Tennis is among the most popular individual sports out there and for good reason. It features grace, endurance, power, mental strength, and several other attributes. Most importantly, it’s a noble game that has no place for hatred towards the opponent.
That doesn’t mean that tennis matches are mostly friendly events with little to no desire to win, though. The history of the game has seen plenty of epic duels in which the competitiveness has pushed many great athletes to a point that seems out of this world.
We decided to try and gather the most memorable battles on the tennis courts. There are no clear criteria, but we basically stick to a few important considerations. The importance of the match, the drama, and the level of play displayed by the two sides are the most essential among them.
The majority of the contests covered in our list of the greatest tennis matches of all time were part of Grand Slam tournaments, but we also added some from other events. Enjoy!
Greatest Tennis Matches in the History of Wimbledon
It only seems appropriate to start with the epic matches played on the sacred Wimbledon turf. The English tournament is the oldest and is widely regarded as the greatest in the sport.
With a history that goes way back to the 19th century, the number of breathtaking encounters there is enormous. But we feel the next five are above all.
Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe
One of the most famous Wimbledon matches ever featured two iconic players: the calm and composed Bjorn Borg who embodied the culture of tennis and the audacious John McEnroe. The American is one of the few legendary athletes in the history of the sport who wasn’t afraid to show all kinds of emotions on the court.
Borg was a rock star in the tennis world for a couple of years prior, dominating the French Open and Wimbledon. In fact, the 1980 first seed had won the last four Wimbledon titles before this match and was at the peak of his career.
One of the contenders for his throne was the young McEnroe, who won his first Grand Slam in the 1979 US Open. The American also reached the number-one spot in the ATP rankings in March of 1980. He was bold and eager to prove his worth.
His ambition showed in the first set when McEnroe crushed his opponent 6-1 and surprised everyone. The champion was in a tough spot but responded well. Borg steadily improved his own serve and broke McEnroe at the end of the second set, winning 7-5.
The American was down mentally, and it affected his game. The reigning Wimbledon champion took full advantage and won the third set, too. This time, the score was 6-3.
Borg rode the momentum and managed to break the challenger in the fourth as well. The victory seemed certain when the Swede had two championship points in his own service game. The level of both had increased significantly during this set already, but McEnroe rose to a new level to save the match.
The American broke after a couple of insane shots, and the set reached a tiebreak that was later known as “The War of 18-16.” Both men would produce some stunning moments of pure magic. Each had five opportunities to end the set, but every single time, the man on the other side of the net simply refused to give up.
Finally, it was McEnroe who snatched the set, and the epic clash was decided in the fifth set. It was a nerve-wracking affair, as both served well. The score reached 7-6 in favor of Borg, and the Swedish legend had two match points.
After missing seven of those up to this point, he didn’t tremble, and McEnroe didn’t have any more tricks up his sleeve. Borg was able to close the game and win the Wimbledon title for the fifth time in a row in what was considered the greatest match on grass for many years.
The young American was devastated, but he earned the respect of the tennis world this day and would later go on to win three Wimbledon titles. McEnroe’s rise at the start of the 1980s is also one of the reasons why Bjorn Borg retired early, at the age of just 26 in 1983.
Roger Federer vs. Pete Sampras
Many of the matches on this page feature a legendary champion passing the torch to a young and hungry contender, but this one signals the rise of what many consider to be the greatest player in the history of tennis.
More importantly, he had to face what many considered the greatest player in the history of tennis at the time. We’re talking about the match between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in 2001, of course.
The American had won 13 Grand Slam titles, including seven Wimbledon trophies at the time, and was leading the all-time ranking in both categories.
It’s safe to say that Sampras was the overwhelming favorite in the match against a 19-year-old Swiss youngster. The American had won 31 duels in a row at the All England Club and lost only one of his last 57 Wimbledon clashes.
At the same time, Federer had already caught the eye of the tennis world, and many believed he was a great player in the making, but he had yet to produce something special in a Grand Slam tournament.
This was about to change in the 2001 Wimbledon fourth round. The match was probably the tightest in this edition of the competition, as both men served exceptionally. There were almost no break points, and the opportunities to even win a point on the other man’s service games were limited.
Sampras was surprised by Federer’s consistency. The serve of the youngster didn’t have overwhelming power, but it was well placed and disguised to a point that the American was often helpless. The situation was similar when he was serving, too, with Federer struggling to find any openings.
As it often happens in this type of Wimbledon game, all sets were decided either by a tiebreak or a single break. Federer was able to keep his composure more often than Sampras when it mattered the most.
The Swiss maestro snatched a tough match that remains one of the classic duels on grass. It was one of the best showcases of the style required to win on this surface, with both men serving exceptionally and hitting a number of volleys.
Despite the famous victory, Federer would have to wait for another two years before he won his first Grand Slam, but once he did, the trophies started pouring in.
As for Sampras, the great champion did manage to lift another Grand Slam. Pistol Pete won the US Open in 2003 and extended his lead in the all-time Grand Slam rankings. That didn’t stop Federer from surpassing him in 2009, once again at Wimbledon.
Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer
The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is legendary, probably the greatest in the history of tennis. For years, those two battled in the finals of the biggest tournaments on the circuit.
When they met in the 2008 Wimbledon final, Federer and Nadal had lifted 14 of the previous 16 Grand Slam tournaments. The younger Nadal was dominating mostly on clay up to this point and hadn’t won any of the other Big Four competitions.
I don’t think that anyone expected the Spaniard to find a breakthrough at the All England Club. After all, Federer had won the last five editions of the tournament, beating Nadal in 2006 and 2007.
The Swiss maestro had just entered his peak as well, so Rafa was supposed to lose this final.
The problem is, someone forgot to tell him that. Nadal rather comfortably won the first two sets with a score of 6-4 in each and put Federer back against the wall.
No one had challenged Roger so fiercely in Wimbledon in the past couple of years, but he didn’t tremble. The next two sets were among the highest-quality tennis that was ever played in the history of the sport.
Federer was leading 5-4 when the rain forced a break that lasted 80 minutes. The pause didn’t hurt the concentration of the two great champions. They fought hard, but the world number one won the tiebreak to survive.
The fourth set was similar and also climaxed in a tiebreak. Nadal was up 5-2 at one point and even had championship points, but Federer showed some nerves of steel and won once again.
The crowd was ecstatic, as it didn’t want the match to end. The fifth set was equally epic; both men had their chances to find the win. Eventually, it was Nadal who broke the resistance of his opponent and snatched the victory.
The Spaniard won 9-7 in the last set, and this was one of the most important moments of his career. He rode the momentum and earned titles in all Grand Slam tournaments later on, becoming one of the most successful players in the history of tennis.
Many believe that his refusal to give up in the tough moments is the reason behind Nadal’s glory. A simple stat from the Wimbledon 2008 final can back that up. Roger Federer had 13 break points and only won one of them.
Serena Williams vs. Elena Dementieva
If you’re looking for the best ladies’ match in the history of Wimbledon, it’s probably the one between Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva in 2009. While the clash wasn’t even a final, the sheer quality of the displayed tennis was insane.
You would expect Serena Williams to dominate every single match, especially on grass. Her aggressive style and unmatched power helped the American become one of the most successful tennis players in the history of the sport.
She was used to breaking her opponents in a quick fashion, but Dementieva wasn’t going to back down. The Russian stood tall and contributed to a breathtaking Wimbledon semi-final in 2009.
She was the one to draw first blood, breaking in the opening game of the match. Serena quickly responded with a break of her own in the next one.
Things were quiet for a while before Williams upped the tempo and went 40-0 on Dementieva’s service game at 4-3. No one expected the Russian to survive in such a situation, but she did, and this set the tone for the rest of the match.
Riding on the momentum, Dementieva won the tiebreak 7-4 to snatch the first set, but this is where she lost her composure for a while, allowing her opponent to break her at the start of the second.
The real drama was yet to unfold, though. The Russian was able to break to love in the sixth game, holding her own serve in the next one and going two break points up.
Serena was on the brink of going 5-3 down, but this was the moment she showed the grit that made her such a great athlete. Williams fought back to save the game and then broke a couple of games later to take a commanding 6-5 lead.
It wasn’t over, as Dementieva sent a couple of fierce shots that brought her another two break points. Unfortunately for her, Serena found her first serve in this crucial moment and managed to close the wild second set to tie the match.
Most people expected the Russian to falter and lose her confidence, but that wasn’t the case. Dementieva was the first to break in the decider and even had a match point. Once again, Williams was able to recover and close the encounter, winning 8-6.
It was a mesmerizing duel, and Serena then went on to beat her sister Venus to win Wimbledon 2009. It was one of the many trophies in her career, but the match against Dementieva made it one of the sweetest among them.
John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut
We simply couldn’t skip the longest match in the history of Wimbledon. In fact, this is the longest recorded match in the history of the entire sport.
Both John Isner and Nicolas Mahut are big guys that serve well. We all know how hard it is to break the service games of such a player at Wimbledon, so the overall expectations were that it would be one long match.
I don’t think anyone realized how long exactly, though. The first four sets were gruesome but somewhat expected. Isner found a way to break his opponent to take the first one 6-4, but Mahut did the same in the second, snatching it 6-3.
The next two sets included no breaks, so they had to be decided by tiebreakers. Both men were capable of winning one a piece, so it all came down to the deciding fifth set. Since darkness was creeping in, the match was paused and continued on the next day.
The players retired for a break, and boy, did they need more strength on the next day. The fifth set continued for the full day, and the score at the end was… 59-59. That’s right — Isner and Mahut played 108 games that day, without breaks.
The American had four opportunities to steal his opponent’s service game, and the Frenchman had two, but both missed the chance to end, and the match was once again halted because the sun went down.
Both players had to take ice baths, massages, and various other measures to keep their bodies in a somewhat competitive condition.
On the third day, Mahut was the first one that had an opening. He was leading 0-30 during Isner’s serve but failed to convert. The American was then able to end it all by the score of 70-68 after just over an hour of play on the final day.
The level of the tennis in this match can’t compare with the rest of our list, but the sheer will power and endurance of both Isner and Mahut deserve a place. They broke numerous records, including the longest match in terms of both length and games played.
Greatest Tennis Matches in the History of the French Open
Next in line are the most memorable matches from the French Open. The Roland-Garros is the only Grand Slam tournament that is played on clay. The surface is slow and suitable for long rallies, so there are some truly mesmerizing duels that have happened in Paris.
Let’s take a look at them.
Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe
John McEnroe gets a second entry on this list, but this time around, he was the big favorite. The American was in the best shape of his career in 1984. With a couple of Grand Slams at the start of the 1980s, the bad boy of tennis had enough confidence to fulfill his potential.
McEnroe won every single match of tennis in 1984 before facing Ivan Lendl in the Roland-Garros final. Despite some previous struggles in the French Open, the eccentric American was the overwhelming favorite in this final.
His Czechoslovakia-born opponent never won a Grand Slam during his career, and many believed he wouldn’t reach his ceiling. He was in something like a mental block after failing to win a couple of finals in his early career. No one expected Lendl to actually put up a fight against the unstoppable-at-the-time McEnroe.
The start of the clash confirmed what the tennis world expected, and the American number 1 was at his very finest. His speed and precision simply stunned Lendl, who had no answer to McEnroe’s shots.
The favorite quickly won the first two sets by scores of 6-3 and 6-2 respectively. He was holding onto his serves with ease while breaking Lendl almost at will. It seemed inevitable for McEnroe to win his maiden French Open, but his temper was about to take over.
In the third game of the third set, Lendl was having issues on his own serve and was losing 0-30. It was a dire situation, and a break here would’ve probably been the end. However, McEnroe seemed agitated by a noise coming from the headphones of a cameraman.
He completely lost it and shouted something to the guy, which turned the whole crowd against him. The jeers of the fans angered the already frustrated McEnroe, and his concentration was simply gone.
His opponent made the best out of the situation, recovering in his service game and breaking immediately in the next one. Lendl clearly sensed an opportunity that gave him the confidence to fight for the title.
The momentum carried him through the third set, but McEnroe was able to find some rhythm once again in the fourth. He was leading 4-2, but that’s when the serve of the favorite simply went missing.
It was a reliable weapon during the early stages of the duel, but Lendl now had a lot more openings during McEnroe’s service games. He used them wisely, breaking twice to snatch the set, and it all came down to the wire.
The fifth set was a back-and-forth encounter with a couple of chances for both sides. No one found a decisive break up to the 12th game. McEnroe once again struggled with his serve, and Lendl had two break points.
The first one was enough for him to do the job and lift the Roland-Garros. This victory would catapult his career, and Ivan Lendl would go on to win a total of eight Grand Slams by the time he retired.
McEnroe blamed himself after the match, and the cameraman episode would haunt him forever. The American never reached the French Open final again, but he did achieve a record-breaking season in 1984, winning 82 matches and losing only 3. Up to this day, it remains the best season in the Open era of tennis.
Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova
You’ll struggle to find a rivalry in tennis that could compare with the one between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. They met in a total of 80 singles matches, and many of them were finals or semi-finals of Grand Slams.
The balance between the two was really close, with Navratilova winning 43 times and Evert ending up victorious on the other 37 occasions.
One of the most exciting encounters of them all took place in the French Open 1985 final. A year before that, Navratilova managed to beat Evert in Roland-Garros for the first time and win her second Grand Slam on clay.
In fact, the Prague-born athlete was having a lot of joy, winning 15 of the last 16 clashes against Evert, who clearly was near the end of her career.
And yet, the great champion had a couple of battles left in her. She started the match with an immense concentration and played exceptional tennis to grab the first set.
Evert continued pushing in the second and had her opponent on the ropes, leading 4-2 and 40-15. It looked like this match might be over in a matter of minutes, but Navratilova wasn’t ready to give up.
She saved the game and broke in the next one before Evert regained control and was serving for the win at 6-5. Navratilova once again found a way to survive and even win the tiebreak.
The reigning French Open champion forced a third set in what was turning into one of the most intense and dramatic duels in the history of tennis.
The winners and errors were flying around, and both women showed tremendous resilience. It was as close as it gets, and the deciding set was tied at 5-5, with Evert serving. Navratilova found her rhythm and had three break points, leading 40-0.
Evert somehow managed to switch to another level at this point of the match, saving the game and then breaking in the next one to win the 1985 French Open title.
It’s curious to know that despite their long-lasting rivalry on the court, Navratilova and Evert were teammates and friends. They would often share rooms and remained fond of each other after retiring. Both women won 18 Grand Slams during their careers.
Steffi Graf vs. Martina Navratilova
It’s time for another tale about a young prodigy that dethroned a living legend and started her own story that would go on to live forever.
Navratilova was one of the most dominant players in the history of the game by the late 1980s, especially after the retirement of her bitter rival, Chris Evert. The American won a bunch of Grand Slams and seemed unstoppable at times.
And yet, she was still struggling to win a third French Open title. Navratilova lost two finals in a row but didn’t give up and reached the Roland-Garros title match once again in 1987.
Her opponent was a 17-year-old called Steffi Graf who had already shown her enormous potential, despite her tender age. The German was pushing hard for Navratilova’s top spot in the WTA rankings. She was also eager to earn her first Grand Slam.
It was hard to say who was the favorite in this final, as the experience of the world number one would face a fierce contender that had already won six titles in the 1987 season.
The hungry Graf was better in the first set, placing a bunch of passing shots that stunned Navratilova and earned the German a 6-4 win.
The veteran responded in style, grabbing the second set with the same result, thanks to her strong serve and net play. She tormented Graf’s backhand, and the weaker side of the youngster faltered at times.
Navratilova continued with the same tactic in the deciding third set. She played sublime tennis and managed to break her opponent. At 5-3, the American was serving for the Roland-Garros Championship, and everyone expected her to win.
The pressure was building, and it got to her nerves, as Navratilova struggled with her serve. Graf took full advantage to win a couple of points and get a 30-15 lead. An uncharacteristic double fault gave the German two break points, and she took full advantage of them, leveling the score in the set to 5-5.
Their next couple of games were somewhat straightforward, up to the 14th game. Navratilova was once again unstable in the serving department, and Graf had a match point at 7-6. Another double fault gifted the rising star the victory.
The German’s interview after the final was one of the most bizarre ones you would ever see. She apologized for winning after double faults in the crucial moments. It almost seemed like Graf wasn’t satisfied with a victory that came after such errors by her opponent.
To her comfort, the German would then proceed to win another 21 Grand Slam titles during her career and become the leader in the all-time rankings before Serena Williams dethroned her.
As for Navratilova, many believed this was the end of a remarkable career. The American proved them wrong, as she won another three Grand Slam titles and reached multiple finals. The last one of them came in 1994 when Navratilova became the oldest player to play in a Grand Slam championship match. She was 37 years, 8 months, and 14 days old at the time.
Michael Chang vs. Ivan Lendl
Most of the players that won a Grand Slam under the age of 20 went on to become some of the greatest athletes in the history of tennis. There is one exception, though, and we’re talking about Michael Chang, who still holds the record for the youngest male winner of a Grand Slam tournament.
The American was just over 17 when he claimed the French Open title and shocked the whole world. There were many memorable moments on the road to this achievement, but one match certainly tops the list.
In the fourth round of Roland-Garros, Chang had to face Ivan Lendl, who was an established champion with an excellent career. Sure, the Czechoslovakian was without a Grand Slam title in 1988, but he was still a force to be reckoned with and the world number 1 at the time. Lendl was the overwhelming favorite in the clash against the youngster.
It all started according to plan, as Lendl won the first two sets 6-4 each. He was steady on his own serve and managed to break Chang once in each set, which proved to be enough. You would expect a 17-year-old to break mentally under such circumstances and simply surrender the match.
But Chang had other ideas in mind. He found his shots and played an excellent third set, winning 6-3 and getting back into this match. It was the first time Lendl had lost a set in the tournament so far and a sign of things to come.
The veteran got a bit annoyed, and his focus decreased. He would allow Chang to break him in the fourth set after a double fault. Lendl had the chance to instantly make up for his mistake after leading 40-0 in the very next game.
He didn’t convert any of the break points, and his frustration was visible. The favorite was unhappy with the weather conditions and some of the umpire’s calls instead of paying more attention to his own actions. Lendl’s outburst led to a code violation and a point penalty that helped Chang save the game.
There was still a long way to go, though, especially since the American started cramping hard at the end of the fourth set. His body was giving up, but Chang closed the set to even the score somehow.
It went from bad to worse in the fifth, as the youngster was obviously dehydrated. He was trying to make up for that by eating bananas and drinking water at every opportunity. Chang also had to adjust his playing style, looking for quick points.
The risks he took paid off almost immediately, and he was in the lead early in the fifth after breaking Lendl’s serve. At this moment, the physical pain and exhaustion reached their peak, and Chang was on the brink of retiring.
He decided against it and vowed to himself to fight to the last point, as the man himself admitted in an interview years later. Incredibly, Chang’s resilience and his desire to improvise in any way possible helped him win 6-3 and snatch the victory in the match.
His tactics in the final minutes included an underhand serve that you can see below and a couple of other actions that shocked the tennis world and his opponent. Lendl was somehow unable to find a way to cope with the teenager and was mentally devastated to a point that the match ended with a double fault from him.
Chang would then proceed to win the tournament, which remained the only Grand Slam title of his career.
Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic
If you ask a number of tennis fans to share their pick for the greatest tennis match on clay courts ever, the 2013 French Open semi-final would certainly win the vote. It featured loads of drama and some of the best tennis you will ever see on this surface.
It’s only fitting that Rafael Nadal, the undisputed King of Clay, was involved. The Spaniard had won the Roland-Garros seven times in the last eight years and was the undisputed favorite once again.
And yet, he would have to face one of the toughest challenges in Paris in his entire career. His opponent in the semi-finals was Novak Djokovic, another legend of the game. The Serbian had already won the Australian Open that year and was one of the few players that were expected to give Nadal a fight on red courts.
Nole was leading the ATP rankings at the time, while Rafa was coming back from a nasty knee injury that had kept him out of the tour for seven months. Both men desperately wanted to win the Roland-Garros and were ready to give everything.
The Spaniard started brightly and won the opening set 6-4. Both were playing well, but Nadal was just on another level and managed to find the decisive break. He was looking good in the second set, too, after breaking to take a 3-2 lead.
It looked desperate for Djokovic, but the world number one stepped up and found some unstoppable winners in the next game to return the break immediately. He grew in confidence and managed to win the second set.
The angry Nadal returned to his best and completely dominated his opponent in the third, winning 6-1. Nole was visibly tired at times, and he tried to preserve some energy for the next set in the later part of this one.
It looked like this strategy worked, as Djokovic was playing much better, and both men traded a couple of blows before reaching a tiebreak in the fourth. Nadal was below his usual level, allowing the match to continue to a fifth set.
The clash was already unforgettable in both terms of drama and quality, but the decider made it even better. Both men had their chances, there were a couple of breaks, but Nadal displayed his famous spirit to somehow win 9-7 after more than four hours.
Nadal was ecstatic, while Djokovic was heartbroken. The disappointment helped Nole elevate his game in the forthcoming years to become one of the greatest players to grace the sport of tennis.
Greatest Tennis Matches in the History of the US Open
The USA is the home of many tennis greats but also of one the most popular tournaments on the tour. The US Open is part of the Grand Slam, and New York has witnessed plenty of magical matches throughout the years.
John McEnroe vs. Bjorn Borg
We’ve already covered one 1980 Grand Slam final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, but we can’t leave this one out. After losing at Wimbledon, the American had a chance to avenge this defeat a couple of months later in the US Open final.
The Swedish world number one won both Wimbledon and the French Open this year and had the top seed. As for McEnroe, he was playing great tennis and was the reigning US Open champion, lifting the trophy in the previous year.
The fans were expecting a clash for the ages, and they weren’t disappointed. McEnroe was eager to find his revenge and started better. He won a close first set after a tiebreak and rode the momentum to crush Borg in the second. The American was breaking his foe at will and looked in total control.
At this point of the match, the Swede was in a lot of trouble, but he somehow managed to recover. The world number one was able to find his serve and stopped giving McEnroe easy opportunities. The set reached a tiebreak, and Borg was flawless, hitting five winners in a row to clinch it.
Both men continued to show an excellent level of tennis in the fourth set, winning their service games relatively easily, but the world number one found a way to break his opponent right at the end. He won the fourth set 7-5 and forced a decider.
The momentum was on Borg’s side, and a couple of other factors led spectators to believe the Swede was going to win. For a start, he was in a streak of 13 victories in a row in matches that reached the fifth set. On top of that, McEnroe had to play a gruesome semi-final against Jimmy Connors, so many expected to see him run out of gas.
That didn’t quite happen, as the American’s determination helped him perform at a high level. Instead, it was Borg who faltered. The Swede fired two double faults in the seventh game, helping McEnroe break him. The reigning champion didn’t tremble by the end of the match and managed to claim the title.
While both men admitted that the level in this match was below the one in Wimbledon, it still had epic moments and plenty of drama.
Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert
The rivalry between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert was so legendary that it was inevitably going to pop up again on our list. This time around, we will explore the final between them in the 1984 US Open.
At this point in their careers, the younger Navratilova was still in her prime, while Evert was getting a bit old and wasn’t at her best. Probably this is the reason why the Czechoslovakia-born won the last 12 clashes between the two.
This streak included a pair of devastating defeats in recent Grand Slam finals. In the very same year, Navratilova beat Evert 6-1 6-3 on her beloved Roland-Garros clay, and she did the same with a score of 6-3 6-1 in the 1983 US Open final.
Many believed that Evert was past her prime and wouldn’t be able to give Navratilova a good fight ever again. Boy, were they wrong. You already saw what happened in the 1985 French Open final, but the first sign that Evert was far from done came in this match.
Despite the recent defeats at the hands of her younger compatriot, the great champion was able to win the first set. When she broke Navratilova, the whole crowd was on its feet, cheering and supporting Evert. She was overwhelmed by the reaction of the fans and later explained it was a pivotal moment of her career.
The second set was close, but Navratilova managed to break her opponent and was serving for the set at 5-4. Evert wasn’t ready to give up and hit three winners in a row, making the score 15-40. Despite playing on Navratilova’s second serve in the next couple of points, she was unable to capitalize, and the match was leveled.
It was all going to be decided in the third, and the performance of both Americans was simply sublime. There were breathtaking rallies, stunning winners, and tennis at the highest level. It could’ve gone either way, but Navratilova kept her nerves in the deciding moments to win 6-4 and seal the deal.
The defeat was devastating for Evert because it was the first time in a while that she had played on the same level as her rival but failed to beat her. The older American felt she choked in the decisive moments, but the disappointment quickly turned into determination to fight back in the future.
Evert felt she could still compete, and the new-found confidence boosted her performance in the near future. She was able to win at the 1985 Roland-Garros and then achieved a couple of other famous victories against Navratilova before retiring.
Mats Wilander vs. Ivan Lendl
The longest final in the history of the US Open was bound to find a place in our list. The encounter featured two of the best baseliners to ever play tennis, so the length of the match is hardly a surprise.
It was the fourth US final in a row for Ivan Lendl, and the world number one at the time won the first three, beating his current opponent, Mats Wilander, in 1987.
Lendl was leading the male tennis rankings for more than 150 weeks, and many expected to see him lift the trophy at Flushing Meadows once again.
However, Wilander had already won the Australian Open and the French Open in 1988. He was a strong contender that was prepared to become the first Swede to win the US Open. That’s right — even the legendary Bjorn Borg was unable to achieve that.
From the start of the match, it was obvious that it was going to be a long night. Both men approached the clash with their usual patience and precision from the baseline. There were plenty of endless rallies, and the differences were marginal.
The first set saw no breaks up to the very last game. Wilander was leading 5-4, and Lendl was serving to stay in the set. He used his advantage to gather a 40-15 lead, but his opponent somehow clawed back into the game.
After a couple of deuces, Wilander broke by unexpectedly rushing to the net and forcing Lendl to make a mistake.
The momentum was obviously on the side of the contender, as he was flying at the start of the second set. Wilander built a 4-1 lead and looked in control of the match. A couple of moments later, he received a warning from the umpire for taking too much time to serve.
This episode broke the Swede’s concentration, and the experienced Lendl took full advantage of this unexpected situation. He was able to close the game, and Wilander won only four points by the end of the set.
The challenger was able to get himself together and return to the level before the incident, breaking Lendl at the start and closing the third set with a score of 6-3.
The beginning of the fourth set was quiet, with both players winning their first three service games. Wilander was able to draw first blood, breaking Lendl in the seventh game, but the Czech responded immediately in the eighth.
Things calmed down for a couple of games before Lendl raised his level right at the end of the set. He was able to break Wilander and win 7-5, forcing the game to a fifth set.
The decider was a back-and-forth affair, with both men earning and capitalizing on multiple break points. At the end of the day, Wilander boldly tried to come to the net a couple of times, and this uncharacteristic-for-him move worked. He was able to close the game at 6-4, breaking a streak of six losses against Lendl.
The Swede famously had this to say after the tiresome final.
“Nobody beats me seven times in a row!”
The match went on for 4 hours and 54 minutes, which remains the joint-longest US Open final, alongside the title decider between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in 2012.
Steffi Graf vs. Monica Seles
Most tennis fans are probably aware of the tragic tale of Monica Seles. She was one of the most talented players to ever grace the game, winning eight Grand Slams by the age of 20, dominating the early 1990s, and beating other greats like Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova multiple times.
Seles was firmly on the road to becoming one of the most successful female tennis players in the history of the game before she was stabbed by a mentally unstable man during a match in 1993.
While the physical wounds healed in a couple of weeks and were not threatening to her life, Seles was deeply affected by the attack and didn’t return to the court for the next two years.
She decided to step out of retirement in August 1995, and the US Open was her first major tournament. Seles received support from the WTA and a top seed in the rankings, despite her absence.
She proved she deserved her top spot by beating a couple of top-10 players on the road to the final, where her old foe Steffi Graf was waiting.
The German had a lot of problems at the time, as her father was in jail for tax evasion, and she had to go through an MRI of her foot just before the title decider.
It was much more than a match for both opponents, and you could tell that on the court. The first set was absolutely sublime, and the quality of the tennis was from another world. It inevitably reached a tiebreak.
Seles was leading 6-5 and hit a strong first serve that looked like an ace before a rather delayed call for an out. Graf was able to capitalize on the second serve of her opponent and turn it around to win the first set 7-6.
What happened next is hard to describe, as Monica Seles produced arguably the most dominant single-set display in the history of Grand Slam finals. She completely destroyed her opponent, winning 6-0 in only 27 minutes.
Such a crushing blow would certainly break most tennis players out there, but Steffi Graf is one of the legendary champions of the game, and she wasn’t going to back down. Instead, the German produced some of the best tennis she ever played, winning the decider 6-3.
Graf described this victory as the greatest of her career.
Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi
For many years, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi used to meet in various tennis tournaments, including Grand Slams. You would struggle to find two players that were more different in both style of play and character.
The calm and composed Sampras was the archetypal big man with a strong serve and flawless volleys, while Agassi was a colorful rebel who was unpredictable on the court. The pair didn’t particularly like each other, but they produced some stunning matches.
The rivalry started late in the 1980s, but one of the last duels between the two Americans is the most memorable one. The two met at the US Open quarter-finals in 2001 when both men were over 30 and entering the last stage of their careers.
That fact didn’t prevent them from displaying some of the best tennis the world has ever seen. Every single set in this match reached the tiebreak, and there were no breaks. Agassi even famously said the following.
“You’ve got to do more than hold your serve, I guess, huh?”
While most people would expect Sampras to be hard to beat on his own serve, the much smaller and less powerful Agassi surprisingly held firm, too. He expertly disguised his serves and punished every return that was slightly off the pace.
At the same time, Sampras was at his very best, serving with precision and power. When it wasn’t enough, his volleys would finish the point.
It was tennis at the highest level, and it was decided by the smallest of margins. In the tiebreak of the first set, Sampras was leading 6-3 and looked set to win it. His foe somehow came back and snatched it with a score of 9-7.
The next two tiebreaks were much easier for Sampras, who was capable of using his serve for a couple of easy points in each. The score was 7-2 in his favor in both, so he had the upper hand entering the fourth set.
Remarkably, it also had to be decided by a tiebreaker, and the crowd was extremely impressed. The fans applauded both players for a long time at 6-6, and it was a heartwarming moment, as the two men shared later in their lives.
After all the winners and exceptional shots throughout the game, the finale was a bit anti-climactic. Both Agassi and Sampras made stupid errors, but Pistol Pete was the one who stayed composed for most of the tiebreak and won 7-5.
The aging stars showed the world they still had it, and many believe this inspired them to keep fighting later in their career. Both Agassi and Sampras won another Grand Slam before retiring.
Greatest Tennis Matches in the History of the Australian Open
The final Grand Slam tournament is the Australian Open. The competition is played on hard courts and is the first of the Big Four each year. The event was founded in 1905 and was the arena of a bunch of unforgettable matches.
Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert
It’s these two again! Some of you might feel sick of the clashes between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, but it’s impossible not to include the 1981 Australian Open final to our list. It’s one of the best between the two and was played when both were pretty much in their prime.
Navratilova was just entering her best years, while Evert was still in peak condition. This is probably the reason why the level of tennis displayed in this encounter was stunning, even for the standards of this rivalry.
Chris Evert was the top seed in the competition and the world number one at the time, while Navratilova was one of the fiercest contenders for her place. Up to this point, the more experienced American had the upper hand, but youth was about to strike.
The Australian Open was the perfect place for that to happen, as it was still played on grass this year, and Navratilova had the advantage on this surface.
Another remarkable fact is that neither of them had won the Australian Open up to this point, which gave the pair some extra motivation.
The first set was extremely close, with both women playing out of their skins. There was no way to separate them before the tiebreak, as there were numerous winners and stunning rallies that were decided by the slightest of margins.
Both gave everything, but it was Evert who kept better composure in the climax. She won the tiebreaker by 7-4 and was in the lead. Many believed that such a close defeat in the first set would disrupt Navratilova’s rhythm, but she showed the mentality of a true winner.
The younger contender found her serve and bombed Evert throughout the second. The pressure was enough for a 6-4 victory and a huge shift in the momentum. Navratilova kept pushing, and it looked like she was going to take the third one with ease.
The score was 5-1 when Evert rediscovered her grit and produced some stunning moments to win the next four games. The score was 5-5, and it seemed she had the advantage, but it was time for one final twist. Navratilova once again stepped up to win the next two games and lift her first Australian Open trophy.
She would then proceed to grab two more by the end of her career, but Evert won two of her own as well.
Monica Seles vs. Steffi Graf
We’ve already talked about the meteoric rise of Monica Seles, who dominated the world of tennis in the early 1990s, even before she turned 20. She had plenty of remarkable encounters with the old guard, but the one against Steffi Graf in the 1993 Australian Open was especially impressive.
The presence of Seles finally ended the German’s domination. After crushing the tour for years, Graf only won back-to-back Wimbledon titles in 1991 and 1992. One Grand Slam a year is a lifetime dream for most players, but we’re talking about one of the best in history here.
For her standards, Graf was lagging behind at this point of her career, and the main reason was Monica Seles. The pair met in a couple of big matches, but one of the most important among them was the Australian Open final in 1993.
Seles had already won the tournament in the past two years and was the top seed for this edition. She finished 1992 winning three Grand Slam titles, and only Graf was able to stop her at Wimbledon.
The German was eager to prove that she could still beat her younger rival in other surfaces besides grass and started well. She was able to snatch the first set, but it was a tight affair. Both were hitting the ball hard and looking for winning shots. Only one break separated the two rivals.
The situation was similar in the second set, but this time it was Seles who had one break more and was victorious by the score of 6-3. She was just a notch better from the baseline, which was enough to level the match and force another set.
Both players were able to defend their first couple of service games, and the score was 3-2 in favor of Seles. Graf started her service game well, leading 30-0, but a stunning return by her opponent reduced her advantage to one point.
A couple of weaker serves gave Seles two break points that the German was able to save, but the Yugoslavian finally converted the third one to take a 4-2 lead.
Graf had the chance to respond immediately, as she had a break point of her own in the next game. At this point, Seles showed nerves of steel, sending an unstoppable ace, her fastest serve of the night. It was enough to break her foe mentally, and Seles closed the match in a couple of minutes.
The prodigy was on top of the world, leading the tennis rankings and winning eight of the last ten Grand Slam tournaments in the process. Many believed this was a sign that Steffi Graf was on a decline, which was one of the reasons a crazy fan of the German stabbed Seles a couple of months later and derailed her career.
Despite her return after two and a half years, Seles never hit the heights of her early years. She only won one Grand Slam title before stepping down in 2003.
Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras
The never-ending fight between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras certainly deserves another entry on our list of the greatest tennis games ever. This one was part of the Australia Open in 2000 and was in the semi-finals.
It was around the end of their primes, but both men were still going strong, and you could certainly see that on the court. The match was the 30th meeting between the two Americans, and only one had reached the fifth set up to this point.
As in most of their encounters, the big question was if the powerful serve and exquisite volleys of Sampras would be able to beat the exceptional baseline play of Agassi.
The big man had the upper hand early in the opening set, holding his service games and earning three break points at 2-2. He failed to convert any of them, and Agassi used the shift in momentum to steal the set with a single break.
Sampras was able to respond early in the second set, breaking his opponent for a 3-1 lead early on. Despite some issues, the big man found his serve and won 6-3 to level the match.
The third set was the best so far, with both athletes executing perfectly. Sampras was serving with power and precision, while Agassi relied on passing shots and patient attacks from the baseline. Neither was capable of finding a break, and it all went to a tiebreak.
Sampras suddenly found a burst of inspiration, hitting a couple of aces and three unstoppable winners. Agassi had no response and lost to love.
The high level of quality tennis and intensity continued in the fourth set, with both men serving flawlessly. Agassi’s precision helped him win his service games rather comfortably, while Sampras kept sending bomb after bomb.
The result was another tiebreak, this time much closer than the decider in the third set. Sampras was the first to achieve a mini-break and had the lead at 4-3, but Agassi responded quickly. He kept his composure and stole the set with two spectacular winners.
This was enough for Sampras to break mentally, as he was exceptional up to this point but simply couldn’t finish his compatriot. He started making too many errors, while Agassi was hitting winner after winner for a 6-1 victory that was enough to seal the match.
Despite the rather disappointing finale, the clash was epic, and both men displayed the best shots in their arsenal.
Rafael Nadal vs. Fernando Verdasco
The 2009 Australian Open match between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco is probably one of the most underrated in the history of the tournament. The quality of the tennis in this semi-final was sublime and hard to forget for everyone who watched the duel of the two Spaniards.
The obvious favorite going into this match was Rafa Nadal, who was in exceptional shape despite a shocking defeat at his favorite French Open in the same year.
No one expected much from Fernando Verdasco. He was a solid player with some decent achievements and a top-10 spot in the ATP rankings but was a player who never reached a Grand Slam final during his career. Verdasco wasn’t supposed to be a match for Nadal, but on that day, he played the best tennis of his career.
It was obvious that the less famous Spaniard wasn’t going to simply back down. He pushed Nadal to the limit from the first set, playing dazzling tennis that included all kinds of shots. You would see Verdasco send shorts, attack the net, and use every possible weapon to earn points against the sublime Nadal.
Neither of the players was capable of breaking the serve of the opponent, so it all went to the tiebreak. Nadal had been there multiple times before, but it was Verdasco who actually kept his nerves. With a bit of good fortune, he was able to snatch the opener.
The tempo was even better in the second, with Rafa eager to level the match. He was able to break Verdasco’s serve in the 10th game and take the set after a couple of unbelievable rallies. The quality of the play was surreal, and most points were won; very few were the result of an error.
You would usually expect the tempo to go down at some point, but it simply didn’t. The third set was another masterpiece by two players who were flying on the court. Rafa found an early break, but instead of collapsing, Verdasco returned it immediately.
Once again, it reached a tiebreak, but this time around, it went in Nadal’s favor. The favorite had to work hard for it, but he had a 2-1 set advantage. At this point, you would expect to see Verdasco down mentally.
But not on this particular day; he was a man on a mission. He clawed his way back into the match after another tiebreak, and at this point, nothing was certain.
The fifth set continued in the same manner as the whole match up to this point. Both players were hitting unreal shots, and no one was capable of going ahead. There were no breaks up to the 10th game when Nadal was leading 5-4 and Verdasco had to serve to stay in the match.
His nerves trembled for the first time in this match, and Rafa went 0-40 ahead. Verdasco bravely saved the first two match points, but a double fault put an end to one of the greatest Australian Open battles you will ever see.
The two Spaniards fought for more than five hours on this day, and the memory will live forever. Despite the gruesome fight, Nadal was able to dismantle Roger Federer in the final, winning his first and only Australian Open title.
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal
The 2012 Australian Open final is one of the more recent matches on our list, but it’s one that’s bound to stay in the memories of tennis fans forever. It is the longest Grand Slam final in the history of the sport and arguably the greatest duel ever played in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic had just entered his prime, winning three Grand Slam titles in 2011, including the Australian Open. He was eager to start the year with another triumph, and it was all going according to plan despite a tough, almost 5-hour-long semi-final against Andy Murray.
The Serbian champion had one man left between him and the trophy, but this man was Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard was one of his most fierce rivals and a man who’s known for his refusal to give up, no matter the circumstances.
Everyone expected a close match, and this is exactly what happened. Every single game was contested right from the start, and there were deuces on countless occasions during this final.
The first set alone lasted for more than 80 minutes, but it was probably the least impressive. Djokovic was still finding his best form, and Nadal managed to break him twice. While the Serb was able to recover the first time, the second was enough to see Rafa snatch the set by 7-5.
That didn’t scare Djokovic, who raised the level to win the next two sets 6-4 and 6-2. The score flatters Nole to an extent, as there were plenty of breathtaking rallies and stunning winners along the way, but the returns of the Serbian master were unstoppable at times. The level of both men was exceptional, but somehow, there was room for improvement.
The fight continued in the fourth set, and Djokovic was still just slightly better. He was leading 4-3 and 40-0 on Nadal’s serve in the eighth game. It looked like the Spaniard was out of this match, but Rafa’s never-say-never mentality once again rose to the occasion.
He sent a couple of unstoppable forehand winners to turn the game around and carried the momentum to clinch the set in a close tiebreak.
It was only fitting that a mesmerizing match like this one would go to the wire. Nadal started the deciding fifth set well, breaking Djokovic’s serve and getting a 4-2 lead. It was Nole’s turn to show his unbelievable resilience in a desperate situation.
He was able to restore the balance by breaking back in the next game and defending his own serve. The duel reached its climax in the 11th game when Djokovic was able to break Nadal once again and close the set and the match on his own serve.
It was a nerve-wracking experience that lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes, the longest Grand Slam final to this day. Both men said it was their best match ever after it was all finished, before collapsing to the stands.
Other Amazing Tennis Matches
The Grand Slam tournaments are certainly the biggest stage in tennis, but there are other important tournaments, too. The Olympics are almost as important as the Big Four, while the Davis Cup is about representing your country. Let’s not forget the ATP Finals that gather the best of the best in tennis each year.
We decided to honor these competitions by including a couple of memorable tennis matches from them. Enjoy!
Boris Becker vs. John McEnroe
When a match between two tennis legends like Boris Becker and John McEnroe lasts for more than six hours, you know that it was spectacular. The clash was part of the Davis Cup relegation playoff, and there are multiple reasons we decided to include it.
For a start, the sheer drama was out of this world. As the score suggests, there were no tiebreaks at the time, and every single set went on until one of the players had an advantage of two games.
Another reason we love this one is that it featured two great players that were on the opposite end of their careers. Boris Becker was 19 at the time but already had two Wimbledon titles in his trophy cabinet. He was facing the legendary John McEnroe, who was out of his prime and heading towards the end of his career.
The American was able to recreate some of his best years for this match with the help of the crowd. The encounter was in the USA, and Becker had to face not only his opponent but around 12,000 fans who were there to support McEnroe.
The first set was rather standard, with both men winning their service games with ease. The score was 5-4, and Becker was serving to stay in the set when McEnroe erupted. He broke his younger opponent to love to snatch the set, and the crowd went nuts.
The biggest reason we believe this match deserves a place on our list is the second set. It lasted more than two hours alone, and there were no break points whatsoever in the first 19 games. Both men held their nerves and stood strong before McEnroe had a 0-30 lead in Becker’s service game.
The American missed an easy volley, and his opponent recovered to keep the set alive. Becker had to dig deep once again with the score 11-10 in favor of McEnroe. The German saved five set points, and this boosted his confidence big time. He pushed hard a couple of games later, breaking McEnroe’s serve and closing the set by 15-13.
Becker had the upper hand for most of the third set, but he kept missing break point after break point. McEnroe somehow weathered the early storm and went into attack mode himself in the 18th game. He broke Becker and was once again in the lead by two sets to one.
There was an unusual break that lasted around half an hour after the third set, as both men were exhausted. The pause worked well for Becker, who was able to recover some stamina and finish the final two sets rather quickly.
He won both by the score of 6-2 and gave Germany the 2-0 lead in one of the most epic tennis matches ever. His country proceeded to dump the USA from the Davis Cup World Cup for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Pete Sampras vs. Boris Becker
Often when the ATP Finals championship match has been the five-set format, we’ve seen some brutal encounters. One of the most emblematic among them is the clash between Pete Sampras and Boris Becker in 1996.
The American was in his prime and already had won a bunch of Grand Slams. 1996 wasn’t his best year, but he still lifted the US Open and was in exceptional shape around the end of the season.
Pistol Pete was the top seed in the ATP Finals, and he booked a place in the final of the tournament, where he was going to meet Boris Becker. The German wasn’t in his best years, but he had already beaten Sampras in the group stage, and the crowd was behind him.
With the support of the Hannover fans, Becker was able to win the first set 6-3 after a break in the fourth game. The opener showed that both men would expectedly rely on their strong serve, and the level of tennis was already solid.
There was room for improvement, though, and Sampras found his serve. The American was exceptional in his service games and had break points in the set, but Becker somehow survived to the tiebreak. The better play by the American was rewarded with a narrow win, so it was all even at this point.
The third set was quite similar, but this time around, Becker had the chance to break his opponent. A couple of aces by Sampras got him out of trouble, and he won another tiebreak after the German made a double fault in the crucial moments.
The two champions somehow managed to sustain the unbelievably high level in their performance in the fourth as well. Both were serving with authority, quickly recovering from even the smallest of dangers.
Inevitably, another tiebreak had to decide the set. Becker was more focused this time around and snatched it after both men had chances to finish it earlier. The German missed four set points before losing by a score of 13-11.
For most of the deciding fifth set, it seemed like the match was heading to another tiebreak. Both opponents were strong on their own serve up to 4-4, but Becker trembled, allowing Sampras a couple of opportunities. The German fought hard to save two break points, but the third one was converted.
Pistol Pete held his nerves in the next game to win 6-4 and close a truly unforgettable match. Many believe that based on sheer quality alone, this clash is among the top 10 in the history of the sport.
Justine Henin vs. Anastasia Myskina
It’s surprising that Justine Henin’s name hasn’t popped up sooner. The Belgian had a remarkable career, winning seven Grand Slams and pushing Serena Williams to the limit on multiple occasions. Despite her modest size, Henin was a resilient baseliner and one of the best clay court players in the history of the sport.
2004 was a shaky year for the Belgian, as she started brightly, winning the Australian Open and heading the WTA rankings. Unfortunately, Henin got ill at the start of the clay court season and failed to defend her French Open title.
Funny enough, this opened the door to Anastasia Myskina, who won the Roland-Garros that season, and this remained her only Grand Slam trophy.
The Russian’s confidence grew, and she was strong in the early rounds of the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She stormed to the quarter-finals, but she had to face the recovered Henin there. Everyone expected the top seed to win, and it was a good start for her.
Justine Henin was able to methodically put Myskina under pressure in the first set. The Russian held firm to the very last moment when the Belgian was able to break and close the opener by the score of 7-5.
It was a tough blow for the third seed, and she wasn’t at her best at the start of the second set. Henin was able to build a 4-2, and it looked like she was cruising. At this point, Myskina realized she had nothing to lose and started to be a bit more aggressive.
Her baseline shots were more powerful and often found the corners of the court. Henin was on the back foot and got nervous. Her opponent took full advantage and turned it around to win the set with a couple of breaks.
Myskina rode the momentum and simply destroyed the world number one at the start of the third. She built a 5-1 lead, and Henin looked done and dusted. What happened next can be described as one of the biggest chokes in tennis history.
The Russian’s performance suddenly dropped, and Henin started pushing hard. The Belgian took full advantage of her opponent’s issues, proving that she was the best in the world at the time.
Henin dismantled Myskina to complete one of the most amazing comebacks in the sport, beating her 8-6 in the final set. It’s hard to determine the main reason behind this incredible turn of events. The Belgian deserves credit for showing amazing skill and willpower, but the collapse of Myskina certainly made this possible.
The match had a huge influence on the careers of both players. Henin marched on to win the gold medal and become one of the best players of the decade, while Myskina collapsed and never reached the heights of 2004 in her career again.
David Nalbandian vs. Roger Federer
Beating Roger Federer in his best year is an achievement very few men not named Rafa Nadal have accomplished. The Swiss maestro was almost untouchable with his aggressive and elegant brand of tennis.
Federer was capable of finding all kinds of winners but also had the stamina and mentality of a true champion. The future legend was having the best season of his life, chasing the record of John McEnroe for the most successful performance within one calendar year in 2005.
In the last tournament of the year, the ATP Finals — called the Tennis Masters Cup at the time — he won the three group matches and then the semi-final for 81 wins and 3 losses. Roger had the chance to tie with McEnroe’s 82-3 from 1984.
He had only one man to beat for the record, but this was one of the few players on the circuit that wasn’t afraid of the world number one. David Nalbandian had some spectacular clashes with Federer, and there were glimpses of what was to come in the group stage.
The Argentinian was able to win a set and push Fed to the limit. Most people expected at least some resistance in the final, too, but what happened was even better than that.
The favorite was broken in the very first game and had to work really hard to return the favor. He barely made it to a tiebreak but remained calm to beat Nalbandian 7-4 and snatch the first set. Federer’s serve and a fluke at the net made the difference.
The second set was even tighter, and neither of the players was able to close it before the tiebreak. This time around, Nalbandian was more focused and put up a real fight. He could’ve won the set if it wasn’t for a close call from the umpire when he was leading 5-3.
The TV replays showed that the Argentinian should’ve had three set points, but the score was 5-4 instead. Federer took full advantage of this opportunity and closed the tiebreak by 13-11.
Most players in the world would crumble at this point and simply surrender the third set. After all, Nalbandian gave it his all but was still 2-0 down against the best player on the tour. But he had other ideas and transformed his frustration into sheer determination.
Another fact that helped his cause was that Federer’s stamina wasn’t at the usual level at the end of a gruesome season for the world number one. The effort so far had tired the Swiss maestro, and Nalbandian didn’t hesitate for a moment.
He was devastating in the next two sets, toying with the fatigued Federer at times and winning comfortably by scores of 6-2 and 6-1 respectively.
Nalbandian was flying at this point of the match and quickly built a 4-0 lead in the deciding fight set. It was time for Federer to show his resilience, and he miraculously improved his game drastically to even the score.
He continued pushing and had the chance to serve for the match at 6-5. Federer won the first two points, but Nalbandian fired a couple of winners to break in the most crucial moment. He then carried on the same form in the tiebreak and finally closed the match.
It was one of the most dramatic encounters you’ll ever see, and both men gave everything. There were tons of fantastic winners and a number of twists.
Elena Dementieva vs. Dinara Safina
A lot of people have probably forgotten about this match, as it certainly wasn’t among the best in history in terms of the quality of the tennis displayed by both contestants.
And yet, it was a more than decent clash that brought joy to one of the most underrated players ever. Elena Dementieva was often labeled as the most talented women to never win a Grand Slam. One of the reasons is related to her birth year.
It matches a certain Serena Williams, who was extremely dominant and won loads of Grand Slams. Dementieva actually had a solid head-to-head record against the American, winning 5 of their 12 meetings, but this wasn’t enough.
The Russian was only capable of reaching two finals and a couple of semi-finals in the Big Four, failing to go all the way during her career.
It was a cruel fate for someone as talented as her, but she did have one moment of glory that will live forever, and it came in the 2008 Olympics.
Dementieva had a rough road to the finals, beating the likes of Kateryna Bondarenko and a young Caroline Wozniacki in the early rounds. Many expected her to bow down in the quarter-finals, as she had to face Serena Williams.
The American was eager to add the gold medal to her collection, but Dementieva was sublime, beating her two sets to one. She also handled compatriot Vera Zvonareva in the semis to book a meeting with another Russian, Dinara Safina.
Her opponent was in her peak years, and the expectations were for a close match. The pair already had one dramatic encounter this season when Safina performed an insane comeback from 4-6 2-5 down to win a quarter-final at the French Open.
Dementieva was hungry for revenge but was too tense at the start, allowing Safina to break early in the first set. This was enough for the 6-3 win, as the younger of the two Russians held her service games rather comfortably.
The key to this match was the second set that included sublime tennis from both women. They battled for more than an hour, and the aggression on both sides was simply stunning. Both Russians were looking for powerful winners, which also brought some unforced errors.
It was a feast for the crowd, as the intensity was absolutely insane. Neither of the players was ready to back down, but it was Dementieva who was capable of finding the better precision and snatching the set with a break in the last minute.
The 7-5 defeat in the second took too much from Safina, both physically and mentally. She failed to find any consistency in the deciding set and lost 6-3.
It was Dementieva’s proudest moment and biggest triumph. She was in tears after the final and finally got the glory she deserved.
The history of tennis features so many unbelievable matches that some of you will probably be disappointed by our list because you won’t see your favorite encounters included.
The truth is, it’s close to impossible to add every single clash that deserves it. The page would become enormous, so we had to leave some out.
Please, don’t judge us too harshly if you don’t completely agree with our selection of the greatest tennis matches of all time.