Who will be taking home Newk tonight?
By the end of this evening, the winner of Australian tennis's most prestigious prize will be crowned.
By the end of this evening, the winner of Australian tennis’s most prestigious prize will be crowned.
Four finalists have been nominated for the Newcombe Medal, an award which recognises Australia’s most outstanding elite player at a glittering ceremony at Melbourne’s Palladium Ballroom at Crown.
And the calibre of the finalists is outstanding, with Sam Stosur, Lleyton Hewitt, Casey Dellacqua and Marinko Matosevic all producing seasons worthy of the ultimate honour.
Stosur, winner of the previous two Newcombe Medals in 2010 and 2011, maintained her place within the women’s world top 10 for the third consecutive year, thanks to a consistent season which reaped two finals appearances, four semifinal finishes and a further five trips to tournament quarterfinals.
At Grand Slam level, the Queenslander excelled, winning through to the semifinals at Roland Garros before progressing to the quarterfinals in New York. She also went undefeated in four Fed Cup singles rubbers, leading the team to a stunning upset win over highly-fancied Germans to return Australia to the World Group.
Dellacqua, Stosur’s doubles teammate at the London 2012 Olympic Games, also produced some stellar results in 2012.
The Western Australian, plagued by injuries throughout 2009 and 2010, played her first full season on tour this year and clearly benefitted from the confidence that comes with uninterrupted match play.
She rose from No.134 in January to crack the top 80 in September (peaking at No.77 following the US Open), her highest ranking in more than three years.
Dellacqua’s highlights included reaching her her first ever WTA-level semifinal at Dallas, reaching the second round at both the Australian and US Opens, and winning the Fukuoka ITF title in Japan.
One of the biggest surprise packets of 2012 was Matosevic, who jumped from outside the top 200 at the beginning of the season to crack the top 50 in October. It was a leap that saw him claim the mantle as Australia’s No.1 male player, and win the ATP award – voted by the players – for the most improved player of the year.
The Victorian’s run was sparked by reaching the final of the ATP Delray Beach event as a qualifier, by far his best tour result at the time.
He backed up that stunning performance with a semifinal finish in Los Angeles, quarterfinals in Munich, Eastbourne and Vienna, and by clinching the ATP Challenger title in Athens, Greece.
If Matosevic’s rise shocked many, then the rapid rate at which Hewitt shot up the ladder did so as well.
The veteran was ranked as low as world No.233 in July, yet by September, he had returned to the top 100, once again displaying the level of play that took him to the fourth round at Melbourne Park before a foot injury – and subsequent four month post-surgery layoff – intervened.
His rise was made possible by a trip to the final at the ATP Newport event as a wildcard, which were soon followed by third round finishes at the London Olympics and US Open.
After reaching the quarterfinals in Stockholm and recording his first top 10 victory in more than two years over Juan Monaco in Valencia, the South Australian peaked at world No.80.
Four finalists. Four impressive resumes.
And by the end of this evening, we’ll be charging our glasses to the toast of Australian tennis.