In light of Novak Djokovic’s hard-fought 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 victory over the 15th seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday, I’ve decided to rank the most epic tennis Grand Slam matches of the last five years. Tennis fans have been treated to some incredibly intense matches in a very short amount of time, so let’s count them down.
9) Lukas Rosol def. Rafael Nadal: 2012 Wimbledon second round 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
This one was a huge shocker. Nobody foresaw the Czech taking down the at-the-time 2nd best player in the world. Nadal survived a close first set but then fell behind two sets to one. After recovering in the fourth everyone thought the fifth set would easily go to the Spaniard, but Rosol prevailed, giving Nadal the unexpected early boot.
8) Federer outlasts Roddick: 2009 Wimbledon Final 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14
It was a surprise Roddick got to the Finals, and few gave him a chance against the great Roger Federer. But the Roddick that showed up that day was like the Andy of 2003. It was an absolutely epic fifth set which would seemingly never end. Roddick held serve over and over but in his last service game, down 14-15, Federer finally broke him to take the marathon set and claim his sixth Wimbledon title.
7) Nadal def. Fernando Verdasco: 2009 Australian Semis 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4
The battle of the Spaniards did not disappoint as the then-top-seeded Nadal took on his fellow countryman. It was tough from the start, as Rafa fell to Fernando in a first-set tie break. After regaining momentum and taking the second and third sets, Verdasco hung tough and won the fourth before finally falling to the higher seed. The match took over five hours, and most thought it would take all the strength out of Nadal for the final.
6) Nadal def. Federer: 2009 Australian Open Final 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2
It didn’t. Nadal faced the always formidable man from Switzerland just one day after the grueling match against Verdasco and miraculously triumphed. How he had anything left in the tank to defeat such a difficult opponent is beyond explanation, but in a four hour and 22 minute final, Nadal found a way to get it done to claim his first Aussie Open title.
5) Djokovic def. Nadal: 2012 Australian Open Final 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5
A nearly six-hour-long match could not possibly be left off the countdown. This was the third consecutive final between these superstars. Djokovic had gotten the better of Nadal in both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals the year before (6–4, 6–1, 1–6, 6–3 and 6–2, 6–4, 6–7(3), 6–1, respectively), so there was a lot on the line. This win for the Djoker solidified his presence as one of the all-time greats. Both men painstakingly grinded out an epic five-setter with Novak finally prevailing for his third Australian Open title.
4) Juan Martin del Potro stuns Federer: 2009 U.S. Open Final 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2
Few people thought del Potro could get passed Nadal in the semifinals, and he did. Easily. 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. Despite that decisive win, even fewer thought he’d defeat Federer on the hard-courts of Arthur Ashe stadium. But he did. In a long, tiring match the 6’6” Argentine beat out the heavily-favored Federer en route to his first, and to this day only, major title.
3) Murray def. Djokovic: 2012 U.S. Open Final 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2
So many people were pulling for Andy Murray to finally get over the hump and win his first career major title, breaking Britain’s title drought. He had come so close so many times before eventually falling to one of the three men ahead of him in the rankings. After getting off to a great start with a tough-fought first-set tie break win, Murray backed it up by taking the second set. In his typical style, however, Novak came clawing back to force a fifth set after winning the third and fourth. But the Scot regrouped, and eventually took the decisive set so hush critics everywhere who doubted his ability to get it done.
2) Nadal asserts himself against Federer: 2008 Wimbledon Final 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7
Many claim this match was the greatest match ever in the Open Era, and there’s a good reason for that. Coming into this match Federer was the five-time defending Wimbledon champion. But even faced with the enormous task of taking down the master, Nadal came out strong, winning the first two sets. But then in two incredibly punishing tie breaks, Federer tied it up. Both players also dealt with weather complications, as rain delays stopped play multiple times throughout the contest. When it finally reached the fifth, everyone watching probably had the feeling it wouldn’t be the typical 6-4 set. And it wasn’t. Neither player would give an inch as the tug-of-war match marched on. Finally, Nadal broke Federer’s serve to go up 8-7 before finally serving it out. The victory gave Nadal his first major title away from the clay courts of Roland Garros. Moreover, Rafa would go on to gain the number-one world ranking two months later, a position Federer had held for 237 straight weeks.
1) John Isner prevails over Nicolas Mahut: 2010 Wimbledon first round 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68
Yes, that says 70-68. It’s surprising that, in an era of tennis filled with absurd finals between incredibly skilled players, our number one epic match goes to a meeting between a 23-seed and a French qualifier in the first round. But this match was just absolutely nuts. Played over the course of three days, the match clocked in at 11 hours, five minutes. The final set itself took over eight hours, but even without the final set, this match was still incredibly impressive, complete with two hard-fought tie breakers. It’s unlikely either of these men will ever win a major title, but they will forever be known in the tennis world for delivering one of the most entertaining marathon matches in the history of the sport. Not to mention the number of records that fell. Isner broke the record for number of aces in a match with 113. Add in Mahut’s 103 and that absolutely obliterates the previous record of total aces in a match. They also set the record for consecutive service games held, at 84 apiece. It was by far the most epic tennis match ever played.
Francesca Schiavone outlasts Svetlana Kuznetsova: 2011 Australian Open Fourth Round 6-4, 1-6, 16-14
We can’t leave out the ladies. These women battled it out in the Melbourne heat for four hours and 44 minutes — a women’s grand slam record. While it wasn’t epic enough to make the final cut, it’s still worth giving a nod.