Ranking the Most Memorable Moments of 2013 in Tennis

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistDecember 27, 2013

Ranking the Most Memorable Moments of 2013 in Tennis

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    What a year.

    Tennis in 2013 was filled with nonstop drama, awe-inspiring comebacks, record-breaking performances and some very notable exits.

    The phenomenal athletes on the men's and women's tour reminded us once again why we can't look away from the action, even for a second. 

    From meltdowns to medical timeouts, controversies to triumphs, magical matches to media mishaps, we look back at the 12 moments in 2013 that we won't be forgetting anytime soon.

12. Viktor Troicki's Meltdown in Rome

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    It was the outburst heard all the way from space.

    Perturbed by a line call during his match against Ernests Gulbis at the Rome Masters in May, Serbian Viktor Troicki went on an epic five-minute rant against umpire Cedric Mourier, claiming that you could see "from the space" that there was "no space" between his ball and the line.

    Then, in a stroke of meltdown genius, Troicki eventually dragged the cameraman out to the court to film the ball mark on the clay. The rant went viral and even made it onto SportsCenter.

11. Sabine Lisicki Upsets Williams, Radwanska at Wimbledon

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    The sunny German Sabine Lisicki had made noise at Wimbledon before, but nobody expected her to turn the tournament on its axis this year. On Wimbledon's infamous Manic Monday, Lisicki took out clear-cut favorite Serena Williams in a three-set thriller. 

    But it was her match against Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals that stole the show. By coming back from 0-3 down in the third set to win 6-4, 2-6, 9-7, Lisicki won one of the best matches of the year on the women's tour and became the first German to make the final of a Grand Slam since Steffi Graf.

    While her fearlessness and forehand made quite the impact on the court, it was her outpouring of tears and overpowering smile that really captured the hearts of tennis fans everywhere. She was a bit overwhelmed in the final, but nobody will forget the heart she showed throughout the fortnight.

10. Azarenka Overcomes Medical Timeout, Media Meltdown to Win Australian Open

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    During her semifinal match against America's newest sweetheart, Sloane Stephens, at the Australian Open, Victoria Azarenka took the medical timeout heard around the world.

    After squandering five match points and failing to serve out the match, Azarenka called the trainer to the court to deal with back pain and breathing issues. She was taken off the court and treated for 10 minutes, leaving plenty of time for the media to question the severity of her injury and her sportsmanship. 

    Azarenka didn't help herself with some bizarre comments after the match, but she was still disproportionately skewered by media in the two days leading up to the final. But Azarenka stayed strong despite the assault on her character and came away with the second Grand Slam title of her young career.

9. Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic Play an Epic in Australia

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    One of the best matches of 2013 happened just three weeks into the season while most of America was sleeping.

    In a fourth-round night match in Rod Laver Arena, often-overshadowed Stanislas Wawrinka pushed No. 1 and then three-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic to the brink in one of the most electric, surprising, entertaining and impressive matches of the season.

    Djokovic eventually survived 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10, and the victory spurred him on to his fourth Australian Open title. Wawrinka, meanwhile, was able to use this match to propel him to a career-high finish in 2013, No. 8. 

    The match also convinced many Americans to never sleep again.

8. Sloane Stephens Upsets Serena Williams, Ignites Media Controversy

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    Welcome to the spotlight, Sloane Stephens.

    The teenager was thrust to the center of the media mayhem when she upset Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open at the beginning of the year. 

    But it was an interview for ESPN the Magazine during the spring that really got her into trouble, though. Stephens talked in-depth about how rocky her relationship with Serena was, dismissing claims that Serena had been her mentor and insulting the character of the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

    She later apologized for the comments, saying she didn't realize they were on the record because she said those things over pizza with the reporter. Every breakthrough comes with a learning curve.

7. Maria Sharapova Hires Connors, Then Fires Him After One Match

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    Call this the fastest experiment of the year.

    After her second-round stumble at Wimbledon to Michelle Larcher de Brito, Maria Sharapova shocked everyone when she split with longtime coach Thomas Hogstedt and announced she was teaming up with Jimmy Connors, a man not really known for his love of women's tennis.

    The pairing raised eyebrows from the start, and it ended up only lasting one match, a loss to Sloane Stephens at the Western & Southern Open. Soon, Connors was back home with a vodka on the rocks, and Sharapova was pulling the plug on her 2013 season to deal with a shoulder injury.

    At least the pairing was good for a few headlines.

6. Djokovic Touches the Net, Loses 5-Set Thriller to Nadal in French Semis

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    What a terrible time to take an extra step. 

    Tennis.com called it the point of the year, and while we will never know whether this point changed the outcome of one of the most high-stakes matches of the year, we can be sure it made an impact. Serving up 4-3 against Rafael Nadal in the fifth set, Novak Djokovic went to the net for a routine smash. Instead, he lost his balance and ran into the net, therefore giving Nadal the point.

    Nadal broke back and went on to win their epic semifinal clash  6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7, denying Djokovic his shot at his first French Open title, and sending Nadal to his eighth French Open title.

5. Federer's Loss to Stakhovsky Caps Black Wednesday at Wimbledon

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    On the first Wednesday of Wimbledon, the tennis world was still reeling from Rafael Nadal's first-round exit and looking forward to a straight-forward second-round day.

    They were in for a surprise. Victoria Azarenka started the day by pulling out with a knee injury. Then John Isner, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Steve Darcis, Yaroslava Shvedova, Radek Stepanek and Marin Cilic all had to withdraw from the tournament, too.  Things really went crazy when Maria Sharapova lost to qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito.

    But nothing could prepare the tennis world for the last match of the day, when Sergiy Stakhovsky took out Roger Federer, giving the defending champion his earliest loss at a major in 10 years and snapping his string of 36 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals.

    It was a day that few survived, but nobody will forget. 

4. Marion Bartoli Wins Wimbledon, Abruptly Retires 2 Months Later

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    Marion Bartoli, 28, was one of the biggest stories in tennis.

    As the draw at Wimbledon fell apart, 2007 finalist and eternal quirk Bartoli steamrolled through her battered section, seizing the day with veteran poise and an impeccably homed-in game to win the first major of her career.

    Then, two months later, just as the world was falling in love with her and her career was taking off, she suddenly announced her retirement in front of an empty press room at 11 p.m. at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. 

    The Frenchwoman has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and this time she gave us quite the closing performance.

3. Rafael Nadal's Comeback

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    It's impossible to single out just one moment from Nadal's stunning comeback from a seven-month layoff due to knee injury. They're all spectacular.

    First, he made the final of his first event in Vina del Mar, Chile. Then he officially shook off the rest, winning his next three tournaments, including the hard-court Masters event in Indian Wells. He won an additional four tournaments in clay-court season, including the French Open.

    Then he really turned it on during the U.S. Open Series, winning the Rogers Cup, the Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open, a feat not accomplished since Andy Roddick in 2003.

    2013 was the year Nadal did what few thought possible and truly came back better than ever.

2. Serena Wins the French Open

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    Like Nadal, Serena had moment after moment of unbelievable triumph in 2013, especially her U.S. Open final victory over an extremely in-form Azarenka in torrential wind in one of the matches of the year.

    But nothing was quite as special as seeing Serena slay her Roland Garros demons and win the tournament for the first time in 11 years. At 32 years old, Serena proved that her 2012 upset to Virginie Razzano was in the rearview mirror as she took out Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals, Sara Errani in the semifinals and Maria Sharapova in the final to leave Paris with a huge smile on her face.

    Once again, she proved that true champions simply don't take "no" for an answer.

1. Andy Murray Is the 1st British Male in 77 Years to Win Wimbledon

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    This moment tops the list because it was 77 years in the making. 

    With his woes in majors behind him after his 2012 U.S. Open triumph, Andy Murray came into Wimbledon with a skip in his step. (In theory, at least. Murray's not really a skipper.)

    But still, with the eyes of his adoring public on his every move, the pressure was on to win the title that mattered the most to them and give Great Britain a reason to smile at the end of The Championships.

    And that he did. It wasn't easy—he had to come back from two sets down against Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals and defeat No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final—but he never panicked, and at the end of the fortnight, he was the last man standing.

    It was a truly inspirational moment that reminded us all how much sports can mean to individuals, fans and entire countries.