So far, I’ve shared with you all my picks for Top 11 Most Memorable Match Moments of 2011. Now it’s time my picks for Top 11 Most Memorable Wins of 2011. These are the wins that changed draws, changed lives and changed the way we look at tennis. As usual, if you have a win you think should have made the list, leave it in the comments section!
Honorable Mention – Donald Young: This young American had long been criticized for not reaching his maximum potential. This year, he notched a few memorable wins, including 1) Defeated Andy Murray 7-6, 6-3 in the Indian Wells first round, 2) Reached his first-ever ATP semifinal in Washington DC, 3) Defeated Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the US Open 2nd round to notch his first 5-set win and 4) Defeated Gael Monfils in the PTT Thailand Open semifinals to reach his first-ever ATP Final. After his win over Wawrinka in New York, Young said to ESPN, “Everybody’s light comes on at their own time, and I feel like mine is starting to come on.” If these wins are foreshadowing, Young’s light could be very bright in 2012.
Honorable Mention – Marion Bartoli def. Serena Williams in the Wimbledon 4th Round: France’s Marion Bartoli had just come off a win at the AEGON International – defeating Safarova, Martinez Sanchez, Azarenka, Stosur and Kvitova – which proved to be a good tune-up for the grass Grand Slam. At Wimbledon, she won a three hour match over Flavia Pennetta before having to face defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round. Tired as she may have been, Bartoli took Williams out in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6, for what she describes as the greatest win of her life.
Honorable Mention – Arantxa Rus def. Kim Clijsters in the French Open 2nd round: 2nd seed Kim Clijsters was coming off an ankle injury (she suffered while dancing at a wedding) and had missed most of the clay-court season leading up to Roland Garros, so there was no hiding she wasn’t a favorite to win the title. But to see the Australian Open champion get knocked out in the 2nd round was more shocking than people expected. This defeat came at the racquet of Arantxa Rus, who saved two match points to defeat Clijsters 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 – the biggest win of her career.
11. Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock win US Open Mixed Doubles: With so much constant pressure on young Americans, it was surprising that Melanie Oudin’s and Jack Sock’s run to the US Open Mixed Doubles Final flew under the radar. But the lack of pressure from the media proved to be a positive as the wildcard pair defeated 8th seeds Gisela Dulko and Eduardo Schwank 7-6, 4-6, 10-8 to win the title.
10. Sam Stosur Wins the US Open: Don’t let the drama of the match overshadow the truly memorable moment – Sam Stosur defeating Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3 to win her first Grand Slam singles title and becoming the first Australian woman since Evonne Goolagong (Wimbledon 1980) to win a Grand Slam. It was a touching moment to watch as Stosur jumped up to her box and into the arms of her team. That’s the only thing that should be remembered from this match.
9. Janko Tipsarevic wins his first ATP title: Janko Tipsarevic had long been called one of the greatest players to never win a title (and the highest ranked to boot!). He finally got that monkey off his back in the Malaysian Open this fall when he (after five attempts) won his first ATP title, defeating Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 7-5. Janko liked winning so much, he decided to take home another title a few weeks later at the 2011 Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
8. Petra Kvitova’s Big 3: To say any woman had a better year than Petra Kvitova would be wrong. She may have had a first half that was nothing to write home about but once she hit Wimbledon, she kept on rolling. Kvitova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon defeating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 and became the first Czech player to win a Grand Slam singles title since Jana Novotna won Wimbledon in 1998. Yes, Petra hit a hiccup at the US Open (became the first Grand Slam champion to lose in the first round of the following Grand Slam without winning a set.. oops!) but she ended the season on a high note, first winning the 2011 Generali Ladies Linz and then later winning the 2011 WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul. Right after, she topped off her year by helping the Czech team win the Fed Cup and was named WTA Player of the Year.
7. Rafael Nadal def. John Isner in the French Open 1st Round: It might be odd to have a first-round win as a “most memorable,” but had Rafael Nadal not gotten past John Isner, he never would have won his 6th Roland Garros (and only Grand Slam this year). Isner was drawn against top seed and defending champion Rafa, which could be seen as a death sentence. But John didn’t see it that way. He took a surprise two-sets-to-one lead against Rafa, who had never played a five-set match at the French. Rafa eventually found his gear and defeated the American in a thrilling 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 2-6, 4-6 match… and then went on to win the title.
6. Esther Vergeer: Often referred to as the most dominant player in professional sports, Vergeer won the Australian Open, French Open and US Open singles and doubles wheelchair titles as well as the singles and doubles 2011 Masters titles. She also had a good amount of wins in between so – pick one. All are pretty memorable.
5. Francesca Schiavone def. Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Australian Open 4th round: Svetlana Kuznetsova had held her nerves in the third round of the Happy Slam to knock out defending runner-up Justine Henin, 6-4, 7-6. She then went on to meet Francesca Schiavone – a match that proved to be very memorable for Fran, Sveta and the fans. Kuznetsova squandered six match points in the longest recorded women’s Grand Slam match in the Open Era to give Schiavone the 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 win. I was exhausted after – I’m sure the ladies were too!
4. Spain wins Davis Cup: Team Spain (Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, Marcel Granollers, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal) had defeated Belgium, USA and France en route to a final match-up against Argentina in Seville. It took Rafa to clinch the win (and break Juan Martin del Potro’s heart) but it helped the Spaniard end his otherwise lukewarm year (compared to normal) on a high note.
3. Li Na Wins the French Open: Li Na defeated Barbora Zahlavova-Styrcova, Silvia Soler Espinosa, Sorana Cirstea, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova before meeting defending champion Francesca Schiavone in the French Open final. No one really saw her as a threat, despite being the Australian Open runner-up, because clay was never seen as her strong suit. Until now. Li Na defeated Schiavone to win Roland Garros, becoming China’s first-ever Grand Slam winner and catapulting her to a career high ranking of World No.4. She then became a superstar in China – and tennis.
2. Roger Federer def. Novak Djokovic in the French Open Semifinals: Novak Djokovic was certainly the man to beat this year and at the time of the French Open, he was unbeaten. That was, until he met Roger Federer in the semifinals. Federer brought Djokovic’s 43-match winning streak to a halting stop, defeating him 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 to reach the French Open finals. It was one of the most thrilling matches of the year, deserving of a good finger-wag from Federer after the win.
1. Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon: After his semifinal boot at the French Open, Novak Djokovic withdrew from Queens Club (the Wimbledon tune-up). He made an appearance at The Boodles (a London exhibition) but barely had any grass court preparation leading up the the Grand Slam on grass. That didn’t stop the Serb from making his way to the final, where he met Rafael Nadal for the fifth time in a final and overall for the season. On championship point, Djokovic hit a forehand approach shot to the back right corner and when Nadal hit his backhand long, Nole won his second Major title of the season and his first Wimbledon. Sure this was a memorable win for tennis and another Grand Slam trophy for Djokovic, but it was really more than that.
As a kid, Djokovic watched Wimbledon on television and considers it the most important tournament. His mother, Dijana, said “Twenty years ago, when he watched Sampras winning the Wimbledon trophy, that’s why he started to play tennis. His [goal] was to win Wimbledon and to be No.1. Today he won Wimbledon and tomorrow he is No.1, so this is two dreams in one day.”
A Wimbledon title, the number 1 ranking – Djokovic’s ultimate dream realized. That’s pretty memorable.
(Photos: Getty Images, The Slice, AP)