100 memories: The year of the fall

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
8:53
PM ET


Editor's note: With the tennis season now over, it's time to look back. Beginning Dec. 10, Ravi Ubha is unveiling his top 100 memories of the 2012 season. Check back each weekday until Dec. 21 as we count down to No. 1.

80. Bubka's Paris scare

It was bad, but could have been so much worse for Sergei Bubka Jr.

Bubka, son of the pole vaulting legend, suffered multiple fractures when he fell four floors in Paris during the week of the Paris Masters. He needed nine hours of surgery.

Bubka found himself locked inside a bathroom at the apartment in which he was staying. When he peered outside a window and tried to reach the next room, he lost his footing and tumbled to the ground.

"The circumstances leading to the fall were all so unlucky, but since the accident I feel I have been really lucky," he told the ATP. "I was lucky to be alive and not have damaged anything major."

Canadian Peter Polansky, who was sleepwalking, fell three stories in Mexico in 2006. He sustained a leg injury but made a complete recovery.

79. Cibulkova's collapse

Dominika Cibulkova
Adam Pretty/Getty ImagesDominika Cibulkova just didn't have what it took to put away Victoria Azarenka in Miami.
When she is on her game, Dominika Cibulkova can beat just about anyone.

For a set and a half against Victoria Azarenka in Miami in the spring, she dazzled, hitting winners from all parts of the court and making Azarenka look like a junior. She led 6-1, 5-2.

But not for the first time, nerves hindered the diminutive Slovak, and Azarenka rallied for a 1-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 victory to extend her winning streak to 26 matches.

"I just didn't finish the match," Cibulkova said. "Until [5-2 in the second], I was killing her from the return and from the forehand."

Azarenka's streak ended in the next round. Cibulkova, meanwhile, didn't crumble at Roland Garros, upsetting Azarenka in the fourth round.

78. Roger recovers against Milos in Madrid

Following a nearly two-month layoff, Roger Federer was pitted against Milos Raonic in his Madrid opener. The quick conditions, coupled with Federer's inactivity, favored the Canadian.

Sure enough, Raonic won the first set by claiming the final 12 points, and Federer creaked early in the second. The tables were turned on Federer, often the author of stunning points, when Raonic passed him with an instinctive semi-smash in the first game of the second.

But Raonic's inexperience cost him. He played the wrong shots on critical points on Federer's serve and eventually lost a third-set tiebreak.

Raonic didn't quite live up to the hype in 2012.

77. Finally for Fernando

Here's one player who probably didn't mind Madrid's blue clay: Fernando Verdasco.

Verdasco overturned a 5-2 third-set deficit to top Rafael Nadal, ending a 13-match losing streak against his fellow Spaniard.

Nadal fumed afterward about the court. Verdasco, who wept tears of joy, didn't.

"After losing so many times against honestly the best player on clay ever, to beat him on clay is the maximum," said Verdasco, a Madrid native. "I don't have words."

76. Paszek outlasts Woz

The rain, the roof, and quality tennis from Tamira Paszek and Caroline Wozniacki made for one of the finest first-round women's matches in Wimbledon history.

Paszek entered the tournament by winning in Eastbourne, while Wozniacki was felled in the opening round at the Wimbledon tuneup. Still, Wozniacki won the first set and held two match points in the second.

That's when the Austrian's courage surfaced. She became even more aggressive and saved both with stunning backhand winners. Paszek won in three sets.

With Woz having lost her No. 1 ranking earlier in the season, it marked more woe for her. "I had been over two years when I was winning these matches," she said.

75. Venus' Miami comeback

Venus Williams began 2012 ranked 134th. She'll finish at No. 24.

Diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome last year, Williams began her comeback in Miami after not playing since the 2011 U.S. Open.

You never would have known she had been out of the game for seven months.

Williams upset Petra Kvitova in the second round, but her third-round win was more memorable. She trailed by a set and break against Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak before forcing a third set. Wozniak led 4-2 and held a match point at 5-4, unable to convert in a jittery 10th game.

Despite the match lasting nearly three hours, Williams returned the next day to beat Ana Ivanovic.

Williams ended her season by claiming a title in Luxembourg.

74. Nadal bails from player council

Nadal wanted a two-year ranking system. It didn't happen.

He wanted fewer hard-court tournaments. No joy there, either.

His pick to replace Adam Helfant as head of the ATP, Richard Krajicek, wasn't given the job.

Was anyone listening to him?

In March, Nadal resigned as vice president of the player council.

"Finally, I believe I put too much energy there," Nadal said. "I [was] happy to represent my players there for the last couple of years. I believe that we did [a] few things well for the sport. I believe it's not enough. So I believe I am not the right one to keep working there."

All his energy is now presumably on getting the knees better.

73. Isner does it again in the Davis Cup

Already a winner over Federer on clay in the Davis Cup, John Isner engineered another upset in Europe when he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to clinch April's quarterfinal against France in Monte Carlo.

"I like playing on clay," Isner said. "It's a surface I enjoy and a surface I feel I can do very well on."

Isner was considered a dark horse leading into the French Open but didn't survive the second round. His Davis Cup fortunes on clay dipped in the semifinals in Spain.

72. Serena crushes Vika in Madrid

Serena Williams
Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty ImagesSerena Williams was a dominating figure on Madrid's blue clay.
The Madrid Open marked the first of five meetings between Azarenka and Serena Williams in 2012. Williams was 17-1 in her previous 18 encounters, and Azarenka had been the most dominant women's player on the circuit, suffering a mere two defeats in six tournaments.

The prematch hype exceeded the match itself, as Williams cruised 6-1, 6-3.

Of particular note was Azarenka's return to her racket-throwing ways.

Oh, and Serena gave us this memorable quote, referring to the men's criticism of the blue clay: "Women are way tougher than men. That's why we have the babies. You guys could never handle kids. On the WTA, we are real performers. We are not about going out there and being weenies."

71. Nole downs Delpo in N.Y.

Glance at the score between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, and the word "routine" comes to mind. Djokovic advanced 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

But far from the norm was the extended number of punishing baseline exchanges under the lights -- most won by Djokovic.

"We played some incredible rallies and incredible points," Djokovic said.

None better than with Djokovic leading 5-3 in the second-set tiebreak. He moved del Potro from side to side, and hit a drop shot, a lob volley and a drop volley before the Argentine's reply sailed long.

Djokovic raised his arms in celebration; del Potro hunched over at the net.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

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