ATP WORLD TOUR SEASON REVIEW
Best Grand Slam Matches Of 2013 - Nos. 1-2
Best Of 2013
by Josh Meiseles|
ATPWorldTour.com reviews the two best Grand Slam matches of the year.
2. Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3, Wimbledon Semi-finals
The longest Wimbledon semi-final in history featured a mammoth slugfest between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro. The Big Four had dominated the Grand Slams for nearly the past four years and the Argentine was ready to break up the elite quartet.
Having twisted his left ankle and hyper-extended his left knee in a third round victory over Grega Zemlja, a hobbled del Potro entered Centre Court with a point to prove in his first major semi-final since claiming the US Open title in 2009. The Tower of Tandil had struggled to make a splash at the Grand Slam level since undergoing season-ending wrist surgery three years ago, but on this day, after nearly five hours of pulsating tennis, he made a booming statement on the game’s grandest stage.
An encore of their thrilling Indian Wells semi-final from earlier in the year, won by del Potro, one of the more riveting rivalries of 2013 was kicked into high gear at the All England Club. While del Potro was seeking to become just the second Argentine finalist at Wimbledon (Nalbandian 2002), Djokovic was looking to avenge a straight-sets defeat on the same court as their bronze medal match from last year’s Summer Olympics.
Djokovic seemed to be firmly in control after capturing the third set tie-break and snatching an early break in the fourth. The fourth set was a majestic display of tennis, with each scorching del Potro forehand nearly leaving burn marks on the Centre Court grass and Djokovic defensive stabs that would have made an acrobat proud.
A scintillating shotmaking display would key a comeback by the Argentine, who valiantly broke back and forced another tie-break. Del Potro masterfully took charge of rallies in crucial moments, dictating with authority and effectively utilising his backhand down the line, as he did in their duel in the desert in Indian Wells. The Argentine summoned every last ounce of energy to deny Djokovic a pair of match points in the tie-break, defiantly obliterating forehands and diving for winners. He would reel off four consecutive points from down 4-6 to level the match at two sets apiece and bring the SW19 faithful to their feet.
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As del Potro’s energy level began to dip in the deciding set, however, Djokovic’s demeanor remained unchanged. As Stanislas Wawrinka experienced at the Australian Open, outlasting the Serb in a best-of-five setting requires Herculean stamina and fortitude, which del Potro struggled to attain. Djokovic would break for a 5-3 lead, eventually prevailing in four hours and 37 minutes.
“It was one of the best matches that I've been a part of, one of the most exciting definitely,” said Djokovic, who hit 80 winners, including 22 aces. “I'm privileged to be a winner of this match. It was so close, they couldn't separate us. Every time he was in tough situations he came up with unbelievable shots. But that's why he's a Grand Slam champion and right at the top.
1. Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 Roland Garros Semi-finals
What would become a pivotal match in the race for the year-end World No. 1 throne in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal entered Court Philippe Chatrier for their highly anticipated semi-final duel at Roland Garros. One of the more immaculate days of the tournament, at 27°C (80.3° Fahrenheit), the sunlight sliced through the terre battue as the Serb and the Spaniard traded blows for four hours and 37 minutes. History, legacy and revenge hung in the balance as the pair would write one of the greatest chapters of their storied rivalry, culminating in a drama-laden fifth set filled with pulsating rallies and sublime shotmaking.
Both players were battling for a shot at history, with Djokovic seeking to capture the Grand Slam trophy that has eluded him for so long and Nadal eyeing a record eighth Roland Garros crown. With a title, Djokovic would have become just the eighth man in history to complete the career Grand Slam, but Nadal had other ideas with revenge fresh on his mind. The then World No. 1 had dismissed Nadal in straight sets in the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters seven weeks prior, denying the Mallorca native a ninth consecutive title there.
The Spaniard was two points from victory when he led 6-5, 30/15 in the fourth set, but he tightened up and Djokovic fought back into contention. The most crucial moment of the match, and perhaps the year, came with Djokovic serving up 4-3 in the deciding set. After saving a break point at 30/40, the Serb lost his balance on a routine smash, falling into the net and thus forfeiting the point. Nadal would secure the break three points later and the entire complexion of the match would shift thereafter, with Djokovic failing to make any inroads in Nadal’s service games before eventually succumbing 9-7.
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“You need to love the game,” Nadal exclaimed after the match. “You [need to] appreciate what you are doing in every moment. These kinds of matches are very special. You don’t get to have the chance to play them every day.”
A year after defeating Djokovic in the 2012 final, the Spaniard would win his 22nd consecutive match and fourth successive title of the year against countryman David Ferrer in the final. It was just the second five-setter Nadal had encountered at Roland Garros, with the first being a first-round win over John Isner in 2011.
“I congratulate my opponent, because he showed the courage in the right moments and went for his shots,” said Djokovic. “When he was a break down in the fifth, he made some incredible shots from the baseline. I congratulate him, because that's why he's a champion.”