5. Sam Stosur d. Serena Williams 6-2 6-3 (US Open)
The scoreline of this match may not represent a great match, but the drama, the occasion and the tennis on show was truly fantastic. The US Open final provided us with one of the biggest upsets of the season. Serena was heavily favoured to win this following a breeze through the draw and handily beating Stosur just weeks before in the Toronto final. Stosur played the match of her life as she came out fighting using her superb forehand and deft backhand slice to trouble Serena. The drama came at the start of the second set when Eva Asderaki handed a point to Stosur after Serena screamed before Stosur had had a chance to get the ball… cue another Serena meltdown at the US Open. I have never screamed so loudly at the TV and wanted a player to win more than Stosur in this match! Despite the scoreline, there were some cracking rallies with a highlight being where Stosur defended like a star at the net even earning an applause from Serena. The mental strength she showed in this match was terrific and to finish off a fired-up Serena in two sets was a breathtaking display from the Aussie.
4. Sabine Lisicki d. Marion Bartoli 6-4 6-7 6-1 (Wimbledon)
Lisicki and Bartoli fought out a thoroughly entertaining quarter-final under the Centre Court roof. The weather outside was horrendous and there was a funny moment in the first set when Lisicki jumped at a loud crack of thunder prompting laughter from the crowd. I remember that I was at an interview on this day and ended up listening to the end of the match on the radio, which was very painful! Lisicki won the first set and had her chances to serve out the second set at 6-4 5-4, but had a serious choke as her nerves got the better of her. The pair played a sensational point on Lisicki’s second match point with both players scrambling around the court, but it was Bartoli who saved them and went onto win an enthralling second set tie break. Bartoli showed incredible fighting spirit, but was exhausted in the third set and Sabine closed the match out at the second time of asking. Lisicki played an excellent match hitting 52 winners and caused havoc with her beautifully executed drop shot. It was lovely to see the two players hug at the net and show so much respect for one another after such a terrific match.
Lisicki featured in a number of great matches this year, but this was the highlight one for me when she knocked out the number three seed and Roland Garros Champion, Li Na in an epic second round encounter. I was at Wimbledon on this day and was disappointed not to be able to watch this match live. As play was suspended on the outside courts, I watched the first set underneath Centre Court on the TV’s as Li needed just one break of serve to take the first set. Lisicki, who was riding on a wave of confidence after winning the title in Birmingham came fighting back in the second set to take this high quality match into a third set. The third set was a dramatic and pulsating encounter; Li wasted two match points at 5-3 as the hard hitting and fearless Lisicki fought back with some stunning serving. Li’s forehand escaped her at the end, but Lisicki stayed strong and to her delight, won the match. I was standing under number one court watching the score update on a TV screen at the end of the match… this ranked as one of the most memorable moments of the tennis year jumping up and down celebrating Sabine’s victory with bemused people all around me 🙂
2. Venus Williams d. Kimiko Date Krumm 6-7 6-3 8-6 (Wimbledon)
There were some fabulous matches that took place at Wimbledon in 2011, but this was easily the best one between two of the most experienced players on tour. The first set was hands down the best set of tennis I watched in 2011. Both players were using their all court game with plenty of ventures into the net making way for some exhilarating rallies. Date Krumm raced into a 5-1 lead hitting some superb volleys and beautiful angles. However Venus woke up and managed to force the first set into a tiebreak. Venus kept fighting but the Japanese veteran finally took the set on her eighth set point after a breathtaking display of tennis, which saw 42 winners to just 22 unforced errors. Both players took a breather in the second set as the quality dipped ever so slightly with Venus levelling the match up at one set all with much better serving. The third set saw the play crank up in tempo once again. Date Krumm put in an admiral and courageous display to push the match deeper and deeper into the third set. Finally at 7-6, Date Krumm’s incredible mental and physical reserves were stretched beyond breaking point and Venus won the 2 hours and 55 minute encounter, which rightfully earnt a standing ovation from the adoring crowd under the Centre Court roof.
The match of year without any doubt was the 4th round encounter between Schiavone and Kuznetsova at the Australian Open, which was the longest women’s match in Grand Slam history at an incredible 4 hours and 44 minutes. The first two sets appeared short in the scoreline, but were both close and featured some long drawn out games, which set the scene for what was to follow… the third set was an incredibly dramatic see-saw battle, which saw Schiavone save six match points as she brought her best tennis on the match points as Kuznetsova just could not get across the finish line. The amazing thing was how high the quality of play was considering they were fighting through weary legs at the end. The pure fighting spirit of both players was shown in the break point conversions – Kuznetsova converted 9/27 break points and Schiavone took just 8/23 break points with a total of 33 break points saved throughout the match! This match was also great because of the variety of tennis on show unlike many of the matches we have seen this year that have been played exclusively from the baseline. This match will long be remembered on the WTA tour and I hope for more great matches like this one in 2012 🙂