The big names and the big events are mostly what people remember when they think back on the tennis year past.

But there were also lots of remarkable happenings that occurred outside the spotlight of centre court or the final rounds of major tournaments. Here – month by month – are some of them.


AO 2015: Raonic
Photo: Ben Solomon

Milos Raonic began the new year in sparkling form after training hard in the off season. At the Brisbane ATP 250 season-opener in January, he defeated Kei Nishikori 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(2) in the semifinals before losing a barn-burner final 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4 to Roger Federer.

Raonic was on fire and in the Tennis Canada blog at the time, yours truly wrote, “there were periods when neither opponent (Nishikori or Federer) appeared able to handle the concussive power of the Raonic barrage off the forehand side. At one point, a frustrated Federer actually swore (mildly) in French in frustration at the consistent depth and brutal velocity of Raonic’s forehand. He was being overwhelmed.

“The sheer speed and depth of Raonic’s forehand on Sunday versus Federer had Channel Seven commentators Todd Woodbridge, John Fitzgerald and Geoff Masters almost dumbfounded. At times they were just laughing at how ridiculously hard Raonic hit the ball.”



February is the lost month of the tennis calendar. The thrill and excitement of the Australian Open is over, Indian Wells and Miami are still a month away and the build-up through clay to Roland Garros and then grass to Wimbledon are far off in the future.

But there is a clay-court swing through South America and Rafael Nadal can be counted on to provide some excitement at those tournaments. This past year, still ranked No. 3 in the world, he was upset 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 by streaky Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of the ATP 500 tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

Rafa never goes down without a fight, so there was high drama… and lots of sweat. No one could have known then that the moody Fognini would also beat him again in Barcelona on clay and famously at the US Open from a 0-2 sets deficit. Nadal got revenge in Hamburg in July and in Beijing in October. But that February match in Rio, highlighted by Fognini’s bold shot-making, was riveting stuff… and a real shocker.


Photo: Bo Mon Kwan

Vasek Pospisil is better remembered for his run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but his 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Go Soeda in the fifth and deciding match of the Davis Cup World Group opening round in Vancouver was arguably his most professional performance of the year.

After losing his opening day singles to Kei Nishikori in straight sets and then combining with Daniel Nestor for a five-set victory over the Japanese in the doubles on Saturday, Pospisil had all the pressure playing with the tie even at 2-2 on Sunday. He came through with an inspired performance to simply outclass No. 86-ranked Soeda and assure that Canada would remain in the World Group for a fifth consecutive year. It was kind of full circle for Pospisil who had almost singlehandedly helped Canada defeat Israel in Ramat Hasharon in 2011 to propel it into the World Group in the first place.



It was the first time Angelique Kerber won a title in her German homeland and it was quite a Sunday to remember at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

Kerber, who had upset top seed Maria Sharapova in the second round, won a tough, rollicking three-setter final by a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 score over Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane led 5-3, 30-all in the final set but failed to finish, possibly weary after a nearly three-hour victory over Simona Halep the previous day in the semifinal.

With her right thigh wrapped, Kerber outlasted and outhit Wozniacki in exhausting baseline rallies in final few games, later saying, “I am completely done here, empty. I gave everything I had and the crowd just carried me.”



This is the way the Roland Garros website described the French Open qualifying match won 6-4, 3-6, 27-25 by Andrea Arnaboldi of Italy over Frenchman Pierre-Hughes Herbert: “there’s getting eliminated quickly between the aperitif and the main course, then there’s getting eliminated the way Pierre-Hughes Herbert did on Thursday.”

The No. 143-ranked Herbert (serving above) saved a match point at 5-6 in the final set before finally going down in four hours and 26 minutes in front of an overflow crowd of curiosity seekers on Court 7.

That final set score of 27-25 broke the French Open qualifying record formerly held by Daniel Nestor and Thierry Guardiola of France, a match that ended 22-20 in the Canadian’s favour back in 1996.



It’s always tough to get fired up right after the French Open – but 2015 marked the introduction of an extra week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, meaning the Queen’s Club grass-court prep event in London didn’t follow immediately after the final in Paris.

Andy Murray won his fourth Queen’s Club title but had to battle hard in the quarter-finals to oust crafty lefthander Gilles Muller of Luxemburg 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4. Murray didn’t get a service break until the opening game of the final set.

The match dragged on into the evening, forcing the cancellation of two shows on BBC2 – Eggheads and Beat The Brain.



It doesn’t happen often, but when a Brit, especially a female Brit, plays well on Centre the warm and fuzzies abound. That was the case in the third round at Wimbledon this year when Heather Watson led 3-0 and 5-4 serving in the final set against five-time champion and world No. 1 Serena Williams.

Needless to say, Williams ended up winning 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 but 23-year-old Watson showed all kinds of spunk and panache. The Mirror said that her performance had transported the nation into “Heather-Never Land.”

And Andy Murray tweeted:



There’s nothing quite like coming back from match point down to win a match – something Jeremy Chardy of France did an amazing seven times in overcoming John Isner 6-7(9), 7-6(13), 7-6(4) in the quarter-finals of Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Five of the match points were in the wild second-set tiebreak and then two more came with the No. 49-ranked Frenchman serving at 5-6 in the final set.

Chardy had the backing of most of the Francophone crowd in STADE IGA and later said, “if you start to think about the match points, the break points, you start to get nervous. That’s the way to miss the shot.

“I was not thinking about the match points. I was just thinking about my serve and what I want to do with it. That’s it.”

September (A)


It was a night match on the first Thursday of the 2015 US Open and few people had heard of No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki’s opponent – a 30-year-old Czech named Petra Cetkovska. The match turned out to be one of the real gems of the year – and this writer’s personal favourite – as Cetkovska survived four match points, all with aggressive shot-making and/or net approaches. She won 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(1) in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Ranked No. 149, Cetkovska, who lives much of the year in Paris, entered the US Open using an injury-protected ranking after a 2014 hip issue. Her sensational attacking tennis and fearlessness on the match points against the ultimate in counter-punchers was incredible.

“It was sensational,” Cetkovska said after her victory. “This (hip) injury that I’ve overcome, it was really difficult. Every day I was asking myself if I will be able to play tennis again, to play on such a big stadium, to play such a big match and win it. So for me it is just an amazing feeling, like satisfaction for everything that I have gone through.”

In her next match in the third round, she was beaten 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 by a player destined for greater things at the 2015 US Open – Flavia Pennetta.

September (B)


It was not exactly one of the great mysteries of the universe, but Genie Bouchard’s abysmal performances dating back to the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March had baffled the tennis world.

Who knows exactly what prompted a near total loss of form that saw her go 3-15 from Indian Wells until the beginning of the US Open?

But then it seemed in one brilliant display – a 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3 third-round victory lasting two hours and 48 minutes over feisty Dominika Cibulkova on Louis Armstrong Stadium at Flushing Meadows – that she was back to her old self.

Sadly, everyone knows what happened after that and now the next act in the Bouchard drama will be played out in Shenzhen (China), Hobart and Melbourne beginning in early January.


At 27 years old, Albert Ramos had been ranked as high as No. 38 in his career and had never won a title. His record in Grand Slam tournaments was a measly 3-17. But at the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai, he had his one shining moment, defeating Roger Federer 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3.

After qualifying and beating Sam Querrey in the first round, the No. 70-ranked Ramos played well against Federer but was helped by a rusty display by the great Swiss, who was playing his first match since a couple of perfunctory wins over Dutch players in the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs a week after the US Open.

A lifelong highlight for the left-handed Ramos, and his only career win in 17 tries against top-10 players, it wound up being his last victory (0-4) of 2015. While it was the worst loss ranking-wise for the Mighty Fed in 2015, it was hardly a devastating experience. He won his next event at home in Basel with a soul-satisfying victory over old nemesis Rafael Nadal in the final.  



In the grand scheme of the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals, the final-day round-robin match between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer meant very little – Nadal had already qualified for the semifinal stage and Ferrer had been eliminated. There was $167,000 (US) in prize money on offer for the winner as well as 200 ATP ranking points but, at the end of a long, drawn-out tennis season, would these guys really push themselves to win?

The answer was a resounding yes and they went at it with all they had – Nadal finally pulling out a 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4 victory in two hours and 37 minutes. It was a totally professional effort by both and pleasantly surprised Friday afternoon patrons at the O2 Arena with what was the best match of the event.

NOTE: Next week – the third annual Genius/Joker quiz.