Choosing my top five WTA matches of 2014 was reasonably straightforward, but trying to put them into an order was not! This is my final post in my WTA best matches feature. I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments about what was your favourite match of the year and why. I hope you’ve enjoyed the countdown… 🙂
WTA Best Matches of 2014 Part 1, Matches 20-16 HERE
WTA Best Matches of 2014 Part 2, Matches 15-11 HERE
WTA Best Matches of 2014 Part 3, Matches 10-6 HERE
5. Madison Keys d. Angelique Kerber, 6-3 3-6 7-5 (Eastbourne, Final)
In glorious sunshine, the 2014 edition of Eastbourne finished on a real high as Madison Keys defeated Angelique Kerber to win her first WTA title in one of the most underrated matches of the year. Just two days before the start of Wimbledon, much of the attention had already turned to SW19. For those who watched, they were rewarded with a really compelling match. The first two sets were evenly split; Keys was dominant on serve in the first set and was able to get the first strike in with her powerful groundstrokes. In the second set, Kerber changed her tactics and managed to get Madison on the run and force her into making more errors.
The third set was sensational; the intensity suddenly shot up, the rallies lengthened and both players were clutch, bringing their very best tennis when they needed it. Keys produced an array of forehand winners, the pick of the bunch coming on game point in the third game of the third set. Kerber was constantly playing catch-up on the scoreboard; she saved two break points at *1-2, held her nerve at *4-5, but then couldn’t hold on at *5-6. Kerber had a rough time in finals in 2014, playing four Premier finals and losing all four. Kerber was unlucky in this particular match because the final game was all about Keys raising her level as opposed to Kerber getting tight.
I was absolutely hooked watching the final set and this was a perfect match to ramp up the excitement for Wimbledon. Keys and Kerber both played their best tennis on the grass this year and will be ones to watch next year. For Madison, I get Petra vibes. Huge serve, HUGE forehand and based on this final, an impressive mentality. I’m excited to see what Madison can do on the grass in years to come…
Match Recap HERE
Stats: Keys hit 60 winners (!) to 48 unforced errors, meanwhile Kerber hit 15 winners to 23 unforced errors. The match lasted one hour and 55 minutes.
Best moment of the match: The Keys forehand discussed above was pretty special but in the most tense of situations, the pair played out an incredible rally with Kerber serving at *5-6 30-30.
4. Maria Sharapova d. Simona Halep, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4 (French Open, Final)
Great WTA matches at the business end of Grand Slams, particularly at the French Open, had been few and far between in recent years. The last three setter at Roland Garros was all the way back in 2001 when Jennifer Capriati defeated Kim Clijsters, 12-10 in the third set. This all changed in 2014 when Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep delivered one of the most entertaining Grand Slam finals in recent memory.
Sharapova recovered from a scrappy start to win a competitive opening set, 6-4 and then went up a break to start the second set. The match had an ominous sinking feeling for Halep, but she managed to regroup after a spate of double faults to get back on level terms. The best tennis of the match took place in the middle of the second set as the pair played some wonderful rallies with both trying to outfox each other with angles. Halep regained her confidence to take the lead, but on two occasions, was unable to serve out the second set. In what turned out to be an error-strewn tiebreak, it was Sharapova who blinked first, producing a number of uncharacteristic errors.
As the pair were neck-and-neck at 4-4 in the third set, it was Maria who took hold of the reins and entered beast mode. This time there would be no customary Halep fightback as Sharapova won eight straight points to win her fifth Grand Slam title. The sheer joy and astonishment on Maria’s face at the end was a really nice moment. Halep shed a few tears, but got a wonderful response from the Philippe Chatrier crowd. The chants of “Sim-o-na” were just awesome. It was a welcome surprise to have such a competitive and engaging Grand Slam final, which concluded my favourite Grand Slam tournament of the year for the women.
Stats: Sharapova hit 46 winners to 52 unforced errors, meanwhile Halep hit 20 winners to 31 unforced errors. The final lasted three hours and two minutes.
Best moment of the match: Unfortunately, the highlights are a little sparse on YouTube for Sharapova-Halep and all matches from Roland Garros… Thankfully there are some! And there was no best moment, it’s all worth watching!
Video by Pieoloiu Marius
3. Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams, 5-7 7-6(2) 7-5 (Wimbledon, R3)
When the Wimbledon womens draw came out, this was the match that everyone had their eyes firmly fixed on. Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova won through their first two matches to set up a blockbuster third round tie…. And boy did it deliver. This was not your average WTA match. In two hours and 30 minutes of enthralling grass court tennis, there were just two breaks in 37 service games. There were just THREE break points in the entire match! The most impressive aspect of their serving games was the way in which both players were able to swat away any kind of trouble with a big serve.
In all three sets, there was barely anything to separate Venus and Petra. Venus earnt her only break point of the match in the 12th game of the first set, breaking to love to seal the opener, 7-5. Petra was playing catch-up all during the second set, but she stayed with Venus every step of the way, eventually running away with the tiebreak; she opened with a gorgeous crosscourt backhand return winner and won it by virtue of a double fault from Venus.
The rallies were short, sharp and wickedly intense. The power on display from both players was a sight to behold and there was a real meaning and purpose behind every shot played. Although it was almost entirely serve dominated, the third set was wonderfully compelling viewing. The pendulum marginally swung each way; Petra came closest to breaking serve at the beginning of the set, but as it ebbed to its conclusion, it was Venus who carved out a 0-30 opportunity on the Petra serve at 5-5. It was really cruel that these two had to play each other at such an early stage in the tournament. In the end, it was Petra who converted the only break point of the third set to earn a monumental win.
In terms of tennis memories, this match holds a special place for me. I remember that I had just finished work and was starting my week-long holiday of tennis-related funness. I’m a big Petra fan and I really felt that this could be her year. According to my brother, I was an absolute nightmare watching this match. I spent the majority of the third set standing up, screaming, yelling and generally freaking out. Is this normal behaviour of a fan? As much as I did feel bad for Venus, I was absolutely elated for Petra and it was a great way to start my holiday to not only see Petra win, but to witness such a marvellous match.
Match Recap HERE
Stats: Kvitova hit 48 winners to 34 unforced errors, meanwhile Venus hit 25 winners to 19 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 30 minutes.
Best moment of the match: This was one of those matches that didn’t necessarily have a high point, but maintained its quality throughout its entire length. I’ve picked out one rally from the second set, which I particularly enjoyed. Petra ended it with a delightful squawk…
2. Jana Cepelova d. Belinda Bencic, 6-4 5-7 7-6(7) (Charleston, SF)
Charleston was a zany tournament this year with plenty of upsets. The second semi-final featured Jana Cepelova, who had stunned a struggling, Serena Willliams in the second round, up against the 17-year-old, Belinda Bencic, who had defeated Sara Errani in the quarter-finals. Cepelova and Bencic had both advanced to their first WTA tour semi-final match. Normally these situations feature bags of nerves, but that certainly wasn’t evident after watching this match. The first semi-final between Andrea Petkovic and Eugenie Bouchard was an excellent match, but no-one could have imagined that the second semi-final would top that with a whirlwind of drama, excitement and INSANE tennis…
Cepelova showed some lovely variety to edge the first set, mixing up some potent groundstrokes with delicate drop shots. On a separate note, it was such a shame that she was unable to continue this good form after Charleston. As the match wore on, Bencic’s striking became cleaner and more dominant; a fabulous backhand pass helped her earn the first break of serve in the second set as she raced into a 5-1* lead. Twice, she was unable to serve out the set, having multiple set points. Cepelova’s incredible defence continued to thwart Bencic. This match wasn’t a great example of Bencic’s mentality although her response after poor points was impressive. After seeing her lead in the second set evaporate, Bencic won the last two games of the set, holding her serve with ease and authority to close out the set at the third of time of asking. The second set was fiercely competitive with lashings of classic WTA goodness; Cepelova was resorting to the single, double and in some cases, treble “pome” bark. Bencic retorted on many occasions, sealing the second set with an ace and a hugeee “pome”.
The third set was more of the same, but at times, even more intensified. After one rally which Cepelova won with a crisp crosscourt backhand winner, both players were screaming at themselves. The match had plenty of drama, but the quality was on point throughout the whole match. The rallies featured so much variety and it was a very engaging watch. Bencic lost her composure in the decider, frequently dropping her racquet to the ground, hitting balls into the ground and even crying in the tense third set tiebreak. Despite all the brattiness, Bencic gave a very classy handshake.
Like the Venus-Petra match, this match also holds a distinct memory for me. I was on a family holiday at the time and we were dining in a sports bar. They happened to have about 10 screens of sport playing and the one in my direct view line was coverage of this semi-final from Charleston. This was commonly referred to by my family as the meal where we lost James! When I got back from my holiday, I got to watch the whole match including with SOUND. I was disappointed that the WTA missed this match off their “WTA matches of the year” in their fan favourite awards, but it’s warming to see many tennis fans on Twitter still remember this match. You don’t always need two well-known names to produce an AWESOME tennis match…
Stats: It was a surprise to see Cepelova finish the match with more winners; she hit 46 winners to 40 unforced errors, meanwhile Bencic hit 37 winners to 35 unforced errors. The match lasted two hours and 33 minutes.
Best moment of the match: I could pick out about five separate points that are all “best moments”, but i’ve linked the video to the best rally from the third set tiebreak….
And the winner is…. *drumroll*
1. Angelique Kerber d. Maria Sharapova, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-4 (Wimbledon, R4)
One word to describe this match… Brutal. In my favourite WTA match of the year, Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova ran each other ragged in this bruising fourth round encounter. In my opinion, this match is seriously underrated and unfairly cast into the shadows when compared to Venus-Petra from Wimbledon. As much as that match was special for me, the quality of hitting in this one was just qofjigjiogguggdjg.
Without doubt, this was Kerber’s best performance of the 2014 season. She had some really tough losses but this was the one where she came out on top. Kerber started the match well, getting the early break to go up *2-0, but was unable to serve out the set as Sharapova began to unleash down-the-lines winners with pinpoint precision. Kerber held her service game facing scoreboard pressure at *5-6, closing it out with an ace and then, against all odds, won a tremendous tiebreak packed full of entertaining rallies that befitted this match.
It was no surprise that Sharapova responded by winning the second set although Kerber’s level didn’t drop a great deal. Sharapova sealed the crucial break of serve with a gorgeous angled backhand at 3-3. There were quite a few special winners from Maria in this match which earnt the customary racquet clap from Kerber (LOVE). Kerber didn’t go away in the third set, in fact she stepped it up. As always, she defended superbly, but in this match, she also took her chances and went for winners when the opportunity presented itself. Kerber went up 5-2*, holding through some tight service games. With Sharapova on the other side of this net, this was always going to be struggle to close out. Kerber failed to serve out the match at *5-3, but then got to *0-40 in Maria’s next service game…
The final game of the match was exhausting, both for the players and everyone watching! Kerber saw a myriad of match points disappear. There were some excellent points; you know a match is good when you see the crowd raising their hands on the TV view. After what felt like 78 deuces, Kerber sealed a magical win on her seventh match point. Who knows what would have happened if Sharapova had taken one of the game points she had at *4-5, but I was relieved for Angie. If it hadn’t been for the amount of energy she expended in this match, she might have gone deeper in the draw. The scheduling hurt her chances as she was defeated in straight sets by eventual finalist, Eugenie Bouchard in the quarter-finals. However, her 2014 Wimbledon campaign will be remembered for this match against Sharapova…
Match Recap HERE
Stats: Kerber finished the match with 27 winners to 11 unforced errors, meanwhile Sharapova hit 57 winners to 49 unforced errors. This match lasted two hours and 37 minutes. How Kerber produced just 11 errors in three gruelling sets is mindboggling!
Best moment of the match: I sound like a broken record, but too many to choose from. The rally linked in the video came at the most crucial moment of the match in the final game and had the crowd on their feet.