It’s bittersweet to see the first major tournament of the tennis calendar come to an end.
On one hand, this year’s Australian Open was ripe with compelling story lines and quality matches that culminated in two excellent singles finals. The hardcore tennis fans of the world are now able to return to a regular sleep schedule and can ultimately sleep knowing that no one beats Tomas Berdych 18 times in a row, but that Serena Williams indeed might end up doing just that to Maria Sharapova.
On the other hand, we now have to wait four more months until the next Grand Slam and must slowly reintegrate with the so-called “real world” society that we have abandoned over the fortnight in favor of all-nighters and excruciatingly early mornings.
That being said, looking back at an excellent tournament is never a bad thing and there was certainly quite a bit of exceptional tennis to reflect on. It would have been unfair to overlook last night’s men’s singles final, so this week’s #SNS – a special #SundayNightShots edition – will have a look at nine exceptional points of that graced our fandom at the 2015 Australian Open.
Simona Halep vs. Yanina Wickmayer – R4
In her fourth round match against a resurgent Yanina Wickmayer, Simona Halep displayed the fluid movement and running shotmaking that fans have come to know her for but that was somewhat tragically missing in her disappointing loss in the next round. She makes this list via a stunning backhand winner that she practically falls over into. Halep’s ability to effortlessly change the direction of the ball off her backhand wing, especially down the lines, will never cease to amaze.
Stan Wawrinka vs. Kei Nishikori – QF
In this highly anticipated rematch of their 2014 US Open thriller, defending champion Stan Wawrinka had all the answers to his feisty – albeit, perhaps tactically remiss – Japanese opponent. Nishikori failed to take risks down the line with his exceptional backhand and instead allowed Wawrinka to dictate off his own illustrious backhand wing. This point is a showcase of two exceptional shots at the top of the men’s game, but ultimately showcases #Stanimal’s proficiency at dictating play with one of the world’s best one-handers.
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Varvara Lepchenko – R3
Polish sensation Agnieszka Radwanska had struggled with Varvara Lepchenko in their recent meetings, but this third round matchup proved to be a walk in the park for Martina Navratilova’s new pupil. She used her full bag of tricks in this straightforward defeat of her big-hitting southpaw rival, and she came up with this vintage drop shot on match point. Radwanska’s disguise of the drop shot in addition to hitting it absolutely perfectly on the run to wrong-foot Lepchenko is the kind of play that has seen her as the WTA’s Fan Favorite™ for four years now.
Andreas Seppi vs. Roger Federer – R3
Andreas Seppi caused arguably the biggest upset of the tournament when he beat World No. 2 Roger Federer in the third round. Despite having lost 10 straight matches to Federer, this was by no means a fluke victory. Seppi played inspired tennis over the full course of his four-set win, but this shot on match point might have been maybe just a bit lucky. Regardless, this defensive forehand floated in at the last second and was the perfect punctuation to a career-defining win for the Italian.
Maria Sharapova vs. Serena Williams – F
The bad news for Sharapova was that it just wasn’t meant to be (yet again) against her eternal nemesis Williams. The good news for the Russian’s fans is that this is the hardest Sharapova has played the American in years and the match was ripe in both drama and quality. Sharapova changed up a few tactics to keep the match close, including several point-winning drop shots that, while not as fluid as Radwanska’s, were effective in keeping the eventual champion on her toes.
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Andy Murray – R4
This tightly contested fourth round match seemed to be heading to a dramatic fifth set, but a loss of concentration from Dimitrov saw those hopes dashed away…and his racket destroyed. Dimitrov kept it close with Murray, however, by taking the second set in a tiebreak; in it, he demonstrated his improved movement and remarkable improvisational skills off his backhand wing. While the stylish backhand has never been Dimitrov’s strongest asset, his feel off that wing is exceptional. In this important tiebreak point, he proved it.
Dominika Cibulkova vs. Victoria Azarenka – R4
In yet another compelling fourth round match, few expected the slumping defending finalist to cause much trouble to the two-time former champion Azarenka. Yet Cibulkova played her most inspired tennis in nearly a year, blasting forehand winners every which way and showing off her trademark intensity. Her compact forehand was lethal and leaked few errors over the course of this exceptional match, but this crucial point late in the third set was won with one of the best shots of the whole tournament.
Gael Monfils vs. Lucas Pouille – R1
Is it any surprise to see Monfils on a list of tournament hot shots? This eternal entertainer has occasionally forsaken effectiveness for entertainment, yet in his massive comeback win over talented countryman Lucas Pouille, he used his puzzling yet fantastical shotmaking talent to regain control of a match he was on the brink of losing. The quintessential “tweener” makes an appearance in this particular point, which Monfils then follows up with a sharp backhand pass off of an overhead that most would have left for a winner.
Leander Paes/Martina Hingis vs. Su-wei Hsieh/Pablo Cuevas – SF
This final shot makes an exceptional case for not only doubles, but for mixed doubles. Doubles specialist Paes, who has been known to be rather provocative on court, let his racket do the talking and pulled off an incredible behind-the-back shot to set up a winner at the tail end of a lengthy rally. His partner, the revived Hingis, hit her own excellent backhand off of Cuevas’ overhead – making this point one of the most exciting that the doubles tournaments this year produced.
Whose hot shot impressed you the most? Sound off in the comments!