It’s that time of the year for the annual countdown on Moo’s Tennis Blog of the best womens matches of the year. This is from my point of view so there will be some surprises. I’ve tried my best to watch as many matches, but there will be a few that have slipped through the net. It has been fun rewatching some of the best matches this year and it showcases what a great year 2014 was for the women. In the first of four posts, here are numbers 20 to 16. Enjoy 🙂
20. Serena Williams d. Caroline Wozniacki, 4-6 7-5 7-5 (Montreal, QF)
There is a fair argument to say that the match-up between Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki was one of the most entertaining on the WTA tour during the second half of the 2014 season. The pair played four times between August and October with their first encounter of the year in Montreal opening this year’s top 20 countdown. All their matches had highlights, but in terms of sustained quality, this was the most balanced of their four matches with high quality tennis through three entertaining sets. Compared to their previous matches, Wozniacki was much more aggressive and took her chances, saving a pair of break points to serve out the opening set.
Wozniacki went up a break in the second set, but threw in a wobbly service game at 6-4 *4-3. As the match wore on, Wozniacki reverted more and more back into defensive Woz. Serena won the second set and took that ascendancy into the third set. Wozniacki came back from a break down on multiple occasions and kept fighting. In the end, her defence wasn’t enough as Serena secured the hard fought victory. You can check out my full recap of the match HERE. Montreal was brilliant this year and it was refreshing to see the stands packed for a WTA tournament.
Stats: Serena hit 51 winners to 53 unforced errors, meanwhile Caroline hit 21 winners to 23 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 40 minutes
Best moment of the match: There was one particular rally where Wozniacki came into the net and hit a smash that almost hit Serena (see video below). Caroline apologised with both hands in the air and then exhaled with some amusement as she strolled back to the service line.
19. Ana Ivanovic d. Venus Williams, 6-2 5-7 6-4 (Auckland, F)
The final in Auckland, one of the best International events on the tour, featured the two biggest names in the draw, Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic. In terms of quality, this wasn’t the best match; however it was produed plenty of drama and excitement and just what you would want from a WTA final. It also makes such a difference when you have a passionate crowd getting into a match. This final had an interesting narrative as Ivanovic came into the match with a 1-8 H2H record against Venus and without a WTA title in over two years.
Ivanovic should have won this match in straight sets. She was the better player, serving particularly well and playing with a greater level of accuracy than Venus. Ivanovic had championship points at 6-2 5-3* and served for the title at 6-2 *5-4, but Venus took advantage of Ana understandably becoming a little tight and passive to reel off four straight games to win the second set. This match epitomised Venus during 2014. She left it all out on the court and fought tremendously, but just came up short in the third set.
As Ivanovic zoned in on the finish line for the second time, Venus earnt two break points at 5-4 *15-40 with a fortuitous net cord. I can’t bare to imagine what the poor Ana fans, an emotional bunch, were going through at this stage. Ana played some clutch tennis to save the two break points and win the title as Venus drove a forehand long. If Ivanovic had failed to serve out the match, I really don’t know whether she would have been able to come back. This was a defining win and set Ana on her on the way for what would be a fabulous year.
Stats: Venus hit more than 60 unforced errors during this match, but remained in it right until the end. The match lasted two hours and 16 minutes.
Best moment of the match: The game in which Ana served for the match at 6-2 *5-4 was particularly enthralling. The “ajde” Ana produced at saving the first break point was pretty epic. The closing moments were was also pretty enjoyable to see the relief on Ana’s face.
18. Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams, 6-2 2-6 7-6(7) (Doha, R2)
I love Petra-Venus matches. I’d go as far to say this is my FAVOURITE match-up on the WTA tour. When Venus pulled out before they were due to meet in Beijing, I was DEVASTATED. I had set my alarm for 5.30am to get up and watch it! This wasn’t their best match, but it was still ridiculously entertaining with their closest ever finish. The first two sets were streaky, but it was the third set that defined this match. In practically all of their matches, there have been large chunks of play where both players have been able to bring the very best out of each other. This happened in the third set…
Venus looked to have this one in the bag; she was two points away from going up *5-1 in the deciding set. Petra rallied superbly to win four straight games and gain an opportunity to serve for the match at *5-4. Venus clung on with some gutsy and aggressive play, saving a match point in the process. The wildly oscillating final set, which featured some absorbing rallies, was decided in a third set tiebreak. In 2013, the pair played a three setter in Tokyo that also went to a third set tiebreak, which Petra won comfortably, seven points to two. The match in Doha didn’t come close to the quality of their encounter in Tokyo, but where it did trump that match was the third set tiebreak, which featured the best tennis of the match. Both players had match points, but it was Petra who snatched the victory. Unsurprisingly, there is more Venus-Petra in this countdown…
Stats: Kvitova hit 35 winners to 38 unforced errors, meanwhile Venus hit 28 winners to 41 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 32 minutes.
Best moment of the match: The third set tiebreak is well worth a watch. Also, the Petra squawk / grunt / scream in the second video is quite terrifying…
17. Dominika Cibulkova d. Agnieszka Radwanska, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-3 (Miami, QF)
It is a common misconception that a WTA match with lots of breaks of serve constitutes poor quality. If there is any match to disprove that theory, then surely it is this quarter-final in Miami betweem Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska. The match began with five consecutive breaks of serve and featured just 10 hold of serves in 30 games. Both players couldn’t hold serve for toffee, but this was a brilliant match, full to the brim with gruelling rallies and plenty of inventive play.
Radwanska won the first set, earning a crucial hold at *3-2 with a couple of well-timed aces. In the second set, Cibulkova had two break points at 3-6 4-4*. Radwanska held. Rules of tennis would normally imply that Radwanska goes onto win the match. She certainly came close, but Cibulkova managed to saved three match points to get to 5-5. The first match point was saved on a challenge with Radwanska’s return just going long. The next two were saved with forceful play from Cibulkova. This is the type of the match where Cibulkova really endeared herself to the tennis community. She was gutsy personified and was able to draw on the confidence she gained from Melbourne where she reached her first Grand Slam final.
Cibulkova delivered a huge pome to win the second set in a dramatic tiebreak. The third set was close to begin with, but Cibulkova ran away with it in the end, winning the last three games of the match. This was a classic example of why Radwanska has never won a Grand Slam. To be fair, she nearly had this one in the bag. However, a little bit more firepower would have helped her over the finish line. She got dragged into another lengthy duel and in the end, looked knackered. This was one of Cibulkova’s best wins of the year, which saw her crack the top ten for the first time in her career.
Stats: Cibulkova hit 50 winners to 51 unforced errors on her way to beating Radwanska. The match lasted two hours and 39 minutes.
Best moment of the match: There were too many great rallies to choose from so it has to be this hot shot from Aga…
16. Ana Ivanovic d. Maria Sharapova, 6-2 5-7 7-5 (Cincinnati, SF)
One of the most dramatic matches of the year was the second semi-final in Cincinnati between Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. The tennis wasn’t always of the highest quality, but entertainment wise, this ticked every box. In the last couple of years, the WTA has lacked enticing head-to-heads between the top players. This year was encouraging with some interesting rivalries developing including this one. Ivanovic played some of her best tennis of the entire year to go up 6-2 *4-0. Displaying confidence in abundance, Ivanovic had the opportunity to serve for the match at 6-2 *5-3. However, as Maria is always capable of doing, she ramped up the pressure and intensity to win five games in a row and force a decider.
The third set was just completely nuts. The odds were on Sharapova cruising through the decider, but a new dynamic was introduced to the match when Ivanovic suddenly doubled over and requested a MTO in the second game of the third set. Ivanovic later revealed that she had been feeling unwell. Sharapova was obviously perplexed and pissed at the MTO. Her grunting intensified and the come ons were full on snark. Personally, I didn’t like some of the shenanigans from both players, but there’s no denying that this was super entertaining. Ivanovic got into Sharapova’s head as Maria dished out the most famous line of the year. Sharapova served for the match at *5-4, had two match points, but was denied by Ivanovic, who produced an all-or-nothing forehand that found the corner on one of the match points.
Ivanovic won the final three games of the match, which featured some stunning rallies. Overall, the tennis was messy at times, but this will go down as one of the most memorable WTA matches of 2014…
Stats: Ivanovic hit 29 winners to 45 unforced errors, meanwhile Sharapova hit 28 winners to 51 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 46 minutes.
Best moment of the match: “Check your blood pressure” was an obvious highlight but in terms of tennis, the Ivanovic forehand from almost outside of the tramlines in the final game of the match was special.