Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon crowns his player of the year in the ATP and WTA.
The month of December is typically one of pondering and assessment over what transpired over the previous year.
And for a sport like tennis, where one season starts in January and lasts all the way damn near through to the end of November with barely ever a week off in all the time, the month of December definitely lends itself well to a time of reflection: there is no more matches to look forward to, so let’s look back at what we did see happen over the previous 12 months.
In light of this, over the next two weeks including this one, we’ll look at who we thought were the players of the year and then the decade on the men’s and women’s side of things. We’ll also identify the biggest competitor for the title of said player.
Men’s player of the year
Contender 1: Rafael Nadal
2019 record: 58-7
Singles titles: 4
2019 prize money: $16,349,586
Highlights: Winning the Roland-Garros and US Open titles. Capturing the year-end No. 1 ranking.
Why he is POTY: Rafael Nadal, as he typically does, used a good showing during the clay court season to launch an attack on the rankings leaderboard, one that ultimately ended with him atop of it—if only slightly.
Why he isn’t POTY: How can he be if he doesn’t have the most singles titles on tour?
Contender 2: Novak Djokovic
2019 record: 57-11
Singles titles: 5
2019 prize money: $13,277,228
Highlights: Winning the Australian Open and making Roger Federer cry in the Wimbledon final.
Why he is POTY: Novak Djokovic is player of the year because despite heightened expectations and an onslaught from every other rival, he still battled until the very last week on the calendar. He also won one more title than the supposed top player.
Why he isn’t POTY: He’s ranked No. 2 on the ATP singles rankings, it’s as simple as that.
Verdict: Rafael Nadal is player of the year. As much as this pains us, we’ll give the nod to Nadal here because for every good reason to side with Djokovic, there’s a counterargument for Nadal. The Spaniard might only be ranked atop the singles leaderboard by a mere 840 points but he’s still ranked No. 1. He might have won one fewer title than the Djoker, but he also amassed a whopping $3 million more in prize money.
For the 2019 season at least, Nadal dominated men’s tennis—if only so slightly.
Women’s player of the year
Contender 1: Ashleigh Barty
2019 record: 57-13
Singles titles: 4
2019 prize money: $11,307,587
Highlights: Winning the French Open and WTA Finals titles.
Why she is POTY: She amassed a tour-leading 57 wins and over $11 million in prize money.
Why she isn’t POTY: Isn’t Ashleigh Barty’s triumph of slow and steady dominance rather than, say, one of prolific and intense excellence?
Contender 2: Bianca Andreescu
2019 record: 48-7
Singles titles: 3
2019 prize money: $6,504,150
Highlights: Winning the Rogers Cup before becoming the first Canadian in history to win a singles Grand Slam title at the US Open.
Why she is POTY: Bianca Andreescu is the player of the year because she burned the brightest over anyone else during this season.
Why she isn’t POTY: The Canadian unfortunately still battled some injuries, and her dominance can be confined to just two stages: the arrival in Indian Wells, then the hard courts season.
Verdict: Ashleigh Barty is player of the year. Who are we to side against the WTA establishment? The 23-year-old Australian was only recently named player of the year after Barty grabbed four singles titles and was the lone player on tour to reach the second week at all four Grand Slam events. Her triumph is also one of narrative: the No. 1 player in a season where no one grabbed more than one major title also capped things off at the WTA Finals with the title there.
Barty has the player of the year nod and Andreescu has the newcomer of the year. That should be good enough.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG