After Switzerland’s victory in the Davis Cup final, it is now officially the off-season… I’m already in off-season mode here at Moo’s Tennis Blog and this is the third part of four counting down my favourite 20 matches on the WTA tour in 2014. If you missed either of the first two parts then you can click on the links below. We’re now into the top ten…
WTA Best Matches of 2014 Part 1: Matches 20 to 16 HERE
WTA Best Matches of 2014 Part 2: Matches 15 to 11 HERE
10. Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Petra Kvitova, 6-7(3) 6-1 9-7 (French Open, R3)
This third round match at Roland Garros between Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova was a solid contender for match of the tournament until the final. It was a wonderful contest that was finely balanced between Kuznetsova’s clay court defensive skills and Kvitova’s raw power. Although Petra ended up losing the match this was a brave display. She was hindered by a right thigh injury from the second set onwards, which saw her take a medical time-out and leave the court for treatment. The match featured everything you could come to expect from Petra and Svetlana. Superb winners, some excellent rallies and plenty of shocking errors. Kuznetsova’s defence in this match was the real winner and she showcased what a superb clay court player she is.
The third set, which lasted an hour and 32 minutes alone, saw some pretty rapid swings in momentum. Despite Kuznetsova looking the steadier of the two players it was Kvitova who twice served for the match, both times coming up short. Petra and Svetlana played their best tennis in the third set when they were down; Petra staved off a couple of match points down *5-6 15-40, winning four magnificent points in a row. The first, saving a match point with a forehand volley that was PLUM on the line and the fourth, a delightfully crisp cross court backhand winner. Kuznetsova had her fair share of mental wobbles in 2014, but this was a fine effort as she eventually wore down a tiring Kvitova and broke to love in the final game to claim one of the best wins of her season. It was lovely to see such respect from the pair at the end of the match.
Stats: This was one of the longest WTA matches of the year, lasting three hours and 13 minutes. Kvitova hit 49 winners to 65 unforced errors and Kuznetsova hit 26 winners to 20 unforced errors. For each set, Kuznetsova had a positive winners to unforced errors differential, meanwhile Kvitova’s was negative, even for the set she won.
Best moment of the match: It’s such a shame that the French Open restrict coverage of matches on YouTube so highlights are pretty scant. Kvitova saving match points at 5-4 was pretty special and thankfully, this has been posted…
Video by SportsMagicianJJ
9. Venus Williams d. Angelique Kerber, 6-3 3-6 6-4 (Montreal, R3)
Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber fought out a thrilling three setter in the third round of Montreal. Many of my favourite matches this year featured Venus or Angie and there’s more from both players in the top five! In a 12-minute opening game, Venus saved six break points, which set the tone for the match ahead. The first two sets were almost identical with one player racing out to a lead, facing some resistance, but eventually coming through. Venus went up 5-0* 30-0* in the first set, displaying some delightful all-court attacking tennis. Venus won the set, 6-3. Kerber went up *4-0 in the second set as she channelled her aggression and managed to find some joy with her down-the-line winners. Kerber won the second set, 6-3
It felt like the momentum was firmly with Kerber; She had a break point to lead *3-0 in the third set, but Venus, fighting hard for every point, saved the break point and won three games on the trot. The final two games of the match were special. Venus was unable to serve out the match at *5-3 with Kerber clinging on for dear life. However, Venus claimed the victory in a mammoth final game that saw one of the best rallies of the entire year. This was a magnificent contest and their contrast in styles produced a really fascinating match. Their last two matches before this one had both been entertaining so more Angie-Venus match-ups will certainly be appreciated. Kerber came up short in so many of these matches in 2014, meanwhile Venus went onto reach the final in what was a fairytale week.
Stats: Venus Williams hit 43 winners to 48 unforced errors, meanwhile Kerber hit 36 winners to 34 unforced errors. The pair’s fighting qualities were represented in the break points conversions for this match, which saw 24 saved break points during the two hour-24 minute contest.
Best moment of the match: The point of the match, and the tournament, and arguably the entire year took place in the final game (see video). After some powerful hitting from both, Venus hung on to a breathtaking forehand volley. The crowd reaction and the Kerber racquet clap were both awesome.
Video by MrPieritoTennis
8. Camila Giorgi d. Victoria Azarenka, 4-6 6-3 7-5 (Eastbourne, R1)
In the first of two matches from Eastbourne that have made my top ten, this first rounder between Camila Giorgi and Victoria Azarenka was one of the best live matches I watched during the grass court season. The 2014 edition of Eastbourne was superb with a succession of great matches from the first round up to the final. This was Azarenka’s first match in three months having been sidelined with a foot injury and she couldn’t have asked for a much tougher opponent in the form of Giorgi. The Italian’s fearless brand of tennis, hitting the cover off every ball and returning WELL inside the baseline paved the way for a very uncomfortable afternoon for Azarenka.
The match really took off at the end of the second set when Azarenka mounted a mini-comeback from 5-0* to *5-3 in a series of long and drawn-out games before Giorgi forced a deciding set. The third set was a fascinating affair with some awesome ballstriking. This match was made all the more watchable by the feistiness of both players; As always, Azarenka was very vocal, but Giorgi has a silent and steely way about her that portrays she means business. Giorgi was unable to serve out the match at *5-4, but would prevail after winning a marathon game on Vika’s serve at 5-5 that gripped a surprisingly vocal audience. Eastbourne’s crowds are normally respectable, but very quiet! Giorgi served out the match at the second time of asking, swatting away a backhand winner. Camila had a wry smile on her face as she approached the net to shake hands. Her dad, Sergio was a little more excited. I was gutted my view of his celebrations were blocked by the umpire’s chair…
Match Recap HERE
Stats: Giorgi hit a whopping 53 winners to 51 unforced errors, meanwhile Azarenka hit 25 winners to 26 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 46 minutes
Best moment of the match: There were some great rallies in this match, many ending with sensational winners from Giorgi. My favourite was in the second set (see video).
Video by Top 10 Tennis Network
7. Petra Kvitova d. Angelique Kerber, 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4 (Fed Cup Final)
In a late addition to the countdown, there was no way that the deciding singles match from this year’s Fed Cup final could be ignored. In what proved to be the clincher of the final weekend, Petra Kvitova overcame Angelique Kerber to triumph in an absolute rollercoaster of a match. Kerber had endured a disappointing loss to Lucie Safarova on the first day, losing the first set on a hindrance call before falling in straight sets. This was a really tough weekend for Kerber as she had big leads in the first and third sets against Kvitova; however, the fact she managed to win the second set and force a decider proves what a courageous effort this was. The indoor court in Prague was super, super quick and personally, I enjoy watching tennis on a fast court…
The whole match was memorable, but it was the epic 76 minute first set that really stood out. Kerber served for the first set three times and had six set points before eventually losing it in the tiebreak as Kvitova sealed the set with a big serve out wide and a forehand winner. Kerber had all the opportunities, but it was more about the way that Kvitova played when her back was against the wall. The quality and intensity of hitting was magnificent. We all know Kerber is a great mover and she soaks up and redirects power so well, but Kvitova’s movement during some of the points on such a quick court was really impressive. Kerber led 4-1 30-30* in the decider against a tiring Kvitova, but Petra suddenly sparked into life again and won the last five games of the match, overcoming a late wobble to seal a famous win for Czechs. This was a glowing advertisement for the Fed Cup and even watching on the TV, you got the sense of the incredible atmosphere in the stadium. This was a wonderful way to close out womens tennis for 2014.
Stats: Kvitova hit 48 winners to 50 unforced errors just in the first two sets! The match lasted two hours and 58 minutes. In all three sets, the player who went up a break ended up losing it.
Best moment of the match: There were a couple of incredible rallies in the first set and my favourite had to be the one linked in the video below where Petra made some seemingly impossible gets before Kerber fired off a forehand winner.
YouTube Video by MGLovesTennis
6. Serena Williams d. Caroline Wozniacki, 2-6 6-3 7-6(6) (Singapore, SF)
The first edition of the WTA Championships from Singapore was a lively affair with plenty of engaging storylines and interesting matches. The semi-final between Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki was not only the best match of the four that the pair played in 2014, but it was also the match of the tournament. Singapore was so enjoyable to follow this year, but trying to watch the matches with the time difference was challenging. This was the first match I got to watch from Singapore in its entirety and it was a thoroughly enjoyable watch, even if it did manage to break Twitter in the process! Although Wozniacki came out second best, this is probably the best I have ever seen Caroline play. Wozniacki dominated the opening set to take it, 6-2. The courts really suited her game and Caroline was hitting through her forehand so much better. Serena was sluggish and error-strewn in the first set and her best moment was obliterating a racquet.
Serena awoke from her slumber to win the second set, making sounds akin to a wounded animal. Thankfully, the third set featured both playing well at the same time. The quality in the third set was fantastic and there were so many high quality rallies with Wozniacki not backing down. Serena’s serve was flawless at times in the third set, but it was Wozniacki who broke serve first to bring up an opportunity to serve for the match. A few of Caroline’s shots went marginally short, but it was all about Serena as she broke to 15. The world number one looked to have turned the tide as she earnt a match point on Caroline’s serve at *5-6 in the decider. The way in which Caroline played the match points was admirable as she saved the first two with bold ventures in the net. It felt like Wozniacki had done enough to win the match. However, Serena is never one to go down without a fight and she wrapped up the win on her fourth match point. More Serena-Caroline in 2015, tennis gods… Please!
Stats: Williams hit 50 winners to 41 unforced errors, meanwhile Wozniacki hit 19 winners to 12 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 13 minutes.
Best moment of the match: Serena destroying a racquet was fun (see first video). It was also interesting to see Serena avoid a hindrance call (3:49 in the second video) not that it would have made any difference. The best rally of the match was the first match point with Wozniacki up at the net, which is where the second video begins.
Both videos by Mr PieritoTennis