I’d go as far to say that Stuttgart is my favourite WTA tournament on the calendar. The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix always attracts a stunning line-up and 2015 is no different with nine of the world’s top ten set to attend. As it is a 28-player draw, there are bound to be some blockbuster first round match-ups. I can already guarantee we will all be marvelling at the draw when it comes out on Saturday. In anticipation, i’ve been rewatching some of my favourite matches over the past five years since I started following the event and I felt compelled to count down my top ten… enjoy!
10. Angelique Kerber d. Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1 6-2 (2012, R2)
Sometimes watching a one-sided match can be fun as was the case with Angelique Kerber in this match as she produced an outstanding display to take out Caroline Wozniacki for the loss of just three games. In the previous round against Roberta Vinci, Kerber had been equally impressive, but there was something about the way she took apart Wozniacki in this match. Kerber, playing with bundles of confidence, produced one of her very best performances as she ran down everything and took control of the match with a myriad of forehand winners. Kerber hit 28 winners, including the forehand down-the-line that is linked in the video where Kerber produced some awesome defence.
9. Justine Henin d. Jelena Jankovic, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3 (2010, QF)
This choice is more of a nostalgic pick as it reminds me of my student days when I used to follow tennis religiously on the live scoreboard. Back then, I used to a be a crazy JJ fan and I thought this was her chance to notch a win against Henin. This ended up being their last ever encounter on the WTA tour and Henin finished with a 10-0 head-to-head record despite dropping the first set in half of those matches. Jankovic went up a set and had opportunities to win this in straight sets; she pushed Henin hard on serve at 4-4 and 5-5, but it was the Belgian player who held on and prevailed in the tiebreak. It’s weird watching JJ back now because I feel she does so many things better. Henin grew in confidence as the match went on as she started hitting through her backhand and dominating at the net. Henin closed out the match with a delicious cross court forehand. After my live scoreboard days, it was nice to put a face to the match when I discovered the highlights on YouTube.
8. Julia Goerges d. Sabine Lisicki, 6-4 6-4 (2011, QF)
When two big hitters play well at the same time, it’s joyous. It may only have been a straight setter but I thoroughly enjoyed this match featuring Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges. There were some fun rallies with both players absolutely pounding the ball. Lisicki had a break point at 4-3 in the first set, but the opportunity was swiped away by Goerges with a forehand winner into the corner. Lisicki had her opportunities during this match, but it was Goerges who played the big points better. Both player finished the match with a positive winners to unforced errors differential (Goerges 26 winners to 21 unforced errors and Lisicki 24 winners to 18 unforced errors). The quick surface is definitely a factor in producing matches with plenty of winners.
Highlights by PDWtennisvidz
7. Sabine Lisicki d. Jelena Jankovic, 7-6(3) 7-5 (2013, R2)
Sabine Lisicki is one of those players that can take it up a notch, particularly when playing in front of a passionate home crowd. A mix of penetrating groundstrokes and dinky drop shots helped Lisicki seal what remains her only ever victory over Jelena Jankovic in six encounters. There were some great rallies in this match; the video below is linked to one in the first set where Lisicki showed some remarkable defence before unleashing a fizzing passing shot down-the-line. This particular shot gave Lisicki set points in the first set, but Jankovic clung on at least until the tiebreak. Lisicki eventually converted on her seventh set point. Lisicki closed the match out on another mind boggling rally. Only Sabine would sink to her knees in elation after winning a second round match in Stuttgart… she can divide opinion among tennis fans but personally, I find watching a player who displays all their emotions rather infectious.
6. Maria Sharapova d. Angelique Kerber, 6-3 2-6 7-5 (2013, SF)
Maria Sharapova had some tough matches in 2013, being pushed to three sets in three of her four matches en route to winning the title. Her most challenging match of the week came against Angelique Kerber in a topsy-turvy semi-final. After winning the first set, Sharapova went on a mid-match walkabout as Kerber won the second set and launched into the lead in the deciding set, much to the delight of the home crowd. The German player was plucky personified and did a great job at absorbing the pace coming from Sharapova. Sharapova came fighting back and served for the match at *5-3 after Kerber had valiantly saved 4 break points to get to 3-3. Despite failing to serve out the match as Kerber went for broke, Sharapova settled and refocused to win the last eight points of the match.
Highlights by ᴀᴜssιᴇsʜᴀʀᴀᴘᴏᴠᴀ¹
5. Jelena Jankovic d. Mona Barthel, 2-6 7-6(8) 6-2 (2014, R1)
In one of my favourite tennis evenings of 2014, this match followed straight after the Sharapova-Safarova encounter. Most of the crowd had gone home, but the few who stayed were rewarded with a treat of a match. Barthel showed why she can be so dangerous as for a set and a half she played fearless tennis, going for the lines and striking the ball with such fluidity and conviction. After keeping her hopes alive in the second set after some a pair of epic (these were epic!) deuce games, she couldn’t take advantage of four match points in the second set tiebreak. To her credit she didn’t give up in the decider, but Jankovic pulled through in the end. Unfortunately there aren’t any extended highlights on YouTube *sad face*
Match recap HERE
Highlights by ytubejj
4. Maria Sharapova d. Lucie Safarova, 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-6(2) (2014, R1)
The highest quality match from last year’s edition of Stuttgart came in this first round match featuring Maria Sharapova and Lucie Safarova. The pair had played each other the year before with that match also going the distance. However, this match was much more dramatic as Safarova came within touching distance of a huge win. After two even sets that were decided by tiebreaks, Sharapova raced into a 5-1 third set lead; Lucie though, launched a stunning comeback to win five straight games and serve for the match at 6-5. She came within two points of the win, but agonisingly (I was watching behind my pillow), she was unable to convert. Sharapova’s ability to pull out of matches like this is a testament to her character and this match began her journey to a third title in Stuttgart where she remains unbeaten with 13 consecutive match wins..
Match recap HERE
3. Julia Goerges d. Sam Stosur, 6-4 3-6 7-5 (2011, SF)
In the battle of the big forehands, Julia Goerges kept her run going in 2011 with a superb victory against Sam Stosur to progress into the final. Goerges was so clutch in this match. She sealed the opening set with a cute drop shot. Stosur did well to win the second set, but Goerges came back with some inspired play to win the decider. In particular, Goerges found another level in the final game of the match with two majestic passing shots including a backhand down-the-line on match point. It’s such a shame that we have never really seen Goerges produce this tennis elsewhere because it really was a magical week of tennis. Goerges went on to deservedly take the title, beating Caroline Wozniacki in the final. The match was also memorable for Julia’s dad who was loving it from the stands.
Highlights by PDWtennisvidz
2. Victoria Azarenka d. Mona Barthel, 6-4 6-7(3) 7-5 (2012, QF)
2012 was the year when Vika and Mona had a pair of humdingers with almost identical scorelines. The pair met in Indian Wells earlier that year where Barthel had an opportunity to serve for the match. Although she didn’t quite get that close in this match, she gave Azarenka another scare in this match as she kept plugging away. Barthel had already knocked out Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli, and brought that confidence into this encounter. Her ball striking was at times, sensational; she hit 64 winners, but couldn’t rival Azarenka’s steadiness and consistency. Azarenka led by a set and a break, and then also had three break points on Mona’s serve at 5-5 in the second set. The German player extinguished all three with winners and went on to take the tiebreak. Azarenka maintained her position as the frontrunner in the third set and despite some fearless hitting from Barthel, the German’s challenge ended in anticlimactic fashion with a double fault. Still, it didn’t take away from this memorable winner-happy match.
1. Maria Sharapova d. Sam Stosur, 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 (2012, QF)
In terms of quality this is the best match i’ve watched from Stuttgart in the last five years. Sharapova and Stosur played out a three hour and one minute beast of a quarter-final. It ranked as my second favourite match of 2012. The match was almost entirely serve dominated and the intensity of the rallies never really dropped during the three hours. In equal measures, it was exhausting and exhilirating to watch! Stosur won the first set on the tiebreak after 12 holds of serve. It was one of the best sets of tennis i’ve ever seen Stosur play as her backhand more than held up and was an actual weapon. Stosur earnt the first break of the match after 18 straight holds of serve in the second set and she even had a match point. Scrappy, determined and sliding on the clay, Sharapova came back to win the second set on the tiebreak and eek out the win, 7-5 in the decider. There were so many great points but the backhand that Maria clung on to at 14:51 in the video was really special. This turned out to be a crucial win for Sharapova, who went on to win Stuttgart and just over one month later, the French Open….