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Biggest Comebacks Of 2013: Nos. 10-6

Best Of 2013

Tsonga© AFP/Getty Images. Benneteau/Zimonjic image © Getty ImagesJo-Wilfried Tsonga's five match points saved in the Marseille quarter-finals was the most in a winning effort in 2013 (in singles). reviews the Top 10 comebacks of the year, beginning with Nos. 10-6. 

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10. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Bernard Tomic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(10) – Saved 5 M.P., Marseille Quarter-finals

It was a tie-break for the ages. A partisan French crowd packed the Palais des sports de Marseille to see their native son’s bid for a second Open 13 title hang by a thread during a quarter-final clash with the enigmatic Bernard Tomic.

After battling back to level the match at a set apiece, third-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to save five match points in a deciding tie-break. A free-swinging Tomic put up a stern fight, staving off eight of nine break points faced in total, but was unable to secure the victory as the pressure mounted deep in the third set.

The dramatic final set tie-break saw a clutch Tsonga deny a pair of match points before Tomic failed to pull the trigger on a backhand on his third. The “out” call never came to his rescue and a wry smile crept across the Australian’s face. After double faulting on the very next point, Tsonga would give Tomic a shot at redemption, but the 20 year old was unwilling to oblige, pulling a forehand wide. A fifth and final chance to seal the victory was brushed aside two points later and Tsonga would go on to cap the thrilling tie-break with his 19th ace. The five match points saved would prove to be the most in a winning effort on the ATP World Tour in 2013. Tsonga would fight off another match point in the final against Tomas Berdych, en route to the title in the French coastal city.

“I found the way to stay in the match and it’s not just a miracle. He will tell you that I played well on those points,” Tsonga said after the two hour thriller. “In moments like these, you need to be brave to overcome your fear and I, personally, have to play more aggressive.”  

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9. Joao Sousa d. Julien Benneteau 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 – Saved 1 M.P., Kuala Lumpur Final

“Tennis is like this: If you don’t go for it, you'll never make it, so I just went for it.”

Armed with a simple yet potent philosophy, Joao Sousa began his quest for a maiden ATP World Tour crown with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Aiming to claim Portugal’s first title, Sousa entered the final bout at the Malaysian Open with a 21-22 career tour-level record, squaring off with a veteran eight-time finalist.

SousaThe 24 year old would exhibit composure far beyond his experience would suggest, rebounding from an early deficit and saving a match point to upset Julien Benneteau for the title. More than 7,000 miles (11,500 km) separate Lisbon and Kuala Lumpur, yet on 29 September the Malaysian capital became drenched in red and green. The moment was clearly special for Sousa, but the implications of his achievement extended to the national level as he became the first Portuguese player to bring home a trophy to the Iberian country.

“I'm so tired mentally and physically but I just feel amazing, it’s just a dream come true winning my first title here in Malaysia,” said an elated Sousa. “I'm really happy to win this title... I hope this helps [my] confidence to try and do better things.”

Sousa overcame six of eight break points faced, including one while serving down match point at 2-6, 4-5. A backhand return winner by Benneteau set up his lone match point, which Sousa saved, slipping a brilliant running forehand down the line past the approaching Frenchman. Galvanised by the moment, Sousa would hold, reeling off five consecutive games thereafter to square the match at one set all and grab the early lead in the third. He would not relinquish his advantage, battling to the finish.

As exhilarating as the victory was for Sousa, the heartbreak for Benneteau was equally devastating, considering the Frenchman fell to 0-9 in ATP World Tour finals with the defeat. Keyed by stunning upsets of top seed David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and fourth seed Jurgen Melzer in the semis, Sousa’s title would make him the seventh of eight first-time winners this year.

Read Match Report | First Time Winner Spotlight

8. Marcel Granollers d. Juan Monaco 0-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, Kitzbuhel Final

Marcel Granollers pulled off perhaps the most improbable comeback of the year, rallying from a 0-6, 0-1 deficit in the bet-at-home Cup Kitzbuhel final to shock second-seed Juan Monaco. “Half on my way to the airport,” as Granollers candidly stated, the then World No. 53 won just nine points in dropping a first set bagel.

The Spaniard would swing the momentum in his favour in the second set when he broke for a 4-3 lead and surged to a 4-0 advantage in the third. Granollers withstood a late charge to win his fourth title and first since topping Monaco in the final of the Valencia Open 500 in 2011. It was the first time a player recovered from a 0-6 opening set to win an ATP World Tour title since Nikolay Davydenko defeated Rafael Nadal 0-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 in the 2010 final of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, in Doha.

“I kept on fighting and started to play better in the middle of the second set,” said Granollers, who ousted two-time defending champion Robin Haase in the semi-finals. “But until you lose the last point, you are still standing and I kept on going. I probably got more nervous than usual when I had to close the match at 5-3 in the third, but it’s normal to get that way in a final. I played very well after that and I did it. I came into this week playing well so I knew I could do something here.”

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7. Roger Federer d. Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Round Robin

For Roger Federer, a deficit is merely an opportunity to demonstrate his trademark resiliency. The great ones embrace the challenge of staging a comeback and the Swiss maestro is the poster child. 

“I was probably slightly angry more than thinking it’s going to be over soon,” said Federer, discussing falling behind 0-3 in the third set against Juan Martin del Potro, with a semi-final berth on the line at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. “It's one of those moments today, because I fought back the whole match – the first, second set. Here we go again.”

With the winner advancing to face Rafael Nadal in the semis of the season finale, Federer and del Potro battled for the third time in three weeks. Del Potro had gotten the better of Federer in the Basel final, but the 32 year old exacted revenge the following week at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris. The rubber round-robin match in London did not start the way the Swiss had hoped, with del Potro breaking to open the match and sprinting to a 5-1 lead behind a slew of Federer unforced errors.

Del Potro would break for a 2-1 lead in the second set and the rout was on – or so it seemed. A del Potro double fault would give Federer the break back in the sixth game and they would need a tie-break to decide the set, which was won by the six-time champion on an ace. His momentum would be short-lived, however, with the Argentine snagging a 3-0 lead in the third set.  An invigorated Federer would find a way back once again, reeling off seven of the last nine games and saving a break point while serving for the match.

The point of the tournament, and No. 2 in’s Hot Shots of 2013 countdown, came with del Potro serving at 4-4 in the third set.

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With that forehand winner, Federer snatched the momentum for good and he would seal the victory with his 10th ace, toppling the Tower of Tandil for an 11th semi-final berth in 12 years at the Final Showdown.

“For the first time I was almost feeling like I was kind of in the lead,” said Federer about his fight to break back in the third set. “[It was a] great finish. I was very happy. To get the victory was a great feeling.”

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6. Julien Benneteau/Nenad Zimonjic d. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan 4-6, 7-6(4), 14-12 – Saved 7 M.P., Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters Doubles Final

In an otherwise exceptional season, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan weren’t immune to the occasional bump in the road. In three of their four defeats in finals this year, the Bryans held championship points in Match tie-breaks. The second such occurrence happened at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Just two weeks prior, Nenad Zimonjic held off the charging Americans 15-13 in the fifth set of their Davis Cup Quarter-final rubber and on this day he would team with Frenchman Julien Benneteau to deny the twins seven match points for the title.

“When you save seven match points, you need a little bit of luck,” said Benneteau. “But we played very wellBenneteau, Zimonjic on those points. We still believed in ourselves until the end and it paid off.”

The two-time defending champions trailed 3-0 in the second set when the skies closed and play was halted for nearly three hours due to rain. Upon resumption, the Americans took the initiative, taking five of the next six games. The French-Serbian duo would save their first match point while serving down 5-4 later in the set and a tense Match tie-break would ensue soon after. The Bryans held four consecutive match points leading 9-5, but were unable to convert. They would eventually fall 14-12 when Bob Bryan was unable to handle a Benneteau shot.

“They are such champions,” said Zimonjic about the Bryans. “We knew they were going to come out strong. They never give up. We really had to play unbelievable to win at the end.”

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Coming tomorrow... The Top Five Comebacks of 2013.

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