Rafael Nadal and the Top 5 Tennis Upsets of 2011

Danyal Rasool@Danny61000Contributor IIIOctober 29, 2011

Rafael Nadal and the Top 5 Tennis Upsets of 2011

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    2011 has been a blistering year for men's tennis with Novak Djokovic becoming the main story of the year by blowing away everyone he faced.

    While watching Djokovic cruise through tournament victories has become commonplace, even mundane, this year did have its fair share of shocking results. Seeds were scattered early on in tournaments, leaving certain draws wide open.

    Here we take a look at the five biggest upsets in men's tennis this year. Let's get to it!

5. Tomáš Berdych vs Stephane Robert

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    Tomáš Berdych was seeded sixth for Roland Garros and in decent form coming into the second slam of the year. A first round match against a 30-year-old—one who had only won a single grand slam match in his whole career—hardly seemed like a challenge. Any hopefuls betting on Robert would have lost hope when the Czech jumped out to a two-sets-to-love lead.

    The Frenchman gave the crowd something to cheer about, though, when he broke Berdych twice to win the third set. Playing the match of his life, he rose to unprecedented heights and demolished Berdych in the fourth.

    The crowd was going ballistic and Robert stared defeat in the face when the Czech had match point at 4-5 in the fifth. Robert kept his nerve, and more crucially, his serve. He broke Berdych at 7-7 and then served out what will surely rank as the sweetest, and most startling, victory of his entire career.

    It was the biggest upset of the 2011 French Open.

4. David Ferrer vs Rafael Nadal

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    All the buzz surrounding the 2011 Australian Open was around the so-called "Rafa Slam." Could Nadal become the first man since Rod Laver to win four majors in a row?

    He could, they said, if he could get past Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. If anyone at that point discounted gritty David Ferrer—and they would be naive to do so—they did at their own peril.

    Ferrer got off to a blistering start, running Nadal ragged in the first set, and the more decorated Spaniard was clearly feeling the effects of a hamstring injury.  People still believed Nadal had it in him to pull yet another rabbit out of his hat, but not with Ferrer playing like he was.

    Ferrer thundered the ball all over the court, winners that even a fully healthy Rafa could have done little about. In a little over two hours, and in straight sets, Ferrer had his illustrious countryman in tears and had left the Rafa Slam in tatters.

3. Roger Federer vs Richard Gasquet

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    Richard Gasquet is well known for two things: his unquestionable talent and his inability to use it well.

    Well reputed for throwing away countless matches when a victory was practically assured, Gasquet was not favored to come back when he went a set and 4-2 down to Swiss maestro Roger Federer in the Rome Masters.

    For over a year, Federer hadn't lost prior to the quarter finals of any tournament. There was no reason to believe he'd lose in a third-round clash.

    But if there's one word to define Gasquet, it's mercurial. He hung on while Federer played an ordinary service game, and played a near-perfect tiebreak, blitzing through 7-2.

    The third set was a high quality, tense affair, replete with phenomenal ball striking and serving. It went to another tiebreak, where many expected Gasquet to fold under pressure. He didn't. Gasquet forced the Swiss into submission with lethal, precise aggression.

    Gasquet not only claimed the shocking victory, but also showed that he belonged among the ranks of the tennis elite.

2. Ivan Dodig vs Rafael Nadal

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    Nadal hadn't lost an opening match at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in three-and-a-half years when, in Montreal, he the faced little-known Croat Ivan Dodig.

    True, Dodig had been having a breakthrough season, but he had not been anywhere remotely close to challenging a champion like Nadal. As expected, Dodig looked like a complete rookie after a fiery start by Nadal. When Nadal won nine of the first 11 games, and was leading 6-1, 3-1, the match, for all practical purposes, appeared over.

    But someone forgot to tell Dodig that.

    Showing a Nadal-like resilience, Dodig played a sensational game to get himself back on serve. He served lights out in the tiebreak and sent the match into an improbable third set.

    Normality appeared to have resumed when Nadal jumped up an early break and served for the match at 5-3. But Dodig would not be denied. Breaking Nadal back, he forced another tiebreak, and through sheer willpower and determination, eked out a stunning but richly deserved win. Dodig, the first hurdle of the masters, sent the 2008 champion tumbling.

1. Rafael Nadal vs Florian Mayer

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    The field in Shanghai was hardly made up of the strongest players when it came to the Masters 1000 tournament. Looking at the draw, it was obvious to critics and fans alike that only a miracle would prevent Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray from meeting for the second time in as many weeks.

    Florian Mayer was simply a stepping stone. 

    The 23rd-ranked German looked anything but, however, in what ended up being arguably the best set of the tournament. With both players facing pressure on their own serves, Nadal saved set point in a brilliant, end-to-end hustle, finishing it off with a winner at the net. Mayer, though, kept piling on the pressure and won a high quality set in the tiebreak. 

    In the second set, he simply outplayed a jaded looking Nadal, who was finding it difficult to cope with Mayer's energy and enthusiasm. The last point summed up the whole match. A breathtaking rally concluded with Mayer rushing to the net and hitting a winner from the unlikeliest of positions. His playing stunned the tennis world and knocked out the Spanish great in straight sets.