The Comeback Player of the Year recognises those players who have overcome serious injuries in re-establishing themselves as one of the top players on the ATP World Tour. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
This year’s nominees are (Year-end 2012 Ranking and 14 October 2013 Ranking):
Somdev Devvarman (656-90)
Rafael Nadal (4-1)
Tommy Robredo (115-19)
Dmitry Tursunov (125-39)
After reaching a career-high No. 62 Emirates ATP Ranking in June 2011, Somdev Devvarman’s rise on the ATP World Tour came to a halt when he underwent right shoulder surgery in January 2012. He briefly returned to the courts to represent India at the London Olympics, but fell to No. 656 in the year-end rankings, winless on the ATP World Tour in more than 14 months.
Devvarman’s drop set the stage for a dramatic rise in 2013. In the space of 10 months, the 28 year old climbed more than 550 spots to a No. 90 Emirates ATP Ranking. He recorded main draw wins at his first six tour-level events of 2013, highlighted by a third-round run at the Sony Open Tennis, and followed with success on the ATP Challenger Tour circuit, reaching the semi-finals at four events. He also advanced to the second round of Roland Garros and the US Open and the third round of the Citi Open - all as a qualifier - to re-enter the Top 100 by September.
“It’s really nice and humbling to be nominated for Comeback Player of the Year for the ATP,” said Devvarman. “I know everyone who's been nominated for the award have had their share of difficulties to overcome and have worked incredibly hard to end 2013 the way they have. Personally I’m honoured and happy and can’t thank my coaches, family and friends enough for supporting me through the last couple years. They mean the world to me.”
Rafael Nadal had his share of doubts during a seven-month layoff. When he finally made his return from a left knee injury this past February and finished just two points shy of the VTR Open title, the relieved Spaniard admitted, “A week ago we didn't know how the body would respond. [Now] at least I know we can compete at a certain level.”
Vina del Mar provided a glimpse of what was to come. Nadal returned to the winners’ circle the following week at the Brasil Open and again the week after at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel. "I started to play great in Acapulco and the season has been one of the best of my career, without a doubt,” he said.
Including nine straight finals to start the season, he reached 13 total from 15 tournament appearances through mid-October. Among his 10 titles, Nadal claimed his eighth Roland Garros crown, his second US Open championship, and a record-tying five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies in a single season. He also went undefeated on hard courts (26-0) through the China Open final, when he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic. Despite the loss, Nadal - who began the season at No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings - overtook the Serbian at the top on 10 October.
"It sure is special to be back to the top position of the rankings after more than a half year without playing tennis,” he said.
Last season, Tommy Robredo found himself in unfamiliar territory - ranked outside the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since 2000. Despite winning a pair of ATP Challenger Tour titles in June, in his first tournaments since leg surgery four months earlier, the Spaniard went 5-7 in tour-level action.
Exactly one year after his surgery, the former World No. 5 found his footing again on his favoured surface of clay. He reached his first semi-final in two years at the Copa Claro in Buenos Aires, and followed with titles at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca and the Vegeta Croatia Open Umag.
His headline-making performance at majors lifted him back into the Top 20 by September. At Roland Garros, he became the first man to come back from two sets down in three consecutive Grand Slam matches - including his third-round win over Gael Monfils, when he saved four match points. At the US Open, he stunned five-time champion Roger Federer in straight sets - his first win over the Swiss in 11 meetings - to reach the quarter-finals for the first time at Flushing Meadows.
“It is an honour to be nominated for the Comeback Player of the Year,” said Robredo. “It is not about winning a prize but more about having been able to demonstrate to myself that I was able to be back at the top, where I was before my injury and in only one year. Being part of the best players in the world is always a very difficult task and being able to do it at 31 and after one-and-a-half years away from the courts makes it even tougher. It’s a dream come true to be back up there again and I think that is the biggest trophy for me and for all the people that have worked with me lately.”
Dmitry Tursunov knows a thing or two about comebacks. ”It’s probably like my fifth time attempting to get the coveted title,” joked Tursunov, who was also up for Comeback Player of the Year in 2003 and 2011. “Always someone gets in my way. This time I think it’s going to be rough. I’m not losing hope. I’m 30. I think I have a couple more comebacks in me. I’m planning to get this one, and if not, I might retire and I might come back and try to get it again.”
The resilient Russian made his way back from a back injury in 2002 and a left ankle injury in 2010. This time around, Tursunov dealt with a wrist surgery that caused him to miss three months of the 2012 season. He dropped to No. 125 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings, and needed to go through the qualifying rounds in order to compete on the ATP World Tour through the first few months of 2013.
In his first main draw appearance of the season, he reached the semi-finals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam to break back into the Top 100. He re-established himself as a Top 40 player during a six-tournament stretch over August and September, reaching the quarter-finals or better at five of those events, with the lone exception being a third-round finish at the US Open. That run included an upset win over David Ferrer at the Western & Southern Open, where he reached the quarter-finals as a qualifier.
“I didn’t start the season too well, but I had some good tournaments,” he said. “Second half of the year was fairly consistent compared to some of the other season. So I’m hoping it’s going to be a good foundation for the next couple of years. Let’s see how it go from there. It’s hard to say what 2014 is going to be like, but I think I’m in better position now than I was in 2012.”
No disrespect to all the other comebackers, but i strongly feel Rafa Nadal should be unopposed, as in his case we are not only talking of the comeback of the year, we are possibly looking at the greatest comeback in the history of Tennis.