You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six. - Yogi Berra
Dull' would be the last word possible to come to the mind of a sane proper tennis-following person, if she/he were to be asked to pick one to encapsulate the events of this year's ATP season. In a very refreshing break from the Murray-Djokovic monopoly on keyest of ATP matches (ATP 1000 finals or grand slam finals etc.), Nadal and Federer rode back into such spotlight in what may feel like (it certainly did for us) a rise from the graveyard of past (and fallen) legends. However, that is not the focus of our article here. What also makes this year not a dull one is a range of spectacular and thrilling matches. In this article, we write about 4, counting down to what we believe is the best.
Gilles Muller d. Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 (Wimbledon)
This is not merely one of those more ordinary matches of the underdog-unexpectedly-and-hence-thrillingly-defeated-a-titan trope, on two counts - the 'storyline' within the match and the context of the match. The dramatic weight of the match is evident in the score of the match. All seemed lost for Nadal with the playing of the first two sets - perhaps this is the usual as he has never been good at Wimbledon since 2011, and thus the expectations riding on him for the tournament as a result of his success in the past two slams should be dampened down significantly. Then, in a maneuver he has not produced before on a grass court of Wimbledon, he equalized the match with the winning of the next two. With the momentum on his back, a win by Nadal of the fifth set and hence match seemed inevitable. However, in a second defiance-of-fate of the match, Muller secured a narrow victory as a result of a uncharacteristically clumsy forehand error by Nadal. Such storyline has parallels with two of the greatest tennis matches of all time (a huge part due to such back-and-forth storyline) - the 2008 and 1982 Wimbledon mens' singles finals.
Juan Martin del Potro d. Dominic Thiem 1-6 2-6 6-1 7-6 6-4 (US Open)
This match is on this exclusive list by virtue of it being deemed by us the Rovo team as the greatest come-back match of 2017, and probably the third-greatest in tennis history (although we have to admit that this would a highly controversial opinion, and that we are not exactly the most proper authorities to make a claim like that). What differentiates this come-back match from others is the match point opportunities for Thiem (there were two in the fourth set). In case you may be interested, ranked above just such match in our list of the greatest comebacks of all time in ATP tennis are the 2011 US Open semi-final match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic (which also had 2 match point opportunities for the eventual loser) and the 2004 French Open final between Guillermo Coria and Gaston Gaudio (which had multiple match points in the final set). As breathtaking as this storyline are the powerful shot exchanges between both players, known for their powerful styles of play.
Stan Wawrinka d. Andy Murray 6 (6) -7 6-3 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-1 (French Open)
This match is here as we believe this has be the grittiest match of this year's ATP season, and perhaps for the reason that we subconsciously hold grittiness to be the more important factor in contributing to a match's greatness as compared to the match having a comeback 'storyline', we decided to rank this better than the Del Potro - Thiem one. This match on the toughest of all surfaces was only made more grilling by having Andy Murray as one of the two competitors. When you pair up the brutality of the drawn-out rallies kudos to the wall-like defences of Murray, and the savagery of Wawrinka's ever-relentless offenses, you get an art-in-motion that a match of a similar standard on another surface would not be able to produce. We apologize if this may sound ridiculously cheesy and vague, but we could think of no better way to capture what we felt about the match, and most experiences (particularly the genuinely magnificent ones) cannot be captured in words.
Roger Federer d. Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 (Australian Open)
If matches number 4 and number 3 made it to the list because of their storylines, and match number 2 for its grit, number 1 made it to this list for its historical significance. Yes the match was spectacularly played out, there were a number of 'blockbuster' points - one example of such being this one down here (which came to define the very match itself)
Yes, there was a comeback moment in the last set when Federer came from a break down to take away the match and championship. But how do they compare against the fact that at the time this match practically determined who was the greatest tennis player of all time?! At the time the match was being played, Roger Federer had 17 grand slam titles to his, while Nadal had 14. A win from Federer would leave him firmly in place in the GOAT position by a very wide margin. It's not just about 18 being 4 more than 14. With the Wimbledon championships 6 months away, and his performance leading up to the final with Nadal clearly pointing to a very high probability of Federer winning there, the win would make 19. Similarly for Nadal, who would most likely take the French Open title in May of that year given his performance throughout the tournament, would make him have 16 (which would have been only one shy of Federer). Were such scenario to materialize, the race would turn to Nadal's favour, who given his much more youthful age would have some years more to seizing grand slam victories (we the Rovo team estimated that such time span would be roughly 2 years).
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