Look, as most of you know, my time as a tennis fan is primarily filled with angst. Though I appreciate them all, I’m not a member of the Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or even Murray fan club. I tend to embrace the offbeat underdog, the hot-headed underachiever, the scrappy veteran, or Agnieszka Radwanska. This means that the first week of Grand Slams for me are usually filled with heartache, tears, and multiple therapy sessions. My hopes typically lie with 250s, which means my angst never gets an off-week.
So in the spirit of self-torture (Happy Holidays!) i thought I’d re-live a few of the matches that made question my very existence as a tennis fan. This list is completely subjective, not at all comprehensive, and should be consumed with your anxiety-reliever of choice.
Without further adieu, bring on the PTSD!
1. Roger Federer d. Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-1; Wimbledon 3rd Round
But then the fourth set happened. Both guys were finally playing great at the same time, or at least very well. I kept waiting, expecting for Benny to crumble, but he hung in there. Stroke for stroke, winner for winner. And as the camera showed Mirka biting her nails as Benny generated the lone break point of the set, I forgot everything I knew about this sport and I actually hoped.
Benny hung in there despite quad cramps and his French brain until 6-6 in the fourth set tiebreak. But of course it was all Federer from there, and this jaded heart was once again broken by the Swiss Maestro at Wimbledon. Brutal.
2. Philip Kohlschrieber d. John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; US Open 3rd Round.
As I noted at the time, however, this did prove to be an apt homage to the former alpha-dog of American tennis.
Isner loses in 5 sets to Kohls in R3 of a Slam, argues with an ump, smashes his racket, and gets a point penalty. What an homage to Rod.
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) September 3, 2012
(Is it tacky to post your own tweets in your own post? OH WELL.)
I could have talked about any of Isner’s 2012 Grand Slam performances on this list though. LOOK AT THESE SCORELINES:
Australian Open R3: Feliciano Lopez d. John Isner 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-7 (0), 6-1
French Open R2: Paul Henri-Mathieu d. John Isner 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 18-16
Wimbledon R1: Alejandro Falla d. John Isner 6-4, 6-7(7), 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-5
The silver lining? Isner has a lot of opportunities to make up ranking ground at Grand Slams next year. I’ve learned my lesson though, and won’t be holding my breath.
3. Agnieszka Radwanska d. Maria Kirilenko 7-5, 4-6, 7-5; Wimbledon QFs
OF COURSE THERE WAS A PROBLEM. Radwanska battled a ferocious Kirilenko, her own errors, and multiple rain delays to get the monkey off her back. It was not easy. The first game of the match lasted nine minutes. There was a rain delay at 4-4. It took her eight set points to convert the first set. She got up an early break in the second set, but gave it right back. After she lost the second set, there was another rain delay.
At 7:45 in the evening, at 4-4 in the third set and following an unheard of six straight nerve-wracking holds of serve, they decided to move the match. This time the girls had to wait an hour and a half for Centre Court to be cleared so they could finish their match underneath the roof. When they finally got out there, Kirilenko held for 5-4 and was one game away from ENDING MY LIFE.
But then Kirilenko’s aggression that had kept her in it this long got the best of her, and the Polish ninja squeaked out the final three games of the match to make it to the semifinals. Turns out some heart attacks are worth it.
4. Martin Klizan d. Mikhail Youzhny 6-7(11), 6-4, 7-6(3); St. Petersburg Semifinals
Set 1: Klizan led 5-3, but Youzhny came back to win it 13-11 in the tiebreak after saving three set points.
Set 2: Youzhny led 4-2 before dropping four straight games.
Set 3: Klizan led 5-2, then Youzhny won three straight games without dropping a single point. He double faulted at the beginning of the TB, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
Overall, the match lasted three hours and 49 minutes and involved 34 break-points and countless R-rated Youzhny moments. After a rough second half of the season, I had so wanted Youzhny to make the finals in front of his hometown crowd, but alas it was not to be. It’s excruciating being a Russian tennis fan. But hey, at least there was no blood?
5. Angelique Kerber d. Venus Williams 6-2, 5-7, 7-5; US Open 2nd Round
I wouldn’t call this match high-quality, but it was intense. Every single point seemed to be played like it was the last point of their lives. I couldn’t hear their screams because I was screaming so loudly because there was no such thing as a safe shot in this match. It was as if neither one of them had ever heard of the “middle of the court.” They both left every single ounce of themselves out there, and the New York crowd was so appreciative.
The match lasted for two hours and 45 minutes, with the second set alone taking 76 minutes. I haven’t done the math, but there were a lot of deuces. It was soul-crushing, head-banging, awe-inspiring, gut-wrenching, jaw-dropping, eye-rolling, chills-inducing tennis.
But Venus had 60 UFEs. And Venus lost. And I may or may not have cried. A lot.
6. Novak Djokovic d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1 5-7 5-7 7-6 (8/6) 6-1; French Open QFs
This match started out like everyone expected it to — as a rout for Djokovic. He won seven of the first eight games, and up a set and a break everyone was penciling him into the semifinals. But then, for three sets, Tsonga woke up. He played the kind-of aggressive, smart, and error-free tennis that we all know he’s capable of. The kind that makes him a dark horse threat in every tournament he enters. But I’ve been a Jo fan for a long time, and just like in the Benny match above, I knew not to hope.
But I’m not a robot. How can you not get up your hopes when there are four match points? How can you not start to dream when one of your favorite players has a chance to take out the No. 1 player in the world in front of his hometown crowd at his hometown Grand Slam? Seriously, I’m asking … HOW? Because I knew better. I did. But I went there. For a second I pictured the celebration and the headlines and the post-match presser. For a second I pictured a world where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lived up to his potential. For a second I was a fool.
Fun fact: I’ve lived my entire life in the fetal position since this match, choking back sobs. It’s not cute.
Tsonga/Nadal in Miami, Sharapova/Kvitova Australian Open Semifinal; Kanepi/Wozniacki French Open disaster, and the Cilic/Nalbandian error-fest 2012 Davis Cup masterpiece.
What about you guys? What tennis matches this past year left you questioning your very existence and sanity? Please share so that I know I’m not alone.