster career, Mark Philippoussis followed his sterling 2003 comeback with a baffling 2004 collapse. "Big Flip" looked downright listless in a pair of Davis Cup defeats, then went five months without winning a first round match. The wayward Aussie found time to party with Paris Hilton, but ultimately crashed to a ranking of 109, ending the year with another run of four straight losses.
Women: The sad saga of Jelena Dokic reached its nadir this year. It's not just that the talented but troubled 21-year-old has been winless since April. It was the way she lost, dropping all but one of those bouts in straight sets, despondently going through the motions on her way out of the Top 100. Meanwhile, the off-court soap opera raged on, as Jelena reunited with controversial father Damir.
Peter v.M.:
Men: More than one candidate comes to mind here. Andy Roddick did not have a bad year, but it was probably disappointing to him. Of course, if you change the results of the clashes with Federer, which Andy all lost, the year looks a lot better all of a sudden.
Juan Carlos Ferrero's year was disappointing as well, although injuries had a lot to do with that. Ferrero has to have been smarting when Nadal got the nod in Davis Cup over him.
Others mention Flip as a Flop, but I'd rather flip-flop in that situation, and call Pat Cash the flop, for his unnecessary remarks. Pat apparently has a large cache of sour grapes. We should also mention Cash's remarks about Roger Federer at the Australian Open -- Prophet Pat felt that Roger was relying too much on his girlfriend, and she was too much of a distraction. Good call, Pat!
Dishonorable mention goes to Wimbledon umpire Ted Watts. Another umpire, Jorge Diaz, continues to be worthless, and continues to prove it by making unnecessary, and often completely wrong, overrules.
Women: Russian women's serving. Do they even know that it is allowed to serve to the backhand of the opponent? By extension, since these Russian women managed to get some good results in spite of their horribly weak serves, the WTA tour as a whole gets an honorable flop mention.
Dishonorable mention to US Open umpire Mariana Alves.
Beth K.:
Men: The failure of the US men's Olympic team to win gold, because Andy Roddick was ranked #2 player in singles and Mike and Bob Bryan, as a team, were ranked close to the top in doubles. Unexpectedly, Taylor Dent won the silver. I am not knocking his achievement, as he is well deserving of it. The Bryan brothers failed to win a medal of any sort even though they are a dominating doubles force on the ATP Tour.
Women: In an otherwise great match between Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams, the "flop" goes to Umpire Alves.
Ken K.:
Men: The McEnroe brothers. Patrick McEnroe: His results as Davis Cup captain of the nation with the most quality players in the world have just plain sucked. His selections have been questionable (just ask Vince Spadea) and he has not been able to inspire his best players (including Roddick) to Davis Cup greatness. Paging Jim Courier!

John McEnroe: his talk show tanked; he had fewer viewers than a junior mixed doubles qualifying match at the Eau Claire, WI Open. Mercifully, MSNBC put a muzzle on the mouth that just won?t shut up and canceled him in less than 6 months. Hopefully, he?s been humbled at least a little bit.
Women: The Williams Sisters. So much talent, so many fans, so much potential. Yes, of course, both of these players have already achieved Hall-of-Fame caliber results, but neither has been able to get back on track since derailing in 2003 with injuries, glamorous distractions (boyfriends, movie roles, lucrative endorsements, etc.) and personal tragedy (the violent death of their eldest sister, Yetunde). Serena continues to see professional tennis as only a part-time career and rarely exerts herself to the necessary demanding schedule. Venus has lost her nerve and her tentative play has resulted in all kinds of technical vulnerabilities. Both players need to get over their knee-jerk reaction and listen to the advice that seems to be unanimous: minimize off-court distractions and find new coaches. Its very sad to see brilliant players struggling to maintain top 10 rankings when they should be enjoying an epic rivalry for the number 1 spot and grand slam titles.


Match of the year
Chris G.


Fernando Gonzalez
vs Taylor Dent,
Olympics

Myskina
vs Zvonereva,
Acura Classic
Peter v.M.

Federer
vs Hewitt,
US Open

and Federer
vs Roddick,
Wimbledon

No pick
Beth K.

Chileans
at Olympics

Chinese
at Olympics
Ken K.

Marat Safin
d. Andre Agassi,
Australian Open

J. Capriati
vs S. Williams,
U.S. Open



Consensus: The Olympics are well represented in this category. The women's match that has clearly garnered most comments this year was the US Open quarter final between Capriati and S. Williams -- although probably for many of the wrong reasons. Perhaps soon there will be instant replays in tennis, and some good will have come from it.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: Any of the four matches in the medal round of the Athens Olympics would merit consideration here. My vote goes to the deliriously entertaining battle for bronze in singles. It was three and a half hours of pure aggression, pitting Fernando Gonzalez's go-for-broke baseline haymakers against the relentless net attack of hard-charging Taylor Dent. "Gonzo" saved two match points before delighting his exuberant Chilean fans by pulling out an amazing 6-2, 4-6, 16-14 victory.
Women: Good friends Anastasia Myskina and Vera Zvonareva made a bit of women's tennis history in the semifinals of the Acura Classic in San Diego. Confirming their reputations as two of the tour's most emotional players, Myskina screamed at her coach and Zvonareva broke down in tears over the course of a very exciting, well played, see-saw nailbiter. It culminated in the longest tiebreak in WTA Tour history, with Myskina finally claiming an epic 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (17-15) victory. Wired on adrenaline after fighting off nine match points, "Nastya" stuck around past midnight to watch Vera play in the ensuing doubles semifinal.
Peter v.M.:
Men: Federer's disassembly of Hewitt in the final of the US Open did not make for much tension, but boy was the tennis good. Federer's much narrower win over Roddick in the final at Wimbledon also made for gripping viewing.
Women: No pick.
Beth K.:
Men: Though Federer's matches at the US Open were excellent, my match of the year goes to the Chileans at the Olympics. Winning the doubles gold and also the first ever gold medal for Chile after 108 years, Nicolas Massu won his gold, and Fernando Gonzalez won the broze medal, whereas as a pair the Chileans won the doubles gold medal.
Women: Though the Olympics only comes once every four years, my nod for the women's match of the year goes to the Chinese doubles gold medalists, Ting Li and Tian Tian Sun. This particular gold medal match is my pick, due to the fact the Chinese duo beat one half of the top doubles teams on the WTA Tour, Virgina Ruano Pascal and a very good clay courter in her own right, Conchita Martinez. The Chinese are better known for their play on the hard courts but nearly dismantled the Spanish duo. Though several other WTA matches are no less deserving for this honor, I really enjoyed this particular one. I believe the Chinese will be a very dominating force when the Olympics is held on their home soil in Bejing in 2008.
Ken K.:
Men: Marat Safin def. Andre Agassi, Australian Open semis, 7-6, 7-6, 5-7, 1-6, 6-3. One of the highest caliber match this year, wonderfully epic. This matched proved that if only Marat Safin could show this grit every time instead of once every 3 or 4 years; he could be enjoying a Federer-like career. Seriously.
Women: Jennifer Capriati def. Serena Williams, US Open quarters 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Perhaps one of the ugliest matches of the Open Era thanks to horrific officiating and wildly erratic play. But it was filled with Greek-Tragedy level drama and nail-biting excitement that will long be remembered.


Most memorable media moment
Chris G.

Vince Spadea "No Strings", Tennis Channel
Peter v.M.

Inane chatter,
Sky Sports
Beth K.

Tennis Channel
Ken K.

Tennis Channel



Consensus: The emergence of the Tennis Channel (primarily shown in the US) is the clear cut winner here.


Comments


Chris G.:
The Tennis Channel may have gotten more than it bargained for when it turned a camera crew over to Vincent Spadea for an edition of its "No Strings" program. Spadea slipped into such alter egos as rapper "Off White" and ladies man "Vincenzo" while leading TTC on a guided tour of southern California. Comedic high points included Vince's rambling speech about "manifest destiny," his hapless courting of a bemused Von Dutch salesgirl, and his attempts to "battle rap" with complete strangers. This was tennis TV at its most bizarrely compelling.
Peter v.M.:
Many an hour was filled with inane chatter on Sky Sports. At one point, Peter Fleming explained it: since the right to broadcast the doubles matches had not been purchased, the presenters needed to fill all that time. Seemns to me there's an easy solution to this: buy the rights to broadcast doubles. Of course, all that talk is a bit of an epidemic anyway. I do believe that more time is spent in the Netherlands inanely discussing soccer than is spent actually showing the actual bore-fest.
Beth K.:
Though I don't have it (but it is available on Cox digital cable), the Tennis Channel's penetration within the cable market. Tennis fans now can say FINALLY!
Ken K.:
There was a distinct lack of tennis on television and the networks continue to devalue the sport with less than stellar coverage. Therefore, I decline to single out a particular moment but will advocate the support of the newly emerging Tennis Channel: If anything happened on this much-anticipated cable network of significance, too many Americans don?t know about it. Shame on Comcast, Dish Network, DirecTV and other services that so far refuse to carry it. Please continue to harass your cable provider until it becomes available in your area!


Nice moment of the year
Chris G.

Jeff Salzenstein
cracks top 100
Sesil Karatancheva
talks trash
at Indian Wells
Peter v.M.

Spadea wins first
tournament

E. Dementieva,
US Open
Beth K.

A. Agassi v.
S. Sargsian, US Open

E. Dementieva,
US Open

Ken K.

Gaston Gaudio,
French win

Women
Olympics Doubles Gold




Consensus: No clear choice on the men's side.
Elena Dementieva's speech after the US Open final impressed everyone, and gets the nod here.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: Jeff Salzenstein heard the whispers. He'd spent year after frustrating year on the challenger circuit, trying to salvage a career marked by major injuries, nervous cramping, and exasperating near-misses. The Stanford grad faced dubious skepticism from those who wondered why he hadn't retired and gotten on with his life. Salzenstein kept plugging away, though, and on June 7th he finally cracked the world's Top 100 at the tender age of 30.
Women: Call me crazy, but I'm a sucker for some good trash talk. With so many top players missing time due to various ailments, the WTA Tour needed all the buzz it could get in 2004. Up-and-comer Sesil Karatancheva certainly generated some with a shoot-from-the-hip press conference in Indian Wells. The brash Bulgarian called out fellow teen Maria Sharapova, threatening to "kick her ass off" before pushing Maria to three sets in what suddenly became a hotly anticipated grudge match. Who says you have to be nice to produce a nice moment?
Peter v.M.:
Men: At the more than 200-th attempt, Vince Spadea won the first tournament of his career, in Scottsdale, AZ. Somewhere Anna Kournikova is thinking she should have been treated with as much patience by the media.
Women: Elena Dementieva's speech after the US Open final.
Beth K.:
Men: The Andre Agassi vs. Sargis Sargsian 4th round match at the US Open. Sarge ran out of gas vs Andre, after his second and third round matches went the distance (vs Nicholas Massu and Paul-Henri Mathieu). When asked during his press interview after the match, Agassi stated:

Q. Did you watch that match (Sargsian vs. Mathieu) on TV?

ANDRE AGASSI: Yes, I did. Never been so nervous in my life. It's a lot easier playing than watching when you really care about it. You know, I was pulling for him (Sargsian). It was a great display of tennis and heart, by both players.
Women: I again agree with Peter, Elena Dementieva's speech after the US Open final.
Ken K.:
Men: Gaston Gaudio?s shocking French Open win. While it was a nightmare for Coria, it was a dream for underdogs everywhere.
Women: Perhaps the most improbable Olympic tennis result of all time ? the almost complete unknown team of Sun Tian Tian and Li Ting win Gold and suddenly, the vast, untapped talent pool in China has become a player. The Olympics are filled with athletes who nobody expects to have a chance at the golden dream. It is truly thrilling when the long-shot comes through.


Not so nice moment of the year
Chris G.

Americans not playing
on red clay

US Open quarter final
umpire Mariana Alves


Peter v.M.

Brad Gilbert,
no class

S. Williams,
not always class


Beth K.

Golden Bagel Award

S. Williams
Ken K.

Guillermo Coria
French choke

Mariana Alves
US Open disaster



Consensus: We have a variety of picks on the men's side, once again.
On the women's side, honours are even between Serena Williams and umpire Mariana Alves.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: Shame on Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, and James Blake for playing a rinky dink tournament in Houston the week before a prestigious Masters Series event in Monte Carlo. Citing fatigue and "scheduling conflicts," all three predictably pulled out of Monte Carlo on the same day. Ducking the European clay court swing is an ignoble tradition Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras have apparently passed down to the next generation of American stars. It's bad for the sport and does nothing to improve the Yanks' dreadful form on the red stuff.
Women: The USTA's inability to run a credible professional tournament reached new levels of outrageousness in a US Open quarterfinal featuring Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati. Chair umpire Mariana Alves hooking Williams on the worst overrule in tennis history was just the tip of the iceberg. Three more wrong calls in the last game alone all went Capriati's way, essentially handing her a sham victory. Let's just hope some good can come of that debacle, which inspired pleas for use of instant replay in tennis officiating.
Peter v.M.:
Men: What is up with Brad Gilbert's remark, after he was fired by Andy Roddick: "While I believe that there is still a great deal of work to be done, Andy clearly does not feel that way." Earth to Gilbert -- Roddick may very much feel that there is work left to be done, he just doesn't want to do it with you.
Women: It's been said often in other places, but it bears repeating: Serena Williams needs to learn that when she loses, it's not always because she played badly. Sometimes the opponent plays well! It's one thing to feel that the only way you can lose is to play badly, it's another to say it out loud.
Beth K.:
Men: I know Roger Federer was the most dominating player on the ATP Tour during 2004 but he also won the "Golden Bagel Award" . The Golden Bagel Award? is presented to the player - among the Top 8 ATP singles players at the Tennis Masters Cup - who wins the most 6-0 sets between January 1 and the start of the season-ending Masters event. I don't understand the meaning of that, but really hope Roger didn't add any cream cheese to his award and then bite into it!
Women: From the November 15th WTA Tour Notes and Netcords, the quote of the week from Serena, "I'm going to be a force to be reckoned with next year. The little work I have been able to do, I think, has moved mountains for me. " This after her runner up finish to Maria Sharapova at the WTA Championships in Los Angeles, CA. I guess opponents can't play well. If one compares the photos in the Notes and Netcords (July 5th and November 15th), notice Serena's expression after both of Sharapova's wins.
Ken K.:
Men: Guillermo Coria. His remarkable choke at Roland Garros was just plain painful to witness. Martina Hingis?s career fell apart at Roland Garros ? will Coria prove that history repeats itself or will he regroup? It will be very interesting to watch this clay court specialist in 2005.
Women: Mariana Alves. US Open. She now has the distinction of having made the worst call in WTA Tour history. Out?? In the words of Serena Williams, ?No, no, no, no NO!? It should be pointed out, however, that while Alves? call was a disaster, Serena showed grace and uncommon sportsmanship as she lost a match that was one of the worst officiated ever played on a world-class level.


Farewell, you'll be missed
Chris G.

G. Ivanisevic

B. Schett
Peter v.M.

T. Martin

I. Majoli
Beth K.

T. Martin

A. Coetzer
Ken K.

T. Martin

A. Coetzer and I. Majoli



Consensus: Todd Martin is the male player we will miss most.
The women we can't do without are Iva Majoli and Amanda Coetzer.


Comments


Chris G.:
Men: One of the only things bigger than Goran Ivanisevic's legendary serve is his personality. Goran's willingness to tell the press whatever was on his mind, no matter how outlandish, led to some unfortunate foot-in-mouth moments, but they were outnumbered by his classic deadpan quips. Ivanisevic could be just as entertaining on the court, as the man from Split juggled his own split personalities (Good Goran, Bad Goran, and peacekeeping Emergency Goran). Ivo's unique presence and miraculous run to the 2001 Wimbledon title will never be forgotten.
Women: Barbara Schett made it all the way to #7 in the WTA rankings and became a darling of the London tabloids, but she never shook a career-long struggle with closing out tight matches. The Austrian Fed Cup heroine's frustration boiled over at this year's US Open. After blowing a lead against Anna Chakvetadze, Schett destroyed a racket, damaged a courtside chair, and promptly began mulling over retirement. "Babsi" made her decision official at a tearful ceremony on home soil in Linz. Her charming, outgoing personality will be missed by fans and peers alike.
Peter v.M.:
Men: No, I will not pick Pat Rafter for the fourth year running.
No-one will probably miss Marcelo Rios, but he did have some game.
A lot more people will miss Todd Martin, whose game was not stellar, but often solid. Perhaps more important than that, Todd was a true champion for the game, as much off the court as on.

Women: Iva Majoli always seemed a thoroughly nice player, if somewhat lacking in drive after she won her one grand slam title. In that respect, she was like Richard Krajicek, who was never the same after he had won Wimbledon.
Majoli's were the best legs in tennis.
Beth K.:
Men: He left without lots of fanfare, deciding at the US Open during his loss to hang up his racquet and shoes and call it a career. Todd Martin gave us many thrilling five set matches, gritting it out until the end in either victory or defeat. He is a true champion on and off the court.
Women: I had nearly forgotten that Amanda Coetzer had hung up her racquet and shoes after the 2004 season, after 16 seasons. Though far from one of the tallest players (5'2 "), Coetzer had game and during her tenure could keep up with the best of them. Though she never won any Grand Slam titles, she did reach the semi finals of the Australian Open (1996 and 19997) and Roland Garros (1997). She had played consistently in Roland Garros and the US Open from 1989-2003. Coetzer was the only player to defeat. Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport while they were ranked No. 1. In 1997, she also defeated Steffi Graf in the QF of the Australian Open (ending her 45-match Grand Slam win-streak), Berlin (6-0 6-1 win in 56 minutes for Graf's worst-ever loss) and Roland Garros, becoming one of just four players to defeat Graf more than once in Grand Slam play since 1987 (alongside Sanchez-Vicario, Navratilova, Seles). "Little Assassin", we will truly miss you.
Ken K.:
Men: Todd Martin. A true gentleman, a world-class sportsman and a very talented player. His late nights in Flushing Quuens were among the most magical matches ever seen at the US Open. He will long be remembered, and respected. Other ATP players I will fondly miss include the enduring Wayne Ferreira and eye-candy Magnus Norman, a clay court master whose injuries cut his career short.
Women: Amanda Coetzer and Iva Majoli. Amanda Coetzer was a terrific player who achieved more than her diminutive stature should have allowed. She never received enough credit (esp. from Steffi Graf, whom she owned at the end of Graf?s career) for her achievements, but her tenacity and commitment were impressive. Iva Majoli may be a one-slam wonder who did not have the composure or dedication to follow up with decent results, but she was fun while she lasted and was a charismatic and enjoyable presence.



On The Line wishes you a very happy holiday season -- see you in 2005!