A group of fish is called a school. A group of lions is called a pride. A group of hobbits, humans, dwarves, elves and a wizard is called a Fellowship™.
…but most importantly, in tennis, a group of shots is called a point.
In 2014, there have been some incredible matches on the WTA Tour, many of them providing us with breathtaking points. So for this week’s #SaturdayNightShots, TTI will be doing the first of several off-season retrospectives, and taking a look at 2014’s top points in the women’s game.
From the shot that starts the point to the shot that finishes it, the fabric of an excellent point is sewn by each shot taken therein. The temporal context where it takes place increases the stakes of the moment and thus the gravity of the point – another important element in isolating the best of the best points.
Thus, we’ve ranked the following ten points based on these criteria: the length of the rally, coupled with the variety of shots, the deciding shot that punctuates the point and of course its context within the game/set/match/tournament:
10. Kerber vs. Kvitova (Fed Cup, Final)
Having capitulated against Lucie Safarova in her first rubber of the highly anticipated Fed Cup showdown in Prague, there was immense pressure for Angelique Kerber just to extend the tie – and for Kvitova to clinch the title for the Czechs. The lightning fast courts set the stage for this immensely entertaining point that illustrated two contrasting styles: Kerber’s stellar improvisation skills and Kvitova’s improved fitness.
9. Halep vs. Sharapova (French Open, Final)
This point, which begins 15:11 in, was massive in the context of an extremely tense match, where Maria Sharapova was barely edging out Simona Halep for a 6-4 4-4 lead. At deuce, Sharapova could have earned a break point to put herself a game away from her second French Open title. Halep’s incredible defense and anticipation prolonged the set and ultimately the match in what was one of the marquee matches in 2014.
8. Kvitova vs. Bouchard (Wimbledon, Final)
In the press conference after the Wimbledon final, Petra Kvitova remarked that this was the point in which she knew she was in the zone and her game was on – in other words, the point in which Eugenie Bouchard effectively met her demise. Complete with a shank return, defense and offense from both, and a jaw dropping pass to finish, this was a defining point in Kvitova’s statement Grand Slam triumph.
7. Radwanska vs. Azarenka (Australian Open, Quarterfinal)
Agnieszka Radwanska is both a consistent fan favorite and human highlight reel – so naturally the recipient of the WTA’s fan-voted Shot of the Year Award features in one of the points of the year. In this point, she disguises a slice down-the-line with drop shot preparation, displays typically impressive movement and atypically impressive power, outmaneuvering nemesis Victoria Azarenka at the net. Watch the rest of the video too, as she does it more than once en route to the upset.
6. Wozniacki vs. S. Williams (WTA Finals Singapore, Semifinal)
Caroline Wozniacki’s rivalry with Serena Williams was no doubt the rivalry of the second half of 2014; it is fitting, then, that the rivalry peaked at the WTA Finals in Singapore. Firmly in control of the match after the first set, Wozniacki wobbled and let a fighting Serena back in, ultimately getting to match point down in the third – but she saved it with impressive and noted improvements at the net and vintage anticipation in this exceptional point.
5. Ivanovic vs. Sharapova (Cincinnati, Semifinal)
In what was one of the most dramatic matches of the year, Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic looked to one-up her choke against Sharapova in Stuttgart. Leading 6-2 5-2, she dropped five straight games before the infamous blood pressure saga of the third. All the drama and double faults culminated for the peak of match: a tense point where both played with sharp angles until the former French Open champion went for glory off her forehand – and got it.
4. Wozniacki vs. Sharapova (US Open, Fourth Round)
While this point may have ended in a Sharapova volley error*, it was instrumental in the context of the tournament, and of Wozniacki’s year. The Dane displayed her trademark defense, scurrying to balls that most players wouldn’t have kept running for, and then ripping a forehand up the line. This sealed the crucial break of serve for Wozniacki, and it was enough for the match – a massive win in a massive match at a tournament that ultimately turned her year and ranking around.
*Honorable mention goes to a nearly identical point that these two played later in Singapore: one in which Wozniacki actually gets the forehand passing shot winner – though she ultimately ended up losing the set.
3. Halep vs. Radwanska (Indian Wells, Semifinal)
This was a highly entertaining two-set match between Halep and Radwanska, two counterpunchers who find contrasting ways to be aggressive in their match-ups. Together, the two conspired to provide 2014 with one of the longest and most arduous hard court points. Several times in the rally, the Pole looked well out of it with Halep painting the lines, yet managed to hang in until checkmate: a drop shot well beyond Radwanska’s reach from behind the baseline.
2. Venus vs. Kerber (Montreal, Third Round)
The final, nearly 20-minute game of this match was ripe with both drama and quality: Venus playing with vintage power and timeless volleys, Kerber with trademark counterpunching and never-say-die approach. Had Kerber won this point, it would have been 5-5 and one could speculate the momentum – and match – may have been with her. Yet with steely determination and focus, vintage Venus showed up just in time, sparking her most noteworthy run of 2014.
1. Kerber vs. Jankovic (Doha, Semifinal)
As one of the top defenders in the women’s game, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kerber features in numerous top points this year. Her unconventional technique and southpaw tendency matches her up well against many opponents, and while she may not be the most esteemed match player, her point playing is world class. In this point against Serbian Jelena Jankovic, she attacks with authority and defends even the most acute of angles. Kerber finishes the point with a classic “screaming winner” after covering more than an entire court’s worth of distance. All this on a break point in a Premier 5 semifinal – a match she’d ultimately win to post her strongest result of the year.