Australian Open 2012: 10 Best Matches of the Year's First Grand Slam

Madhusudan G Rao@madhugrContributor IIIFebruary 6, 2012

Australian Open 2012: 10 Best Matches of the Year's First Grand Slam

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    What a fantastic way to start the year!

    The first Grand Slam of 2012 ended with a memorable match between the top two seeds in probably the best Grand Slam final of all time. That there could be only one winner is the unfortunate aspect of sports, not just tennis. 

    The TV channels were recording the activities of both the players—the numbers were outstanding. Both of them had run the equivalent of 45-50 miles by the end of the match. Surprisingly, Djokovic had run more than his rival, and that reflected in the end result as well.

    This has to be the BEST match of the entire year, not just this Grand Slam. If it does not qualify to be one, the tennis community will feel blessed to have more of such top-notch matches.

    Let us look at the other memorable matches in this year's Australian Open

Rafael Nadal Defeats His Old-Time Rival Roger Federer in the Semifinals

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    Nadal and Federer in a Grand Slam semifinal. Again, one remembers all the fantastic matches that the duo has played over time, even though the end result might be skewed in favor of the Spaniard.

    This semifinal was no different with Federer playing all the right shots at the beginning of the match only to lose his way in latter sets.

    The Swiss Maestro will feel happy about his performance even though he did not qualify for the final.

    For the Spanish Matador, this match was just a warm-up for his epic final.

Novak Djokovic Outlasts Andy Murray in an Epic Semifinal

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    Andy Murray had recruited Ivan Lendl as his coach to help him go further than what he had achieved so far—the Grand Slam win.

    This year, Murray showed the edge over his opponents in all his matches leading to the semifinals.

    Novak Djokovic had a tough time in his previous matches (especially against Hewitt) but was not flustered.

    The semifinal was, as Nadal's match against Federer proved, more than a good "practice" for the epic final that Djokovic had to play. Djokovic had to dig deep into his reserves and pull out all his tricks to vanquish the Scot.

    Even though during the match, Novak seemed out for the knockout, he made a miraculous comeback to win the match and reach the final once again. For Murray, it was time to go back to the drawing board.

Kei Nishikori Creates History by Dumping Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a great 2011 where he reached the latter rounds of the Grand Slam and threatened the top three seeds regularly.

    A tie-up against Kei Nishikori was supposed to be a formality before the quarterfinals. Kei, on the other hand, had beaten sixth seed Tsonga in Shanghai last year and knew what it took to beat the Frenchman.

    The 24th seed knocked out sixth seed Tsonga, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a three-hour, 30-minute match on the Hisense Arena.

    "It's tough to play against him because he runs a lot and everything's coming back," said Tsonga.

    Reminds one of a Mr.Chang few years ago. 

Lleyton Hewitt: Bringing Back the Golden Years

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    Injuries had stalled Hewitt's career, limiting him to just 20 matches in 2011 after foot surgery. Canadian Milos Raonic meanwhile had a great 2011 when he was named the ATP Newcomer of the Year.

    The resilient Lleyton Hewitt, fighting back from an injury-plagued 2011, fought out a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win over the 23rd-seeded, big-serving Raonic in a three-hour, six-minute match to set up a Round-of-16 clash with Djokovic.

    Hewitt showed his never-say-die spirit to wear down the Canadian to the delight of home crowd on Rod Laver Arena.

Bernard Tomic: The Crowd Favorite

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    Regarded as the most creative and versatile tennis players, Bernard Tomic and Alexandr Dolgopolov played an epic match in the third round.

    In a match of high quality, 19-year-old Tomic defeated the 13th seed 4-6 7-6 (7-0) 7-6 (8-6) 2-6 6-3 in three hours and 49 minutes.

    Dolgopolov squared the match at two sets all before Tomic made a comeback, thanks to an umpiring benefit, to win the final set.

Kim Clijsters Makes an Amazing Comeback Against Li Na

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    Kim Clijsters was playing Li Na for an entry to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. She twisted her ankle early in the match and was quickly one set down. 

    Kim decided that this was not the right way to go out of the Australian Open for the last time. She started her comeback after strapping the ankle.

    After saving four match points, Clijsters rallied for a dramatic 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over Li Na—still not sure how she managed to make the turn around.

    Amazing stuff indeed!

Victoria Azarenka Beats Favorite Kim Clijsters in the Semifinals

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    Kim Clijsters, after her comeback win over Li Na, was the favorite of fans and pundits alike to win her semifinal against Victoria Azarenka. But Azarenka had different ideas.

    In only her second appearance in a major semifinal, Azarenka thwarted the efforts of the defending champion 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. After a strong start in the match when she won the first set, Azarenka's serve gave way to some good groundstrokes by Clijsters.

    Finally, Clijsters could not hold her serve during the critical points in the third set eventually closing her career in Australia.

    "I guess before you all thought I was a mental case. I was just young and emotional," Azarenka said in a interview later.

Maria Sharapova Beats Petra Kvitova to Take Revenge for 2011 Wimbledon Loss

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    Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova were not in their best form before their semifinal match in the 2012 Australian Open

    Sharapova overcame some poor serving to outlast Kvitova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 and move into the final. 

    Kvitova and Sharapova threw everything they had at each other for almost two and a quarter hours on Rod Laver Arena. 

    Sharapova dominated the first set and Kvitova the second, with the pair evenly matched in the third until Kvitova lost her serve.

    Sharapova attacked the serve of the nervous Kvitova to take revenge for the loss she incurred in 2011 Wimbledon.

Victoria Azarenka Comes Back to Blank Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Victoria Azarenka had won only once in Grand Slam quarterfinals in her career. Here, she was meeting Agnieszka Radwanska whom she had defeated in the tournament prior to the Australian Open. Could she repeat it?

    The first set saw a number of service breaks for both players, and Radwanska leveraged this to win it (in fact she won the tiebreaker to love).

    Azarenka then raised her game to win the next seven games and downed the challenge of her rival to win the next two sets 6-0, 6-2. 

Ana Ivanovic Comeback Attempt Against Petra Kvitova Fails

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    Ana Ivanovic tried to make a comeback to the Grand Slam quarterfinal after more than three years against Petra Kvitova. 

    Kvitova had too many shots in her ammunition to down Ivanovic in the closely fought match (close more for the unforced errors by the two players).

    By losing her service composure, Petra made the match more interesting and took the match to a tiebreaker.

    Ivanovic's problems with service made it difficult for her to come back in the match that was won by the Czech.

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