Top Five ATP Match Comebacks Of 2019
Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the top five comebacks in ATP matches in 2019.
5. Andreas Seppi d. Zhizhen Zhang, Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships, Second Round (Match Stats)
Fans in Zhuhai had quickly rallied around Zhang. The rising Chinese player won his first ATP Challenger Tour title that month in Jinan, then scored his first Top 100 victory in two years with an opening-round win over Dominik Koepfer.
Zhang led Seppi 6/2 in the third-set tie-break, but the Italian refused to give up. He produced the shot of the tournament at 6/4, ending a 28-shot rally with a one-handed backhand passing shot on the run. Seppi converted his second match point to complete an astonishing 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(8) victory in two hours and 44 minutes.
The 35-year-old lost in the quarter-finals to Roberto Bautista Agut, but went on to score his first Top 10 win of the year against Karen Khachanov for a semi-final finish at the VTB Kremlin Cup. Zhang picked up another tour-level win the following week at the China Open and concluded his season with an ATP Challenger Tour title in Shenzhen, finishing at a career-high No. 139 in the ATP Rankings.
4. Roberto Bautista Agut d. Novak Djokovic, Miami Open presented by Itau, Fourth Round (Match Stats)
Bautista Agut opened the season by rallying from a set and a break down to defeat Djokovic en route to taking the title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open (d. Berdych). But the World No. 1 still arrived for their match in Miami as the on-paper favourite and held a 7-2 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. Djokovic also had plenty of success in Miami to draw on as a six-time champion.
Just like their Doha clash, Bautista Agut trailed by a set and a break as Djokovic raced to a 6-1, 1-0 lead. The Spaniard worked his way into the match, breaking back in the next game and winning eight of the last 11 points in the set to force a decider.
Bautista Agut continued his outstanding form in return games during the final set. He broke twice and won 11 of 21 points on Djokovic’s serve to score a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 upset after two hours and 29 minutes.
“I played more aggressive. I tried to miss fewer balls, to be really concentrated on the beginning of the point with my serve, with my return. At the end, it worked well,” Bautista Agut said after the match.
Bautista Agut fell to defending champion John Isner in the quarter-finals, but used his momentum from Miami to produce his best season on Tour. He reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and finished the year with a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 9.
Watch Highlights: Bautista Agut Upsets Djokovic In Miami
3. Fabio Fognini d. Andrey Rublev, Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, First Round (Match Stats)
Fognini arrived in Monte-Carlo desperate for matches after producing a 4-8 record to begin the year. It appeared that the slump would continue after Rublev charged to a 6-4, 4-1 lead in their Day 1 clash.
Rublev racked up five break points for a 5-1 advantage, but Fognini erased them all as the Russian’s nerves took over. Fognini went on a three-game run at 4-5 to level the match, then scored the lone break of the decider at 1-1 to prevail 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and 30 minutes.
The comeback sparked the best week of Fognini’s career. He took out Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and Rafael Nadal before defeating Dusan Lajovic for his first ATP Masters 1000 crown. Two months later, the 32-year-old made his debut inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.
Despite the loss, Rublev went on to produce stellar results in the second half of the year. He prevailed on home soil in Moscow (d. Mannarino), upset Dominic Thiem en route to a runner-up finish at the Hamburg European Open (l. to Basilashvili) and shocked Roger Federer for his first Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Western & Southern Open.
Read More: Fognini Reflects On Winning Monte-Carlo
2. Lorenzo Sonego d. Federico Delbonis, Generali Open Kitzbühel, First Round (Match Stats)
Sonego isn’t new to producing come from behind victories. He saved a championship point against Miomir Kecmanovic to win his maiden ATP Tour crown this June at the Turkish Airlines Open Antalya. But the 24-year-old Italian took the art of the comeback to new heights in Kitzbühel against Delbonis.
Sonego fought back from 0-4 to take the opening set in a tie-break, but he was just getting started. Delbonis held four match points with Sonego serving at 4-5 in the final set, but the Italian erased all of them. Another four match points came and went with Sonego serving at 5-6 and their epic clash fittingly went to a final-set tie-break.
Delbonis was unable to recover mentally after squandering eight match points. Sonego charged through the tie-break to prevail 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-6(4) after three hours and 36 minutes, more than double the length he needed to win their maiden FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting that February at the Brasil Open. The seventh seed won seven fewer points than Delbonis, but emerged victorious in large part due to saving all eight break points he faced in the deciding set.
The Italian went on to reach the semi-finals and finished the year at No. 52 in the ATP Rankings, climbing more than 60 spots from the beginning of the season.
Read More: 5 Things To Know About Sonego
1. Rafael Nadal d. Daniil Medvedev, Nitto ATP Finals, Round Robin (Match Stats)
Nadal arrived in London with two objectives: clinching the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking and lifting his maiden title at the season-ending championships. After dropping his first match of the week to Alexander Zverev, the Spaniard’s clash with Medvedev was a must-win encounter if he wished to advance out of Group Andre Agassi.
The Russian raised his level in the final set and sprinted to a 4-0 lead. With Nadal serving at 1-5, 30/40, it appeared that Medvedev would pick up his first win at the season finale and 60th tour-level victory of the year. But, as Nadal has demonstrated countless times, he can’t be counted out.
Nadal bravely erased the match point with a delicate drop shot and eventually held serve. With the finish line in sight, Medvedev’s normally reliable shots betrayed him. From match point down, Nadal won 15 of the next 19 points to even the set at 5-5.
Their battle eventually moved to a tie-break and Nadal struck in the final moments. With the Spaniard serving at 5/4, Medvedev coughed up a pair of baseline errors to give Nadal a 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4) win after two hours and 47 minutes.
ASTONISHING FROM RAFA NADAL 🤯
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 13, 2019
”I’ve been super lucky,” Nadal said. “Sorry for Daniil. It’s a tough loss. He was playing much better than me in the third set. It’s one of these days, one out of 1,000, where you win.”
Although Nadal didn’t advance out of round-robin action, he concluded his season by finishing as year-end No. 1 for the fifth time.