The Newcombe Medal goes to...November 25, 2016
Victorian Peers teamed up with Henri Kontinen of Finland to win the ATP World Tour Finals last Sunday, a 2-6, 6-1, 10-8 victory against Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Rajeev Ram of the US. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France and hometown favourite Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares of Brazil were tipped to battle the year-end number one doubles team, but they didn't reach the finals. (Mahut ended up as number one doubles player while Murray and Soares were named the top team of 2016.) Peers teamed up with Kontinen in late 2015, and the pair have an up and down season. The ATP World Tour Finals was their second title in a month (after the BNP Paribas Masters), which meant they belonged in contesting the big tournaments.
"We've played pretty much all the teams that are here. That's maybe a little bit surprising. But to be contesting for these titles, I don't think either one of us is surprised about that," Peers said.
Peers won't rest yet, as he will marry fiance Danielle Montgomery this Saturday. The recipient of this year's Newcombe Medal will be known next Monday. Peers will vie for Australia's top tennis award along with Dylan Alcott, Daria Gavrilova, John Millman, Samantha Stosur and Jordan Thompson. Peers should be a deserving winner, as his recent results would show. Moreover, this will give the doubles the much-needed publicity it deserves. (The Grand Slam doubles winners get roughly quarter of the prize money that the singles winner receives after winning the finals.) Pundits see Alcott as the favourite to receive the award, winning the Australian Open early this year and the gold medals in singles and doubles in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Nick Kyrgios wasn't included in the short list. He might have been the slight favourite (over Alcott), but his meltdown in Shanghai last month resulted to a suspension. Bernard Tomic was the other missing name, who had a fine season. (He broke into the Top 20.) Both players will be back next year.
Fans are witnessing the closing of a golden era
Andy Murray became the 17th player to finish as world number one after beating Novak Djokovic in O2 Arena last Sunday night. The Serbian was bidding for his fifth consecutive title and sixth overall, and many saw him as a favourite after a day's rest last Friday. Furthermore, Murray and Djokovic have contrasting semifinal wins last Saturday. (Murray needed three sets, two tiebreaks, and more than three hours to defeat Milos Raonic. The Scot was far from his best, as he played Stan Wawrinka the previous day. Djokovic, on the other hand, thrashed Kei Nishikori in over an hour.) Murray would intend to hold on the top ranking for as long as possible.
"These next few years, I want to try and make them the best of my career, try and win as much as I can," he said.
Murray's ascension marked the final stage of what could be the golden age in men's tennis. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will return to the tour next January, and it's certain that both will go back to their winning form once again. But it will be unlikely that both players will recapture their former glory. Djokovic claimed personal issues as reasons behind his uncharacteristic losses during the second half of the season. He even enlisted a spiritual guru, but Boris Becker, his coach, suspected the absence of Federer and Nadal. And winning another major might not be easier next year.
Raonic's lack of experience in the big points cost him the semifinals (against Murray) last Saturday, but many saw him winning a major title next season. It might be Wimbledon. Dominic Thiem won't be affected by the sophomore slump. Lucas Pouille, named the Most Improved Player of the Year, could break the Top 10 next spring. Any of them can pose a serious challenge to the Big Four next year.
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