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5 fiercely competitive 2021 women's tennis matches that went unnoticed

Paula Badosa, Petra Kvitova, Tsvetana Pironkova, Madison Keys (L to R)
Paula Badosa, Petra Kvitova, Tsvetana Pironkova, Madison Keys (L to R)
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Vedant Chandel

Be it the Indian Wells finals between Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka, the Roland Garros semifinal between Maria Sakkari and Barbora Krejcikova or the US Open first-round encounter between Karolina Pliskova and Amanda Anismova, the 2021 season gave tennis fans several memorable matches.

And then there were some encounters, just as keenly contested, that failed to capture the same kind of attention. Here we have listed five fiercely competitive women's tennis matches that went unnoticed:

#5 Aryna Sabalenka vs Tsvetana Pironkova (Miami Open)

Aryna Sabalenka saved two match points against Tsvetana Pironkova in Miami.
Aryna Sabalenka saved two match points against Tsvetana Pironkova in Miami.

Aryna Sabalenka's three-set loss in the quarterfinals of the the Miami Open against World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty was one of her toughest this year.

But not many fans remember the other three-set epic that the Belarussian played that week. Opening her campaign against Tsvetana Pironkova, Sabalenka needed to fight past the Bulgarian's unusually flat groundstrokes, the scorching Miami heat and two match points to book her spot in the third round.

Pironkova got off to a blistering start as she raced to a 6-0, 3-1 lead before Sabalenka mounted a fightback. With both women looking to take the bull by the horns in the decider, fans got a chance to witness some incredible shotmaking.

The match did not feature a lot of long rallies, but the aggressive approach meant that both players racked up impressive tally of winners. In the end, it was Sabalenka who sealed an incredible come-from-behind win on her fourth match point.

No.8 Aryna Sabalenka saved 2MPs to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova 06 63 76(9).Sabalenka is now 4 for 4 in tiebreaks in 2021.Faces 32nd seed Kudermetova in 3R, a rematch of the Abu Dhabi final.#MiamiOpen https://t.co/b0FHe4idhr

Check out the highlights of the second-round encounter here

#4 Iga Swiatek vs Heather Watson (Eastbourne)

Iga Swiatek was made to work hard for her first grasscourt win.
Iga Swiatek was made to work hard for her first grasscourt win.

Playing in her first tour-level grasscourt match, 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek found herself up against a tough opponent in the form of Heather Watson.

Watson, who has grown up playing on the surface, had a few third-round showings at Wimbledon to show for her prowess in the quick conditions. Up against an in-form opponent, the Brit stepped up her game and pushed her more fancied opponent to the brink.

Swiatek opened the match with a routine 6-3 set, but Watson started to play more aggressively as the match went on. Buoyed by a solid serve, the Brit managed to push Swiatek on the backfoot before seizing control of the contest by winning the second set and breaking first in the third.

Pitted against sustained aggression from the other end of the court, Swiatek showed incredible fight to stay in contention in the decider. Her lucky break came in the mammoth eighth game of the set, following which the Pole regained control and won the match 7-5 in the third.

Check out the highlights of the first-round encounter here

#3 Madison Keys vs Liudmila Samsonova (Berlin)

Luidmila Samsonova won her miaden WTA crown at the bett1open.
Luidmila Samsonova won her miaden WTA crown at the bett1open.

Liudmila Samsonova was one of the biggest surprise winners of the 2021 season, triumphing at the Bett1Open in Berlin after coming through the qualification rounds.

The big-hitting Russian played a few incredible three-set matches over the week, but her quarterfinal win over Madison Keys stands out for its sheer competitive nature. The match was an absolute treat for tennis viewers as both Samsonova and Keys were playing at a high level.

Between the big serving and bigger shotmaking off the ground, there was very little scope for picking a favorite. Samsonova, however, went into crunch mode in a winner-takes-all tiebreaker at the end of the third, winning it 7-0.

Check out the highlights of the quarterfinal encounter here

#2 Paula Badosa vs Ana Bogdan (Roland Garros)

Paula Badosa saved match points agaisnt Ana Bogdan at the 2021 Roland Garros.
Paula Badosa saved match points agaisnt Ana Bogdan at the 2021 Roland Garros.

Paula Badosa made her first Grand Slam quarterfinals at the 2021 Roland Garros, but the Spaniard had to work really hard to earn her spot in the second week.

Pitted against Ana Bogdan, who was making a comeback from an injury lay-off, the Spaniard needed to dig deep enroute to a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 win in the late-night third-round match.

Bogdan started the match as the stronger player, putting her signature backhand to good use in turning the rallies in her favor. She managed to keep Badosa on the run for most of the first set, taking it home 6-2.

The encounter, however, started to heat-up as Badosa started being more patient and really dug her feet in to stay in rallies. Both women produced one unbelievable winner after another to end grueling and energy-sapping rallies.

Bogdan held match point at 5-6 (30-40) in the second set, but a netted backhand return gave Badosa the chance to get back into the match and the Spaniard went for it. She took the set in a tiebreaker.

And while many thought that Bogdan would eventually fade away, the Romanian continued to fight right till the last point. Even the highly-entertaining third set had multiple games that went over half a dozen dueces.

The match was played under the lights in a near-empty Court Simonne-Mathieu. Fans had been moved out of the facility as per Paris's COVID-19 regualtions. Nevertheless. the atmosphere contributed to the match turning into an absolute tennis spectacle.

Check out the highlights of the third-round encounter here

#1 Petra Kvitova vs Angelique Kerber (Bad Homburg)

Petra Kvtiova (L) and Angelique Kerber played thrice in 2021.
Petra Kvtiova (L) and Angelique Kerber played thrice in 2021.

The third grasscourt match on the list, the Bad Homburg semifinal between two long-standing rivals Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber -- who were both playing their second match of the day -- might arguably be the best of the lot.

The match marked the 15th meeting between the two players and it lived up to all the expectations. Kerber had come into the tournament struggling for form, but playing in front of home fans gave the German the much-needed impetus.

Kvitova looked to be in cruise control in the early stages, with Kerber finding it hard to keep pace with the Czech's sublime hitting. But the latter played herself into the match and began sending a lot of the balls back, frustrating her opponent into overpressing.

Both Kvitova and Kerber started playing well in the decider and the result was one of the most mesmering sets of tennis played at a grasscourt event this year. The two southpaws and former Wimbledon champions showcased just how effective they can be in these quick conditions, with their slice serve and flat shotmaking.

Kerber managed to edge out Kvitova in a tiebreaker and the match became a turning point for the German. But even as a standalone encounter, the semifinal had pretty much everything that you'd expect from a contest between two of the sport's greats.

Check out the highlights of the semifinal encounter here

Honorable mentions

Bianca Andreescu vs Amanda Anisimova (Miami Open third round)

Elise Mertens vs Viktorita Tomova (Dubai Open first round)

Jaqueline Cristian vs Kaja Juvan (Transylvania Open first round)

Leylah Fernandez vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Indian Wells third round)


Edited by Sarbajaya Bhattacharya
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