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I was thinking about some matches of underdogs beating their nemeses.

Oftentimes, when two players of similar level of ability have a very lopsided record, it comes down to issues of matchup of strengths and weaknesses (Serena vs. Radwanska), of one or two close matches going the way of one player and then the other player developing a severe mental block (Kerber vs. Svitolina), or any number of other reasons.

But if and when that underdog finally manages to beat their nemesis, it also comes down to a few things: the underdog peaking, the nemesis slumping, and/or the underdog approaching the match with a whole new mindset and simply believing their way to victory.

Two particular examples come to mind.

The first is when Angie finally beat Vika. The h2h was 6-0 to Vika. Some of the matches had been blowouts, but some of their matches had been epics that were amongst the best of their respective seasons. In any case, you could see that Angie never believed she could beat Vika after she squandered match point in their Istanbul match. Even though she had leads in other matches (US Open), there never looked like there was a shred of belief that she could win the match - even if Vika wasn't playing well and Angie was on fire. That finally changed at the 2016 AO. It's kind of weird that it happened then because Angie had already lost to Vika a couple of weeks before that in very meek fashion. I guess saving a match point in R1 vs Doi gave her the attitude of "lol f it" and she just forced herself to fight and not take her foot off the gas, even saving 5 set points in set 2. It wasn't their best match in terms of level (Angie was either redlining hitting winners everywhere or a bit flat, and Vika seemed a bit flat) but you could just see Angie 100% believed she was going to win and refused to surrender. Angie lost to Vika again twice since then - once she was injured, but the other time was just as poor mentally as the pre-2016 matches, so it seems like it may have been a one-off.




Another example is when Halep finally beat Sharapova. The h2h was 7-0 at that point. Obviously Sharapova was without meldonium finally, but she still beat Halep in R1 at the USO without meldonium. That must've made the mental block even worse for Halep - thinking that she couldn't even beat her without meldonium. But she turned it around later that season with sheer belief, and then beat her again in Rome.



What other examples can we think of?
 
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always getting what i want
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2009 US Open R1: Oudin d. Pavlycuhenkova
2009 US Open R2: Oudin d. Dementieva
2009 US Open R3: Oudin d. Sharapova
2009 US Open R4: Oudin d. Petrova



Believe!
 

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Novotna Hingis Wimbledon 1998 SF.

Hingis had won 4 straight matches against her and including the Wimbledon F the previous season.

Novotna had to deal with her mental demons thst had prevented her holding the title. The start was not great, and Novotna faced the prospect of yielding a double break deficit 0-4. However, she didn't lose her composure and snuck away the set in impressive fashion and lead by a break immediately in the second.

Hingis visibly was a little puzzled with herself, making more errors than usual and just feeling pressure. Novotna was pretty effective with her all court tactics, using her slices and approaches well to remove any sort of rhythm Martina craved.


Should also mention the sole win of Zvereva over Graf at Wimbledon 1998. Zvereva was thrashed 6-0 6-0 in 38 minutes in RG 1988 F. Includibg that first meeting, Graf would enjoy an unblemished 18 match win streak against her, till that fateful tournament. Confidence assured, Zvereva would bank on that win and go on to reach the semis, beating Seles in the QF en route.

The H2H and results say it all about how "outlier"-ish this outcome was, given most matches bar a couple were routs.

 

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Sharapova vs Halep for sure.

Actually, probably Sharapova in her entire comeback. No one believed in her but she willed herself to wins even when her opponents were playing better.
 
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I was thinking about some matches of underdogs beating their nemeses.

Oftentimes, when two players of similar level of ability have a very lopsided record, it comes down to issues of matchup of strengths and weaknesses (Serena vs. Radwanska), of one or two close matches going the way of one player and then the other player developing a severe mental block (Kerber vs. Svitolina), or any number of other reasons.

But if and when that underdog finally manages to beat their nemesis, it also comes down to a few things: the underdog peaking, the nemesis slumping, and/or the underdog approaching the match with a whole new mindset and simply believing their way to victory.

Two particular examples come to mind.

The first is when Angie finally beat Vika. The h2h was 6-0 to Vika. Some of the matches had been blowouts, but some of their matches had been epics that were amongst the best of their respective seasons. In any case, you could see that Angie never believed she could beat Vika after she squandered match point in their Istanbul match. Even though she had leads in other matches (US Open), there never looked like there was a shred of belief that she could win the match - even if Vika wasn't playing well and Angie was on fire. That finally changed at the 2016 AO. It's kind of weird that it happened then because Angie had already lost to Vika a couple of weeks before that in very meek fashion. I guess saving a match point in R1 vs Doi gave her the attitude of "lol f it" and she just forced herself to fight and not take her foot off the gas, even saving 5 set points in set 2. It wasn't their best match in terms of level (Angie was either redlining hitting winners everywhere or a bit flat, and Vika seemed a bit flat) but you could just see Angie 100% believed she was going to win and refused to surrender. Angie lost to Vika again twice since then - once she was injured, but the other time was just as poor mentally as the pre-2016 matches, so it seems like it may have been a one-off.




Another example is when Halep finally beat Sharapova. The h2h was 7-0 at that point. Obviously Sharapova was without meldonium finally, but she still beat Halep in R1 at the USO without meldonium. That must've made the mental block even worse for Halep - thinking that she couldn't even beat her without meldonium. But she turned it around later that season with sheer belief, and then beat her again in Rome.



What other examples can we think of?
Sharapova was totally exhausted in China and Rome.

I don't even count those as real victories. Halep was playing Sharapova's shadow and Halep knew it but if Halep fans want to claim those, whatever. That's like Graff beating Seles after the stabbing. It's empty.
 

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That Radwanska AO match against Vika in 2014. Vika had defeated her 7 straight, and of the 5 immediate matches they played preceding that match, Radwanska managed to win at least 4 games in a set once.

Vika was also the two time defending champion at the tournament but Radwanska made her look sluggish with quite an unbelievable first and 3rd set scoreline. Not a major fan of Aga but that was an enthralling match and she looked every bit like she was enjoying herself.
6-1 5-7 6-0

 

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Ivanovic d. Serena 2014 AO R4
I was so thrilled for Ana after that match. 2014 was like her mini-resurgence year. Then she lost the QF to Bouchard!! :cry::cry: Didn't figure out Bouchard until the YECs, where she set the natural order right.

Would have loved for Ana to get another slam though, particularly at the AO, where she was very popular.
 

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Simona Halep d Agnieszka Radwanska Rome 2013. Radwanska was 3-0 in H2h and Simona literally said after her last defeat she find it impossible to win against Aga. That win represented her career breakthrough, as she was outside top 50 when it happened and then went to finish the year with 6 titles and near top 10.
 
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That Radwanska AO match against Vika in 2014. Vika had defeated her 7 straight, and of the 5 immediate matches they played preceding that match, Radwanska managed to win at least 4 games in a set once.

Vika was also the two time defending champion at the tournament but Radwanska made her look sluggish with quite an unbelievable first and 3rd set scoreline. Not a major fan of Aga but that was an enthralling match and she looked every bit like she was enjoying herself.
6-1 5-7 6-0

Came in to say this one!
 

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I don’t know that Halep ending her 0-7 record against Maria was primarily down to a matter of belief, certainly nothing compared to what Kerber pulled off against Vika.

What I will say is despite Maria’s terrible level that Beijing, Halep defintiely came at that match with more belief than in the previous encounters, but at that point Halep was in the prime of her career, the USO loss being the only early exit of note in months, and she got to number one by the end of the week. What won Halep that match was more the huge gulf in level between the two as it wasn’t even close. If the question is where belief made a difference then you could argue Rome 2018 is a more plausible option. Whilst Maria was literally exhausted by the end of that match (something like 4 3 setters in 5 days, I remember at the time her on court hours were almost double that of the other semi finalists) she made one final charge at the end and Halep finally didn’t crumble, and stayed solid enough to eke out the tight 3 set win. That, you could argue, stemmed from the increased belief she had having already broken the duck the previous year. Even then, there are still much better options like Aga beating Vika at the AO in 2014.
 
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Reading the title I was not thinking of an underdog in h2h but underdog in general, in any event of importance. I don't believe in h2h theory that would make of the regular loser an underdog, if the player is high level able to win great tournaments, there is no reason to feel as an underdog against any special opponent, unless it's a real difference of rank, but not match up. I totally disregard the h2h stats. Too much people take it as granted. The match up is a real thing : players struggling especially against other players because of the game - that's true : BUT in no way players are supposed to repeat the same schemes unless they're dumb... or not "great players".
 

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The thing with Serena for instance, is that she's really above the others in terms of level. The match up is only something when it comes to a few players whose game annoys her. But I would say that most players are underdogs against Serena. A bit less in the latest years maybe, but still... when she hits the ball with a perfect combination of technique and power, she's of another category, only approached By Osaka and Andreescu as of late. Or Pliskova on a good day, or Kvitova on grass. But that's it.
 

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2009 US Open R1: Oudin d. Pavlycuhenkova
2009 US Open R2: Oudin d. Dementieva
2009 US Open R3: Oudin d. Sharapova
2009 US Open R4: Oudin d. Petrova



Believe!
Bouchard in 2012 50K Saguenay semifinal ;)
 

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Dokic and Mircic in their redemption runs at AO for me.

Edit: just read the OP criteria 😂

in that case, Kerber beating Serena twice at AO and Wimbledon.
 

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Sharapova was totally exhausted in China and Rome.

I don't even count those as real victories. Halep was playing Sharapova's shadow and Halep knew it but if Halep fans want to claim those, whatever. That's like Graff beating Seles after the stabbing. It's empty.
Yes, Masha without Meldonium is 'empty', a sitting duck for anyone else on the other side of the net.
 

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I think most the examples in this thread are not good examples of underdog v. nemesis. It's basically champion v. champion, except Oudin which is random v. Russians.

A better and more obvious example of underdog v. nemesis
is Vinci v. Serena
or Farina Elia v. Venus
or Frazier v. Graf
even Rubin v. Davenport
 
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