The 2011 tennis season delivered us some very memorable matches. I use the term “memorable” rather than best matches of the year because I think what one person terms a “best match” could be quite different to what...
The 2011 tennis season delivered us some very memorable matches. I use the term “memorable” rather than best matches of the year because I think what one person terms a “best match” could be quite different to what another person, observer or fan feels. Certainly there are some matches that go beyond belief and there is no question from anyone then. Such a match would have been that Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer when tennis was fired into the stratosphere. 2011 certainly did not, in my opinion, have a match like that but if you think otherwise then we want to hear from you. A close match, one that might go five sets, doesn’t mean it’s among the best match, and very possibly not even memorable. A quick match might just be a memorable match, especially if it is played at 11pm and everyone wants to go home (just kidding). Let’s look at the women’s side of things first and in my mind six matches stood out. We start with the Australian Open which hosted two matches that I felt were worthy of being listed among the memorable of 2011. The first was the last 16 match between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone. It was not played on the main Rod Laver Arena but from about mid-way through the third set it garnered all the attention around Melbourne Park. You wondered if either woman wanted to win the match. Talk about tension and drama. Net cords were clipped at crucial times; lines were being kissed at amazing moments and on and on and on the match went. Schiavone eventually won 6-4, 1-6, 16-14. The second from Melbourne was the final that saw the “darling of tennis” Kim Clijsters defeated the “new darling of tennis” Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was a charming match that also swayed back and forth. It had funny moments, some great tennis and it was THE match of the Aussie Open – it was one everyone enjoyed. History was recorded at the French Open for my next choice and it was the final when Li defeated the defending champion Schiavone who was favoured to win, 6-4, 7-6. You couldn’t help but rejoice for the Chinese player, her smile was infectious. At times the tennis lacked excitement but the historical fact puts it right up there. As an Australian I would be sent to a penal colony for not mentioning Samantha’s Stosur’s performances at the US Open and in my mind there were two. The first was her gutsy effort to beat Maria Kirilenko. Stsour should have won in straight sets but a lapse saw it go to three and most feared Sam’s mental strength would give way but she fought so hard to win 6-2, 6-7(15) 6-3. It was a turning point for the Aussie. Then in the final when so few thought she could beat the resurgent Serena Williams she produced probably the greatest performance of her career to win 6-2, 6-3 and end a drought of 31 years to give an Australian woman a major title. The look on Stosur’s face was worth the price of a ticket. And finally to Istanbul, the final of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships that saw Petra Kvitova defeat Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. That pretty much sealed the Czech’s position as the player of the year even though she didn’t have the No1 ranking on the computer. Now to the men and again I have six matches. Certainly the best of five set format like at the majors tends to create a sense of excitement and thrills. But the first match I offer you was not at a Slam it was the final of Memphis. Andy Roddick defeated Milos Raonic who had built a name at the Australian Open and had won San Jose the week before Memphis. Roddick prevailed 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 but the hitting was extraordinary from the two men. It was powerhouse stuff but so accurate and it ended with one of the most stunning match points possible. So amazing it was spoken of for weeks after. Novak Djokovic had been undefeated all season till he got to the semis of the French Open and he met Roger Federer and in a match book-ended by tiebreaks. Federer played a stunning match to end what seemed like the Serb’s 1,000 match win streak 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6. Wimbledon featured two matches of note. The first was Robin Soderling’s comeback win over Lleyton Hewitt that see-sawed till the end 6-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. Then in another come-from-behind victory at the All England Club, Roger Federer losing for the first time at a major after leading two sets to love as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga left the Centre Court stunned, 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. The level of play was so high and gripping. Federer featured yet again and yet again it was for a similar situation but this time it was after holding match point. In the semis of the US Open he lead Novak Djokovic 7-6, 6-4 but lost the next two sets 3-6, 2-6 and had match point in the fifth. The atmosphere was stunning because after a week of foul weather fans were seeing some priceless tennis. Djokovic went on to win 7-5 in the decider. The last of my picks for the most memorable men’s matches of 2011 was completely different to the other ones nominated. This one saw just 15 games played and once again it featured Federer and his No1 rival Rafael Nadal. It was at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Federer won 6-3, 6-0 in one of the most priceless and purest displays of tennis I have seen for a very long time. This was the Federer from his glory days and memorable for the stunning level at which he played and the fact he denied Nadal any opportunities. So how do you think the list stacks up? Do you have a list and if you do let us know? Your opinions are important to us here at We Are Tennis.