100 memories: A year for the ages
December, 20, 2012
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com
Editor's note: The tennis season now over, it's time to look back. Ravi Ubha has been unveiling his top 100 memories of the 2012 season. The countdown began on Dec. 10 and it ends today with the final 10 moments.
10. Those poor rackets
If told that a match between Stanislas Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis would feature one player smashing four rackets, the Swiss had to be the "favorite." He's been known to do a Marat Safin or Fernando Gonzalez.
Paul Crock/Getty ImagesMarcois Baghdatis took his frustrations out on his brand new rackets at the Australian Open.
Baghdatis, though, pulled off the upset, pummeling his rackets after he fell behind two sets to Wawrinka on Margaret Court Arena at the Australian Open.
"I've never done that," Serena Williams said. "That's impressive, wow."
As of this week, Baghdatis' demolition job had amassed more than 1.4 million views on YouTube.
9. Roger denies Andy at Wimbledon
Here was Andy Murray's chance to end his own, and Great Britain's, Grand Slam drought at Wimbledon, for many Brits the only major that really matters.
Entering the second week, he would have to beat only one member of the big three, with Rafael Nadal out of contention and Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the other side of the draw.
But this was an opportunity for Federer, too. No Nadal was a good thing for him.
Federer took advantage of an off-color Djokovic in the semifinals and overcame Murray in four sets in the Scot's maiden Wimbledon final to win a first major since 2010.
Tied 1-1 in sets, covering the stadium in the third due to a drizzle benefited Federer, who particularly thrives indoors. When Murray was broken in the middle of the third set, dropping a 40-0 lead in a 20-minute game, he couldn't recover.
As Federer did at the Australian Open in 2009, Murray wept in despair as he addressed the crowd on Centre Court.
"I'm getting closer," Murray said.
He was indeed.
8. A golden Murray
Murray didn't have to wait long to get another crack at Federer at the All England Club.
Paul Gilham/Getty ImagesAndy Murray enjoyed his golden moment in front of the home crowd.
The Olympics at Wimbledon proved to be special, and the men's final was the one most people wanted: Federer, seeking a first gold medal in singles, against Murray, part of Team Great Britain.
Murray wasn't blown away at Wimbledon, and with Federer a little tired after his 4.5-hour semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro, Murray thumped Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
OK, so maybe Federer was more than a "little" tired.
Irrespective of Federer's condition, the victory significantly boosted Murray's confidence.
"I have lost some tough matches," Murray said. "I've had a lot of questions asked about me, many times. So I'm glad that today I was able to put on the performance that I've been waiting for."
With Federer turning 35 several days after the opening ceremony in Rio in four years, he'll likely end his career without an Olympic singles gold.
7. Rafa's long absence
For different reasons, some of tennis' greatest men's players endured lengthy layoffs. Think Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.
Nadal, unfortunately, joined the trio, and -- you guessed it -- his fragile knees were to blame. More specifically, it's his left knee that's currently the problem.
He hasn't played since a second-round loss to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in June, but wisely Nadal hasn't tried to rush back.
"My recovery is going well, and the doctors are pleased," Nadal, 26, said this month. "I have to look at my career with a five-year view. I considered having surgery, but the doctors have always preferred not to take risks with my treatment."
Nadal is expected to return at the end of December at an exhibition in the Middle East.
6. Serena's French Open meltdown
Owning a 17-match winning streak, Williams was the leading contender heading into the French Open, the only Grand Slam she hasn't conquered more than once.
Who would Williams play in the semis? And in the final?
Wait a second.
She didn't get past the first round.
For the first time in her career, Williams was indeed ousted in the round of 128 at a major, crumbling against French favorite Virginie Razzano 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Unusual was Williams' blowing a 5-1 lead in the second-set tiebreak and dropping 13 straight points; more so was Williams' appearing to cry in her chair prior to the start of the third.
"I kept going for my shots, which always works for me," Williams said. "It didn't work out today."
Still, Razzano, whose fiance died before the French Open last year, needed eight match points to put Williams away. She was also penalized as the chair umpire -- ironically, Eva Asderaki -- enforced the hindrance rule. Asderaki clashed with Williams in the 2011 U.S. Open final after enforcing the same rule.
5. An American workhorse says goodbye
He won the U.S. Open, Davis Cup and reached No. 1 in the rankings. Yet some feel Andy Roddick underachieved.
Roddick got the absolute most out of his 12-year career, and had it not been for Federer, he'd have walked away from the game with at least two or three more Grand Slam titles. His devotion to the Davis Cup added to the toll on his body and did more harm than good to his play at Grand Slams and ATP tournaments.
By the time Roddick called it quits at Flushing Meadows at the age of 30, he had captured 32 titles. His on-court earnings topped $20 million.
"Ever since I have been on tour, it feels like Andy has been there," Williams, a longtime friend of Roddick, said. "He has been great for American tennis, great for the U.S. Open, doing so much, playing so well."
4. Serena unstoppable at Olympics
Williams and her team made a clever decision when they brought aboard Patrick Mouratoglou, Baghdatis' former coach, after the French Open.
Williams wasn't as convincing as we've seen her in the past at Wimbledon, but she still won.
At the Olympics, however, Williams' display was one of the most impressive ever at a big tournament. En route to becoming the second woman to complete the career Golden Slam -- Steffi Graf was the other -- Williams relinquished a mere 17 games in six matches.
Maria Sharapova managed a single game in the final.
Sharapova was ill, but even if the Russian were healthy, the outcome wouldn't have changed.
"After winning Wimbledon, you've seen her level progress so much here, over this tournament," Sharapova said.
Williams and older sister Venus didn't drop a set in the doubles competition.
3. It was coming for Murray
If Djokovic had had a day off between the U.S. Open semis and final and, thus, been slightly fresher (physically and mentally), I'll say he probably would have won the fifth set of the finale.
Murray, though, was owed this one.
In 2008, he was the one who didn't have a day of rest between the semi and final in New York, and Federer crushed him in straight sets.
Murray was aided along the way: Feliciano Lopez couldn't seize on Murray's lethargy in the third round, Marin Cilic crumbled in the quarterfinals and Mother Nature's wind barrage irritated Tomas Berdych more than Murray in the semifinals. But he was able to win the crucial points (going 6-0 in tiebreaks).
The gold medal must have bolstered his belief as he went head-to-head with Djokovic in the fifth set. That, and all the wisdom he received from Ivan Lendl in 2012.
"When I realized I had won, I was a little bit shocked," said Murray, a loser in four previous Grand Slam finals. "I was very relieved and very emotional."
2. One of the upsets of all time
The Wimbledon draw potentially pitted Nadal against Ivan Dodig in the second round -- Dodig upset Nadal last year in North America.
Clive Rose/Getty ImagesIn defeating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, Lukas Rosol scored one of the biggest upsets ever in a Grand Slam.
When Dodig lost to Rosol in the first round, it was thought to be the better result, then, for Nadal.
It didn't work out that way, did it?
Rosol, then age 26 and ranked 100th, played without any fear on Centre Court, hitting aces, service winners and blasting forehands and backhands. Instead of hanging his head after losing a first-set tiebreak 11-9, the Czech didn't waver.
With Nadal on the charge after winning the fourth set 6-2, Rosol got a break when organizers decided to use the roof, even though about half-hour of light remained. A delay ensued.
Rosol regrouped and took the fifth 6-4.
If he was nervous trying to serve out the encounter, he didn't show it. The points went like this: Ace, forehand winner, ace, ace.
"It's not a tragedy," Nadal said. "It's only a tennis match."
Only later would Nadal reveal the extent to which his left knee was bothering him.
George Bastl, Ivo Karlovic and Peter Doohan, who orchestrated gargantuan Wimbledon upsets in the past, now had company.
1. Men, marathon, Melbourne
Even with a day off, Djokovic couldn't beat Nadal in the Australian Open final after a grueling five-hour semifinal, could he?
Sure, Nadal played a similarly protracted semifinal Down Under in 2009 before edging Federer -- but he was Nadal.
When Nadal grabbed the first set, he was on his way to avoiding a third consecutive reverse in a Grand Slam final to Djokovic.
But Djokovic would rally for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 win in 5 hours, 53 minutes, the longest Grand Slam final (in time) in history, to thwart Nadal once more.
It was bruising, not scintillating, tennis, yet still highly memorable: Djokovic bossed proceedings for most of the second, third and fourth sets; Nadal played his most aggressive tennis ever on a hard court to come back in the fourth; Nadal sunk to his knees after the fourth, as if he'd already won the match; and Djokovic was floored in the fifth following the umpteenth exhausting rally.
The momentum shifted in the fifth when Nadal missed a backhand sitter at 4-2, 30-15.
More history was possibly made during the trophy presentation -- it might have been the only time the combatants were given chairs.
They had been on their feet long enough.