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Biggest Upsets Of 2013: Top 5

Best Of 2013

Nieminen© Getty ImagesJarkko Nieminen prevailed against Juan Martin del Potro in Monte-Carlo. reviews the Top 5 upsets of the year. 

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5. Jarkko Nieminen d. Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4), Monte-Carlo 3rd RD
One day after outlasting Milos Raonic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Jarkko Nieminen backed up the effort by knocking out World No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro in another third set tie-break. The Finn, 31 years old at the time, had been unable to take a set off of the Argentine in four previous meetings but came out determined in a third-round battle that seesawed in momentum.

After splitting the first two sets, the lead continuously changed hands in the third. Del Potro won the first two games, Nieminen took the next four, before the Argentine countered to earn a chance to serve for the match at 5-4. Nieminen fought back and earned the first match point in the 12th game, but del Potro saved it and forced a tie-break. Nieminen took the early 3-0 lead in the decider, fell behind by losing four points in a row, and then won the last four to clinch victory.

“This was one of the matches that I will remember,” said Nieminen, who snapped a 17-match losing streak against Top 10 players and reached his first Masters 1000 quarter-final since 2006. “I knew it would be difficult to finish this match, but at the same time I didn’t do anything wrong so it was still easy to stay positive. Already this year I have won many matches and many tight matches, so I feel pretty [confident] when I get in the tight situations. I’m not panicking.”

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4. Federico Delbonis d. Roger Federer 7-6(7), 7-6(4), Hamburg SF
DelbonisGoing into his semi-final match against Roger Federer at the bet-at-home Open, World No. 114 Federico Delbonis merely relished the opportunity of playing the 17-time Grand Slam champion. “My key was to enjoy the match and enjoy playing this kind of player, because he's the best of all time,” admitted Delbonis.

The Argentine, who had saved two match points in beating Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals, far surpassed his own hopes against the four-time former champion. Federer, debuting a larger racquet frame in Hamburg, went up the early break, but the left-hander broke right back and won four of his next six service games at love. Delbonis saved one set point in the tie-break and capitalised on his fourth opportunity with a smash winner.

Though he was unable to convert four break chances in the second set, the qualifier maintained his composure to prevail in a tie-break for a third straight set. Federer made successive groundstroke errors to gift Delbonis two match points, and the Argentine converted on his first as the top seed netted a forehand.

With his first win over a Top 10 player, Delbonis reached his first ATP World Tour final. “I feel like I’m dreaming,” he said.

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3. Horacio Zeballos d. Rafael Nadal 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4, Viña del Mar Final
Zeballos, NadalHoracio Zeballos played the unexpected role of spoiler in Rafael Nadal’s return from a seven-month injury layoff.

Three years earlier at Roland Garros, the Argentine had managed to win just seven games against the Spaniard. With confidence from knocking out three seeds in as many days, the 73rd-ranked Zeballos held his own against Nadal in the VTR Open final, as neither player dropped serve through the first two sets.

With the World No. 5 two points away from completing the storybook triumph at 6-all in the second set tie-break, Zeballos refused to blink, sending the match to a decisive set in front of the pro-Nadal crowd. He lost his opening service game, but immediately regained the break. At 5-4, the Argentine capitalised on triple match point on Nadal’s serve to claim the upset in two hours and 46 minutes.

Zeballos became the first left-handed player to defeat Nadal on red clay and just the third player behind Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to beat the Mallorcan in a clay-court final.

“It's a dream for me,” said the 27 year old. “To be able to play a final against Nadal was already good enough for me. It’s a moment that will stay in my memory for the rest of my life.”

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2. Steve Darcis d. Rafael Nadal 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 6-4, Wimbledon 1st RD
Darcis“@#!*. It’s bad luck,” said Steve Darcis when he saw that he had drawn two-time champion Rafael Nadal in the first round of Wimbledon.

A shocking second-round exit to World No. 100 Lukas Rosol at the All England Club marked the end of Nadal’s 2012 season, but the Spaniard had come back with a vengeance in 2013. Entering this year’s Championships, he had already won seven titles, reached the final in all nine of his tournaments appearances and gone unbeaten in 22 straight matches.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the 135th-ranked Darcis emerged victorious to hand Nadal his first lost in the first round of a major. Darcis came up big at the end of the second set as Nadal threatened to draw level. He broke the Spaniard in the 12th game and, after relinquishing a 6-3 lead in the tie-break, fought off a set point down 7-8. With two sets under his belt, Darcis opened up a 2-0 lead to start the third and saved Nadal’s lone break back opportunity in the eighth game. He clinched the match with his 13th ace and fell to his knees in celebration.

“You play tennis to play those matches on big courts, full stadium, against unbelievable players,” said Darcis, the lowest-ranked player to defeat Nadal in seven seasons. “I enjoyed it from the first point to the end. Of course, you enjoy more when you win. But it was a great, great moment.”

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1. Sergiy Stakhovsky d. Roger Federer 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5, 7-6(5), Wimbledon 2nd RD
Stakhovsky, FedererSergiy Stakhovsky had recently made a start in professional tennis the last time Roger Federer lost before the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam championship. The year was 2004. The Swiss went on to reach 36 straight quarter-final appearances.

Though the 116th-ranked Stakhovsky had gone 0-20 against Top 10 players entering the second-round match, he produced the biggest shock on a day dubbed “Black Wednesday” following the exits of seven four World No. 1s on both the men’s and women’s sides. “You’re playing the guy and then you’re playing his legend, which is following him because he won it seven times,” the Ukrainian explained.

Stakhovsky relied on a superb serve and volley display to stun the defending champion, dropping serve just once in the three-hour encounter. He saved Federer’s first two break point chances of the match in the 11th game of the second set with two unreturned serves, and claimed the first service break of the match in the 11th game of the ensuing set.

After Stakhovsky secured an early break in the fourth set, Federer fought back to level at 3-all. The Swiss earned set point chance in the 12th game, only to see his opponent put away another volley winner. Federer’s 10th anniversary celebration at the All England Club came to a premature end as he faltered on a backhand down the line on Stakhovsky’s second match point opportunity in the tie-break.

“I'm in disbelief that it happened,” said a stunned Stakhovsky. “It was magic. I couldn't play any better today. I played everything I needed and wanted to do. I volleyed incredibly well today. It was a fantastic day for me.”

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Read Biggest Upsets Nos. 10-6

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