Saturday School: Has anyone ever won the Golden Set?

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In tennis, four points comprise a game and the first to win six games wins the set. Multiple times, the tour has seen the players win a set 6-0 or might be even the match with a double bagel. However, considering the same set score, it becomes difficult to imagine a player win 24 points on a trot to win the set. In competitive tennis, this feat has been witnessed on 12 occassions. Of these 12 occasions, in some matches the player winning the golden set has also went on to win a golden match, i.e., winning 48 points in a row to win the match. Here is a comprehensive list of all those 12 matches:

1) Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman vs Ms. Huiskamp

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In 1910, at the Washington State Championships, the “Queen Mother of American Tennis,” Hazel Wightman defeated a Ms.Huiskamp 6-0,6-0 by winning 48 points in a row to record the first golden match. Compared to modern times, it was easier to win with such dominance since tennis was less competitive and one could expect a player with below par skills facing him/her on the other side of the net.

2) Pauline Betz vs Catherine Wolf

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Pauline Betz was a 5-time grand slam champion and a 3-time runner up at the slams. She was ranked as the World No.1 player in 1946. However, three years before she was crowned the top spot, she faced former World No.10 Catherine Wolf in the finals of the Tri-State tournament. Betz won the match 6-0,6-2. The first set won by her was just the third recorded golden set in tennis’ history. The Tri-State tournament is currently known as the Cincinnati Open.

3) Bill Scanlon vs Marcos Hocevar

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On February 22, 1983, Bill Scanlon, a former top 10 player played his first round match against Brazilian player Marcos Hocevar at the WCT Gold Coast Classic and defeated him 6-2, 6-0. This was the first instance when a man won the golden set. Scanlon won 36 of the last 38 points of the match. 4 months after this defeat, Hocevar reached his career high ranking of 30. The same year at the US Open, John McEnroe suffered a shock defeat against Bill Scanlon in the fourth round. Scanlon’s golden set against Hocevar was the first one in the Open Era and on the professional circuit.

4) Tine Scheuer-Larsen vs Mmaphala Letsatle

In her first ever Fed Cup match for Botswana in the Europe/Africa Zone in 1995, Mmaphala Letsatle had a debut she would have loved to forget. She was up against Danish player Tine Scheuer-Larsen who was ranked as high as No.34 in singles and had won 7 doubles titles in her career. Larsen won the match 6-0 6-0; one of which was a golden set. Letsatle played 10 more Fed Cup matches in her career, winning only one of those 10 matches.

5) Yaroslava Shvedova vs Sara Errani

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29 years after Scanlon became the first player to record a golden set on the pro tour, an unseeded Kazakhstan repeated the feat at a tournament of much higher echelon. In the third round at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, Yaroslava Shvedova was up against Sara Errani. Errani had bagged the runner-up trophy at Roland Garros that year. After 15 minutes since the match started, Shvedova won her 24th consecutive point to complete a Golden Set.
Quite interestingly, before this match, Shvedova had come scarily close to win a golden set six years before she actually won it. In 2006 at Memphis, Shvedova won the first 23 points of the match against Amy Frazier. The crazier part is, Shvedova lost the match 1-6,6-0,6-0.

6) Julian Reister vs Tim Putz

In the first round of the 2013 US Open qualifying draw, two Germans faced each other for a spot in the next round. Putz took the first set after winning a tiebreak 7-3. Reister bounced back to take the next set 6-4. However, in the third set, a hapless Putz saw 24 points stacked up against him and Reister completed his golden set. Unfortunately, Reister was unable to carry forward his third set score form and he lost his second round match of the qualifying draw.

7) Stefano Napolitano vs Augusto Virgili

In 2015 at the qualifying draw of the Distal & ITR Group Tennis Cup of the Challenger circuit, Stefano Napolitano defeated fellow Italian player Augusto Virgili 6-0,6-3 to record a golden set. He won 33 points in a row up until 6-0 2-0 (0-15) after which Virgili won the first point of the match. Despite a commanding victory over his compatriot, Napolitano did not qualify to enter the main draw.

8) Katarina Zavatska vs Thanyathorn Putthaun

In the qualifying round of the 2015 Chang ITF Pro Circuit at Bangkok, Katarina Zavatska defeated Thai player Thanyathorn Putthaun to win a golden set. She apparently double bagelled her opponent to win the match. It is still unknown whether the match she won was a golden match or not.

9) He Yecong vs Wang Honghan

In an all Chinese encounter at the 2016 Quingdao Challenger qualifying draw, He Yecong performed the rare feat of winning a golden set against Wang Honghan. In his 6-0 6-0 victory, the second set saw Yecong win 24 points in a row. In the entire match, Yecong lost only 6 points and won 50.

10) Benjamin Tullou vs Tomas Fabian

Frenchman Benjamin Tullou achieved the most miraculous achievement of winning a golden match against Czech player Thomas Fabian at the ITF $25000 F17 Futures Tournament at Bagneres-de-Bigorre. It took Tullou only 24 minutes to win the match 6-0 6-0. Thomas Fabian was 55 years old when he played this match.

11) Joffrey de Schepper vs Tomas Fabian

Thomas Fabian at the receiving end yet again. Joffrey de Schepper was seeded third when he played the F23 Futures tournament at Rodez. de Schepper went on to win the match 6-0 6-0 in 21 minutes, narrowly missing out on recording a golden match. In the entire match, the third seed won 48 points whereas Fabian won 1 point for honor to avoid another golden match against him. Coincidentally, de Schepper faced Benjamin Tullou (the man who won the golden match against Fabian) in the next round.

12) Luis David Martinez vs Manfred Brandes Vogt

The latest instance of the golden set was recorded at the 2017 Morelos Open of the Challenger circuit. Venezuela’s No.3 tennis player, who is currently ranked 1070 in the World, completed the golden set in the qualifying draw of the 2017 Morelos Open against Manfred Brandes Vogt. After Martinez served a breadstick in the opening set, he claimed the next 24 points to win the match.
Despite the rising competitiveness, in the past 7 years, the golden set is witnessed every year except 2014. 2018 is yet to see a player win the golden set at any tier of the game. But let us hope that the rest of the year has a golden set for us in store!

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