Dramatic wins and losses. Nightmare seasons and championship dreams that came true. The 2005 sports year was filled with emotions that took fans on several roller coaster rides.
Roger Federer of Switzerland dominated men's tennis nearly every time he stepped on the court in 2005. He won 11 titles, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and was a semifinalist at the Australian and French Opens. The 24-year-old Federer could hardly believe his success following Wimbledon.
"Today it seemed like I was playing flawless, you know. It is like I am not living this correctly," he said. "This is a very strange feeling I have."
Federer posted 81 match victories against just four losses. American Andy Roddick, who lost the Wimbledon men's final (6-2, 7-6, 6-4), said Federer has clearly separated himself from the rest of the field.
"He is probably as close as there has been to unbeatable," said Roddick.
But Federer was defeated in November when Argentine David Nalbandian upset the two-time defending champion in an epic season-ending Tennis Masters Cup final (6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6) in Shanghai. Among the women, American Lindsay Davenport finished the year at number one. But it was Kim Cljisters of Belgium who made a stunning return from an injured wrist to win nine tournaments, including the U.S. Open, to pick up her first Grand Slam title. Croatia became just the 12th nation to win the Davis Cup men's team tennis title.
Dominant again in women's golf was Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, while the season saw several young newcomers, including U.S. teenager Michelle Wie, aiming to forge their place in the sport. In the men's game, world number one American Tiger Woods returned to his winning ways after no victories in 2004. Woods cruised to another Masters and British Open title. But the farewell of golf legend Jack Nicklaus at St. Andrews, Scotland made Woods reflect on the player he has tried so hard to emulate.
"He has won more major championships than anybody else, and has won a bunch of tournaments, and has been the greatest champion that has ever lived," Woods said.
Perhaps the greatest cycling champion ever is American Lance Armstrong. The cancer survivor, with the help of his Discovery Channel team, captured an unprecedented seventh consecutive Tour de France title to cap an amazing career.
"First thing I would like to say is for me to end a career with this podium is really a dream podium," said Armstrong. "I could not have done this without an excellent team."
An excellent run on June 14 by Jamaican Asafa Powell produced a 100-meter world record time of 9.77 seconds in Athens, Greece. But few records came in August at the World Athletics championships in Helsinki, Finland because of unusually wet weather. The clouds parted just long enough for Russian star Yelena Isinbayeva to soar to another women's pole vault world record, clearing 5.01 meters.
"Today when I woke up, the sun was shining in my room," she said. "And I thought 'yes, today is everything.' The weather was perfect."
And the men's decathlon competition turned out to be perfect for American Bryan Clay. "It is about training hard. I have been dreaming about this since I was a little kid, since I was eight years old," he said. "So I am just glad that dreams are finally beginning to come true."
Dreams of professional baseball's return to the U.S. capital came true in April after 34 years when the former Montreal Expos moved south and became the Washington Nationals.
And dreams of a first World Series title since 1917 came true in October for baseball fans of the Chicago White Sox.
"Uribe throws to first - he got him! What a play by Uribe. He got him by a fraction of a step and this World Series is over and Chicago for the first time in 88 years, the World Series Trophy is going to Chicago!" the announcer exclaimed.
But baseball and other sports continued to endure the ugly specter of steroids abuse. The probe into the California-based laboratory BALCO uncovered a previously undetectable steroid that had been given to several high-profile athletes. Baseball's Barry Bonds, American sprinters Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones, among others, became entangled in the investigation, which was used to ban Montgomery for two years and strip his former 100-meter world record from the books.
U.S. professional sports leagues in particular were under pressure to vastly increase penalties for athlete drug use. And lawmakers in Washington suggested new laws to combat the problem. House of Representatives Republican Cliff Stearns of Florida expressed the sentiments of many.
"I, along with many of my colleagues, believe the best solution includes comprehensive and uniform drug testing rules, procedures, and penalties for all professional sports," he said.
Displaying good virtues were teams that pushed aside individual egos in favor of pure teamwork to win championship titles. The New England Patriots won their third National Football League Super Bowl title in four seasons. The San Antonio Spurs methodically won their third National Basketball Association title and second in three years. No champion was crowned in the National (ice) Hockey League because of a labor dispute that wiped out the entire 2004-2005 season. But teams have returned to the ice following tough negotiations.
German driver Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari team endured their worst season ever. The seven-time Formula One champion was left far behind season winner Fernando Alonso of Spain. And Tony Stewart pulled into victory lane for the 2005 Nextel Cup season in the popular U.S. stock car racing circuit known as NASCAR.
The English football (soccer) club Liverpool won the Euro Champions League tournament with a dramatic shootout over AC Milan of Italy (3-2), but Brazil's Sao Paulo edged Liverpool, 1-0, in the World Club Championship in Yokohama, Japan. Brazil's national team beat Argentina, 4-1, to win the Confederation's Cup in Germany, and the five-time World Cup champions led the field of 32 nations in qualifying for the next edition of football's premier event in 2006 in Germany.
London edged out Paris to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, and as the year ended hundreds of elite winter sports athletes were looking forward to gathering in February in Turin, Italy for the 2006 Olympics.