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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Nov 10, 2010

11/10/2010 1:00:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Archive |

For the ladies, 2010 was…rocky.  But lest we get sucked up into that same old vacuum of recrimination and self-mutilation, let’s not dismiss the fact that we were treated to some spectacular fireworks displays on the court.  Walk with me down memory lane, won’t you?  Don’t be scared, just take my hand as we relive THE BEST WOMEN’S MATCHES OF 2010.

5. Serena Williams d. Justine Henin, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, AO F.

In this corner, The Queen Bee. In the other, her former (sometimes bitter…okay often bitter) rival looking to reclaim her throne.  It was less a tennis match than psychological warfare, short on rallies but long on drama.  Each point was played as if their lives (CERTAINLY their egos) depended on it.  Could Justine, in only her second tournament back, smack Serena around like she was doing before she abandoned ship in ’08? In the end, no, as a Tour-tested Serena just had one more gear.  But after a year of limp major finals, we were finally given one to sink our teeth into. Afterward Serena summed it up best: “I felt like we were both out there trying to kind of prove something.  I think we both did at the end of the day.”  You said it sister.

4. Justine Henin d. Elena Dementieva, 7-5, 7-6 (6), AO 2r.

The real reason there were no rallies in the final wasn’t because Serena and Justine were playing first strike tennis, it was because they were all used up in this bad boy. Irresistible force met immovable object and for three hours Elena and Justine went at it like two junkyard dogs with a bone. The offense was obscene, the defense was vulgar, and the intensity was off the charts. Just when it looked like Elena might actually claw her way to a third set, Justine put the boot down with a killer volley. Afterwards the two women went to the locker room and smoked a cigarette. And if they didn’t, they should have.

3. Francesca Schiavone d. Sam Stosur, 6-4, 7-2 (2), FO F.

Was it the highest quality match from both players? No. But one of them shouldered the load and created one of tennis’s truly magic moments.  Stosur upset Justine. She upset Serena (who held match point).  She outright pantsed Jelena Jankovic. And she had a 4-1 H2H v. her opponent in the final, including one in the first round of the ’09 French.  This was Sam’s to lose.  Did she? No. Franny won it.  By playing with a ferocity and a bravery we hadn’t seen from her (or anyone) in entirely too long. She constantly rushed the net, constantly went for her shots, constantly made you go WHAT THE WHAT?? And that tiebreak! That was where she was supposed to go away. But she just went feral. When she dropped to the ground after championship point, we all wanted to roll in the dirt with her.  Nothing was impossible.

Stosur won this epic US Open match

2. Sam Stosur d. Elena Dementieva, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2), US Open 4r.

We went deep into the night for this one, but as the clock ticked away, no one was going anywhere. Not the fans in the stands and not the players who, despite each unloading on groundstroke after groundstroke, could not seem to get their nose in front.  Elena held four match points, each one wiped away in blistering fashion by a startlingly steely Sam. Someone had to crack. It took nearly 3 hours, but finally, in the third set tiebreak, that person was Elena. And it was epic.  Ending later than any women’s match in US Open history, both women could walk off court knowing they gave absolutely everything. If only people at home were still awake to see it.

1. Kim Clijsters d. Justine Henin, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6), Brisbane F.

Kim v. Justine. That’s all anyone wanted when Henin announced her comeback. Kim v. Justine. And did they deliver.  Though not at the same time. Clijsters came out on fire, running her nemesis ragged from the first point.  She took the first set and was up 4-1 in the second. All you could think of was, Poor Justine.  Suddenly it was Poor Kim as she completely fell apart. Henin took advantage, firing off the next eight games and snagging a 3-0 lead in the third.  And then Kim woke up. What followed was complete and total awesomeness. So many brilliant points, so many standing O’s.  And this was Justine’s first event back! The match came down to two redonkulous points in the third set tiebreak, and they both came off Clijsters’ racquet. As the two champs did their little double cheek kiss at net, the first thought that popped into my head was, How can any match the rest of the year compare? The answer, it couldn’t. Take a bow, ladies.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: S. Williams d. Sharapova, Wimbledon; V. Williams d. Azarenka, Dubai; Ivanovic d. Date Krumm, Bali.

Not all fireworks are beautiful. Some explode in your hands and blind you for life. Batten down the hatches for THE WORST WOMEN’S MATCHES of ’10. If I have to remember these sucktacular suckfests, so do you.

3. Nadia Petrova d. Kim Clijsters, 6-0, 6-1, AO 3r.

How long does it take to hose a US Open champion when her game is violently, inexplicably off? 52 minutes.  That’s shorter than an episode of Rock of Love Bus. But no less infected and scabby.   In what would be the worst loss of her career, Clijsters won a total of 5 points in her first 7 games. “I didn’t feel the ball at all,” she said. But we all felt like we’d been kicked in ours.

2. Na Li d. Venus Williams, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5, AO QF

Eight breaks in the first ten games. A combined 100 UFEs and we weren’t even halfway through the final set. Venus and Na were wholly incapable of keeping the ball inside the lines. Match point, which someone had to win (right?!), was a mercy killing. Li called the win, which sent her into the semifinals, “the best day of my life.”  She might need to reexamine her life. And I might need to punch someone.

1. Caroline Wozniacki d. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-2, 7-5, US Open QF

The wind just about wrecked the US Open, and nowhere did it wreak more havoc than this oil spill masquerading as a tennis match. The laws of physics didn’t apply as each and every ball did just about whatever the hell it felt like before, during and after it was struck, all while witches, cows and Pam Shriver flew by. Poor Caroline. Poor Dominika. But mostly, poor us. Add a DayGlo orange Donald Trump and his wind-whipped “hair” smiling smugly from Caro’s box (have you ever wanted to grab a girl by the shoulders more and scream at her to RUN?) and it was enough to make you make the sign of the cross, let go of whatever bolted-down thing you were gripping for dear life and just get sucked up into the vortex. “I knew it was about just surviving,” said Caro. She was the lucky one. 344 lives were lost watching that match. Never forget.

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.