Here is my countdown of my favourite 20 matches on the WTA circuit in 2011. There are some obvious choices, but also some very obscure ones which many will probably disagree with but its a subjective matter! The best matches for me have not necessarily included the best tennis, but are ones that I remember for being both dramatic and exciting. There may also be some exclusions down to the fact that I didn’t happen to watch particular matches. Anyway here goes for the final wrap up of 2011….
20. Marion Bartoli d. Petra Kvitova 6-1 4-6 7-5 (Eastbourne)
The Eastbourne final was not necessarily of the highest quality, but it had drama in abundance and was fought out between two great competitors. The weather had forced the semi-finals and the final to be played on the Saturday yet the conditions were still horrendous as it was literally blowing a gale! Bartoli looked close to finishing off a one-sided final at 6-1 3-1 against a terribly off-cue Kvitova. However Kvitova dug deep and started to play much better midway through the second set and managed to force a decider. Bartoli was also carrying a groin injury in the final set but to her credit, she kept playing on. After wasting chances to serve the match out at 5-4, she made no mistake the second time round to claim the Eastbourne title.
19. Vera Zvonareva d. Jelena Jankovic 6-1 2-6 6-4 (Doha)
Zvonareva and Jankovic fought out a great semi-final in Doha back in February. The first set was one-sided in favour of Zvonareva; however the match peaked in the second set. The variety was fantastic with some great points at the net and Jankovic was executing her backhand slice the best I had ever seen it. Jankovic though could not keep up the form and was on the receiving end of one of many three set losses in 2011 after she wasted three break points on the Zvonareva serve at 4-4. Still, this match deserves a mention for the second set alone.
This was one of my more obscure choices, which took place in the 3rd round of the clay court tournament in Rome back in May. It was the last match on court late at night with very few spectators; however it proved a treat for the ones that stayed in the cold. The tennis was of a high quality and both players were hitting the ball so well from the back of the court. It was Azarenka though who was the more consistent player in the end finishing an entertaining match off on an epic rally. Pavlyuchenkova showed in the match that she can live with the best, but she needs to improve her stamina and ability to maintain a consistent performance for 3 sets.
This match stands out in my mind from the past year and was probably the most painful watching experience of the year although it deserved a place in the top 20 for drama and excitement! I had fancied an upset here so much so that I put a bet on Sabine to knock the number two seed out. Lisicki started well and took the first set, 6-4. Zvonareva levelled the match, but Lisicki steamed in front in the third set and had several match points at 5-2. I was on the edge of my seat at the end and couldn’t believe what I was watching as Lisicki started to suffer from some severe cramps and lost the match. The most painful thing to watch was seeing Lisicki being stretchered off the court, but thankfully these memories were wiped away somewhat with a fairytale run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon… more of that to come later in the rundown 😉
This is the first of three entries on the list involving Stosur at the US Open! In truth, all three of the matches between Stosur and Kirilenko in the latter half of the year (the other two in Tokyo and Beijing) could have made this list, but I have gone for their US Open encounter. The match was highlighted by the longest tiebreak in the history of Grand Slam womens singles matches, which Kirilenko won 17-15. The drama was immense as Kirilenko challenged several calls on match point down which incredibly all went in her favour. Stosur eventually pulled the match through in 3 sets showing superb mental reserve to get over the loss of the epic second set. It was a shame though to see such a cold handshake by Kirilenko at the end of such a great match.