Tennis Prose



Most Memorable Shots Of All Time

What are your most memorable shots of all time? Let’s break it down for each shot – forehand, backhand, volley, serve, overhead.

For me, the most memorable forehand I ever saw, that springs to mind first is the Novak Djokovic forehand winner cross court down match points vs Federer at US Open semis in the fifth set. Of course, Djokovic saved the next match point and came back and won.

Backhand – the Marcelo Rios jump backhand cross court winner in the 2002 Miami Open semi vs Agassi, first set tiebreaker at 8-8 or 9-9, provoking ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe to gush, “…That is PURE GENIUS RIGHT THERE…” Rios won the set on the next point with a drop volley undercut spin winner. But Rios lost a close second set 64 and then retired with a leg injury before the third set.

Serve? There are a lot of those to choose from too. I’ve probably watched over a million serves in 25 years of tennis watching. But the first one that comes to mind…the Pete Sampras second serve ace down match point to Corretja at the US Open quarterfinals. Or the Pete Sampras serve that smashed through the strings of Patrick Rafter’s Prince racquet in the Cincinnati final.

Overhead? This one is easy. The Pete Sampras invented slam dunk overhead. Nobody hit the overhead with more flare and power than Pistol Pete. He only deployed this specialty stroke on the rare opportunities it presented a chance, but each time Sampras slam dunked his overhead smash, the crowd ooohed and aahed in wonder.

Volley? For some reason an obscure one comes to mind. It was in the third set of a Miami Open quarterfinal night match, tight third set between Hewitt and Marat Safin. Hewitt hit a running forehand pass up the line that Safin just barely measured and then dove horizontally and somehow stabbed it with an angle and spin for the miraculous winner. Safin got up from the ground, bloodied and still focused, showing no pleasure in the unbelievable volley winner on a key point. The stress of having to battle a raging Hewitt prevented Safin from enjoying a brief celebration for one of the best shots he ever hit in his life. Safin ended up losing to Hewitt in the third set tiebreaker but this volley is still alive in my memory for some reason.

These are some of my most memorable shots, what are yours?

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  • Harold · December 18, 2019 at 11:58 am

    You give the players too much credit for being psychological warriors.. Crowds are easily manipulated, especially at tennis. 99% of tennis crowds have the lower deck filled with seen, and be seen fans, its an event to see players waiting because morons are leaving as a 4th set tiebreaker is starting.
    The upper deck are always almost always full, unless the sun is burning n some section. They arent as easily manipulated. If you want to go Medvedev and get the crowd against you, thats one thing. There are always villains..

    Nadal would never pull that stunt in a Fed match, the same way JMac always behaved against Borg

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Lendl’s funky underhanded forehand slice winner, where he came under the ball on approach shots and it bounced away to the the right of the court. It was vicious and excellent. I haven’t seen anyone use it since (haven’t seen enough tennis recently) but believe the underhanded forehand slice shot deserves a comeback.

    Chang of course his underarm serve winner, which Kyrgios has thankfully brought back. 1989 French Open.

  • Harold · December 18, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Thought we were talking about a shot during a specific match,

    Wilanders was a running one handed bh down the line winner at a big point..That he never hit that shot, is what made it memorable

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Sabatini’s final winners in her Graf 1990 US Open. Was so sure Sabatini would lose that match. She found her form in the last few games and the biggest deal, the final winners. Sabatini was someone always hoped would win who found so many ways to lose.

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Radwanska’s stepping so far in the court as to be obnoxious against Sharapova. Most memorable “shot”, 2007 US Open. Radwanska played so boldly by standing almost on the service line. And it worked!

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Rios 1998 back-hand volley lob in the Agassi Miami match.

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Any shot from Nadal in his 2009 fifth set against Federer at the 2009 Australian Open. Nadal flushed all the pressure and kept focused in hitting through the nerves those first few games. That was memorable, even if no one shot stands out.

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    “memorable” shot is hard. Memorable moments, easier. A memorable shot in a losing effort was the Federer down the line winner in the late stages of the 2008 Wimbledon final against Nadal. As someone else pointed out Federer backhand over time has become more of a weapon and that shot is now routine for him, but in a match with Nadal picking on the shot relentlessly, that backhand down the line winner around one of the match points made a difference. Maybe it was the fourth set? Can’t remember, but it was a beauty.

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Too many great shots. This is impossible.

  • Hartt · December 18, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    I don’t think Fed fans are at all concerned that Novak could turn their cheering for Roger to his advantage. They will cheer for Fed like crazy no matter what.

    I agree with Andrew that it is time to see some new Slam winners. Even as a Fed fan I am more than ready for some new faces in the winner’s circle. I know it is extremely tough, but I hope Tsitsipas, Medvedev or Thiem manage it next season. Or maybe even a surprise winner. Anyone!

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Disclaimer: I admire big three, Murray, Stan. However: it’s time for others to get over themselves, and over their admiration for their elders. With three players holding more slams than the previous all-time record holder (Sampras), and showing little sign of slowing down any time soon (save Federer, who has been far more mortal as the older man), the young guys have to make their moves now.

  • Harold · December 18, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Is this the second or third generation that is supposed to take down the big 3?

  • Hartt · December 18, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    Harold, at least the third.

    There is their own generation, with Berdych, etc. Then the “Lost Generation” with Nishikori, Dimitrov and Raonic. Thiem is kind of on his own, in between the Lost Generation and the Next Gen, although players like Medvedev and Khachanov, who are 23, could fit in with him. And of course now the Next Gen, with Tsitsipas, Shapo, Zverev, etc.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 18, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    Every game every match we see an array of great shots but we are looking to recall the really really special memorable specific shots that we still remember all these years later.

  • Andrew Miller · December 18, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Lost track of how many next generations were supposed to challenge these guys. Three, four, five? Whoever was supposed to come along around 2007, and everyone from then until now, so twelve to thirteen years of futility.

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