In the world of professional tennis, there are a lot of matches that end in straight sets as the most elite players in the world are head and shoulders above much of the competition that they face. When you get toward the finals of each tournament, though, players are more evenly matched and it can make for some legendary matches.
Throughout the history of the Women’s Tennis Association, some matches have been replayed over and over on television because they were so amazing. Let’s take a look at the five best matches in WTA history (in no particular order), who came out on top in those matches, and how it impacted the sport of tennis for years to come.
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Francesca Schiavone (2011-Australian Open)
Svetlana Kuznetsova had cruised into the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open as the 23rd seed, winning her first three matches in straight sets. Italian player Francesca Schiavone, on the other hand, needed three lengthy matches as the sixth seed. The two would square off with a trip to the semifinals on the line, with Schiavone taking the first set 6-4 while Kuznetsova won the second 6-1.
The third and final set would be an epic showdown, pushing the match to a time of 4 hours and 44 minutes, making it the longest women’s singles match in grand slam history. The two competitors were clearly exhausted by the end, but Schiavone was able to hold out for just a bit longer, winning the set 16-14. She then went on to win the first set in the quarterfinals against Caroline Wozniacki before losing in three sets.
Venus Williams vs. Lindsay Davenport (2005-Wimbledon)
Venus Williams had almost zero trouble with the competition at the 2005 Wimbledon Championships, winning all of her matches in two sets leading up to the finals. Lindsay Davenport had two of her matches reach a third set, but it never seemed that she was in any true danger of losing. Davenport was the number one player in the world at the time while Venus was ranked 14th.
Davenport got an early jump on Williams, winning the first set 6-4, but a tiebreaker win in the second set allowed Williams to force a third set. The two women went into extended games in the final set, with Williams winning 9-7. Williams had been on the brink multiple times but finished the nearly 3-hour-long match with a victory.
Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova (1985-French Open)
One of the greatest rivalries in women’s tennis history was between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, with the two facing off many times throughout their illustrious careers. Some of those clashes occurred with the pair being ranked as the top two players in the world, and the 1985 French Open was no exception. Neither woman had dropped a set by the time they reached the finals against each other.
Evert won the first set 6-3 while Navratilova won a lengthy tiebreaker to take the second set 7-6. Evert was able to beat her rival in the third set, winning 7-5. The two embraced after their epic match, with Navratilova saying “We brought out the best in each other.”
Monica Seles vs. Steffi Graf (1992-French Open)
In another case of the world’s top two players going at it with a grand slam championship on the line, Monica Seles and Steffi Graff were both in their prime when 1992 came around and battled for the French Open title. Seles came in as the top-ranked player while Graf was hot on her heels. In the semifinals, both women would need three sets, and they’d need even more than the standard for their finals match.
Seles took the first set 6-2 while Graf answered back with a 6-3 win. The deciding set went on for a long time as neither one wanted to be the person that cracked first. Eventually, a worn-out Seles got the best of Graf, winning the set 10-8. “It couldn’t have been a better final,” Seles said, claiming it was the most emotional match she has played.
Maria Sharapova vs. Serena Williams (2005-Australian Open)
The second of just two matches on the list that aren’t grand slam finals came in 2005, but a trip to the finals was on the line when fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova was taking on seventh-ranked Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Williams was coming off of an easy win, defeating second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-2, while Sharapova had been in a battle with Svetlana Kuznetsova.
It appeared that Sharapova was locked in after the first set as she cruised to a 6-2 win. In the second set, however, Williams came back from a 5-4 deficit and won 7-5. The final set was an epic showdown of two women at the top of their game, with Williams prevailing 8-6 after fighting off three break points. She’d go on to win the title over top-ranked Lindsay Davenport.