This is the first of a four part review looking at my favourite 20 matches on the WTA tour in 2012. This has been a terrific year for the women and there have been some stunning matches along the way. Last year, the match between Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open was my number one choice, but things were not as clear cut this year. Here’s my pick of matches from 20 to 16…
20. Kim Clijsters d. Li Na, 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 (Australian Open, R4)
One of the most dramatic matches of the year took place at the First Grand Slam down under where Kim Clijsters fought off four match points in a 4th round match against Li Na. The drama began in the first set when at 3-3, Clijsters went over on her left ankle. She soldiered on valiantly after receiving treatment but was always second best as Li took the first set and conjured up four match points in the second set tiebreak. This was a huge moment for “Aussie Kim” who was playing her last ever Australian Open… cue a heroic fightback and one of the chokes of the season from Li.
Li hit two unforced errors on the first two match points and it looked like she had an opening from a tame Clijsters drop shot on the fourth one, but somehow the Belgian survived with a crafty lob. Clijsters won the next two points to claim the second set. Li fell apart in the final set as Clijsters closed out a quite sensational victory in 2 hours and 23 minutes. The quality of tennis was very patchy at times with both players hitting more unforced errors to winners; however you cannot deny the drama that this match delivered. Li was in tears in her press conference, but responded pretty well to this loss throughout 2012 with a few wobbles but enough consistency to qualify for the Year Ending Championships in Istanbul.
Highlights from the dramatic second set tiebreak between Clijsters/Li
19. Angelique Kerber d. Petra Kvitova, 7-6(2) 1-6 6-1 (Rome, QF)
One of my favourite match-ups this year has been those between Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova. They played each other three times, the most entertaining of those in the quarter-finals of Rome. The 67 minute first set preceded two lopsided sets, but the rollercoaster of an opener certainly made this match. Kerber raced into an early 3-1 lead displaying her inspired defensive skills, which in one instance, saw the rally of the tournament (1:25 in the video) with Kvitova breathing heavily and applauding her opponent’s quite majestic retrievals. Kvitova found her range and served for the set at 5-3, but Kerber came roaring to break back to 5-4.
Kvitova hit a horrendous overhead into the bottom of the net to give Kerber several set points. It looked like the match would end prematurely as Kvitova clutched her stomach with an abdominal injury, but she showed her character to keep on playing. She promptly lost the first set in a tiebreak, but found her rhythm to power through the second set, 6-1. Kerber retained control of the match in the final set as Kvitova began to tire, but the match never waned in terms of entertainment as the pair both displayed their variety and Kerber continued to dazzle, hitting a stunning forehand when practically in the stands (13:15 in the video). A really great contest played in good spirits…
Match highlights from the Kerber/Kvitova match in Rome
18. Laura Robson d. Kim Clijsters, 7-6 (4) 7-6 (5) (US Open, R2)
We lost some big stars of the game this year and none more so than Kim Clijsters. She went down fighting in her last competitive singles match to the young British talent of Laura Robson in a gripping second rounder at the US Open. It could have been so different as Clijsters led 5-2 in the first set and even had three set points, but Robson played the big points superbly well where her serve was a weapon and not a hindrance to her. This match demonstrated how much she has improved her fitness and movement as she surprisingly won the first set. The second set continued to excite with some fantastic rallies; Robson forced heaps of pressure on Kim, but the Belgian would not buckle as she defended for her tennis life.
The tension was immense at the end as Laura went for her biggest ever win and Kim served to stay in tennis! At 5-5 30-30, there was so nearly a turning point as Clijsters made some incredible retrievals before Robson dumped an overhead into the net. Robson’s mental strength was admirable as she dusted herself off, saved the break point and held. Robson had match points in the next game, but Clijsters was on equally top form to save them. Robson would then go onto to win the match with a jaw dropping down-the-line winner and another great serve. There was a lovely exchange at the net as Clijsters called time on a stunning career…
Match highlights from the Robson/Clijsters match
17. Agnieszka Radwanska d. Maria Kirilenko, 7-5 4-6 7-5 (Wimbledon, QF)
On a wet and dreary July day in London, the eight remaining women in the Wimbledon Championships served up a feast of tennis; this is the first of two Wimbledon quarter-finals to make my top 20. The number one court crowd were probably not feeling too enthused about the prospect of seeing Agnieszka Radwanska take on Maria Kirilenko, but the match proved to be a cracker between two of the craftiest players on tour. Radwanska always had the upper hand on Kirilenko in the opener as she eventually won it 7-5 after failing to serve it out at 5-3. Kirilenko remained in the hunt in the second set as the tennis continued to accelerate in quality. It was refreshing to see so much of the play at the net; Radwanska won 22/41 net points, meanwhile Kirilenko was successful on 28/45 net points. Radwanska looked to have the crucial break, but Kirilenko fought back immediately and captured the momentum to net the second set.
The clouds thickened in the third set as the pair exchanged breaks before play had to be halted for rain at 7.46pm. The match was then moved to Centre Court where play recommenced at 9.15pm with the score at 4-4 in the decider. Kirilenko returned much the sharper and was just two points from the match at 4-5 15-30 when Radwanska unleashed an audacious drop shot, which clipped the net and fell over on Kirilenko’s side. This was the turning point of the match as the Russian collapsed on her next service game and Radwanska served out with conviction in 2 hours and 50 minutes. It was a fantastic match considering the many rain delays and unsettling late court change; Radwanska finished with 36 winners to 22 unforced errors, meanwhile Kirilenko hit 52 winners to 30 unforced errors.
Match highlights from the Radwanska/Kirilenko match
16. Caroline Wozniacki d. Yanina Wickmayer, 6-4 3-6 6-3 (Olympics, R2)
This is one of my more surprising choices as many people may not have seen this match… I was in the crowd, which explains why it made my top 20! After reading the schedule the night before, the match between Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer was the one I was least looking forward too; however it proved to be the best live womens match I watched all year. I have never been a big fan of Wickmayer but I was extremely impressed as she left her heart out on the court with her aggressive and consistent play. Wozniacki was the better player to win the first set, but Wickmayer earnt the crucial break in a perfect second set to level the occasion at one set all.
The tennis continued to vault to new highs in the decider as Wozniacki the aggressor, came back to the forefront to get the early break. The highlight of the match was an electric 13-deuce game at 3-1 in the decider that lasted a staggering 18 minutes. It was so refreshing to see the majority of points being won rather than lost and it was the best I had seen Wozniacki play who finished with impressive stats of 30 winners to 15 unforced errors. It was the Dane who came out on top in that marathon game, but Wickmayer kept fighting until Wozniacki served the match out. Wickmayer, famous for her bitchy handshakes, was extremely gracious in defeat and I gained some new respect for the Belgian. I thought with a performance like this, she would push on, but unfortunately she won just three more matches in 2012.
|A picture of mine from the Wozniacki/Wickmayer match since no videos are available on YouTube. If you are in the UK, you can still view highlights on the BBC website here
Coming Soon – Part 2 (15-11) of my favourite WTA matches of 2012