At the Net: Djokovic led the way in 2014

Philadelphia, PA ( - There were a handful of guys who had a great season on the ATP World Tour, but for the third time in four years, nobody was better than Novak Djokovic.

For a third time in those four years Djokovic finished as the year-end No. 1. This time around he did it with seven titles and a lofty 61 match wins (61-8) to finish in the Top 3 for an eighth straight year.

The steady Serbian star won seven of his eight finals, including a second Wimbledon championship in four years and a tour-best four Masters titles. His lone setback in a final came at the French Open, where he gave way to Rafael Nadal for the second time in three campaigns, as Roland Garros remains the only major title that has eluded the seven-time Grand Slam champion from Belgrade.

Djokovic reached at least the quarterfinals at all four Slams, including a semifinal run at the U.S. Open. He also set a new record with $14.25 million in prize money, plenty of which came from his big win at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London two weeks ago.

It was also a big year for Nole off the court.

Four days after winning it all at Wimbledon in July, he married his pregnant fiancee and long-time girlfriend, Jelena Ristic. Three months later, Djokovic became a first-time father with the birth of his son, Stefan.

Roger Federer enjoyed a resurgence after struggling with back problems in 2013. The elegant Swiss actually led the tour in match wins (73-12) and finals berths (11).

The former world No. 1 legend finished the year ranked second after tallying five titles, including a pair of Masters wins, and a heart-breaking runner-up finish to Djokovic at Wimbledon, where the seven-time champ lost a tough five- set decision at the hands of Serbian stalwart at the storied All England Club.

And the 33-year-old Federer made some more history by becoming the oldest year-end No. 2 since the rankings started in 1973. He also placed inside the Top 10 for a 13th straight year.

Federer was the runner-up at six events, including five of the sexy variety -- Wimbledon, the ATP World Tour Finals and Masters tourneys in Monte Carlo, Indian Wells and Toronto. He skipped the Tour Finals championship match against Djokovic because of a back injury, which he probably wanted to rest for last week's Davis Cup finale in France.

I'd say it worked.

Heading into '14, the only big-time hardware that had eluded Federer was the Davis Cup and an Olympic singles gold medal. Well, you can cross the Davis Cup off that short list after the icon captured the first reverse singles rubber this past weekend in Lille, France, to lift his beloved Switzerland to its first-ever Davis Cup title in the 115-year-old event. Federer whipped Richard Gasquet in straight sets to give the Swiss a 3-1 victory against the nine-time champion French.

How sweet it is!

All that winning this year put another $9.3 million in prize money in the 17- time Grand Slam king's pockets.

And not to be outdone by Djokovic in the family department this year, Federer, and wife Mirka, added a set of twin boys to his already set of twin girls.

Take that, Djoker.

The aforementioned Nadal started 2014 as the No. 1 player in the world, but ended at No. 3 after battling wrist, back, and appendix problems.

A right wrist injury kept the Spanish bull on the sidelines for three months, while a back ailment plagued him for most of the season, and an appendectomy ended his campaign a few weeks premature.

The 14-time major champion Rafa still managed to go 48-11 with four titles, including a record 27th Masters crown, and a trio of runner-up placements. He captured a fifth straight and record ninth overall French Open title and was a stunning runner-up to the other Swiss, Stan Wawrinka, at the Aussie Open, where the back injury first surfaced and clearly prevented the Spaniard from capturing more glory in Melbourne.

Nadal's other runner-up finishes came at Masters events in Miami and Rome and he wound up with $6.7 million in prize money for the year.

The three-time year-end No. 1 became the third left-hander -- after Jimmy Connors (16) and John McEnroe (10) -- to finish in the Top 10 for 10 straight years.

Not too shabby.

Wawrinka came in at No. 4 in the world after going 39-17, including his first- ever Grand Slam title and a couple of big match wins in the Davis Cup final.

"Stan the Man" went 2-0 against France in the DC finale, earning an opening singles and a doubles victory in Lille. But his biggest win came Down Under, where he shocked a hobbled Nadal in that disappointing (for tennis fans) Oz finale.

Wawrinka wound up with three titles, by going perfect in his '14 finals, and a career-best $4.44 million in prize money. He also secured his first Masters shield, in Monte Carlo, where he stunned his good friend and Davis Cup teammate Federer in a rare all-Swiss championship match.

The "Big Four" sort of lost a member this year when Andy Murray finished sixth in the rankings.

The British star spent the first several months of the year trying to regain his former Top-4 form after undergoing back surgery late last season.

AM failed to reach a Grand Slam final and didn't capture his first title of the year until he prevailed at a tournament in Shenzhen, China, in late September.

The two-time Grand Slam champ managed to close out his year with a flurry by nailing down three titles in a five-event stretch on his way to qualifying for the Tour Finals and finishing inside the Top 6 for a seventh consecutive season.

Murray went 59-20, going 3-0 in his finals, and grossed $3.9 million in prize money. He also cut ties with coach Ivan Lendl during the year and replaced him with another former world No. 1 star (in the form of a woman), in Amelie Mauresmo.

I would definitely expect Murray to challenge for the big trophies once again in 2015.

How 'bout that Kei Nishikori, who became the first-ever Asian-born man to crack the Top 10 and reach a Grand Slam final.

"Special K" went 54-14 with four titles and a pair of runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and Madrid Masters (his first Masters final).

He was No. 5 in the world when all the smoke cleared and gathered $4.43 million in prize earnings.

Another of this year's Grand Slam victors was the surprising Marin Cilic, who became the second-ever Croat to win a major when he flattened Nishikori in the U.S. Open final in September. The other Croatian Grand Slam champ is Cilic's current coach, Goran Ivanisevic.

Cilic crossed the finish line ranked ninth in the world after going 54-21 with four titles and one runner-up finish en route to just under $5 million in prize money.

Nishikori, world No. 8 Canadian masher Milos Raonic and Cilic were all first- time Tour Finals participants, but the final in London would produce yet another usual-suspects title tilt (Djokovic and Federer). Nadal had to miss the event after having his appendix removed and the Spanish superstar also had to skip the U.S. Open, due to a lame wrist.

FYI: Raonic became the first-ever Canadian and first player born in the 1990s to finish in the Top 10.

Don't worry, you won't have to wait long for some more ATP action, as tour activity will resume January 5 in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai.

Until then, work on that serve!