Slaying The Dragon

ivoShock upsets are rare occurrences in the world of pro tennis, where top players seldom surrender a centimeter of their hard-earned territory. In this feature, pro players talk about memories of their major upsets…

Scott Draper: “I played Thomas Muster in Rome. He was the King of Clay, number two in the world, defending champion. And I just went out there, I don’t know, I just had a great day where I committed to what I was trying to do and I beat him in three and a quarter hours. He went to the hospital after the match. It was one of those matches where I played unbelievable.”

When asked precisely when did he first feel it would be a special day, Draper answered: “Well, it was more of a mindset I think before I went out there. Because Tony Roche was always harping on how Thomas Muster is so amazing on every point. A hundred percent committed. And he always tried to instill that in me. And I’m sort of a stubborn kind of guy and I saw it as a good opportunity to try and throw it back in Rochie’s face a little bit [quick smile] instead of saying, Well I can sort of match with him too. And it was more of a commitment or conviction that day. I just wanted to go out there and prove it to Rochey and to myself that I can match up with the guy that’s probably renowned for being the toughest player on clay, that had been at the time.”

Was Muster shocked to lose that match? “I think he was…I mean, he was delirious. Because he had to go to the hospital. He was dehydrated. It was just one of those great feelings taking down a guy in tough conditions. It was an amazing feeling.”

Kevin Ullyett: “The semifinals of the Masters Cup against Bjorkman and Woodbridge. I think we had never beaten Woodbridge before. We were down 4-l, then we won 64 62. We won nine out of eleven games. We were down 4-l trying to hold serve. Then once we held serve, it was a joke, everything we touched just went in and we just hit winners and everything worked.”

Two years ago Michelle Larcher De Brito upset Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon, in straight sets. Larcher De Brito called it the greatest moment of her career and the best match she ever played, “by far.” “I felt like everything went my way…my serve, my groundstrokes, I just…I just played…that was the most unbelievable match I’ve ever played.”

It was a second round match at Wimbledon, played on Centre Court, Sharapova was the second seed.

When asked when she first felt something was going to be different about this performance, Larcher De Brito answered, “I don’t know, I just walked in there, because I had no pressure, I was playing Sharapova, she was number three in the world at the moment, playing on one of her favorite surfaces. And former Wimbledon champion. I just went out there without any pressure. And I just felt great out there. And I had so much fun and it was such a great match. Definitely the best one I had so far.”

It was not the first time Larcher De Brito had hit balls with Sharapova though it was their first ever professional match. “Funny enough, when I was at Bollettieri – I was twelve maybe and Sharapova was upcoming. Actually it was the year she won Wimbledon. She was on the back courts at Bollettieris and we kind of hit with her two on one. It was me and another girl. Sharapova was on the other side. And we actually hit for like ten minutes. And that was actually the first time that I hit with Sharapova. And a few months later that’s when she won Wimbledon for the first time.”

Ivan Dodig upset Nadal in a Masters Series event in North America. “It was in Montreal when I beat him. This was for me, like, the best moment so far in my career. And I was really enjoying. Basically it was kind of an incredible match for me. I was a set down and in the second set 3-1 down and then I came back and won the tiebreak 7-6. Then third set I was again 5-3 down. So I came back and was again in the tiebreak. So it was kind of everything kind of come on my side in the important points.”

Dodig said he had a special tactic that was working. “I was trying to be just aggressive on important points. Especially in the end, I was also a little bit lucky. I went for some shots and I made it. So like on match point when I finish with a winner, his backhand felt basically…I was trying to be as much as possible aggressive. And this was working very well.”

Dodig says this was the best match of his career, “The best for sure, yeah.” But Nadal won their two following encounters.

In his first ever appearance in the Wimbledon main draw Ivo Karlovic played and defeated the defending champion Lleyton Hewitt on Centre Court. “It was an unbelievable match not for of the quality of tennis but for the atmosphere. I was playing well but not unbelievable but the atmosphere that day with Hewitt, it was good. All the people cheering for me, so it was nice.”

Thomas Johansson had lost all six previous matches to Andre Agassi but their seventh meeting was in the Stockholm final. “That’s one of my best matches in my whole career I think. Everything felt great, really good atmosphere, playing at home. And especially to play Agassi in the final, it was really, really, really nice. I played really well all week, from the first match. Going up against Andre in the final is always really tough. I lost to him the previous six meetings so to beat him in front of my home crowd was just amazing. My forehand especially in that match worked out really good.”

You have heard of Younes El Aynaoui but Thomas Muster probably had not when he played the Rockin’ Moroccan in Casablanca in ’90. At the time, Muster was ranked #22, El Aynaoui was #750. “It was 7-6 in the third. It was Ramadan,” recalled Younes. “We start late and we finish late. Everybody left the club and they went for the food. And me and Thomas – when we walked out of the locker room – we were the only ones in the club. And we had to walk to go back to the hotel because there was nothing there, no cars, everybody was gone. That match is when I realized that I had the chance to make it against these guys. I was nowhere, but just the instinct made me play a good match that day.”

Luke Jensen upset Andre Agassi in ’96: “Agassi in ‘96, playing him in Memphis. Played completely out of my mind. Playing that good should have been illegal – I should have been arrested after that match. That was truly one thing. I had to play a certain – I couldn’t play any other way – it was all-out, two first serves, there was no second serve. Nothing under 100 miles an hour. It was as hard as I could hit, every single point. And everything went in. It was one match, one time the stars were aligned and it was a Super Nova time. I was just so on Cloud Nine. I’ve seen it on video since then a bunch of times. I still can’t believe that person who won that match is me.”

Jimmy Connors vs. Roy Emerson: “I played Roy Emerson in California when I was 17. That’s really what gave me the feeling that I could go out and play against the great players in the world at the time. But I also know Roy Emerson’s position at that time. He was a little bit older. He just came off the semis or finals of the U.S. Open. And it was the next week. And his intensity level might have been a little bit down. And he probably thought he was just gonna run into a kid that he was just gonna walk over. But I was the way… I was the kid willing to do anything to get through that match and to win. Because I knew what it meant to me. So I was the young gun playing the older player. And then I felt that on the other side too. So I’ve had a good career, it was fun.”

Steve Darcis shocked Nadal at Wimbledon. “I have very good memories and very bad. In ten minutes everything was done. I played maybe one of the best matches in my life in front of the big crowd. That’s why you play tennis – is to play on that court against those kind of players. And yeah I was enjoying so much during the match. After the match it was tough. I received a lot of messages, a lot of press, everything. And I knew I could not play the second round match. So you have to say everything is fine but inside of you it’s not fine. So it was a little bit difficult. I had many very difficult months right after. So it’s not only good memories.”

Darcis gained belief of victory when, “I saw in the middle of the third that he was complaining with the knee. So I knew that it was my chance but before that I think it was okay, still a good performance because that was the first time he lost first round in a Slam. I think it was pretty big.”

The tactics Darcis used to conquer Rafa: “If you stay on the backhand and you try to play with him you have no chance. So you have to come to the net. You have to take risks. You have to attack all the time. It’s tough to keep that level during one match. If you lose one set, physically it’s very difficult because he’s giving you so many balls back, so much energy during every point, like we play three sets and we play three hours and a half. So it was very tough physically, mentally, because you have to come to the net all the time. You have to keep your game in mind. I could do it that day but it’s tough.”

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  • Andrew Miller · July 2, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Dragon slayed. Querrey moves to next round.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 2, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Andrew: This ranks as one of the biggest dragon slays in tennis history -

  • Jg · July 2, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Wow, I was following the score and I can’t believe Q ball hung in there and got that break back, with Steve Johnson winning, US players can do pretty well here. Hopefully Q ball won’t have a let down, after that win he should feel he can beat anyone next week. Federer must be feeling pretty good.

  • Leif Wellington Haase · July 2, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    While Djokovic-Querrey will go down as one of the most surprising and significant upsets in Wimbledon history it isn’t in the same category as Doohan-Becker or Bastl-Sampras– one-shot upsets by marginal tour players. Djokovic played no better than his B- or C+ game but he has won dozens of matches playing below his best.

    This represented Sam Querrey finally living up to his promise as one of the best ball-strikers on tour and shedding his well-earned reputation as one of the most underachieving male American players in grand slam history. He’s always been guaranteed to go away early, usually in agonizing fashion, and after the overnight rain delay the sense that this would be a Kendrick-Nadal or Anderson-Djokovic near-miss was overwhelming.

    Except that Sam rewrote the script with a brave third set and a fourth set that approached the remarkable quality of the first. Something clicked when he was down 2-0 to Rosol in the first round and hope that he can keep the run going, though I still wouldn’t bet on it. At the very least however a career win for a very likeable guy.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 3, 2016 at 9:35 am

    jg: I think every player is feeling very good right now especially guys like Pouille Isner Gasquet RF Kei Raonic Andy Tsonga Querrey etc – with RF being match short and his fitness questionable this thing is now wide open if Andy stumbles -

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 3, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Well said Leif – it was no fluke or lucky day – Querrey played incredible tennis – this win can change Sams career – and the win over Rosol was what made this happen – I saw the end of the Rosol match and that was high high quality tennis – Rosol is a lethal force on grass –



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