The 2015 WTA season has come to an end and as is tradition on Moo’s Tennis Blog, it’s time to count down my favourite matches of the year. In 2014, the fourth round match between Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon was my number one pick. It’s worth noting that these are my personal highlights of the year so I don’t expect anyone to agree ;-). Unfortunately I had to leave some matches out which probably would have been on the list. This is because I wasn’t able to watch them live and couldn’t find highlights anywhere… French Open, i’m looking at you! Anyway, I hope you enjoy a trip down memory lane and pleasee do comment with your own favourite matches of this year. I’m starting with part one of four, matches 20 to 16…
20. Errani d. Strycova, 6-2 6-7(1) 7-6(7) (Eastbourne, R2)
Let’s start this countdown with a bang… One of the highlights of my time at the Aegon International in Eastbourne was watching this WACKY second round match between Sara Errani and Barbora Strycova on the outside courts. While this choice may seem a bit out there, it was, without doubt, my most hilarious live tennis experience ever. The tennis was actually pretty decent and it was refreshing to see so much play up at the net; the underlying drama and histrionics from both players made this a truly special occasion.
Strycova was in such a bad mood in the decider; she flung her racquet on multiple occasions and spent most of the time on the floor, even on her match point when she collapsed to the ground with cramp after a double fault. I think my favourite moment would have to be when she shouted at the umpire who had made a call, “I don’t believe you!”. Errani lost her temper with several line calls and also at the crowd for laughing during rallies. There were even seagulls swooping onto the court who wanted a piece of the action. I took so many photos during the third set but it was all worth it. I will treasure them for the rest of my existence.
Match Time: 3h 2
Match recap and photos HERE
19. Pliskova d. Muguruza, 6-4 5-7 7-5 (Dubai, SF)
Two of the star performers of 2015, Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza, met in an intriguing semi-final clash in Dubai back in February. This match was a little like looking into the crystal ball of the future of the WTA and based on this encounter, it was a thumbs up. Pliskova and Muguruza both have big games and often these types of match-ups can turn into messy error-strewn affairs. Admittedly, the quality wavered in this one but it was a really compelling match.
All three sets were tight; in the first set, seven of the ten games went to deuce including the one where Pliskova got the crucial break. It came on one of Muguruza’s many double faults as conditions were testing for both players. The second set was more of the same with serve dominating and both playing first-strike tennis. Muguruza, serving first, earnt a set point at 5-4, which was expertly saved by Pliskova with a cross-court forehand winner. Muguruza would go onto win the second set by virtue of a Pliskova double fault.
There were just a few points here and there in a frantic third set; Muguruza somewhat crumbled in a horror game at *5-5 and was then unable to take advantage of a *0-40 opening when Pliskova served for the match. The Czech player held it together in the crucial moments. While Pliskova reigned supreme in their head-to-head, also winning in Indian Wells, it was Muguruza who proved herself at the big events, finishing the year at number three in the world.
Match Time: 2h 53
Video highlights provided in WTA article HERE
18. Sharapova d. Ivanovic, 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 (Brisbane, Final)
The Brisbane International is a super event to kick off the tennis year and in 2015, it produced a worthy final between the top two seeds, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. After a few tasty clashes in 2014, notably their semi-final match in Cincy, the pair resumed their rivalry on the fast hard courts of Brisbane for what was their only match-up of 2015. The first set was a strange one in the sense that Sharapova was always ahead, but Ivanovic was the more clutch player, eventually sealing the first set on the tiebreak. Sharapova started sharp but sunk herself with 27 unforced errors.
Sharapova cleaned up her game to win the second set, 6-3. Ivanovic was troubled by a back injury which she appeared to tweak in her semi-final match against Varvara Lepchenko. While this was an issue for the Serb, it didn’t detract from the spectacle of what was a highly engaging match from start to finish. The third set was similar to the first with Sharapova in the ascendancy but Ivanovic battling hard and swinging away, going for the broke. Sharapova broke at 4-3 in the decider, aided by a quite spectacular cross-court return with the most devilish of angles. Ivanovic herself, produced back-to-back return winners to save two match points but Sharapova would not be denied.
Match Time: 2h 39
Match Stats: Sharapova (47 winners to 43 unforced errors) and Ivanovic (35 winners to 27 unforced errors)
17. Safarova d. Pavlyuchenkova, 7-6(6) 7-6(9) (French Open, R1)
Visiting Roland Garros was one of my favourite things about 2015. The highlight of my trip was watching Lucie Safarova win her first rounder, an absolute nail-biter against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, on a sun-laden court 2. I can’t remember watching a live match from the stands where i’ve got so involved… I left the grounds on such a high! In what would be the beginning of a magical two weeks for Safarova, the Czech player had to battle for two and half hours to put away her good friend.
While I was a bit of a wreck watching at the time, the quality of tennis improved throughout the match. Lucie failed to convert on a 5-2 lead in the first set before eventually prevailing in a tiebreak. The crowd got more and more involved during the second set… including me hahaha. After multiple deuce games in the second set, Lucie finally secured the crucial break at 5-5 in the second set; however she was unable to convert on four match points with Pavs producing some of her best tennis with her back against the wall. The second set went to the tiebreak again, this one even more dramatic than the first.
Set points and match points were being exchanged left, right and centre. Lucie almost started laughing when she set up her 7th match point. This time, she got the job done! The crowd erupted as the pair embraced at the net. It was such a classy end to a thoroughly entertaining match and I was chuffed that both players retweeted my photo of their embrace on Twitter. I’m still smiling thinking about this match 🙂
Match Time: 2h 30
Match Stats: Safarova (31 winners and 30 unforced errors) and Pavlychenkova (36 winners and 42 unforced errors)
Match recap and photos HERE
16. Kerber d. Pliskova, 6-7(7) 6-3 7-6(4) (Birmingham, Final)
In its first year as a Premier tournament, Birmingham was treated to a cracker of a final featuring Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova. The pair had a curious symmetry in Premier finals in 2015 with Kerber going 4-0 (having been 0-4 in 2014) and Pliskova, 0-4. This final was a lovely mix of styles with Pliskova’s big and fearless hitting coming up against Kerber’s counterpunching defence. Kerber made the brighter start to this match but she was unable to take advantage of her opportunities; Kerber led *5-3 *40-0 and had four set points but Pliskova eventually won the set on the tiebreak thanks to some accurate serving.
Pliskova’s rise up the rankings in 2015 can be partly attributed to her improved movement which was on show at times against Kerber. The Czech player looked well on her way to a first triumph on grass after quickly going up a break in the second set. Kerber though resettled, winning many of the longer rallies and teeing off on the Pliskova second serve, to force a deciding set.
Kerber carried the momentum into the decider where she was always ahead. The German player threatened the double break but Pliskova played the big points so well. The Czech player looks simply awesome when she’s taking big cuts off the ball and hitting cleanly. Pliskova saved two break points serving at *1-3 and then again at *2-4 before recovering a *0-30 deficit at *3-5. Serving for a set, a match in this case, was once again a trial for Kerber. On the most dramatic point of the match with Kerber down break point, she couldn’t put Pliskova away at the net as the Czech player scrambled well and eventually dug out an awkward, yet effective lob to get back on level terms.
This final had a super ending; it looked as if Kerber had wasted her opportunities but to her credit, she played a stunning point at 5-4 in the third set tiebreak where she dragged Pliskova all over the court before hitting a winning pass. While Kerber managed to turn around her fortunes in Premier tournaments in 2015, Pliskova will be looking to avenge a string of tough losses in finals in 2016.
Match Time: 2h 16
Match Stats: Kerber (34 winners to 14 unforced errors), Pliskova (51 winners to 42 unforced errors)