Sunday, December 16, 2012
100 memories: Strange days
By Ravi Ubha
Editor's note: 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.
50. Fognini at it again in Paris
Fabio Fognini isn't getting any love from the French Open crowds.
Two years ago at the French Open, Fabio Fognini took part in a match against Gael Monfils. Wanting to get off court with light fading, Fognini irked the Parisians.
He was cast as the villain again last year, with some thinking he conned the chair umpire into giving him a medical timeout while suffering from cramps. Nonetheless, he saved five match points against Albert Montanes.
There was nothing wrong with his antics this year -- yet more drama came the Italian's way at Roland Garros: He saved two match points to beat Viktor Troicki in the second round.
For Troicki, it marked more disappointment at the French Open. He couldn't finish off Andy Murray in 2011.
49. Strange stuff from Kohli
For many players, the highlight of the season was the Olympics at Wimbledon. One would have thought Philipp Kohlschreiber was especially looking forward to the event, since he reached a maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at the All England Club weeks earlier.
But bizarrely, Kohlschreiber decided to play the week before the Olympics -- on clay in Austria. He advanced to the final, losing in three sets, then bailed from the Olympics, citing a sore foot.
Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer drew criticism from, among others, fellow German Boris Becker. Mayer chose not to enter the Olympics.
48. Seppi energizes home fans
John Isner couldn't handle Andreas Seppi in Italy.
Think of a model pro, and Andreas Seppi is one player that comes to mind. The Italian leaves everything on court and has gotten the most out of his career. Without possessing a major weapon, Seppi will finish the year inside the top 25; he won two titles for the first time in a season.
He'll likely be most remembered, in 2012, for his performance at home at the Rome Masters.
Seppi rallied to down John Isner in nearly three hours in the second round, but it was nothing compared to his third-round outing against Stanislas Wawrinka. Seppi overcame six match points -- in three different games -- to oust Wawrinka 6-7 (1), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6) in 3:21.
Not long after it was over, a packed house chanted, "Seppi, Seppi, Seppi."
The scenes, for everyone but Wawrinka, were delightful.
47. One for another era
Bernard Tomic made plenty of news for the wrong reasons. Off court his behavior was questioned. On court Tomic admitted he gave less than 100 percent in a match in Shanghai, and the effort was lacking against Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open.
Those are but a few items.
More positively, Tomic thrilled the locals with his play at the Australian Open, escaping a two-set deficit against a colorfully adorned Fernando Verdasco and coming back, too, against Sam Querrey.
His third-round tussle with Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr. was the throwback match of the year. Slices and drop shots took center stage, not power, and it was Tomic who won in five entertaining sets, 6-3 in the fifth.
"It's like a mirror, playing yourself," Tomic said.
All of Australia, it seemed, was looking forward to Tomic's match against Roger Federer in the next round.
Federer, as he has done many times in the past, crushed a young upstart, advancing in three.
After beating Federer in Switzerland in the Davis Cup, Isner knocked off a second member of the Big Four, Novak Djokovic, in Indian Wells.
He was at last in a Masters Series final, and the win moved Isner into the top 10 for the first time.
"The win against Roger was very big for my confidence, and obviously this one will be very big for my confidence also," Isner said.
It wasn't a case, though, of onward and upward. Federer won the final, and Isner achieved only one more Masters quarterfinal, in Canada.
45. A-Rod goes out a winner -- against Roger, that is
Federer has made a particular habit of inflicting woe on Roddick -- those Wimbledon finals and such.
But Roddick can at least say this: He won the last match they ever played.
It came in Miami, with Roddick ending Federer's 16-match winning streak by taking the third set 6-4.
"I came out flat today," Federer said. "I was a bit tired, I guess."
If only Roddick could have faced Federer in Miami more often. He went 2-1 against Federer in Florida and 1-20 elsewhere.
44. Errani's uplifting French Open
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Sara Errani can play on clay. That we knew before 2012. But most of her success had come at small tournaments such as Barcelona, Budapest and Palermo.
It changed this season.
Away from clay, Errani set the tone for her campaign by landing in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
At Roland Garros, delightfully mixing up her shots and soaking up the power of her taller opponents, the 5-foot-4 Italian marched into the final, eliminating two former French Open champions (Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova), one of the tour's hottest players (Angelique Kerber) and a former French Open finalist (Samantha Stosur). Maria Sharapova proved to be too difficult to stop in the final.
43. Djokovic prevails in Shanghai thriller
Murray will take the trade-off: winning in New York against Djokovic and losing in Shanghai.
In their first meeting since Murray's historic triumph at Flushing Meadows, the Scot was on the verge of making it two straight. He held a match point in the second set serving at 5-4, which was saved with, what else, a Djokovic forehand.
Murray let slip four more match points in a pulsating 20-minute tiebreak, and Djokovic cruised in the third.
"When I faced those match points, I tried to focus on each individually," Djokovic, no stranger to fending off match points, said.
Murray, meanwhile, was in the midst of an unwanted hat trick, not converting match points against Milos Raonic in Tokyo, Djokovic in Shanghai and then Jerzy Janowicz in Paris.
42. Nadal, Djokovic feeling blue
Nadal and Djokovic both vowed not to return if the Madrid Open kept the blue clay.
The blue court experiment at the Madrid Masters didn't work out, with Nadal and Djokovic two of the heaviest critics.
Djokovic took aim at the tour's previous CEO, Adam Helfant, for allowing the courts, which turned out to be slippery, to be used.
"He was going away," Djokovic said. "He knew his contract was not being renewed, so he made this decision on his own. He didn't really care about tennis, about what the players think."
Nadal, before the tournament, said this: "My criticism is not directed at the tournament but at the ATP, which should never have allowed such a change at a tournament of this scale."
Nadal and Djokovic vowed to boycott Madrid next year if the blue courts remained. Alas, in June, the ATP said there would be no blue courts in 2013.
41. Serena thumps field in Turkey
No prep tournaments ahead of the year-end championships for Serena Williams, no problem.
Williams, a fan favorite in Istanbul, handed Maria Sharapova another straight-set defeat in the final and didn't drop a set the entire week.
It was her first appearance at the year-end championships in three years, when she was also a winner.
"The Turkish crowd was fantastic," Williams said. "I have never seen so many signs with my name on them before."