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Ricky’s Top 10 ATP Tennis Men’s Matches Of The Year, Nos. 1-5 — Including Djokovic vs. Federer

By Ricky Dimon

Ricky’s Top 10 Men’s Matches of the Year concludes with Part 2, featuring Nos. 1-5. The list includes a clay-court collision that seemingly wouldn’t end, ‘Oh my gosh’ kind of shotmaking inside the O2, the last Grand Slam match of 2019, a historic Wimbledon final, a showdown that took place just two days before that final, 

Let’s take a look.

5) Wimbledon Semi Final: Roger Federer d. Rafael Nadal 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4

The only thing lacking in the latest installment of the legendary Federer-Nadal rivalry was a fifth and final set. That’s not to say it lacked drama. The high point came with Federer serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth. Nadal earned a break chance at 30-40 that the eight-time champion saved then fought off two match points, both win clean winners. Federer capitalized on his third chance, getting the job done after three hours and two minutes. The No. 3 seed fired 14 aces compared to only one double-fault, won 25 of 33 net points, and almost doubled his unforced errors with winners (51 to 27). It was without question one of Federer’s two best performances of the year…and yet it still wasn’t easy.

4) U.S. Open Final: Rafael Nadal d. Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4

Just about the only person who could stop Medvedev during the hard-court summer was Nadal. The Spaniard did it easily in the Montreal final and seemed to be on course for a similarly dominant performance in New York. Instead, it developed into one of the best, most grueling matches of the year. After trailing two sets to love and by a break at 3-2 in the third, Medvedev somehow stormed back to keep Nadal on the court for four hours and 49 minutes. The Russian took the next two sets and in the fifth he broke back once after trailing 5-2. Medvedev even had a break point for 5-5 with his opponent serving for the match, but Nadal saved it in clutch fashion and persevered past the finish line two points later.

3) Nitto ATP Finals Round Robin: Dominic Thiem d. Novak Djokovic 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5)

Before the year-end championship leaves London in 2021, in this penultimate event it gave us perhaps the best match in O2 Arena history. Djokovic may not have played his absolute best, but he never had a chance to do so with the way Thiem was bludgeoning the ball throughout their round-robin battle. The Austrian blasted 51 winners over the course of two hours and 47 minutes. He twice gave back breaks in the third set but eventually recovered from a 4-1 deficit in the ensuing tiebreaker to finally prevail. Djokovic heaped praise on his opponent with words like “unbelievable,” “incredible,” “amazing,” and “phenomenal.” Thiem agreed, saying it was probably the best match he ever played.

2) French Open Round 4: Stan Wawrinka d. Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6

They were all playing for second place at the French Open, but that did nothing to diminish the intensity of this epic struggle between Wawrinka and Tsitsipas in the round of 16. It was the longest match of the tournament at five hours and eight minutes, and the quality almost never wavered. As the score indicates, it obviously could have gone either way–and the win probably would have gone to Tsitsipas if not for Wawrinka’s ability to save break points. The Swiss fought off 22 of 27 break points, including an 8-for-8 effort in the thrilling fifth set. He finally clinched victory with a break of his own at 7-6, converting his second match point with backhand slice pass on the outside of the sideline.

1) Wimbledon Championship Final: Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 13-12(3)

Was the quality as good as Thiem vs. Djokovic or Wawrinka vs. Tsitsipas? Perhaps not, although at certain times it definitely lived up to those standards. But it is hard to sustain a ridiculous level for four hours and 57 minutes amidst the pressure of a Wimbledon final. It was actually Federer who sustained it more often than not, as he refused to lose a single set prior to a tiebreaker and he completely dominated the second before taking the fourth without too much trouble. That led to a historic fifth, which produced the first-ever 12-12 tiebreaker in a singles match. Federer could have sealed the deal earlier, but he infamously missed a 40-15, double-championship point chance at 9-8. 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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