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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Dec 8, 2010

12/8/2010 2:00:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Archive |

We laughed, we cried, we shaved our heads. What’s left to do but look back in awe? Ladies and gentlemen, THE BEST MEN’S MATCHES OF 2010. In the immortal words of tennis great Gwen Stefani, I would love to wash in their old bath water.

5. Nikolay Davydenko d. Rafael Nadal, 0-6, 7-6, 6-4, Qatar F.

It seems like so long ago, but once upon a 2010 Nikolay was the hottest player on tour. We even had a name for him: PlayStation 4. What happens when a pumped up Rafa grabs the controller? This bad boy. After getting blitzed by Nadal in the first set, PS4 kicked it up a notch, and what followed was pure awesomeness. Tennis stuck on fast forward. You didn’t even need to look at the screen to know they were making love to the ball, the moaning and wailing said it all. Hell, I even joined in. It’s rare when Rafa plays his best and still gets beaten, but this was one of those days.

4. Robin Soderling d. Michael Llodra, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, Paris SF.

You can let the last image of Michael Llodra you think of be his sobbing inconsolably in Belgrade, or you can remember his kick-ass run at home, knocking out Nikolay Davedenko and Novak Djokovic en route to this scorcher between him and Darth Sod. The Swede’s brutal baseline game + the Frenchie’s surgical serve and volley x a ridiculously fast court all to the square root of Amelie Mauresmo = pure bliss. And absolutely nothing to hang your head over.

3. Rafael Nadal d. Andy Murray, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (6), WTF SF.

The WTFs was a dud, let’s face it. Which made this diamond in the rough sparkle till it melted our eyes out.  Incredible saves!  Brilliant winners! And one shocking rally after the next.  How well can Rafa really play on indoor hard court? How aggressive can Andy really get?  Thanks to how hard they each pushed the other, we saw both. And it was a beautiful beautiful thing. Said a spent Murray afterward, “Today is why I play tennis.” It’s also why I watch it.

2. Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer, 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, US Open SF.

We’ve been here before. Federer v. Djokovic at the U.S. Open, with the Serb coming up short 3 years running. But this one went the distance thanks to some serious cojones by Novak, who simply refused to be the good pup and go away as per usual.  And there’s nothing Roger likes more than putting pups in their place. The result was ferocious hitting by both, whipping Arthur Ashe into a frothier and frothier mess with each passing point.  By the time Novak was saving multiple match points late in the fifth with one jaw-dropper after the next, New York was in hysterics. Both guys killed it. Dead.

Isner and Mahut made NEWS

1. John Isner d. Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68, Wimbledon 1r.

 “Best” is purely subjective, but when talking about the best matches of 2010, I’m personally insulted when Isner/Mahut doesn’t top the list (I’m talking to you, ATP.com). I get it, trust me. Why would the top match NOT star a top 5, 10 or even top 15 player? And in the first round? But COME ON. 11 hours, 5 minutes. 3 days. 168 consecutive holds. 215 aces. 490 winners. BOW DOWN.  Some might argue (and then get punched) that this wasn’t the best match, just a shocking scoreline, and maaaaybe riveting sideshow-esque entertainment. I mean, the tennis wasn’t alla that and really, how can we reward two guys patently UNABLE TO BREAK.  To that I say, bite me. Over the course of 11 hours, you’re gonna have some lulls, but by the end this match had the world by the tennis balls. It wasn’t just tennis news. It wasn’t just sports news. It was NEWS. It was the single most talked about thing on Twitter for DAYS. It made the UMPIRE a celebrity and completely dwarfed the fact that the Queen was on the scene for the first time in decades. No 2 and 3 on this list were two of the greatest matches I’ve seen ever and it would take something mind-blowing to eclipse them. Isner/Mahut wasn’t just mind-blowing. It was epic. The End.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Marin Cilic/Juan Martin del Potro, AO; Fabio Fognini/Gael Monfils, FO; Tomas Berdych/Roger Federer, Wimbledon; Robin Soderling/Roger Federer, FO.

Wait wait wait. You didn’t think I’d let you leave without spritzing you in the face with a little funk, did you?  What kind of Sweet Spot would this be? Get out your moist toilettes and anti-bacterial lotion, it’s time for THE WORST MEN’S MATCHES OF ’10. We’ll all need a Silkwood shower after this one.

3. Nikolay Davydenko d. Fernando Verdasco, 6-2, 7-5, 4-6, 6-7, 6-3, AO 4r.

This match was so awful that if you look up awful in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of it hanging itself. Each guy was so aggressive in blowing chances to get ahead you’d think the person waiting for the winner to sign their giant tennis ball was Death himself. Afterward Nik (the one with the two set to nil lead) said he was able to beat FeVer because “he's strong physically, but not mentally.”  And that my friends was the pot kicking the kettle in the groin.

2. Daniel Brands d. Victor Hanescu, 6-7, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 3-0 (Ret.), Wimbledon 3r.

What do you get when you mix a massively squandered lead up to and including multiple match points, a far too involved crowd, a far too uninvolved umpire, injury, spitting, cursing, tanking, retiring, arrests and a narrowly-escaped lifetime Wimbledon ban?  This piping hot mess.  The only thing missing was for one of the players to relieve himself on the baseline and yell Baba Booey. And the fact that it all went down on the same court John and Nic just made sacred? What could be worse than that?

1. Wayne Odesnik v. Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace.

How in the world can you continue to be able to play when you’ve PLEADED GUILTY TO IMPORTING HGH? What’s worse, how can you choose to play yourself? And yet here we were in Houston Texas watching Wayne make his unreal run to the semis. The only cheering came when Sam Querrey finally brought this nightmare to a close. One takes performance enhancing drugs as a short cut to the top. Congrats, it worked.



Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.