Power Ranking the Most Shocking Outcomes from This Season's Tennis Slams

JA AllenSenior Writer ISeptember 19, 2012

Power Ranking the Most Shocking Outcomes from This Season's Tennis Slams

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    Now that the Grand Slam finals for 2012 are safely in the books, it is time to look back and judge what we witnessed.

    Many newcomers made their presence known by advancing through the draw, while some seasoned pros fell in unexpected places. Some left the world of tennis altogether, choosing to pursue other dreams.

    For the men, Novak Djokovic won his third title at the 2012 Australian Open to start the year. Rafael Nadal won the French Open before being forced to withdraw after Wimbledon for the Summer Olympics and the U.S. Open with recurring knee problems.

    Roger Federer completed a magnificent Grand Slam year, coming back to win his seventh Wimbledon title and resumed his place at the top, taking back the No. 1 ranking.  And Andy Murray won his first major at the U.S. Open, beating a field weakened by the absence of Nadal.

    For the women, Serena Williams won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, while newcomer Victoria Azarenka won the Australian Open and earned the No. 1 ranking. And Maria Sharapova completed her career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in June.

    What we expect in majors is for the top seeds to advance and play in the final rounds. This, however, did not always happen, and the anomalies on court are what makes watching the matches entertaining.

    Here are 25 of the moments we did not expect to see at the Grand Slams in 2012.

25. French Open Round 3: Kutznetsova Defeats Radwanska

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    Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova knocked out No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2 in the third round of the French Open.

    On full display during the match were the reasons Kuznetsova had won two Grand Slam titles. The match was over in 70 minutes.

    Kuznetsova dominated by playing a determined and deliberate game. Radwanska could never get her foot into the match and seemed helpless to stop her own demolition.

    Kutnetsova won the French Open in 2009 and by the time the match was over, fans understood the power of this erratic Russian.

    Unfortunately for Kutznetsova, she wasn't able to sustain her concentration and determination to win. The Russian went out in the next round to Italian Sara Errani.

24. Australian Open Round 4: Serena Williams Loses to Makarova

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    Serena Williams lost to 56th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova, 6-2, 6-3, in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

    At the end of the match, Williams complained that the ankle injury she suffered in Brisbane prior to the start of the Australian Open still bothered her. Regardless, the youngest Williams sister did not play well.

    Serena suffered from slow feet, committing 37 unforced errors and seven double-faults.

    Williams' timing was way off, as she fired her groundstrokes long too often.

    Makarova, on the other hand, held her poise, playing smart tennis and not rushing her shots.

    She was the better player, winning this shocker of an upset Down Under.

23. Wimbledon Round 1: Wozniacki Loses in First Round to Paszek

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    Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was dismissed in the first round at the All-England Club by Tamira Paszek of Austria, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.

    It marked another step in the steady decline Wozniacki has endured since Victoria Azarenka seized the No. 1 ranking from her.

    Paszek, of course, was not a good draw for Wozniacki. The Austrian loves the grass.

    The two battled over two rain-delayed days, with Wozniacki holding two match points during the second set. But Paszek battled back and won.

    Wozniacki would suffer a similar fate at the 2012 U.S. Open.

22. U.S. Open Round 2: Tsonga Falls to Klizan

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    This was a huge upset at the U.S. Open.

    Prior to the start of the tournament, prognosticators were touting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as a contender for the title.

    But Tsonga lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 to unseeded Martin Klizan of the Slovak Republic and was gone from Flushing Meadows after the second round.

    The usually charismatic Frenchman's dismissal had everyone puzzled.

    It seemed that Tsonga had no energy. It was, to say the least, a disappointing performance from the No. 5 seed who had been playing extremely well.

    Klizan would move on to the third round and defeat No. 32 seed Jeremy Chardy before losing in the fourth round to No. 12 Marin Cilic.

21. French Open Round 3: Schiavone Upset by Lepchenko

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    No. 14 seed Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion in 2010, was upset by transplanted American Varvara Lepchenko, ranked No. 63 in the world, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6.

    This was remarkable because the new American had never advanced beyond the second round of a Grand Slam tournament, prior to this year's French Open.

    Being better fit and technically more savvy, the 26-year-old Lepcheko also displayed poise under pressure and an iron-willed determination to win.

    We would hear more from Lepchenko during the remainder of the Grand Slam season.

20. Australian Open Round 3: Hewitt Upends Raonic

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    Consummate tennis professional Lleyton Hewitt upset youngster Milos Raonic, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3, in the third round of the 2012 Australian Open.

    The Canadian was ranked No. 23 and Hewitt, of course, was unseeded at his hometown tournament after a long absence to recover from injury and subsequent surgeries.

    Raonic was hoping to break through at a major, but this night he was not up to the tenacity and determination of Hewitt, who gutted out this victory once he detected the youngster was vulnerable.

    Hewitt continues to amaze with his ability to rise to the occasion.

    The Aussie, however, could not sustain his success—losing in the next round to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

    But Hewitt, as always, went down with a fight.

19. Wimbledon Round 2: Stosur Upended by Rus

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    Australian Samantha Stosur was upset in the second round by Dutch woman Aranxa Rus, 6-2, 0-6, 6-4. 

    Grass has never been to Stosur's liking. That is still the case.

    With her big kick-serve and her ability to volley, Stosur should be a natural on grass. But she is not.

    Stosur needs more time to react than grass allows. Therefore, she has never done well at Wimbledon.

    2012 was no exception. In the second round, she faced Rus in a wildly erratic match.

    Stosur's serve broke down in the first set, allowing her opponent to win 6-2 as Stosur dropped six games in a row.

    In the second set, Stosur rebounded, winning all six games to even the match at a set apiece.

    But in the third set, Stosur was unable to sustain her domination. She failed to break Rus's serve in the first game, then had her serve broken, only to break back. But Rus broke Stosur's serve again to claim the final set and the match, 6-4.

    Once again, Stosur would leave the All-England Club disappointed.

18. Wimbledon Round 1: No. 6 Berdych Upset by Unseeded Gulbis

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    No. 6 seed Thomas Berdych lost his opening-round match to the dangerous Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.

    It was an unfortunate draw for Berdych. The tennis world has always suspected that the playing prowess of Gulbis far exceeded his ranking, then at No. 87.

    It was a narrow victory or loss, depending on your point of view, as Gulbis prevailed, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 in two-and-a-half hours.

    Needless to say, Berdych was very disappointed, realizing he's missed another opportunity.

    In 2010, Berdych defeated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals and Novak Djokovic in the semifinals to advance to the Wimbledon finals. There he lost to Rafael Nadal, finishing as runner-up.

    Like all the players hovering near the top four, the Czech had great hopes of a breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2012.

    But, instead, Berdych was upset and out after the first round.

    Such is the nature of professional tennis.

17. U.S. Open Round 3: Kohlschreiber Evicts Isner

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    In a late night match that lasted three hours and 20 minutes, German Philipp Kohlschreiber eliminated John Isner from the U.S. Open, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

    Isner and Kohlschreiber took the court after 11 p.m. after an evening of long matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium. And it was almost 2:30 a.m. before the match concluded with Isner coming up short in the fifth set.

    The big-serving American actually led two sets to one when he let up, allowing Kohlschreiber to steal the fourth set.

    This took the match to a fifth set, where the German prevailed by playing smart tennis.

    Isner was forced out once again. The Grand Slam events were not good for the big guy in 2012.

    Kohlschreiber would move on to the fourth round—his furthest advancement at the U.S. Open to date.

16. French Open Round 3: Shvedova Shuts the Door on Li Na

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    World No. 152 Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova upset last year’s French Open defending champion Li Na of China 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, in the third round at Roland Garros.

    In the process, Li Na committed 41 unforced errors and appeared to completely lose her timing in the final two sets.

    Li had hoped to become the first woman to win back-to-back titles at the French Open since Justine Henin retired in 2008.

    For her part, Shvedova qualified to get into the main draw, so her upset of Li was huge.

    Needless to say, Li Na was disappointed and unable to explain her sudden lapse since she had been playing well.

15. Australian Open Quarters: Errani Blasts Her Way into the Final Eight

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    Starting with the Australian Open, 2012 has been a remarkable season of Grand Slam tournaments for Italian Sara Errani.

    Unseeded at Melbourne, the No. 48 Errani made it past Jie Zheng in the fourth round and into the quarterfinals. The Italian won 6-2, 6-1 in an hour and 20 minutes.

    It was Eranni's first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal and she earned it playing with fire and aggression.

    Errani had defeated Valeria Savinykh of Russia in the opening round and Nadia Petrova in the second round. Then Errani defeated Sorana Cristea in Round 3 before dispatching Zheng.

    She would lose her next match to Petra Kvitova, but Errani would go on to make her presence felt in the remaining Grand Slams of 2012.

14. Wimbledon Round 1: Isner Falls to Falla

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    Perhaps during the 2012 Grand Slam season, John Isner was just trying too hard, trying to force the outcome he wished rather than playing his style of match.

    To that end, Isner lost to Colombian Alejandro Falla in five sets, 6-4, 6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5, during the first round at Wimbledon.

    To his credit, Falla did his part, holding tough and not folding with the pressure.

    It marked the first time Falla had won at the All-England Club in five years.

    Isner's serve seemed to fail him at the worst times, allowing Falla to score points that normally would have been outside his reach.

    The 6'9 Isner had not taken the court since he lost to Paul-Henri Mathieu at the French Open, so his play was understandably rusty.

    He fell in five to Falla, ending his Wimbledon campaign.

13. U.S. Open Round 4: Bartoli Rolls over Favored Kvitova

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    In the fourth round of the U.S. Open, Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli took down the No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova in a huge shocker, advancing to her first U.S. Open quarterfinals.

    At the start of the match, it looked like an easy day at the office for Kvitova, who had been on cruise control through the previous three rounds.

    Then, as if turning on a switch, Bartoli awoke and began to play the match her way.

    Starting in the second set, Bartoli was the aggressor, stepping into the court early, taking charge of the rallies and punishing Kvitova with powerful and deep groundstrokes that kept the Czech buried and running hard behind the baseline.

    Point by point, Baroli broke down the No. 5 seed until she looked totally confused, unable to regain her composure.

    Bartoli won 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 in a very strange match.

    She moved on to the quarters, where she would not be able to recreate her magic against Maria Sharapova.

12. Australian Open Round 4: Tsonga Stunned by Nishikori

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    On another day when the temperatures soared, the Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 6 seed, found himself facing another energizer bunny across the net—this one from Japan.

    Kei Nishikori, not only tracked down every ball hit but became adept at returning Tsonga’s powerful serves. Some came as fast as 134 mph, but when Tsonga blinked, the serve was coming right back at him.

    Unforced errors by the Frenchman were the story as Tsonga committed 70 in going down to a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 defeat. 

    Nishikori moved on to the quarterfinals, while Tsonga packed his bags for France.

    As the first man from Japan since 1932 to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Nishikori had already accomplished a great deal.

    In the quarterfinals, Andy Murray would end his historic run.

    But it was a great start to what would become a great year for Nishikori.

11. Wimbledon Round 1: Venus Williams Loses Opener to Vesnina

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    Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, unseeded at the All-England Club for the first time since early in her career, lost in the first round to Russian Elena Vesnina.

    She had not lost in the first round on the storied lawns of Wimbledon since 1997—15 years ago.

    Vesnina played a solid grass-court match to sew things up in an hour and 15 minutes, winning 6-1, 6-3. The Russian did not give Williams time to find her form.

    The once dominant figure on Centre Court seemed a vague memory on this opening day as Williams lost without the ability to fight back.

    Williams, however, would continue to play doubles with her sister Serena, and they would reclaim some of the old Williams' sister magic before the fortnight concluded. 

10. French Open Quarterfinals: No. 1 Azarenka Upset by Cibulkova

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    World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was upset by No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals of the 2012 French Open. The 5’3" wunderkind took it to Azarenka.

    Once she held the lead,Cibulkova did not let the No. 1 seed bully her way back into the match. She held tough, winning 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 47 minutes.
     
    Azarenka took an early lead in both sets, but Cibulkova was able to battle back and eliminate Azarenka.

    As a result, Azarenka lost her No. 1 ranking for a short time to Maria Sharapova.

    Cibulkova proved to be a real thorn for Azarenka throughout the clay-court season.

9. Wimbledon: Radwanksa Advances to Her First Grand Slam Final

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    Nothing came easily for No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska during the second week at this year's Wimbledon tournament.

    The Pole not only had to fight back opponents who tried to upend her, she also had to fight a nasty respiratory infection that left her a little weak and without the ability to speak.

    Still, Radwanska worked her way through the draw, concentrating on each successive opponent, putting each lady down until she reached the final—her first in a Grand Slam event.

    There she would face Serena Williams, who had won this championship four times and who was playing her best tennis.

    Radwanska started slowly, unable to find her serve. Williams took the first set 6-1 in 36 minutes.

    After a rain delay, Radwanska showed new life, coming back to claim set the second set, 7-5, aided by a decline in Williams' game.

    But Williams found her footing once again and took the third set to win 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

    But Radwanska made her mark, making her first Grand Slam final.

8. U.S. Open Round 2: Clijsters Packs Her Bags and Goes Home

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    Everyone knew that Belgian Kim Clijsters would be playing her last profession singles match at the 2012 U.S. Open.

    But no one believed that it would come against a teenager, 18-year-old Laura Robson of Great Britain,  during the second round.

    Somehow everyone expected Cljsters, who had won the U.S. Open title three times, to advance further in the draw.

    Robson, however, did not back down and took the match 7-6, 7-6. The fans at Arthur Ashe marveled at the teenager's poise under fire.

    Clijsters took a 4-1 lead in the first set, but Robson clawed back, taking it to a tiebreak. After saving three set points, Robson won the tiebreaker at her first opportunity.

    The second set was also tightly contested and ended in another tiebreaker, which the Brit won when Clijsters faltered.

    It was a brilliant match to end a sterling career. Clijsters will be missed. But Robson showed great promise.

    Perhaps a new star was born.

7. U.S. Open Round 4: Roddick Loses Final Match to Del Potro

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    As play got underway at Flushing Meadows, Andy Roddick called a special press conference where he announced to everyone that he was calling it quits. The 2012 U.S. Open would be Roddick's last professional tournament.

    Roddick, who had been on tour since 2000 and who had won the U.S. Open in 2003, felt his body was no longer able to sustain the rigors of play on tour.

    Recent injuries had slowed his progress and diminished his will to play. His ranking fell out of the top 10 and then out of the top 20.

    Once he announced his retirement, the countdown to the finish began.

    His next match was against Bernard Tomic of Australia, and Roddick was able to defeat the teenager and move on to the third round, where he would face and defeat Italian Fabio Fognini.

    That moved him into the fourth round, where he fell to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, who stepped aside after the match to allow Roddick his last moment in the tennis spotlight.

    An American icon said goodbye to us all in New York City.

6. U.S. Open Round 3: Williams Sisters Lose to Russian Pair

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    The Williams sister lost in doubles to Russians Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-4.

    The sisters, who had won the doubles title at Wimbledon and the gold medal in doubles at 2012 Summer Olympics, were not able to sustain their winning ways at Flushing Meadows.

    Petrova and Kirilenko had lost to Serena and Venus in the semifinals at the Summer Games in London.

    Unfortunately, because the Williams sisters play doubles so infrequently, they met the Russians, seeded No. 4, very early in the competition, in the third round.

    Howevers, Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, not Petrova and Kirilenko, would emerge as doubles champion.

5. French Open: Errani Reaches the Final

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    At the 2012 Australian Open, Italian Sara Errani revealed her great promise.

    But at the French Open, she took another giant step, well beyond her quarterfinal finish in Melbourne.

    At the French Open, the little Italian took out Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic, both of whom had won French Open titles.

    Errani also defeated a tough Angelique Kerber, seeded No. 10, and followed that up by putting down Samantha Stosur in another difficult match.

    Through it all, Errani concentrated, innovated and persevered. She earned her spot in the final with dedicated hard work.

    Once there, however, she faced someone even more determined Maria Sharapova, who needed only the slightly nervous beginning by Errani to shoot out to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

    Errani fought back to 3-5, but Sharapova served it out to take the first set 6-3.

    The second set progressed in much the same manner, with Errani fighting but Sharapova dominating.

    Errani lost her first Grand Slam final, 6-3, 6-2, but proved herself an excellent competitor.

    She and her doubles partner Roberta Vinci would go on to win the French Open doubles title.

4. French Open Quarterfinals: David Ferrer Outwits Andy Murray

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    Finally, after knocking on the door repeatedly, David Ferrer, the No. 2 player from Spain, advanced to the French Open semifinals.

    To accomplish that, the Spaniard had to take out Andy Murray, the No. 4 seed. Murray lost 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in just under four hours.

    Ferrer played controlled, consistent tennis while Murray had 59 unforced errors and failed to advance to his sixth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.

    Ferrer plays minimalist tennis—never going for too much but keeping the ball in play long after other opponents would have given up on a point. If you wait for him to miss, you will wait a long time.

    On this day, Murray could not maintain his calm demeanor and soon was rushing, trying too hard and going for too much.

    It cost him the match.

    Ferrer would go on to play and lose in the next round to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

3. U.S. Open Quarterfinals: Berdych Stops Federer Cold

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    It seems as if Thomas Berdych comes along periodically to ruin Roger Federer's day.

    The Czech upset him during the second round of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, then took out Federer in the 2010 quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

    This year he upset Federer in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in a place where Federer never loses—under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

    Such is the nature of their rivalry.

    Berdych won 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Federer looked like he might redeem himself after the third set, but he did not rise to the occasion.

    Berdych, on the other hand, played a picture-perfect match, advancing to the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Andy Murray in a match contested in gale-force winds.

2. French Open Round 1: Serena Williams Falls to Unseeded Razzano

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    Prior to the start of the French Open, after winning the tournament in Madrid on clay, Serena Williams, the No. 5 seed, was seen as the probable winner of the 2012 French Open.

    Everyone looked to her to repeat her win of 2002 at Roland Garros.

    After all, she came into Paris riding a 17-match win streak on the red dirt. But then she lost in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her career.

    She was vanquished by Virginie Razzano of France, who played a superb match.

    Razzano never let Williams settle find her comfort zone. The Frenchwoman kept Serena off-balance throughout the match.

    She pushed Williams aside 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the biggest shocker of the French Open.

1. Wimbledon Round 2: Rosol Shocks Nadal

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    Lukas Rosol upset Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon. It was hard to believe even as you watched it.

    The 100th-ranked player took out the former world No. 1, winner of two Wimbledon titles, in the second round at the All-England Club.

    Rosol played the match of his life while Nadal waited for the Czech to begin to miss. But it never happened.

    Rosol played a competitive match from beginning to end, outclassing Nadal 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

    Nadal was done—leaving a huge hole in the draw.

    For his part, Rosol would lose in the third round to German Philipp Kohlschreiber, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6.