The Australian Open starts in under a week - and to get us excited about this year's event we decided to pick our top five matches since 2000.
5. Andy Roddick beat Younes El Aynaoui 4-6 7-6 4-6 6-4 21-19, quarter-final, 2003
An absolute epic between a young pup in Roddick (who was just 20 at the time) and a 31-year-old veteran. This one just ran and ran, even if it might now seem a little tame for the Isner-Mahut generation. The final set saw 20 games in a row go the way of service before Roddick finally found a breakthrough - but El Aynaoui amazingly broke straight back to extend the match. When it was finally over, 83 games had been played in just one minute under five hours.
Key quote - Andy Roddick: "Strategy was out the door late on in the fifth set. It was just pure fighting. This was more about heart."
4. Andre Agassi beat Pete Sampras 6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6 6-1, semi-final, 2000
Agassi-Sampras clashes were always a joy to watch as they represented such a great contrast in styles - Sampras with his bullet of a serve and Agassi with his amazing returning powers. Sampras had his best shot zeroed in during the match and fired 37 aces - yet still lost! The third and fourth sets were of superb quality; Sampras won the third set break to love but Agassi shifted the momentum by winning the fourth. Then early in the final set a diving volley from Agassi after some incredible defensive work helped him win a key point and finally break the Sampras spirit. The crowd then roared him home to victory on a memorable night in Melbourne.
Key quote - Andre Agassi: "It's quite a feeling out there, almost like you are at a concert. Your ears are ringing, you can't hear. You can't even hear yourself grunt when you are playing the points. It's quite an atmosphere, and then in some strange way it's incredibly silent in your mind. When you can experience it on that level it's quite a memory."
3. Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2, final, 2009
You could make a strong argument that this match, more than any other, represented the point where Federer was overtaken by Nadal, as the Spaniard outlasted the then world number one to back up his success at Wimbledon six months previous. The first four sets were truly epic, with both players playing at the height of their powers. Unfortunately, Federer faded in the final set and that is perhaps the only reason the match is not even higher on our list. Federer broke down in tears while being interviewed during the post-match presentation - a heartbreaking end to not just a sensational match, but an incredible tournament that was loaded with classics.
Key quote - Roger Federer (in a courtside interview after the match): "God, it's killing me."
2. Rafael Nadal beat Fernando Verdasco 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-7 6-4, semi-final, 2009
Number two in our list makes Nadal's achievement in winning our number three match all the more remarkable because the Spaniard needed every ounce of his quality and strength to beat Verdasco in an absolute belter. In many ways Verdasco was the real story of this match as he reached a super-human level of quality we haven't seen from him before or since. He hit 95 clean winners against Nadal in a tussle that lasted five hours and 14 minutes. Nadal hadn't dropped a set in the tournament before the match and in their previous meeting at the French Open in 2008 Verdasco had won just three games. However, this one ebbed and flowed and at various stages it looked like Verdasco would cause a huge shock; the fact that he didn't tells you all you need to know about Nadal.
Key quote - Rafael Nadal: "He deserved to reach the final too because he played amazing."
1. Marat Safin beat Roger Federer 5-7 6-4 5-7 7-6 9-7, semi-final, 2005
There are many matches you could choose to emphasise Roger Federer's immense fighting spirit; but perhaps this match, despite his defeat, is the finest example of all. Federer saved six match points while clearly injured in a thrilling final set that concluded a contest of immense quality. And what can we say about Safin? His record on paper is that of an inconsistent player who had some good moments, but this match showed that he could be a true genius on his day - up there with the very best of all time. Simply put, this was one the greatest, highest-quality matches of all time.
Key quote - Marat Safin: "It's like a brain fight against each other. It's Roger Federer, so already psychologically it's really difficult. He puts you under pressure, no matter how many match points you have. I have lost to him seven times and he's just so good. It's a little difficult to explain what I am feeling right now."
Honourable mentions: Rafael Nadal beat Andy Murray 6-7 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-1, fourth round, 2007; Lleyton Hewitt beat Marcos Baghdatis 4-6 7-5 7-5 6-7(4) 6-3, third round, 2008; Marat Safin beat Andre Agassi 7-6, 7-6 5-7 1-6 6-3, semi-final, 2004; Fernando Gonzalez beat Richard Gasquet 3-6 3-6 7-6 6-2 12-10, third round, 2009; Guillermo Canas beat Tim Henman 6-7 5-7 7-6 7-5 9-7, third round, 2004; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Nicholas Almagro 6-3 6-4 4-6 6-7 9-7, fourth round, 2010; Fernando Gonzalez beat Richard Gasquet 3-6 3-6 7-6 6-2 12-10, third round, 2009.
And the top five women's matches:
5. Serena Williams beat Venus Williams 7-6 3-6 6-4, final, 2003
The All-Williams clashes often lack the edge of other rivalries but the simple quality of this match sets it apart.
4. Martin Hingis beat Serena Willians 6-2 3-6 8-6, quarter-final, 2001
Hingis neutralises Serena's power game in fine style to secure a memorable victory.
3. Jelena Dokic beat Alisa Kleybanova 7-5 5-7 9-7, fourth round, 2009
Forgotten woman Dokic delights the home fans in a thrilling contest.
2. Serena Williams beat Kim Clijsters 4-6 6-3 7-5, semi-final, 2003
The key match for Serena on her way to the 'Serena Slam'. 5-1 down in the fifth she fought like a lion to get the win.
1. Jennifer Capriati beat Martina Hingis 4-6 7-6 6-2, final, 2002
Incredible drama in searing 46C degree heat. Capriati fought from a set and 4-0 down to win.
What are your favourite Oz Open moments? Leave your thoughts below.
TRAMLINES READERS' CORNER
As a previous winner of our caption competition nacflynn has won the right to write 100 words about the tennis subject of his choice - and he has come up with a brilliant ode to game we love. Great job, Nick!
Ode to Wimbledon
Rafa likes to pick his pants
Whilst Novak bounces balls
McEnroe still raves and rants
And Becker took some falls
Borg the iceman never spoke
Whilst Conners stared them down
Lendl couldn't take a joke
And boy could Nasty frown!
Federer has guile and grace
Whilst Sampras stuck his tongue out
Tanner served with awesome pace
And Henman suffered doubt
Goran pulled it off at last
Whilst Murray leaves us waiting
Andre was supremely fast
And Rafter had girls fainting
So Wimbledon has seen it all
The drama, sweat and tension
And all the players standing tall
Can thank this great invention
LAST WEEK'S CAPTION COMPETITION
Congratulations to glufoot1 for his winning entry in the caption competition for the below photo: "Kim, I know we have to keep still for the photo, but was it really necessary to superglue our heads together?"
That means, glufoot1, you get to take over Readers' Corner. Email your 100 words on any tennis subject you like (within reason of course!) into us at email@example.com, and TL will publish them in a future blog.
THIS WEEK'S CAPTION COMPETITION
For the rest of you, here is this week's photo. Come up with a caption, leave it below and TL will pick the best for next week.
THIS WEEK IN TENNIS
It is the final tune-up before the Australian Open. The men are in Sydney and Auckland. Juan Martin Del Potro is looking to build up some fitness in Sydney with Sam Querrey, Ernests Gulbis and Richard Gasquet also in the field. The Auckland draw is headed by David Ferrer while John Isner will look to defend his title.
The women are also in Sydney with Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva, Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur heading a quality field. Down in Tasmania, Marion Bartoli is the top seed for the WTA Hobart event - Britain's Elena Baltacha is also in the field.
Robin Soderling's win in Brisbane sees him move up to four in the rankings which could mean a tough draw for Andy Murray at the Australian Open.
No big moves in the women's top 20, but Maria Sharapova is up two places to number 16 which could help her bid at the Australian Open. Greta Arn, surprise winner at the WTA Auckland event, has jumped 30 spots from 88 to 58.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
Winner: "Mahut in a dress = awesome!!" Can't argue with you, Bethanie Mattek.
Runner-up: "Venus is in Australia. I have renamed her dog, raided her closet and moved into her room! I'm the perfect little sister..." Serena Williams on the perks of being injured.
Wooden Spoon: "Raining in Auckland" - Is that all you have for us, Julia Goerges?
A-BOG v A-BOG
Still waiting for both these guys to make their 2011 debut so no scores this week.
Standings: A-Bog (US) 20-12 A-Bog (GB) (season 0-0)
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