Editor's note: On Dec. 9, we began our 10-part year-end awards series. Stay tuned each weekday for our latest entry.
The players pull off countless strokes of inspiration, combining skill with luck and effort to produce all kinds of memorable winners over the course of a season. Some players, however, do it more consistently than others. There were two in particular who set themselves apart as shot-makers of the year.
Women: Agnieszka Radwanska
Her spinning, behind-the-back reflex volley was acclaimed by many as the year's best shot, and there was a lot more where that came from. Radwanska may not possess the power game most of the other top women play, but she makes up for it with variety and ingenuity -- the same things that also produce gasp-inducing, crowd-pleasing plays.
The WTA even has a separate compilation of her best work in its season-ending clips, making her the only player to get one of her very own. It includes a drop shot off a net cord, a leaping backhand overhead, and of course, that famous twirling volley. The player's reaction to that improvised winner was almost as amusing as the shot itself. While Radwanska's opponent, Kirsten Flipkens, dropped her racquet in disbelief and exasperation, the normally tight-lipped Pole was still beaming as she got ready to begin the next point.
And just to show she's got something in the power department as well, there's even a 99 mph forehand in the bunch.
Men: Grigor Dimitrov
He's been known as "Baby Fed" and Maria Sharapova's boyfriend, but Dimitrov is also starting to make a name for himself on the tennis court. After hitting what was frequently described as last year's best shot, the 22-year-old Bulgarian has continued to drop jaws week after week with some spectacular plays.
There was stiff competition from the likes of Gael Monfils, Benoit Paire, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Fabio Fognini -- not to mention the kind of things top guys like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro pull off consistently. But for much of this year, Dimitrov seemed to have his shots spotlighted by the ATP more frequently than anyone else.
These three examples are just a sample of what he's offered up.
Against Tommy Haas in Washington, it was two for the price of one -- an incredible cross-court forehand volley, then another down the line.
Who needs balance to hit a winner past the top seed? While beating Djokovic, Dimitrov shows the kind of flexibility and reactions that the Serb himself is famous for.
Again, who needs balance? This shot wasn't even ruled in, but just hitting it was enough.
Other memorable shots
The acrobatic Monfils let the ball bounce between his legs, then hit a smash. Who knows why, but it was worth seeing.
A rather unconventional lob from Eugenie Bouchard. No one said the shot had to be intentional.
Hitting a drop-shot return is quite a feat. Doing it off a serve from Milos Raonic, as Federer does, is a bigger one.
A between-the-legs forward-facing volley is a signature shot for many of the wild shot-makers. Paire is definitely a member of the group.
This shot from Dolgopolov didn't go in either, but it was quite something anyway.