Upsets of the year


Tennis is no stranger to upsets. As unexpected as inevitable, they are what many fans love, the media longs for and the players fear the most. Each year we come across a David-beats-Goliath type episode, when a virtual unknown beats all odds and a far superior opponent to shock the sporting world. While some upsets may just be the case of a loss of form on a seeded player’s part, others are a result of a truly inspired performance by the underdog. Whatever the nature or the cause, matches like these are what make headlines. Let us take a look at five of the biggest upsets of 2012.
Lukas Rosol d Rafael Nadal 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, Wimbledon, second round
Lukas Rosol, a name unheard of even in Czech Republic, before the start of this year’s Wimbledon Championships, became the talk of the All England Club after his shock defeat of the two-time champion and world number 2. In one of the greatest upsets in Grand Slam tennis history, the 100 ranked Rosol, as if under a trance, blew the Spaniard off the court in front of a bewildered Centre Court crowd, thanks to a blend of some monstrous hitting and freakishly accurate serving. The Spaniard suffered his earliest exit at a Grand Slam since 2005 and looked out of sorts against a man making his Wimbledon debut. Rosol, however, could not replicate his impeccable form and was brought back down to earth 48 hours later. The 26 year-old Czech lost in the next round to the German Kohlschreiber and went on to compile a mere 6 tour-level match wins for the rest of the season. As for Nadal, unfortunately, this was to be his last match of the season.
Virginie Razzano d Serena Williams 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3, French Open, first round
It was the match that turned Serena’s year around, quite literally. The events that unfolded that afternoon in Paris were beyond an average tennis fan’s imagination. You really had to see it to believe it. Seeded fifth and 17-0 on clay this year, Serena was coming into the year’s second Grand Slam as a heavy favorite. Having never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam on 46 previous occasions, there was little to suggest that run coming to a halt. The Frenchwoman, however, had other ideas. A set and 5-1 up in the tiebreak, the American looked well on her way to a routine first round win, until she choked. Yes, there really is no other way of explaining it. In mysterious fashion, the 2002 champion, just 2 points away from victory, lost a string of 6 points to concede the 2nd set, before self-destructing to a 0-5 deficit in the third. It was painful to watch a champion of Serena’s caliber falter the way she did. Yet there was more drama to come. Serena poised herself and fought back to make it 3-5. Then there was that epic last game, nearly 20-minutes long, comprising of 12 deuces. Both women battling nerves, squandered many opportunities, before Williams finally drove a backhand long on the 8th match point to give her 111th ranked opponent the match. It was poetic justice for the Frenchwoman as a year ago tragedy struck Razzano when her coach and fiancé, Stephane Vidal, succumbed to cancer on the eve of Roland Garros. For Serena, though, there was no looking back.
Jerzy Janowicz d Andy Murray, 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, Paris Masters, third round
There was a Polish invasion of the French capital in November and Scotland’s Andy Murray was one of the victims. In a dream run to the final, qualifier Janowicz took care of some handy players, his biggest scalp being world number 3 Murray. The two had last met in Davis Cup with the Scot comfortably winning in straights sets, but three years on, it was a completely different story. With a set up and a match point in hand, it was one that Murray let slip away. And it wasn’t the first time the British number 1 had let something like this happen to him this year. Since his US Open triumph, this was the third time that Murray had conceded defeat from match point up. True, the Scot has a habit of going walk about in his matches, but spare a thought for the 6’8’’ qualifier from Lodz. He capitalized when he saw an opening and played some sublime tennis in the third, mixing huge serves with deft touch.
Martin Klizan d Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3, US Open, second round
The 23 year old Klizan, who had gradually seen his ranking go up this year, recorded the biggest win of his career when he ousted the fifth seeded Frenchman at the US Open. The 52nd ranked Slovak remarkably pushed Tsonga behind the baseline with his forceful play. It was a sluggish performance by the Frenchman, who was expected to make a good run here in New York.
Laura Robson d Kim Clijsters, 7-6(4), 7-6(5), US Open, second round
As one career ends, another one takes off. In her farewell US Open, the three-time champion alarmingly fell at the hands of British teenager Robson. The world number 89, never having got past the second round of a Grand Slam before, was able to overpower her childhood role model in her last competitive match. The surprise loss snapped Clijster’s 22-match winning streak here at the Open, her last defeat coming in 2003. As disappointing as it was to say goodbye to the crowd favorite Belgian, it was refreshing to see a talented new youngster come of age on tennis’ biggest stage.