Top 5 Most Surprising Upsets of 2017 in Men’s Tennis
Every third Friday of December we celebrate the National Underdog Day. Why do we celebrate it you ask? Well, because people tend to rally around those who are not favored to win, but expected to lose or fail, and it’s been that way since the beginning of mankind. Probably because we all feel a bit like underdogs, we simply love them and root for them, and no nation knows more about this connection than us Americans. Just take a look at some of the underdog characters like Rocky Balboa, William Wallace, Forrest Gump or The Karate Kid. Top dogs are perfect, and we admire them for that, but we don’t feel close to them as we have trouble relating. But an underdog – no there is someone we can relate to. Same goes for sports, and tennis is no different. When an underdog wins, we call that an upset.
As the year is coming to an end, tennis fans from all over the world join discussions regarding the top tennis upsets in 2017. There were a lot of upsets this year, both in men’s and women’s tennis, some upsets stunned everyone, some were surprising, but not that much.
We noticed a slight difference in opinions when it comes to, for example, Querrey over Murray upset, or Del Potro over Federer, or Medvedev over Wawrinka. A lot of people think that not only the difference in rankings between the match favorite and the underdog should dictate the list, but one should also take other variables into account when creating it, like the current form of the player, physical health, how the match actually played out, advancement during the entire season, player’s career, etc.
For example, Murray got defeated by a lot of “underdogs” in 2017, including Novak Djokovic, Mischa Zverev, Vasek Pospisil, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric, Fabio Fognini, Stan Wawrinka and Jordan Thomson. He suffered from illness and elbow injury during the whole season, and has been nursing the hip injury since the week before Wimbledon that he exited in distress and with a limp after a five-set defeat by Sam Querrey.
Federer said himself that Del Potro had a better chance to beat Rafa and win the tournament than him, because the way he felt (back pain) and played wasn’t good enough. His defeat by David Goffin in the Nitto ATP Finals semi-final round was also not that surprising. Federer had a tremendous season behind him, struggling with back pain and a brand-new season ahead and a Happy Slam title he needs to defend.
Wawrinka was defeated by unseeded 21-year-old Medvedev in the first round of Wimbledon. However, Wimbledon has always been Wawrinka’s toughest Slam, and plus his left knee bothered him during the entire match, so he didn’t look comfortable at any point. After The Championships, Wawrinka withdrew from the upcoming Canadian Masters and ended his year early.
Some people also think that upsets like Muller over Nadal at Wimbledon should not be considered an upset at all, because Nadal could almost be an underdog himself when it comes to grass, while Muller is a grass court specialist.
There were a lot more upsets, like Alexander Zverev losing to Borna Coric at US Open, or to Fernando Verdasco at Roland Garros first round and so on, so we are free to celebrate the 2017 as the Underdog Year! And based on the options of tennis fans from all over the world (and our humble opinion as well), we decided to focus only on the most surprising upsets of 2017, so here is our National Underdog Day story – Top 5 Most Surprising Upsets of 2017.
5. Andrey Rublev defeated Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-3 in US Open R2
Grigor Dimitrov got in the world TOP 10 back in 2014, and had won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinatti this year after defeating Nick Kyrgios, which was also his third title of the season. Not many expected his Grand Slam second round exit, especially to 19-year-old #NextGenATP Andrey Rublev. The Russian played with confidence and a wicked forehand and finished with 36 winners and 8 out of 10 erased break points.
This was Rublev’s first Top 10 victory, but it didn’t end there for him. He became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2003.
4. Damir Dzumhur defeated Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4), 6-3 in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships R1
Stan Wawrinka was the defending champion at the tournament and seemed determined after previously losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open semi-final round. Wawrinka started the match against Damir of Bosnia & Herzegovina with a 3-0 lead after only 8 minutes. The 24-year-old looked helpless before Stan’s center-court forehands. However, he stubbornly kept chasing the balls down until Wawrinka eventually slowed down his game, which is when he got the chance to go for the biggest win of his career – and it’s precisely what he did!
3. Denis Shapovalov defeated Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) at Coupe Rogers in Montreal R3
Rafael Nadal needed to get past the 18-year-old no. 143 Denis Shapovalov to finally get on the top spot of ATP rankings, which would be his first time back since 2014. Although he previously beat Sutra Silva AND Del Potro, but everyone knew that his magical Rogers Cup was going to end with Rafa.
But this kid didn’t care much about how close was Rafa to becoming no. 1, he simply didn’t want to pull away. He rallied and finally slammed a forehand match point winner and the home crowd went crazy. The young Canadian didn’t just beat Rafael Nadal, he became the second-youngest player to beat him after Borna Coric in Basel in 2014 and also the lowest-ranked to beat him since no. 144 Kyrgios in 2014 Wimbledon R4; he became the youngest Masters 1000 quarter-finals since 1990 and the lowest-ranked player to reach QF since Ivo Karlovic at 2011 BNP Paribas Open, who was ranked 239. He’s also became the youngest player to reach Coupe Rogers QFs since Bjorn Borg in 1974, who was one month younger; and the youngest player to beat a Top 2 opponent since Krajinovic beat no. 2 Djokovic in Belgrade QF in 2010, and Nadal himself who defeated no. 1 Federer in 2004 Miami Open third round.
2. Evgeny Donskoy defeated Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5) in Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships R3
The 35-year-old Roger Federer started the season by winning seven straight matches and his first tournament title after a six month break due to a knee injury. He defeated four Top 10 players and his nemesis Rafael Nadal in the thrilling Australian Open final that lasted three hours and 37 minutes. He captured his record 18th Grand Slam title and he became the oldest man behind Ken Rosewell to win a major’s singles title. The whole tennis world was talking about Federer’s comeback and his game that seemed never better.
But then, a month later, came Dubai Duty Free and Federer faced the World. No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy, a 26-year-old Russian who hasn’t reached a quarter-final since 2015 Moscow. In one of the wildest tie-breaks of the season Evgeny finally broke Federer, delivering the best match of his entire career.
1. Denis Istomin defeats Novak Djokovic 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in Australian Open R2
By winning six Melbourne titles (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 & 2016), Novak Djokovic had secured the top spot as the champion with most Australian Open titles in Open Era, a place he only shared with Roy Emerson, his Amateur Era counterpart.
Everyone expected to witness Novak Djokovic taking a historic 7th Australian Open crown, especially because he performed really well previously at US Open where he finishes as the runner-up.
However, out of nowhere, came Denis Istomin, world no. 117 and the wild card, who had never performed that well at any of the Grand Slams - his best result was R4 run at 2012 Wimbledon and R4 run at 2013 Open. The world no. 2 and one of most consistent players of all time was simply outplayed by the 30-year-old from Uzbekistan, like he confessed after the match himself: “He stepped it up, played aggressive. Served very well, very precise. There's not much I could do. Of course, I was not pleased with my performance overall. But I have to congratulate my opponent today.”
The upset is even more surprising, because Djokovic had lost only once to a player ranked outside Top 100 in the past seven years (no. 145 Del Potro defeated him in the opening round of 2016 Rio Olympics), and it was his earliest loss since 2008 Wimbledon R2 loss to Marat Safin.