In the countdown of my favourite WTA matches of the year, here comes part two of the festivities. If you missed the first part which featured matches 20 to 16, you can catch up HERE. Anyway, here are matches 15 to 11 with some love for this year’s clay court season…
15. Jelena Jankovic d. Mona Barthel, 2-6 7-6(8) 6-3 (Stuttgart, R1)
Every year there is one match in my countdown that probably doesn’t make any sense… I think this might be the one! I’m not sure if I will be able to explain why I loved this match so much, perhaps because i’m a fan of both JJ and Mona, but I thought this was a really entertaining watch. For a set and a half, Barthel played some of her best tennis of 2014. She was striking the ball beautifully, with such fluidity and power, and was confident enough to come forward showing some real touch at the net. It was a surprise to see Mona playing so well because she had been on a terrible run of form and had recently posted on her Facebook site that she was struggling with her game. After losing in the last round of qualifying to Ajla Tomljanovic in a third set tiebreak, she got into the main draw as a lucky loser.
The second set was one of my favourite of the entire year. The JJ monologues obviously helped this match to become the true delight that it was; she had some hilarious exchanges with her poor brother. Despite missed opportunities from both sides the quality was impressive, peaking towards the end with a nine-deuce game followed by a five-deuce game. Jankovic missed six set points at *5-4 with THREE on double faults and Mona hitting return winners on two. Barthel did extremely well to win both the long games. However her chance to close the match went as well as Jankovic trying to serve out the second set… Barthel had three match points at 6-3* in the tiebreak. Mona had a chance with the third match point before Jankovic picked her off the net with a powerful backhand down-the-line, but the other three were all terrible misses of the return. And that was it.
There were more lengthy games in the decider, but Barthel’s calm from the first and second sets had disappeared and despite some resistance (more than I had expected), Jankovic held out for the win. Considering this match finished well after midnight in Germany, the pair put on a real show.
Original match recap HERE
Stats: The dramatic second set featured some impressive stats from both with Jankovic posting 19 winners to 17 unforced errors and Barthel hitting 22 winners to 16 unforced errors Although she lost the match, Barthel finished with stats of 45 winners to 32 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 24 minutes.
Best moment of the match: The whole second set was really worth a watch. It got really interesting from 4-4 in the second set (at the start point in the video).
Video by ytubejj
14. Agnieszka Radwanska d. Victoria Azarenka, 6-1 5-7 6-0 (Australian Open, QF)
The Australian Open is always the most difficult tournament to follow with most of the action happening whilst I am asleep. The 2014 edition was particularly special for the large number of surprising results I woke up to. One of those results that rendered me speechless was the quarter-final between Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka. Heading into this match, Azarenka had notched up seven consecutive victories over Radwanska including winning their last five matches all in straight sets. Radwanska got her revenge in this stunning win, her first ever victory in an Australian Open quarter-final. Radwanska was the ninja, the magician and the wizard all rolled into one for what was a truly awesome performance.
After getting outfoxed by Radwanska in the first set, Azarenka got herself involved in a competitive second set. She recovered a break of serve at *3-2 and then stayed with Radwanska, eventually breaking to love with a return winner to win the second set. In the third set, Radwanska had an answer to absolutely everything and then some. I can’t remember a bagel set (perhaps, Petra?) being so much fun to watch. This was peak and perfect Aga. She was so aggressive and clear in her gameplan, yet she gave almost nothing away. The sheer magnitude of the win over Azarenka seemed to take something out of Radwanska, who wasn’t the same player in the semi-finals as she lost in straight sets to Dominika Cibulkova.
Stats: Radwanska hit 23 winners to 15 unforced errors. She peaked in the third set producing 11 winners to just 3 unforced errors. Azarenka hit 33 winners to 47 unforced errors. The match lasted exactly two hours.
Best moment of the match: There were too many to choose from! There were multiple moments of magic from Radwanska in the third set. The video below starts from the third set…
Video by MGLovesTennis
13. Ana Ivanovic d. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-4 3-6 6-4 (Rome, QF)
The clay court season in 2014 was one to remember with a host of high quality and entertaining matches. This particular match in Rome between Ana Ivanovic and Carla Suarez Navarro was a delightful quarter-final between two players with contrasting styles who really know their way around a clay court. When Suarez Navarro hits through her backhand, which she did for large chunks of this match, I go to my happy place. Ivanovic managed to weather the Suarez Navarro storm of passing shots, drop shots and flashy backhands to win the last four games of the first set. Suarez Navarro came back strongly in the second set, using her variety and ability to create angles to outsmart Ivanovic. She hung on to the second of her breaks to force a deciding set.
The standard of tennis never really dropped during the three sets. In the end, it was Ivanovic who profited from being the more consistently aggressive player. She broke at 4-4 and then saved a break point in the final game to win through to the semi-finals. After beating Maria Sharapova in the previous round, this was a big win for Ana defeating someone she was expected to beat. CSN would go onto reach the quarter-finals of Roland Garros, and inch within a few games of her first Grand Slam semi-final, eventually buckling under the pressure in another absorbing match against Eugenie Bouchard. Both Ana and Carla will be ones to watch on the clay next year…
Stats: Ivanovic hit 48 winners to 34 unforced errors, meanwhile Suarez Navarro hit 40 winners (!) to 31 unforced errors. Ivanovic won the match in two hours and 17 minutes.
Best moment of the match: There were so many great rallies in this match. My favourite had to be in the second set when CSN unleashed an insane angled BH after another long rally (see video).
Both videos by Top10TennisNetwork0
12. Maria Sharapova d. Lucie Safarova, 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-6(2) (Stuttgart, R1)
Stuttgart is always one of those tournaments I have circled on my calendar. The line-up of players is excellent every year and the quick indoor clay court always produced fast-paced and watchable matches. This match between Maria Sharapova and Lucie Safarova, which preceded Jankovic-Barthel on the schedule, reminded me of the Sharapova-Stosur encounter from two years ago, which ranked at number two in my 2012 list. Sharapova edged the opening set on the tiebreak, which saw both players hold all six of their service games. Safarova was going toe-to-toe with Sharapova, which hardly came as a surprise. There has never been any doubt that Safarova hasn’t got the game. Her forehand when it’s on point is world class. However it is the mental side of her game that has frequently let her down. This however, was a really gritty display from Lucie, who saved two break points at 3-3 in the second set and came from 0-3 down in the tiebreak to deservedly force a third set.
In the third set, Sharapova raced into a *5-1 lead. This is when the match, one that had been largely dominated by serve, went careering off the tracks and into the abyss. Out of nowhere, Maria went AWOL and Lucie won five games in a row. Sharapova TWICE failed to serve out the match. However, when Lucie was given the chance to close it out, she too was unable to capitalise. Lucie came within two points of a monumental win, but nerves creeped in as Sharapova broke back on a double fault. She didn’t look back after that game, comfortably winning the third set tiebreak to record her third three set win in a row against Lucie. It was one of the warmest handshakes you’ll see from Maria. This performance demonstrated a considerable improvement in Lucie’s mentality, but it also showed that there is still a very long way to go…
Orginal match recap HERE
Stats: Both players finished with a positive winners to unforced errors differential; Sharapova hit 39 winners to 21 unforced errors, meanwhile Safarova hit 44 winners to 33 unforced errors. The match lasted three hours and 23 minutes and was one of the longest matches of the year.
Best moment of the match: There wasn’t necessarily a stand-out moment in this match; it was high quality for two sets with a dramatic rollercoaster in the third set.
YouTube video by AussieSharapova0
11. Caroline Wozniacki d. Maria Sharapova, 6-4 2-6 6-2 (US Open, R4)
It’s always fun when a highly anticipated match turns out to be awesome. Caroline Wozniacki‘s three set victory over Maria Sharapova was by quite some considerable distance, the best womens match at this year’s US Open. Wozniacki came into the tournament in great form having reached the quarter-finals of Montreal and the semi-finals of Cincy. As the underdog, many had tipped her to get the better of Sharapova, who had been shaky since her victory at Roland Garros. Wozniacki started the more promising of the pair, breaking at the crucial junction of the first set to take it, 6-4 The second set followed the characteristic storyline of many Sharapova matches after she loses the first set. She cut down her errors, she forced her opponent back behind the baseline and she won the second set.
Sharapova was seemingly in her groove, but Wozniacki was extremely resilient in the third set. A few narks over the time Sharapova was taking in between points seemed to rile Caroline, but in a good way. She won a magnificent rally, one of those “did she really just do that?!” rallies, chasing down every ball under the sun. The celebration was joyous. Wozniacki has a tendency to revert back into defensive mode in the big moments of matches, but this match was different. When she needed to be aggressive, Caro WAS as she sealed her first win over Maria in four matches with a cracking backhand down-the-line. Caroline would beat Maria later in the year in Singapore with another fine performance.
Original match recap HERE
Stats: Wozniacki hit 22 winners to 17 unforced errors, meanwhile Sharapova made 39 winners to 43 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 37 minutes.
Best moment of the match: The rally that saw Wozniacki break Sharapova’s serve for the first time in her third set was one of the best of the year and *that* celebration…
Video by BookemDeno