Thursday, 29 November 2012

ATP Review: Best Matches of 2012

I have gone into great detail for my WTA choices, but this will just be a quick review looking at some of the best ATP encounters in 2012.  I haven't watched as much ATP tennis so a top 20 list would probably mean that I omit some key matches that I did not happen to watch.  Let's start with the Grand Slams...

The Australian Open
The Australian Open was the Grand Slam that produced the best matches of 2012.  One of the most entertaining matches of the whole year was the second rounder between Andy Murray and Michael Llodra.  Although Murray won comfortably in straight sets, the match was so much fun to watch and featured some extraordinary cat-and-mouse points at the net.  Another highlight was Bernard Tomic's five set win over Alexander Dolgopolov in a slice-and-dice sizzler of a match that was surprisingly and refreshingly great.

The best game from Murray and Llodra's cracking second round match at the Australian Open

The tournament really kicked into gear from the quarter-finals; the best of those was a hard-hitting encounter between Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal where Berdych had set points for a two set lead, but eventually succumbed to a 6-7(6), 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-3 loss.  Berdych's powerful flat groundstrokes were sensational for two sets; however Nadal gradually worked his way into the match and was at his tenacious best to make it into the semi-finals.

An incredible rally from the Berdych/Nadal quarter-final

The semi-finals were both fantastic; Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer held a superb contest with some stunning shot making, which Nadal prevailed in four sets, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4.  Federer came out all guns blazing, but Nadal dug his way back as he recreated his come-from-behind performance against Berdych and bettered it with a string of stunning of passing shots helping him on his way. The second semi-final saw Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray contest an truly epic duel, a rollercoaster of ups and downs that saw the momentum swing rapidly from side to side in a dramatic decider

Highlights from the Federer/Nadal semi-final

The final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was a breathless crescendo to what was a fantastic start to the season.  At 5 hours and 53 minutes, it was the longest ever Grand Slam final as both players received plaudits for their incredible stamina.  The pair put on a real show of physical and mental strength, but I think the match was actually overrated in terms of the quality of the tennis, which was scrappy for the first couple of sets.  No doubt a very good match, which burst into the life for the final two sets, but I think the length of this match was intensified by the amount of time that Nadal and Djokovic take between points.

Highlights from the Djokovic/Nadal match

My favourite match of the tournament and in fact, the whole year, was Djokovic and Murray's semi-final.  It was one of the few five setters I have been glued to the screen for its entirety.  Murray broke Djokovic to love when he served for the match at 5-3 in the deciding set and even had a break point at 5-5, which Djokovic extinguished with a cracking forehand down-the-line after another ridiculous rally.  Djokovic would eventually hold and complete an astonishing 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 victory.

Highlights from the Djokovic/Murray semi-final

The French Open
The French Open was rather flat for me this year; the best match on the mens side was the quarter-final between Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The Frenchman began in lacklustre form as Djokovic waltzed into a 6-1 3-1 lead; however out of nowhere, Tsonga burst to life and found himself in the position to win the match in a titanic fourth set.  He had four match points, but Djokovic saved them with some cracking winners and astonishing defence.  Once Djokovic levelled the match at two sets all, the match was all but over as Tsonga wilted to a 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-1 loss.

Highlights from the Djokovic/Tsonga match

There were a handful of exciting encounters in the early rounds.  Roland Garros saw the rise of David Goffin who played his hero, Roger Federer in the 4th round and had him on the ropes for the first two sets before Federer won through in a tough four setter.  Federer's five set win over Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarter-finals was intriguing too, but they had some much better matches through the course of 2012.

Wimbledon was another historic Grand Slam and like the Australian Open, produced some fabulous contests.  The first week will be remembered for the biggest shock of 2012 with Lukas Rosol's giant slaying of Rafael Nadal in a second round 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory.  The final set, which was played under the roof, saw some of the finest attacking tennis you are likely to see from Rosol, who closed the match out in staggering fashion with three aces and a forehand winner.

Highlights from the Nadal/Rosol match

My favourite mens match at Wimbledon this year was the third round match between Roger Federer and Julien Benneteau.  Benneteau was terrific for the first couple of sets with his brand of aggressive tennis completely overwhelming Federer.  Both played their part in a fabulous contest as Federer was two points from following Nadal on the sidelines before eventually turning the match around.  Benneteau seemed to be affected by an injury towards the end... god knows with this guy though because everytime I watch him he seems to be complaining of an injury.

Highlights from the Federer/Benneteau match

In the latter stages of the tournament, the final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was an obvious highlight.  It was a good match, but not a great match in my eyes.  It may have been that watching as a Murray fan and wanting him to win, the match was rather tainted by the fact he didn't! The post match speech was the most heartfelt and memorable of the year.  I also enjoyed Andy Murray's hard fought quarter-final victory over David Ferrer, which featured some great baseline exchanges.

Highlights from Federer/Murray final

A great rally from the Ferrer/Murray quarter-final

US Open
The mens US Open was missing something this year, but there were some good matches in between the dross.  The final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray was the ultimate definition of a slugfest and signalled the flourishing of a new quality rivalry on tour with Rafael Nadal stuck on the sidelines.  In light of the windy conditions, the pair played a great match on the Arthur Ashe stadium.

Three parter for the Djokovic/Murray highlights... many thanks to all the uploaders on YouTube for all this!

The best match though was the quarter-final between David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic.  I have to admit that I have taken a dislike to Tipsy recently following his comments on his Twitter account, but props to him and Ferrer for putting on some really terrific tennis for four and a half hours.  The final set was a real treat and got what it deserved in a final set tiebreak, which Ferrer won.

Highlights from the Ferrer/Tipsarevic match

Best of the rest:
The Spring American jaunt in Indian Wells and Miami was particularly disappointing for me this year.  The highlights though were John Isner's giant win over Novak Djokovic and the third round match in Miami between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, which saw the American post a magnificent win in what would be their last ever encounter on the ATP tour following Roddick's retirement after the US Open.

Highlights from the Federer/Roddick match

During the warm up tournaments for the French Open, there were a number of stand-out matches such as the stunning final in Barcelona between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.  Ferrer played some great tennis and had Nadal on the ropes as he held four set points in a marathon 93-minute first set; however he would once again be second best to Nadal, who was epic on the decisive points.

Highlights from the Nadal/Ferrer match

The women threw up a stinker on the blue clay in Madrid and although the men were quick to complain, spearheaded by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal's early losses, there were some fantastic matches.  The final between Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych was a highly competitive final and had a dramatic finale to boot.  

Federer's first match against Milos Raonic was a really entertaining match too and one that Raonic should have won; Raonic hit more winners and less unforced errors, but was outdone by Federer who picked up his game in a big way after a rusty start following a six week break.  Also, a mention to the match between David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, which concluded with a fascinating third set tiebreak.

Highlights from the Federer/Raonic match

Highlights from the Ferrer/Almagro match

Moving onto Rome, the best match of a tournament was an absolute thriller and one of my favourite matches of the year as Andreas Seppi saved six match points to stun Stanislas Wawrinka across three tiebreak sets.  The rallies were superb, the drama was better and it was made all the more sweet on the incredibly atmospheric Pietriangeli court, which was alive with the Italian home support.

Highlights from Seppi/Wawrinka  

An extra week of grass court tennis for the Olympics was certainly a treat and has wetted the appetite for 2015 when the grass court season will be extended by one week.  The best match for me was the nail biting semi-final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro, which saw the Swiss star win a 4 hour-and-28 minute, 3-6, 7-6(5), 19-17 epic.  Del Potro was at his powerful and battering best through stages of this match, but Federer's desire to reach the final shone through in the end; after several failed openings in the decider, Federer finally wrapped it up.   The longest match in terms of games saw Jo-Wilfried Tsonga edge Milos Raonic, 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in an entertaining serve-dominated clash.

Highlights from Tsonga/Raonic match... a great home video on match point from someone in the crowd!

For the unsung match of the tournament, I would vote for John Isner's 7-5 7-6(14) win over Janko Tipsarevic.  I am not sure if people would have seen this one, but I was watching from the stands and it was a really great match, heightened by the epic second set tiebreak that saw Tipsarevic save six match points before eventually succumbing on a double fault.  Isner's serve was dynamite, but the rallies were long and won rather than lost with a total of 59 winners to just 22 unforced errors in the whole match.

Highlights from Isner/Tipsarevic where the Serb screamed at a young girl running around at the top the stands... I was sat several rows in front!

Andy Murray had a string of good matches too; his rematch with Marcos Baghdatis was very entertaining, but the semi-final win over Novak Djokovic was particularly pleasing.  It was an intense, hard-hitting and tight two-setter, their first ever encounter on the grass and hopefully many more to follow.

As the season wrapped up, Murray and Djokovic's final in Shanghai was certainly memorable.  Djokovic saved five match points in an absolutely titanic, 5-7, 7-6(11), 6-3 win and the best ATP match of 2012 away from the Grand Slams.  The rallies were gripping throughout and the added drama on the big points made this a classic.  Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro also had a number of humdingers in Basel and at the World Tour Finals, both won by Del Potro as he turned the tables on Federer who had previously dominated all of their 2012 matches.

Highlights from Djokovic/Murray 

There were a few good matches at the O2 although no worldbeaters.  The final was excellent and easily, the best match of the tournament as Novak Djokovic came from behind in both sets to claim a 7-6(6), 7-5 victory over Roger Federer.  There were some excellent points, most notably in that first set tiebreak and on match point too.  It was a fitting end to what had been an excellent year of mens tennis.  Roll on 2013...

Highlights from Djokovic/Federer

COMING SOON - Previews and Predictions for the WTA and ATP in 2013 

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