'Nova over Georgetown? Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson? Team U.S.A. over Russian hockey's Big Red Machine? Eli's Giants over Brady's Pats?
I don't think it's exaggerating at all to put unranked Roberta Vinci's stunning U.S. Open semifinal victory over No. 1 Serena Williams on the short list of Greatest Upsets In Modern Sports History.
Williams, probably the greatest female tennis player ever, came in needing to win only two more matches to become the first Grand Slam winner since 1988 -- a fact that made Friday's action (and outcome) all the more riveting.
While Serena spent much of the match screaming at herself -- usually her trademark, "Come on!" -- Vinci remained almost unbelievably calm. However, she did provide one magically emotional moment midway through the third set.
It was 3-3 with Serena serving at 40-30, one point away from finally taking control of the match. She fired one haymaker after another, and Vinci kept returning the ball. Vinci made a nice cross-court shot that Williams chased down, leading the New York crowd to cheer. But Vinci followed with a great play to win the point and make it deuce.
With the crowd still roaring, Vinci put her hand to her ear. She then raised both hands and pumped her arms, as she repeatedly said, "What about me? What about me?"
In other words: Enough with Serena and the Slam. I'm here, too, and I'm not going anywhere!
And she wasn't. She ended up breaking Serena's serve and then holding hers to go up 5-3. After Williams held serve to make it 5-4, Vinci calmly served out the match.
As was the case most of the final two sets, Vinci just kept putting the ball in play and letting the overanxious Williams make mistake after mistake after mistake. I swear, I would have easily returned a few of the second serves Vinci lobbed in there, but Williams kept firing the ball into the net or beyond the baseline.
When it was over and she had received a quick handshake from Serena, Vinci sat down and buried her face in her hands. She was overcome by the enormity of the moment.
Eventually, she agreed to talk to ESPN in an interview broadcast live in the stadium. I will say it is one of the most stirring, most honest interviews I have heard in many a year.
Take a listen HERE if you haven't heard it already.
One of the great parts of it was Vinci admitting that, before the match, she never thought she could possibly beat Serena Williams.
This is why we love sports, folks, especially championship-level sports. Anything really CAN happen.
I wanted Serena to win because I enjoy watching history in the making. She didn't win the Slam, so now she'll go for it again next year.
One thing I am tired of hearing about, though, is "the Serena Slam" -- winning 4 straight majors over the span of two seasons. Even she calls it that and talks about how special it was. Tiger Woods did the same in golf and folks called it "the Tiger Slam."
Because those terms suddenly became common, it led some in the media to call what Serena was chasing "the Calendar Slam."
It's the Grand Slam. Serena might claim that "the Serena Slam" is every bit as special -- because she no longer can win the REAL Slam.
There was a reason she was as uptight as she was, and that's because she had a chance to make real history.
Calling something else "historic" doesn't make it equally historic.
Serena had a great run, but she fell short. There's no shame in that.