Thursday, December 13, 2007

2001 Wimbledon SF: Rafter def. Agassi

Rafter def. Agassi: 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 8-6.
Classic: No.
Rating: 91.

The Plot:
A repeat of the previous years semi-final. Rafter had had a miserable year with injuries, but had come through the draw at Wimbledon in usual athletic form. Agassi too was playing well, and the match was highly anticipated because of the classic semi-final the two had played the previous year. Added to that, Pete Sampras had gone out in the 4th round to a certain Roger Federer, which would mean that there would be a new Wimbledon champion for the first time since 1996.

The Match: An in-form Agassi has the initiative in the 1st set where he breaks Rafter in 3rd game, playing some unbelievable tennis. He breaks again in the 5th game. Agassi is serving great and Rafter is not able to return effectively. Agassi takes the 1st set 6-2. In the 2nd game of the 2nd set Rafter breaks at 30-40 when the ball takes a terrible bounce on Agassi's side of the court. Rafter saves 2 break points in the 3rd game with some great serving, but it is clear that his volleys are not as sharp as usual.

In the 3rd set Rafter seems to find some of the form from the previous years semi-final and plays some great volleys, but it is Agassi who breaks in the 6th game and takes the set 6-3. In the 4th set it seems to be Agassi who is on top again, but in the 6th game Rafter breaks when Agassi gets two line calls that he thinks are bad - one of which certainly looks so on the TV replay. Later, a frustrated Agassi loses his serve and the set 6-2.

In the 5th set Rafter loses serve in the 1st game, and almost goes down a double break. Agassi plays incredibly well and holds serve until he serves for the match at 5-4, when suddenly Rafter plays the most inspired tennis to break and level the match 5-5. The players test each other on serve but hold until 7-6, when Rafter breaks Agassi, winning the match on his 3rd match point.

The bottom line: The match is very good, but the level of play is not consistently as high as it was in the previous years' semifinal. It is fair to say that Agassi plays better for most of the match, and Rafter is aided in the 4th set by a dicey line call. Rafter plays his best in the 3rd set and in the 5th set after almost losing his serve again at 0-2. At the best of times the match is as good as the 2000 semi-final, but that is not quite the case in sets 1 and 2. Agassi plays great throughout and his passes and lobs are a joy to watch, and in the highly dramatic 5th set Rafter plays some stunning volleys. The match is very entertaining and gets my recommendation, but I hesitate to call it a classic.

Bonus info: Agassi receives a code violation in the 5th set after yelling an obscenity at the lines-person on the line where he repeatedly feels that bad calls are made. Note though that it is not the same line-judge on that line in the 5th set as it was in the 4th.

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