This year’s best matches feature on Moo’s Tennis Blog is a bumper edition, returning to the good old days of a top 20 countdown. I thought there were lots of good matches in 2019 and I had pretty much constructed a top 20 list by Wimbledon! This first part covers 20 to 11 including my favourite matches watched live.
20. Garbiñe Muguruza d. Johanna Konta, 6-4 6-7(3) 7-5 (Australian Open, R2)
Sharing the record for the latest ever start to a Slam match, Muguruza edged Konta in a match that finished at 03:12am local time. Considering the circumstances, this was a sensational match. There was nothing particularly wild or shocking (apart from when Muguruza nearly hit Konta when she hadn’t realised the Brit was removing bugs from the court 😂), it was just high-quality tennis from start to finish. There were only two breaks of serve which came in the first and last games of the match, and Muguruza was not broken once in the two hour and 42 minute contest. Muguruza said in her post-match interview that she was off to breakfast!
19. Petra Martic d. Margarita Gasparyan, 6-3 7-6(4) (Birmingham, R2)
The first of two live matches in my countdown comes from my final day in Birmingham. While most people were on Centre Court for the Pliskova-Pliskova duel, I sat with Twitter friends to watch a fantastic Martic-Gasparyan match on the second court. I’d never seen Gasparyan play live before and it was a real treat to watch her in full flow with that majestic one-handed backhand. Martic constructed points beautifully with her slice and managed to keep an aggressive Gasaparyan at bay to seal the win in two tight sets. A memorable end to my three days at the Nature Valley Classic.
18. Karolina Pliskova d. Serena Williams, 6-4 4-6 7-5 (Australian Open, QF)
In one of the most dramatic matches of the season, Pliskova rallied from 1-5 down in the third set and saved four match points to beat Serena in a two hour-ten minute thriller. Serena went over on her ankle on her first match point and didn’t win another point on her serve as Pliskova came back to score an unlikely win. Probably would have been higher in my countdown if i’d watched it live. It’s never the same when you watch back a match knowing the score!
17. Sloane Stephens d. Petra Martic, 7-6(6) 7-6(5) (Australian Open, R3)
This was another super match from the Australian Open as Stephens, playing some of her best tennis of the entire season, held off a valiant charge from Martic. Martic is a beautiful player to watch with her aggressive groundstrokes, array of slices and willingness to come forward. It was very close and Stephens simply played the big points better in both tiebreaks. I didn’t think of it until writing this now but Martic’s performance in this match was a precursor for what was to come in 2019 as she went on a tear during the clay court season and finally reached her first Slam quarter-final in Paris.
16. Petra Martic d. Anastasia Potapova, 3-6 6-3 6-4 (Wimbledon, R2)
This was a fun one and perhaps a match that got missed on a busy day at SW19. On a sun-drenched Court 16, Martic’s resilience and versatility helped her come back from a set down to beat Potapova in three sets. Potapova was inspired in the first set as she produced numerous hot shots – stunning winners down-the-line, return winners, lobs, you name it. I liked that on three separate occasions, Potapova racquet clapped shots of Martic. There was a nice respect between the pair at the end with Martic quick to congratulate Potapova on a super showing.
15. Elina Svitolina d. Sofia Kenin, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-4 (Indian Wells, R2)
In the shadows of the hotly anticipated S.Williams-Azarenka clash, this Svitolina-Kenin match went under the radar. It was a cold night in the desert and unfortunately there were few fans to take in this terrific contest. Svitolina wrestled control from a free-flowing Kenin with aggressive net charges. The American player threatened to come back in the decider but Svitolina slammed the door shut with a convincing final service game. This was the match where I realised Kenin is the real deal. The 21-year-old American had a superb season and I think she’s only going to improve in 2020.
14. Naomi Osaka d. Bianca Andreescu, 5-7 6-3 6-4 (Beijing, QF)
Beijing witnessed the birth of the Osaka-Andreescu match-up as the pair played each other for the first time on the WTA tour. The match lived up to expectation as Osaka rallied from a set down to snap Andreescu’s 17 match winning streak. One of the things missing from the WTA over the past couple of year has been a consistent rivalry. Could this be it? Again, perhaps would have been higher on my list if i’d watched it live.
13. Belinda Bencic d. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3 (Madrid, R2)
Madrid has always been one of my least favourite tournaments of the year but I decided to embrace it in 2019. My favourite match from the tournament was a late-night second round encounter between Bencic and Kuznetsova, a pulsating high-quality affair where both went for their shots and most of the time they landed in. The pair combined for 76 winners to just 46 unforced errors. Despite the loss, this was a brilliant match from Kuznetsova and proved she still has what it takes to dazzle on the tour after a number of career-threatening injuries.
12. Karolina Pliskova d. Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-3 2-6 6-4 (Wimbledon, R3)
My favourite live match of 2019! This match-up had an intriguing plotline as Pliskova was one of the favourites for the Wimbledon title, while Hsieh had established herself as a reliable giant-killer, beating the then world number one, Simona Halep, in the same round and on the same court at Wimbledon the prior year. The pair had played twice before and both matches had gone deep into a third set.
Pliskova battled to what felt like a big win at the time (she went on to lose in the next round to Muchova). Hsieh lost the match hitting 33 winners to just 10 unforced errors. One of my favourite moments was when Hsieh lost a point after being drawn out wide and then went up to a few spectators in the front row and gave them a hi-five! It was wonderful to see the crowd appreciation for this match and I left No.1 Court with a beaming smile 😁.
11. Naomi Osaka d. Anastasija Sevastova, 3-6 6-0 6-4 and 4-6 6-3 6-4 (Brisbane, QF & Australian Open, R4)
The Osaka-Sevastova match-up was an underrated highlight from down under. Both matches they played, in Brisbane and Melbourne, were very similar in how they played out and were equally entertaining. Sevastova won the first set before Osaka rallied to win in three sets, 6-4 in the third. I love the clash of game styles between these two. On both occasions, Osaka had to think her way past Sevastova’s craftiness. The Japanese player succeeded on both occasions with the latter win en route to a second consecutive Slam title.