Thursday April 9th, 2015

As the clay season kicks off, take a look back at the top 18 most memorable moments of the first quarter of the 2015 tennis season. 

Serena Williams gets a mid-match pick-me-up at Hopman Cup

Even the great champions need something a little stronger than Gatorade when they're feeling the lingering effects of jetlag. After losing the first set 6-0 to Flavia Pennetta at the Hopman Cup exhibition in January, Serena sent off for an espresso to snap herself out of funk. It worked. She went on to the win the next two sets 6-3, 6-0. 


Federer wins Brisbane to earn win No. 1,000

Chris Hyde/Getty Images

It wasn't easy, but Federer started his season by beating Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4 for his 1,000th career win. "Looking back, it's almost nicer winning this way through a tight match with nerves and humid conditions against a great player in a final," said Federer. "It means so much more than just running away with it with the score maybe 6-4, 6-4, which was looking very likely at one stage. I guess I was much more happy having to go three sets in the end rather than winning in straight." 

Andreas Seppi stuns Federer in Melbourne

The Italian veteran was 0-10 against Federer heading into their third round match at the Australian Open—and he had only won one set off Federer in those 10 meetings. There was nothing about their Melbourne clash that signified an upset. Even with Seppi holding a two-sets to one lead, a Federer win still felt inevitable, especially given Seppi's tendency to get nervous. So when Seppi floated a lunging forehand passing shot in on match point to seal the win, we were left speechless: 


Madison Keys blitzes past Petra Kvitova en route to the Australian Open semifinals

The 19-year-old American came out of Sloane Stephens' shadow when she held her nerve to take down one of the game's biggest hitters to win 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of the Australian Open. She earned another big win two rounds later, beating Venus Williams 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to make her first Slam semifinal, where she lost to Serena. But it was the performance against Kvitova that was the eye-opener. 


Grigor Dimitrov offers up the smash of the season

After double-faulting to blow a 5-2 lead over Andy Murray in the fourth set, Grigor Dimitrov unleashed the best racket smash of the season.

He went on to lose the match by losing that set. Dimitrov hasn't been the same player since—hasn't won back-to-back matches at any tournament since the Australian Open. 

Andy Murray stands up for female coaches

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

After beating Berdych to advance to his first Slam final since winning Wimbledon in 2013, Murray offered a strong defense of his decision to hire Mauresmo as his coach, and he also put the spotlight on the success of female coaches at this year's tournament. "I seen no reason why that can't keep moving forward in the future," Murary said. "I thank Amelie for doing it. I think it was a brave choice for her to do it."

Kim Sears steals the show at the Australian Open

Two days after a video of her cursing out Tomas Berdych under her breath during Andy Murray's semifinal, Sears showed up to the men's final with the pitch-perfect response:

Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Serena seals No. 19 with an ace—twice

Embroiled in one of the tougher matches she's had against No. 2 Maria Sharapova, Serena stepped to the line with the match on her racket for the Australian Open title. She fired what appeared to be an ace out wide to win her 19th major, but the umpire claimed to have heard a let. So what does Serena do? Step to the line, fire the same serve, this time without a let, to seal the win. That's guts, belief and swag—all in two swings of the racket.


Novak Djokovic stumbles, bumbles, and rumbles away with his fifth Australian Open title

The men's Australian Open final won't go down as a best-seller on the DVD racks. There were head-scratching performances from both Djokovic and Murray, both of whom suffered from the physicality of the match. But it was Djokovic's on-court stumbling and lack of balance through the end of the second set and into the third that were just flat-out confusing. He eventually rebounded from his "physical crisis" to run away with the match, beating Murray 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 to win his fifth Australian Open final. Was Djokovic really suffering on court? Was it gamesmanship? Did Murray get fooled? Those were the questions dominating the post-match analysis. But as Djokovic would go on to show through the spring hard court season, maybe it was just another example of the resilient Serb bending and not breaking. 

Eugenie Bouchard hires Sam Sumyk

The WTA coaching carousel was already in full-effect at the start of the off-season. No. 3 Simona Halep abruptly dropped Wim Fissette after her most successful season, Sloane Stephens dropped Thomas Hogstedt, and Serena Williams showed up to Melbourne without her longtime confidant and hitting partner Sascha Bajin. But the changes got a shot of intrigue in February when Bouchard announced she had hired Victoria Azarenka's coach, just a month after Azarenka told The New York Times in a January profile that she considered Sumyk more of a "life coach" than just the brain behind her tactics and training. Azarenka would go on to hire both Fissette and Bajin. Since the changes, Bouchard is 2-4 under Sumyk. Azarenka is 7-3 with her new team.


James Ward stuns the U.S. 

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

On paper, the U.S. were a narrow favorite to beat Andy Murray's Great Britain team in the first round of Davis Cup. James Ward had other ideas. The British No. 2, who had never cracked the Top 100, rallied from two-sets to love down to beat John Isner 6-7(4), 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(3), 15-13 to give Britain an insurmountable 2-0 after Day 1. Murray cleaned up the win by beating Isner in straight sets two days later. It was soul-crushing blow for Isner, who went back to the drawing board and has since played some of his best tennis. 

Serena announces her return to Indian Wells

Harry How/Getty Images

The No. 1 announced in February that she would end her 14-year boycott of the tournament in a letter published by She took the time to explain her decision:

When I arrived at Indian Wells in 2001, I was looking to take another title. I was ready. But however ready I was, nothing could have prepared me for what happened in the final. As I walked out onto the court, the crowd immediately started jeering and booing. In my last match, the semifinals, I was set to play my sister, but Venus had tendinitis and had to pull out. Apparently that angered many fans. Throughout my whole career, integrity has been everything to me. It is also everything and more to Venus. The false allegations that our matches were fixed hurt, cut and ripped into us deeply. The under­current of racism was painful, confusing and unfair. In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid.

Thirteen years and a lifetime in tennis later, things feel different. A few months ago, when Russian official Shamil Tarpischev made racist and sexist remarks about Venus and me, the WTA and USTA immediately condemned him. It reminded me how far the sport has come, and how far I’ve come too.

Andrea Petkovic saves nine match points in eight days

The German was winless when February rolled around, after an 0-3 start to the season in Australia. Then she turned it around in the span of a week. With Angelique Kerber struggling, Petkovic stepped up to go 2-0 in Fed Cup, leading Germany to a win over Australia. She saved a match point to beat Sam Stosur 6-4, 3-6, 12-10 and then beat Jarmila Gajdosova 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 to clinch the tie. Then she headed to Antwerp, Belgium, and saved eight match points in her opening round to beat Alyson Van Uytvanck 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-2. By the end of the week she won her first title of the season. 

Watch Petkovic's eight match point saves here:


France stuns Italy in Fed Cup, comes back from 0-2 down


Mauresmo showed her brilliance in captaining the French to a 3-2 upset win over four-time champion Italy, coming back from 0-2 down. A loss away from losing the tie, Mauresmo subbed out her No. 1 Alize Cornet and put in No. 56 Kristina Mladenovic to play Italy's No. 1 Sara Errani. The youngster's hard-hitting game left Errani with no answers and Mladenovic kept France alive with 6-4, 6-3 win. Caroline Garcia followed up with a gritty win of her own, beating Camila Giorgi in three sets to force the decisive doubles rubber. Mauresmo opted to pair up her two youngsters to face the No. 1 team in the world in Errani/Vinci. The kids blew them off the court, winning 6-1, 6-2 to complete the comeback. That was incredibly smart personnel management by Mauresmo. 

Serena sheds tears as she receives a standing ovation at Indian Wells

Serena returned to Stadium Court for the first time in 14 years to a rousing standing ovation, and as the cameras zoomed in, all her emotions were laid bare. The nerves, the stress, and the worry melted away as the moment moved her to tears. A week later she would walk on that court again, with the same bundle of nerves, as she announced to the crowd that a knee injury meant she would have to pull out of the tournament. Again, she was met with cheers. 

Watch Serena's emotional walk-out below:


Nadal plays two matches in one day and loses to Fabio Fognini in Rio

It seemed as though everything was conspiring against Nadal at the Rio Open. Forced to play the late night match nearly every night, the worst luck came for Nadal in the quarterfinals. Lengthy matches pushed the night session well past midnight and Nadal didn't take the court for his quarterfinal against Pablo Cuevas until 1 a.m. local time. The match didn't finish until after 3 a.m. and Nadal was back on court later that day to play Fognini in the semifinal and lost 6-1, 2-6, 5-7.

Equally as memorable: Fognini's ridiculous winner on match point:


Serena and Halep play a classic at the Miami Open

En route to her eighth Miami Open title, Serena was challenged by No. 3 Simona Halep, who was trying to become just the third woman to complete the Indian Wells-Miami double. What unfolded over three sets was without a doubt the WTA match of the year, with Halep finding a way to hold on and pressure Serena into a poor service game at the end of the second set to earn the break she needed to force a third set. In the final frame, Serena found her rhythm again and what resulted was a battle between power and guile. Serena won 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.


Novak Djokovic completes the triple-double 

By winning Indian Wells (d. Federer) and Miami (d. Murray), Djokovic became the first man to complete the double three times in the Open Era. That he was tested in both finals and came through in three sets just underlines his confidence and form in 2015. He now holds the three biggest titles of the season.

At times he's made it look this easy:


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