DECADE IN REVIEW
Near Misses Of The Decade
by ATP Staff|
Take a look back at the Top 5 most dramatic near misses of the past decade.
Guillermo Coria came into an all-Argentine final against Gaston Gaudio at 2004 Roland Garros as favourite to win his first Grand Slam title. The 22 year old had won 37 of his past 38 matches on clay and had dropped just one set (against Tim Henman in the semi-finals) en route to the final. With Gaudio crippled by nerves, Coria looked on course for a crushing victory as he raced to a 6-0, 6-3 lead. Gaudio fought back to force a fifth set, but was still forced to save two match points before sealing victory 0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6 to become the first Argentine to win Roland Garros since Guillermo Vilas in 1977. It was a heart-wrenching loss for Coria and his first defeat in 19 matches against Argentine opponents.
Andy Roddick came the closest yet to capturing the coveted Wimbledon crown in 2009 when he pushed Roger Federer to 16-14 in the longest fifth set in a final in Grand Slam history. The American had been thwarted by Federer in the 2004-05 Wimbledon finals, but looked set to lay his demons to rest with a devastating serving display for which Federer had no answer until the final game of the four-hour, 16-minute match.
Attempting to overturn his 2-18 record against Federer, Roddick was on the verge of taking a two-set lead against the Swiss when he muffed a backhand volley at 6-2 in the tie-break. Federer won the last six points of the tie-break to level the match. Undeterred, Roddick maintained his impenetrable serving to keep Federer at bay and was within touching point of victory as he held two break points at 8-8 in the final set. But that was to be his last chance for victory as Federer held on and finally made his break through in the 30th game of the fifth set, after 37 straight service holds from Roddick, to break the American’s heart and claim his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam crown. The final score: 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14.
3. Mathieu, France 2 Points From 2002 Davis Cup Title
Playing in his first Davis Cup tie, Paul-Henri Mathieu was on the brink of becoming a national hero in France when he led Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the decisive fifth rubber of the 2002 Davis Cup final. Playing in front of a raucous partisan crowd at the Palais Omnisports Paris Bercy, Mathieu had powered to a commanding two-set lead and looked set to bring home France’s 10th Davis Cup title.
Youzhny refused to yield, though, and exposed Mathieu’s vulnerabilities with changes of pace to claw his way back into the match. Mathieu led by a service break in the fourth set, and was two points from victory when leading 5-4 with deuce on Youzhny’s serve, but his fellow 20 year old – a late replacement for Yevgeny Kafelnikov - held his nerve and hit back to clinch a dramatic victory in four hours and 27 minutes. Youzhny, who was playing just his second live rubber, became the first player in the 102-year history of the competition to rally from a two-set deficit in a fifth and decisive match in a Davis Cup final. Final score: 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
Tennis, like life, is full of ‘what ifs?’. And one can only wonder if Michael Russell’s career would have taken a different trajectory had Gustavo Kuerten’s forehand landed long – instead of catching the baseline – when the young American held match point in the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2001.
Having become the first player in history to qualify at four consecutive Grand Slam events, then-23-year-old Russell took out former champion Sergi Bruguera in the second round and looked like dismissing defending champion Kuerten in straight sets when he held a match point at 5-3 in the third set. But Kuerten’s shot caught the baseline and the Brazilian went on to take the set in a tie-break and finish strongly to close out a 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-1 win.
Kuerten, who was the reigning ATP World Tour Champion, would go on to win his third Roland Garros crown and cement his place in tennis history. Russell jumped to No. 88 after Roland Garros but soon fell out of the Top 100 and it was not until February 2007 that he topped his career-high ranking, eventually rising as high as No. 60.
5. Pat Rafter’s Consecutive Wimbledon Finals Defeats, 2000 & 2001
Pat Rafter arguably boasted the best net game of his generation, yet he never won Wimbledon even when it was still the domain of serve/volleyers. But the Australian came awfully close two times at the start of the decade. In the 2000 final, after holding out Andre Agassi in five pulsating sets in the semi-finals, he led Pete Sampras by a set and 4-1 on Rafter’s serve in the second-set tie-break. But Sampras stormed back to win 6-7(10), 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2 in near darkness at 8.57 p.m. and claim his seventh and final Wimbledon crown - and a then-record 13th Grand Slam title.
The following year Rafter also took out Agassi in another five-set semi-final thriller for a place in the final against Goran Ivanisevic. Unlike Sampras’ unbeaten record in Wimbledon finals, Ivanisevic was 0-3 in Wimbledon deciders and needed a wildcard to play in the 2001 tournament. In a rain-delayed final played on Monday, Rafter led two sets to one and in the fifth set was within two points of victory when the Croatian served at 6-7, 15-30 before Ivanisevic rallied to win 9-7 in the fifth set, which at the time was the longest fifth set in Wimbledon finals history. The match was Rafter’s last at The All England Club.
What fans are saying on Facebook:
Jorge Vivanco Schenone - How about Federer being 3 points away of winning his 6th straight wimby last year and this year 2 points of winning his 6th straight us open?
William 'wilbow' Bowley - A pretty comprehensive list, but Andy Roddick at Wimby 2009 has to be the biggest near miss - unfortunately - as he was playing unbelievable faultless tennis yet still wasnt quite able to take the match. Surely the greatest ever Grand Slam final.