I think this has been a great year for Andy. It started well with that wonderful semi against Djokovic at the AO, which to my mind demonstrated that he was not so far away, given what Djokovic did last year, and got better and better. I know Andy has won fewer titles this year than in some past years, but surely it isn't about how many you win, it's what they are. I mean, Andy could probably win a handful of 250s say, with his eyes closed, but what is really better, that, or Brisbane, the Olympics and the USO? I know what I think. A masters or two would have been nice, but hey, plenty of time for that next year.
I know it could be argued that Andy has had some inexplicable losses this year. Well, maybe. I know it was said at times that the gap between Andy and those above him in the rankings was growing and that those behind were catching up too. I found that hard to stomach as an Andy fan, and hard to understand. To my mind there has been a sense this year that Andy was putting everything in to getting that first slam. I have been amazed at the number of comms and pundits who simply could not see that. Are they really that thick? Either way, Andy won Olympic gold and the USO. He also went up the rankings to 3, and I won't hear it said that this was purely because Nadal has been out for so long. Andy is also being spoken of now as being part of the next great rivalry. Fickle, the tennis world, huh?
I think Andy's game has changed quite a bit this year. I'm no expert, but even I think you can hear how much harder he hits the ball now. He steps in to the court more, takes the ball on. His forehand is ridiculously different. Sure, it can let him down sometimes, as can his transformed second serve, but I think the changes he has made, in a relatively short time, will continue to develop next year.
I do think that nine days of the Olympics was arguably the best tennis I have ever seen Andy play. He only dropped one set in the singles, and his serve went unbroken all the way from the quarter finals to the win. It was a joy to see him playing so consistently well. That said, I took pleasure in how he won the USO too. He showed grit and determination, refusing to be beaten even when, once or twice, his back was to the wall. I still think the match with Lopez was not so much poor in terms of Andy, but Lopez played out of his skin, and as for Cilic, I'd have had good money on Andy coming back, even from a set and 5-1 down. The key for me was that every time Andy was challenged, whether by the humidity against Bogo, Lopez excelling himself, Raonic getting over-excited, Cilic thinking he had found a way, or by Djokovic being Mr. Flexible, he worked it out and got the job done. No one was beating our Andy that fortnight. No one.
Now I think some will worry about the losses Andy has had from match points up. To me it's all about context. Against Raonic the match points were not on Andy's serve. Given that Raonic beat Andy in Barcelona fairly easily (sorry Andy love!), I was chuffed to see Andy get the match points in a best of three to be honest. With a serve like that Raonic must be tough in a best of three if he gets on a roll, but Andy got close, very close. Also, who won the big meeting where it counts? I rest my case. Against Djokovic a bit of luck would have got the job done. Who knew as well that Djokovic was going to pull off some ridiculous shots to win, really? Andy and Novak are pretty evenly matched. That's all that matters to me. As far as JJ is concerned, Andy admitted he rushed at the end. To my mind the WTF was more important.
The talk of a lull since the USO makes me smile. A semi in a 500, a Masters final, in both he had match points. Sure, there was a blip in Paris against a player who, unless he backs his great week up, will be forgotten next year, and then there was the semi's at the WTF, and Andy gained valuable points to take him to the 8000 points mark. That's quite a lull. He may find himself being the recipient of begging letters from opponents for a lull like that. I can think of a few players who might volunteer to hand over body parts for that sort of lull. If Andy goes on losing matches from match points up next year, say if (let's whisper it!) he crashes early in the AO for example, we could start worrying. For now I think it is too early and sounds a bit like being picky to criticise. I just think it is merely his mind and body reacting a little to the great success he has had this year. When he has had a break I am sure he will be fine.
I look forward to next year with real excitement. It will be a year where no one will be able to question his ability to win slams, they will no longer be able to suggest he isn't mentally tough enough. It may even be a year where Andy finds the nerve to tell Martina, Wade and co to shut up and go back to their knitting, although I suspect he will ignore the temptation and just prove the pair of witches wrong again.
I really do think next year will be fascinating. Can Djokovic carry on playing at his current level? Will Nadal come back fully fit? Will Federer do the decent thing and go away? Will Andy win at least one more major and challenge for that world no.1 ranking? I can't really comment about those first three, but as for the latter, I reckon Andy will give it a damned good go, and I wouldn't bet against him, not one bit.