12/4/12 4:41 PM | Ricky Dimon
It's time to reveal Tennistalk's Top 10 matches of the year, starting with three that just barely made the cut. They include Fernando Gonzalez's farewell, a thriller in the Basel final, and an Olympic showdown with medals on the line.
10. Nicolas Mahut d. Fernando Gonzalez 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3) - Sony Ericsson Open third round
Rarely do first-round matches at non-slam events come with an atmosphere quite like this one, but that's what happens when a famous South American is playing in Miami...especially when there's a chance it could be his last match. It did turn out to be the end for Gonzalez, but not before an amazing battle against Mahut in which the protagonist of the event saved three match points late in the third set to force a decisive tiebreaker. Mahut, who used the same serve that led to his 70-68 marathon against John Isner to get out a triple-break-point jam early in the third, ultimately had too much left in his tank.
"The atmosphere was great," said Gonzalez, who got nice hugs from Mahut and chair umpire Carlos Bernardes when it was over. "I saved match points, but I felt that it was the end. Nicolas played better in the important moments and I was a little bit tired."
9. Juan Martin Del Potro d. Roger Federer 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3) - Swiss Indoors Basel final
Even though Federer-Del Potro matches almost always end with the same outcome, rarely do they disappoint. This one certainly didn't, and it even produced an unexpected winner. Del Potro denied Federer, who was bidding for a sixth title at his hometown event in Basel, after three hard-hitting sets and tiebreakers in each of the final two. Federer was not at his very best, but Del Potro was completely on top of his game and still needed two hours and 44 minutes to emerge the champion.
"It's an honor to be on the court with Roger, who is the greatest of all time," the affable Argentine noted. "It's great to share this moment with him.... This is a great win for me; a dream. My serve worked; my forehand worked. It was really close, but this time in my favor--finally, after six losses and two big losses at the Olympic Games and Roland Garros. It's my turn."
8. Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 - Olympics semifinals
With the winner assured of an Olympic medal and still alive for gold, Murray and Djokovic put on a gripping display of tennis for the London crowd. It ended after just two sets, but not before exactly two hours of high-quality tennis. For Murray, it was a performance that won't soon be forgotten--except that he one-upped it in the ensuing final against Federer. The Scot was near flawless in the first set and just plain clutch in the second, saving break points in four different games.
'I've played big matches before--night matches at the U.S Open, but it's not even close to how this feels," Murray said afterward. "You don't often see me smile that much, but all the volunteers and the staff, they are so pumped for you. It's great. This is one of the biggest wins of my career."
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