Tennishead top ten comebacks: pt.1


Originally published on: 26/02/10 14:59

Where would Hollywood be without our love of the plucky struggler? Everybody loves the underdog, the phoenix rising from the flames, and the gritty fighter – and here at Tennishead towers we’re no different.

So over the next week we’ll be reliving ten of our favourite tennis comebacks – be they one-match wonders, tales of the serial fightback masters or those who turned their careers around after testing times.

And here’s your first five:

10. Andre Agassi versus Andrei Medvedev, 1999 French Open

Andrei Medvedev might have been ranked No.100 in the world – the lowest ranked player to reach the final at Roland Garros but that seemed to be the only thing in Andre Agassis favour as he looked to become only the fifth man to achieve a career Grand Slam.

The Agassi of old would have been the hot favourite, even if he had twice previously lost the final in Paris, but in 1999 the jury was out. Sure, he had three Grand Slams under his neon belt, but it had been only 18 months since his ranking had slumped to a lowly No.141 in the world and he was still in the process of restoring his reputation.

The American had almost withdrawn from the tournament with tendonitis in his right shoulder, and just in case he was superstitious, the good people at Roland Garros seeded him No.13. No thirteenth seed had ever won the French Open before.

So when Medvedev raced to a two-set lead against an out-of-sorts Agassi, there was a sense of ominous inevitability about the outcome. But Agassi clawed his way back into the match, finally finding his touch and not a second too soon.

Serving at 4-4 in the third, the American lead 30-15 before double faulting twice to hand the Ukrainian a break point. After playing it safe with the serve, Agassi opted to play a risky drop volley to bring up deuce to perfection. He held, and broke to take the set 6-4.

The momentum shift was palpable. Medvedev, who played well throughout the encounter, suddenly faced an altogether different Agassi. Suddenly able to match his aggression with his pinpoint accuracy, the American proved just too good for the remainder of the match, winning 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.

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9. Richard Krajicek versus Tim Henman, New Haven, 1998

Tim Henman entered the quarterfinal match in Connetticut having never lost to Richard Krajicek but, as the Dutchman explained, there was a reason for that.

Unlike their previous two encounters on the hallowed lawns of SW19, we played on neutral ground, the 1996 Wimbledon champion said afterwards. It was nice that only five or six people were shouting his name instead of the whole stadium, the whole time.

It didnt look like the crowd would prove to be the key difference in the first set, as the Brit weathered a storm of big serving from his 65 opponent to clinch it 7-5. But Michaellas half-brother got the better of the second set to claim it 6-2 and force the match into a decider.

Both players upped their games in the third with neither willing to drop serve – but as the tie-break approached Henman was in the ascendancy and Krajicek was holding on for dear life.

And hold on he did. Despite facing eight match points the Dutchman prevailed, claiming the breaker 18-16 when Henman shanked a return wide. The 34-point tiebreaker was the longest on tour for a singles match that year.

Mentally it’s pretty tough, Krajicek said. You both feel the same pressure. Henman agreed, adding, “I don’t think I played a closer match in my career.

8. Philippoussis: from a wheelchair to the Wimbledon final, 2003

Mark Philippoussis was the marmite player of his generation you werent sure whether to love him or loathe him. Gifted, athletic, and armed with a 135mph serve,


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.