Need help making it through the long and winding off-season? Relive the best – and worst – of the ATP in 2014 with TTI’s weekly wrap-up series. Up first: stroll down memory lane with ten of the Tour’s best matches of the season.
10. Rafael Nadal d. Pablo Andujar, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(10) (Rio SF)
Rafael Nadal had all but the kitchen sink thrown at him by fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the semifinals of Open de Rio. The King of Clay dropped the first set, 6-2, and it seemed as though he would breeze through the final phase of the match after winning the second, 6-3. Andujar, however, had other ideas, forcing Nadal to the brink twice in the final set. The standard of Andujar’s tennis was unlike anything the tennis world had ever seen from him before. Despite the loss, Andujar hit one of the shots of the year down match point (14:00), returning a blistering Nadal passing shot back over the net with sensational feel.
9. Roger Federer d. Leonardo Mayer, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(7) (Shanghai R2)
Like Andujar, Leonardo Mayer was on the brink of scoring the biggest win of his career in Shanghai. Playing phenomenal tennis against Roger Federer, the Argentine got to match point five times, only for the Swiss Maestro to pull proverbial rabbits out of the hat and each time and going on to win the match, later the tournament. What Mayer and Federer will likely both remember from the match is the first match point (2:43). Mayer missed out on a golden opportunity when he missed a wide-open passing shot that clipped the tape and bounced on his side. It was a moment of unquantifiable good fortune for the Swiss, to say the least.
8. Grigor Dimitrov d. Andy Murray, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) (Acapulco SF)
Third time’s the charm for our Big 4 challengers. At the time, Grigor Dimitrov called it “the biggest win of his career.” The Bulgarian saw off Andy Murray in a match that didn’t end until 2:30 a.m., local time. The rallies in this match were extensive and grueling, testing the mental and physical resilience of both players. Dimitrov served for the match at 5-4 in the third set before getting broken but ultimately got the job done in a final set tiebreak. This win foreshadowed a rematch at Wimbledon, where Dimitrov repeated against the defending champion to make his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal.
7. Kei Nishikori d. Milos Raonic, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 (Tokyo F)
This should go down as one of the highest quality matches of the year. While not as long or as entertaining as some of the matches to come, Raonic and Nishikori put on an absolutely spectacular show in the Tokyo final. Both players were firing on all cylinders, especially Raonic, who typically has a bit of trouble hanging with Nishikori from the baseline. On this occasion, however, the Canadian moved, served and hit at an extremely high level. But it still wasn’t enough to beat Nishikori at his home tournament. For Nishikori, it was a loaded fall that backed up his impressive run to the US Open final, and perhaps finally put to rest the notion that the Japanese dynamo was more physically soft than his rivals.
6. Nick Kyrgios d. Richard Gasquet, 3-6 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 10-8 (Wimbledon R2)
Many people will understandably remember Nick Kyrgios’ take down of Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of this year’s Wimbledon Championships. What they may not remember is the match he played two rounds earlier against Frenchman Richard Gasquet. After going down two sets to love, the young Aussie mounted a breathtaking rally saving a grand total of nine match points, most of which were salvaged through winners. NK was rising, indeed, which rung all-too-true for Nadal by the start of the second week.
5. Andy Murray d. Tommy Robredo, 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(8) (Valencia F)
Not only was this match consistently high quality but it was also the match that broke the internet – Kim Kardashia-who? It took Murray three hours and 20 minutes to overcome Tommy Robredo to capture a much-needed title in Valencia. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Spaniard, who held five match points but was unable to get the job done. Looking back, this match may be most remembered for Robredo giving Murray the “double bird” at the net after it was over. But can we blame him? After all, this was actually the second straight final he had lost to Murray after holding five match points.
4. Philipp Kohlschreiber d. Dustin Brown, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(16) (Halle QF)
This was one of the wackiest matches of the entire season as German Philipp Kohlschreiber saved five match points of his own in the final set tiebreak before beating fellow German Dustin Brown 18-16, on his seventh match point. To give you a clearer idea of just how crazy this sudden death was, of the 34 points played, 12 were match points. Dustin Brown’s matches tend to feature tons of audacious and outrageous shotmaking; this one was no different, adding to a fascinating twist to a match already loaded with drama.
3. Kei Nishikori d. David Ferrer 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3 (Madrid Masters SF)
Kei Nishikori surely gives David Ferrer nightmares. The Japanese No. 1 beat the Spaniard four times this year, and did so in four airtight three-set affairs, including a semifinal victory at the Madrid Masters in May. Ferrer’s fighting spirit was in high order on this day, saving his first nine match points before Nishikori was able to put the nail in the coffin in just under three hours. Nishikori went on to take hometown favorite Rafael Nadal to the brink before succumbing to injury. Either way, Kei Nishikori had arrived.
2. Stan Wawrinka d. Novak Djokovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 (Australian Open QF)
For the second consecutive season, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka provided us with a truly epic five-set thriller in the second week of the Australian Open. In 2013, Djokovic defeated Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set of a match that saw Wawrinka on the precipice of victory more than a few times. This year, Wawrinka reversed his fortunes, beating Djokovic 9-7 in the fifth set. It looked as though Wawrinka was on the verge of blowing a two sets to one lead as the Serb leveled the match and lead by an early break in the final set, but he weathered the storm and pulled off one of the biggest victories of his career. The win, of course, set a most improbable number of events into motion, climaxing with Wawrinka’s first Grand Slam victory with an even more shocking win over Nadal in the final.
1. Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer 6-7(7) 6-4 7-6(4) 5-7 6-4 (Wimbledon F)
Federer and Djokovic contested what was far and away the most entertaining and compelling Grand Slam final of 2014. It took Djokovic three hours and fifty-six minutes and five sets to finally get the best of the seven-time champion to claim his second Wimbledon crown. There was no shortage of drama as Federer saved championship point in the fourth set with an ace that landed right on the T. It seemed like destiny was on the side of the then-32-year-old veteran, but Djokovic was having none of it, breaking Federer’s serve at 5-4 in the fifth set to seal the deal.
What were your favorite matches of the year? Sound off in the comments! Tune in next week when TTI gathers round the table and shares what we’re thankful for!
Correction (November 26, 2014): Leonardo Mayer is from Argentina, not from Germany as originally posted. Florian Mayer is from Germany.