Here is the first part of my countdown of favourite ATP matches in 2013 with numbers 10 to 3. Enjoy!
10. Andy Murray d. Roger Federer, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 (Australian Open, SF)
This match seems such a long time ago now and perhaps if it had concluded the season, it would be much higher in my list. The Australian Open featured the highest quality matches of all four Slams for the second consecutive year and this semi-final was an excellent contest. Murray secured his first ever win over Federer at a Grand Slam and curiously, it was the only time they played in 2013. Murray was always the better player, hitting 19 more winners, 16 more aces and 13 less errors than Federer, but the Swiss maestro still managed to force a decider after Murray failed to serve out the match in the 4th set. This match was also memorable for Federer angrily gesturing at Murray after a point near the end of the 4th set.
9. Tommy Haas d. John Isner, 7-5 7-6(4) 4-6 6-7(10) 10-8 (Roland Garros, R3)
Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov may have had centre billing on the Philippe Chatrier court, but most eyes were on the brilliant Bullring court where Tommy Haas and John Isner fought out a quite astonishing clash. Isner saved a staggering 12 match points, which included 9 match points in the 12th game of the 4th set and 3 in the 4th set tiebreak. Isner even had a match point himself in the fifth and deciding set at 4-5 30-40, but in the end, Haas remarkably fought back and claimed the win. This match saw predictably big serving coupled with some fine rallies and a crazy amount of twists and turns. Perhaps a forgotten match after some equally absorbing matches at Roland Garros this year, but one that should live long in the memory.
8. Sergiy Stakhovsky d. Roger Federer, 6-7(7) 7-6(5) 7-5 7-6(5) (Wimbledon, R2)
Sergiy Stakhovsky has made a name of himself with some controversial opinions on Twitter, but he let his tennis do this talking in one of the biggest shocks at Wimbledon this year on that crazy day, aptly coined Black Wednesday. The guy narks me, but he deserves a tip of the cap for a terrific performance that saw him refreshingly use plenty of serve and volley. This match produced some exceptional statistics with a total of 129 winners to just 30 unforced errors. It was one of the few matches of the year where I was literally on the edge of my seat, particularly after everything that had happened on this day already. Stakhovsky deserved his fleeting moment in the sun, but as he proved with a 4 set loss to Jurgen Melzer in the next round, fleeting is all it was.
7. Grigor Dimitrov d. Novak Djokovic, 7-6(6) 6-7(8) 6-3 (Madrid, R1)
Hyped to the heavens, it was this match that sent Grigor Dimitrov’s shares sky high in a fantastic first round match in Madrid. Dimitrov had tested Murray, Nadal and Djokovic during the Spring, but faltered at the key moments in each match. Faced against Djokovic again, the Bulgarian held his nerve to secure the best win of his career. Djokovic was clearly not at his best, but I really enjoyed this tussle, which had a number of intriguing sub plots with the crowd getting on Djokovic’s back and Dimitrov struggling with cramps. Dimitrov retreated into the shadows after this win and didn’t show any promise again until the fall season where he won his first ATP title in Stockholm. There is so much expectation around this poor guy and he definitely has talent; whether he can cope with the pressure is still up for question.
6. Rafael Nadal d. Juan Martin del Potro, 4-6 6-3 6-4 (Indian Wells, F)
Indian Wells was a fantastic tournament this year and there were so many good matches. I have a feeling that if I had watched Rafael Nadal’s 4th round match with Ernests Gulbis that this would have also featured in my countdown. It was a worthy finale in Indian Wells from the two big stories of the tournament; on one side of the draw, Nadal was tearing his way through the field in his first appearance on hard courts since 2012, meanwhile Del Potro was upsetting the two previous Slam winners, Djokovic and Murray on the other side of the draw. It was a fantastic final with Nadal employing remarkable defence from 900 miles behind the baseline and employing a fair share of aggression too off the forehand wing. Del Potro would have felt unlucky not to have claimed a first Masters 1000 title as he went up a set and a break, but Nadal, gritty and determined as ever, capped off a tremendous week with an unlikely title in the desert.
5. Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin del Potro, 6-1 3-6 7-6(3) (Shanghai, F)
I think tennis is so much better when played on a fast court and this instantly made me a fan of Shanghai this year. The final was one of five terrific matches that Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro played in 2013 and this was my second favourite of the bunch. Djokovic was magnificent in the opening set, but he wasn’t able to maintain his level as Del Potro was good value in forcing a decider. The third set was a brilliant contest, full of absorbing rallies and a finish that went down to the wire. Del Potro really does have it all in his locker and he beat every member of the top 5 at least once in 2013. On this occasion, Del Potro’s firepower was not enough to overcome a dogged Djokovic, who continued this excellent form into the last tournaments of 2013 to conclude the season on a 22-match winning streak.
4. Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic, 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7 (Roland Garros, SF)
This match was hailed by the ATP website as the best match at the Grand Slams this year; it was indeed a great match, but certainly not my favourite of the year. I have heard many positive and negative aspects to this match, but no-one can deny that it featured a thrilling final set and it was easily the best contest between Nadal and Djokovic of the 6 matches they played in 2013. Their match-up is a brutal one, but in my opinion, far more intriguing than Murray-Djokovic, which bores me to tears. Nadal was always ahead in this one, but Djokovic’s desperation to win Roland Garros saw him wrestle his way back into the match. The big talking point of the match was deep in the 5th set when Djokovic, leading 4-3 with a break, forfeited a point after touching the net. Nadal went onto break Djokovic and eventually sealed his place in the final in a 4 hour and 37 minute epic.
3. Stanislas Wawrinka d. Richard Gasquet, 6-7(5) 4-6 6-4 7-5 8-6 (Roland Garros, R4)
In a year that saw the one-handed backhands soar on tour, this was a truly unforgettable match between Richard Gasquet and Stanislas Wawrinka on the Suzanne Lenglen court. Wawrinka, troubled by an injury, was heading out of the tournament after losing the first 2 sets to an inspired Gasquet, but the Swiss man produced one of many terrific performances in 2013 as he came back in style. Wawrinka, who hit a whopping 92 winners, became more and more pumped up as Gasquet began to labour in the 5th set with a leg injury. Although the Frenchman has had his far share of chokes and no-shows in big matches, he could not be criticised in this one as he played with his heart on his sleeve and soldiered on with a rip-roaring crowd well and truly behind him. The tennis was sensational at times… it sucks that there are no highlights of this match 😦
COMING SOON – THE TOP TWO!