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Best Grand Slam Matches Of 2013 - Nos. 3-5

Best Of 2013

Haas© AFP/Getty Images. Images below are © Getty Images.Tommy Haas needed 13 match points to defeat John Isner in their third round encounter at Roland Garros. reviews the Top 5 Grand Slam matches of the year, beginning with Nos. 5-3.

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5. Tommy Haas d. John Isner 7-5, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-7(10), 10-8, Roland Garros third round
Tommy Haas needed four hours and 37 minutes and a Grand Slam record 13 match points to thwart a stern challenge from John Isner in the third round at Roland Garros. The Bullring was electric as Isner steadily began plotting a comeback from down two sets to none, seeking his second such win in three days. The American was sensationally clutch in the big moments, aggressively attacking Haas’s serve to deny match point after match point. He also turned in an impressive serving display of his own, firing 27 aces and 92 winners while powering through 20 of 23 break points faced.

Despite being down a break in the deciding set, following a marathon tie-break won by Isner 12-10, Haas remained calm and staved off the hard-charging 19th seed. A Roland Garros remembered for its inspirational performances from its elder statesmen, from Tommy Robredo reaching the quarter-finals after three consecutive comebacks to David Ferrer advancing to his first Grand Slam final, the 35 year old Haas demonstrated incredible fortitude and stamina.

The German would save a match point of his own and, as Isner’s body began to succumb to the rigours of over nine combined hours on court in consecutive matches, Haas made the deciding breakthrough in the 17th game of the fifth set.

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Haas would improve to 21-20 in five-setters in his career and it would be Isner’s fifth straight five-set defeat at a Grand Slam. It was the second match of the year to feature a victory on a 13th match point, after Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol defeated Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli 24-22 in a fifth set in the first round of Davis Cup World Group action.

Even more remarkably, Haas would show no ill-effects of his marathon battle with Isner in the fourth round, proceeding to rout Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 to advance to his first quarter-final at Roland Garros in his 12th appearance.

“It's crazy,” said a relieved Haas. “It was a big roller coaster with not many thoughts in between. He had match point at 4-5, and somehow I saved that one. It went back and forth. It's definitely going to be one of the best matches to look back on, for sure.”

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4. Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, US Open Final
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met for an Open Era record 37th time as they squared off for the US Open crown. Djokovic entered Arthur Ashe Stadium on a chilly Monday evening with a point to prove, having dropped five of the previous six meetings with his Spanish rival. Nadal had claimed their two most recent encounters by the slimmest of margins, defeating Djokovic 9-7 in a fifth set at Roland Garros earlier in the year, and ousting the Serb in a third set tie-break in the Coupe Rogers semi-finals.

Despite holding the hard court advantage, Djokovic struggled to penetrate Nadal’s defenses and found himselfDjokovic, Nadal behind from the onset, with the Mallorca native breaking in the third game of the opening set. Djokovic was unable to sustain the momentum from stealing the second set and securing an early break in the third as Nadal rose to the occasion, rediscovering the recipe to his success from the first set. He would continue to frustrate Djokovic with great depth on his returns, opening the court with his kicking forehand and discovering sensational angles. After failing to convert on a trio of break points at 0/40 in the ninth game of the third set, the match began to unravel rapidly for the Belgrade native. Nadal would claim eight of the next nine games for the victory in three hours and 21 minutes.

Nadal had missed last year’s US Open due to a knee injury and called it “very, very emotional” to return and win the title. “Probably only my team knows how much [today’s match] means for me,” he said during the trophy presentation. “Playing against Novak always is a very special feeling. Probably nobody brings my game to that limit like Novak did.”

Djokovic remained atop the Emirates ATP Rankings despite the defeat, but his hold on the World No. 1 mantle loosened considerably, and it would only be a matter of time before Nadal usurped his throne. Nadal celebrated his 13th major crown with the victory, and second in Flushing Meadows, extending his winning streak on hard courts in 2013 to 22 straight.

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3. Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10, Australian Open fourth round
Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka opened the 2013 Grand Slam season with one for the ages. An intense, high-octane battle from first ball to match point, Wawrinka’s breakout performance would prove to be a harbinger of a career year to follow.

This duel Down Under had the makings of a one-way affair on paper. Djokovic had won the previous 10 FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, dating back to 2007, and only relinquished one hard court set during the streak. Astoundingly, Wawrinka had dropped 18 of his previous 19 meetings against Top 5 opposition. From the onset it was evident that the Swiss was out to reverse the trend. 

Djokovic, WawrinkaWawrinka sprinted to a resounding early advantage, exhibiting a master class display to stun Djokovic for a 6-1, 5-2 lead. The Lausanne native was outplaying Djokovic at his own game, turning in an inspired defensive performance that left the World No. 1 off balance and out of his comfort zone. Wawrinka ruled the backhand-to-backhand exchanges, breaking down Djokovic’s world class shot and pulling the trigger early and often for winners. Djokovic found himself broken five consecutive times through the early stages of the second set, striking just one forehand winner in the first 12 games.

The turning point of the match came when Wawrinka misfired on four straight first serves while serving for the set at 6-1, 5-3 30/0. Djokovic would reel off five games in a row, snatching the second set and eventually the third.

Wawrinka impressively maintained his high level of play and remained focused as Djokovic raised his game. The Swiss punctuated the fourth set with a forehand down the line after an outrageous rally. The intensity would carry into the fifth set as Wawrinka broke to open the decider. The World No. 17’s aggressive approach would crumble late, however, converting on just one of eight break points in the final set. Djokovic would break back and they would remain on serve until 11-10 when the Serb capped a 20-shot rally with a backhand pass on his third match point.

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This wasn’t a match you merely witnessed. It was a visceral, tangible experience of seismic proportions.

“I think it's by far my best match I ever played, especially in five sets against the No. 1 player,” declared Wawrinka.

“These are the matches that you live for, you practise for,” Djokovic said. “You want to be on the centre court and playing on such a high level for five hours. It's incredible.”

While the five-hour battle proved to be a minor obstacle in Djokovic’s quest to three-peat Down Under, it undoubtedly gave Wawrinka the confidence to compete against the game’s elite and take the next step in 2013. Another thrilling five-setter in the US Open semi-finals would solidify the newfound rivalry as one of the greatest of the year.

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Coming Thursday: The 2 Best Grand Slam Matches of 2013

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