Ask any player if Grand Slams are the Holy Grail of tennis and they would readily agree. Easily the four most elite events on the tennis calendar, the Grand Slams offer the best showcase of emerging talents, going toe-to-toe with established stars and stalwarts with an eye on the coveted prize.
Rankings and reputations matter little in a Grand Slam draw, as players are driven by a singular obsession to land the cup of glory. This explains why the Majors are replete with instances of players, on the lower end of the ranking scale, punching above their weight and conjuring epic upsets as they are with golden moments of stalwarts scripting another chapter in the glory book.
As 2020 draws to a close, take a look at some of the best Grand Slam matches of the year that held the tennis world in thrall and provided ample moments that make this game what it is.
An epic five-setter, this third-round clash between maverick and troubled Aussie star Nick Kyrgios and Russian Karen Khachanov will go down in the annals as one of the best Grand Slam matches ever played.
Currently at 20 in the ATP singles rankings, the 24-year-old Russian played out of his skin to give the Aussie a run for his money and tennis fans a Grand Slam showdown of the ages.
Going level with Kyrgios on skill and play, the Russian pulled out his best tennis at Melbourne Park to give the Aussie a massive scare before he finished on the winning side.
After dropping the opening set rather tamely at 2-6, the Russian took the second into a tie-break, which he lost. However, that was before he scripted a glorious comeback, winning the next two sets via tie-breaks. Though the final-set tie-break didn’t go his way, the match finished at honors-even despite the Russian losing it 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7.
A late bloomer at 29 and ranked 49th, American Tennys Sandgren gave 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer a serious workout in this absorbing quarter-final tie.
While the opening set went along expected lines as Federer won it 6-3, Sandgren stunned the Swiss contingent in the crowd into silence, taking the next two in a breeze.
Defeat stared Federer in the face as the fourth set headed to a tie-break. However, with his back to the wall, the ‘Swiss Master’ fought back to eventually win 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6, 6-3.
This was a final befitting a Major featuring Austrian tennis sensation Dominic Thiem and 17-time Slam champion Novak Djokovic. With both players going into the title clash with a run of wins under their belts, it was expected to go the distance.
After winning the opening set fairly comfortably, Djokovic lost his grip on the game as the Austrian roared back to take the next two sets. However, it was the Serb’s greater big-match experience that showed in the end as he won his 17th Major title 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
This quarter-final tie at the Rod Laver Arena was too close to call for the better part of two sets. Thiem matched the 20-time Grand Slam winning Spaniard Rafael Nadal shot for shot, as the opening set was deadlocked a six games apiece before the Austrian pipped Nadal in the tie-break.
The second set followed a similar script. Not one to go down without a fight, Rafael Nadal stormed back to win the third set and took the fourth into a tie-breaker. However, Thiem bested him in the tie-break for a third time to take the match 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.
Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas and 24th-ranked Croatian Borna Coric produced a third-round thriller at a spectator-less Louis Armstrong Stadium. It turned out to be a battle of equals as both players won two sets apiece before the Croat turned the screws on Tsitsipas in the deciding-set tie-break to win 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 to book himself a berth in the round of 32.
This quarter-final showdown at the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium lived up to its billing as Canadian Denis Shapovalov and Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta took two sets off each other before the latter prevailed 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 0-6, 6-3. The two players ebbed and flowed like a tide on the Flushing River, but the Spaniard seized on the key openings in the game to end up on the winning side.
German Alexander Zverev seemed to have one hand on the trophy, leading Thiem two sets to nil. However, the Austrian dug in and produced a fairytale comeback to win the next three sets and his maiden Grand Slam championship. While four sets were won and lost by clear margins, the deciding one went into a tie-break where the Austrian pipped the German 8-6. The final scoreline read 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in Thiem’s favor.
This quarter-final tie at the Philippe-Chatrier saw Thiem and ninth-ranked Argentine Diego Schwartzman produce edge-of-the-seat tennis before the Austrian prevailed in five sets. Stunned by the Argentine in the opening-set tie-break, Thiem roared back to win the next two sets. However, the momentum shifted again as Schwartzman won the fourth set, taking the match into a decider. But Austrian produced scintillating tennis in the final set to take the match 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2.
This first-round showdown between homeboy Corentin Moutet and Italian Lorenzo Giustino would go down in the annals as one of the longest Grand Slam matches ever played. Both players won two sets apiece, taking the match into a decider. However, no one would have expected the final set to unfold in the manner it did. With neither managing to break the other’s serve, the deciding set wore on for three hours before the Italian outlasted the Frenchman 0-6, 7-6, 7-6, 2-6, 18-16.
Scripting another first at the Roland-Garros, this fourth-round match between American Taylor Fritz and Brazilian Lorenzo Sonego was witness to the longest tie-break ever recorded in French Open history. The 36-point tie-break in the third set was eventually decided 19-17 in the Brazilian’s favor as he booked himself a place in the round of 16.