Phenomenal story… The Davis Cup ’95 semifinal between Russian and Germany, held on a very slow clay court indoors (Moscow) seemed like an open tie for many scenarios. Certainly the German victory after the first two days wasn’t very probable, but it almost happened when Becker/Stich led 4:2 in the 5th set against Kafelnikov/Olhovskiy. Then the German drama began: Becker suffered an injury during doubles and withdrew from the 4th rubber vs Kafelnikov, who easily beat Karbacher. Stich  looked like a big favorite facing Chesnokov  having won their four previous matches, including three on clay. In the 1st set he led 4:3 when dropped 12 consecutive points. In sets 2 & 3 Chesnokov wasn’t very bad, simply the German played his best tennis, he couldn’t continue sensational display in the 4th though as the Russian changed his tactics a bit playing more aggressively. At 6-all in the 5th set Stich obtained what should have been decisive in that encounter – a break after three deuces. He had held six times in the decider without problems, but leading 7:6 he experienced probably the emotionally most painful game of his life which I’d call ‘one of the most amazing games in tennis history’ – it lasted 16 minutes, he had nine match points on his serve!! The first match point came at 40/30 and should have been converted – Stich sent BH volley long from a winnable position. Then at ‘deuce’ the string in his racquet gone after a missed first serve, and a nightmare with a new equipment began – he was serving good on deuce-court, but couldn’t deliver a winning service on ad-court. Given all those nine match points, Stich missed the first serve as many as seven times (between MPs No. 3 & 9). Chesnokov – like a possessed man – was trying to play all the balls towards Stich’s backhand volley – the German missed four BH volleys, 1 FH volley (when Chesnokov’s return clipped the net-cord); the Russian once passed with his backhand, the last MP he saved when his backhand return Stich decided not to hit with a volley, and the ball distinctively landed inside the court. On two occasions (MPs 7 & 8), Stich committed double faults not trying to risk the second serve. Finally a break point for the Russian and successful passing-shot, yet again towards Stich’s BH volley… 8:7* (40/15) Chesnokov, and now more relaxed Stich saves double match point with two overheads! Between 7-all (30-all) and 12-all (30/0) Chesnokov – not serving particularly well – got twenty points in a row on serve! He was like a wall from the back of the court while Stich seemed like someone who emotionally lost his connection to the importance of the match having squandered those unbelievable nine match points on serve. At 13:12 Chesnokov created a double match point again, that time Stich committed his 7th double fault (he had served just three until the amazing 14th game of the final set)… I think the fact Chesnokov had won in Davis Cup ’87 an almost twofold longer set against Michiel Schapers (24-22, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2) helped a lot – if you win a set like that, nothing can surprise you on a tennis court. The Chesnokov-Stich H2H is quite interesting, similar to Krickstein-Edberg: 4-6 in the former, 4-7 in the latter, yet the inferior player was better in dramatic contests: Chesnokov won 3 of 4 matches against Stich being close to defeat (two points away in Toulouse ’90, 2-6 7-6 6-4 and saving a match point at Indian Wells ’92 winning 1-6 7-6 6-3)… in turn Krickstein notched all his four wins over Edberg being a few points away from victory (once it was an MP-down victory)… And something about Stich at the end. He was generally mentally stable in the ‘best of 3’ format, but not too many players have lost so many dramatic five-setters like he did. A player who loses a very long five-set match (in terms of games of the decider) may think ‘Ok. I had bad luck this time, if I am in similar 5th set again, the luck will be on my side’. It didn’t work in Stich’s case – he not only lost three amazing 5th sets, he lost them within just two years!
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