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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Dec 3, 2008

12/3/2008 1:03:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Dec 3, 2008

It's the off season. You know what that means? LISTS! All this month, barring something newsworthy like, oh say a retirement announcement by a beloved player my therapist says I may or may not be too emotionally enmeshed with, the Sweet Spot will be reliving the non-stop carnival that was 2008. The highs, the lows. The huhs?

This week, my list of the ROCKIN'EST WOMEN'S MATCHES OF THE YEAR. A warning: not every match made the cut because they went 7-6 in the third. Some were just too audacious to omit. One thing's for sure: they were all insanely memorable.

And because the Sweet Spot wouldn't be the Sweet Spot without it, I've also included a few of the biggest eggs that were laid on the court in '08. You're welcome.

Let the countdown begin...

7. Ana Ivanovic d. Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, French Open SF: People had been trying to convince me there was some sort of epic rivalry between these two. I never saw it. Sure, they're from the same tiny little country with the oddly large swimming pools, but that's too easy. Then came this match, which had more twists and turns than the curly fries at Arby's. Along with a quaint subplot in which (we're led to believe) no one would tell Ana that, not only was a ticket to the final on the line, but also the #1 ranking, thanks to Kuznetsova's loss earlier in the day (oh, we'll get to that later). You'd think Ana's peeps had some idea she'd crack under pressure... She didn't that day. Said Jelena after the match, in which she'd once again fail to crack a Grand Slam final, “Kill myself? No, I will have some dinner and maybe get drunk. I don’t know. Whatever makes me feel better."

6. Shahar Peer d. Dinara Safina, 7-5, 6-7, 8-6, Wimbledon 3r.: Three and a half hours of code violations, cramps, outbursts, medical timeouts and tears. All in pristine Wimbledon white. 

5. Anna Chakvetadze d. Tzipora Obziler, 6-4, 6-3, Fed Cup Q: What? WHAT? Taking place in Israel, this match was straight drama, with Anna battling both a surprisingly nimble Obziler and the most antagonizing crowd this side of Argentina. Anna handled both with aplomb. And repeated chest pounding that would make Celine Dion run for cover. I'll say it: girlfriend went temporarily insane, to the delight of fans and teammates. Sadly, it appears she literally left it all on the court, as we haven't seen much of Chaks since...

4. Jelena Jankovic d. Elena Dementieva, 0-6, 6-1, 6-0, Moscow SF: By the scoreline you'd think Jelena came out playing hideously and simply righted the ship. Or Elena ran into the net post halfway through. Nope. Elena was just too good and forced Jelena to turn it up 5 notches. Jelena complied, and what started strong blew up into two of the best defenders in the game slugging it out in a match with so many incredible rallies that it was pretty much one long highlight reel from start to finish.

3. Maria Sharapova d. Justine Henin, 6-4, 6-0, AO QF: Justine's retirement was almost an anti-victory lap, suffering some shock upsets at the hands of folks like Francesca Schiavone and Dinara Safina (who was so lauded for the accomplishment that people conveniently forget Katarina Srebotnik was millimeters from doing it herself the day before). But it was this AO loss, which seemed all but inevitable given eventual champion Sharapova's form in the first week of the tournament (Justine's 32-0 match win streak be damned) that set the table. Which ended with a steaming bagel no less. And let's see Franny or Dinara's father pull off a throat slit the way Yuri did...

Serena and Venus played two epic matches in 2008.
2. Venus Williams d. Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-4, Wimbledon F: Serena's always claimed dominance over anyone and everyone. And rightly so. Despite Venus's storied run at the Championships, when they took the court this year Serena was the favorite. When it comes to Grand Slam finals, Venus hadn't beaten her sister since 2001. All looked to follow form, with Serena going up breaks in both sets. But this was big sister's house after all. And Serena's post-match scowl showed, she knew it.

1. Serena Williams d. Venus Williams, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7), US Open Q: How in the world could a match whose first 2/3 of each set was awkward and lackluster (check the tape, people), top the chart? Tiebreaks baby. In a Bizarro rematch of the Wimby final, it was Venus who was up in both sets, and Serena who refused to give up the keys to the kingdom. That second set tiebreak alone was a thrillride, one that was the very definition of irresistible force v. immovable object. Ultimately, those famous ten set points blown had a lot more to do with Serena than Venus. "It was so intense," Serena said afterwards. Couldn't agree more. Here's to a few more Grand Slam clashes in '09.

And now the eggs. Cover your noses...

Venus Williams d. Camille Pin, 7-5, 6-4, AO 2r.: Pin famously took a sun-stroking Sharapova the distance the year before in Melbourne. This year, it was a plain old stroking Venus Williams. This lemon featured 44 Williams errors and 14 breaks of serve. In 2 sets. Check, please.

Marion Bartoli d. Lindsay Davenport, 6-1, 7-6, US Open 3r.: What's more depressing, when a powerhouse doesn't show up, when it's perhaps a local favorite's swan song tournament, or when they have probably the best draw of their career? And it all happened at night in the rain. Fiddlesticks.

Dinara Safina d. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2, FO SF: Where else did Svetlana want to be this day? Because it certainly wasn't on the court. Thankfully ticketholders were treated to Ana and Jelena later on, otherwise Roland Garros himself might have been wrestled from his grave to hand out refunds.

Next week, the men! 

[Vote here for your own favorite matches of 2008 on Tennis Channel and then see the matches aired everyday at 8pm EST from Dec 22 - Jan 1. ]