Men’s Player-of-the-Year: Novak Djokovic. The general consensus seems to be that 2016 was Andy Murray’s year but Djokovic was still the man. The main pro sports in North America – football, baseball, basketball and hockey – don’t carry on after their big championship finals and everyone loses interest in golf after the PGA Championship in August except maybe for when the Ryder Cup rolls around.

Similarly, tennis following the US Open is mostly an afterthought. All-time great Pete Sampras once referred to the fall tournaments as being only about “points and money.”

With that in mind the nod for this year goes to Djokovic for his body of work through the US Open. He won two Grand Slams – defeating Murray in the finals of both the Australian and French Opens – and led the Scot 3-2 in their head-to-head. He also beat Murray in Madrid while the Scot won Wimbledon, the Olympics and had wins over Djokovic in the finals in Rome and at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Djokovic won seven tournaments – all before the fall season, and that includes four Masters 1000 events. Murray claimed nine tournaments – but only four before the fall season including just one (Rome) Masters 1000 tournament.

Djokovic’s record was 56-6 at the end of the US Open and he was 18-2 vs. top-10 opponents at that point. Murray was 54-8 before post-US Open events and 10-5 against top-10 opposition.

Following the US Open, Murray was magnificent – going 24-1, including 24 wins in a row – and won five tournaments while Djokovic was 9-3 and won none.

In the heart of the yearly circuit – January to September – Djokovic was the more impressive player and led Murray in the ATP Race 10,020 to 8,125 in points accumulated up to and including the US Open.

But Murray is certainly deserving of his current No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings. He had held the No. 2 position for a grand total of 76 weeks and his credentials are dramatically better than many other of the players who have reached No. 1 since computer rankings were introduced in 1973.

By subjective estimate he could be judged superior to at least 10 of those 25 players, a testament to the quality of competition in his generation.


Women’s Player-of-the-Year: Angelique Kerber. The world No. 1 had a break-out year that could have been even better had she defeated Monica Puig in the Rio Olympics gold-medal match or Dominika Cibulkova in the final of the WTA Finals in Singapore. The latter would have been the second time in a week after she had already beaten the irrepressible Slovak in round-robin action.

Kerber came into the year having dropped some weight. A trimmed down physique, added to her natural athleticism, propelled her to her first Grand Slam titles at the Australian and US Opens and as well as a runner-up finish at Wimbledon.

Aided by the counsel of her coach Torben Beltz, Kerber broke out of the mold of a committed counterpuncher and learned to impose her will on opponents with more aggressive ball-striking.

She was 63-18 for the year and won three titles, adding Stuttgart to the Australian and US Opens, and reached five other finals – Brisbane (Azarenka), Wimbledon (Serena), Olympics (Puig), Cincinnati (Pliskova) and Singapore (Cibulkova).

Kerber really set the table for the whole year with her gutsy 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win in the final at Melbourne Park over the mighty Williams, who only played seven 2016 tournaments, plus the Olympics – winning just two titles, Wimbledon and Rome.

The 28-year-old German ascended to No. 1 after her 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 US Open triumph over Karolina Pliskova to become the 22nd player since the computer rankings were introduced in 1975 to make it to the top spot. It also ended Serena’s 186 consecutive weeks at No. 1 – meaning she now shares the record for weeks in a row in the top spot with all-time German great, and Kerber inspiration, Steffi Graf.


Fred Mullane
Fred Mullane

Milos Raonic: It was an impressive year for Raonic. Bouncing back from foot surgery and back issues in 2015, he moved up from No. 14 to No. 3 in the rankings with a match record of 52-17. Beating seven-time champion Roger Federer in the semifinals before losing to Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(2) in the Wimbledon final was his high-profile achievement of the season but his sensational play – until a right adductor injury intervened in the latter stages – against Murray in a five-set loss in the Australian Open semifinals may have been his finest quality tennis of the year. His only title came in the first week of the new season with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer in the Brisbane final and he also reached finals at Indian Wells (Novak Djokovic) and Queen’s Club (Murray).

He capped off 2016 with a crazy good performance in a 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9) loss, after having a match point, against Murray in a palpitating, three-hour-and-38 minute semifinal at the ATP World Tour Finals in London last month. Mark: A-


Genie Bouchard: Bouchard basically had a treading-water year – starting at No. 48 and ending officially in the record books at No. 47. She made the following rather surprising statement about 2016 during an interview with a Brisbane paper recently: “I could have done a lot of things better. I didn’t have the right team around me and I wasn’t following the best diet.”

While she beat an injured (shoulder) No. 2 Angelique Kerber in Rome and No. 19 Johanna Konta at Wimbledon, her best match of the year was probably a gutsy 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3) victory over No. 28 Lucie Safarova in front of a frenzied hometown crowd in Montreal in the first round of Rogers Cup.

Bouchard was 3-7 after Rogers Cup, and just 1-3 following the US Open, a time when she had an opportunity to make up points after virtually missing all of the post-US Open season in 2015 with post-concussion issues. Mark: C+


Vasek Pospisil: A big disappointment for the personable Pospisil, 2016 saw him go 10-23 in singles and his ranking drop from No. 39 to No. 133. Still there were encouraging signs late in the season when he qualified for the Shanghai Masters 1000 and then beat No. 20 Ivo Karlovic 7-5, 7-6(2) and No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6(2). In doubles, despite splitting with long-time partner Jack Sock after Wimbledon and playing with eight different (not including Davis Cup) partners in 2016, he won a title (Rotterdam with Nicolas Mahut) and moved his ranking up from No. 21 to No. 20. Mark: C


Daniel Nestor: The ageless doubles maestro finished the year at No. 15 (up from No. 18 in 2015) and talked about playing until the 2018 Rogers Cup in his hometown of Toronto when he will be less than a month from his 46th birthday.

Like Pospisil, Nestor (above with Martin Laurendeau and Adriano Fuorivia) played with eight different partners in 2016, reaching the Australian Open final with veteran Radek Stepanek and the semifinals of the Olympics where he and Pospisil lost a controversial 7-6(1), 7-6(4) match to eventual gold medalists Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal. The 44-year-old Nestor won three titles – Nottingham with Dominic Inglot of Britain as well as Washington and Antwerp with Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Nestor and the No. 17-ranked Frenchman were 8-0 for the year and will team up for 2017 season. Mark: B+


Gabriela Dabrowski: Fundamentally a doubles specialist these days, the 24-year-old from Ottawa had a successful year in terms of her ranking. Starting at No. 93 and playing most of the year with 34-year-old Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, she wound up at No. 39 in the WTA doubles rankings.

Dabrowski won titles in Mallorca with Martinez Sanchez, at the Tevlin Challenger event in Toronto with Michaella Krajicek, reached a final in Nottingham and semifinals in Beijing, Tokyo, Prague and Doha. In all she played 28 doubles events, ending the year with a rare singles triumph by qualifying and winning five matches to take the title of the $25,000 Challenger in Nashville.

She will team up with No. 89-ranked Krajicek of the Netherlands in 2017. Mark: B.


Denis Shapovalov: The 17-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., won the biggest prize in junior tennis – the Wimbledon title. He was also a semifinalist at the French Open. On the men’s tour, he began the year at No. 1130 and finished at No. 253 – winning Futures events on clay in Weston and Orange Park in Florida as well as on hard courts in Memphis. He also made the semifinals of Quebec Challenger tournaments in Drummondville and Gatineau.

At Rogers Cup he had a big breakthrough in the first round defeating No. 19-ranked Nick Kyrgios 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 even if the intensity of the temperamental Aussie’s effort was questionable. Mark: A


Félix Auger-Aliassime: The 16-year-old phenom from Montreal bounced back from a crushing loss in the French Open junior final, after holding three match points, and triumphed at the US Open. Auger-Aliassime, who wound up No. 4 in the ITF Junior rankings, defeated No. 2, 18-year-old Stefano Tsitsipas of Greece, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals and No. 1 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, age 17, 6-3, 6-0 in the final at Flushing Meadows.

Auger-Aliassime was 15 for most of the year – until his August 8th birthday – so it’s not a big surprise his ATP ranking made only a yearly marginal gain from No. 742 to No. 610 – helped considerably by a victory in a Futures event on clay in Birmingham, Alabama, in November. Mark: A


Bianca Andreescu: The 16-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., had a star-crossed year as she was out of action from after the Australian Open in January until June with a stress fracture in her foot. Her finest junior performance was at the US Open where she battled leg and arm issues before losing 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals to eventual winner 17-year-old American Kayla Day.

The highlight of Andreescu’s season was a win at the $25,000 (US) National Bank Challenger event in Gatineau, Que., in August and then a runner-up finish at the $50,000 National Bank Challenger tournament in Saguenay, Que., in October – losing 6-4, 6-4 to promising 17-year-old Cici Bellis of the U.S. Her WTA ranking at the beginning of 2016 was No. 633 and she finished at No. 306. Mark: B


Fred Mullane

There are many aspects of tennis that annoy fans – things that could be changed or improved. Here are a few Tebbutt Tuesday suggestions heading into a brand new year:

  1. A couple of statistics currently widely used can be misleading and could be easily clarified.
    a. Aces and service winners should be grouped together in one category because they essentially have the same effect. If a player hits two aces and 12 service winners, just recording two aces in the match stats would give an incomplete picture of the server’s performance. The stat could be displayed as ‘14 (2a–12sw).’ As the astute French tennis journalist Julien Reboullet noted, “aces are actually a subcategory of service winners.”
    b. Similarly, winners and forced errors should be grouped together and displayed in the same manner. If a player hits a shot good enough that his or her opponent is barely able to touch the ball and get it back anywhere near the court, it’s as good as an outright (untouched) winner – the same as aces and service winners. Currently forced errors are generally recorded on the side of the player who’s the victim of the forced error, not given to the player initiating the shot. That makes no sense. The player forcing the issue should receive the credit.
  2. Let’s get rid of the term “rubber” in reporting on matches in Davis Cup ties. It’s fine to keep using the traditional “tie” to designate the best-of-five match series, but rubber has other connotations and has to be viewed as a rather unusual term by people not well acquainted with tennis.
  3. Novak Djokovic has a lot of positive qualities, including being one of the most gracious losers on the tour. But the four-sided “shovel” gesture of giving his love to spectators after his victories has gotten old. And as for his suggestion after winning Rogers Cup in Toronto that everyone give a hug to the person sitting next to them – FORGEDABOUTIT !
  4. Let’s face it, TV pre-match interviews before players go out on court have run their course. You can tell that former-player interviewers aren’t comfortable doing them. And it’s equally obvious it’s awkward for players about to face each other in a match. Nothing ever comes out of them and, if they’re absolutely necessary, then players could be interviewed as they come off practice courts on the day and that could be used instead.
  5. There seems to be a bit of revival of excessive ball-bouncing before serving. Is there any reason why a player should be allowed to bounce the ball more than 10 times. Anything exceeding 10 is an unfair distraction for the receiver who has to begin wondering when his or her opponent is finally going to hit the ball.



Here’s the poster for the 2017 edition of the French Open. It is the creation of Brazilian artist Vik Muniz and is the 38th in a series dating back to 1980.



The final Tebbutt Tuesday of 2016 will feature our best pictures of the year. This one, of Nick Kyrgios – who knew he had a coach? – was taken at Rogers Cup last August but didn’t make the cut.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from all the gang at Tebbutt Tuesday.