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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Dec 10, 2008

12/10/2008 1:33:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Dec 10, 2008

Last week we applauded the ladies. This week the men get the royal treatment as we count down the ROCKIN'EST MEN'S MATCHES OF 2008. Again, these may not all have been epic 5-setters, but they certainly went the distance when it came to good old fashioned barnburning entertainment.

As I did last week, I've also included a few of the season's absolute stinkers. If I have to remember them, so do you.

Drumroll please...

7. Fernando Gonzalez def. James Blake, 4-6, 7-5, 11-9, Olympics SF: Tastiness, let me count the ways. Was it the 3 match points Fernando saved, each one a voided ticket to the gold medal match for James? Was it that whole messy business of whether a ball hit Fernando's racquet (it did)? Was it James' continual willingness to put his disgust on shout for any microphone in the vacinity, questioning Fernando's very moral fiber? "Whatever he wants to say is fine," Blake said. "Whatever is going to get him to have some sleep tonight, then that's fine." Meow!

6. Gilles Simon def. Rafael Nadal, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(6), Mardid SF: Nadal secured the year-end #1 ranking on home soil with Fed's loss that day. His first official act was to take the first set in this match pretty easily. And then came the task of putting away the Frenchman, which would end up requiring a Herculean effort. But it's Nadal, Hercules is his middle name right? Wrong. Simon just wouldn't go away. Broken serving for the match, Simon turned around and broke Nadal right back to force a tiebreak. One in which, at 6 points all, Gilles' biggest weapon - his grit - was on full display. It was the defining moment of Simon's newly-thrilling career.

5. Lleyton Hewitt def. Marcos Baghdatis, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-3, AO, 3r: This match is best known for being the one that I fell asleep to and woke up in the morning with it still on the TV. I was so disoriented, like when you walk out of the club after dancing all night and it's sunny out, you know what I'm saying? Anyone..? Thankfully the DVR was working or I might never have seen these two counterpunchers have at it in grand style for nearly five hours. Needless to say, after watching it I went right back to bed.

Beware of big manly biceps.
4. Andy Murray def. Richard Gasquet, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-4, Wimbledon r16: You heard it here first, folks. Richard Gasquet made Andy Murray a man. And in case we missed the exact moment it happened, after his 2 sets down come from behind victory Murray would flash his big manly bicep to show us. "That was the best moment I've ever had on a tennis court," Murray said afterwards. Minus the gun show, I totally agree.

3. Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic, 7-6(5), 7-5, Queen's Club F: Yeah yeah, Roger would be in the Wimbledon final. But who'd be joining him? This match was not only a throwdown to determine who was the true challenger, it also showed two top players playing their tip top best. It was won, not lost. And the reward would be far-reaching...

2. Roger Federer def. Janko Tipsarevic, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8, AO 3r.: I firmly believe that were it not for this match, Djokovic would never have made it into the AO final. Nor would Roger have suffered some of his early season upsets. Janko proved why tennis is, above all else, a mental game. He flat out refused to cowtow to the master, showing the rest of the locker room what can happen if you just believe. And it planted some fascinating seeds in the head of the #1 that germinated in the months to come. For this reason, I also firmly believe, if not for this match, the match that tops this list might just have gone down a little differently...

1. Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7, Wimbledon F: Well duh. Clearly this was not only the greatest match of the year, it's the best match, period. This was the very definition of epic, and no matter who you were rooting for, the conclusion, under the cover of night, was deeply satisfying. We've read everything you could possibly read about it, so I'll just add this: I've had more people who know nothing about tennis talk to me about how much they got into this match. Kids who were otherwise set for baseball and basketball leagues got signed up for tennis lessons. And that may be this match's biggest legacy.

And now the epic stinkfests. You might want to ask children and the elderly to leave the room...

Nikolay Davydenko def. Andy Murray, 7-5, 6-2, Shanghai SF: Somebunny was cwanky after spending aw of his energy beating daddy the day before. Not the swiftest of moves, because Murray was made to pay for it. Along with the rest of us.

David Ferrer def. Fabrice Santoro, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0, FO: Fabrice won 1 game. Out of 19. 1. 19.

Fernando Verdasco def. Jose Acasuso, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, Davis Cup F: I haven't ranked any of the rotten egg matches but I give this one a special worst of the year, because wow. Just wow. Besides being nervy play all around with about 4 good rallies in 5 sets, it exemplified the total collapse of the entire Argentinian team. It was great if you were playing for Spain. They were the underdogs after Nadal had to pull out. I wish the rest of us were given the same option.

Next week, the good, the bad and the ugly, off court. Bring your Funyuns.

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