A friend of mine sent me a document with his personal top-20 five-sets matches since 1999 (the year he started watching tennis). As I had some free time, I read it all, and I have to say it brought back some awesome memories
! If you also have some free time, take it to remember some of the best moments in the recent history of tennis
#20) 2004 US Open Quarterfinal - Federer def. Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
The 2004 US Open quarterfinal meeting between #1 Roger Federer and American Andre Agassi was highly anticipated by everyone since the start of the tournament. This match was of course played at night. Federer started very strong, breaking Agassi once to take the first set. Agassi upped his level a notch in the second set and broke Federer twice to win it 6-2. The third set was very tight, with some awesome rallies, but Federer was the strongest at the end, prevailing 7-5. Then came the rain delay. Unfortunately for the fans, the match had to be stopped and played on the next day. On a very windy afternoon, Agassi seemed the most comfortable, winning the 4th set 6-3, but Federer found his consistency again to win the 5th set 6-3, showing why he's the #1 in the world. Both players agreed on the fact that the conditions couldn't be more terrible.
#19) 2001 TMS Roma Final - Ferrero def. Kuerten 3-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
This match featured the two best clay court players of 2001: #1 in the world Gustavo Kuerten and Spanish star Juan Carlos Ferrero. Under a scorching heat, Kuerten started better, taking ther first set 6-3 thanks to his awesome serve (5 aces) and great control of the rallies. However, the momentum quickly changed as Ferrero dominated the second set, taking it 6-1. Like a roller coaster, Kuerten regained the upper hand in the 3rd set, taking advantage of some weak serves to break Ferrero twice and winning it 6-2. When everyone thought it would be a Kuerten victory, Ferrero demonstrated all his physical endurance and abilities, fighting for every ball and running all over the court to win the last 2 sets 6-4 and 6-2 against a tired Kuerten, who seemed very bothered by the searing heat. The fans were delighted with the outcome of this 3-hours match, and will surely remember it for a long time!
#18) 1999 US Open Final - Agassi def. T. Martin 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2
Andre Agassi never lost his serve or his nerve, even when Todd Martin had him reeling. This all-American final was mouth-watering for all the fans, and they got what they wanted: a 5 sets battle! Closing out one of the greatest summers in tennis history, Agassi came up with his most spectacular shots in a dominating fifth set Sunday to capture his second U.S. Open. No shot was better, or more crucial, than his lunging return from off the court that broke Martin's serve and spirit early in the fifth set and paved the way to a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-2 victory. No man had fought back to win the U.S. Open from a 2-1 deficit in sets since John Newcombe in 1973, but that's exactly what Agassi had to do in a 3-hour, 23-minute match against an inspired Martin playing some of the finest tennis of his life. The match was only the fifth all-American men's final at the U.S Open in the 32 years of the open era, and the matchup of two 29-year-olds was the oldest since 39-year-old Ken Rosewall lost to 22-year-old Jimmy Connors in 1974.
#17) 2003 US Open Semifinal - Roddick def. Nalbandian 6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1, 6-3
Andy Roddick had a wonderful summer in 2003, winning both Masters Series titles on hardcourts, Montreal and Cincinnati, but had a big task in his hands to reach his first Grand Slam final: beating the Argentine David Nalbandian in the US Open semifinals. Nalbandian, who was looking to take revenge on his final loss in Montreal, started the match very well, taking surprisingly the first 2 sets 7-6 and 6-3 against the heavy favorite Roddick. The 3rd set was very tight, featuring some exhausting rallies and an awful lot of aces from Roddick (38 aces in the match), until Nalbandian held a match point. Roddick stirred, blasting a service winner followed by an ace before claiming the tiebreaker 9-7. He then ran to the victory, taking the last 2 sets easily 6-1 and 6-3, in 3 hours and 31 minutes of theatre.
#16) 2000 Roland Garros Quarterfinal - Kuerten def. Kafelnikov 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
It was a three-hour slugfest between two former French Open champions, and until the middle of the fourth set, Gustavo Kuerten was nowhere to be seen. So sayeth Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the Russian blasted off the court when the 23-year-old Brazilian Kuerten showed up with a vengeance to pull out the match, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. A noisy, pro-Kuerten crowd hollered his nickname -- "Guga Guga Guga" -- and waved Brazil's green, yellow and blue flag as the 1997 French Open champion found the rhythm that had been missing in the first three sets. He cranked up his first serve, fired a few aces, took command of the net and ripped a string of passing shots past Kafelnikov to earn a berth in the semifinals Friday. The climax was definitely in the 4th set, when Kafelnikov earned a 4-2 lead and had 2 game points for a 5-2 lead. However, Kuerten came back and took 4 games in a row to win the 4th set. It wasn't the most high-quality match, but certainly a very dramatic one. The statistics say it all: 95 unforced errors for Kafelnikov compared to Kuerten's 56, and 14 aces for the Brazilian while Kafelnikov put in only six. Certainly one of the most exciting matches on clay of all time.
#15) 2001 Australian Open Semifinal - Agassi def. Rafter 7-5, 2-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3
This semifinal match between Agassi and Rafter, two of the best players of the time, was very anticipated by the Australian fans, who wanted to see their man Patrick Rafter win at home. However, Agassi sealed a 7-5, 2-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 victory in just over three hours after the Australian's legs cramped up so badly that he could hardly run. Rafter had led by two sets to one, but his legs had started to seize up early in the third set. He won just four more games as his muscles tightened more in the last two. Rafter, bidding to become the first local player since Pat Cash in 1998 to make the men's singles final, needed treatment after the fourth set but bravely played on even though he was in obvious discomfort. With Rafter unable to move freely, Agassi had no problems holding serve and broke twice to win the fourth set and once more in the fifth to reach his 12th grand slam final.
#14) 2004 Roland Garros Final - Gaudio def. Coria 0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6
In a tournament with more layers of twists and turns than an oven-fresh croissant, none was more unpredictable than the men's final at the 2004 French Open. Playing flawless clay-court tennis and leading by two sets to none, No. 3 seed Guillermo Coria of Argentina suddenly cramped up midway through the third set against countryman Gaston Gaudio, who was suddenly fired up by the crowed who was encouraging him. Coria dropped the set, and a few games later could only move a few feet laterally while lobbing in 60-mph first serves. But by the start of the fifth set, Coria's cramps eased, and though hobbled, he fought his way to two match points at 6-5 against a befuddled Gaudio. But the unseeded — and unheralded — Gaudio held on, ripping one of his picturesque cross-court backhands at match point to seal his Cinderella run in the first all-Argentine final 0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6, after saving 2 championship points when Coria was serving for the championship for the second time at 6-5 in the 5th set. One of the greatest comebacks in a Grand Slam final of all time.
#13) 2005 TMS Roma Final - Nadal def. Coria 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6)
Rafael Nadal won his third consecutive ATP title and second consecutive ATP Masters Series shield by beating Guillermo Coria 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) in a thrilling 5-hour 14-minute final at the Telecom Italia Masters Roma 2005, the longest final since records have been kept (1990). Coria and Nadal played a superb and high-quality match in front of a sell-out crowd at the Foro Italico, with the Spanish teenager repeating his four-set win over the Argentine in the Masters Series Monte-Carlo final. Coria seemed to have the upper hand when he led 3-0 with a double break and had a game point for 4-0 in the final set, but the Spanish teenager came back to lead 4-3. They then held serve until the tiebreak where Nadal won on his fourth match point.
#12) 2001 Wimbledon 4th Round - Federer def. Sampras 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5
Federer showed his former idol the door with a sensational performance Monday, winning 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5. The fourth-round thriller ended Sampras' remarkable reign -- at least for the moment. Sampras held a set point in the opening tiebreaker, but Federer erased it with a service winner. Sampras lost the set four points later when he dumped an easy backhand into the net, and the battle was on. Wearing a bandanna and ponytail, Federer looks nothing like Sampras but plays with the same stylish ease and seems comfortable at the net, which is unusual for a teen-ager. Much of the time the Swiss youngster had the better serve, and he confidently closed out the third set with three consecutive service winners and an ace that kicked up chalk. Sampras played his best tennis in the final two sets, cranking serves at up to 136 mph and looking like the champion of old at the net. Serving in the final game, he misplayed two volleys and fell behind 15-40. Federer then cracked a return winner -- something he had done repeatedly over the previous 3 1/2 hours -- and fell to his knees with glee before keeling over onto the turf. Soon he had tears in his eyes.
#11) 1999 Roland Garros Final - Agassi def. Medvedev 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Andre Agassi was left in tears Sunday after rallying to defeat Andrei Medvedev in five sets to claim his first French Open title. The victory made him only the fifth man to capture a career Grand Slam. Trailing by two sets, Agassi pulled his game together for a dramatic 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 triumph. After the final point, he covered his face with his arms and broke into tears. Medvedev, playing in his first Grand slam final, ruled the first two sets. Then the 29-year-old American found his old fire in the third and turned the match around by coming more to the net. A loser in the French Open final in 1990 and 1991, Agassi raised his game as the sun reappeared and the wind died down on the red clay. With Medvedev serving, Agassi held three match points at 5-3. Medvedev fired his 23rd ace to save the first and had another big serve to stave off the second. A double fault and a botched volley put Medvedev in trouble again, but he survived with another good serve. A couple of strong serves gave Agassi his fourth match point. He fired a serve far to Medvedev's forehand and the Ukrainian's return went long.
#10) 2001 US Open Quarterfinal - Hewitt def. Roddick 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-4
Lleyton Hewitt overcame Andy Roddick in a stunning five-setter to seal a place in the US Open semi-finals. Roddick won a gruelling opening set on the tie-break with neither player able to break down their opponent's serve. The Australian 20-year-old immediately bounced back and levelled the match with an improved display in the second set, breaking Roddick in the second game to take the set 6-3. It was again Hewitt who won the bigger points in the third set. At 3-2 down, the Australian narrowly held on to his serve before breaking Roddick in the next game to set up a 6-4 set win. Racing into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set, Roddick looked set to cruise through but at 5-3 Hewitt had points to break the American back. Roddick held his nerve to take the match into a thrilling last set. Both players had chances to seize the initiative but the destiny of the match seemed to head towards Hewitt in the tenth game. At 5-4 down and 15-15 a line-call was over-ruled by the umpire in favour of Hewitt and Roddick poured out his frustrations. With a code-violation for his troubles and his concentration broken, Hewitt took full advantage and wrapped up the victory 6-4.
#9) 2000 TMS Hamburg Final - Kuerten def. Safin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3)
Gustavo Kuerten proved once again that he was the real clay king with an epic victory in the final of the German Open. Kuerten, who won had the French Open as a virtually unknown teenager in 1997, triumphed 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3) in a marathon match that lasted nine minutes short of four hours. In this match, there was everything: endless and exhausting rallies, aces, unforced errors, controversies (a penalty point to Safin for throwing a ball in the crowd!), drama and intensity. The victory means Kuerten has now won every major clay-court title on the ATP Tour. He did not have everything his own way, however, and Safin pushed him right to the wire. Kuerten held the lead in both the second and fourth sets, but his Russain opponent fought back on both occasions to delay his celebrations. The Brazilian - known to his fans as "Guga" - struggled to find his most fluent form, making more and more errors as the match wore on. But he kept a cool head in the vital moments in the tiebreaker and fired an ace on his first match point.
#8) 2004 Australian Open Semifinal - Safin def. Agassi 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 1-6, 6-3
Agassi, the defending 2003 Australian Open champion, had his 26-match winning streak at Melbourne Park snapped by the continued inspiring play of Marat Safin. Safin blew a two-set lead, then broke Andre Agassi in the fifth set en route to a 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 1-6, 6-3 victory in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Safin's legs were wobbly and his temper was close to a meltdown, but the Russian giant outhustled Agassi in a stamina-sapping encounter to set up a final against Roger Federer. Agassi seemed to be in control after the fourth set, but faltered in the fifth. It was a tough loss for him, who called it "the toughest day I've had." He had set points in both first and second sets, but Safin was able to stay focused and saved all of them to win both sets. However, Agassi came back to win the next 2. With Agassi serving at 2-1 in the fifth set, Safin broke with a good serve return that Agassi hit wide. He then never gave Agassi a chance to break back again, holding serve the rest of the way and finishing off the match with a backhand winner down the line after 3 hours, 42 minutes.
#7) 2000 Roland Garros Semifinal - Kuerten def. Ferrero 7-5, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
This match was highly anticipated by everyone: all the tennis fans were eagerly waiting to finally see a meeting between these 2 awesome clay court players, Kuerten and Ferrero, in Roland Garros. And guess what, it was one hell of a match! Brazilian Kuerten looked to be on his way out when he was two sets to one down and a break down in the fourth, but he clung on and turned the match around to win 7-5, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. It was the second match in a row he had clawed his way back from an improbable position after a similar story in the quarter-final against Yevgeny Kafelnikov. He needed his trainer twice and a back rub in the fourth set did the trick as he broke Ferrero's serve. Ferrero, the 16th seed, just 20-years-old and playing in only his third Grand Slam tournament, looked to be heading for his first final. He had rocked Kuerten early on with some fantastic power shots. But somehow the fifth seed found a way to come back for a memorable victory. It was the first time the two men had faced each other and it was an epic encounter, lasting three hours and 38 minutes.
#6) 2000 Australian Open Semifinal - Agassi def. Sampras 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1
When Andre Agassi finished bowing and blowing kisses, and Pete Sampras moped away, 15,000 delirious, utterly drained fans at the Australian Open stared at each other as if sharing a secret treasure. They knew they had witnessed that rarest of matches when history and greatness converge and two players push each other to the limit with the stakes high on a Grand Slam stage. Only Sampras could make the best returner in tennis look feeble in a tiebreak shutout. Only Agassi could absorb 37 aces from Sampras and still find a way to win. Only the two of them could produce the most exquisite rallies, point after point for five sets over three hours, each taking turns hurling himself horizontally to hit balls that seemed impossibly out of reach. Together they put on a show for the film archives Thursday night, Agassi winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 to become the first man to reach four straight Grand Slam finals since Rod Laver swept them all in 1969.
#5) 2003 Australian Open Quarterfinal - Roddick def. El Aynaoui 4-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, 21-19
Andy Roddick won one of the longest matches of the Open era, beating Younes El Aynaoui in a fifth set that ended 21-19 to reach the Australian Open semifinals. Roddick defeated the Moroccan 4-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 on Wednesday night in a match lasting 4 hours, 59 minutes. The exhausted players walked off the court hand in hand. At 2:23, it was the longest fifth set in the Open era, which began in 1969. It topped Mark Philippoussis' 20-18 win over Sjeng Schalken in the third round at Wimbledon in 2000. The 31-year-old El Aynaoui had a match point on Roddick's serve in the 10th game of the fifth set and Roddick served for the set in the 22nd game of the decider, but was broken. It was only at 19-19 that Roddick was able to break again, and dropped to the floor and the crowd rose to their feet as the Moroccan netted a forehand, bringing to an end one of the best matches in Australian Open history.
#4) 2000 Wimbledon Semifinal - Rafter def. Agassi 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
Patrick Rafter overcame the blistering returns and passing shots of Andre Agassi to win in five sets their semifinal encounter and become the first Australian to reach the men's final at Wimbledon in 13 years. Rafter played a masterful grass-court match, mixing his acrobatic serve-and-volley game with off-speed shots to dismantle Agassi 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 18 minutes. The high-quality match provided a classic contrast between Agassi, the consummate returner and counter-puncher, and Rafter, the serve-and-volley specialist. Rafter chipped and charged on Agassi's second serves. In baseline rallies, he relied on a soft, slice backhand to rob Agassi of the pace on which he thrives. In the end, it was Agassi's serve which let him down. He served eight double faults, several at crucial moments. Agassi's final double came in the sixth game of the fifth set, with Rafter converting the decisive break on the next point to go up 4-2. From that game, a deflated Agassi lost the last 15 points of the match.
#3) 2001 Wimbledon Semifinal - Rafter def. Agassi 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 8-6
As Patrick Rafter began to celebrate his dramatic victory Friday in the Wimbledon semifinals, an angry Andre Agassi fired one last shot. Walking toward the net, Agassi pulled a ball from his pocket and belted it at the lineswoman who had infuriated him in the next-to-last game. She dodged out of the way and the ball slammed against the backstop. The incident tainted a marvelous match worthy of tennis' best rivalry, with Rafter rallying from a 5-3 deficit in the final set to beat Agassi 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 8-6. Rafter and Agassi, meeting in the semifinals for the third year in a row, staged another seesaw struggle enhanced by their contrasting styles. Rafter smacked 30 aces and relentlessly rushed the net, while Agassi slugged return winners and scurried from corner to corner, his huffing and puffing audible in the stands. But for all his effort in the three-hour thriller, Agassi's annoyance with two linespeople may have swung the outcome. He became angry in the fourth set, when two calls by the same linesman in the same game went against him. He subsequently lost his serve to fall behind 4-2, then hit a wild 122-mph serve that just missed the linesman. After Agassi let his lead in the fifth set slip away and the score reached 6-all, he received a code violation for an obscenity. A lineswoman behind the baseline heard the profanity and immediately trotted across the court to inform chair umpire Mike Morrissey, who issued the warning. Agassi didn't complain at the time, but his game came unhinged. He lost the next point to fall behind 7-6, then served poorly and committed three unforced errors to lose the next game -- and the match. Before shaking Rafter's hand, Agassi fired a forehand toward the lineswoman at the other end of the court.
#2) 2001 Wimbledon Final - Ivanisevic def. Rafter 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7
The popular Croat fell in a heap in disbelief and rolled over, his face buried in the Centre Court lawn that bedeviled him for so long. In a match likely to rank with the most memorable in Grand Slam history, three-time runner-up Ivanisevic finally won Wimbledon on Monday, outlasting Rafter 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7. Because rain washed out most of Saturday's schedule, the men's final began on a Monday for the first time since 1922. Finals are typically sold out in advance, but 10,000 tickets went on sale 2 1/2 hours before the match. The climax of the match was at the end of the 5th set, when Ivanisevic served for the match at 8-7. Because he's never-boring Goran, he blew an easy volley, then double-faulted to fall behind 15-30. Two big serves, including his 27th ace, took him to match point. Tears welled in his eyes, and he hit a double fault five feet long. A service winner set up another match point, which produced his 16th and final double fault. When Rafter hit a backhand wide, Ivanisevic looked to the sky in gratitude. Then he hit a shaky volley and lost the next point, returning the score to deuce. The most feared serve in tennis finally bailed him out. He smacked a service winner to reach match point again, then swung another serve wide, and Rafter dumped the ball into the net. He collapsed as the crowd roared, then rose in a daze. At the net Rafter gave him a hug, a pat on the back and a rub on the head.
#1) 2005 Australian Open Semifinal - Safin def. Federer 5-7 6-4 5-7 7-6(6) 9-7
Marat Safin has caused one of the biggest upsets in Australian Open history, defeating world no.1 Roger Federer in a classic five setter 5-7 6-4 5-7 7-6(6) 9-7 at the Rod Laver Arena in the highly-anticipated semifinal match. The match had seemed to be in Federer’s keeping midway through the fourth set tiebreak when he had a 5-2 lead with two serves to come, but Safin fought back saving a match point in the process to send the match into one of the wildest fifth sets the Australian Open has ever seen. The final set played out like a well-written thriller with plot twists at every turn and the unexpected becoming the norm. Safin seemed to be home and hosed picking up the early break in the fifth and racing to a 5-2 lead, but this time it was the no.1 seeds turn to fight as he stormed back to level at 5-5 saving a couple of match points at 5-3 when the Russian had served for the match and another one at 5-4. Federer now had all of the momentum and he looked to cash in at 6-6 when he had break point opportunities, but Safin hit some magnificent shots to hold his serve and stay ahead at 7-6. The world no.4 appeared to be out on his feet, but he pushed Federer to the limit in the next game as he raced to a 15-40 lead to give himself another two match points, but the top seed staved them both off to keep the match alive at 7-7. Safin cruised through his next service game to lead 8-7 and again put all sorts of pressure on the Swiss champion in the 16th game getting another couple of match points. Federer saved the first with a massive serve, but he was unable to hold off the tenacious Safin again as he crunched a forehand winner into an open court raising his fists in triumph as his defeated opponent crumpled over. This match will certainly be remembered as one of the most exciting and most high-quality matches ever played in the history of tennis. Add drama, intensity and atmosphere, and you got a #1 match!