Tennis 2008 Season Highlights: "That" final and other great moments

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Tennis 2008 Season Highlights: "That" final and other great moments.

By Betfair.com

<strong>Federer and Nadal's five set Wimbledon final, Tsonga's Australian Open run and Laura Robson's emergence were amongst Barry Millns' highlights in the world of tennis in 2008....</strong>

Everyone will have their own favourite memories of another action-packed season. In this brief recollection let me begin with one of mine - <strong>Jo-Wilfried Tsonga </strong>in full flow at the Australian Open (and currently trading at [22] to go one better and win the title next January).

So powerful and so positive with his evolutionary attacking style, he started with a bang by knocking out Andy Murray ([6.4]) and then toppled two more Top 10 players - Richard Gasquet ([140]) and Rafael Nadal ([5.7]) en route to the final. <strong>Novak Djokovic </strong>([7.2]) ultimately proved the stronger in that, but it was the effervescent Frenchman who lit up the first major fortnight of the year.

Sadly a knee injury subsequently blighted much of Tsonga's season, ruling him out of the French Open and Wimbledon. But just over a month after he had won his maiden title by beating Djokovic in the Bangkok final, he thrilled his home crowd to claim the Paris Masters with a succession of battling displays against the likes of Djokovic, Andy Roddick ([48.0]) and defending champion <strong>David Nalbandian </strong>([50.0]).

Tsonga aside, though, much of the rest of 2008 revolved around four men - Roger Federer [3.35], Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. For Federer, undermined by a bout of mononucleosis, losing his title in Melbourne and a succession of failures to win any of the first five Masters Series events preceded a humiliating 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 crushing by Nadal in yet another <strong>Roland Garros</strong> final between them.

Having set the bar so high Federer's dip in form was increasingly judged to be much more than a temporary blip. And then he lost Wimbledon where he had reigned supreme for five years.

But what a loss it was in 'that final' and what a triumph for Nadal, arguably the greatest tennis match ever played and undoubtedly one of the finest contests there has ever been in all sport. Remember how Federer roused himself from two sets down, how he won a third set tiebreak and then an epic fourth having saved one championship point with an outrageous backhand winner up the line!

So to the decider, another rain delay at 2-2 and then in the gathering gloom the most breathtaking conclusion as they stayed locked on serve to 7-all before Nadal broke the Swiss once more and then served out for a tumultuous win. Having witnessed it all just yards away, memories of that day still give me goose-bumps!

While Nadal also went onto take over from Federer as world No.1 and become Olympic Champion, the one other Wimbledon match that still lingers in the memory was Murray's five-set comeback win against <strong>Gasquet</strong> to reach his first major quarter-final. When the Frenchman blinked towards the end of the third set, Murray pounced brilliantly and produced some iconic moments of his year.

It lit the touch-paper to a spectacular second half of the season for Britain's best that included Masters Series titles in Cincinnati and <strong>Madrid</strong>, memorable first ever victories over Djokovic and Nadal, plus a first and surely not the last appearance in a grand slam final. Federer and the fates conspired against Britain's best on that third Monday in New York but subsequent wins over the Swiss in Madrid and famously in the round-robin stage of the Tennis Masters Cup when he needn't have bothered, underlined how the undisputed Top Three have now become the Fab Four.

It would be great to write about women's tennis in such glowing terms but 2008 was a mixed bag by comparison. While <strong>Laura Robson's </strong>joyful run at junior Wimbledon was a memorable aside, the injuries and inconsistencies of so many leading players meant a merry-go-round at the top of the world rankings, especially after Justine Henin announced her shock retirement.

Jelena Jankovic [8.8] for Australian Open glory, will start 2009 as the world No.1 but her achievements this year somehow paled by comparison with the French Open success of Ana Ivanovic [8.2], the emergence of Dinara Safina [14] as a major contender, a golden Olympics for Elena Dementieva [20] and the respective Wimbledon and <strong>US Open</strong> triumphs of the two best players still out there - Venus [6.8] and Serena Williams [4.6].
 
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