Here is the continuation of my countdown of the best ATP matches of 2013. If you missed part 1 featuring matches 10 to 3, you can read it HERE
2. Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin del Potro, 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3 (Wimbledon, SF)
There were two matches this year that were head and shoulders above the rest and coming in at two is the first of the Wimbledon semi-finals between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro. In my opinion, out of all the current rivalries on the ATP tour, this is the one I am most excited about. I didn’t have high expectations ahead of this match mainly because Del Potro had suffered a spate of injuries throughout the tournament. DelPo fell awkwardly when chasing a drop shot in his third round match against Grega Zemlja and then managed to aggravate the injury at the beginning of his quarter-final match with David Ferrer. However, I think the adrenaline of the situation and the fact he had to play more aggressively than usual led to what was a truly fantastic match.
Djokovic won the opening set, 7-5, but it wasn’t until the second set when the quality of tennis started to soar as the pair played amazing point after amazing point with the rallies becoming more and more brutal. For such a huge dude, Del Potro is a fine mover and particularly on the grass. I always thought his game matched up well to this surface and we saw glimpses of it at the Olympics last year. It wasn’t until this year though that it really started to click. Another reason why this match was so insane was DelPo’s forehand. You know that the Argentine is going full pelt on it when he does his little grunt and he was doing that already in the first set! There were one or two forehands that were just pure magic.
Djokovic had match points in the fourth set tiebreak, but Del Potro was displaying all the fighting qualities that have made him such a popular player. He was dwarfed by Djokovic in the stats, who hit 80 winners to his 48, but it was Del Potro who won the 4th set. The crowd went crazy for Del Potro, but the big man just came up short in the fifth set. Djokovic played a magnificent match and faced with an ultra aggressive opponent, defended impeccably and stepped up his attack too. The spirit these two played the match was exemplary and I loved the point where Del Potro ended up on Djokovic’s side and he started to unzip his shirt. When have you ever seen that in a Wimbledon semi-final?! Bot players wanted to win and smash the smithereens out of each other, but they had a great respect for one another. Fantastic stuff.
1. Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka, 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5) 12-10 (Australian Open, R4)
There was no hesitation in picking Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka‘s 4th round clash at the Australian Open as my favourite ATP match of 2013. Sometimes the best matches are the ones that you have no expectations for and that was certainly the case for this match because going into their Sunday night clash on Rod Laver Arena, Djokovic had beaten Wawrinka in their last 10 matches. However it was clear from the beginning that Stan was in a different mood and he played a near perfect first set, hitting the ball beautifully and breaking the Serb on 3 occasions.
Djokovic, who was world number one at the time, drew on all his fighting instincts to dig out of a 6-1 5-2 hole and somehow resurrect the match. The Wawrinka we are used to seeing would normally have crumbled at this point; he did lose a tight third set, but forced a decider after winning a fantastically frenetic fourth set that featured the best tennis of this match with both players throwing the kitchen sink at each other. There were so many superb points, but what made this match so great was that many of them came at the key junctures. The point Wawrinka wrapped up the 4th set in the tiebreak was pretty special, but still the best was yet to come…
There was really nothing to call between the pair in the decider with Wawrinka having his chances at 4-4, but it was Djokovic who clawed his way to the win in an extra time finish. Wawrinka saved 2 match points at 11-10, but the third, he came up short. It was without doubt the best match point of the year; Wawrinka hit two enormous winners off both wings which would have won him the point against any other player, but Djokovic and his elastic limbs somehow kept the ball in play and finished off Stan the man with with a picture-perfect crosscourt pass.
It was clear to see that the quality of tennis on show was so much better compared to anything we saw at the end of the season where all the players were fighting niggles and tiredness. The Australian Open has been brilliant in recent years and I for one, cannot wait to see what 2014 is going to deliver. Amazing match!
Coming Soon: A review of my 2013 predictions starting with the women