2016 has seen very historical moments in tennis with Novak Djokovic completing a Career Grand Slam, Serena Williams breaking Steffi Graf’s record for the most number of weeks at the top of the rankings at 386, and Andy Murray becoming the first Briton to be World No.1 in the Open Era, just to name a few.This year also saw some remarkable comebacks and resurgences from the likes of Juan Del Potro, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Dominika Cibulkova. A number of young talents emerged this year including Alexander Zverev, Naomi Osaka, and Elina Svitolina. However, 2016 also witnessed a number of moments on the court which touched our hearts. Here are five such moments from this year where the players displayed acts of sportsmanship and kindness.
#5. Monica Niculescu winning the Luxembourg Open on her mother’s birthday
Monica Niculescu won her third WTA Singles title at this year’s Luxembourg Open on her mother’s birthday. She beat French Open semi-finalist Kiki Bertens in the semi-finals before bashing two-time Wimbledon champion and top seed Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-0 in the final to win the title on her third attempt after falling to Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams in the 2011 and 2012 finals respectively.However, the highlight of the final was Niculescu’s sweet and emotional speech which even made her opponent Petra Kvitova smile and laugh. After thanking her coach whose eyes were moist, Niculescu stated that it was her mother’s birthday.
This is how she ended her speech: "Today is my mom's birthday. I'm so happy I won this title. She's not here, but happy birthday mom!" It was probably the best birthday gift Niculescu’s mother would have expected from her daughter.
#4. Serena Williams praising Daria Kasatkina after defeating her at the Australian Open
18-year old Russian Daria Kasatkina began her maiden Australian Open well by stunning 27th seed Anna Karolina Schmeidlova in the first round in straight sets before beating Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh in the second round, also in straight sets to set up a third round clash against World No.1 and tournament favorite Serena Williams.Just at the start of the year, Kasatkina had stunned Serena’s sister Venus in the first round of the ASB Classic at Auckland but it wasn’t going to be a Williams double for the teenager as the World No.1 thrashed her 6-1, 6-1 in only 44 minutes. However, despite registering a comprehensive win, Serena was extremely humble after the match as she praised her opponent’s game, especially her forehand.
#3. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Carla Suarez Navarro helping out the ball kids during the Australian Open
The first Grand Slam of the year saw a number of upsets and thrilling encounters but it also witnessed some very kind gestures from the players. Two such gestures were made by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Carla Suarez Navarro when they came to the aid of distressed ball kids.During the first Day of the tournament, Carla Suarez Navarro stopped her first round match because a ballboy was feeling ill due to the heat and wasn’t able to respond to her. Navarro put her arm around the young lad and escorted him off the court.A few days later, during his third round match against Omar Jasika, Tsonga noticed that the ball girl was feeling unwell so he took the balls from the ball girl’s hand, took her by the arm and escorted her off the court. Both players received a lot of recognition on social media for their actions.
#2. Jack Sock’s sportsmanship
Jack Sock has been one of the young talents who is expected to make a huge name for himself in the future. Besides, his serve and aggressive game, Sock has been noted for his sportsmanship and this year, he has shown his sportsmanship on a few occasions.The first such instance came during the Hopman Cup when Sock was facing former World No.1 Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt was serving to stay in the first set and his first serve was called out by the chair umpire. Just as Hewitt was going for his second serve, Sock told him to challenge it, much to Hewitt’s surprise. The review showed that the ball was in and Hewitt got the point. Hewitt eventually defeated Sock in straight sets.Another such instance was shown during the Paris Masters where Sock was up against Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Gasquet’s serve was called out but Sock awarded the point to Gasquet without the latter even challenging for it, claiming that the ball was in.
#1. Rafael Nadal halting a match midway so a mother could find her daughter
On 28th September, Rafael Nadal was partnering Simon Solbas in a doubles exhibition match against former tennis greats John McEnroe and Carlos Moya in Mallorca. During the match, as Nadal was beginning to serve, he heard somebody from the crowds shouting. It was a distressed mother looking for her toddler daughter.Nadal then stopped the match so that the lost daughter could be found. The stoppage paid off as the girl was located and both the mother and the daughter had a tearful reunion. After she found her daughter, the mother waved towards Nadal as a gesture of gratitude and Rafa smiled back. The most heartwarming tennis moment of 2016 indeed.