Monday, December 21, 2009

Best of '09- Moments

2009 was a banner year for tennis. It saw Roger Federer finally do what was inevitable, and break Pete Sampras' Grand Slam title record. It saw tirades, and weird celebrations, and heartwarming trophy ceremonies. 2009 pretty much had it all, and as difficult as it may seem, I'm here to narrow it down to the top 10 moments of the past year, good, bad or ugly.

10. Jelena Dokic's Inspiring Australian Open Run

Jelena Dokic went from 0 to 100 when she made an astonishing return to the tennis world during this year's Australian Open. Free of the manipulative and forceful influence from her estranged father Damir, Dokic carried a chip on her shoulder and made it all the way to the quarterfinals, defeating Anna Chakvetadze, Caroline Wozniacki and Alisa Kelybanova, all in 3 sets, before nearly defeating Dinara Safina. With the home crowd behind her and the tears running, this was a truly heartwarming tale of adversity.

9. The Australian Open Women's Trophy Ceremony

Perhaps many fail to remember the joyful spirit Serena Williams and Dinara Safina had following their Aussie Open final because of just how incredible the men's ceremony was, but even after Williams handed the Russian an absolute beatdown, they remained civil, and cracked jokes with eachother during the directors' speeches. It was good to know, coming out of that final, that two of the grittiest and most hard-headed women on the tour know how to keep the competitiveness on court, and bring a playful vibe to the sport. How can you NOT love both of their speeches?

8. Federer's Indian Wells Outburst

As a Federer fan, this wasn't easy to watch. I started the match confidently sitting upright on the couch after Roger won the first, but it all went downhill from there. Eventually, the little devil came out and Roger exploded, and lost the match to Novak Djokovic. I'm not putting this infamous racquet smash in here because it's great, and we all no it's not. But, after I got over the late match demise, it was good to know that even Roger Federer is human. Even Roger Federer crumbles. Even Roger Federer demolishes his racquet in frustration, and then gives the media a little piece of his mind. You really can't help but laugh.

7. Juan Martin del Potro wins the US Open

Juan Martin del Potro's US Open championship came straight out of left field. The not so little Argentine went into the final against Roger Federer a heavy underdog, but the youngster came back, and brought his country home it's 2nd ever US Open. And it was even better to see Roger Federer so proud of his peer. JMDP really deserved this one. Now, if Dick Enberg would have only let DelPo speak in Spanish at the ceremony, things would have gone even more smoothly.

6. Melanie Oudin's Miraculous US Open Run

Now here's the story that everyone heard about. And you know it's huge when you get texts from non tennis-watching friends about it. That's the kind of buzz Melanie Oudin created when the tiny then 17 year old fought her way through Alisa Kleybanova, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to reach the US Open quarterfinals. With her family by her side, and her trademark "believe" shoes, the American outplayed some of tennis' best and quickly became one of the best stories of the year. FF to 9:10 for the good stuff.

5. Serena Williams' US Open Tirade for the Ages

Jaws dropped. Parents covered their kids' eyes. Most looked on in shock. I personally screamed "wtf just happened?" to my sister. It was a 'WTF' moment indeed. Call it whatever you want, tirade, outburst, blowup, but Serena Williams' US Open WTF had to be one the most intriguing moments of the year. It was uncalled for, dirty, unproffessional, blasphemous and many more things, but we all know that we wish we could say how much entertainment it brought us without condoning it. It will probably go down as the most insane 'wtf' in sports history, but after years and years of bullshit calls, what else could Serena do?

4. Roger Federer's Record-Breaking Wimbledon Victory

There is no need to summarize the match, considering I did that in the "best matches of '09" post, but Roger Federer and Andy Roddick's never-ending duel in the 2009 Wimbledon final was a memorable one. If you think of how unfortunate Federer has been against Nadal, Roddick has been 10x more unfortunate against Federer. He had won just 2 out of 21 matches heading into the final, and gave Federer the fight of his life. With Pete Sampras watching, Roger held on to take the match 16-14 in the 5th, and he became the winningest male in Grand Slam history.

3. Roger Federer's Record-Tying French Open Victory

After Rafael Nadal's shocking 4th round loss at the French Open, possibly the biggest upset of all time, the doors were open for Roger Federer to complete the career Grand Slam and tie Pete Sampras' all time major record. The path wasn't easy though. Federer had to battle past Tommy Haas and Juan Martin del Potro in 5 sets before the finals, where he played Robin Soderling, the man who beat Rafa. Tears were visible on the final changeover, and after Federer won 4 more points, they were flowing. It took him long enough, but the one slam that kept Federer from the G.O.A.T. was finished, and that title can rest assured.

2. Kim Clijsters' Comeback Win at the US Open

Who could have expected Kim Clijsters to return to tennis the way she did? After a 2 year retirement, Mama Clijsters returned and took little Jada on the ride with her. In her 1st GS since the 2007 Australian Open, Kimmie stormed the competition and played miraculous tennis to capture her 2nd US Open crown. Unseeded, unranked and completely disregarded, Clijsters beat the best of them, Venus, Serena, and Caroline Wozniacki, to shock the world and win. Even better, mama's little girl got to hop on the court and do the champion's photo op with her. :37 is ADORABLE.

1. Australian Open Men's Singles Trophy Ceremony

For Federer fans, it was devastating. For Nadal fans, it was monumental. For tennis, it was the best moment of 2009, and probably of the decade. The two best tennis players on earth had just put on an array of shotmaking and obviously, only one could come out on top. That one was Rafael Nadal. The non-winner? Roger Federer. Just moments after the finish and the handshake, a ceremony was to ensue, and not one person in Rod Laver Arena knew what was about to happen. Nothing else mattered, except for Federer and Nadal. Sure, Rod Laver watched as Federer broke down into tears, obviously mentally annhialated, but the outcome didn't matter anymore. Rafael Nadal saved the day. He won, but like the top-notch sportsman he is, the Spaniard saved the champagne for another day in an effort to give a little support to his friend, his peer, his rival, who was helplessly bawling, staring at the beloved trophy that was once his out of the corner of his right eye. At a modest 22 years old, Rafael Nadal contained the compassion to go do a simple act of justice, that went a long, long way. Just an arm around a buddy for a few seconds, right? Wrong. "The hug" as it will forever be known, defined "Fedal". Federer completes Nadal. Nadal completes Federer. Mano y Mano. There is a reciprocated respect somewhere in their relationship that is rare. From the 1st point until the last point, they can't stand the fact that the other has an answer to everything, but once the buzzer sounds, these two transform like DNA, and this very moment sums it all up.

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