Tennis

Djokovic-Federer match was year's best

Novak Djokovic
Djokovic may have won their match, but it certainly wasn't handed to him.
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Welcome to the 2010 Year in Review. Beginning Dec. 21, in a time frame just shy of a fortnight, FOXSports.com's panel of tennis commentators — Matt Cronin, Richard Evans, Zack Pierce, Addie Rising and Brian Webber — will share their thoughts on the topic of the day. So check back each day to catch one final look back at a memorable year in tennis.

TO CONTINUE OUR YEAR IN REVIEW, WE ASK . . . WHAT WAS THE BEST MATCH OF 2010?

CRONIN: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer in the U.S. Open semifinals. I have never been as impressed with Djokovic as I was in his thrilling 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 upset of five-time winner Federer at Flushing Meadows. The Serbian hit two screaming forehand winners facing match points at 4-5 in the fifth set and played as courageously throughout the set as he has at any time in his life, including when he took out Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win the 2008 Australian Open.

Both men were absolutely crushing the ball and sprinting end to end in the epic three-hour, 44-minute match. While Djokovic may have disappointed a number of fans who were itching to see the first Federer vs. Nadal final in a U.S. Open, his brilliant and resilient display of high-quality tennis will be remembered around the grounds for decades to come.

EVANS: A great match must, primarily, contain great tennis from both players, but the setting and importance of the occasion also plays a part. The semifinals of the ATP World Finals at London’s 02 Arena — packed solid with 17,500 spectators — provided the perfect backdrop to a classic encounter between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

The atmosphere was electric from the start, but the excitement just grew and grew as both men produced dazzling stroke play, highlighted by Nadal’s forehands and Murray’s backhand crosscourt winners. The rallies were breathtaking, with both men revealing their amazing defensive qualities — one rally lasted 36 strokes.

For two sets, Nadal failed to break the Scot’s serve; even when he did, it was not decisive. Serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Nadal himself was broken and suddenly found himself trailing 1-4 in the decisive tiebreaker. Then it was the Spaniard’s turn to show how well he could return serve by grabbing two Murray service points.

At six points each, it was anybody’s match, but Murray, sighting a forehand, went for it big time and missed. A point later, Nadal went for a big forehand crosscourt and scored. Game, set and the best match of the year was over, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6).

WEBBER: John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon. Isner and Mahut played a match for the ages that probably also deserves consideration for "match of the decade." While some pundits may quibble with the overall quality of play in this match because both players repeatedly held serve, it was certainly the most memorable event in the sport this year. Isner's epic win over Mahut was the rare match that transcended tennis and captured the imagination of casual sports observers. It is still almost incomprehensible that they needed more than eleven hours on the court to determine a winner. Statistics don't usually dominate a tennis conversation. But tennis fans for years to come will know the the significance of the line score 70-68 in the fifth set of this amazing match.

PIERCE: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer in the U.S. Open semifinals. Poor Djokovic. He scores one of the biggest wins of his career, yet almost no one wanted him to do it on this day. With Rafael Nadal awaiting the winner in the next day's final, the New York fans were clamoring for their first-ever glimpse of Federer vs. Nadal at Flushing Meadows. But the Serb refused to relent. Djokovic fought off two consecutive match points against Federer in the fifth set before finally sealing a wild victory.

Richard Evans and Matt Cronin are tennis writers for FOXSports.com. Brian Webber is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com's tennis coverage. Addie Rising and Zack Pierce are tennis editors for FOXSports.com.

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