Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominate as younger generation battle to stay in touch
By Mathieu Wood
Last Updated: 24/12/17 1:47pm
"Any match is a good match, even if I had lost, because I'm back on the court," Roger Federer said after his first round victory, a first competitive match of the season, over Jurgen Melzer at the Australian Open.
The Swiss great returned from injury to the tennis scene in 2017 with questions hanging over him: Would he re-establish himself at the top of the game? Would he claim Grand Slam honours after years of near-misses?
Andy Murray began the campaign as the world No 1 following his incredible denouement to the previous year while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were also ready to battle for the sport's biggest honours.
Melbourne plays host to the 'Throwback Open'
Federer, without a major victory since lifting his seventh Wimbledon crown in 2012, his 17th Grand Slam, turned back time to deliver a masterclass performance throughout the competition which culminated in a gripping five-set final against Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard, who had prevailed in a breathtaking semi-final encounter against Grigor Dimitrov which will go down as one of the best encounters of the year, suffered his first defeat to Federer in Grand Slam competition since 2007 at Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, former world No 1s Murray and Djokovic suffered shock early exits to Mischa Zverev and Denis Istomin respectively.
In the women's draw Serena Williams, whose victory was all the more remarkable when it was announced in April she won the title while pregnant, made it two 35-year-old champions in what will go down as a memorable Melbourne fortnight.
Serena breaks new ground with Australian Open title
Serena's victory in the final over sister Venus saw her claim a 23rd Grand Slam title to eclipse Steffi Graf's open era record and in doing so reclaim her world No 1 ranking.
Federer storms to Sunshine Double
Attention soon turned to the opening two Masters 1000 tournaments of the season; Indian Wells and Miami.
Federer won an all-Swiss battle in the final against Stan Wawrinka to head to Miami aiming for a third Sunshine Double and his dominance was clear for all to see when he dismissed Nadal for his fourth consecutive win, and third over the Spaniard in 2017.
Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal: Head to Head in 2017
|Shanghai Masters||Roger Federer||6-4 6-3|
|Miami Masters||Roger Federer||6-3 6-4|
|Indian Wells||Roger Federer||6-2 6-3|
|Australian Open||Roger Federer||6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3|
Federer, in a bid to help prolong his career, pulled out of the entirety of the clay court season leaving Nadal, chasing a 10th French Open title, clear to dominate on the red clay of Roland Garros - a second home for the Spaniard.
2017 Tennis - The year in numbers
We take a look back at the key numbers from the world of tennis in 2017...
Nadal secures 'La Decima' as Ostapenko triumphs in Paris
Defending champions absent from French Open
Roland Garros was missing the reigning champions from the year’s opening Grand Slam after Serena Williams and Roger Federer were both absent from the field – something which had never previously happened in the tournament’s history.
The 'King of Clay', who had claimed titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters, Barcelona and Madrid, eased his way through the draw to claim 'La Decima'.
However, the fortnight of tennis will largely be remembered for the breakthrough performance of a fearless Latvian.
Jelena Ostapenko, 20, charmed the Parisian crowds with her tenacity, despite her slight stature, on her way to a maiden tour title and a first Grand Slam trophy.
Federer makes Wimbledon history as Konta grips nation
Murray and Johanna Konta carried the weight of home expectation at Wimbledon but the British No 1s came into the third Grand Slam of the year on the back of contrasting performances.
Murray suffered an opening-match exit to Australian Jordan Thompson at Queen's while Konta impressed on her run to the Eastbourne semi-finals.
Murray, troubled with a persistent hip injury, managed to progress to the final eight before he succumbed to big-hitting Sam Querrey in five sets, while Federer breezed through the field including Marin Cilic in the final to claim his 19th Grand Slam title and a historic eighth Wimbledon title.
Where was the challenge from the younger generation?
Two of the three Grand Slam crowns in the men's singles were won by a player (Federer or Nadal) without dropping a set.
Konta, with her precise serving motion and ceaseless focus, was the last Brit standing in the singles and after a memorable last-eight victory over Simona Halep fell to the experience of Venus Williams to narrowly miss out on a maiden Grand Slam final.
Konta's achievement in reaching Wimbledon semi-finals
Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the last four at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1978.
The experienced American five-time champion at the All England Club was unable to secure her first Grand Slam crown since 2008 as the steely Garbine Muguruza pocketed her second Grand Slam success.
Younger star emerges from the crowd
Alexander Zverev was the player closest to breaking the Federer/Nadal domination.
The German, despite his previous failures on the Grand Slam stage, arrived at the final major of the year with five titles to his name - two at Masters 1000 level, after victories over Novak Djokovic and Federer in Rome and Montreal respectively.
The 20-year-old, whose standard belied his inexperience at the top echelons of the sport, was expected to impress at the US Open.
Nadal dominates as Stephens captures New York hearts
Stan Wawrinka, the defending champion at Flushing Meadows, was a notable absentee through injury along with Murray, Djokovic, Milos Raonic and former finalist Kei Nishikori.
In their absence, Kevin Anderson, who lost to a ruthless Nadal in the final, Pablo Carreno Busta and Denis Shapovalov were the unlikely names to emerge in the headlines while Zverev limped out in the second round.
Fact file: Anderson's run to the US Open final
As the world No 32, Anderson became the lowest ranked men's singles US Open finalist since the ATP rankings came into place in 1973.
Reached first Grand Slam final at 31.
Became the first South African to reach a US Open final since Cliff Drysdale in 1965.
Meanwhile, the women's draw saw an all-American final between Madison Keys and the unseeded Sloane Stephens, who despite a torrid second half to 2016 and the first half to 2017 through injury, captured the imagination of the tennis world to claim the title.
There are no words to describe how I got here, the process it took or anything like that because if you told someone this story, they'd be, like, 'that's insane'
Sloane Stephens after winning the US Open
The end of the season saw the battle for places at the ATP Finals intensify and Federer, who claimed titles in Shanghai and Basel, attempted to chase down Nadal for the year-end world No 1 ranking.
However, Federer skipped the Paris Masters to prepare himself for a tilt at a seventh year-end crown and Nadal duly sealed the world No 1 ranking in the French capital before he withdrew from the event, throwing his chances of winning a maiden ATP Finals crown in serious doubt.
The eight-man field in London saw four players make their debuts including Jack Sock, who booked his spot by winning in Paris.
It was another, Dimitrov, who proved victorious as he held off stern resistance from David Goffin, who stunned Federer in the last four, to win under The O2 lights and finish the season at the lofty heights of world No 3.
Despite Federer's disappointing end to the season, his parting words were hard to contest: "It has been an amazing year."
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