10. U.S Open SF: Roberta Vinci d. Serena Williams 2-6 6-4 6-4
Roberta Vinci caused the biggest upset of the year when she defeated Serena Williams at the semi-final stage of the U.S Open. Serena was just 2 victories away from winning all 4 Grand Slams in 2015, no one gave Vinci a chance heading into the clash. However the Italian played the match of her life, coming from a set down to hand the 3-time defending champion an incredibly devastating loss. Vinci’s win was undoubtedly one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament and will be remembered for long time.
After comfortably claiming the opening set, it looked like Serena was on track for a routine victory. The world number 1 started to become tighter and tighter as the match wore on and Vinci was good enough to raise her level the make the most of the situation. Vinci played unbelievably well in the final set, particularly towards the end. Vinci closed the match out to love, hitting multiple winners at the net.
What made this victory even more incredible is that Serena didn’t actually play poorly. Serena wasn’t at her best but she finished the match with some pretty decent statistics, hitting 50 winners and 40 unforced errors including 16 aces and just 4 doubles faults. Vinci finished the match with 19 winners and 20 unforced errors. Serena actually won 8 more points but couldn’t get the job done.
9. Stuttgart R2: Angelique Kerber d. Maria Sharapova 2-6 7-5 6-1
Angelique Kerber produced one of the best individual performances of the season when came from a set down to defeat three-time defending champion Maria Sharapova in the second round in Stuttgart. Kerber played some ridiculously good tennis in this match to hand Sharapova her very first loss on the clay in Stuttgart. Sharapova seems to bring the best out of Angie, the German defeated Maria in an epic at Wimbledon last year in what was one of the matches of the year.
The way Kerber was able to absorb and redirect Maria’s pace in this match was first class, Angie’s anticipation in this match was also quite spectacular. Maria was far too good in the opening set but Angie came back with a vengeance. The second and third sets were full of highlights from the German’s racquet. Angie came up with some scintillating tennis to close a tight second set before running away with the match in the decider in front of her home crowd.
Maria tried to rev herself up at the start of the deciding set but she was unable to keep up with the German. Angie was just far too good, a breathtaking performance by Angie to capture another win over Maria.
8. Madrid R3: Serena Williams d. Victoria Azarenka 7-6 3-6 7-6
Despite having a disappointing season, Victoria Azarenka remained one of Serena’s biggest threats in 2015 and features prominently in my list of top 20 matches. Azarenka and Serena met on 3 occasions in 2015, all 3 matches were memorable. Azarenka was in a winning position in each match, however Serena would ultimately battle her way to victory on each occasion. Their first meeting of the year had the most dramatic ending, Azarenka came agonizingly close to handing Serena her first loss of the year but was unable to get the job done when it mattered most despite having a 40-0 lead serving for the match at 6-5 in the third set.
The first set was extremely close and could have really gone either way but Serena was too solid in the tiebreaker. Azarenka would justly send the match to a decider which is where all of the real drama would take place. Azarenka will remember the third set for years to come.
The Belarussian would save a match point in the tenth game of the deciding set before breaking the world number 1 to give herself a chance to serve out the match. Azarenka was 40-0 up but couldn’t finish Serena off. Serena saved the first two match points with huge groundstrokes before Azarenka unbelievably served 3 double faults in a row. It was a game that pretty much summed up Azarenka’s luck in 2015. Azarenka would never recover in the deciding tiebreaker, Serena stormed to victory from the jaws of defeat.
7. AO R4: Dominika Cibulkova d. Victoria Azarenka 6-2 3-6 6-3
Dominika Cibulkova and Victoria Azarenka’s fourth round battle at the Australian Open was an epic. The two produced some of the best exchanges from the baseline of the year. Dominika was particularly impressive, the Slovakian was at her devastating best finishing the match with 44 winners and just 29 unforced errors in what was probably her best performance of an injury plagued season.
What made this match so great was that the level of play increased in each set. Cibulkova was on fire in the first set, winning 6 games in a row to take the lead. Azarenka responded in the second set, really raising her level and intensity to send the match to a decider. It was up to Cibulkova to respond and she did, blasting her way past Azarenka with her fantastic movement and thunderous groundstrokes.
6. Brisbane R1: Karolina Pliskova d. Victoria Azarenka 4-6 7-6 6-4
Karolina Pliskova was one the biggest improver’s in season 2015. The Czech made an impact in her very first match of the year, producing one of her best performances of the year to edge past Victoria Azarenka in a memorable match in Brisbane.
Karolina showed great resistance and fighting spirit in this match, Azarenka twice led by a set and a break and would serve for the match at 5-4 in the second set where she would fail to convert a match point. The second set would eventually be decided by a tiebreaker, Azarenka would again see a match point come and go as Pliskova played bold tennis under pressure to force a deciding set.
The third set was extremely close and was played at a very high level. Pliskova obtained the only break of the set at 4-4 before saving multiple break points with winners to serve out the match. Pliskova’s ability to hit the lines under extreme pressure really stood out in this match, she was rewarded with a victory after a tick over 3 hours of play.