We take a look back at what happened on tour this week
With the tennis world still reeling from this year’s astonishing Australian Open, February can very easily be seen as a month of relaxation. The dénouement after the climax that was Roger Federer prevailing over Rafael Nadal in five sets for his 18th Grand Slam singles title, and Serena Williams defeating her sister Venus for her record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title. In some ways that’s true: the tournaments are a lot smaller and less prestigious in relation to a Grand Slam, and the “big four” have sat out these last few weeks in the name of a bit of rest and relaxation. However, with Indian Wells (the first ATP Masters 100 event of the year) just around the corner, things are heating up again on tour. With many of the top players in action this week, the tennis proved to be competitive and exciting.
The only ATP 500 level tournament this week was played on the red clay, in the always beautiful Rio De Janeiro. An early upset derailed the top seed in the draw, as Kei Nishikori fell in the opening round to Brazilian clay-court specialist, Thomaz Bellucci in front of a rowdy partisan crowd. Also exiting the tournament early was Pablo Cuevas, the third-seeded player in the draw and defending champion. Cuevas bowed out to Arthur De Greef in the opening round. The win was by far the biggest of the 24-year-old’s career and he rode that momentum into the Round of 16 before he was dispatched in straight sets by Nicolas Kicker. However, the story of the tournament was Dominic Thiem. The world No. 8 cruised to his eighth ATP title in 21 months, and his third on the clay, all while not dropping a set the entire week. Thiem finished off the tournament with a flourish by defeating Pablo Carreño Busta 7-5, 6-4. After the match, the 23-year-old had this to say: “I am feeling really great,” said Thiem. “This is the best feeling you can have, winning a title. It’s all you practice for. I played five very good matches, especially in the semis and final against amazing players.”
Open 13 (Marseille)
One of two ATP tournaments at the 250 level this week, Marseille had by far the more impressive draw. Headlined by established veterans such as Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Richard Gasquet, along with up-and-coming stars such as Alexander “Sasha” Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, and Lucas Pouille. The hottest player in the draw was Tsonga, as he defeated David Goffin in the final of Rotterdam last week to take home his first ATP title in 18 months. Feeding off that momentum proved to be an easy task for the 31-year old Frenchman as he cruised through the early rounds of the tournament, before prevailing in a tough three-set match against Kyrgios in the semifinals. In the final, he faced fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who took out Gasquet in his semifinal match. Pouille was having himself a great tournament but Tsonga was not to be denied on home soil, triumphing in a mere 69 minutes (6-4, 6-4), en route to his ninth straight win and second ATP title in as many weeks. With the victory, the veteran fan-favorite should return to the top 10 of the ATP rankings on Monday.
The second ATP 250 tournament of the week featured a predominantly American lineup, including many of the same names that participated in last week’s Memphis Open, which was won by Ryan Harrison. In addition, Delray Beach marked the return of Juan Martin Del Potro, as this was his first tournament of the 2017 season. Coming back from an injury proved to be a non-issue for the Argentine as he made the semifinals pretty easily. Unfortunately for Del Potro, he ran into an in-form Milos Raonic, who dispatched him in straight sets and advanced to play fellow young gun, Jack Sock. The American cruised into the final of the tournament, beating his rival Stevie Johnson and Donald Young in the process. Unfortunately for the fans, the title was given to Sock in a walkover, as Raonic withdrew before taking the court for their final due to a hamstring tear in his right leg. The championship gives Sock his second ATP title of 2017, having prevailed last month at the ASB Classic. With the win, he improves to 11-1 this season and is projected to move to a career-high No. 18 in the new ATP Rankings on Monday.