What a year it’s been! Despite having its fair share of drama and injuries, tennis in 2016 undoubtedly provided us with a number of unforgettable moments along the way. We counted down the best of the best moments of the year from the eyes of USTA Mid-Atlantic!
10. Argentina wins its first Davis Cup: Rarely do we get to see as much unfiltered emotion on the tennis court – or in any sport – as the scene when Argentina clinched the Davis Cup title. Juan Martin del Potro capped off an incredible comeback year with a gutsy victory from down two sets, and after his teammate Federico Delbonis secured victory for the South Americans, the joyous celebration began. How much fun was that to watch?!
9. UVA Men’s Tennis takes home another title: The University of Virginia Men’s team entered the NCAA tournament as the favorite, but it would take some top-level tennis for the Cavaliers to defend their NCAA title. Led by senior Ryan Shane, UVA took down Florida in the semis and Oklahoma in the finals to win their third title in four years under Coach Brian Boland.
8. Djokovic and del Potro embrace in Rio: Has a first round match of a non-major ever stirred up so many emotions as Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro facing off in the Olympics? After the injury-battled del Potro took down top-seeded Djokovic 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), the two stars headed to the net for the post-match handshake that became more than a handshake. Understanding the significance of the moment – del Potro having secured his biggest victory in years while Djokovic must wait another four seasons for a chance at gold – the two men embraced and began tearing up, a beautiful moment of raw emotion.
7. Sophie Chang triumphs in the US Open National Playoff:Each year, hundreds of players across the country enter the US Open National Playoff tournament series with the hope of earning a US Open Qualifying spot that comes with winning first place. This year, Sophie Chang of Havre de Grace, MD came out on top and punched her ticket for Flushing Meadows! After winning the playoff, the 19-year-old said, “I’m still waiting to wake up from a dream. This is what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl.” Certainly an unforgettable August for Sophie Chang!
6. Serena rewrites the record books…Again: Serena Williams has smashed records for pretty much her entire career, and despite battling injuries, 2016 was no different. During the US Open, Serena won her 309th(!) match in a Grand Slam, passing Roger Federer for most all-time. She also tied Steffi Graf’s records of most major championships with 22 after winning Wimbledon and most consecutive weeks at #1 with 186. Even in what some have described as a “down” year, Serena’s accomplishments are enough to make our top 10.
5. Frances Tiafoe becomes the youngest player in the ATP Top 100: This year has certainly been a whirlwind for the 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe: His first ATP Challenger title, a 5-set match in the US Open against John Isner, and being dubbed as part of the #NextGen of professional tennis. The most impressive accomplishment for the College Park-native, though, was being ranked No. 100 as a teenager, making Tiafoe the youngest player in the Top 100. With his Junior Tennis Champions Center training, we predict big things for Tiafoe in 2017!
4. Novak Djokovic completes the Career Slam: Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal…and Novak Djokovic. That’s the list of men who have won all four majors since 1968 after Djokovic won the French Open in June. It was his 12th major overall and certainly one of the most significant, demonstrating a mastery of all playing surfaces. Novak’s Career Slam was the highlight of his year and further cemented his status as one of the all-time greats.
3. Two Mid-Atlantic teams win the Junior Team Tennis National Championships: It’s not every day that teenagers can call themselves national champions, but after this year’s JTT championships, two Mid-Atlantic teams certainly can. In October, Elite DMV rolled through the competition and won the 14 and Under Advanced National Championship. A week later, the Advengers of Columbia, MD won the
18 and Under Intermediate National Championship. Two national titles in two weeks certainly made us proud of the present and future of Mid-Atlantic
2. Andy Murray achieves #1 ranking: Andy Murray spent as one of the best tennis players in the world but never the best according to ATP rankings. This year he brought home a Wimbledon title and Olympic gold medal, both of which he had previously won. In November though, Murray accomplished something he hadn’t before: Become the top-ranked player in the world. In his 12th year as a professional tennis player and a decade at the top of the game, Andy Murray demonstrated you’re never too old for another big accomplishment.
1. Monica Puig wins Puerto Rico’s first gold medal: There was no moment more heart-warming this year than than watching Monica Puig beam with pride on the podium listening to Puerto Rico’s official anthem after winning the gold medal match. Sometimes real life really does reflect a Hollywood storyline. Puig was an underdog facing off against the #2 seed. Her country had never won a gold medal, and no Puerto Rican woman had won a medal of any color before. After winning the first, she dropped the second set and was forced to play a third. We all know what followed: Tears of joy, jubilation, continuous celebration across Puerto Rico. It was the moment that defined 2016, and a moment we won’t soon forget.
Tennis is awesome.
Chris Lewitzke is the social media and engagement coordinator for USTA Mid-Atlantic. His top tennis moment from 2016 was captaining his first USTA league team, which went on to win their local division.