It’s December. Most of the tennis world is recharging their batteries for 2015 (unless of course they’re taking part in the four-week IPTL exhibition series/”season”). But you’re a tennis fan – you don’t have a niggling back injury or a service motion to adjust.
YOU WANT MORE TOP 10 LISTS.
Nevertheless, last week on TTI’s weekly #SaturdayNightShots, we had a look at the Top 10 points that the talented ladies of the WTA Tour entertained us with in 2014. This week, to satisfy the gender binary and all things #men, we shall be doing the same for the players of the Association of Tennis Professionals.
To quote none other than yours truly,
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.
And by that criteria once again we have ranked the following ATP points, each of which feature brutal rallying, exceptional shotmaking and jaw-dropping athleticism:
10. Nadal vs. Federer (Australian Open, Semifinals)
The legendarily lopsided “Fedal” rivalry had its first and only meeting this year at the Australian Open; this point illustrates exactly why the Swiss has succumbed to this rival than any other. Nadal pounds the Federer backhand incessantly before deciding he’s had enough.
Nadal’s response? A trademark forehand winner.
9. Haas vs. Federer (Indian Wells, Fourth Round)
Tommy Haas still has wheels at the age of 36. In this classic match-up between two of the most venerable top players on tour, Federer could be accused of complacency as he tries to finish the point several times at the net – but Haas has other ideas.
Watch him cover the length of the court several times before an exceptional passing shot seals the point.
8. Lopez vs. Youzhny (Shanghai, Quarterfinals)
Although it may be the shortest among 2014’s top points, the shotmaking between these two veterans is what makes this point so appealing: a backhand overhead smash, a half volley forehand that probably should have been a winner, and a quintessential lefty “banana-shot” to finish it off – but not by the Spaniard we’ve come to expect.
7. Djokovic vs. Federer (Shanghai, Semifinals)
In perhaps one of his most comprehensive victories over Djokovic in years, Federer was mercilessly attacking the net. Against one of the best defenders and passers in the game, however, it’s not always a winning formula. A last minute foray into the net by Federer on the tail end of a brutal rally is given the treatment by a ridiculous angle off Djokovic’s backhand.
6. Wawrinka vs. Djokovic (Australian Open, Quarterfinals)
This is the result no one saw coming. Djokovic hadn’t lost at the Australian Open in three years, yet in a repeat of 2013’s indisputable match of the year, Wawrinka rose to the challenge and overcame the Serb with some outrageous points. This important break point in the second set features #StanTheMan’s storied backhand several times – particularly at its beautiful best for the final winner.
5. Dolgopolov vs. Nadal (Indian Wells, Third Round)
Dolgopolov and his unconventional shot production have always been enigmatic – his form will go away for long stretches of the year but then reappear in all forms of majesty for a month or two. It was in February and March when he was at his wonky best this season. In his career-best win over Nadal in Indian Wells, his injections of pace and loopy spins found consistency and produced spectacular points like this one.
4. Dimitrov vs. Dolgopolov (Wimbledon, Third Round)
Current World No. 23 Dolgopolov once again finds his way onto the list, this time against Dimitrov in a tense third round on the manicured lawns of Wimbledon. Down two sets to one, this match was huge for the rising Bulgarian and was a stepping stone on the way to his best result of the year: his first major semifinal. Both players carve the ball well with their slice backhands and shots skid off the slick grass – and they save their best for match point.
3. Djokovic vs. Nadal (Miami, Final)
Speaking of match points, how about on in the final of a Masters 1000? Djokovic executed a near-flawless game plan in this thorough dismantling of Nadal, characterized by exceptional serving, rugged defence, and sharp, powerfully angled backhands.
This last point summarizes exactly why Djokovic has been able to get the better of his rival so often on the hard courts of America.
2. Federer vs Djokovic (Dubai, Semifinals)
Gifted with arguably the most aggressive variety on tour, it comes as no surprise Roger Federer has featured several times in top points this year. His form has also seen him of late come up with points like this – where his ability to turn defense into offense (against a player who has built a career on that sort of thing) produces one of 2014’s best points. Whether or not it’s a result of his partnership with Edberg is up for debate, but his ventures and volleys at the net have seen Federer do a lot of winning this year – including this spectacular 26-shot rally in Dubai.
1. Dimitrov vs. Murray (Acapulco, Semifinals)
As it was with the ladies, 2014’s ATP point of the year also took place in February. On the newly employed hard courts of Acapulco, Dimitrov and Murray played a classic with the Bulgarian ultimately winning the match and later the title. It’s safe to say that that he has shed the once painfully prevalent “BabyFed” moniker, particularly thanks to points such as this, in which he displays almost Djokovician levels of sliding defence. Murray plays his part too – as one of the best movers in the game, he responds to each miracle defensive shot of his opponent’s with some of his own, but finally yielding at the point’s climax: a textbook volley by the kid once known as the next Federer, but better known now as
Sharapova’s boyfriend just Grigor Dimitrov.
Did your favorite shot miss the countdown? Sound off in the comments!