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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Nov 25, 2009

11/25/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Nov 25, 2009


This is one of my favorite columns of the year, because I get to give back to those who gave to me. So, while the boys duke it out in the last big tournament of the year, the women get to bask in the love as the Sweet Spot is proud to present THE BEST WOMEN'S MATCHES OF 2009.

5. Jelena Jankovic d. Elena Dementieva, 7-6 (7-2), 0-6, 7-6 (8-6), Cincinnati SF.

Certain players just match up well. Jelena and Elena certainly do. They're two of the most consistent baseliners in the game, with two of the weakest serves. So if you're a fan of rallies you know you can just camp out at a JJ/ED match for days. Even though this particular match felt more like a month to some fans – it was a break-fest towards the end – Jelena showed crazy fight, rebounding from 3 blown match points a 2-6 deficit in the third set tiebreak to finally put this bad boy away. S.I.'s Jon Wertheim told the Sweet Spot he could write a book about this one. We'd like to see him try.

Leg cramps couldn't stop Wozniacki

4. Caroline Wozniacki d. Vera Zvonareva, 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 , YEC RR.

The Year End Championships were a beautiful disaster, as only Kuznetsova, Radwanska and Dementieva were the only players who didn't require medical attention. Nothing encapsulated the drama more than this match, in which Zvonareva fought through a nosebleed and Wozniacki played through ridiculous cramps, before the Dane finally took it in three…and collapsed to the ground in agony. Not sure where Wozniacki will fit into the New World Order of a returned Clijsters, Henin and Sharapova, but in this match at least, Caroline was a stud.

3. Flavia Pennetta d. Vera Zvonareva, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0, US Open 4r.

This match will be most remembered for one thing: The Implosion. Serena Williams' freak out was brief, but Vera's just went on and on and on and on and on... She was firmly in control of her match, serving for a straight sets win. But when Flavia refused to say uncle after Vera's sixth match point, Vera lost. her. shiz. Smashing racquets, cursing like a sailor (hello fine), ripping at her leg tape like a madwoman. I don't blame umpire Lynn Welch for not granting her request for scissors because lord knows what she would've done with them in that moment. All that said, what the match SHOULD be known for is flawless tennis. We saw power, aggression, placement, and most shockingly, strategy. Truly one of the finest displays put on this year, with or without self-flagellation.

2. Jelena Dokic d. Alisa Kleybanova, 7-5, 5-7, 8-6, Australian Open 4r.

One woman was coming back from oblivion at the hands of her whackjob dad. The other could squeeze a gallon of sweat from a hair bun like nobody's business. Together they served up the barnburner match of the first half of the year, showing how two second stringers could snatch the kliegs from the stars and electrify an entire tournament. Both were playing the tennis of their lives (just ask Wozniacki and Ivanovic, who were wandering the parking lot in a daze looking for their scalps around this time), and in one go for broke exchange after the next, both women would drill the corners, never once flinching. Three hours later, even spectators were wringing out their buns. If only the final were one tenth as entertaining. The powerful PS, a victorious Dokic's tears in her press conference. She'd come out the other side indeed.

1. Serena Williams d. Elena Dementieva, 6-7, 7-5, 8-6, Wimbledon SF.

The other matches on this list were spectacular, but this one was downright epic. Neither Serena nor Elena had dropped a set en route to the semis, but more shocking than that, that whole jag I went on a minute ago about Elena's lousy serve? On the grass, it was on like Donkey Kong. After a 50-minute first set it was Dementieva who was a set away from her first Wimbledon final. Serena being Serena, she blasted her way through the second set, and the third was a rollercoaster. At nearly three hours, the longest Wimbledon semifinal in the open era would end with Dementieva screaming in triumph as, on match point down, Serena would net a backhand volley ohnowait! It went over! No way! A couple more fortuitous Hawk-Eye calls later and Serena would drive yet one more nail in Elena's grand slam coffin. The match ended with a standing ovation. As it should've.

This is my favorite column not only because I get to give thanks, but also because I get to stick it to those players who stuck it to me. Folks, the three biggest stinkers of the 2009:

3. Klara Zakopalova d. Serena Williams, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, Andalucia 1r.

"I think Dinara did a great job to get to No 1 – she won Rome and Madrid," sparkly new Wimbledon champ Serena said, met by reporters' giggles. But for the better part of two months, during which Serena lost four straight matches (including first rounders at Rome and Madrid), no one was laughing. Her loss in Andalucia was the stand-out, having been broken seven times. I'm going to repeat that. Serena Williams was broken seven times. By Klara Zakopalova. Serena righted the ship, but had she just taken care of business, she (and we) would've been spared all the incessant true No 1 foolishness.

"Why am I such a chicken?"

2. Vera Zvonareva d. Ana Ivanovic, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, Indian Wells F.

In a first, this mess was neither player's fault. It was so damn windy that the balls were literally being blown off the court, often changing direction mid-trajectory. Somehow the players thought moonballs would be the way to go, which only made it worse (okay so see they did contribute to the misery). Add to that Ivanovic's ball toss which was already all over the place and this one needed Dr. Kevorkian to put it out of its misery. Hardly fitting for the final of the fifth Slam. As I watched cursing the day I was born, I swore nothing could top its suckatude. Until…

1. Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Dinara Safina, 6-4, 6-2, French Open F.

This one was devastating on so many levels. Dinara brutalized opponent after opponent, losing a whopping five games in her first four matches, en route to her best shot at winning an elusive Grand Slam title. And then in the final, she brutalized herself. Kuznetsova needed only to keep the ball in and let Safina dig her own grave in the red dirt. She was so painfully aware of what was happening that, in her last gasps, Dinara screamed through tears to her coach, "Why am I such a chicken?!" Whatever injuries stacked up in Doha, this was by far the single most painful moment of the year. One I hope above all hopes she gets another crack at, and finds redemption.

Next week, the men. Nominees for best or worst? Post them here, or tweet me at Happy Thanksgiving everyone!