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February 23, 2006: The day Yaroslava Shvedova came within one point of achieving the first golden set in women’s tennis history

On this day in tennis history, Yaroslava Shvedova came within one point of achieving the first golden set in women’s tennis history only to fade away against American Amy Frazier in Memphis

Yaroslava Shvedova, On This Day series Yaroslava Shvedova © Tennis Mag / Tennis Majors / Panoramic

What happened exactly on that day?

On this day, February 23, 2006, Yaroslava Shvedova came closer to win a golden set than anyone before on the women’s tour. Facing Amy Frazier, from the United States, in the second round of the WTA Memphis Open, Shvedova won the first 23 points of the match, taking a 5-0, 40-0, lead, but a double fault prevented her from achieving this extremely rare feat – something that had never been done before in women’s tennis history

The players: Yaroslava Shvedova and Amy Frazier

  • Yaroslava Shvedova: the world No 228 who was born in Russia

Yaroslava Shvedova, who represented Russia before deciding to play for Kazakhstan in 2008, was born in 1987. She played her first ITF tournaments in 2002 and competed in a WTA main draw for the first time in 2005, in Philadelphia, where she was defeated by Nadia Petrova in the second round.  In February 2006, she was ranked No 228 in the world.

  • Amy Frazier: the former world No 13 and 12-time WTA titlist

Amy Frazier, from the United States, was born in 1972 and broke into the top 100 in 1988. She claimed the first of her 12 career titles in 1989, in Wichita, defeating Barbara Potter (4-6, 6-4 6-0), and the most important one in Los Angeles in 1994, where she beat Ann Grossman in the final (6-1, 6-3). She reached the Grand Slam quarter-final stage twice, the first time at the 1992 Australian Open (defeated by Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-4, 7-6), and the second time at the 1995 US Open (lost to Steffi Graf, 6-2, 6-3).

That same year, she reached her highest career ranking of world No 13. In 2000, she scored a prestigious win against Martina Hingis, ranked No 1 in the world at the time, in San Diego (6-3, 6-3). In February 2006, Fraizer was ranked No 57 in the world.  

The place: Memphis, United States

The Memphis Women’s Open was established in 2002, in place of the Oklahoma City Open, which had been held every February since 1986. The event was played on hard courts, and two players had won the first four editions: Lisa Raymond (2002, 2003) and Vera Zvonareva (2004, 2005). 

The facts: Shvedova wins first set but goes on to lose the match

In the second round of the 2006 Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Shvedova was the underdog against Frazier. Ranked outside the top 200 in the world, Shvedova had come through the qualifying draw. Meanwhile, the American was an experienced pro, a top 20 player for six years and still ranked 57th in the world.

However, Shvedova got off to a blistering start, winning the first 23 points of the match.  At 5-0, 40-0, she was one point away from achieving a feat unheard of on the women’s tour – and quite unique on the men’s tour as well, as it had been achieved only once in tennis history, by Bill Scanlon in 1983. 

Unfortunately, the young woman double-faulted on her first set point and went on to lose that game. She still managed to win the first set, 6-1. However, in a bizarre turn of events, it turned out to be the last game she won against Frazier on that day. In the next two sets, Shvedova lost her concentration and was swept off the court, 6-0, 6-0, finishing the match with 10 consecutive unforced errors.

What happened next? Shvedova wins the first women’s golden set six years later

At the time, this strange result, as well as the feat Shvedova almost achieved, did not draw much attention until, six years later, at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, when the Kazakh managed to win the first 24 points of her match against Sara Errani, and became the first ever woman in tennis history to win a golden set. 

The press had overlooked Shvedova’s 23-point near miss in Memphis, and Shvedova herself would also forget about it. When she was asked about her Memphis match after the golden set at Wimbledon, she responded, “Don’t remember Memphis, even”.

Shvedova would climb as high as world No 25 a few months after her memorable Wimbledon tournament. She would fare much better in doubles where she won two Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles – both with Vana King in 2010. She would reach four more Grand Slam finals in women’s doubles and one in mixed doubles.

Amy Frazier played her last professional match on the tour a few months after her wild ride with Shvedova at Memphis, at the 2006 US Open. She remained close to the sport even after retiring as she took on a coaching role at her local tennis club – the Franklin Athletic Club in Michigan.

In addition to her own achievements, Frazier remains a part of tennis folklore as the player who faced Steffi Graf in the German’s last match as a pro.

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