Sports has come to a halt as the world battles against the novel coronavirus. From the French Open to the Olympics 2020, major sporting events have been postponed for either end of this year or for the next year. And amid the lockdowns and self-isolation process, we bring to you a list of top ten tennis matches of all time which can temporarily drive boredom.
Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer, 2008 Wimbledon final: It's hard to believe that it has been almost 12 years since that epic battle under the cloudy London sky and on the lush green SW19. The memories of that match still feel so raw. Federer had five Wimbledon titles by then and had reached yet another final. Nadal, already relishing 'the king of clay' title, had been knocking on Federer's door for back-to-back seasons and was in 2008, the favourite ahead of Federer to win the title.
Federer-Nadal rivalry, a.k.a FEDAL, had by then grappled tennis fans across the globe. Hence it was easier for the organisers to sell the summit clash with the match dubbed as a clash of two different techniques, right versus lefty, No.1 vs No.2, class versus resilience.
And after 4 hours and 48 minutes of dazzling and breathtaking tennis action unhindered by the rain break, Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 to win his maiden Wimbledon title.
On the 10th anniversary of the greatest tennis match of all time, Federer made a revelation. Nadal had physically won the battle on that magical evening at the All England Club as he celebrated with his loved one while wrapping himself with Spain's national flag. But to Federer, the damage was done a month back when Nadal had humiliated the then No.1 in the French Open final leaving him so crumbled from within that the memories lingered even until the opening set of the Wimbledon final.
Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe, 1980 Wimbledon final: 28 years before the greatest match, there was a version bearing an uncanny similarity, which until 2008 was held the top spot - The one between Borg and McEnroe. Another lefty versus righty, another clash of techniques, another rivalry made it heaven. Set in the era of wooden racquets, colorful headbands, and wild hair, McEnroe had scripted his dominance over Borg since his stunning win in Stockholm in 1978. And such was the youngster's brilliance that Borg denied challenging him further and called for early retirement. But in the 1980 Wimbledon final, it was Borg who emerged victoriously, winning 1–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–7(16–18), 8–6.
Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic, 2012 Australian Open final: Five hours and 53 minutes! That is how long the match lasted - the longest Grand Slam final ever. The two stalwarts traded brutal blows the entire evening with a rally peaking 31 shots. Eventually, at 1:37 am in Melbourne, Djokovic held the crown having outlasted Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7(5) 7-5.
In his acceptance speech, Djokovic said, "Rafa, you're one of the best players ever, one of the most respected players on tour. We made history tonight; unfortunately, there couldn't be two winners tonight. I wish you all the best for this season and I hope that we will have many more finals like this."
Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick, 2009 Wimbledon Final: A year after the greatest ever, Federer had to incur another epic clash to clinch his sixth Wimbledon title, this time against another familiar roval, Andy Roddick. Nadal, the defending champion had withdrawn from the tournament owing to his knee injury leaving Federer with a clear path to his favourite crown, But little did he know about the storm that awaited on the other half of the draw.
Roddick had by then accomplished most of his career goals - ATP No.1 crown, US Open, Davis Cup title. But he never got the taste of a Wimbledon victory. Twice - 2004 and 2005 - did he reach the final - but was denied on both occasions by Federer. But his loss in 2009 - 5–7, 7–6 (6), 7–6 (5), 3–6, 16–14 - was the closest he ever stood to the elusive trophy. It was the last time an American male tennis player had reached a major final.
Roberta Vinci vs Serena Williams, 2015 US Open semifinal: Women's singles too have seen some classics - the rivalry between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, clashes between Monica Seles and Steffi Graf. But the heist that Vinci had pulled off in 2015 stands out amid those legendary battles.
Ranked only 43 in the world, the then 32-year-old Vinci was playing her maiden Grand Slam semifinal. And she was up against a player who was 26-0 in Grand Slam matches that year and was two wins away from a first-ever calendar grand slam since Steffi Graf did it in 1988. But the unsung Italian produced the unthinkable denying Serena the glory with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.
John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon first round: The match started on a regular Wednesday afternoon of June 23. Few people had taken heed of the contest when it began on side court No. 18. None had believed Isner to a title winner while few could pronounce the name of his opponents. Moreover, the game witnessed nothing jaw-dropping or nail-biting even until the fourth set. But there was a sudden flow in audiences as the match rolled into the fifth and final set. The game had by then been suspended twice over the last two days owing to darkness. Even the scoreboard had to be mended in a bid to go beyond 47-all in the final set. It was even tiring for spectators to keep track of the score.
And after 11 hours and five minutes with 183 games stretched over three days - the longest tennis match in the history of the sport - Isner defeated Mahut 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.
Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco, 2009 Australian Open semifinal: There are little opportunities for spectators to witness two players of similar techniques battling it out in the court. Both were lefties, both were impressive with their baseline games and both showed astounding abilities to bend the ball and both were from Spain. Winners were fired, backhands and forehands were belted as emotion and exhaustion grappled both the players at the Rod Laver Arena.
Verdasco blasted his way through the fourth-set tiebreaker and looked all set to pull the final trigger. But Nadal survived and went 0-40 up at 4-5 to stand with triple match points. Verdasco rallied back with consecutive winners before double-faulting in the final game, allowing the top-seeded opponent to survive through.
“In the last game, at 0-40, I started to cry,” Nadal had said. “It was too much tension. Fernando was playing, I think, at his best level. He deserved this final, too.”
Nadal went on to win the final against Federer in another five-setter epic. But Verdasco, he had his revenge seven years later in Australia in another five-setter.
Steffi Graf vs Martina Hingis, 1999 French Open final: There was controversy, crowd booing, star quality, a d clinical comeback and a moment to last for ages. Top-seeded Hingis remained in control through most parts of the match, winning the first set and then leading 2-0 in the second before a controversy changed the course of the tie. Her forehand return was called out and she expressed her disagreement over it and later faced penalty points for the on-court argument. Soon the crowd began booing her and that is where Hingis had lost her match. She lost three games in a row from a 5-4 service game before eventually succumbing to the pressure from the crowd.
It was Graf's final French Open match and two months later, she had announced her retirement.
Robin Soderling vs Rafael Nadal, 2009 French Open: “The impossible happened on the red clay at Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday”: read the Daily Telegraph in London the next morning. And 'impossible' it was. Tennis, over the course of its history, had witnessed many 'Hold the press' moment, but none can ever match up to what Soderling had pulled off that evening at the Roland Garros.
Nadal was 31-0 in French Open matches with four titles to his name and already relishing the 'king of clay' title. Two days earlier he had defeated former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was already enjoying an impressive spring and had earlier in the year won his maiden Australian Open title. Such was his prowess on clay that even Federer and Djokovic failed to find a solution to the Spaniard's consistency on the red dirt then. And then, an unheralded Swede of the name Robin Soderling, who was defeated 6-1,6-0 by Nadal a few weeks back in Rome, did the unthinkable, the unimaginable at Roland Garros.
What was even more shocking was what Soderling said after the match ended, "I just kept telling myself, ‘Just another match. I don’t care if it is the fourth round of the French against Nadal. This is just like any match.’ And this helped me.”
Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer, 2019 Wimbledon final: The final was no different from the other two summit clashes between the two at the same venue. 15,000 fans roared behind Federer, the age-less machine looked impeccable on grass, but Djokovic somehow found a way to rise above the crowd pressure and defeat the 20-time Grand Slam winner. But what stood out was the fifth-set tiebreaker. And that is where Djokovic thrived.
He won fewer points overall, hit fewer aces and winners, created fewer break-point opportunities. But when it mattered the most, Djokovic held his nerve and won all three tie-breakers in the game.
“It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of,” Djokovic said. “I had the most demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia [in 2012] that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level, because of everything.”