(NOTE: Tennis quiz answers below)
Here’s a look at a few happenings in the 2013 tennis year that might have turned out differently but for the fickle finger of fate.
1. In tennis, the equivalent of the old expression “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings” might be “it ain’t over until the ball bounces twice.”
Novak Djokovic (questioning umpire Pascal Maria above) understands that all too well after touching the net while hitting a high forehand volley put-away that would have given him a point for a 5-3 lead in the fifth set of his French Open semi-final against Rafael Nadal. Djokovic had made winning Roland Garros his main goal for 2013 so it was a crushing loss when Nadal eventually broke him to level at 4-all and went on to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7.
Ironically, there had been something similar 17 months earlier when Djokovic looked about to go down 5-2 in the fifth set of their 5 hour-and 53-minute final at the 2012 Australian Open only to watch as Nadal uncharacteristically missed a make-able backhand that would have given him a 4-2, 40-15 lead.
At Roland Garros in June, Nadal was able to take advantage of Djokovic’s mishap and then went on to dispatch David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in the final for a record eighth Roland Garros title.
2. Agnieszka Radwanska def. Li Na 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2, Wimbledon quarter-final:
This may have been the most blatant example of a fateful moment in 2013. Serving at 5-4 and holding the advantage (set point) against the fourth-seeded Radwanska on Centre Court, Li hit a first serve that was called out. The umpire confirmed the call and Li elected not to challenge even though she had all three of her challenges remaining.
Hawk-Eye technology subsequently showed that the serve was good – it caught the sideline.
So, Li should have won the set and had a very good chance to go on and win the match against a Radwanska who was bothered by upper leg issues.
Seeded No. 6, Li would then have played 23rd seed Sabine Lisicki in the semi-final and ultimately Marion Bartoli, No. 15, in the final. She had won her most recent matches with both Lisicki and Bartoli, so she would have had a real chance to become Wimbledon champion in a year when the top three players – Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova – were ousted before the quarter-finals. It’s hard to imagine what Li winning tennis’ most prestigious tournament would have meant to China and its 1.35 billion inhabitants.
Pictured above with coach Carlos Rodriguez before Wimbledon began, Li later said about missing that opportunity on the set point against Radwanska, “next time I will challenge for sure.”
3. In back-to-back matches at the US Open and then in the semi-finals of Davis Cup versus Serbia in Belgrade, Milos Raonic came out on the losing and winning ends of a match point situation.
In a round-of-16 night match (above) at Flushing Meadows against Richard Gasquet, he was beaten 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(9), 7-5. Up 8-7 in the fourth set tiebreak, Raonic had match point but missed long with a backhand passing shot when Gasquet went to the net.
Facing Janko Tipsarevic with Serbia leading 1-0 on the first day of the Davis Cup World Group semi-final last September, Raonic prevailed 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.
Leading 5-4 in the fifth set, Tipsarevic had a match point but missed just long with a lob after Raonic had made a move to the net.
At the US Open, if he had won against Gasquet, Raonic would have reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final and played against No. 4 seed David Ferrer – whom Gasquet subsequently defeated.
In Belgrade (above), had he lost to Tipsarevic it would have been harder for Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil to be pumped up for their eventual thrilling 10-8 in the fifth set doubles victory over Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic, and the tie might well have ended uneventfully 3-0 for the host team.
4. Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-7(1), 7-5, 6-2 in the third round of the US Open doubles event.
Just having broken serve and leading 7-6(1), 4-3, 15-love, Nestor and Pospisil looked to have taken a 30-love lead when a high Bryan lob landed near the net and was called out as Pospsil waited to make a seemingly easy put-away. But the Bryans challenged the call and Hawk-Eye revealed that the ball touched the line and the point had to be replayed. The Bryans won the replayed point and that completely changed the momentum of the match. With Nestor struggling in the humid conditions that give him trouble, the tide turned and the twins came back to win. What was ironic about that point in the eighth game of the second set was that Pospisil had thought about hitting the ball in the air but decided to let it bounce.
Feeling the pressure of attempting to complete a calendar Grand Slam, the Bryans weren’t at their best in New York and eventually lost in the semi-finals to Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.
5. Vasek Pospisil was involved in another strange result at the US Open, his 4-6, 3-6, 7-6(9), 6-2, 7-6(10) loss to Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil in the opening round.
In a match played over two days, Pospisil failed to convert an agonizing seven match points – including three with Dutra Silva serving at love-40 at 5-6 in the final set.
But the point that really infuriated Pospisil occurred with the score knotted at 10-all in the final-set tiebreak when a return of serve by the Brazilian appeared to land long and was called out by the linesperson. Umpire Mohamed El Jennati over-ruled the call and would not change his mind when Pospisil (see above) angrily showed him how far out he had seen the ball.
It was a tough loss to the 29-year-old qualifier and Pospisil later conceded that the anticipation of playing Rafael Nadal in the second round probably affected him.
Briefly, here are some more memorable reversals of fortune and surprises that highlighted 2013.
REPRESENTING THE MAPLE LEAF
Milos Raonic has always been known as a basketball fan. So, who knew he could give such a detailed analysis of whom he thinks should be on the Canadian Olympic hockey team for Sochi.
Here is what he told HockeyCanada.ca.
GENIUS/JOKER TENNIS QUIZ
1. How does a tournament determine whose name goes on top on the scoreboard?
a. it’s done alphabetically
b. it’s done by ranking
c. it’s done according to who serves first
d. it’s done by position in the draw
2. How many bottles of champagne does it take to fill the Davis Cup?
c. it cannot be filled because there’s a tiny hole in the bowl
d. 32 ½ bottles if chilled at 7 degrees C.
3. This picture of Frank Dancevic was taken during the 2013 US Open. There seems to be a square shape in his hair. When shown the picture, what was his reaction?
a. “That’s hilarious I never noticed!”
b. “My wife messed up when she was cutting my hair.”
c. “My barber tried to cut a ‘maple leaf’ in my hair.”
d. “The ice inside my hat must have left that shape.”
4. Hypothetical: Federer serves a clean ace against Nadal but Rafa notices that the ball is broken (cracked) and shows it to the umpire. What happens?
a. it still counts as an ace
b. it’s not counted and the serve is replayed
c. it’s a judgment call by the umpire
d. the ball is repaired and put back in play
5. Where (left to right) do the interviewee (left) and the two interviewers pictured above come from?
a. South Africa, Sweden and USA.
b. Poland, South Africa and Britain
c. Germany, USA and Belgium
d. Poland, Sweden and Britain
NOTE - (left to right) Jerzy Janowicz, Mats Wilander, Annabel Croft
6. On June 25, 1984, a player walked onto Centre Court at Wimbledon wearing a pair of dark blue shorts (strictly prohibited by Wimbledon’s ‘predominantly white’ rule). He was, of course, told to change. Who was he?
a. Slobodan Zivojinovic
b. Ilie Nastase
c. Buster Mottram
d. John McEnroe
7. The chairman of the All England Club between 1983 and 1989 was R.E.H. (Reginald Edward Hawke) ‘Buzzer’ Hadingham. How did he get the name Buzzer?
a. it was a mispronunciation of the word “brother” by one of his siblings.
b. because he had to default the final of the St. Paul’s Public School tennis tournament when he was stung by a bee
c. because as a teacher at St. Paul’s he introduced a buzzer to replace the traditional bell that signaled the end of classes.
d. because he once smoked marijuana before umpiring a county match in Dorset.
8. What’s the absolute maximum number of points a player can earn in the ATP rankings in one year? For reference, No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal finished with 13,030 in 2013, Novak Djokovic had 12,260.
NOTE - mistake here - answer should be 21,150, and don’t even think about an Olympic year!
9. This couple, photographed at Wimbledon in 2012, are both from:
NOTE - Kirilenko and Ovechkin
10. What happens when a serve hits the singles stick on the net and lands good – or when the ball hits the singles stick during a point and lands good?
a. in both cases it does not count
b. in both cases the ball is in play
c. on serve it counts but is not good during a rally
d. on serve it’s not good but it counts during a rally
11. Who is this out-of-focus player on the 2012 US Open practice courts?
a. Roger Federer
b. Milos Raonic
c. Brian Baker
d. David Ferrer
NOTE - Raonic with former coach Blanco in background
12. When was the last time Queen Elizabeth II appeared for a champion’s presentation ceremonies at Wimbledon?
a. when Virginia Wade won in 1977.
b. when Pete Sampras won in 1993.
c. when Evonne Goolagong won in 1980.
d. when the ceremony was moved to Ascot in 1971.
13. Who is this man in a suit at the ’13 US Open?
a. Roger Federer’s agent Tony Godsick
b. tennis writer Jon Wertheim
c. new ATP executive chairman Chris Kermode
d. Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale
14. In which Grand Slam country would you expect to find this sign?
NOTE - Wollong is south of Sydney, Australia
15. Who was the last man to win a Grand Slam singles tournament using a wood racquet?
a. Yannick Noah at the 1983 French Open
b. Brian Teacher at the 1980 Australian Open
c. John McEnroe at the 1984 US Open
d. Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1980
16. Who was the last woman to win a Grand Slam singles title using a wood racquet?
a. Hana Mandlikova at the 1985 US Open
b. Chris Evert at the 1982 Australian Open
c. Chris Evert at the 1983 French Open
d. Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980
17. Which one of these four men has been in a Grand Slam final?
a. end left
b. middle left
c. middle right
d. end right
NOTE - 1994 French Open runner-up Alberto Berasategui
18. If a second serve tips the top of the net and then directly hits the receiver before landing, what’s the ruling?
a. the point is replayed
b. the receiver loses the point
c. the second serve is replayed
d. point is replayed if it hits the receiver’s feet
19. Who is Eugenie Bouchard’s doubles partner in this picture?
a. a Brit
b. a Croat
c. a Russian
d. a Ukrainian
NOTE - Petra Martic of Croatia
20. What do these two guys have in common?
a. both are Davis Cup captains
b. both have career wins over a world No. 1
c. both have played in a record-setting (duration) Grand Slam match
d. both have played in wrap-around sunglasses on the ATP tour.
NOTE - Arnaud Clément and Martin Laurendeau
21. The 1968 British Hard Court Championships was the first ‘open’ tournament where amateurs and professionals were allowed to compete against each other. What is the irony of the tournament’s name?
a. it was played on clay
b. it was played on grass
c. it was played in Malaga, Spain
d. only Her Majesty’s subjects in Fred Perry clothing were permitted to play
22. These two guys are:
a. well-known Hollywood actors
c. ATP tour umpires
d. the 1986 Wimbledon doubles champions
NOTE - Patrick and John McEnroe
23. If a ball loses its pressure but is not broken, and the player losing the point shows it to the umpire, what happens?
a. point is replayed if umpire discards the ball
b. point stands
c. point is replayed and new ball introduced
d. umpire (if Lahyani) puts ball in pocket and smiles
24. What’s happening in this picture from Court 1 at Roland Garros in 2013?
a. Milos Raonic’s shirt is unraveling
b. a black ball from the crowd is narrowly missing Raonic
c. a tennis reporter is affecting a Parisian scarf look
d. Raonic’s agent Amit Naor is watching him
NOTE - with yours truly the quizmaster
25. What’s with the green mat (top) at the Royal Box end of Centre Court during the last match at Wimbledon in 2013, the mixed doubles final?
a. it’s covering a mess after a pitcher of Pimms toppled from the Royal Box
b. mat is 12 inches wide so it stays out of view of the patrons in the front row of the Royal Box
c. it is “Spring Green 3” on the universal colour chart, closest to Centre Court grass
d. none of the above
WINNER: Justine Long. She got 17 correct out of 24 and was tied with Irving Ho and Anna Livshits.