Monday, 28 November 2011

Federer wins ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer won the ATP World Tour Finals for a record sixth time after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-3 6-7 6-3 in the final.  This was a much better match than their group stage match as both players raised their intensity for the big occasion.  Tsonga started well mixing defence and attack to stay in touch with Federer.  However he lost his way at 4-3 with a below-par service game to hand the initiative to Federer.  There were some excellent rallies and it felt very close between the two players, but Federer won the big points to win the first set.

Federer was hands down, the best player this week and deserved his title.
The second set saw Tsonga struggling on his serve as Federer threatened at 1-1 and then made the breakthrough at 2-2 to take a set and a break lead.  Federer was starting to exert his authority on the match and served for the match at 6-3 5-4... however there would be a twist in the tale! Federer missed three first serves and Tsonga stayed composed to finish off a volley at the net to break.  A tiebreak it was to settle the second set and Federer took the lead once more.  He had his first match point at 6-5, which was saved with a stunning forehand by Tsonga.  A nervous Federer buckled under the growing pressure of Tsonga as a thunderous return at Federer's feet saw the match levelled at one set all.

The third set was a tense affair as both players held with ease early on.  The big game came at 4-3 where Federer on his third break point, forced the error off Tsonga to give him a second shot at serving the match out.  This time he would make no mistake! It was a great final and one of the better matches of the week.  Tsonga played an excellent match and did extremely well to force a third set.  Tsonga has really asserted himself this year as a challenger to the top 4 and has benefitted from a relatively injury-free season.  I really hope he can push on next year and get to another Grand Slam final... he has the game to do it and he is extremely likeable and has the potential to be a big star on the tour.  

Tsonga has ended the season on a real high with final appearances at Paris and London
Kudos to Roger for another great week.  I will remember the win over Rafa from this tournament where he produced some truly sensational tennis.  Many people are now backing Federer as the favourite to win the Australian Open, but I would be sceptical to those claims.  This time last year, we were saying exactly the same thing when Federer beat Nadal in the final, but he didn't push on at the start of the 2010.  I think his win here was partly down to him managing his schedule much better than Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, and taking that extended break after the US Open.  No doubt, Federer will be a contender for the Australian Open and it will be an interesting and unpredictable start to 2012!

Overall it was a good week at the O2.  There were some good matches although no really great ones. After such a long season, the tournament was slightly overshadowed by the early losses of Murray, Nadal and Djokovic, but I was impressed with how Tsonga took his opportunity.  The attendances were great once again with most sessions sold out.  I went to the final in the first year, but have since given it a miss following the rise in ticket prices.  I just felt it is not value for money considering all you get is one singles and doubles match.  The prices are also extorionate when compared to say Wimbledon where you get more matches and the whole atmosphere of the venue... but obviously people are willing to fork out the money so I imagine prices will stay high for next year! 

Federer ends the 2011 season on a high... will it continue in 2012?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Federer eases past Ferrer in first semi

Roger Federer beat David Ferrer, 7-5 6-3 to progress to the final of the ATP World Tour Finals.  I found this a really enjoyable match to watch and there were some great rallies on show.  The first set went on serve for the most part; Federer was not at his best and was making quite a few unforced errors.  He was put under immense pressure at 4-5 as Ferrer came within two points of the first set on a number of occasions.  Unfortunately for Ferrer, he just couldn't force a set point.  Federer managed to hold at 5-5 and the winner never looked in doubt after this as Federer went onto break Ferrer's serve and hold to win the first set, 7-5.

Federer broke at the start of the second set and the match had an all too predictable sense to it.  As would be expected with the tenacious Spaniard, Ferrer kept plugging away and produced the shot of the match to hold at 2-1.  Federer had Ferrer on the run with a delicate drop shot, but he showed terrific speed to stay in the point and then finish it off with a sensational backhand down-the-line.  There were some great rallies at the end, but Federer was looking more comfortable from the back of the court and finished with another break to win 7-5 6-3.  

Federer was not at his best, but was still too good for Ferrer who has had a great tournament this week.  I would love to see Ferrer win a big tournament next year; what he lacks on talent he makes up for in effort and hard work.  He just lacks the fire power against the big guns and has to rely on them to have an off day.   Federer will now play either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tomas Berdych  in the final.  Berdych won their only previous encounter last month in a three setter in Beijing.  I'm going for Tsonga to win this time in 3 sets... its unlikely I will be able to watch the match so I will be blog my review of the final tomorrow :)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Tsonga upsets Nadal to reach semis

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga qualified for the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals with a 7-6 4-6 6-3 victory over Rafael Nadal.  It was one of the best matches of the week and although I thought the quality dipped at times, it was an intriguing encounter and very watchable.  The first set saw no breaks of serve, but Tsonga dominated proceedings.  Nadal lost the first point on practically every one of his service games in the first set, but he dug deep to force the tiebreak.  Tsonga was too strong in the tiebreak as he exhibited some superb net skills with four drop volleys.  He produced nearly four times more winners than Nadal in a superb first set.

Tsonga thoroughly deserved to win the first set.

The second set continued to go with serve and Nadal kept plugging away.  At 4-4, Tsonga looked to be closing in on the match at 15-30 on the Nadal serve, but he appeared to get a little tight and before you knew it, Nadal had held and then exploited a mental weakness in Tsonga to claim the second set.  Tsonga finally managed to break Nadal in the third set and he eased into a 5-2 lead.  Once again, Tsonga felt the jitters as he threw in three double faults to give Nadal a chance.  However Tsonga closed the door shut in the next game as he broke to love winning the match on a thumping forehand.

Nadal did well to force a third set, but was missing a spark.

I thought Nadal didn't play badly, but there was a spark missing - he has never looked at home on indoor courts and he also admitted afterwards that he has lost his passion for tennis a bit at the end of another long, tiring season.  Tsonga definitely deserved to win; he was attacking, aggressive and instinctively brilliant at the net.  He is the most likely candidate to trouble the top 4 next year although I still question his mental toughness.  He has shown several mental wobbles in matches this year, which is what stops a lot of these talented players (Tomas Berdych is another example) from regularly challenging the top 4. Tsonga has shown promise though with some big wins over Federer and last night's performance included.  At the moment, I think the final will be a repeat of the first match of the tournament between Tsonga and Federer.

Tsonga will fancy his chances of powering his way to the final... his opponent in the Semis is yet to be decided.

In the remaining match from Group A yesterday, Roger Federer beat Mardy Fish, 6-1 3-6 6-3 to finish the round-robin stage unbeaten.  This afternoon, Novak Djokovic lost to Janko Tipsarevic, 3-6 6-3 6-3.  I only watched the first set and was mightily impressed by Djokovic who was firing on all cylinders.  It sounds like once again, tiredness played a part in his downfall.  Surprisingly, Djokovic can still qualify from Group B if David Ferrer beats Tomas Berdych tonight... I think for his sake, he might prefer Berdych to win because in the form he has shown this week, he would be annihilated by Federer in the Semis!

This was the first time this year that Djokovic had lost two matches in a row.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ferrer beats Djokovic to reach semis

David Ferrer produced another strong performance to qualify for the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals as he comprehensively beat Novak Djokovic, 6-3 6-1.  The match was finely poised at 3-3 in the first set and it looked set to be a tight and entertaining affair.  However Djokovic started to make some uncharacteristic like errors and despite maintaining control of many of the rallies, he was unable to finish them off against the gritty Ferrer who managed to force the error from the Serb.  In the second set, Djokovic continued to rack up the unforced errors and was forcing his shots too much.  The match finished in a flurry of errors from the disinterested Serb.  

I give a lot of credit to Ferrer, who played a very good match tonight and much better than his winning performance against Murray on Monday.  I think the long and incredible season has finally caught up with the Serb and he will now have to beat Janko Tipsarevic on Friday to qualify for the Semis.  Tipsarevic wasted a match point against Tomas Berdych who came through a tight tussle, 2-6 6-3 7-6.  Berdych started the match in the same fashion he ended his match against Djokovic on Monday by spraying forehands.  He did well though to force his way into the match and although both players wobbled in the tiebreak, Berdych claimed the all important victory.  I would like to see Berdych qualify for the semis; Djokovic looks to be a spent force and Berdych has played some good tennis this week in between some mental wobbles.

Awesome Federer destroys Nadal

Roger Federer produced an incredible performance to beat Rafael Nadal, 6-3 6-0 and cement his place in the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals.  Federer made the breakthrough at 2-2 in the first set where he raised his game producing one sweet forehand and secured the break on an epic rally.  Federer continued to assert his dominance throughout the first set with some aggressive striking and was serving at 80% first serves.  I liked Mark Petchey's comment that Federer in the 1st set was "an avalanche of brilliance"!

I didn't think it was possible but Federer was even more dominant in the second set with some patient, yet aggressive play.  Federer really laid into the Nadal second serve and broke at the first opportunity with a tremendous running forehand.  Nadal did not play badly however he was slightly passive at times and Federer gave him no chances to get a foothold in the match.  In the last year, we have seen Federer go walkabouts in  the middle of his matches, but yesterday he was on the money and was focused throughout.  Federer wrapped off the one hour contest with ease producing terrific stats of 28 winners to just 6 unforced errors.  This was the best I had seen Federer play in the last couple of years and although the match was over all too quickly, it was enjoyable to watch a masterclass.  

In the other match in Group B, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saw off Mardy Fish, 7-6 6-1 with a powerful performance. Tsonga will now square off with Rafael Nadal on Thursday night; the winner of this match will join Federer in the semi-finals.  I fancy a very close match and i'm going to give the edge to Nadal despite last nights drubbing.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Murray pulls out, Djokovic beats choking Berdych

Andy Murray pulled out of the ATP World Tour Finals today after a 6-4 7-5 loss to David Ferrer in the first match of Group B yesterday.  Murray looked tense from the beginning and his injury became apparent midway through the first set. Murray went up an early break but was pegged back after a succession of loose forehand errors in the fourth game of the match.  Murray did well to hold at 2-3 down in the most entertaining game of the match; he showed his scrambling abilities finishing off what looked like Ferrer's point with a stunning backhand winner.  He also hit a beautifully timed forehand winner before eventually holding that game.  It looked like he might push on from there but he wasted a break point at 4-4 and then lost his serve to hand Ferrer the opening set.  Murray's serving figures were pretty horrendous; he made just 37% of 1st serves, which against someone of Ferrer's returning ability is not good enough.  There were some exciting moments but ultimately the majority of points were being lost rather than won.

Murray pulled out of the ATP World Tour Finals with a recurrence of a groin injury

I didn't watch much of the second set but it was a constantly fluctuating affair.  Murray had a medical time-out at the start of the second set and showed signs of taking the second set going up a break twice however he was pegged back by a consistent Ferrer.  Murray will now be replaced in the tournament by Janko Tipsarevic.  In the other Group B match on Monday, Novak Djokovic saved a match point to beat Tomas Berdych 3-6 6-3 7-6.  This was by far the best match on the first two days and  Berdych was the better player throughout the match, but he choked on the crucial points.  In the third set, Berdych was playing some great tennis from the back of the court and was able to make it count against Djokovic with some timely ventures into the net to finish the points off.  However after getting the break to go up 4-2, he surrendered it in the next game with a number of loose forehands.  Berdych had a match point at 6-5 but rushed another forehand.  The tiebreak saw the Czech player wilt and Djokovic although below his best, took the match.  His amazing record this year had such a big deciding factor in this game as Berdych lacked the belief to beat the Serb.  This group looks wide open now and I still fancy Berdych to have a good chance of qualifying.

Djokovic was well below his best but did enough to beat Berdych

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Federer beats Tsonga in O2 opener

Roger Federer recorded his first win of the week with a 6-2 2-6 6-4 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a scrappy opener.  Federer eased through the first set as a lacklustre Tsonga was twice broken to love.  Federer was imperious on serve losing just three points and  displaying some superb variety.  The second set saw a complete reversal as Tsonga kept more balls in court and Federer went totally AWOL as he first lost his serve at 1-1 with a number of sloppy errors and then once more to hand Tsonga the second set.  The final set was a more competitive affair but still lacked excitement with few memorable rallies.  Tsonga choked at the first time of asking at 4-5 as he netted a simple volley and double faulted before Federer eased across the finish line.  Federer was well short of his best and will need to improve for his next match against the winner of Mardy Fish and Rafael Nadal.  Tsonga could have won this match and folded far too easily at the end of the match; however he will be pleased to have won one set, which could prove crucial at the end of the round-robin stages.

Friday, 18 November 2011

ATP World Tour Finals Preview

The top eight players will square off in the final tournament of the year at the ATP Tour Finals on Sunday.  Group A consists of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer.  Djokovic has had an incredible year, but has been showing the effects of it in the last couple of weeks.  I expect him to progress through to the semi-finals but no further.  I fancy Murray to have the beating of Djokovic, but he could struggle against Tomas Berdych who defeated him in a three set epic in Paris last week.  I have a lot of respect for David Ferrer, but I cannot see him causing many problems on this surface.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish will contest Group B.  The big match will be between Nadal and Tsonga - I predict Federer to win his three matches and an injury-affected Fish to lose all of his making this tie the decisive one.  There are many question marks surrounding Nadal who missed the Paris Masters, but I think he will be fresh, fighting fit and will have enough to get past Tsonga to qualify in second place from Group B.

I'm going for a Federer Murray final... with Murray triumphant! I'm looking forward to the week ahead and will be blogging when I get the chance too : )

Monday, 14 November 2011

ATP Finals on the horizon...

Now that the women's season has come to an end, I will be switching my attention to the finale on the men's tour, which once again will take place at the O2 in London.  The draw for the top eight, which features Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Mardy Fish will take place on Tuesday.  The tournament will kick off on Sunday and I will be watching and blogging all week as the 2011 season wraps up...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

WTA matches of 2011 - 5 to 1!!!

5. Sam Stosur d. Serena Williams 6-2 6-3 (US Open)
The scoreline of this match may not represent a great match, but the drama, the occasion and the tennis on show was truly fantastic. The US Open final provided us with one of the biggest upsets of the season. Serena was heavily favoured to win this following a breeze through the draw and handily beating Stosur just weeks before in the Toronto final. Stosur played the match of her life as she came out fighting using her superb forehand and deft backhand slice to trouble Serena. The drama came at the start of the second set when Eva Asderaki handed a point to Stosur after Serena screamed before Stosur had had a chance to get the ball... cue another Serena meltdown at the US Open. I have never screamed so loudly at the TV and wanted a player to win more than Stosur in this match! Despite the scoreline, there were some cracking rallies with a highlight being where Stosur defended like a star at the net even earning an applause from Serena. The mental strength she showed in this match was terrific and to finish off a fired-up Serena in two sets was a breathtaking display from the Aussie.

4. Sabine Lisicki d. Marion Bartoli 6-4 6-7 6-1 (Wimbledon)
Lisicki and Bartoli fought out a thoroughly entertaining quarter-final under the Centre Court roof. The weather outside was horrendous and there was a funny moment in the first set when Lisicki jumped at a loud crack of thunder prompting laughter from the crowd. I remember that I was at an interview on this day and ended up listening to the end of the match on the radio, which was very painful! Lisicki won the first set and had her chances to serve out the second set at 6-4 5-4, but had a serious choke as her nerves got the better of her. The pair played a sensational point on Lisicki's second match point with both players scrambling around the court, but it was Bartoli who saved them and went onto win an enthralling second set tie break. Bartoli showed incredible fighting spirit, but was exhausted in the third set and Sabine closed the match out at the second time of asking. Lisicki played an excellent match hitting 52 winners and caused havoc with her beautifully executed drop shot. It was lovely to see the two players hug at the net and show so much respect for one another after such a terrific match.

3. Sabine Lisicki d. Li Na 3-6 6-4 8-6 (Wimbledon)
Lisicki featured in a number of great matches this year, but this was the highlight one for me when she knocked out the number three seed and Roland Garros Champion, Li Na in an epic second round encounter. I was at Wimbledon on this day and was disappointed not to be able to watch this match live. As play was suspended on the outside courts, I watched the first set underneath Centre Court on the TV's as Li needed just one break of serve to take the first set. Lisicki, who was riding on a wave of confidence after winning the title in Birmingham came fighting back in the second set to take this high quality match into a third set. The third set was a dramatic and pulsating encounter; Li wasted two match points at 5-3 as the hard hitting and fearless Lisicki fought back with some stunning serving. Li's forehand escaped her at the end, but Lisicki stayed strong and to her delight, won the match. I was standing under number one court watching the score update on a TV screen at the end of the match... this ranked as one of the most memorable moments of the tennis year jumping up and down celebrating Sabine's victory with bemused people all around me :)

2. Venus Williams d. Kimiko Date Krumm 6-7 6-3 8-6 (Wimbledon)
There were some fabulous matches that took place at Wimbledon in 2011, but this was easily the best one between two of the most experienced players on tour. The first set was hands down the best set of tennis I watched in 2011. Both players were using their all court game with plenty of ventures into the net making way for some exhilarating rallies. Date Krumm raced into a 5-1 lead hitting some superb volleys and beautiful angles. However Venus woke up and managed to force the first set into a tiebreak. Venus kept fighting but the Japanese veteran finally took the set on her eighth set point after a breathtaking display of tennis, which saw 42 winners to just 22 unforced errors. Both players took a breather in the second set as the quality dipped ever so slightly with Venus levelling the match up at one set all with much better serving. The third set saw the play crank up in tempo once again. Date Krumm put in an admiral and courageous display to push the match deeper and deeper into the third set. Finally at 7-6, Date Krumm's incredible mental and physical reserves were stretched beyond breaking point and Venus won the 2 hours and 55 minute encounter, which rightfully earnt a standing ovation from the adoring crowd under the Centre Court roof.

1. Francesca Schiavone d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 1-6 16-14 (Australian Open)
The match of year without any doubt was the 4th round encounter between Schiavone and Kuznetsova at the Australian Open, which was the longest women's match in Grand Slam history at an incredible 4 hours and 44 minutes. The first two sets appeared short in the scoreline, but were both close and featured some long drawn out games, which set the scene for what was to follow... the third set was an incredibly dramatic see-saw battle, which saw Schiavone save six match points as she brought her best tennis on the match points as Kuznetsova just could not get across the finish line. The amazing thing was how high the quality of play was considering they were fighting through weary legs at the end. The pure fighting spirit of both players was shown in the break point conversions - Kuznetsova converted 9/27 break points and Schiavone took just 8/23 break points with a total of 33 break points saved throughout the match! This match was also great because of the variety of tennis on show unlike many of the matches we have seen this year that have been played exclusively from the baseline. This match will long be remembered on the WTA tour and I hope for more great matches like this one in 2012 :)

Friday, 4 November 2011

WTA matches of 2011 - 10 to 6

10. Sam Stosur d. Nadia Petrova 7-6 6-7 7-5 (US Open)
Stosur and Petrova fought out a truly epic third round encounter at the US Open, which was the longest ever women's match at the US Open in the tiebreak era at three hours and 21 minutes. If I had actually watched this match live, I think it would have ranked much higher in my list. Stosur could have wrapped this up more easily if she had taken the match points in the second set, but Petrova stayed in the match and even went up a break in the third set as the two players took part in a classic all-court encounter of the highest quality. Stosur once again showed her mental toughness in the match as she recovered the break against Petrova and overcame some tight and tough games to prevail in the end. A truly great match, but as I was tucked up in bed it was only the 10th most memorable ;)

9. Agnieszka Radwanska d. Andrea Petkovic 7-5 0-6 6-4 (Beijing)
After a dire tournament in China, which was blighted by numerous withdrawals and low attendances, the final was a fabulous match between two players who had a lot at stake left in the season. Both players had realistic chances to qualify for the YEC, which added to the drama off the match. The first set took 84 minutes and was an excellent advertisement for the women's game,with Radwanska and Petkovic running miles in some incredible extended rallies, with Radwanska showing her finest form. The match looked like it may come to a premature end when Petkovic jarred her knee midway through the first set; thankfully she was able to continue, but after a second set bagel she wasted some key opportunities in the third set to hand the title to Radwanska. There was a lovely touch at the end as both players did the Petko dance in the trophy ceremony!

8. Julia Goerges d. Sabine Lisicki 6-4 6-4 (Stuttgart)
This is my most obscure choice, but for me was a very memorable match in my most enjoyable tournament to watch other than the Grand Slams in Stuttgart. I chose the match because it was one of the very few where two big hitters have come face-to-face both playing excellent tennis and producing more winners than errors. The serving on show was also impressive and the stats were favourable for both players - Goerges hit 26 winners to 21 unforced errors and Lisicki made 24 winners to 18 unforced errors. It was a shame that the match did not go to 3 sets because it was very even, but Goerges played the big points much better. Lisicki wasted many break points and was unfortunate to be a loser in this match, which thrilled both the German crowd and I! Goerges, followed up her win over Lisicki with victories over Stosur and Wozniacki to claim the title in a fairytale week in Stuttgart.

7. Francesca Schiavone d. Nastia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6 7-5 7-5 (French Open)
This was my favourite match to watch at this year's French Open in particular for the excitement of the third set. Pavlyuchenkova looked set to reach her first ever Grand Slam semi-final and have a great chance of claiming her first ever major leading at 6-1 4-1. Schiavone was extremely flat in the dull conditions, but as Pav started to get tight Schiavone started to raise her level and managed to win the second set. Pav's game, which was free flowing and destroying Schiavone at one point had collapsed and she found herself down 5-1 in the third set. Pavlyuchenkova did not give up as she dug deep and started to play much better, cutting down the errors and producing some magnificent winners to win four straight games. The final two games were tense beyond belief with some lengthy rallies but it was Schiavone who managed to finally claim the win in a dramatic match.

6. Serena Williams d. Victoria Azarenka 6-1 7-6 (US Open)
Serena Williams was lurking in the draw for the one of the top eight seeds in the third round and the unlucky player to draw her was Azarenka. The first set was a bit of a damp squid as Serena put on a tremendous display with the major difference being Serena's excellent serve against Azarenka's rather ordinary serve. The second set was much closer and Azarenka did extremely well to stay in the match and save several break points early on. As the set progressed, the quality continued to improve and Azarenka managed to break Serena's serve when she was serving for the match. Azarenka forced the second set into a tiebreak, which was the highlight of the match. There were winners aplenty from both players but Serena just managed to get across the finish line. The tennis at the end of the match was probably the best I had seen all year, but unfortunately we only saw it for a little bit at the end so I couldn't place this match any higher in my list.

Coming soon - I hope to finish my final blog on my top 20 matches of the season by the end of this week :)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

WTA matches of 2011 - 15 to 11

15. Andrea Petkovic d. Jelena Jankovic 2-6 6-2 6-4 (Miami)
This was one of a number of excellent matches that littered the draw of Miami this year. Petkovic and Jankovic fought out in the quarter-finals in what was their first ever encounter against each other. The first two sets were good although they were not playing their best tennis at the same time. Jankovic started the better but her level dipped as Petkovic grew in confidence. The match got better and better and came alive in the third set where there were long rallies and constant switches in momentum as Petkovic won the last four games from 4-2 down to cement her win over the world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round.

14. Caroline Wozniacki d. Marion Bartoli 6-1 2-6 6-3 (Indian Wells)
Indian Wells was pretty unspectacular this year, but it at least ended on a high note with an entertaining final. Wozniacki had blitzed her way through the tournament and was well on her way to beating Marion Bartoli, who she had destroyed in Doha weeks before. However Bartoli turned the match on its head with some lovely variety in the second set to stun the Dane and force a deciding set. There were some long, gruelling rallies in the final set and the sheer determination from Bartoli made this a good match. Wozniacki managed to pull the win through using her far superior stamina against a tiring Bartoli. The respect between the two players was all too clear to see at the end, which I also liked from this match.

13. Tamira Paszek d. Francesca Schiavone 3-6 6-4 11-9 (Wimbledon)
This was one of a number of epic women's matches to take place at Wimbledon this year. I had watched Paszek go down in a tight match to Li Na at Eastbourne the week before and was convinced she would do well at Wimbledon. When the draw came out, I predicted her to go to the 4th round... in fact she made it all the way to the quarter-finals! The match was on court 12 so I had to watch the match on a poor quality screen online... it did not however distract from the drama that was to unfold! Schiavone was well below her best in this match but the final set, which lasted 124 minutes was a pulsating encounter with some incredible tension-fuelled rallies. Schiavone had the opportunity to serve out the match at 9-8 but Paszek kept fighting and her groundstrokes did the damage continually getting the Italian on the run. Paszek deserved to come through this encounter and I was especially delighted :)

12. Agnieszka Radwanska d. Vera Zvonareva 1-6 6-2 7-5 (Istanbul)
This was the only match from Istanbul that I have put into the top 20 although there were some good matches to watch including the final. This match was pretty dull for 2 sets - in fact I turned off after Zvonareva strolled through the first set as it looked like Radwanska was a goner with her worrying shoulder injury. I happened to check the live scoreboard half an hour later to see that Radwanska had won the second set! I immediately started watching again to witness an astonishing final set. Vera had match points at 5-3, but could not find the winner against the brick wall of Radwanska as she literally screamed her way through a gripping game. Radwanska went on to win the match and keep her hopes of qualifying alive (she would fall in the next match).

11. Jelena Jankovic d. Francesca Schiavone 6-3 5-7 6-4 (Cincinnati)
Jankovic and Schiavone fought out two entertaining three setters this year, but the one in Cincinnati was by far the most dramatic of the two! I didn't watch all of the match as I was tucked up in bed, but I felt this match deserved a place in the top 20 from watching the highlights and accounts of the match. Jankovic tried everything she could do to throw this match away! She failed to serve for the match at 6-3 5-4 and then nearly let slip a 5-1 lead in the fianl set. Both players had arguments with the umpire, Eva Asderaki who had her hands full to keep this match under control! The quality of the match wavered, but no-one can deny that matches involving Jankovic are incredibly entertaining on so many different levels!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

WTA matches of 2011 - 20 to 16

Here is my countdown of my favourite 20 matches on the WTA circuit in 2011. There are some obvious choices, but also some very obscure ones which many will probably disagree with but its a subjective matter! The best matches for me have not necessarily included the best tennis, but are ones that I remember for being both dramatic and exciting. There may also be some exclusions down to the fact that I didn't happen to watch particular matches. Anyway here goes for the final wrap up of 2011....

20. Marion Bartoli d. Petra Kvitova 6-1 4-6 7-5 (Eastbourne)
The Eastbourne final was not necessarily of the highest quality, but it had drama in abundance and was fought out between two great competitors. The weather had forced the semi-finals and the final to be played on the Saturday yet the conditions were still horrendous as it was literally blowing a gale! Bartoli looked close to finishing off a one-sided final at 6-1 3-1 against a terribly off-cue Kvitova. However Kvitova dug deep and started to play much better midway through the second set and managed to force a decider. Bartoli was also carrying a groin injury in the final set but to her credit, she kept playing on. After wasting chances to serve the match out at 5-4, she made no mistake the second time round to claim the Eastbourne title.

19. Vera Zvonareva d. Jelena Jankovic 6-1 2-6 6-4 (Doha)
Zvonareva and Jankovic fought out a great semi-final in Doha back in February. The first set was one-sided in favour of Zvonareva; however the match peaked in the second set. The variety was fantastic with some great points at the net and Jankovic was executing her backhand slice the best I had ever seen it. Jankovic though could not keep up the form and was on the receiving end of one of many three set losses in 2011 after she wasted three break points on the Zvonareva serve at 4-4. Still, this match deserves a mention for the second set alone.

18. Victoria Azarenka d. Nastia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 4-6 6-2 (Rome)
This was one of my more obscure choices, which took place in the 3rd round of the clay court tournament in Rome back in May. It was the last match on court late at night with very few spectators; however it proved a treat for the ones that stayed in the cold. The tennis was of a high quality and both players were hitting the ball so well from the back of the court. It was Azarenka though who was the more consistent player in the end finishing an entertaining match off on an epic rally. Pavlyuchenkova showed in the match that she can live with the best, but she needs to improve her stamina and ability to maintain a consistent performance for 3 sets.

17. Vera Zvonareva d. Sabine Lisicki 4-6 7-5 7-5 (French Open)
This match stands out in my mind from the past year and was probably the most painful watching experience of the year although it deserved a place in the top 20 for drama and excitement! I had fancied an upset here so much so that I put a bet on Sabine to knock the number two seed out. Lisicki started well and took the first set, 6-4. Zvonareva levelled the match, but Lisicki steamed in front in the third set and had several match points at 5-2. I was on the edge of my seat at the end and couldn't believe what I was watching as Lisicki started to suffer from some severe cramps and lost the match. The most painful thing to watch was seeing Lisicki being stretchered off the court, but thankfully these memories were wiped away somewhat with a fairytale run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon... more of that to come later in the rundown ;)

16. Sam Stosur d. Maria Kirilenko 6-2 6-7 6-3 (US Open)
This is the first of three entries on the list involving Stosur at the US Open! In truth, all three of the matches between Stosur and Kirilenko in the latter half of the year (the other two in Tokyo and Beijing) could have made this list, but I have gone for their US Open encounter. The match was highlighted by the longest tiebreak in the history of Grand Slam womens singles matches, which Kirilenko won 17-15. The drama was immense as Kirilenko challenged several calls on match point down which incredibly all went in her favour. Stosur eventually pulled the match through in 3 sets showing superb mental reserve to get over the loss of the epic second set. It was a shame though to see such a cold handshake by Kirilenko at the end of such a great match.