Every year, the Association of Tennis Professionals gives players awards across a specific season, which are voted on by fellow players and are given across categories.
Awards include those for gameplay, sportsmanship, improvement and more; in addition, young players who are considered future stars are given the “ATP Star of Tomorrow” award.
The award for sportsmanship is in the name of former World No. 1 Stefan Edberg, who until last year coached greatest of all time Roger Federer, and is said to continue to mentor the Swiss. Edberg was known for his sportsmanship and on-court demeanour, much as Federer is, and this is perhaps what has led him to win the award a staggering eleven times – more than any other player in history.
Players are also given awards instituted in the name of American ace Arthur Ashe, who was a pathbreaker for African-Americans in tennis; former top-ranked doubles players and the most successful doubles pair in tennis history, twins Bob and Mike Bryan were the most recent winners of that award, and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic won it for his long list of charity work, which includes working with the United Nations and UNICEF, and thtrough his work with the Novak Djokovic foundation, which works towards the welfare of undeprivileged children worldwide.
The Bryan brothers were also voted the 'fan favourite’ team last year, in a category voted exclusively by viewers and fans, rather than players. Known for their affable nature, the brothers work through their foundation to help children all over the world from abusive or disadvantaged homes have access to safety, welfare and education, and say they have successfully managed to help a number of children “earn college scholarships” as a result.
This year’s nominees have now been released:
Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
Awarded to the player who, “throughout the year, conducted himself at the highest level of professionalism and integrity,” “competed in the spirit of the game” and was also gracious and promoted the sport in his “off-court activity”, this award was instituted in the name of the Grand Slam winning Swede, who embodied those qualities.
Not only has he been in very good form as the season gained steam, Wawrinka has spoken graciously of all his competitors this year, acknowledging their skill in both wins and losses; at his mammoth US Open match, the Swiss lauded competitor and former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro despite having beaten the tall Argentine; he is also known for warm interactions with fans and has rarely, if ever, had on-court meltdowns.
Having been a good role model and a model for the sport in general this year, we think Wawrinka should take this one.
Most improved player of the year
This award is given to a player who has risen the most in the rankings and has shown the most marked increase in performance levels.
Alexander Zverev. All these young players have put in stellar performances this year – and a number of these young men have even been pipped to be future World No. 1 players. Lucas Pouille in particular blitzed Rafael Nadal this year and had a dream run during the US Open. The 22-year-old from France definitely declared himself on the tennis radar, but none of these players did this more convincingly than Alexander Zverev.
The 19-year-old German had a number of standout performances this season, scalping Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, played on grass – a surface Federer has historically been all but invincible on.
The young player reached his third ATP World Tour level final this year in St. Petersburg last month, and there beat no less than Stan Wawrinka, in form and fresh off a US Open victory, to the title. He became as a result one of a select group of players to have won ATP World Tour level titles in their teens, and the German is considered by many the future of the men’s singles.
He is currently at 21st on the ATP rankings and is well en route to entering the top 20; he is already the youngest player in the top 30.
Comeback player of the year
As the name suggests, this award is given to players who have turned around their season or career in the recent season, and has overcome "serious injury to reestablish himself on the ATP World Tour.”
Juan Martin del Potro
Juan Martin del Potro.
Although Florian Mayer has had a whopper of a comeback – even winning the title at Halle over German wunderkind and compatriot Alexander Zverev after serious injury, and even put in a strong season otherwise, this one goes to the tall Argentine.
Labelled the Tower of Tandil, Del Potro, who won the US Open title in 2009, struggled afterwards with serious wrist injurie sthat hampered his gameplay and made it near impossible for him to compete in the sport. This year, however, once ranked below 250, Del Potro has quickly risen to 63rd and looks on course to move up quite quickly!
Interestingly, the past two winners of the ‘Comeback Player' award continue to do quite well for themselves – Benoit Paire, who won the award last year, is still going strong, while Belgian ace David Goffin is still managing strong finishes at even the ATP Masters level.