Yearender Tennis: Golden year for Andy Murray, regrets for Rafa Nadal
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For Andy Murray 2012 marked a golden milestone, for Novak Djokovic the year was an emphatic reminder of his status as the world's best male player, and for Roger Federer and his army of fans it was proof that the old master's magic still sparkles.
Serena Williams used the second half of the year to demonstrate that she continues to be head and shoulders above her rivals in the women's game, whatever the rankings suggest.
Of the sport's marquee names, only Rafa Nadal will reflect on the past year with regret after six months out with a knee injury, and all eyes will be studying the 11-times grand-slam winner's form once the new season swings into action.
Nadal, one of four different winners of the men's grand-slam titles this year, has not played a match since a shock Wimbledon defeat by Lukas Rosol.
He hopes to return at the Australian Open although he has sensibly lowered expectations of an immediate impact.
In any other era the absence of a player of Nadal's calibre would be an impossible void to fill yet such is the quality at the top of the men's game that the Mallorcan's extended lay-off merely took a little gloss off what was otherwise a vintage year.
Murray began it with a new coach in Ivan Lendl but still without a grand-slam title on his CV having lost in his first three major finals without taking a set.
The Scot became Britain's first male Wimbledon singles finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938 but Federer's grasscourt brilliance deprived Murray of the title.
Three weeks later Murray returned to the All England Club lawns like a man on a mission and he rode a wave of national euphoria to thrash Federer in the Olympic singles final.
Fuelled with belief, Murray then strode into New York and when a fifth shot at a grand-slam final duly arrived he rose to the occasion to beat Djokovic in a five-set epic.
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