Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 SEASON WRAP: Matches of the Year

This is definitely long overdue, but now that I am finally back in Cairo for a few days, the nostalgic feeling I got when I switched on my laptop in my very comfortable bed at home, drove me to look back at the 2009 tennis season and these are the moments that stood out:

Matches of the Year

Gael Monfils vs Rafael Nadal
Qatar Open quarterfinals

The Frenchman posted his first victory over Nadal and although that match was during the first week of the season, its unbelievable rallies are still fresh in mind. The acrobatic Monfils showed some ruthless form to earn that 6-4,6-4 win over the then, top-ranked Nadal.

Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco
Australian Open semifinals

In one of the longest matches in the history of the Australian Open, Nadal fought off a blasting Verdasco for 5 hours and 14 minutes to post a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, win over his Davis Cup teammate, and reach the Australian Open final for the very first time. Less than 2 days later, Nadal went on to win another epic 5-setter, against his archrival, Roger Federer, to claim the first Grand Slam of the season. Verdasco saved 16 out of 20 break opportunities against Nadal, and hit a jaw-dropping 95 winners, yet still couldn't stop his compatriot.

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic
Madrid Masters semifinals

Playing their third straight clay Masters 1000 final, the competition between those two players had reached its very peak and the result was the longest best-of-three Masters match ever.
Having lost the Monte Carlo and Rome finals to Nadal, Djokovic played the first set in Madrid with such a vengeance that left the spectators in no doubt, that he would finally conquer Rafa on clay. But the way Nadal bounced back and squeezed past Djokovic in the third-set tiebreak, forced the Spaniard to celebrate the victory as if he had won the whole event. It was the match that possibly destroyed Nadal's knees for the season, but will be remembered nonetheless as one of the best matches of the year.

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick
Wimbledon final

It may not have been as long as Federer's Wimbledon final against Nadal the previous year, nor were the rallies as intense, but this match was mind-blowing in many aspects. This was the third time Roddick had faced Federer in a Wimbledon final, and the American seemed determined to shatter Federer's clean record against him in Grand Slam finals. Roddick entered this match having dispatched tournament and home favorite, Andy Murray. He was moving in a way we hadn't seen him move before on the grass at the All England Club and when he won that first set, I honestly believed he had a real chance of winning.

Federer ended up winning the 4-hour, 16-minute battle, 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14. The Swiss fired 107 winners including 50 aces, yet had his service broken more times than Roddick during the match. Roddick's resilience and mental strength were praise-worthy as he held serve throughout the entire match all the way until the 77th game, where he eventually faltered and was broken at 14-14 in the fifth set. The match culminated with the triumph of Federer winning his 15th Grand Slam title and breaking Pete Sampras' record.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Roger Federer
US Open final

A tennis season wouldn't be complete without a mind-boggling upset, and when it comes in the form of a US Open final, and Federer is the person suffering the upset from a first-time Grand Slam finalist, well that simply says it all. Del Potro's 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 win over Federer, halted the Swiss' 41-match winning streak in New York, and meant that for the first time in 32 years, a South American player became the US Open champion. It also meant that he joined Djokovic, as only 1 of 2 players who managed to win a Grand Slam off Nadal or Federer since Safin won the 2005 Australian Open.

Marat Safin vs Nikolay Davydenko

Kremlin Cup 1st round

This match may not have been as huge as the rest, but it was Safin's last appearance in his home tournament in Moscow before his retirement and he was playing his compatriot and good friend, Davydenko. Davydenko was coming off a great title win in Shanghai where he beat Nadal, and Safin was having a dismal year. The shots we saw from the 2-time Grand Slam champion that day, reminded us all of his unmatched talent, and although Safin lost in the very next round, his match against Davydenko will definitely be remembered as the one match Safin gave his all in 2009.

GSM's pick:

Nadal vs Verdasco - Australian Open semis

What about you...? Vote below!


marooned84 said...

I want Nadal of the early season back!

Anonymous said...

That Nadal-Verdasco match was amazing. I was up through several hours in the middle of the night and early morning watching it. Great stuff.

andymo said...

Andy and Federer's match because there was so much more at stake. Andy should have won.