“Statement Win”–not only defeating your opponent, but accomplishing other victories in the process. Whether it be overcoming a lopsided head-to-head record, putting a beat-down on a top rival, getting your name out to the world, or simply playing your best tennis, a statement win is about more than just a notch in the win column. (See also: highlight win, signature win, etc.)
2014 was another incredible year in tennis, and with the season wrapping up, The Tennis Nerds will look back and highlight some of the best moments from the past twelve months. We’ll try to stray from the norm–“Best points” “Best matches” etc–and give a little variety for our readers. You can find the Top 10 matches of the year just about anywhere. Today, I countdown the Top 10 Statement Wins of 2014. Comment if you agree/disagree or have thoughts on the best statement wins of the year!
10. Kei Nishikori d. Novak Djokovic 6-3 1-6 7-6(4) 6-3 US Open SF
Nishikori was the young gun who made the best breakthrough in 2014, finishing the year ranked a career high #5 in the world and reaching a Grand Slam final in the process. After two five-set marathon wins over Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka, few if any expected Nishikori to have much left in the tank for his Semifinal showdown with Novak Djokovic. He had been hampered by a recurring left foot injury for much of the summer, and looked out of the tournament when he took a medical timeout trailing two sets to one against Raonic. To add insult to injury, Nishikori had spent over 8 hours on court in his previous two matches. A windy day in Flushing led to some inconsistent play early, but after Djokovic won the second set 6-1, Nishikori looked on the ropes. He refused to give in to the sweltering heat of that day, and pulled off a shocking upset over the World #1. More shocking? He beat him at his own game.
9. Stan Wawrinka d. Roger Federer 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2 Monte Carlo F
The fact that Wawrinka is only on this list once is probably a huge mistake on my part. His 5 set epic over Djokovic was deserving, but I felt that this win was actually more significant in terms of mental strength. Coming into the final, Federer led the head to head matchup with his Swiss friend 13-1. FIFTEEN TO ONE. Federer owned his compatriot. Stan struggled not as much with forehands and backhands, but with his head. Mentally he was inferior. So when he lost the first set–playing pretty well–the outcome of the match looked clear. Federer was going to win his first Monte Carlo title. Wawrinka started to hold serve much easier in the second set, and although he gave up a break lead, the Lausanne native sealed the second set tiebreak with a serve and volley overhead winner. He ran away with the third set, tearing the cover off the ball on both wings. Federer was not playing poorly whatsoever, but Wawrinka was just too good.
8. Federer d. Murray 6-0 6-1 ATP World Tour Finals RR
By scoreline alone this one could have been number one. Andy Murray had a subpar 2014 campaign, but looked to be back in good form during the fall season. He won titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia to earn himself a spot in the World Tour Finals. His match with Federer was his final round robin match, and he needed a straight sets win to reach the semifinals. Playing in front of a home London crowd, Murray laid an egg, while Federer was on fire. If it weren’t for a few bad unforced errors at 6-0 5-0, Federer would have delivered the Scot a double bagel. Still, Federer proved that he was in far superior form, attacking second serves and approaching the net at will. He was off the court in 56 minutes, handing Murray the worst loss of his career.
It was so bad there aren’t even highlights on YouTube! (But here’s a Hotshot)
7. Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-3 Miami F
Djokovic came into the Miami final having just won Indian Wells. He was attempting the difficult IW-Miami double in back to back weeks, and had to face one Rafael Nadal in the final. What unfolded was a comprehensive, dominant performance. Djokovic went at the Nadal forehand relentlessly, which opened his two best attacking shots; the inside out forehand and backhand down the line. He was in full flight on return, putting everything Nadal threw at him within feet of the baseline. The last few matches of this rivalry had been back and forth, with Nadal winning 3 of the last 5. You felt like this match would serve as a good barometer to show where each player was at, and it did. Match point was pretty decent as well.
6. Marin Cilic d. Roger Federer 6-3 6-3 6-4 US Open SF
Hard to find words for this one. Just a look at the score pretty much tells the story. After looking….shaky against Gilles Simon in the fourth round of the US Open, Cilic started playing the best tennis of his career. This match was astonishing in particular. His liability in years past was often his forehand, but he was outhitting even Federer on that side. He was standing up on the baseline, giving his opponent nothing to work with. Federer wasn’t great, but he also wasn’t bad, which made this result one of the most surprising of 2014. The crowd tried to get Federer into the match throughout, but Cilic silenced them on every occasion with booming serves and flat, penetrating groundstrokes. Cilic claimed his first win in six tries over the 17-time major winner, and went on to beat Nishikori for his first Grand Slam title.
5. Rafael Nadal d. Andy Murray 6-3 6-2 6-1 French Open SF
It was a down year by Nadal’s insane standard, but he managed to win his 9th Rolland Garros title in relatively simple fashion, dropping only two sets the entire tournament. His most impressive performance came in the semifinals against Murray, who appeared to be back in good form after struggling with his return from back injury. Murray had taken Nadal the distance in Rome just two weeks prior, and this semifinal had the chance to replicate that competitive scoreline. It didn’t. Things started off badly for Murray, and they didn’t get any better. Nadal had time on all his shots, and was dictating play from the get-go. Yes, Nadal is the undisputed clay court GOAT, but to beat one of his best rivals, only losing 6 games in the process was a massive effort.
http://youtu.be/UDS-Mgh7wbg (FFT disables embedded video)
4. Novak Djokovic d. Tomas Berdych 6-0 6-2 Beijing F
Beijing seems to treat Djokovic pretty well. He’s won the 500 event all five times he’s chosen to play it. In fact, he’s only dropped *THREE SETS* in 24 matches played. The final in 2014 was, in a way, just another dominant performance from the Serb. But this might have been the best match Djokovic has ever played. Save for getting broken at 6-0 5-0, the world #1 played flawless tennis. He broke Berdych’s serve six times and never looked troubled. The quotes from both players after the match tell the story.
Berdych: “I just said to my coach now that I probably played over 700 matches in my career, and I met guys like Andre, Roger, all those probably in their best times. But I have never, ever experienced anything like that.”
Djokovic: “This has been, in the circumstances, probably the best performance of any final in my career. I have played some great finals, had some convincing wins, some straight-set wins against top rivals. But with this kind of performance and with this domination result-wise, I mean it’s never happened.”
3. Roger Federer d. Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 Shanghai SF
As stated in #4, Djokovic was playing unbelievably well during the fall swing. When Federer and Djokovic set the semifinal showdown in Shanghai, Novak was the betting favorite. Still, most in tennis expected a fascinating encounter. Well, it was fascinating. Djokovic played well, but the guy on the other side of the net was a different animal. Federer turned back the clock, and played as well as I’ve seen from him in years. The Edberg net-attacking gameplan coupled with an aggressive baseline game put Federer in vintage form. Vintage is a word that is used too often with Federer, but this really was a vintage performance. Federer halted Djokovic’s incredible 28 match win streak in China, sending a message that he was not going to finish the year quietly.
Federer: “It was a great match, I agree. I think I played very well. There was nothing in the game today that wasn’t working. I think it was a high-level match. I’m unbelievably happy with the way it went.”
Djokovic: “I think I did not play too bad.It’s just that he played everything he wanted to play. He played the perfect match. I think he’s going to tell you how he felt, but that’s how I felt he played. He played an amazing match.”
2. Grigor Dimitrov d. Andy Murray 6-1 7-6(5) 6-2 Wimbledon QF
I’m guessing that many of you will think I’m putting this too high on the list. (And please, let me know what you think!) But when I first came up with the idea for this Top 10, this match was the first thing that came to mind. Murray(on the wrong side of this list for the third time) was truly playing well at Wimbledon through the first four rounds. He had not dropped a set, while Dimitrov had just scraped through a 5 setter with Alex Dolgopolov. But Dimitrov was on a mission during this quarterfinal. He had already made the QFs at the Australian Open, and won two titles in 2014–Acapulco and Bucharest. But the Bulgarian made his official arrival to the top of the sport at SW19, blowing Murray off the court in the process. After every game you thought that Murray would find a way back, but he didn’t come close. Dimitrov’s shotmaking was incredible, and his backhand slice proved critical in a straight set dismantling of the defending champion.
1. Nick Kyrgios d. Rafael Nadal 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3 Wimbledon R16
Finally! Number 1. (It took way too long to write this) Is there really any other option here? Kyrgios, 19, went out onto Center Court at the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, and took out Rafael Nadal in stunning fashion. Nadal certainly did play poorly. The match was taken out of his hands by the young Australian, who was bursting with confidence. Kyrgrios’ win was pretty much the definition of a breakout performance. Ranked outside the top 100 at the time of their meeting, Kyrgios looked like he belonged from the onset. Dozens of aces, massive winners, and even a jaw-dropping tweener set the tone as Kyrgios shocked the tennis world. (Actually, he actually shocked the ENTIRE world because of the Drake Drama!)