Roger Federer plays against Juan Martin Del Potro in Singles match during Barclays ATP World Tour Tennis Finals in London, 26 Nov 2009
Roger Federer plays against Juan Martin Del Potro in Singles match during Barclays ATP World Tour Tennis Finals in London, 26 Nov 2009

The past year was one of firsts in tennis, especially for top-ranked men's player Roger Federer.  2009 was a year in which Federer became the first man to win 15 major tournaments in a career, Kim Clijsters became the first mom to win a major tournament since 1980, and Juan Martin del Potro won his first ever major title.

Early success for Nadal

Roger Federer started 2009 ranked second in the world behind Rafael Nadal of Spain.  The Swiss tennis player had a losing record against the young Mallorcan, and the first Grand Slam tournament of the year - January's Australian Open - looked to continue the trend. 

Federer met Nadal in the finals, with the Spaniard winning a five-set match that lasted 259 minutes (7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2).  After their match, Nadal told Federer that he knew the coming year would be a battle to retain - or regain - the top ranking.

Kim Clijsters is joined by daughter Jada after bea
Kim Clijsters is joined by daughter Jada after beating Caroline Wozniacki during Women's final of 2009 US Open, 13 Sep 2009

"I really know how you feel right now; it's really tough," Nadal said.  "But you remember you are a great champion.  Congratulations for your career.  It is always good to play with you and good luck for the rest of the season."

The victory was Nadal's first ever Australian Open title, and his sixth Grand Slam championship.

Serena Williams wins 2 majors

In the women's draw in Melbourne, Serena Williams of the United States won the first of two major tournament titles by beating Dinara Safina of Russia in straight sets, (6-0, 6-3). 

At May's French Open, Roger Federer looked to unseat Rafael Nadal as champion.  Four of the Spaniard's titles had come at Roland Garros, including three straight wins over Federer.  But knee tendinitis hindered the Spanish player and he lost to Robin Soderling of Sweden in the fourth round in Paris. 

Soderling advanced to the final, where he faced Roger Federer, who had never won the French title.  The Swiss player won in straight sets (6-1, 7-6, 6-4) to capture his 14th Grand Slam crown and tie American Pete Sampras for all-time major tournament wins.

Kuznetsova takes US Open

In the women's draw, Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated top-ranked Russian compatriot Dinara Safina to take her second Grand Slam title.  Kuznetsova had won the U.S. Open in 2004, but had not captured a major event since.

Afterward, Kuznetsova said she was able to relax and win, while Safina was visibly shaken.

"Today when I was coming on the court, I knew everything was going to be all right because I knew I was going to take it out of my head and just play my best game," she said.  "It was the same thing as before the U.S. Open final when I won. So I was pretty calmed down, but it [winning] was a big moment for me."

Federer clinches 15th Grand Slam

On the grass of the All-England club, Roger Federer made history when he beat American Andy Roddick in a marathon match that featured the longest fifth set in the tournament's history, 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14.  Federer passed American Pete Sampras with his 15th career Grand Slam title.  Afterward the Swiss player told the crowd that his love of tennis motivates him.

"I don't know, it feels amazing, but this is not why I am playing tennis to break all sorts of different records," Federer said.  "But it's definitely one of the greatest ones to have, but this doesn't mean I'll stop playing tennis.  I want to keep enjoying tennis for many more years. So I hope to come back here and play some good tennis in the future."

Williams sisters still dominate Wimbledon

The women's crown went to a familiar name - Serena Williams beat her sister and two-time defending champion Venus in their fourth final at the All England Club.  The win was Serena's third career Wimbledon crown. 

Afterward Venus was philosophical about her loss.

"It's a wonderful achievement," she said.  "She's played so well so many times - a lot of times actually at my expense, so, you know we've always contested each other well and the best player that day always won."

This year marked the eighth time since 2000 that one of the Williams sisters had won Wimbledon.

Del Porto wins first major tournament

The U.S. Open in New York saw Federer reach the finals of a major for the fourth time since January, only to lose to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.  Del Potro had beaten Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and captured his first major tournament title with the win (3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2).  At 21 years old, Del Potro was the fifth youngest man to lift the U.S. Open trophy in the Open Era.

However, many fans will remember the 2009 U.S. Open for Serena Williams' bizarre loss in the semifinals.  Williams lost her match with Kim Clijsters after threatening a line official in a profanity-laden tirade for calling a service foot fault on her.  Serena was assessed her second code violation of the match which resulted in a point penalty against the American, and Clijsters won.

Clijsters basks in Grand Slam success

The Belgian - who had come out of retirement in August - became the first unseeded woman to ever win the U.S. Open and the first mother to win a Grand Slam title since Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980 at Wimbledon.  After beating Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in the final, Clijsters said she was stunned by her success.

"Like, it still seems so surreal. Yeah, that I - in my third tournament back - won my second Grand Slam, [be]cause it wasn't in the plan," Clijsters said.  "I just want to come here and get a feel for it all over again.  And play Grand Slams so that at the start of next year I didn't have to go through all the new experiences."

Clijsters wasn't the only one going through new experiences - Roger Federer married his long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in April and the couple gave birth to twin girls in July. 

Rafael Nadal lost his No. 2 ranking briefly to Britain's Andy Murray.  However, the Spaniard regained his form - and his ranking - late in the year and helped lead Spain to the Davis Cup title with a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic.  Italy captured the Fed Cup title for the second time with a 4-0 win over the United States.  

Nikolay Davydenko beat three Grand Slam winners - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Juan Martin del Potro - on his way to winning the ATP World Tour Championships in London.  The victory made Davydenko the first Russian to win the season-ending tournament. 

Safin, Mauresmo retire

Another Russian - two-time major tournament winner Marat Safin - retired from the men's game.  France's Amelie Mauresmo stepped away from women's tennis.

The past year also marked the first time the Commonwealth Bank Championship women's tournament was played in Bali, Indonesia with Aravane Rezai of France taking the title.  Serena Williams defeated her sister Venus in Qatar to win the WTA Tour championships.

Agassi autobiography stuns fans

Off the courts, former world No. 1 player and eight-time major tournament winner Andre Agassi of the United States revealed he had used methamphetamine during his playing career.  Agassi wrote about his drug use in Open: An Autobiography, which was published November 9.

The past year has seen many firsts in tennis.  With Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro, the Williams sisters, Clijsters and another Belgian emerging from retirement - Justine Henin - ready to take the courts, 2010 could prove even more exciting for tennis fans.