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100 memories: Comebacks, controversies

Editor's note: The tennis season now over, it's time to look back. Beginning Dec. 10, Ravi Ubha is unveiling his top 100 memories of the 2012 season. Check back each weekday until Dec. 21 as he counts down to No. 1.

60. Ferrer (surprise) wins long battle

David Ferrer doesn't have the best of records against the Big Four, but when the Spaniard confronts players behind him in the rankings and the match turns into a marathon, he usually prevails.

Case in point? His quarterfinal against Janko Tipsarevic at the U.S. Open.

Down two sets to one and 4-1 in the fifth, the no-quit Ferrer predictably rallied and edged a fifth-set tiebreak. Tipsarevic's leg injury, perhaps, aided Ferrer.

"I try always to fight a lot," Ferrer said. "I try to be focused every point."

As the top-ranked Spaniard in New York in Rafa's absence, Ferrer filled the void admirably.

59. Isner spoils Roger's early Davis Cup appearance

Here was a rarity: Roger Federer representing Switzerland in the first round of the Davis Cup -- not simply in the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Federer, things didn't go as planned.

John Isner gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead on the opening day when he upended Federer on an uneven clay court.

"It's the win of my life," Isner said. "The way I played today is the way I need to play in all my matches. I owe it to [U.S. captain] Jim Courier. He was on me to hit all my shots."

Federer reportedly criticized teammate Stanislas Wawrinka after the U.S. clinched the series.

58. A dancing Vika outdoes Maria

Entering the U.S. Open, Maria Sharapova had lost four straight hard-court matches to Victoria Azarenka -- all in straight sets. Sharapova wasn't a fan of Azarenka's conduct when they met in Stuttgart, Germany, on clay in the spring.

Safe to say Sharapova had ample motivation in the semifinals. When she won the first set in sweltering conditions, the hard-court losing streak was close to evaporating.

But when Sharapova failed to protect a break advantage in the second, Azarenka regrouped. She forced a decider and constantly threatened Sharapova on serve before breaking in the final game for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win.

Sharapova's 12-0 record in third sets in 2012 dissolved; Azarenka improved to 12-0.

And Sharapova surely noted Azarenka's postmatch victory dance.

57. Li crumbles Down Under

The 2011 season couldn't finish quickly enough for Li Na. Burdened by the expectations of a nation, she compiled a 7-9 record after winning the French Open.

Li, though, appeared to have regrouped by the time 2012 started. The Chinese baseliner reached the final in Sydney and cruised through three rounds at the Australian Open.

Then ... disaster.

Li blew four match points against an ailing Kim Clijsters in a second-set tiebreak and departed. Li hit a forehand into the net and a forehand long and didn't punish a poor Clijsters drop shot on three of the match points.

She burst into tears in her postmatch news conference.

56. Rafa says adios to seven, hello to eight

Rafael Nadal needed a win against Novak Djokovic in the spring. He had lost seven in a row to Djokovic, including their six-hour Australian Open epic.

Monte Carlo seemed to be the perfect venue for Nadal, given he had captured seven successive titles. Djokovic's emotional state -- his grandfather died days earlier -- made Nadal's task easier when they lined up in the final.

It was no contest: Nadal dropped a mere four games en route to No. 8 in Monte Carlo.

"Winning against Novak in the final after losing a few ones is important for me," Nadal said.

Djokovic's take?

"He was a better player," Djokovic said. "But it's a fact that I just didn't have any emotional energy left in me. It's been a very difficult week for me to go through mentally."

55. Roger's Wimbledon comeback

Federer came from two sets down to beat Juan Martin del Potro at the French Open. There was more comeback magic from the Swiss at Wimbledon, and it proved to be the turning point on his way to ending a two-year Grand Slam drought.

When Julien Benneteau, a talented Frenchman who had defeated Federer previously, took a two-set lead in the third round, Wimbledon was on the verge of losing a member of the Big Four for the second consecutive day -- Nadal had been felled by Lukas Rosol.

But Federer, composed as ever, breezed in the third set and effectively ended Benneteau's hopes by winning a nervy fourth-set tiebreak.

With Benneteau's body letting him down, the fifth set (6-1) was no contest.

"Mentally he's a rock," Benneteau said. "He's two sets down and he doesn't show anything."

Benefiting from two days off before the fourth round, Federer was able to make a second-week charge.

54. Another Frenchman makes headlines at Wimbledon

Gilles Simon has always come across as a likeable fellow. But Simon incurred the wrath of Sharapova and others when he said men deserve more prize money than women.

"It's not only my point of view; it's the point of view of everybody in the locker room," Simon said.

In the men's locker room, presumably, because Sharapova retorted: "I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his."

Added Serena Williams: "I started playing tennis at 2 years old. I'm sure he started when he was 2 years old as well. I worked just as hard as he did."

53. Querrey and Cilic linger

Sam Querrey, hampered by elbow surgery and an umbilical cord infection last year, climbed the rankings in 2012. He'll finish inside the top 25 after starting at No. 93.

It could have been even better for Querrey had he beaten Marin Cilic in what turned out to be the second longest singles match, at 5 hours, 31 minutes, in Wimbledon history. (You know which one leads the way.)

Cilic won the fifth set 17-15.

"That was complete drama, especially in the fifth," Cilic said.

The Brits especially loved it. A drained Cilic had nothing left when he played Andy Murray in the fourth round.

52. Another year, another Fed Cup title for the Czechs

In team competitions, no nation was better than the Czech Republic. The Czechs won the Davis Cup and Hopman Cup and retained their Fed Cup crown by downing Serbia 3-1 in Prague.

For once, Petra Kvitova wasn't the star of the series. Suffering from an illness that forced her to withdraw from the year-end championships, Kvitova's 11-match winning streak in the competition concluded when Ana Ivanovic prevailed on Day 2.

Another tall lefty, Lucie Safarova, didn't waver against Jelena Jankovic to seal the series, routing the former world No. 1 6-1, 6-1.

"It's hard to describe how I feel," Safarova said. "I played an unbelievable [match]."

51. Pity the Paris organizers

No break between the Paris Masters and World Tour Finals didn't quite work out -- for the French tournament.

Having competed in the final in Basel a day before the Paris Masters began, Federer skipped Bercy; Djokovic's mind was on other matters with his father sick, and he lost his opener to Querrey; and Murray probably wasn't fully focused when he was ousted by Jerzy Janowicz in the third round.

Janowicz's breakthrough and local favorite Michael Llodra progressing to the semifinals, though, aided Paris organizers.

A move to February in 2014 hasn't been ruled out.