2009 IN REVIEW
The Best 5 Matches of 2009
by ATP Staff|
Take a look back at the five best matches of 2009...
Roger Federer has inflicted a lot of Grand Slam pain on Andy Roddick over the years, but his epic five-set victory in this year’s Wimbledon final was perhaps the most devastating of all blows. Although Federer boasts a 19-2 career head-to-head record over Roddick, the American has produced some of his best performances against Federer in their four meetings in Grand Slams finals (Wimbledon 2004-05, ’09 and US Open ’06). And his effort against Federer at Wimbledon this year was something special.
Chasing a record 15th Grand Slam title, newly crowned Roland Garros champion Federer toiled for four hours and 16 minutes before breaking the Roddick serve, while needing to serve 50 aces himself to eke out a 16-14 fifth-set victory. At 77 games, it was the longest final in Grand Slam history, eclipsing the 62-game Wimbledon final one year earlier between Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Roddick had four consecutive set points at 6-2 in the second-set tie-break to take a two-sets-to-love lead. Having squandered the first three set points, Roddick botched a backhand volley to allow Federer back onto even terms; the Swiss ultimately won six straight points to steal the set.
Despite also losing the third set in a tie-break, and his poor record against Federer, Roddick showed the depth of his character in the fourth when he dug in and broke Federer in the fourth game. “At that point, like everything else, there's two options: you lay down or you keep going. The second option sounded better to me,” Roddick said of his attitude at the start of the fourth set.
The longest final set in Wimbledon finals’ history may not have happened had Federer converted his first break point chance since the first set, in Roddick’s first service game of the fifth. But Roddick, who had two break points of his own at 8-8, was clutch throughout, holding serve 11 consecutive times in the fifth set to stay alive.
But after 37 consecutive holds, Roddick finally dropped serve in the 30th game of the final set when he sent a forehand long, thus ending his hopes of claiming his first major title since his breakthrough victory at the US Open in 2003.
Federer, who one month earlier had completed a career Grand Slam by winning Roland Garros, became the greatest men’s Grand Slam singles winner with a 15th major crown. The twin victories also saw Federer reclaim the No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking, which he would retain for the remainder of the season. He finished ATP World Tour Champion for the fifth time and became just the second man (Ivan Lendl) to reclaim the year-end No. 1 ranking after having held and then lost it.
In the longest best-of-three-sets match on the ATP World Tour in the Open Era, Rafael Nadal won a brutal 4 hr., 3 min. dogfight with rival Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open in May.
Djokovic, who had recently tested Nadal in the finals of the other two clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Monte-Carlo and Rome, attacked the Spaniard with a barrage of deep, flat ground strokes, which made it more difficult for the clay king to wind up on his killer forehand. The Serb was also rewarded for his willingness to hit aggressively to the open forehand court, nailing a series of clean winners and limiting Nadal’s ability to run around his backhand.
Djokovic offered up just two break points in the match, and was broken only once.
Nadal saved a total of four break points in three different games in the second set to stay in the match. Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead in the third set but Nadal broke back immediately and the set went on serve to 6-6. Nadal, who had never lost a tie-break to Djokovic, was forced to save match points at 5-6, 6-7 and 8-9 before he eventually took the ‘breaker 11-9 when a Djokovic lunging forehand wide in the court fell into the net.
Appearing in his fourth consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final, Djokovic did everything but win. "I’m very disappointed that I can play this well and still not win a match," he said. "I think that I’ve played my best tennis on this surface.”
By advancing to the final, Nadal came within one match of becoming the first player in history to win all three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournaments in the same season. But, despite being arguably the fittest player on tour, Nadal was clearly below his physical best the following day in the final against Roger Federer, who handed Nadal just his second loss in 27 clay-court finals.
Perhaps the semi-final took more out of Nadal than was known. In his next appearance he suffered a shock fourth-round exit at Roland Garros and later withdrew from Wimbledon and did not win another tournament for the year.
The Australian Open has a recent history of producing surprise finalists, and Fernando Verdasco had every chance of extending the trend when he took fellow Spanish left-hander Rafael Nadal into a fifth set in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in January. Verdasco was full of confidence after helping Spain win the Davis Cup final on Argentine soil at the end of 2008 and also was in the best shape of his life after working in Las Vegas in the off season with Gil Reyes, Andre Agassi’s former fitness guru.
Nadal, who already held the Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles, was determined to add the Australian Open to his collection and join a select group of players to have won three different Grand Slam trophies.
Both players hit the ball with ferocious power in a 5-hour, 10-minute modern-day slugfest. With spectacular defence, Nadal gave nothing to Verdasco, who faced 20 break points in the match, of which he saved 16. In contrast, Nadal offered up just four break points in 28 service games, and was broken just twice.
With such a grueling semi-final, there were doubts about Nadal’s ability to recover well enough to challenge Federer in the final. But Nadal would not be denied, and went on to take out Federer in the five-set final and become the first man at the Australian Open since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win the semi-finals and final in five sets to take the title.
Taylor Dent and Ivan Navarro turned back the clock back late Friday night on Grandstand court at the US Open as they put on a serve-and-volley feast for fans. The players combined to make around 250 net approaches, with both successful more than 60 percent of the time. Dent had not previously seen the Spaniard play and expected to face a baseliner. It was only after he got the heads up from former pro Justin Gimelstob that Navarro was a serve/volleyer than the American firmed up a game plan.
Dent and Navarro also brought the heat on their first serves, with Dent firing the tournament’s fastest serve of 147 mph; Navarro got as high as 130 mph. One of Dent’s thunderbolts snapped the net strap, forcing a seven-minute delay to the match, which ultimately ticked over the four-hour mark. In a serving shootout, Navarro put an astonishing 81 percent of first serves into play; Dent made 71 percent of first serves. Dent fired 20 aces and topped 140 mph around 10 times during the match.
In an emotion-charged fifth set, Dent rode the support of rowdy home fans to a 6-4, 5-7, 6-7(1), 7-5, 7-6(9) win after saving one match point in the tie-break. After shaking hands Dent grabbed the umpire’s microphone and screamed, “You guys are unbelievable. I love you!”
Dent, playing his first US Open since 2005, was told by doctors that his career was over after two back surgeries in 2006 and 2007.
Not only is Navarro an unusual character as a serve/volleying Spaniard, he has a quirky habit of changing racquets each game, using one racquet for serving and another for returning. In the fifth-set tie-break he kept a second racquet at the back of the court.
When Roger Federer won seven of the first eight points against Nikolay Davydenko in their Barclays ATP World Tour Finals semi-final, there was every reason to believe that the Swiss was set to extend his unbeaten 12-0 career record against the Russian. But seemingly in the blink of an eye it was Davydenko who had opened a 4-1 lead with exceptional court coverage and crisp ball striking that made Federer do the bulk of the running.
After being broken three times in the first set, Federer dropped just five points on serve in the second set as the quality of the match soared even higher. The Swiss took a rare opportunity on Davydenko’s serve in the 10th game to clinch the second set and force a decider in front of 17,500 delighted fans.
The Russian looked on the verge of defeat in the 10th game of the third set as a huge stroke of luck for Federer saw a net cord dribble over Davydenko’s side of the net to hand the Swiss a 0/15 lead, before an incredible behind-the-baseline smash from Federer, in response to an Davydenko overhead, saw him take a 0/30 lead and move to within two points of victory. But that was the closest to defeat Davydenko would come; he never went down match point and in the following game he broke Federer with a stunning backhand return.
There was still one more twist to play out: With Davydenko serving at 6-5, Federer earned a break point but the Russian coolly righted the ship with a forehand winner and soon after served it out.
Davydenko went on to claim the biggest title of his career when he beat US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the final. That completed Davydenko’s tournament sweep of the winners of all four 2009 Grand Slam titles following his victories over Federer (Roland Garros and Wimbledon) and, in round-robin play, Rafael Nadal (Australian Open).
Davydenko, who finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the final in Shanghai last year, seemed just as happy to have finally beaten Federer as to have reached the final. “I think all my family, everybody who supports me, was waiting for this moment when I can beat Federer, because I have beaten everyone in the Top 10 except Federer,” he said. “I was thinking it was coming maybe in 2010 or '11. But in 2009, at the end of the season, it's a good feeling.”