Thursday, December 10, 2009

Best of '09- Matches

'Tis the season for.........TOP TEN LISTS!

Yes, you may have been expecting me to say jingle bells, egg nog, presents and potatoe latkes, but the best part of winding down the year is counting from 10 to 1 on the annual lists bloggers excite over partaking in. There will be plenty more lists to come, but to start, we'll count down the best matches of 2009. And BELIEVE ME, there were enough late night (or early morning) 5-set epics to finish an entire pack of red bull (or two) in an effort to not daze off during the mind-boggling tennis. Drop a comment or two about what you think of the list, or if I missed something.

10. Flavia Pennetta def. Vera Zvonareva (US Open 4th Round) 3-6, 7-6, 6-0:

I'll admit, I was on a train back from a long day watching the Open live while this match was happening, but it's not like the massive flooding of texts I recieved while Vera Zvonareva blew her top weren't an easy sign that this match had drama. The crazy Russian came out of the gate firing, dominating the first set, but after letting 6 match points slip away in the 2nd set breaker, Zvonareva was at her boiling point. Pennetta than ran away with the match in the deciding set, but that didn't take away from the drama this 4th rounder included. Watch as the poor Zvonareva inflicts pain on herself *cringe*

9. Nikolay Davydenko def. Robin Soderling (World Tour Finals Round Robin) 7-6, 4-6, 6-3:

This match hasn't gotten the recognition it deserved, but, boy, was it impressive tennis. Soderling's relentless groundstrokes were the perfect counterpunch to Davydenko's consistent power, resulting in routine 25-shot rallies and a blockbuster of a contest. These two were clicking on all cylinders, and someone had to give. Ultimately, it was the Swede, who still made the semifinals anyway.

8. Serena Williams def. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Australian Open Quarterfinals) 5-7, 7-5, 6-1:

Few may remember this match, as it seems like ages ago, but it was quite the thriller. The heat was excruciating and the points were enthralling, as Kuznetsova came within 2 points of sealing her spot in the semis before Serena, whose shoes were melting away right before our eyes on the near 150 degree court, snatched away the victory en route to the title. Kuznetsova strongly criticized the AO's decision to shut the roof due to the heat, benefiting Williams, but we'll never know if it would have made a difference. These two would surely meet again in another quarterfinal......

7. Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Serena Williams (French Open Quarterfinals) 7-6, 5-7, 7-5:

The first GS encounter between these two may have been on Serena's favorite surface, but this one, no matter what the seedings beside their names said, was Kuznetsova's to lose. She was playing dynamite tennis leading up to the match, and, accepting nothing less than perfection against Williams, proved just how good she can be in her 3-set epic win. The rallies were ridiculous, the drama was sky-high, and just like the fairy tale goes, it was en route to the title for Kuzzie.

6. Rafael Nadal def. David Nalbandian (Indian Wells 4th Round) 3-6, 7-6, 6-0:

It's really too bad we didn't get to see more of David Nalbandian in 2009 because of an injury, because the Argentine has always brought countless epics (not to mention a world class backhand) to the tennis world, just as he did in his Indian Wells encounter with Rafael Nadal. Not having lost a set in his previous two matches with Rafa, Nalbandian came into the contest with sky-high confidence. He left extremely disappointed, having had played a beautiful match until the Spaniard saved 5 match points in the 2nd set and ran away with the 3rd.

5. Roger Federer def. Juan Martin del Potro (French Open Semifinals) 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4:

It may have been an unfortunate ending for the Argentine this outing, but Juan Martin del Potro really made a name for himself after this match. He was completely manhandled by Federer in their Aussie Open clash, so to really put up a fight against the world's best this time around was a big deal. Just not big enough. DelPo held a 2 sets to 1 lead as I was having a seizure facing the probability that Fed might lose in his only chance to win Roland Garros. Thankfully for me, The Swiss recovered from his deficit with an unmatched grit, and went on to make history.

4. Serena Williams def. Elena Dementieva (Wimbledon Semifinals) 6-7, 7-5, 8-6:

This was women's tennis at it's finest. Not only did it seem like a men's match based on the power and pop Serena and Elena were wacking the ball with, but the instant classic was filled with screaches and screams that only added to the gut-wrenching intensity. Williams and Dementieva both REEAALLLLYYY wanted to win this match, and it took incredible anticipation and a historic volley, both on match point, for the American to pull it out. It may even go down as the best womens match of the decade, but regardless, it was the best of this year, and it could not have occured on a better stage.

3. Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic (Madrid Open Semifinals) 3-6, 7-6, 7-6:

It was 3 sets, and it lasted over 4 hours. Is that enough said? Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic battled, and battled, and battled in the longest 3 set match EVER. We had incredible shot-making, high stakes, Rafa's fist pumps, Novak's ecstatic jumping up and down, and, best of all, just great tennis. This one could easily be the top match of '09, if it weren't for a few other classics, but it had some negative implications as well, as it didn't lead to the brightest times for these two. It was pretty much Rafa's last stellar match of the year, and it resulted in a lack of motivation for Nole at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but let's appreciate it for the fact that it had tennis fans around the world tapping their fingers and stomping their feet in anxiety, waiting to see what else these two could possibly have up their sleeves.

2. Roger Federer def. Andy Roddick (Wimbledon Final) 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14:

If I asked you what your expectations were heading into this final, I'm almost positive 90% of you weren't expecting what ensued, pretty much because of Roddick's dismal record against Federer heading into the Wimbledon final, but we got much more than paid for. It started early, and went on, and on. At moments, I wasn't sure if anyone was going to break in that final set. In fact, I was banking on me not being able to ever write this post because the match would still be going on. Well, that's a tad bit exaggerated, but if you were watching this final, you know what I mean. Roddick really stepped up to the plate and showed the millions watching that his Grand Slam glory days weren't finished yet. Federer was pushed to his brink, as Pete Sampras looked on from the first row. After 77 games, the longest length of any Grand Slam final ever played, Federer triumphed and won his record-setting 15th major. Game. Set. History. Much easier said than done.

And the best tennis match of 2009 is..............

1. Rafael Nadal def. Fernando Verdasco (Australian Open Semifinals) 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4:

These kinds of matches aren't an everyday occurence, so we must cherish them for what they brought us. Their wasn't one shot that defined the match, or a specific point tat lasted forever. It was everything. Every point featured two world class tennis players with a relentless determination to advance to the Australian Open final. This match had shotmaking, of course, but it was the heart, the desperation to win, on the part of both Verdasco and Nadal, that defined it. These two went above and beyond, with Verdasco firing a rediculous 95 winners, and with Nadal scrambling all over the court to try and somehow return those 'Nando forehands. Once the 5 hours were over, and Nadal was the winner, it was he who described the match as simply, yet as perfectly as possible. "Today was one of those matches you're going to remember a long time. In the last game, at 0-40, I started to cry. It was too much tension. Fernando was playing, I think, at his best level. He deserved this final, too."

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