Despite most of the rated 'greatest tennis matches in history' being the finals of grand slams, we believe that some of the semi-finals were actually much 'greater' than such rated grand slam finals. We believe that the disproportionate weight attached to the lateness of a match into the tournament, in its strength as a determinant of a match's greatness, is thoroughly unjustified. Here are 3 of such semi-final matches.
Federer v Safin (2005 Australian Open semi-final)
This match deserves to be on this list for the outstanding performance of Safin. Defeating Federer at his peak was a near-impossible task - this is demonstrated by the fact that only two men outside the Great 4 have beaten Federer at a grand slam, during the period that runs from Wimbledon 2004 through to the 2010 French Open. The match saw Safin play at the best of his career ever. He had no holes in this defence, a remarkable offensive capability which he sustained throughout the match, and a mental fortitude that did not dampen at any time. This was however not what makes this match remarkable, but that it was a match Federer struggled in despite playing perhaps the best he could, which was an incredible rarity during that time.
Federer v Djokovic (2011 US Open semi-final)
This epic US Open semi-final Federer at one of best moments against Djokovic at his best time. Djokovic was on a rampage throughout the year till then, having gone on a record-setting streak in the first half of the season before losing to Federer himself at the French Open semifinal, and winning the Wimbledon championship. It was thus an interesting proposition for them to do a re-match. I was extremely curious about the outcome, as Federer had beaten Djokovic on clay despite the surface being more advantageous to the Serb, so it would be interesting to see if Djokovic could buck the weight of probability which is pressing down on him. The match was phenomenal for its game-play - it was like a drawn-out mutual exchange of lightning bolts. The quality and ferociousness of the game-play apart, it was also phenomenal for Federer losing two match points on his serve, and the incredible return by Djokovic on the first of such match points (look at the video below)
Djokovic v Nadal (2013 French Open semi-final)
This was not just one of the greatest semi-final matches ever, it was the best clay court match to have ever been played - it was labelled as such by many authoritative tennis critics too, one of them being the great John McEnroe Firstly, the quality displayed by both players was impeccable. It was not simply that both were able to hit with such ferociousness and defence ability, but more crucially that they were able sustain such bursts of energy continuously for over 4 hours long. You also have the remarkable come-back of Nadal. At 5-3 down in advantage of Djokovic, the match seemed practically lost, but a massively unfortunate and unnecessary trip of Djokovic into the net caused him the point at Deuce 5-3, which must have had a severe impact on his mental state throughout the remainder of the game. His failing to hold serve was most likely a consequence of that.
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