2012 Tennis Awards: Upset of the Year - Male
“You too, Brutus!” – in utter disbelief and shock came these words from the mouth of Julius Caesar when he discovered his friend’s plot to get rid of him. If the Shakespearean way of portrayal of Brutus’s crude assassination attempt failed to impress upon the readers the gravity of the shock experienced by the Roman emperor, those readers would at least – had they been tennis fans – have learned what being dazed felt like, after watching one of the the biggest upsets ever in Grand Slam history.
Upsets do happen in tennis. It is not a rare spectacle to see minnows overcoming top-ranked professionals. But what happened this year on the 28th of June 2012 on Centre Court at Wimbledon was not just an upset. You would probably need to coin a fresh term to describe the situation. When two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal of Spain made his way to Centre Court this year, walking alongside one Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic, even Nostradamus would have given a clean chit to the Spanish Armada, picking him to progress to the next round. In fact, when I was casually talking with one of my friends about Rosol’s chances of creating an upset, he gave the 100th-ranked Czech something like 0.0000001 % chance of pulling it off.
Experts as well as laymen were absolutely convinced that the man who was making his debut at Wimbledon would have no chance of dethroning a player who was ranked No. 2 in the ATP rankings. Just before the start of the grasscourt season, the Spaniard was at his imperious best, winning all the four titles (including the French Open), which were played on red clay. If anything, his form at Roland Garros – which got over just a couple of weeks before this day – had mesmerized tennis analysts to such an extent that they found no reason in backing the underdog to score an upset.
Not many of us had seen Lukas before; he was in the spotlight for the first time in his career, and that too only because he was playing against Rafael Nadal. Though he was known as a big server with some powerful groundstrokes, we could hardly foresee any upset in this match; Rafa, it must be said, had seen many “Rosols” in his career.
Unexpectedly, the first set went to a tie-break, and more surprisingly, the Czech led the score for most of the breaker. But as we have seen from Rafa so many times in his career, he fought back by saving three set points, and eventually stole the first set. Normally, whenever a lower-ranked opponent is pushed to a tie-breaker against the Spanish superstar, he gets completely drained and fails to show any sort of resistance for the remaining part of the match. We all felt the same thing about Rosol after that first set. But the Czech surprised everyone and ended up slaying Nadal in the next two sets with some viciously executed groundstrokes which proved too much for the latter to handle. Suddenly Rosol found himself in the driver’s seat, having taken the second and third sets 6-4.
It was evident that the Czech had got into Nadal’s head. The normally suave Spaniard lost his composure and began complaining to the chair umpire about his opponent’s movements while receiving serve. And then, we saw agitation and desperation written all over the face of the World No. 2 as he tried bumping into his adversary, at one of the changeovers. That said, it hardly seemed to matter to Rosol, who looked determined to create, like I said before, one of the greatest upsets in Grand Slam history.
However, just as we thought the match was going the Czech’s way, Nadal produced a spirited fight-back by breaking his unseeded opponent twice in the fourth set, winning it 6-2. When the momentum seemed to have tilted completely in Nadal’s favour, the authorities decided to close the roof before the fifth set and play the remainder of the match under lights.
When the match resumed after a brief stoppage, Rosol amazed all of us by breaking Nadal immediately in the final set. The Spanish Armada was completely shell-shocked and so were we. The southpaw was left totally clueless and despite trying with all his might, couldn’t find a way of making a comeback. Rosol seized this golden opportunity and when he served for the match for the first time, we could sense Nadal’s exit quite vividly. Ace No. 22 brought the Czech down to his knees, as he realized the miracle had happened. The capacity crowd was caught totally unaware and I am sure it took some time for them to realize that Nadal was out of Wimbledon. Yes, it was Rosol who came out on top, defeating Nadal 6-7 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4.
The next day Rosol was in the headlines almost everywhere. His victory over Nadal is easily one of the greatest upsets ever to have happened in a Grand Slam and so it goes without saying that it qualifies as the biggest upset in men’s tennis this year.
The year 2012 had a few more upsets which left us bewildered at how the top-ranked guys could look so totally out of touch in those matches. Let us have a quick recap of some of them:
Tommy Haas vs Roger Federer, Halle final:
Federer was aiming to get off to a winning start in the grasscourt season as he faced former world No. 2 Tommy Haas in the final at Halle. Haas, who was making a comeback this year, trounced the Swiss in straight sets (7-6, 6-4) with his incredible all-court game, leaving all of us to wonder if Federer was good enough to win one more Wimbledon.
Martin Klizan vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, US open 2nd round:
Tsonga can either look either incredibly brilliant or totally ridiculous. Klizan, who broke into top 100 this year for the first time in his career, locked horns with the Frenchman on a day when the latter was completely error-prone. As a result, Jo succumbed to his opponent in four sets; this match was surely was one of the biggest upsets in Grand Slam matches held this year.
Jerzy Janowicz vs Andy Murray, Paris Masters 3rd round:
Murray, who had been at the peak of his form in the second half of this year, played an insipid game against little-known Janowicz in the Paris Masters 3rd round. Janowicz, later, went on to become the surprise runner-up of the tournament.
Ernests Gulbis vs Tomas Berdych, Wimbledon 1st round:
When two power-house players collide, we can be sure that the match is going to have at least one tie-breaker set. But we saw the entire match getting decided in tie breakers, with Gulbis winning every one of them. The score board read 7-6 7-6 7-6 in Gulbis’ favour.
Catch the rest of the awards here: 2012 Tennis Awards