But out of sight clearly does not mean out of mind when it comes to the popularity among tennis fans of the man who has won the WTFs six times from 10 final appearances. The scores are in for the annual ATP Awards presented by Moët and Chandon, and Federer has won the ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite Award for the 14th straight year, with 56 percent of the total vote. The new world No1, Andy Murray, came second, followed by Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori.
It is a similar story on the doubles court, with 38-year-old Bob and Mike Bryan winning the biggest fan vote for the 12th time, just ahead of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.
Again not for the first time, Federer also won the plaudits of his fellow players to pick up the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for a 12th time.
With these latest votes of confidence, Federer has won a record 33 ATP Awards.
The support of fans and colleagues for Federer this year is all the more impressive because of his absence from competition since his semi-final loss at Wimbledon.
A tough season began after the Australian Open, when an accident led to knee surgery. He cancelled Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells, and then, having flown to Miami to resume his tour, he withdrew with a gastric virus.
A rusty Federer managed a quarter-final run in Monte-Carlo, but in Madrid, he withdrew with back problems, in Rome, he played just two painful matches, and subsequently pulled out of the French Open, missing his first Grand Slam in 16 years. Then during his tough five-set loss to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon, he stumbled and fell onto the very knee that had undergone surgery.
Shortly after, he announced he would not play for the rest of the year to rehab his knee. Yet despite only 28 matches played, he remains the most admired among the eligible top 20 players on tour, a popularity that began after winning his first Wimbledon title in 2003— even before he reached No1.
The Bryans, too, captured their first Fans’ Award just as they hit the top in 2005 and, as one of the few pairings to remain fixed and constant ever since, have created one of the most enduring presences on the tour.
Like Federer, their achievements in 2016 have been fewer than during any year since their first fans’ award—just three titles, with only one at Masters level—and their ranking this year is at its lowest in over a decade. No matter: they knocked even the popular duos of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut out of contention.
For Federer, the Sportsmanship Award will surely give him as much satisfaction as the fans’ one, coming as it does from fellow players. Edberg, one of Federer’s own tennis heroes, claimed his fifth Sportsmanship Award in 1992, and coached Federer for two years until the end of last year.
But Federer and the Bryans are not the only popular champions to headline the Awards this year. Juan Martin del Potro, since winning his first Grand Slam title at the age of 20, has suffered repeated injury and surgery, such that his award this year as Comeback Player is his second in this category. He also won it in 2011 following wrist surgery. He finished back in the top 10 in 2013, only to be sidelined again by surgery to his other wrist.
Del Potro started the year outside the top 1,000 but reached No38 by November having stormed to the silver medal in Rio via wins over Novak Djokovic and Nadal, making the quarter-finals of the US Open and winning his first title in over two years in Stockholm. He leads Argentina into the Davis Cup final later this month.
The work of one of this year’s WTFs hopefuls, Marin Cilic, was acknowledged in the prestigious Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award. With much the same under-stated quality that he brings to court, Cilic’s philanthropy through the Foundation he set up this year supports educational projects for young people, with a special emphasis on giving youth in Croatia improved access to school and university education.
Scattered among the old guard, there are always indicators to who may follow in their shoes. This year, newcomers include Lucas Pouille, aged 22, and voted the Most Improved Player of the Year, and Taylor Fritz, who at age 19 is the youngest player in the top 100 and thus picks up the Star of Tomorrow Award.
Unusually, the two key awards of the year, those given to the No1 players at the end of the year, will not be decided until after the WTFs, so close are the points in both the singles and doubles categories.
Determined by ATP rankings
Year-end No1, singles
Andy Murray and Djokovic will battle for the year-end No1 in London. Murray rose to the top spot this week after winning a tour-best eighth title of the season. If Djokovic, who has won this award four times, wins his eighth title of the season in London, he can overtake Murray.
Year-end No1, doubles
Frenchmen Herbert and Mahut have a narrow over Jamie Murray and Soares. The French have won five titles this season, including Wimbledon and three Masters titles, while Murray and Soares won the Australian and US Opens.
Star of Tomorrow Award (awarded to youngest player in top 100)
Fritz, who turned 19 a fortnight ago, became the youngest ATP finalist since 2008 when he finished runner-up at the Memphis Open, and he reached a high of 53 in August.
Voted by ATP players from shortlists nominated by the ATP and international tennis journalists
Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (for player who has “conducted himself at the highest level of professionalism and integrity, competed with fellow players with the utmost spirit of fairness, and promoted the game through off-court activities”)
Roger Federer: see above
Other nominees: Murray, Nadal, Stan Wawrinka
Most Improved Player
Lucas Pouille climbed from 91 in February to a career-high No15 by the end of 2016. He won his first ATP title in September at the Moselle Open, five months after reaching his first final in Bucharest, and made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.
Other nominees: Daniel Evans, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev
Juan Martin del Potro: see above
Other nominees: Julien Benneteau, Ivo Karlovic, Florian Mayer
Voted by fans
Fans’ Favourite, singles (among top 20 players)
Roger Federer: see above
2nd Murray, 3rd Nadal, 4th Djokovic, 5th Nishikori
Fans’ Favourite, doubles (among top 10 teams)
Bob and Mike Bryan: see above
2nd Murray and Soares, 3rd Lopez and Lopez, 4th Herbert and Mahut, 5th Pospisil and Sock
Voted by coaches
Coach of the Year (new for 2016)
Magnus Norman has coached Wawrinka since 2013, and has overseen the 31-year-old Swiss player’s rise to No3 in the world via all three of his Grand Slam titles and all four additional Major semis, along with his only Masters title in Monte-Carlo.
Other nominees: Gunter Bresnik (Dominic Thiem), Ivan Lendl (Murray), Emmanuel Planque (Pouille), Mikael Tillstrom (Gael Monfils)
Awarded by ATP
Arthur Ashe Humanitarian
Marin Cilic: see above
Ron Bookman Media Excellence
Mike Dickson has been a tennis correspondent for nearly two decades with the Daily Mail, which has the most visited newspaper website in the world. He has also covered golf, football, rowing and four Olympics Games, and served as the chief cricket writer for nine years.
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