By Michael Lemort
After the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray moved back as the top four players on the ATP ranking for the first time since May of 2013.
“The Big Four” started to fall apart two years ago while Rafael Nadal struggled with some new injuries. Then Roger Federer and Andy Murray also quit the Top 5 due to back injuries.
Even though he suffered of a new injury, at his twist, Nadal maintained himself in the Top 4 last year but he was the first one to betray the Big Four in May of 2013 when he reached the 5th position after the French Open, due to a knee injury occurred the year before which made him lose lots of points.
Then Federer fell out of the ATP Top 4 rankings in the Summer of 2013 and finished the season at the 6th position (his worst position since 2003) due to a back injury. Everybody thought this time Roger’s career was close to his end and that he would never be able to get back to the top again. He proved everyone that he could still reach new milestones by winning the Davis Cup and coming back at the No. 2 position at the ATP ranking last year after a very consistant season.
In the meantime, Murray also suffered from a back injury that needed surgery and forced him to end his 2013 season after the US Open. Not completely at his best during the first part of 2014, he slipped out of the top 10 after losing his Wimbledon trophy. After a fourth (lost) final at the Australian Open last month, he is now back in the top four.
When Stanislas Wawrinka claimed the Australian Open last year, It was the first time in five years (Juan Martin del Potro, US Open 2009) than a non-member of the Big Four won a major. Then Marin Cilic beat Kei Nishikori to win the US Open few months later and another statistic fell : it was the first time in nine years than a major’s final was played without any member of that Big Four (Safin/Hewitt, Australian Open 2005). Everybody thought this time the reign of the Big Four was done for good.
But apparently Novak, Roger, Rafael and Andy are not done yet with their domination. After its fifth success in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic, who is the only one who stayed in the top 4 during all that time, is more than ever leader of the ATP ranking. He is actually an uninterrupted member of the top 3 since October of 2009 and a member of the Top 4 since June of 2007. With Federer not ready to retire, Murray back to his best and Nadal no more injured, let’s bet that the Big Four is not dead yet!
The International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), the inaugural international city-based professional tennis league featuring legendary players such as Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova, will be available for live viewing via TV and on-line pay-per-view in the United States by Integrated Sports Media beginning November 28th through the conclusion of the season on December 13. All 24 matches of the highly anticipated inaugural season will be available on both cable and satellite pay-per-view – live and for replay – via iN DEMAND, DirecTV, DISH and Vubiquity and online at www.GFL.TV starting at $9.95 per match and $69.95 for packages.
The International Premier Tennis League (www.iptlworld.com) is the first international city-based professional tennis league played across four countries. Created to for fill the increasing demand for top-level tennis in Asia, the IPTL features teams based in India, Singapore, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates featuring current champions, tennis legends and up-coming talent in a unique format of team matches to determine a team champion. Seventeen-time-major tournament champion Federer, 18-time major winner and current world No. 1 Serena Williams, current world No. 1 and seven-time major champion Djokovic and five-time major champion and former world No. 1 Sharapova headline the players competing in the inaugural season of the IPTL. The league also features past champions such as 14-time major champion Pete Sampras and career Golden Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi and other top current players including 2013 Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard, 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, and former world No. 1s Ana Ivanovic and Lleyton Hewitt among others. In all, the league will feature 21 Grand Slam tournament champions and 14 current or former world No. 1 players competing in 24 team matches from November 28th through December 13.
“There has been a lot of anticipation and curiosity about the inaugural season of the IPTL and we are thrilled to provide it for American audiences to view via pay-per-view on TV along with access online,” said ISM President Doug Jacobs. “The IPTL is going to showcase a very unique and never seen before brand of professional tennis, with players like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic and many other legendary tennis champions all competing on co-ed teams representing Asia in fast-growing emerging tennis markets. These are events that no tennis fan is going to want to miss.”
Team rosters are as follows:
Manila Mavericks – Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray, Joe Wilfried Tsonga, Kristen Flipkens, Daniel Nestor, Carlos Moya, Treat Huey
Singapore Slammers – Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Thomas Berdych, Lleyton Hewitt, Nick Krygios, Daniela Hantuchova, Patrick Rafter, Bruno Soares
Micromax Indian Aces – Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Gael Monfils, Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Fabrice Santoro
UAE Royals – Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Goran Ivanisevic, Genie Bouchard, Malek Jaziri, Nenad Zimonjic
Each IPTL match will consist of five sets played by different players that will include men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and former champions singles. Each game won counts as one point for the team points total and the team that wins the most games overall across the five sets wins the match. The IPTL matches will feature live entertainment, a running shot clock and many more features to ’Break the Code’ of the traditional etiquette of tennis to attract a new audience to the sport across the world. The team with the most accumulated points during the season are declared league champions and are awarded the IPTL Challenge Trophy in Dubai on December 13.
The IPTL season begins November 28 in Manila, Philippines. The November 28-30 matches will be played in Manila, Philippines. The December 2-4 matches will be played in Singapore. The December 6-8 matches will be played in New Delhi, India and the December 11-13 matches will be played in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The full schedule of matches are as follows:
Dates and times from Manila, Philippines
Aces vs. Slammers (3:00 am ET/12:00 Midnight PT)
Mavericks vs. Royals (6:30 am ET/3:00 am PT)
Royals v Slammers (3:00 am ET/12:00 Midnight PT)
Mavericks vs. Aces (6:30 am ET/3:00 am PT)
Royals vs. Aces (3:00 am ET/12:00 Midnight PT)
Mavericks vs. Slammers (6:30 am ET/3:00 am PT)
Dates and times from Singapore
Aces v Royals (3:00 am ET/12:00 Midnight PT)
Slammers v Mavericks (6:30 am ET/3:30 am PT)
Mavericks v Royals (3:00 am ET/12:00 Midnight PT)
Slammers v Aces (6:30 am ET/3:30 am PT)
Mavericks v Aces (3:00 am ET/12:00 Midnight PT)
Slammers v Royals (6:30 am ET/3:30 am PT)
Dates and times from India
Royals v Slammers (5:30 am ET/2:30 am PT)
Aces v. Mavericks (9:00 am ET/6:00 am PT)
Aces v Slammers (5:30 am ET/2:30 am PT)
Mavericks v. Royals (9:00 am ET/6:00 am PT)
Mavericks v. Slammers (5:30 am ET/2:30 am PT)
Aces v. Royals (9:00 am ET/6:00 am PT)
Dates and times from UAE
Aces v Slammers (7:00 am ET/4:00 am PT)
Royals v Mavericks (10:30 am ET/7:30 am PT)
Mavericks v Slammers (7:00 am ET/4:00 am PT)
Royals v Aces (10:30 am ET/7:30 am PT)
Mavericks v Aces (7:00 am ET/4:00 am PT)
Royals v Slammers (10:30 am ET/7:30 am PT)
About Integrated Sports Media:
Integrated Sports Media: North America’s leading distributor of International Pay-Per-View and Closed Circuit sports events has presented World Championship and world-class mixed martial arts shows featuring Fedor Emelianenko, Tim Sylvia, Bobby Lashley, Mirko Filipovic, Bob Sapp, Jeff Monson and Roy Nelson, in addition to World Championship and world-class boxing matches featuring Gennady Golovkin, Erik Morales, Vitali Klitschko, Ricky Hatton, Cristian Mijares, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones, Jr., Tomasz Adamek, Paulie Malignaggi, Ivan Calderon, Rocky Martinez, Nicolai Valuev, Amir Khan, Marco Antonio Barrera, Arthur Abraham, David Haye, John Ruiz, Wilfredo Vasquez, Jr., Brian Viloria, Giovani Segura and Ruslan Chagaev. In addition, Integrated Sports Media has distributed numerous International soccer matches featuring teams like Real Madrid, Club America of Mexico and the National Teams of Argentina, Honduras, El Salvador and the USA. For more information on upcoming Integrated Sports events visit www.integratedsportsnet.com or follow on Twitter @IntegratedPPV.
This has been a very difficult season for 2013 Wimbledon champion Andy Murray as his recovery from a back injury has been a lot more difficult than initially expected. Murray looked to possibly be heading for the world number one spot with continued improvement following his second Grand Slam triumph but instead, the Scot has plummeted down the rankings and now sits in a very disappointing position of 11th in the world, having been as high and number two. Many believe that Andy Murray can show improved form in 2015 and bookmaker Betfair obviously have similar beliefs. The leading online betting exchange have put Murray in as their 7/2 second favourite for next year’s Wimbledon title, despite the fact that he went out in straight sets in 2014 at the hands of up and comer Grigor Dimitrov. Andy Murray’s first Grand Slam victory came at the US Open in 2012, and it came as little surprise when he added his second Slam in SW19 the following year. It took Andy a few attempts to make the breakthrough following a number of final appearances, but once he managed to capture that first big prize, a number of pundits suggested that he may well have a sustained run as the top player in the game. That has not proved to be the case however, and it will be very interesting to see exactly what the new season is going to bring as far as Murray is concerned.
Novak Djokovic is the current favourite to win the men’s singles title at the 2015 Wimbledon championships and that comes as little surprise following his impressive run at the tournament this year. Djokovic was able to make amends for his straight sets final defeat at the hands of Andy Murray the previous year and claim his second Wimbledon crown. There were some matches where the world number one didn’t have things all his own way, but Djokovic proved that he has a serious amount of determination and fighting spirit en route to the final, where he would face grass court maestro Roger Federer. Having lost the first set on a tie break, it would have been easy for Novak to start thinking negatively as he also lost the first set to Murray one year previous. However, the Serbian was able to dig in and win the next two sets, before Federer stepped up a gear and took the fourth. Djokovic took the decider by six games to four and captured his seventh Grand Slam title in the process. If Andy Murray is going to recapture the Wimbledon title in front of his home fans, he will likely have to overcome the defending champion somewhere along the way. Betfair go 6/1 bar this pair with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both on offer at the same price, but there is reason to oppose those men this coming year. Roger Federer will be 34 years old come the 2015 Wimbledon Championships, and Rafael Nadal has not performed well at this tournament for a number of years now. With another decent run of games under his belt before next June, Andy Murray can make a bold bid to take the Wimbledon title once again in 2015.
The 2014 Wimbledon Championship is underway and the betting market for the third Grand Slam of the season is proving extremely popular at bookmaker Betfair. Novak Djokovic is the current favourite for the men’s title and the Serb will be looking to go one place better than last year, after being beaten in straights sets by Andy Murray in the 2013 final. Andy Murray got his defence off to a successful start with a comfortable victory on Monday over David Goffin. Rafael Nadal will also be popular with tennis punters at Betfair but his recent record at Wimbledon is patchy to say the least. In one of the biggest shocks in Wimbledon history, Nadal was knocked out in the first round last year and in 2012, only made it to round two. The player who could well be overpriced this year is seven time winner Roger Federer.
Roger Federer first Wimbledon men’s title victory came back in 2003. The Swiss star went on to dominate the sport, especially when it came to the grass courts. Federer took five Wimbledon titles in succession, as well as taking the crown in 2009 and 2012. Following that last win, Federer’s form took a dramatic nose dive and it appeared that the former world number one was coming to the end of a glorious career. Talk of a demise was premature however, and the grass court king has once again shown his class over the last six to twelve months. Roger reached the semi finals at the Australian Open, scoring an impressive win over Andy Murray along the way. Other excellent results have followed and had it not been for taking some time out for the birth of his third and fourth children, Federer may well be ranked even higher coming into this summer’s Wimbledon Championships.
Betfair have put Roger Federer in at 11/2 to claim an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon crown this year and in his current mood, that price is going to make plenty of appeal to punters. The betting on this year’s Wimbledon men’s tournament is dominated by the big four and that has been the case in Grand Slams for a number of years now. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have shared the vast majority of Grand Slam events between them for the best part of a decade and while there are some other players beginning to come through, this trend looks set to continue. Age may well catch up with Roger Federer before too long, but he has proved that he is not a spent force just yet and he’s sure to be all guns blazing going into SW19 this year. There is a huge jump in the market to the next player which is Grigor Dimitrov who can be backed at 16/1. If Roger Federer is going to add to his impressive haul of Wimbledon titles, it will likely need to happen at this year’s tournament and a victory for Fed is sure to hurt the bookies such as Betfair.
With much of the Wimbledon hype surrounding Amelie Mauresmo’s coaching role with Andy Murray, we look back at the playing career of the Frenchwoman, courtesy of tennis historian Bud Collins. The following is the bio of Mauresmo from his famous book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” set for an updated re-release later this year.
The only French woman to win Wimbledon other than Suzanne Lenglen (1919–23, 25) and the fifth woman of her nation to win a major, Amelie won two majors in 2006—the Australian over Justin Henin (BEL), 6-1, 2-0, ret. and Wimbledon over Henin, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, she lost the 1999 Australian final to Martina Hingis (SUI), 6-2, 6-3, defeating No. 1 Lindsay Davenport (USA), 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals. A superb athlete, well-rounded attacking game, she played Federation Cup 11 years, 1998-99, 2001–09 played 21 ties, posting a 30-9 singles, 2-2 doubles record. She led France to the Cup in 2003, winning two singles in 4-1 final-round win over U.S., including the decisive point, 6-2, 6-1, over Meghann Shaughnessy. In the 2005 Fed Cup final, lost to Russia 3-2, she lost the decisive doubles match with Mary Pierce to Elena Dementieva-Dinara Safina, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. A member of the French Olympic team in 2000, 2004, she won Olympic silver in women’s singles in 2004, losing to Justine Henin-Hardenne. She was a member of the world’s Top 10 for seven years—No. 10, 1999; No. 9, 2001; No, 6, 2002; No. 4, 2003; No. 2, 2004; No. 3, 2005-06 (briefly No. 1, 2004). She was a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open three times (2002, 04-05), the French Open twice (2003-04) and the US Open four times (2001, 03-04-05). She was a semifinalist at Wimbledon twice (2004-05) and the U.S. Open twice (2002, 06). She was born in St. Germains en Laye, France on July 5, 1979. A right-hander, 5 ft. 9, 152 lbs, she turned pro in 1993 and was the world junior champ in 1996. She won 25 singles titles and three doubles pro titles and $15,022,476 in prize money. She announced her retirement at the end of the 2009 season.
MAJOR TITLES (2)—Australian singles, 2006; Wimbledon singles, 2006.
“Andy Murray: Wimbledon Champion: The Full Extraordinary Story” A Fascinating And Revealing Biography
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“Andy Murray: Wimbledon Champion: The Full Extraordinary Story,” the new book documenting the life of Andy Murray and his history-making championship at Wimbledon in 2013, is now available in paperback in the United States.
“Andy Murray: Wimbledon Champion,” written by veteran tennis journalist Mark Hodgkinson and available here on Amazon.com: http://m1e.net/c?96279190-0uRWdMinyv5kE%4090388149-CE1I3gVtSfFB2 and wherever books are sold in the United States for $19.95, is a fascinating and revealing biography of Murray, who last summer became the first British man in 77 years to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, exorcising the demons of decades of British tennis frustration
Few tennis players have ever had to carry the same weight of expectation from an entire nation in the way that Andy Murray has. Nor has their path to triumph been subjected to quite so much scrutiny. In the book, Hodgkinson documents Murray’s incredible journey and examines the individuals who have influenced his career, including his family, his coaches, and his girlfriend. Hodgkinson assesses how the Scot has won over a dubious, critical public and how he was shaped into what he always wanted to be – a Wimbledon champion.
Hodgkinson is the founder and editor of TheTennisSpace.com and a former tennis correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. He has written for the BBC, contributed to British GQ, and other tennis periodicals around the world.
Fans are also invited to follow the book on social media on Facebook here: http://m1e.net/c?96279190-k94t0iLUpUtAE%4090388150-QPv0vipVLjm8k and on Twitter at @AndyMurrayBook
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” by Rick Macci with Jim Martz, “Court Confidential: Inside The World Of Tennis” by Neil Harman, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated, But It Doesn’t Have To Be” by Laura Schreffler, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “Bone Appetit: Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Suzan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin among others.
Fresh off helping Andy Murray get back to form after back surgery at the Australian Open, Ivan Lendl is getting his own game in shape. The 54-year-old winner of eight major singles titles is set to play five events on the PowerShares Series champions tennis circuit starting February 5 in Kansas City, Missouri. The following is the transcript of the telephone news conference Lendl conducted Wednesday to promote his appearances on the 12-city circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.
RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining us today for our PowerShares Series tennis conference call with Ivan Lendl. The PowerShares Series kicks off its 2014 season next Wednesday, February 5, in Kansas City, and will visit 12 cities in all through March. Good tickets and terrific meet and greet and play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities are still available, and you can get more information on that at www.PowerSharesSeries.com
We want to thank Ivan for joining us today. He’s fresh off his trip to Australia, where he was working with Andy Murray. Ivan’s playing career is highlighted by three US Open titles, three French Open titles, and two Australian Open titles. He reached 19 major singles finals in his career. Roger Federer is the only man to play in more major singles finals, and Rafael Nadal just tied him with his result in Australia. Ivan also won 94 singles titles in his ATP career, which is 17 more than Federer and 33 more than Nadal.
Ivan will be playing in PowerShares Series events in Kansas City on February 5, Oklahoma City on February 6, Indianapolis on February 14, Nashville, Tennessee, on March 12, and Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 13.
In Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Indianapolis, Ivan is scheduled to face his old rival John McEnroe in the semifinals, and with that I’ll ask Ivan to kick off the call here, talk a little bit about his rivalry with John. You guys have been jabbing at each other for 35 years now, and you’re going to be playing with him in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and he’s going to be your Valentine’s Day date on February 14th in Indianapolis.
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, we have played quite a few times starting in juniors. I think the first time we played was in Brazil in 1977. So it’s quite a long time we have played, and played a lot of matches, so that should be fun.
Q. I wanted to ask a general question if I could just about your life. You come from Czechoslovakia, had your fabulous on court career and a really great success in business and now in coaching. Aside from your family, what’s the best part of being Ivan Lendl these days?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I haven’t really thought about it much. I think staying busy and having something to do, something I like to do is always good, whether it is being in tennis and working with Andy or playing some, or playing some golf tournaments in the summer. All of that is fun.
Q. And obviously we have this trend now with great legends, great veterans working with different players. Some have worked, some have clicked, certainly you and Andy, others not to be mentioned are less so. What do you think the key is in the coach and pupil relationship on the ATP Tour?
IVAN LENDL: I think the key, especially with the older guys who have played successfully, is that, number one, what can that player or that coach offer to a practical player, and also chemistry.
Q. And what’s been the key to your chemistry with Andy? Do you think in some ways you guys are quite similar?
IVAN LENDL: Well, we had the unfortunate part we shared that both of us lost a few majors before we won the first one, and we understood each other with that quite well. I could understand how he was feeling, how frustrating it is, and so on and so on. Also I think sense of humor, and enjoyment of sports.
Q. People view you as a pretty serious character, but talk to us about your sense of humor off court.
IVAN LENDL: I would hate to ruin my reputation.
Q. I had the pleasure of talking with your daughters last year for the Southeastern Conference golf tournament
IVAN LENDL: Which one did you talk to?
Q. Daniella well, the one was at Alabama, the one was at Florida.
IVAN LENDL: Okay.
Q. Talk to me a little bit about your play of tennis and your play of golf. I get the sense that one is business and one is a pleasure/love. Am I overstating it too much?
IVAN LENDL: Well, it depends how you look at it. I enjoy both, obviously. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.
Q. I get the sense, though, that and obviously you are deeply into tennis, but golf looks to be a real deep relationship that you’ve got with that particular sport, something that you’ve really taken hold of and really held onto.
IVAN LENDL: Well, I enjoy competing, and once I stopped playing tennis, because of my back I didn’t play for quite a while, I had really nowhere to compete, and golf filled that part of my life very well, obviously on a much lower level than when I played tennis, but I still do enjoy playing the senior state opens and tournaments and so on.
Q. Do you see either of your daughters being able to make a run in golf like you made in tennis?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I think it’s really up to them how much they want to do that or whether they want to do it at all.
Q. Could you maybe discuss whether you feel like through the years McEnroe was you had a lot of great rivalries, whether that was your number one rival, and maybe just talk about how your relationship with him has maybe changed now that you’re playing him in a different type setting.
IVAN LENDL: Well, I don’t know if he was my number one rival. We have played, I believe, somewhere in the mid 30s, something like that, and I have played a lot of matches with Connors. I have played quite a few matches with Wilander, Edberg and Becker, as well. I think at one time, obviously, we were number one rivals, and then I think it started shifting sort of mid ’80s to other guys, and Connors was there at the same time as McEnroe, maybe a bit longer because after ’85 he took some time off, didn’t play as much as before. I would say I had a lot of rivalries with those guys.
Q. Has your relationship sort of changed with him now that you’re playing in a different setting?
IVAN LENDL: Well, it’s obviously much less competitive than it has been when we played in the US Open finals, but I think both of us still want to play well and have fun with it.
Q. And just talk about this tournament coming to Indianapolis, the first stop since the tour here, and I know that you
IVAN LENDL: Are you from Kansas City?
Q. No, from Indianapolis.
IVAN LENDL: Okay.
Q. And obviously I know you came here when it was clay and had a great match with Becker when it was still clay and then back when it was hard courts. Talk about your memories of playing there in Indianapolis.
IVAN LENDL: The first time I came in the summer to the United States, Indianapolis was one of the places, and I could not believe how hot and humid it was. It was quite a shock. I didn’t expect that. Obviously I didn’t know much about it, otherwise I would have expected that. It was extremely hot. It was extremely difficult to play in those conditions, and I was very proud when I was able to overcome it and win there.
RANDY WALKER: Ivan and John played 36 times in their career on the ATP Tour. Ivan led the series 21-15. Only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played more times in the open era history of the ATP Tour. Novak and Rafael have played 39 times to Ivan and John’s 36 times. The No. 3 rivalry of all time in men’s tennis in the open era was Ivan and Jimmy Connors. They played 35 times, and Ivan led the series there 22-13. And then in PowerShares Series history, John leads the series over Ivan 2-1.
Q. A lot of people say this is a little similar to the Champions Tour, or the PGA Senior Tour. What’s the fun in this? You’re not as competitive as the old days, but you obviously still want to win this match. What’s it like for a crowd to witness one of these?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I don’t know, I’ve never been in the crowd, but I can tell you what it feels like as the players. It’s always fun to see the guys. It’s fun to interact with people more. It’s a bit lighter side of the players, but yet, as you said, it’s still competitive that the guys want to play well.
Q. And along those lines, just the atmosphere. It’s a different setting, but it sounds like it’s something that’s really picking up steam and a lot of people are having fun with it and it’s gaining more and more momentum. How do you see this moving forward the next five years or so?
IVAN LENDL: Well, wherever we have played, it’s usually very well received, and I have played in Europe, I have played in Asia, I have played in Australia, I have played obviously in the United States and Canada. It’s very well received and people seem to enjoy it very much. As far as where it’s going to go in the next five years, I don’t know. I’m not involved in the business part of it.
RANDY WALKER: You’re also playing in events in Nashville and Charlotte, and those matches are going to be the exact semifinal rematches of the Super Saturday at the US Open September 8, 1984, when you beat Pat Cash in a fifth set tiebreaker and John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors in a five-set semifinal. If you could talk a little bit about that day; you hit a pretty good forehand topspin lob down match point against Cash in the fifth set. Talk a little bit about that match and that day and rekindling your match with Pat in Nashville and Charlotte.
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, it was an extremely difficult day, obviously, when you play five sets and you have finals of the US Open coming up the next day. But I think it’s a special day in tennis. That Super Saturday was special for many, many years. They went away from it either last year or a couple years ago. But I always have nice memories of that, and I’m looking forward to recreating it as long as I don’t have to play five sets.
RANDY WALKER: It’s one set semifinals and one set finals on the PowerShares Series.
IVAN LENDL: We can start in the tiebreaker then.
Q. We are from New York, and we always see John, always practicing, and he takes tennis very seriously. He has fun, but he’s still competitive. How do you train for this PowerShares Series?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I do some conditioning. I try to do something every day for conditioning, whether it is biking or rollerblading or do some weights and so on. I play tennis about three times a week.
Q. Also something a little bit about Andy Murray because we spoke to Andy today, and he’s going to be here in New York in Madison Square Garden. He said that you had great things to say about New York. Do you remember when you played here at Madison Square Garden?
IVAN LENDL: I always enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing at Flushing Meadows, I enjoyed playing at Forest Hills, and I absolutely loved playing at Madison Square Garden. All three places at that time, I had a home in Greenwich, Connecticut, so I could stay home, which was always a big advantage, at least in my mind, that you stay home and have home cooking and stay in your own bed. I think the results showed how much I enjoyed it because when you feel comfortable somewhere, you usually play pretty well.
Q. And also, again, about Andy, coming back from back surgery, he had a pretty good run at the Australian Open. Were you guys somehow surprised how well he played? Unfortunately he lost to Roger, but what’s your assessment on that?
IVAN LENDL: I think it was sort of realistic what he achieved at the Australian Open. I think he was very close to doing better. I wish he had done better because that match was the beginning of the fourth set; anything could have happened after he served match point and Rocha was serving for the match, if Andy got ahead in the fourth I think he had an excellent chance of winning, but unfortunately he got behind.
Q. And with respect to you again, you have been a great champion, have so many fans around the world and such a pleasure that you’re going to join the PowerShares Series. How do you feel because it’s more relaxed in a way, but at the same time it’s competitive. I’m sure there’s still the love for the game out there for you, right?
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, I enjoy playing, and I enjoy going to places I have never been to, and I never played in Oklahoma City, so I’m looking forward to that one.
Q. My question regards your last couple of years traveling with Andy, participating in Grand Slams and other tournaments. In addition to you imparting your wisdom and expertise to a young player like Andy, what have you gleaned from him and his play and his training, his mental challenges, if you will? I know you’ve helped him with that regard and helped him of course win Wimbledon last year. But what have you learned from him and perhaps some of the other players like Rafa and Djokovic, Roger, et cetera? What have you picked up over the last couple years that you’ve been exposed to these top global players on a regular basis?
IVAN LENDL: Well, you learn how much the game has changed, how much more complete players they are than the players in the past. You see how everybody trains and how they prepare. But most of the time you just not that you learn, but you confirm your beliefs in how things are done and what’s the best way to go about preparation and competition.
Q. Sticking with the Australian Open for just a quick second, it was a great final between Rafa and Stan. Anything that you saw that either led you to believe or surprised you in that final, especially with Stan playing so strongly that first set?
IVAN LENDL: I didn’t see the final. I was in the air from Melbourne to Los Angeles, and I learned the result when I landed in Los Angeles, and I still didn’t have time to watch it.
Q. You and Connors, great rivalry, and I know after you retired from playing on the regular tour, both you and Jimmy, it seemed like you both picked up golf. From what I can tell you’re a little more fervent about it than he may be, but have you ever considered getting on the course and reconstructing a rivalry on the course, or maybe you’ve done that and we don’t know about it?
IVAN LENDL: No, I haven’t played with Jimmy. I wasn’t even aware that he plays much. It can always be done.
Q. The Wimbledon final was incredible, and obviously
IVAN LENDL: You’re talking about 2013?
Q. Yeah, and all the pressure on Andy, obviously, and the last game to close it out. Sitting up there in the friends’ box, when he closed it out, what went through your mind?
IVAN LENDL: I was very pleased for him. I knew how much pressure Andy went through in 2012 playing Roger, and I was also aware of how much pressure there was in 2013, how much he wanted to win, how hard he worked for it, and what obstacles he had to overcome, so I was extremely pleased for him.
Q. And also at Wimbledon, Jack Nicklaus was there, and he said that tennis was tougher mentally than golf. Could you talk and just compare the mental requirements, mental toughness of the two different sports?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I think they’re both mentally tough. I think in both sports you rely on yourself and you don’t have teammates to pick up your slack where if you mess up something or if it’s not your best day, that somebody else steps up. You really get all the credit, but you also get all the blame if you want to call it that way. I think the main difference between tennis and golf is that in golf if you have a bad half hour or 45 minutes, you’re out of the tournament. In tennis you can have a bad 45 minutes and be sitting a break down and you can still win in four sets. In that part, you would have to say that maybe tennis is a little bit easier mentally because you can have little lapses and get over it, but it’s definitely tougher physically.
Q. In terms of John back in the old days, he was pretty a lot of rough edges, came at you pretty strong. Did he piss you off? What was your take on John?
IVAN LENDL: Oh, I think I could handle it all right.
Q. But did you have anger towards him, or did you view it as it was pretty much just part of
IVAN LENDL: I think if you play with anger, you don’t play with a clear mind. I think you have to play with a clear mind.
Q. And finally, if I could just ask you to just talk about pretty much the incredible history of Czech tennis. So many outstanding players and now back to back Davis Cups, but some problems recently in terms of winning Slams. Could you talk about the heritage of Czech tennis and on court the beauty of the Czech game?
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, I think I have a quiz question for you then at the end if you want to talk about Czech
Q. Wait a second, all right.
IVAN LENDL: But it’s a great question. You will enjoy it. I think the history is there for a long time. You can go I’m not a historian, but you can go all the way to the Second World War and afterwards, and there is great history, men’s and women’s. And now in the team competitions, two Davis Cups in a row, before that two Fed Cups in a row, I believe, and Berdych is very close and Kvitova has won Wimbledon. It’s great, great history and present of Czech tennis. The question I have for you: Who is the only person to be a world ice hockey champion and a Wimbledon champion?
Q. That’s a good question. I know Ellsworth Vines won ping pong and tennis.
IVAN LENDL: I didn’t know he won ping pong.
Q. I know you were part owner of the Hartford team.
IVAN LENDL: Not true, but I was on the board, yes.
RANDY WALKER: I think I might know the answer to that. Drobny?
IVAN LENDL: Correct.
RANDY WALKER: What do I get?
IVAN LENDL: Another question. Who is the only person with an African passport to win a Grand Slam?
RANDY WALKER: Drobny. I am the publisher of the Bud Collins History of Tennis.
IVAN LENDL: That would be why.
Q. I was wondering how you get along with the players on this series, if you get a chance to hang out away from the court and if you play pranks on each other or if you have any interesting stories.
IVAN LENDL: We do. We do clinics together. We do meet and greets together. We travel together. We get along very well.
RANDY WALKER: We want to thank Ivan for joining us today, and we will see him starting on February 5 in Kansas City.
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The Emirates Airlines US Open Series begins next week with tournaments at Atlanta (ATP) and Stanford (WTA). More events on both Tours follow during each of the five weeks between now and the US Open, including consecutive Masters 1000/Premier Five tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati. As the action accelerates toward the final major of 2013, here are seven key narratives to follow.
1. Will Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray seize the upper hand?
The top two men in the world have contested the finals at the last three non-clay majors and enter the summer hard courts as co-favorites for the US Open. Fittingly, Djokovic and Murray each have won once in New York, although the Serb has reached four finals there to the Scot’s two. While Murray has won multiple titles at both Masters 1000 tournaments this summer, Djokovic never has conquered Cincinnati despite winning three times in Canada. A victory for either man over the other at one of those events would earn that player an edge heading into New York. So would a Canada/Cincinnati sweep, a feat that has occurred only three times on the men’s side in the Open era. Back on their best surface for the rest of 2013, Djokovic and Murray have an opportunity to take their rivalry another step forward. Abrupt shifts have defined it so far, so predict at your peril.
2. Will Serena Williams restore order in the WTA?
The world No. 1 has compiled a somewhat strange season, dominating Roland Garros and racing undefeated through the clay season but losing by the quarterfinals at the two non-clay majors. Serena usually responds with courage to adversity such as her stunning loss to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. One need think back barely a year to the second-half surge that she reeled off after a much more disheartening setback against Virginie Razzano. The dominance of the top three women since the start of 2012 prepared few viewers for the implosion at Wimbledon. That fortnight echoed the chaotic period in the WTA that preceded the current Serena/Maria/Vika Rule of Three. For reasons developed further below, the top-ranked woman and defending US Open champion stands the best positioned of that trio to curb her inferiors. Even as she approaches 32, her aura still intimidates.
3. Will Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal pose the greater challenge to the top two?
On the surface, literally and figuratively, this question seems easy. Federer has compiled the superior record of the two in the US Open Series and at the US Open. For most of their careers, he has been the better man on hard courts and the better man in the second half, when his rival’s energy wanes. That said, Nadal has surpassed Federer in recent years at the US Open, notching consecutive finals in 2010-11. He also has produced the stronger season of the two by far, reaching the final at every tournament except Wimbledon, claiming a key hard-court title at Indian Wells, and overcoming Djokovic at Roland Garros. Federer has won just one title in 2013 and has not defeated a top-five opponent. The two superstars never have met in the US Open Series or at the US Open. They responded in contrasting ways to early Wimbledon losses, Nadal resting his ever-fragile knees and Federer entering two clay tournaments in July.
4. Can the Wimbledon women’s finalists consolidate their breakthroughs?
Hovering over Murray’s quest to defend his US Open title is the question of how he will respond to his Wimbledon feat. The women’s champion there also faces the task of overcoming the inevitable post-breakthrough hangover. Like Murray, however, Marion Bartoli may have the maturity to avoid that lull. She has earned some of her finest successes on North American hard courts, including a Stanford title won from Venus Williams, finals at Indian Wells and San Diego, and semifinals at Miami and the Rogers Cup. Bartoli might return at Stanford next week.
Much more a grass specialist than Bartoli, the woman whom she defeated in the Wimbledon final has reached four quarterfinals there but none at any other major. Sabine Lisicki still looks to build on her victories over two top-four opponents at Wimbledon, and there is no reason why her massive serve cannot shine on fast hard courts. Her main challenge has consisted of staying healthy long enough to build momentum, so her ranking could climb if she does.
5. What to expect from Wimbledon’s walking wounded?
About five top-eight players limped out of the grass season with injuries that may linger. On the men’s side, Juan Martin Del Potro should recover quickly from a minor sprain caused by hyper-extending his left knee. The Wimbledon semifinalist and former US Open champion should prove the most compelling threat in New York outside the Big Four. World No. 3 David Ferrer may need more time to recover from his ankle injury, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has voiced uncertainty over whether he will return from a knee injury by the Open.
Eager to ignite her partnership with Jimmy Connors, Maria Sharapova withdrew from Stanford next week to rest a hip injury incurred at Wimbledon. Sharapova posted playful photos of her rehab work, not sounding overly concerned. Still, both Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka may need to brush off some rust early in the US Open Series. Limited to one match since Roland Garros, Azarenka has played only five tournaments in the last five months. Her coach, Sam Sumyk, reported that her knee incurred no structural damage, though.
6. Will home soil inspire the American men?
At the US Open last year and at Wimbledon this summer, nobody in this group reached the second week, something once taken for granted. With Andy Roddick retired and Mardy Fish chronically ill, American men’s tennis has plunged down an elevator shaft with embarrassing velocity. Not much light shines into the bottom of the shaft from former phenom Ryan Harrison, who has developed into an uninspired journeyman. The more explosive Jack Sock may evolve into a future star, as French sports magazine L’Equipe thinks, but his time will not come for at least a few years. Until then, the two lethargic giants John Isner and Sam Querrey remain the only real hopes for the US. The good news is that they have played their best tennis on home soil, winning 10 of 13 career titles there. The bad news is that neither has done anything meaningful on hard courts this year.
7. Which rising stars on each Tour will shine?
In the wake of a Wimbledon semifinal appearance, many eyes will focus on Jerzy Janowicz over the summer. The boyish, lanky Pole has virtually nothing to defend during the US Open Series as he aims to rise toward the top 10. Grigor Dimitrov has drawn attention mostly on account of his resemblance to Federer and his relationship with Sharapova, but he impressed at both Indian Wells and Miami this year. And the deeply talented, deeply enigmatic Bernard Tomic could build on a promising Wimbledon if he finds more discipline on the court and stability off the court.
The women’s game features some youngsters who have advanced faster than their male counterparts. One of three women to reach the second week at every major in 2013, the 20-year-old Sloane Stephens offers the home nation its most genuine threat outside Serena. Stephens needs to transfer some of her feistiness from verbal barbs to her game, not an obstacle confronted by the powerful Madison Keys. American fans should relish the sight of Keys this summer, showcasing a serve reminiscent of the Williams sisters and the penetrating groundstrokes designed for WTA success. Reaching the second week at Wimbledon and at last year’s US Open, meanwhile, British teenager Laura Robson has shown the power and belief to strike down the elite.
(July 16, 2013) With the U.S. Open looming in the near future, what does the summer hard court season hold for the ATP top 5? Nick Nemeroff recaps the players’ recent results and gives an outlook into the season going forward.
2013 has been quite the lackluster season for Roger Federer. The Swiss has only one title to his name (Halle), and has failed to reach the final in all five of the tournaments where he entered as the reigning champion. Federer is 1-5 against the top 10 this season, including two demoralizing losses to Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells and the final of Rome.
In all of Federer defeats this season (Andy Murray, Julien Benneteau, Tomas Berdych, Nadal twice, Kei Nishikori, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Sergiy Stakhovsky), he was entirely unsuccessful in controlling the middle of the court and found it hard to neutralize the offensive weapons of his opponents. Moving forward, I would anticipate Federer to be less inclined with working his way into points, a strategy highly uncharacteristic of the distinctive first-strike tennis which guided him to 17 grand slams.
Federer’s summer schedule is highly dense as he has entered Montreal, Cincinnati, and of course, the U.S. Open. But what has come as a bit of a surprise to many, Federer is playing on the clay of Hamburg and Gstaad in what appears be an effort to get more match play in before the hard court stretch and to gain back some of the confidence he lost earlier in the season.
With Nadal, the lingering questions always revolve around his ever so fragile knees. Following his opening round defeat to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon, Nadal expressed that the stress and pain put on his knees is amplified on grass due to the consistently lower positions he must execute in order to properly strike the ball.
Though the tour is transitioning from grass to hard, Nadal’s knees will continue to be tested. Despite the fact that hard courts yield higher bounces which mean the Spaniard will see more balls in his desired strike zone thus less bending and lunging for lower balls, hard courts are called hard courts for a reason—they are hard—especially on Rafa’s knees.
Before the U.S. Open, Nadal will be playing in both Montreal and Cincinnati, two events that will surely allow him to gauge the status of his knees. If Nadal can remain healthy, as he proved in the seven tournaments he has won in 2013, he can be absolutely devastating. Remember, besides the six clay court tournaments he won, Nadal also won Indian Wells defeating Federer, Berdych, and Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the title.
David Ferrer has reached the semifinals of 4 of the last 6 grand slams, including a career best run at this year’s French Open where he overcame his grand slam semifinal struggles getting to the final before losing to Nadal.
Undeniably, Ferrer’s premier surface is clay. Ferrer is often praised for his speed, consistency, retrieval abilities, and his fighting spirit. The narrative around Ferrer often clouds one of the most overlooked and important aspects of his game that being his aggression. For one of the smallest guys on tour, Ferrer really injects a mountain of energy into each and every shot and certainly can put a significant amount of pace on the ball.
Ferrer will be less inclined to grind on hard courts and as a result, his underestimated finishing power should be on full display.
Regardless of what Andy Murray does for the rest of the season, his 2013 will be remembered for his triumph at Wimbledon. Despite it being one of the most bizarre tournaments any of us have ever witnessed, the British fans’ 77 years of agony finally ended.
The joys of success must be quickly celebrated as Murray has a whopping 2000 points to defend from his U.S. Open title last year. Murray should feel less pressure in the U.S. Open warm-up even tournament as he only has 180 points to defend in Montreal and Cincinnati.
Over the past several years, Murray’s game has evolved leaps and bounds under the careful supervision of the ever stoic Ivan Lendl. In prior years, Murray game was characterized by inexplicable passivity and constant mental battles. Today, Murray has flip the switch on that characterization and has learned to better control the myriad of thoughts running through his head and utilize his powerful groundstrokes in a manner that is more proactive rather than reactive.
Look for Murray’s second serve to be a key shot as he looks to defend his U.S. Open crown especially if he ends up facing either Ferrer or Djokovic, two of the best returners in the game.
Shock and disbelief were coursing through my veins during the Wimbledon final as Novak Djokovic put forth one of the most substandard performances of his career. Coming from a guy who usually steps up in the biggest moments and has ice running through his veins, Djokovic surely was not expecting such an outright defeat.
Having lost two of his last three major finals to Murray, the Serbian will enter the hard court swing looking to restore the form that catapulted him to the number one ranking, a level of play far distant from what we saw in the Wimbledon final.
The next several months will be a key stretch for the Serb as he looks to maintain a grasp of the top ranking. In 2012, Djokovic won Canada and reached the final of Cincinnati and the U.S. Open meaning he has serious points to defend.
Just past its halfway point, the year 2013 has featured twists and turns, tastes of the familiar and the unfamiliar, and plenty of memorable matches to recall. This first of two articles counts down the seven most memorable men’s matches of the first half. Not necessarily the longest, the closest, or those that featured the best tennis, each of them connected to narratives broader than their specific outcomes.
7) Grigor Dimitrov d. Novak Djokovic, Madrid 2R, 7-6(6) 6-7(8) 6-3
During the first few months of 2013, Dimitrov progressed slowly but surely in his ability to challenge the ATP elite. First, he served for the first set against Djokovic and Murray in Indian Wells and Miami, respectively. Then, he won a set from Nadal on clay in Monte Carlo. Dimitrov’s true breakthrough came at the next Masters 1000 tournament in Madrid, where he withstood an extremely tense encounter against the world No. 1. When Djokovic escaped the marathon second-set tiebreak, the underdog could have crumbled. Instead, Dimitrov rallied to claim an early third-set lead that he never relinquished. Having won the Monte Carlo title from Nadal in his previous match, Djokovic showed unexpected emotional frailty here that undercut his contender’s credentials in Paris. (He did, however, avenge this loss to Dimitrov when they met at Roland Garros.)
6) Sergiy Stakhovsky d. Roger Federer, Wimbledon 2R, 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 7-6(5)
Ten years before, almost to the day, a youthful Roger Federer had burst onto the tennis scene by upsetting seven-time champion Pete Sampras at the All England Club. An aura of invincibility had cloaked Federer at majors for much of the ensuing decade, contributing to a record-breaking streak of 36 major quarterfinals. That streak forms a key cornerstone of his legacy, but it ended at the hands of a man outside the top 100 who never had defeated anyone in the top 10. Federer did not play poorly for much of this match, a symbol of the astonishing upsets that rippled across Wimbledon on the first Wednesday. Rare is the occasion when he does not play big points well, and even rarer is the occasion when an unheralded opponent of his plays them better. Stakhovsky needed the fourth-set tiebreak almost as much as Federer did, and he struck just the right balance of boldness and patience to prevail.
5) Andy Murray d. Roger Federer, Australian Open SF, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2
Murray ended the first half of 2013 by thrusting not a monkey but a King Kong-sized gorilla off its back. He rid himself of another onerous burden when the year began, nearly as meaningful if less publicized. Never had Murray defeated Federer at a major before, losing all three of their major finals while winning one total set. A comfortable win seemed within his grasp when he served for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set, only to see a vintage spurt of inspiration from the Swiss star force a fifth. All the pressure rested on Murray in the deciding set after that opportunity slipped away, and yet he composed himself to smother Federer efficiently. Murray’s third consecutive appearance in a major final illustrated his improving consistency, a theme of 2013. Meanwhile, his opponent’s sagging energy in the fifth set revealed another theme of a season in which Federer has showed his age more than ever before.
4) Rafael Nadal d. Ernests Gulbis, Indian Wells 4R, 4-6 6-4 7-5
Although South American clay had hinted at the successes ahead, neither Nadal nor his fans knew what to expect when he played his first marquee tournament since Wimbledon 2012. Even the most ambitious among them could not have foreseen the Spaniard winning his first hard-court tournament since 2010 and first hard-court Masters 1000 tournament in four years. Nadal would finish his title run by defeating three straight top-eight opponents, but the decisive turning point of his tournament came earlier.After falling behind the dangerous Ernests Gulbis, he dug into the trenches with his familiar appetite for competition. To his credit, Gulbis departed from his usual insouciance and stood toe to toe with Nadal until the end, even hovering within two points of the upset. But Nadal’s explosive athleticism allowed him to halt the Latvian’s 13-match winning streak in a series of pulsating exchanges. He ended the match with his confidence far higher than when it began.
3) Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin Del Potro, Wimbledon SF, 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3
Here is a match that does belong on this list simply because of its extraordinary length, tension, and quality, even if it ultimately lacks broader implications. Neither man had lost a set en route to this semifinal, and its 283 blistering, sprawling minutes showed why. Refusing to give an inch from the baseline, Djokovic and Del Potro blasted ferocious serves and groundstrokes while tracking down far more balls than one would have thought possible on grass. The drama raced to its climax late in the fourth set, when the Argentine saved two match points with bravery that recalled his Indian Wells victories over Murray and Djokovic. Triumphant at last a set later, the Serb emitted a series of howls that exuded relief as much as exultation. We will not know for the next several weeks what, if anything, will come from this match for Del Potro, but it marked by far his best effort against the Big Four at a major since he won the US Open.
2) Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka, Australian Open 4R, 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5) 12-10
Just halfway into the first major of 2013, everyone concurred that we already had found a strong candidate for the match of the year. The second-ranked Swiss man lit up the Melbourne night for a set and a half as Djokovic slipped, scowled, and stared in disbelief at his unexpectedly feisty opponent. Once Wawrinka faltered in his attempt to serve for a two-set lead, though, an irreversible comeback began. Or so we thought. A dazzling sequence of shot-making from Djokovic defined proceedings until midway through the fourth set, when Wawrinka reignited at an ideal moment. Two of the ATP’s most glorious backhands then dueled through a 22-game final set, which also pitted Wawrinka’s formidable serve against Djokovic’s pinpoint return. The underdog held serve six times to stay in the match, forcing the favorite to deploy every defensive and offensive weapon in his arsenal to convert the seventh attempt. Fittingly, both of these worthy adversaries marched onward to impressive accomplishments. Djokovic would secure a record three-peat in Melbourne, and Wawrinka would launch the best season of his career with victories over half of the top eight and a top-10 ranking.
1) Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros SF, 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7
The stakes on each side loomed a little less large than in the 2012 final, perhaps, with neither a Nole Slam nor Nadal’s record-breaking seventh Roland Garros title on the line. One would not have known it from watching a sequel much more compelling than the original, and one of the finest matches that this rivalry has produced. Somewhat a mirror image of their final last year at the Australian Open, it featured a comeback by one man from the brink of defeat in the fourth set and a comeback by the other from the brink of defeat in the fifth. Nadal led by a set and a break and later served for the match before Djokovic marched within six points of victory, but one last desperate display of will edged the Spaniard across the finish line. Few champions throughout the sport’s history can match the resilience of these two champions, so the winner of their matches can exult in a hard-earned triumph. While Djokovic proved how far he had progressed in one year as a Roland Garros contender, Nadal validated his comeback with his most fearless effort yet against the mature version of the Serb. Only time will tell whether it marks the start of a new chapter in their rivalry, or a glittering coda that illustrates what might have been.
Check back in a day or two for a companion article on the seven most memorable women’s matches.