Biggest ATP World Tour Comebacks Of 2017
Continuing our Season In Review Series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the biggest ATP World Tour comebacks of 2017:
5-tie. Novak Djokovic d. Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3 - Doha SF
Borna Coric d. Philipp Kohlschreiber 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 - Marrakech F
Five for five at No. 5. A pair of five-match point saving thrillers kick off our list, with both Novak Djokovic and Borna Coric rallying from a set and a break down to dramatically escape from the jaws of defeat.
For Djokovic, the drama played out in Doha at the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open, where he dodged five match points against Fernando Verdasco in a second-set tie-break. The Serbian, who was No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings at the time, was seeking a strong start to 2017 after relinquishing the top spot to Andy Murray to conclude the 2016 season. He would go on to lift the trophy, defeating Murray in the final, but his hopes were nearly extinguished in the semis.
Verdasco led 6-4, 2-0, but Djokovic would conjure one of his vintage moments of magic, breaking back for 4-all in the second set and eventually forcing a tie-break. There, he erased four straight match points from 2/6 down - and another at 6/7 with a rifled return at Verdasco's feet - to level the encounter. He would not look back from there, breaking twice in the decider to cross the finish line. It marked the third time Djokovic erased five match points in his career. He also did it against Murray in 2012 and against Florent Serra in 2009.
“It was quite a thrilling experience for me to be able to go five match points down... I'm obviously very pleased because you need these kind of matches, these kind of confidence boosters, for whatever is coming up after that,” Djokovic said. “He had three out of five match points with his serve, and three, four of the five match points he had a forehand to finish it off and he didn't."
While Djokovic has accumulated a history of mesmerising escapes during his 15-year career, Coric experienced his first bout of heart-stopping drama on a sun-kissed afternoon in Marrakech. You always remember your first ATP World Tour title and this was one that the Croatian will certainly never forget.
His final opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber had endured heartbreak just six weeks prior in Dubai, when he squandered seven match points against Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, and it would follow him from Asia to Africa. In search of his eighth ATP World Tour crown, the German would concede a set and a break lead on two occasions as Coric refused to go down quietly.
The drama would hit a jaw-dropping crecendo with the #NextGenATP star serving to stay in the match at 6-5 in the second set, denying five championship points. Exhibiting his steely resolve, he punched a dipping volley winner to turn aside the second match point and later fired a clutch service winner to deny the fifth. He would eventually navigate to the finish line 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 after two hours and 38 minutes, lifting his first ATP World Tour trophy.
"I would say that's my biggest comeback, I've never saved five match points," said Coric. "Especially in such an important match, I served very well in the big points. It's an awesome feeling."
4. Jack Sock d. Kyle Edmund 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) - Paris 2R
Jack Sock had one foot on a plane heading home to the United States. Trailing 1-5 in the deciding set against Kyle Edmund in the second round of the Rolex Paris Masters, his season was over. A long break filled with rest and relaxation was in the cards. In other words, it was time for some golf.
That's how the script was written. But the 25-year-old had a plot twist that no one saw coming. Not even Sock himself had foreseen what would transpire over the next 30 minutes - and subsequent five days.
The Nebraska native completed one of the most dramatic sprints to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in tournament history, storming back from the 1-5 deficit to stun Edmund and less than a week later hoisting the Paris trophy. With the Brit just one game from victory, Sock would turn the match around in a flash, reeling off 19 of the next 22 points to permanently shift momentum and kick off a chain reaction that led to him seizing his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy and a trip to The O2.
"I should have been out first round here, in my first match, so I'm kind of just playing with house money now as you'd say," said Sock. "I'm just enjoying it."
Sock had entered the week in Paris at No. 24 in the Emirates ATP Race To London, before opening his bid with the Edmund victory. Another comeback would ensue against Fernando Verdasco from a set down, followed by a third escape act from a set deficit against Filip Krajinovic in the final. Sock would not only punch his ticket to London, but qualified for the semi-finals on debut.
Most Match Points Saved En Route To 2017 Title
|Victor Estrella Burgos
||Quito||4||2R & Final
3. Albert Ramos-Vinolas d. Andy Murray 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 - Monte-Carlo 3R
Albert Ramos-Vinolas had his back against the wall. Trailing top seed Andy Murray 0-4 in the deciding set of their Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters third round encounter, the Spaniard knew that a comeback would require something special.
“The most normal thing would be to lose the match,” said Ramos-Vinolas. “But today is one of those days that sometimes happens. I still fought. I was fighting. I was 0-4, and I thought that I need to keep playing every point. Then, at the end, I won. I don't know what to say.”
That something special would come in the form of a stunning 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory, as the relentless Spaniard began to pierce holes in Murray's defensive armoury, aided by an aggressive change in tactics. With his forehand suddenly finding openings in the court, Ramos-Vinolas flipped the third set in his favour in a flash. Blink and you missed it.
The World No. 24 reeled off seven of the last eight games, breaking Murray three times for the emotional victory. It was Ramos-Vinolas' first win over a World No. 1, having entered the match with a 1-12 record against Top 5 opponents. The victory moved him into his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final and he would eventually reach the title match, falling to countryman Rafael Nadal. One week later, Murray and Ramos-Vinolas met again on the clay of Barcelona, and this time it was the Scot who rallied from a set deficit to prevail.
2. Gael Monfils d. Kei Nishikori 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(6) - Montreal 2R
It's been nearly four months since Gael Monfils dramatically saved four match points to edge Kei Nishikori at the Rogers Cup. And most fans still can't pick their jaws off the floor.
Monfils produced the stunning comeback in typical Monfils fashion, striking a pair of clutch, mesmerising hot shots in the deciding tie-break, en route to the second round victory. The Frenchman was a hot shot machine with his back against the wall on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, energising the Montreal faithful as he plotted his comeback from 2-5 down in the second set and 3-5 down in the third. Nishikori served for the match three times and Monfils had an answer on each occasion.
And with the Japanese one point from victory at 6/3 in the third-set tie-break, Monfils nailed a down-the-line backhand that kissed the sideline. Moments later, he muscled a down-the-line forehand winner from deep behind the baseline to stave off his fourth consecutive match point. In front of an electric atmosphere on Banque Nationale Court, the Frenchman converted the first match point of his own with a blasted forehand winner down the line.
"It's a good victory for many reasons," said Monfils. "It's a big revenge, because last year around this time I had the same thing actually against Kei. I was up 6/2 in the tie-break in the [Rio] Olympics quarter-finals and I lost the tie-break. So I know exactly how he feels. Also, last year, a bit before, I played him in Miami. I also had five match points and I lost it 7-6 in the third. I'm more than happy because I fought through the toughness, because it was tough for me. It was a bit like a rollercoaster."
The victory was even more special considering it was Monfils' first in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Nishikori, improving to 1-3. It also marked the first time he had rallied from a set down against a Top 10 opponent in seven years.
1. Andy Murray d. Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(4), 7-6(18), 6-1 - Dubai QF
Philipp Kohlschreiber was one point from securing the 400th match win of his career at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. But for Andy Murray, there was no room for sentiment on a Thursday evening at The Aviation Club. Murray denied Kohlschreiber's milestone quest with a history-making performance of his own, saving seven match points in a marathon 31-minute second set tie-break.
The World No. 1 dodged knockout blow after knockout blow in the 38-point record-tying tie-break, won by Murray 20/18. It equaled five other epic tie-breaks of the same score since such scores were first kept in 1991.
Kohlschreiber got off to a fast start, pushing Murray from corner to corner and striking winner after winner. After taking the opener, he would continue to grab the upper hand in the second. But a Murray moment of brilliance in the ensuing tie-break would turn the tide. Down match point at 8/9, he managed to cut an audacious forehand drop shot to spin past the tramlines and a bewildered Kohlschreiber (see below). Heavy serving and aggressive play fended off a further six match points and he would force a decider after an 84-minute set. Murray would go on to prevail 6-7(4), 7-6(18), 6-1.
“It's obviously a special match to win because of how it went,” said Murray. “I'll probably never play another tie-break like that again. I have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing's been close to that.
“There were definitely some unbelievable points in that second set tie-break, but in general I think the level was extremely high. He was hitting the ball so hard tonight from both sides. Any time he had the opportunity, he was ripping the ball and made it really, really tough.”
It was the second-most match points saved in a tour-level match this year. Malek Jaziri edged Reilly Opelka 5-7, 7-6(14), 6-1 in Atlanta, saving eight match points.
Murray went on to win the Dubai title, defeating Fernando Verdasco in the final. It was his lone crown of the 2017 season, which was cut short due to a hip injury in July.