Women's matches of the year

  • By: Andy Schooler (Twitter: @NetTalkTennis)
  • Last Updated: December 3 2012, 9:56 GMT

Our Andy Schooler sifts through some great contests of 2012 to choose his women's match of the year.

Williams (r) edged out Azarenka in New York

For too long now the women's game has played a clear second fiddle to the men's but 2012 may well go down as the year when the fightback started.

Emerging talents such as Briton Laura Robson came to the fore and her US Open defeat of Kim Clijsters certainly ranked highly on the shock scale.

OK, Clijsters had just days to go until definitive retirement - in the end this turned out to be the last singles match of her career - but Robson is still expected to be dismissed by a player who had won her last 22 matches at Flushing Meadows.

But Robson had other ideas and showed the world her ability to out-rally top-class players - she would go on the defeat Li Na two days later - from the baseline.

Clijsters always had the ability to implode during her career but, let's be clear, this was not one of her shockers. As the 7-6 7-6 scoreline suggests, the Belgian did not play badly but Robson's high-quality tennis was a joy to watch - especially if you were British!

Nationality should not come into a match of the year argument though and the level of tennis served up by world number one Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber at the season-ending WTA Championships was certainly a step higher.

Kerber traded with her more-fancied opponent blow-for-blow for more than three hours in Istanbul, only to be edged out in the deciding set.

The German was in outstanding form but, with the year-end top ranking on the line, Azarenka dug deep, saving two match points in the second set before emerging as a 6-7 7-6 6-4 winner.

The quality offered up by Serena Williams and Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open did not come close to that in Istanbul but in terms of story arc and drama, it was a match hard to beat.

Williams was the hot title favourite having arrived in Paris with a string of claycourt wins under her belt, and in the second set tie-break was just two points from an expected straight-sets success.

Quite what happened form that point - at which the umpire overruled a line call in favour of Razzano - cannot really be explained, as the American began to spray the ball anywhere but in the court.

The Frenchwoman was soon 5-1 up in the decider at which point the nerves, and Williams' famous fighting spirit, kicked in. It was soon 5-3.

Then came an epic final game, one which lasted 25 minutes and saw Razzano, whose fiancé and coach had died a year earlier, blow seven match points, hitting some awful shots in the process. With the home crowd, one which included a vociferous French Tennis Federation president Jean Gachassin, roaring her on she somehow managed to close out and claim one of the biggest upset wins for years.

Thrills were also offered up by Williams at Wimbledon.

In years to come, her 2012 success in SW19 will be remembered for her latter-round displays as she blasted ace after ace past the likes of Petra Kvitova and Azarenka. However, just as important were the way she came through earlier-round struggles against first Zheng Jie and then Yaroslava Shvedova - 9-7 and 7-5 in the final set respectively.

The high-quality clash against Zheng, in particular, was a real knife-edge battle, one in which the Chinese showed all her grasscourt prowess to push Williams to the limit.

While all the contests above were in their way enthralling, it is another which claims my match of the year vote.

There have been some dreadful women's Grand Slam finals over the past decade but this year's US Open final was not one of them.

Williams and Azarenka, clearly the two best players of the season, went head to head in New York and did not disappoint.

The American had dropped just 19 games en route to the final and many feared another one-sided, snorefest. What occurred was anything but.

Williams started well enough, dominating the first set to take it 6-2. But when Williams showed chinks in her armour in the second, Azarenka pounced, wresting the initiative and pushing on take the set 6-2 to level the match.

Taking the momentum into the decider, the world number one looked ready to claim the title when she broke and then held to lead 5-3.

But, just a game from victory, she was unable to finish things off. Williams broke back when the Belarusian served for the title and soon Azarenka was again serving - this time to stay alive - and with the home hope now back in the groove it was to prove a fruitless task.

Admittedly the quality was not always the highest but both players did play some great stuff at times on, what it should be remembered, is the biggest stage the sport has to offer. With plenty of drama also on display, it is this match I will remember most from 2012.

Do you agree with Andy? Which do you think was the match of the year? You can email your thoughts to tennisfeedback@sportinglife.com or send them via Twitter to @NetTalkTennis.

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