In the final installment of posts about my favorite matches of WTA 2016, i will count down my favorite 25 matches of the year. They come from a wide variety of tournaments from all across the calendar. If you haven’t seen the first installment of matches 50-26 click HERE to take a look first! Thank you to everyone who read the first post, i am super shocked at the stats ❤
25. Johanna Konta df Petra Kvitova 5-7 6-4 6-0 (Eastbourne, R3)
After a disappointing start to the grass season in Nottingham and Birmingham, Konta came home to Eastbourne and logged one of her most impressive wins. Delivering a bagel to a two time Wimbledon champion in front of a home crowd must of been a real highlight for Jo in 2016.
24. Venus Williams df Daria Kasatkina 7-5 4-6 10-8 (Wimbledon, 3R)
Oh such drama! There was so so many momentum changes in this match it was hard to keep up. Watching 18 year old Kasatkina go toe to toe with one of the greatest grass court players was a real joy. Venus led in both sets before being pegged back. She was lucky to take the first 7-5, but Kasatkina raised her game even more to take the second 6-4. Venus had numerous match points before winning 10-8 in the third. The most memorable came at 7-6, up 30-40 on Kasatkina’s serve, where it just started to pour down. Venus’s face was a picture as she watched the groundscrew cover the court.
23. Svetlana Kuznetsova df Ageniszka Radwanska 7-5 1-6 7-5 (Singapore, RR)
I don’t think anyone expected Kuznetsova to be a force at this years WTA finals, after qualifying in Europe, only 24 hours before the championships began. Despite being 4-1 up in the first, and having the chance to serve for the match 5-4 in the third, Radwanska couldn’t put away Kuznetsova who came back for an incredible comeback! I was tired watching it, so who knows what Sveta felt like…
22. Jelena Jankovic df Belinda Bencic 4-6 7-5 6-4 (Dubai, R1)
In a season where both Belinda and Jelena slipped down the rankings due to illness and injury, this was a real gem of a match between the two tucked away during the middle eastern swing. Here’s hoping for a more consistent and injury free for Jankovic and Bencic in 2017.
21. Garbine Muguruza df Dominika Cibulkova 6-7 6-3 7-5 (Miami, R2)
This was a brutal match between Muguruza and Cibulkova in Miami this year. Cibulkova clinched the first set on the breaker after Muguruza failed to serve it out at 6-5. The third set saw Cibulkova lead 3-1, but was ultimately pipped back by Muguruza who just had a little more edge in this match up. World number 5 Cibulkova is defending R1 points in Melbourne and Round 2 points at both Indian Wells and Miami. Both tournaments are ones she has excelled at before… Top 3 on the cards in 2017?
20. Victoria Azarenka df Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-1 (Brisbane, F)
Don’t be fooled by the one sided looking scoreline here. Although Azarenka flew away with the match, especially in the second set, there were lots of long games and long rallies. Some of the winners these ladies came up with were fabulous. Perhaps their second match of the season is more prevalent, but I believe this was the better quality.
19. Petra Kvitova df Danka Kovinic 6-2 4-6 7-5 (Roland Garros, 1R)
Danka Kovinic played Petra Kvitova twice in 2016, and both matches were epic, and matches she had real chances of winning. Petra claimed both victories, including this one at Roland Garros. This was the first match i watched from the French Open this year, and ranks as my favorite. Petra started in fine form and led by a set and 3-0. Danka is suited to the clay and surged into a comeback taking the second set. The third set was a real hustle. Kovinic had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4, but couldn’t get over the finishing line. Check out the two down the line winners AND REACTIONS from Petra at 4-5 30-30 and 6-5 30-30 in the final set, incredible stuff!
18. Dominika Cibulkova df Simona Halep 6-3 7-6(5) (Singapore, RR)
Going into this match Cibulkova needed to win this match in straight sets, and for Kerber to win in straight sets for Cibulkova to qualify as second from her group in the round robin. Cibulkova adapted to this new pressure well, and was pumped up from the get go. When it got to 5-5 in the second set tiebreak i was feeling so so tense, but Domi played her game set up a match point and then won! Credit to Halep for helping the winner of WTA finals for the second year in a row get through to the semi finals 😉
17. Naomi Broady v Jelena Ostapenko 4-6 7-6(4) 7-5 (Auckland, R2)
YAS this is such an iconic match, for everything other than the tennis! I remember waking up, checking the scores and being happy that Naomi had made another WTA Quarter Final. Then i saw the tweets saying “Iconic” “Drama”, then I saw what happened! After Naomi won a point in the second set tiebreak, Ostapenko flung her racket behind her and hit a ball boy. Broady was RAGING at this and demanded Ostapenko was disqualified (she wasn’t, but should of been) for her actions. Broady was in tears at one minute as she argued with the tournament referee and the umpire. Broady then won the match, coming from 1-5 down in the third (seriously you cannot make this up), and her reaction was everything! Drama over? … NO, as they went to shake hands Ostapenko said something to Broady, which was later to be revealed as comments regarding her fairness by asking for Ostapenko to be disqualified. Broady didn’t take this lying down, and screamed at Ostapenko as she walked to her seat “YOU HIT THE BALLBOY WITH YOUR RACKET”. The argument then continued whilst both were packing and exiting the court. Other players got involved on social media, and it was just great. For a greater analysis and description of this, see the incredibe article by TheTennisIsland HERE. I think i watched that Vine of Naomi screaming over 100 times!
16. Johanna Konta df Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6 7-5 7-5 (Olympic, R3)
This was such a grueling, tense and well fought match from the Olympics this year, where Konta logged yet another impressive win. I agree with Kevin Mitchell from the Guardian who said “It was not one of Konta’s most fluid performances but it was one of her most impressive in terms of persistence and nerve – at least at the very end”.
15. Dominika Cibulkova df Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6 6-3 6-4 (Wuhan, SF)
Due to rain logged days in Wuhan, Dominika Cibulkova had to play three matches within 24 hours, and won all three of them! This was the tournament that put her back in contention for Singapore as she battled all the way to the final. There were some fab rallies in this match, and Cibulkova dug her heels in and played some great powerful aggressive tennis to break for the win. The pair played again in a dramatic SF match in Singapore, but i preferred this match for the sheer energy Domi bought after enduring a tough 24 hours.
14. Serena Williams df Christina Mchale 6-7(7) 6-2 6-4 (Wimbledon, R2)
After this match finished I didn’t think there would be a better match at Wimbledon in 2016 (there was, but more of that later), it was just an incredible match that demonstrated that Christina Mchale is underrated when she’s bringing her A-Game, and that you can never count Serena Williams out when she is focused on achieving something. The rally Mchale won at 4-4 in the final set was breathtakingly long. Kudos to both for putting on a great show on one of the greatest stages in tennis.
13. Sloane Stephens df Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 7-6(3) (Auckland, SF)
Sloane Stephens was underrated during the first few months of the year, winning in Auckland, Acapulco and Charleston. This match against Wozniacki was a great example of just how peak Stephens can be when she cares and brings it. Wozniacki didn’t play a bad match at all, but was just overpowered by Stephens, who just hit some incredible winners. Sadly Sloane has withdrew from the 2017 ASB Classic, but i hope she’s back soon!
12. Svetlana Kuznetsova df Karolina Pliskova 3-6 6-2 7-6(6) (WTA Finals, Singapore, RR)
After titanic comebacks in both of their first matches, Kuznetsova and Pliskova took to the court and played out a fabulous match. Kuznetsova must of been shattered following a week of tennis in different continents. There were some great rallies in this match, and the winner from Kuznetsova and her reaction was incredible. I have to say part of me was gutted when Sveta qualified over Konta, but after her first two matches in Singapore, i didn’t mind at all.
11. Sloane Stephens df Daria Kasatkina 6-1 5-7 7-5 (Charleston, QF)
This was another thrilling encounter featuring both Daria Kasatkina and Sloane Stephens, who have charted on this list before. Their match at the Volvo Car Open was one of my favorite matches for a while. Both players were playing some great tennis. Stephens saved a match point with an epic cross court winner, and then went on to win the match and the tournament. Credit to Kasatkina, who on her first full year on tour played some great matches.
10. Victoria Azarenka df Garbine Muguruza 7-6(6) 7-6(4) (Miami 3R)
Into the top 10 now! This was an utterly fabulous match during Miami this year. Muguruza was the unlucky player to have Azarenka drew into her section of the Miami draw, before she climbed back to the top 5. The pair exchanged breaks in both sets before heading to a tiebreak. Muguruza had two set points in the first set but Vika saved both with an ace down the T, and the second with a thunderous backhand return that went right to Muguruza’s feet. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for a second helping of this match up.
09. Agnieszka Radwanska df Roberta Vinci 3-6 6-2 6-3 (Doha, QF)
It took me a year or so to really appreciate this kind of tennis, but i now just love it! This was a fun cat and mouse style match between Radwanska and Vinci in Doha this year. I wish there was an extended highlights video, because there is just so many adventurous and imaginative points on show. I for one, am glad that Vinci is carrying on into 2017.
08. Monica Puig df Angelique Kerber 6-4 4-6 6-1 (Olympics Games, Rio, F)
This is single-handedly one of the best feel good stories of Tennis in 2016. Monica Puig who is a real exciting talent took the Olympics by storm and blitzed her way all the way to the end to grab the Gold Medal. Not only is this a personal achievement for her, it’s also the first EVER Gold medal for Puerto Rico. She came through Kvitova, Halep and Kerber to take the medal, and her reaction to winning the medal, and the moment she is given the medal in the medal ceremony is just joyous.
07. Angelique Kerber df Serena Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4 (Australian Open, F)
Flash back to the start of January 2016, we all thought there was no way Kerber could beat Vika, let alone defeat Serena Williams in a grand slam final. This match at the time was extraordinary as massive scenes were unfolding. Kerber played no fear tennis and seemed unphased by the occasion for the most part. Yeah, sure she couldn’t serve it out, but she managed to break Serena in the next game to claim her first of two grand slams, in what was an incredible season for the German.
06. Petra Kvitova df Angelique Kerber 6-7(10) 7-5 6-4 (Wuhan, R3)
I said in an earlier post that the matches from Wuhan reinvested me in the 2016 season, and this was one of the main matches that did it. I remember tweeting before the match that no match would beat Konta/CSN for that day…. HAHAHA what a mess i was! I remember taking an early lunch to watch the first set of this, and it didn’t disappoint. The tiebreak alone was incredible. I had a feeling Petra would dissolve after losing the breaker, but I think it spurred her on even more to battle for the win. The third set was such an epic slugfest, with brutal hard hitting rallies that made me feel tired. By this point i was watching from my desk, hoping no students would come in and disturb me. As Petra tried to serve it out, it was DRAMATIC. She needed 7 match points, and started cramping just before one of them. Kvitova won this match, then went on to win the tournaments with the loss of hardly any games. I was there live for their epic match at 2014 Fed Cup, but i think this eclipsed it slightly!
05. Elena Vesnina df Ekaterina Makarova 5-7 6-1 9-7 (Wimbledon, 4R)
Wimbledon Round 4 was a stunning day of tennis with two incredible matches. This one was a little undershadowed by what comes later, but was an incredible match between doubles partners and compatriots Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova. Vesnina i believe was the strongest player throughout this match and probably could of won the match in straights, having chances to win the first set. Some of the rallies in this match was jaw dropping, and Vesnina never really let up with her energy. This is another example of Makarova using her energy negatively, as she was getting angrier and more emotional as the match went on. Kudos Elena, after falling out of the top 100 in 2015, this is a great story of never giving up.
04. Sloane Stephens df Elena Vesnina 7-6(4) 6-2 (Charleston, F)
In my second favorite final of the year, Sloane Stephens (who has featured on this list a lot…) won her third and last title of 2016 on the green clay of Charleston. Vesnina has an INCREDIBLE run to the final here, having to qualify for the event also. In the first set Elena played some great tennis, but was just overpowered by Sloane who was playing really really well. In the second set Sloane turned it up another gear and was playing some peak tennis which was incredible to see. I hope Sloane comes back in 2017 with this sort of tennis, as it can do real damage.
03. Svetlana Kuznetsova df Sloane Stephens 6-7(1) 6-2 8-6 (Wimbledon, 3R)
Another Sloane match! This match saw Sloane Stephens try and get past the wall that can be Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sloane had real chances to win this match, having served for the match at 5-3 in the third, and coming from within two points of winning at 5-4 30-30. Credit to Sveta, she hung in there and really called upon her vast experience at this stage on a surface that doesn’t come naturally to her. The embrace between the two at the end was really heartwarming. ❤
02. Sloane Stephens df Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 4-6 7-6(5) (Acapulco, F)
The number 2 countdown in my list is also my favorite final of 2016. Dominika Cibulkova and Sloane Stephens faced off in a brilliant final in Acapulco. The rallies were brutal, it was one of the longest finals of the year (if not the longest) and featured two players playing fearless and all or nothing tennis. Sloane said in her on court victory speech that she felt she “got a little better during the match”. It was a tough loss for Domi, but hey she got a sombrero in 2014 😉
01. Dominika Cibulkova df Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 5-7 9-7 (Wimbledon, 4R)
In probably the best match up of 2016, Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka went to battle in a memorable match at Wimbledon, that tops this list by far. Radwanska and Cibulkova played 4 times in 2016, with Domi logging 3 of those 4 wins in Madrid, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. All 4 matches were fun, and went the distance. Their Wimbledon clash was by far the best match, and took Cibulkova to her first Quarter Final at the All England Club.
“First, there was its brilliant shot-making and knock-down, drag-out competitiveness; by the end, both women looked like they were on their last legs, but the winners never stopped flowing. Second, while Cibulkova and Radwanska each play from the baseline, their matchup offered an old-fashioned contrast in styles. Power vs. finesse, loud vs. quiet, energetic vs. even-keeled: Opposites attracted on this day, and came together to produce something special.”