My five favourite matches of the Championships at SW19. Limited to ones I’ve watched and can remember, so no cliched entries like Borg-McEnroe or Ivanisevic-Rafter. Whether you think I’m right or wildly wrong, comment and say why!
5: Quarter Final 2009 – Andy Roddick vs Lleyton Hewitt
2009 was a fine year for both ex-world number ones, Roddick had found form again under new coach Larry Stefanki and Hewitt was recovering and growing stronger after hip surgery. This quarter final match had a touch of grudge about it too, as Hewitt had lost to Roddick in Memphis and at Queens Club earlier in the season.
While Roddick had played testing matches to reach the quarters, Hewitt’s run had more of the fairy-tale about it. Having dealt with big-hitters Robby Ginepri, Juan Martin Del Potro and Philipp Petzschner, he came back from two sets down to beat Radek Stepanek in a 4th round 5 set thriller. This was to be an appetiser for the next match.
Roddick and Hewitt’s clashes never disappointed, but this was truly spectacular. Over 5 sets, Roddick served a career-high 43 aces, testing Hewitt’s speed and return to the maximum with his powerful serves and forehands. Eventually though, in a match neither deserved to lose, Roddick won 3–6, 7–6 (10), 6–7 (1), 6–4, 4–6 match. While disappointing for Lleyton, it was the first time the Australian had reached the quarterfinals of a Major since the 2006 U.S. Open.
4: 4th round 2013 – Sabine Lisicki vs Serena Williams
Sabine Lisicki is a grass court specialist, her serve is the fastest on the women’s tour and her groundstrokes can blow her opponents off the court. However, even her power wasn’t considered enough to deal with the defending champion, French open and US Open champion AND world no.1 Serena Williams.
Lisicki though has a habit of beating reigning French Open champs at Wimbledon and, as I predicted, this was to be the fourth year in a row she would achieve the feat. It wasn’t easily done, the match went the full 3 sets, but Lisicki held her nerve to break the American’s 34 match winning-streak 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. This was a popular victory, as with Serena out it meant that the tournament would be less predictable and that a new champion would be crowned.
3: 2nd round 2012 – Lukas Rosol vs Rafael Nadal
Nadal had just won the French Open for the 7th time, he was on another hot streak and bound for the semi-finals at least, this Czech ranker should be no problem… wrong!
Instead, he faced a tall (6’5) powerful flat-hitter, who apparently decided to play the best and most inspired match of his life, causing one of the greatest upsets in Slam history.
Though he lost the first set in a close tiebreak, Rosol broke in the first game of the second. A dominant serving performance allowed him to take the second and third sets 6-4. Nadal upped his level in the fourth, winning it 6-2 and forcing a 5th set decider. Before that though, there was a half-hour delay while the roof at Centre-Court was closed, this forced Nadal to hit “pause” on his resurgence and allowed Rosol to revitalise and renew his assault.
He hit 20 winners to take the 5th set, battering his groundstrokes at an average speed of 85 mph (peaking at 114 mph).
The final score was 6–7(9–11), 6–4, 6–4, 2–6, 6–4, I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed a second round or a Spaniard’s misfortune as much!
2: Semi Final 2013 – Juan Martin Del Potro vs Novak Djokovic
The longest semi-final in Wimbledon history at 4 hours and 43 minutes, and probably the greatest in terms of quality and grit from both competitors, we got our money’s worth! This match was really a tale of Delpo’s bravery and ability to play through pain, having aggravated an existing knee-injury in the quarter-finals against David Ferrer.
This meant he had to deal with the fastest and most elastic mover in the ATP using using nothing but his power, while trying to cover the court with the wingspan afforded by his 6’6 height.
I have never seen such casual strength in groundstrokes since that match, Del Potro would flick his wrist lazily at the ball yet generate the *crack* of a 90mph forehand, bringing gasps from the crowd on many occasions.
Djokovic though, was able to capitalise on the weaker backhand to generate errors and to use his strong returns against Delpo’s service games.
For hour after hour, neither man gave the other an inch, but eventually, the Djoker prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, afterwards calling it “…one of the best matches I’ve been a part of”.
1: Final 2009 – Andy Roddick vs Roger Federer
Much is made of the “greatest match ever” between Nadal and Federer in the 2008 final, I didn’t care for it really. They’d played each other a bunch of times and I was bored of it, I turned off the TV in relief when it finished.
For me the finest final of all time came the following year, when a resurgent Andy Roddick was playing with the kind of energy and quality that one felt he needed to overcome his nemesis. Federer was expected to crush the man he had beaten in 2 previous finals at SW19 and claim his 15th Major, sealing his legacy as the greatest ever player. Not all went his way though.
While Federer had cruised through his half of the draw, Roddick came in match-tough after his 5 set win over Hewitt in the quarters and 4 set defeat of Andy Murray in the semis. Both players’ serves were spectacular, though Roddick’s was predictably faster (127mph average to Federer’s 118mph) Federer actually had a higher winning percentage on first and second serves.
Nevertheless, the Roddick’s power and consistency ensured that Federer couldn’t control the match or break serve, this lead to the longest and most tense 5th set in tennis-final history. Watching it, I felt that eventually the American’s booming serve would carry his games while he could then concentrate on attacking the Federer serve. It seemed that the crowd was torn between wanting to see Federer make history and Roddick finally prevail and win another Slam.
It wasn’t to be, Federer broke Roddick’s serve at 14-15, for the first time in the match, to win his 6th Wimbledon and 15th Grand Slam 5–7, 7–6(8–6), 7–6(7–5), 3–6, 16–14. The match was the longest men’s singles final in tournament history with 77 games, breaking the record of 71 games set at the Australian Open 82 years earlier. Roddick received a rapturous ovation from the crowd for his efforts as he held his runner-up trophy, however, when asked to comment on the performance, he could only say “I lost”.