ATP Recap: Murray prevails in Dubai, rest of “Big 4” falters
In the final week of February, the “Big 4” (consisting of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray) and many other top players on tour geared up for next week’s first Masters 1000 tournament of the year at Indian Wells by playing 500 level tune-ups in either Dubai or Acapulco. The other tournament of the week took place on the clay in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but it was a small 250 level tournament and only had clay court specialists participating in it.
Dubai Duty-Free Championships
One of the two tournaments at the 500 level this week, Dubai always attracts a great draw. This year’s bracket included current world No. 1 Andy Murray, Roger Federer, and Stan Wawrinka (among others). However, upsets were in the air from the start as Wawrinka bowed out to unseeded Damir Džumhur in straight sets in the opening round of the tournament. What was even more surprising is what happened to Roger Federer in the second round of play. The 18-time Grand Slam champion fell to a young qualifier, Evgeny Donskoy in three sets. The Swiss maestro looked off his game from the start, despite taking the first set 6-3. The second set was much closer and went to Donskoy, but it appeared that Federer would close out the match in a final set tiebreak as he lead 5-1 and was only two points away from moving on. However, the young Russian wouldn’t quit and scored six straight points en route to a shocking victory over this year’s Australian Open champion. With Federer out of the draw early, Andy Murray was able to cruise through to the final, where he defeated Fernando Verdasco in straight sets to claim the title.
Mexican Open (Acapulco)
The two remaining members of the “Big 4” were in Acapulco this week, in hopes of turning their game up a notch heading into the two big Masters 1000 events in March. Novak Djokovic accepted a wildcard into the main draw while Rafael Nadal flew in early to prepare for the tournament. The rest of the draw was loaded, with the likes of Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, and Juan Martin Del Potro all vying for the crown. Djokovic learned this the hard way as he fell to Kyrgios in the Quarterfinals of the event, just one night after defeating Del Potro in a tight three-set thriller. However, the real story of the tournament was American Sam Querrey. Ranked No. 41 in the world heading into the event, Querrey caught fire in Acapulco and defeated four of the top 15 players in the world, including Nadal in the final, en route to his first title in South America and the first title for an American in Acapulco in the tournament’s history. With the victory, Querrey moved into the top 30, as he now sits at No. 26 in the most recent ATP tour rankings.
Brasil Open (Sao Paulo)
It was a quiet week in Sao Paulo as most of the tennis world turned their focus to the hardcourts in Dubai or Acapulco, but there was action on the red clay to be had. The field was mostly populated with clay court specialists and leading the pack was Uruguayan veteran, Pablo Cuevas. A known clay court phenom, Cuevas sailed through his matches and faced Pablo Carreño Busta in the final of the event. Not to be deterred by the Spaniard, Cuevas put on a clinic on the clay in the final, using a myriad of topspin-heavy shots to his advantage en route to a straight set victory (6-3, 7-6).