After the Davis Cup structure renewal, Spain has been hosting the finals since 2019 (the initial two editions were held in Madrid, followed by another two in Málaga). However, the oldest team competition in tennis didn’t take place in 2020 due to Covid-19. This year, Spain surprisingly failed to secure a spot among the top eight teams. Nevertheless, the atmosphere remained vibrant, largely thanks to the Finnish fans who filled the Martin Carpena Arena from Fuengirola (home to the second-largest community of Finns outside Finland). The Finns emerged as a revelation in this year’s competition, yet their dream of creating an enormous sensation was halted in the semifinals by Australians who finished as a runner-up second year running.
Novak Đoković had aspirations for something extraordinary: winning the Davis Cup with Serbia in a span of thirteen years (in 2010, he did not clinch the decisive match, but he was the architect of the success). Nevertheless, his third encounter against Jannik Sinner  within two weeks dealt a significant blow – the Serb squandered a triple match point in a game that could have propelled Serbia into the final. Two hours later, he suffered another loss (this time in doubles) to Sinner – the 22-year-old red-haired South-Tyrolean, who’d bypassed the “Group stage” in September, emerged as an unquestionable leader of the Italian team in the “Knockout stage” – winning all three of his singles matches and, with the assistance of Lorenzo Sonego, also securing victories in two doubles matches. Matteo Arnaldi  – Sinner’s age-mate – made substantial contributions too, aiding Italy in reclaiming the Cup after forty-seven years (won when Adriano Panatta, the then-reigning French Open champion, led Italy to triumph).
In week number 48 of 1993 (as week 47 was designated for the doubles ‘Masters’ event won by a Dutch pair, Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis in Johannesburg), the Davis Cup final saw the Germans employ a strategy reminiscent of the Americans three years prior. They chose to host Australia on clay, clearly an indoor setting due to the weather, aiming to neutralize the Aussie players’ serve-and-volley style. The captain from Down Under, Neal Fraser (b. 1933) had limited changes in the lineup, again depending on his most reliable clay-court player, Richard Fromberg, who has been a unique case as he participated in two Davis Cup finals despite never entering the Top 20. The selection for the second singles player was less evident; reportedly, Jason Stoltenberg was chosen despite his poor form post-US Open, allegedly due to winning a sparring session match against Wally Masur, that year’s US Open semifinalist. So the Australian team comprised singles players whose Nordic surnames hinted at their Teutonic ancestry.
Fraser’s surprising decision nearly paid off. Stoltenberg put up a highly competitive match against Michael Stich, who was in tremendous form after claiming the ‘Masters’ title. Stich’s brilliance shone in the pivotal doubles match; paired with a good partner, he defeated the most dominant pair of the ’90s, the Woodies. Despite having played seven hours in the two previous days, Stich’s match on Sunday seemed routine. He secured an early break for a 3:2 lead in the first set against Fromberg, and never looked back. Reflecting on the victory, Stich remarked: “Luckily, it wasn’t so difficult today. It has been a very long, but also a very successful year.” Respectable player of the late 60s/early 70s, Croatian Nikola ‘Niki’ Pilić (b. 1939) holds the distinction of being the sole team captain to claim the Davis Cup title with two different nations, leading (West) Germany to victory in 1988 / 89 – with Boris Becker as a team leader, 1993 – with Stich as a leader, and Croatia to triumph in 2005 – with Ivan Ljubičić as a leader, showcasing Pilić’s exceptional management across three decades and two different Indo-European languages.
Málaga (Davis Cup; hard indoors)
Italy d. Australia 2-0
Düsseldorf (Davis Cup; clay indoors)
Germany d. Australia 4-1
Officially known as the “ATP Finals” since 2017 and hosted in Turin since 2021. This year saw two debutants, 20-year-olds Rune and Alcaraz (the Spaniard was set for his debut a year earlier but withdrew due to injury). Three decades ago, the Top 10 players were divided between serve-and-volleyers and baseliners. Today, everyone adopts a more or less similar style, leaning towards offensive baselining. The only division now considers the way players handle their backhands. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the lone one-handed backhander in the Top 10 and the 2019 champion, faced setbacks arriving in Italy. Despite his problems, he chose to compete, losing his opening match swiftly and retiring from his second after just three games. In his Green group the matches involving Jannik Sinner, Novak Đoković, and Holger Rune provided fans with gripping moments. Đoković, the primary favorite, engaged in three three-set battles, the third one against Hubert Hurkacz, who replaced Tsitsipas. Đoković’s fate wasn’t in his hands during the final group meeting. The Serb could have been eliminated had Rune defeated Sinner. At 4:3 in the third set, Rune sent his backhand return wide off Sinner’s second serve at mini-match point.
In the Red group the victories were evenly distributed among three players: Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev, and Alexander Zverev whose elimination was decided by the ratio of sets, as he dropped three sets while the other two players lost two each. Despite his extensive experience (his fourth appearance in the season-ending championships and having reached the semifinals a year prior), Andrey Rublev struggled to make an impact, failing even to force a tie-break. Disturbingly, he seems inclined towards self-destruction, lately hitting quite regularly his left knee with the frame of his racquet, causing it to bleed.
The semifinals left something to be desired. Local favorite Sinner secured his third victory over Medvedev in recent months. However, their two previous encounters were far more intriguing. Medvedev, seemingly learning from those losses, opted for a more aggressive baseline game in the Italian semifinal, resulting in an energy drain. His performance in the third set was notably poor, marked by strange gestures directed at the spectators. In the second semifinal, Đoković outclassed Alcaraz, a disappointing outcome given their four thrilling previous encounters where victories were evenly split.
Đoković, the oldest finalist of this event with his 36 years and 181 days (previous record holder, Arthur Ashe was 35.188 at the Masters ’78 final) to some degree emulated his phenomenal semifinal performance. The 2nd set of his final against Sinner was much tighter though than the opening set as well as two sets against Alcaraz. The Serb has now won the season-ending event seven times (Roger Federer did it six times, Ivan Lendl & Pete Sampras five).
Officially known as the “ATP Tour World Championships” in the ’90s, the event for the top eight players was hosted in Frankfurt. It ran from Tuesday to Sunday, featuring three “round-robin” matches per day. The leader of the * Arthur Ashe group, Pete Sampras, initiated his campaign on Wednesday, enjoying a two-day break after his final in Antwerp. His first match was crucial as he faced his peer, Goran Ivanišević, who had been leading 5:2 in their meetings. A bit surprisingly, Sampras won 2-1 without a tie-break set, altering the trend of their rivalry and ultimately winning 9 out of their next 10 meetings. As expected, clay-courter Sergi Bruguera didn’t secure a victory in his first “Masters” appearance, facing three serve-and-volleyers. Ivanišević’s victory against Stefan Edberg, after 2 hours and 43 minutes (the longest match at the group stage), secured his spot in the semifinals, although he had been serving to win the first two sets, only to split the tie-breaks and claim a decisive break at 4:3 in the third set.
In the Stan Smith group, there was one serve-and-volleyer (Michael Stich) and three offensive baseliners. Stich, the clear favorite on a fast court due to his fantastic autumn form indoors, and the support of the home crowd, faced an open question about the second player to advance to the semifinals. 19-year-old Ukrainian, second debutant, Andrei Medvedev proved that his final appearance in Paris was no fluke, displaying his fighting spirit again. He fought back to win two ‘lost’ matches, first against Jim Courier (saving four match points, including a triple match point at 3:5 in the decider on return!), and then against Michael Chang trailing 2-6 and *1:4. Suffering his bitter defeat, Courier astonished onlookers with two unexpected occurrences: it was the first instance since French Open 1991 that he appeared on the court without his trademark baseball cap, and during changeovers, he engrossed himself in the novel ‘Maybe the Moon’ by Armistead Maupin.
The first semifinal was a 50-minute lesson from Sampras to Medvedev, concluding with Sampras’ 1000th ace of the season. This accomplishment made him the first man in the Open Era to surpass this number, with statistics collected since 1991. In the second semifinal, in a clash of big servers, Stich outperformed Ivanišević in two tie-breaks. While the Croat was the biggest tie-break specialist above “9-all” in the ’90s, against Stich, he lost the second tie-break 10/12, marking his longest tie-break loss throughout his career.
In the final, Sampras might have paid the price for playing five days in a row and two full consecutive weeks following his Belgian triumph. He was erratic and shockingly broken twice in the opening seven games. Although he theoretically could have won the final 3-0, it was evident he couldn’t muster the energy required to deliver his best service performance. Stich claimed the trophy, concluding the season with three indoor titles and replacing Courier as world No. 2. Not many could have expected this scenario after the US Open ’93 when Courier had a 1337-point advantage over the German… * Between 1989 and 1993, it was customary to name both groups in homage to the legendary players from the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Turin (“Masters”; $15M; hard indoors)
🇷🇸Novak Đoković d. 🇮🇹Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-3
Frankfurt (“Masters”; $3M; carpet indoors)
🇩🇪Michael Stich d. 🇺🇸Pete Sampras 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2
Unlike thirty years ago, when comparing the last week of the regular season, this year’s rivalry at the top of the game is essentially over with Novak Đoković needing just one win next week. There is no longer any place left to fight for the season-ending event in Turin. Consequently, many elite players withdrew from the last two events, and only one top-20’er decided to take part – Karen Khachanov. Left-handers prevailed in both Metz and Sofia; the best French players, Ugo Humbert and Adrian Mannarino, triumphed. What’s more interesting is they were competing to finish the year as No. 1 in their country. For the home-town favorite Humbert, his fourth ATP title in four finals (13-6 record in the finals at lower levels) means advancement to the top 20 for the first time in his career. The “Sofia Open” took place in quite bizarre circumstances. After seven years, this event disappeared from the calendar but was restored because Tel Aviv was cancelled due to the outbreak of war in the region. Two ‘wild card’ veterans, Pierre-Hugues Herbert  and Fabio Fognini , advanced to the semifinals in France, achieving their best results of the season. Herbert, who played his first ATP event in 2023, saw a dramatic fall in the rankings due to being unvaccinated (preventing him from entering several big events) and injuries, particularly a knee injury. In round two, Fognini won his 18th encounter saving a match point – more than any other active player (his peer Đoković has won 17).
The “Moselle Open” quarterfinal lineup consisted of four all-countrymen pairs (two French, one Italian, one Russian). This hasn’t occurred since Orlando 1991, when all quarter-finalists represented the United States. The 21st-century boys, Jack Draper and Alexander Shevchenko, played their first ATP finals this week. Shevchenko is a new face of 2023, while the one-year-younger Draper had already displayed significant potential a year earlier. However, the Brit, who claimed a Challenger title in Bergamo a week before, is prone to injuries and doesn’t physically handle close matches well, which was confirmed in Bulgaria; he had a double break point in the final’s last game but seemed out of gas in the rallies.
In the second ATP edition in Antwerp, held as a point-awarded tournament from 1992 onwards (after being an exhibition event in the years 1982-1991), the focus was on two players, Goran Ivanišević and Cédric Pioline. One of them had to secure the last spot at the “Masters”. The solution was straightforward: they were on a collision course, with the Croat needing to win their quarterfinal match to automatically qualify, while Pioline required to reach the final. Pioline prevailed with a 7-6, 6-0 victory and found himself serving to beat Pete Sampras in the semifinal. The Frenchman sniffed the glory on a platter but couldn’t seal the deal. Sampras felt an extra motivation because winning the title in Flemish Belgium could secure his spot at the top of the year-end rankings, regardless of his performance the following week in Frankfurt. The American claimed his 20th title after a perfect match on Sunday. The runner-up, Magnus Gustafsson, was left disappointed after facing the third big server in a row. In the preceding rounds, he had defeated the two best Germans, Michael Stich and Boris Becker, in straight sets.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Marc Rosset  successfully defended his title. This marked his third title of the season. Although not many players collected as many titles that year, Rosset was not in contention for the “Masters” (he’d very bad season at majors with an abysmal 1-3 record). There were higher expectations for him in the “best of five” format, especially after his impressive achievements in 1992, when he triumphed at the Olympics and led the Swiss team to the Davis Cup final, having defeated in both events the best man in the world – Jim Courier. In hindsight, both Pioline (b. 1969) and Rosset (b. 1970) stand out as the best players of the 90s who never participated in the prestigious season-ending event; Pioline came particularly close, falling short by just two points facing Sampras. In Moscow, two qualifiers from the former Soviet Union enjoyed a successful run: Russian Andrey Merinov  had the best ATP event of his career, reaching the quarterfinals while Ukrainian Dimitri Poliakov  advanced to the semifinals. His only better result it’s a shocking title in Umag two years earlier, also as a qualifier.
The regular season concluded in Buenos Aires, where two Spaniards battled their way to the nearly gale final. The eventual champion, Carlos Costa, decided to make a surprising journey to South America, having spent two weeks in Europe following a flight from Asia. In the first round, veteran Diego Pérez emerged victorious, defeating Horacio de la Peña 7-6, 6-4 in the longest “2-0” encounter of the season; notably, the Uruguayan survived a marathon first-set tie-break, which ended with an astonishing 17/15 scoreline. This was the longest tie-break on clay since Jimmy Arias defeated Trevor Allan 6-2, 7-6(15) in Florence ’85.
Metz (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(4)🇫🇷Ugo Humbert d. 🇷🇺Alexander Shevchenko 6-3, 6-3
Sofia (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(2)🇫🇷Adrian Mannarino d. 🇬🇧Jack Draper 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-3
Antwerp ($1M; carpet indoors)
(1)🇺🇸Pete Sampras d. 🇸🇪Magnus Gustafsson 6-1, 6-4
Moscow ($325K; carpet indoors)
(1)🇨🇭Marc Rosset d. 🇩🇪Patrik Kühnen 6-4, 6-3
Buenos Aires ($275K; clay outdoors)
(2)🇪🇸Carlos Costa d. (6)🇪🇸Alberto Berasategui 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
Top 10 at the end of the regular season:
1993: Sampras – Courier – Stich – Bruguera – Edberg – A.Medvedev – Chang – Ivanisevic – Muster – Pioline
2023: Djokovic – Alcaraz – D.Medvedev – Sinner – Rublev – Tsitsipas – A.Zverev – Rune – Hurkacz – Fritz
An exceptional line-up at the 56-draw graced this year’s Paris-Bercy, where the top 16 seeds represented the best in the world. With only three remaining spots for the “Nitto ATP Finals” (successor of “Masters”) it was a fierce competition. The semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas secured his place in the elite event with his 300th win, while Alexander Zverev also punched his ticket with two hard-fought victories. A remarkable new face in the best eight & Parisian defending champion, Holger Rune, joined the mix, winning two matches to claim the final berth.
The week began with three more players in contention for Turin: Hubert Hurkacz, who managed to win three matches despite weariness from Basel (he surpassed 1,000 aces in a season as the 9th player in history); Taylor Fritz, who won his first match but had to withdraw due to an abdominal injury; and last year’s Turin runner-up, Casper Ruud, being subdued in his opening match.
The veterans faced a challenging week, with players like Stan Wawrinka, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet, and Andy Murray, all in their mid/late 30s, suffering heart-breaking losses, including squandered match points. Murray’s defeat was particularly bitter as he succumbed to Alex de Minaur for the second time in the fourth quarter of the season, despite leading 5:2 in the final sets. De Minaur had theoretical chances to qualify for Turin if he had won the title, but it was a long shot.
It was a tough event for the local players again. Among seven Frenchmen, only Ugo Humbert progressed to the second round, and he played a dramatic, longest match of the week, lasting 3 hours and 29 minutes, only to fall to Zverev. Paris is known for its late matches, and Jannik Sinner became a victim of this schedule. His match started after midnight and finished at 2:36 a.m. With another match scheduled in the afternoon, he had little time to recover, particularly after playing five demanding matches in Vienna the previous week, and he concluded the withdrawal would make sense for his fatigue body.
Grigor Dimitrov appeared to have played the tournament of his life. Although he had won his two big titles in 2017 (Cincinnati and London), he didn’t face a Top 10’er in Ohio and avoided the best guys in the world at the O2 Arena, which is unusual for “Masters” events. In Paris, he also notched five wins, managed to eliminate three Top 10 players, two of them in closely contested battles (6-3, 6-7, 7-6). However, he ended the week in tears as he found himself struggling in the final against one of his two toughest opponents, Novak Đoković, who claimed the Parisian title for the seventh time. Đoković’s dominance continues, and he now competes more with his own records than anyone else.
Since the inception of the “Mercedes Super 9” in 1990 (the predecessor of the “Masters 1000”), the Paris-Bercy tournament has been held either as the ultimate event of the regular season or in the penultimate week. Nonetheless, it’s the most crucial event for securing the last spots in the season-ending event featuring the world’s top eight players. That year, with a 48-draw, there were still two berths to be secured, and the following six players were in contention: Thomas Muster (he withdrew due to injury), Richard Krajicek (he suffered a shocking second-round exit; it was later revealed that he had knee problems that sidelined him for five months), Cédric Pioline (despite being in the form of his life, he couldn’t handle the pressure of facing the French crowd favorite, Henri Leconte, in the second round), Boris Becker (he had to defend his title, but he lost in the quarterfinal to his French opponent and the partisan crowd); there were also two 193 cm tall players from newly formed Slavic countries in 1991 (Croatia in June that year and Ukraine two months later), namely Goran Ivanišević and Andrei Medvedev. They needed tie-breaks to survive their opening matches and met in the final. For Medvedev, this meant qualification to the “Masters” as the first player raised in the Soviet Union… The event marked the first time Ivan Lendl was unseeded since 1980! The Czech, representing the United States, received another blow after the draw; he had to play against one of his toughest opponents from the young generation, David Wheaton, and lost in 70 minutes without being able to create a break point. Jim Courier needed to progress two rounds further than Pete Sampras to replace him at the top of the men’s rankings but failed, losing his opening match (there was only a 31-point difference between them in the ATP rankings). In a trivia note, French players with similar surnames, Guillaume Raoux and Lionel Roux, faced each other for the first time and produced the most one-sided match of the week (Raoux won it 6-2, 6-0). The record for serve speed at the time was held by Marc Rosset, who hit 215 kph at Wimbledon a year before, however, in his third-round match, Todd Martin served 5 kph faster. The serve landed ‘out,’ so it couldn’t be counted as a new record.
In the second leg of the South American swing, Alberto Berasategui triumphed in São Paulo to claim his maiden ATP title. The 20-year-old Basque, who used the same side of the racquet for his forehand and backhand, was an underestimated revelation of the second half of the year. He was almost entirely focused on playing on clay (with an exception for the US Open), which helped him climb from no. 95 to 36, thanks to small ATP events as well as two Challengers in the process. The following year, Berasategui’s clay-court talent exploded in Paris, where he easily outplayed six consecutive opponents to reach the French Open final.
Paris (Masters 1K; hard indoors)
(1)🇷🇸Novak Đoković d. 🇧🇬Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-3
Paris ($1.9M; carpet indoors)
(10)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević d. (8)🇺🇦Andrei Medvedev 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3)
Santiago ($164K; clay outdoors)
(3)🇪🇸Alberto Berasategui d. 🇨🇿Slava Doseděl 6-4, 6-3
Since 2016, there has been a week featuring two “ATP 500” events in German-speaking cities, except for the Covid-affected years 2020 and 2021 when the “Swiss Indoors” didn’t take place. In Basel, Holger Rune and Félix Auger-Aliassime have managed to rediscover their form. Rune was grappling with a back injury, struggling to secure two consecutive wins for three months. Auger-Aliassime had knee issues, leading to a more extended slump that lasted for six months; just one week ago in Tokyo, he finally broke his bad streak by winning two straight matches. In Switzerland, they crossed paths in the semifinals, mirroring their final showdown on the same court a year prior. This marked Rune’s inaugural event under the guidance of his new coach, six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker, who himself triumphed in Basel thirty-one years ago. During this week, the young Dane decided to part ways with his iconic baseball hat wearing backwards, which he had sported during all his matches for over two years.
Meanwhile, Taylor Fritz, who was striving to accumulate points for the second consecutive year to qualify for the “Masters”, endured his third consecutive week of losing a match decided in a final-set tie-break. This time, his defeat was particularly painful as he came tantalizingly close to clinching victory in two different sets, before succumbing to Alexander Shevchenko, another new Russian face this season, in a nail-biting 7-6, 6-7, 6-7 contest. Fritz couldn’t convert any of his 15 break points (!) spread across six games, including a double match point (he was two points away to win in straight sets when missed an easy ball). Shevchenko experienced a roller-coaster of emotions within 24 hours, following his spectacular vuctory over Fritz, he suffered a bitter after-midnight loss to Auger-Aliassime, squandering a match point on his serve at 5:4 in the decider. The 23-year-old Canadian fought through cramps in that thriller. In the subsequent two rounds, he performed flawlessly on serve, and in the final, which remained without a break of serve, he clinched both tie-breaks with backhand return winners. The previous year in Halle, Hubert Hurkacz won their quarterfinal meeting with identical 7-6, 7-6 scoreline, where only one break point was created. “I’m definitely back. I let my racquet do the talking. That’s always been the motto of my career. I’ve had the conviction that I can be a top player since I was a kid, but there were many doubts this year about my performances and why,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. “I’m happy that I was able to prove to everybody that I still belong among the best players in the world and that I can play at this level. I never doubted it, but it’s good to confirm it on the court.”
In Vienna, Andrey Rublev secured his spot in the “Masters” by reaching the semifinals, becoming the fifth player this year to do so. The 26-year-old Russian will be participating for the fourth consecutive year in this prestigious event. An enthralling spectacle unfolded in the final featuring Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner. This marked their fourth final encounter this year, with the Russian claiming the first two, and the South Tyrolean winning the subsequent two. In the Austrian capital, Sinner’s local connection is significant, especially considering Dominic Thiem‘s decline. As a German-native speaker, Sinner might be embraced as a home favorite for this decade. After the three-hour final (with the fourth game of the third set lasting 13 deuces), Sinner addressed the packed crowd in an Austrian dialect. He has won 10 titles, as many as the best Italian of the Open Era, Adriano Panatta (French Open 1976 champion). Sinner needs a Grand Slam title to be considered better.
The prospect of determining the year-end world No. 1 between two Americans, Wimbledon and US Open champion Pete Sampras and Australian Open winner, French Open-Wimbledon runner-up Jim Courier, was highly anticipated in the big Stockholm and Paris tournaments (a 159-point difference between them at the time). However, this dramatic scenario didn’t unfold as expected, as both Americans faced early exits in Sweden. Sampras’ second round defeat to Carlos Costa was particularly appalling because Costa was not known for his indoor prowess. Sampras, who had been riding a 12-match winning streak, admitted: “My serve was pretty erratic. I’ve served badly and still managed to win other matches this year, but not tonight.” The match, which concluded just before midnight and drew less than 500 fans, was indicative of the declining status of the “Stockholm Open,” which lost its “Mercedes Super 9” classification in 1995 due to poor attendance in the preceding years. Meanwhile, Courier faced Marc Rosset in a tight third-round match that ended 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 in favor of the Swiss. Despite the tight contest, Courier couldn’t create a single break point. Courier remarked: “I didn’t play a bad match, but I only slept four hours last night. He served so well – 24 aces. It was good for him. It’s indoor tennis, and it’s not fun for me.”
The final in Stockholm featured a clash of two exceptional 6 foot 4 indoor players, both of whom had narrowly avoided defeat in their opening matches against Swedish opponents. Michael Stich couldn’t find a way to break Goran Ivanišević for three sets, but thanks to tie-breaks he led 2-1 in sets repeating the feat he had already experienced at Wimbledon in 1991 and 1993. Ivanišević was playing second consecutive week almost every day, and being visibly tired lost his phenomenal service timing in set no. 4.
In the ’90s, there was an annual Latin Swing at the end of the season with three tournaments held in South America. In the years 1991-92, the tour stopped only on hardcourts in Brazil, including cities like Guarujá, Búzios, and São Paulo. The following year, the tour switched to clay, and included Santiago (Chile), São Paulo, and Buenos Aires (Argentina). The inaugural “Movistar’s Open” was won by unseeded Javier Frana, a left-handed Argentinian who frequently employed serve-and-volley tactics as the only South American player at the time. He defeated Emilio Sánchez in the final, marking Sánchez’s 27th and final ATP final of his career. Frana, inferior player to the Sánchez brothers in general, finished his career with positive records against them both: 2-1 over Javier, 4-1 over Emilio.
Basel (ATP 500; hard indoors)
(6,WC)🇨🇦Félix Auger-Aliassime d. (4)🇵🇱Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(3), 7-6(5)
Vienna (ATP 500; hard indoors)
(2)🇮🇹Jannik Sinner d. (1)🇷🇺Daniil Medvedev 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3
Stockholm ($1.4M; carpet indoors)
(4)🇩🇪Michael Stich d. (8)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(3), 6-2
Santiago ($200K; clay outdoors)
🇦🇷Javier Frana d. (5)🇪🇸Emilio Sánchez 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
Bryan (b. 1965) and Ben Shelton (b. 2002), the second active father-son combo with ATP titles, make for an intriguing tennis story. Unlike Czech Petr (b. 1968), Sebastian Korda‘s father (b. 2000), American Bryan has taken on the role of Ben’s full-time coach since June of this year. He’s been the mastermind behind his son’s recent successes. Earlier this year, Ben unexpectedly reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. However, he encountered a tough period afterwards, struggling to win two consecutive matches. Between the Melbourne quarterfinal loss and the first round of the French Open, he managed to win just three matches, losing twelve. This is when his father stepped in, and since then, Ben has enjoyed a 17-9 record. On the way to his maiden title in Japan (last week of the Asian swing after four weeks in China), Ben survived two challenging encounters: in the first round, he withstood a mini-match point, in the semifinals he came back from a set and a double break deficit against Marcos Giron. “That meant a lot to me and my team,” Shelton said. “We have been working really hard since the beginning to build my game and win titles on the ATP Tour. I made some deep runs lately. You see the great champions, they finish weeks off. They win titles, they don’t just get to finals. They are able to maintain their level throughout the week. I am not saying I am anywhere there yet, but to be able to do it for one week, put together five matches in a row in Tokyo is really special.” Bryan and Petr never officially met on the court, even though they spent many years on the tour together. Their sons have recently faced each other in Shanghai, and Sebastian won by a margin of two points, yet Ben is ranked higher now. 20-year-old Shintaro Mochizuki pleased the crowd with his performance. The young Japanese [215, WC] advanced to the semifinals overcoming three Top 50 players, despite having a 0-11 main-level record (three defeats come from the Davis Cup).
The past week was also noteworthy for native Russian speakers. Representatives of Russia, bulky Aslan Karatsev and Pavel Kotov  reached the finals, demonstrating the region’s strength in tennis, while in Antwerp, Alexander Bublik, representing Kazakhstan, claimed his second title of the year; he fired 11 aces and committed 11 double faults in the final. In Stockholm, 37-year-old Gaël Monfils  improved his ATP finals record to 12-22 (he has an impressive 7-1 record in finals at lower-level events) after a tense final. Monfils was two points away from a straight-sets defeat when his first serve, wide on deuce side, earned him a crucial point against his far less-experienced opponent. The beaten finalist Kotov, is a new face on the tour. Prior to 2023, he had played just half of this year’s events he participated in.
It’s essential to note that 28-year-old Nick Kyrgios, often seen as tennis’ “enfant terrible”, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, has dropped out of the rankings due to his limited participation this year; he has played just one match in Stuttgart (last year he reached the Tokyo quarterfinal where he withdrew, and for now it’s quite possible it was the beginning of the end of his career). His future in tennis remains uncertain. On the other hand, Rafael Nadal, a potential rival of Kyrgios at Wimbledon’s semifinal last year, is currently ranked 243. Tennis enthusiasts await his return for what’s expected to be his final season next year.
There were two indoor events in Europe. In France, Pete Sampras secured his third consecutive victory in Lyon, although this would be the last time he’d defend his title there. Unlike the previous two years, Sampras faced some tough challenges in his last two matches. He came perilously close to defeat in the semifinal (Jakob Hlasek) and had to stage a remarkable comeback in the final – trailing 1:4* (15/30) in the deciding set against the local favorite Cédric Pioline, Sampras demonstrated his champion’s mettle. However, Pioline, grappling with the emotional weight of securing his first title, couldn’t hold onto his lead. The paradox of the situation was that he had reached the indoor final for the third consecutive week, with the previous two weeks seeing him as the favorite, especially in Bolzano where he was severely beaten; in Lyon, not many believed he could upset Sampras, and it almost happened… An obscure Frenchman, Lionel Barthez [291, qualifier], who was delivering both his first and second serves at the same speed (~160 km/h), had the tournament of his life. He advanced to his only ATP quarterfinal and played a nail-biting match lasting two and a half hours, ultimately falling short. Two Top 10 Germans, Boris Becker and Michael Stich, experienced shocking first-round exits. Stich’s loss to 19-year-old Yevgeny Kafelnikov takes on a different perspective in retrospect, considering Kafelnikov’s rise to becoming one of the world’s top players, ultimately holding an 8-3 Head-to-Head record against Stich.
In the Austrian capital, Thomas Muster couldn’t realize his dream of winning both Austrian events in the same year. The task was challenging, even though he had won his sole previous meeting against Goran Ivanišević, albeit three years prior on Muster’s beloved clay. Ivanišević was a more formidable indoor player, and despite Muster enjoying tremendous support, he couldn’t secure the title. Muster had been one of the hardest-working players on the tour up to this point, and his schedule was incredibly demanding. This marked the third straight week where he transitioned between surfaces and continents. After competing on European clay (Palermo), he headed to West Asia for hardcourts (Tel Aviv) before returning to Europe to play on carpet. This arduous schedule eventually took its toll, and despite his ranking permitting participation in the “Masters” following Vienna, he was forced to withdraw from the upcoming significant events in Stockholm and Paris.
Beijing concluded the four-week Asian swing, which included Sydney. The main favorite, Michael Chang, claimed his 14th title. Yet, in the second round against Shuzo Matsuoka and in the final, he faced stiff competition from serve-and-volley players. Chang’s triumph marked his fourth Asian title in 1993. During the same week, the most prominent exhibition event of the era took place in other Chinese city (still under the British rule) – Hong Kong, the “Marlboro Championships,” boasting an incredible prize money. Twelve players were divided into four groups, leading to semifinals and ultimately the final. Richard Krajicek reigned supreme, winning all four of his matches, including a dominant victory over Stefan Edberg in the 54-minute final, earning him a staggering, optimal $1.7 million cheque. Edberg humbly apologized to the crowd, attributing his performance to a “bad day in the office.” Due to his sickness the final was shortened to “the best of three”. The next year on the same court, Edberg would find his redemption against Krajicek by defeating him in the final 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. This special Asian event, in a round-robin format, was held in the years 1990-97, only the first edition with 16 participants. Even though from a financial perspective it resembled the “Grand Slam Cup”, it attracted very little interest from the media coverage.
Tokyo (ATP 500; hard outdoors)
🇺🇸Ben Shelton d. 🇷🇺Aslan Karatsev 7-5, 6-1
Antwerp (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(3)🇰🇿Alexander Bublik d. (4)🇫🇷Arthur Fils 6-4, 6-4
Stockholm (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(PR)🇫🇷Gaël Monfils d. (q)🇷🇺Pavel Kotov 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3
Lyon ($575K; carpet indoors)
(1)🇺🇸Pete Sampras d. (5)🇫🇷Cédric Pioline 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-5
Vienna ($275K; carpet indoors)
(2,WC)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević d. (1)🇦🇹Thomas Muster 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(3)
Beijing ($275K; carpet indoors)
(1)🇺🇸Michael Chang d. 🇨🇦Greg Rusedski 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-4
Hong Kong [$5.4M (!); ehxo – hard outdoors]
(2)🇳🇱Richard Krajicek d. (1)🇸🇪Stefan Edberg 6-1, 6-4
In recent years, Novak Đoković‘s primary focus has been on winning Grand Slam titles rather than retaining the world No. 1 ranking. The Serbian tennis legend chose to skip the entire Asian swing this season. After a four-year hiatus due to the extended effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in Asia, professional tennis made its return to Shanghai, but in a new format. This marked the first time that the tournament extended over two weeks, allowing for an expanded draw from 56 to 96 players.
The event witnessed a flurry of upsets. Notably, among the Top 15 players in the world, only one managed to reach the quarterfinals – Andrey Rublev, who eventually finished as the runner-up. The semifinal lineup was comprised of four players who are native Slavic speakers (Russian, Bulgarian, Czech & Polish).
In an exciting final, Polish player Hubert Hurkacz, coincidentally on the day of parliamentary elections in Poland, emerged victorious. Hurkacz showcased his resilience as he saved a match point with a powerful serve. His path to victory was aided by a favorable draw. Before the semifinals, he defeated four consecutive opponents who could have participated in a strong Challenger tournament. This included a victory over the local favorite, Zhizhen Zhang, who arrived in Shanghai after clinching the gold medal in the Asian Games held in Hangzhou. Hungarian Fábián Marozsán , one of Hurkacz’s victims, is worth mentioning because he has just played five main-level events, already reaching 4th round in his Roman debut, and the quarterfinal in China, having defeated top 10 players in both events, thus it’s not super risky to put forward a thesis that he would achieve more than the current best Hungarian of the 21st Century, Márton Fucsovics… Poor weather conditions in Shanghai led to the last few matches being played under a closed roof and it was reflected in good results for players who prefer faster conditions. Thanks to the injection of 1000 ranking points, Hurkacz now unexpectedly finds himself in contention for a spot at the season-ending event in Turin. In the Singles Race rankings, he made a significant leap from No. 16 to No. 11. With his second Masters 1000 title (previous in Miami two years ago), Hurkacz has effectively settled the debate over ‘who is the best Polish player in the Open Era’ surpassing Wojtek Fibak, who was the champion of 15 titles at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s… The hottest players at the end of 2022 lately suffer big crisis: Holger Rune has a 1-7 record since Wimbledon while Félix Auger-Aliassime 1-8 since Roland Garros. Despite the slump, the young Dane is still in a good position to play in Turin.
Sydney witnessed an unexpected turn of events as Jaime Yzaga, a Peruvian player who was nearly 26 years old and ranked 54th at the time, emerged as the tournament champion. Yzaga, who stood as the shortest player in the Top 100 at 170 cm (weaker in hierarchy Olivier Delaître the same height), was predominantly known for his performances on clay or outdoor hardcourts. Therefore, it was quite surprising that he managed to defeat four Top 20 players consecutively under the Australian roof. His quarterfinal victory over Jim Courier was particularly remarkable, and versatile Yzaga himself acknowledged it as the best win of his career. Although he didn’t go on to play another ATP final following this tournament, in 1994, he matched his career-best Grand Slam result by reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open, with an even more valuable victory over Pete Sampras in the fourth round… Jonathan Canter , a forgotten US player who had won an event in Melbourne ’85, drifting in the Satellites, suddenly reached the quarterfinals at the age of 28 as a qualifier, and was within a few games from stunning Wayne Ferreira in straight sets. Notably, Canter had not won an ATP match since 1990, making the quarterfinal run a shocking feat, and his “swan song”.
In southern France (Occitania region), a delightful event unfolded for local fans. Two 24-year-old Frenchmen faced off in the final, and Arnaud Boetsch, who enjoyed much more support from the crowd, outlasted Cédric Pioline in a 2-hour and 42-minute battle. Interestingly, the year before, they had also faced each other in the same event, with Boetsch emerging as the quick winner in round two. Previously, two French players met in the final in Bordeaux ’91.
Jordi Arrese, the Olympic silver medalist ranked 88th, did not meet expectations throughout 1993, primarily focusing on his beloved clay courts. However, in the Greek capital, where the tournament had been held from 1986 to 1994, he managed to capture his sixth and final title. On his path to victory, Arrese survived two matches that were decided in the third-set tie-breaks. This tournament highlighted a period when Greek tennis meant a catastrophe; there were no “Hellenes” performing even at the Challenger level. Consequently, in that year, the organizers granted ‘wild cards’ to two unranked Athenians, both over 30 years (!): Konstantinos Effraimoglou and Georgios Kalovelonis. These obscure players, despite a lack of competing at similar level for years, avoided losing sets to ‘love’. Arrese defended his title, a year before winning an all-Spanish affair too. Quite peculiar that he finished the year playing twelve consecutive three-setters, initiated that streak in Greece.
Ivan Lendl, widely regarded as the greatest player of the 1980s, secured his final title as a 33-year-old defending champion at an event in Japan. This victory marked a positive turnaround in Lendl’s season. Despite entering the tournament on an 11-tie-break losing streak, the Czech-American managed to win two consecutive matches where deciding third-set tie-breaks were required. Lendl triumphed in the Seiko Super Tennis for the fifth time. He held a special affinity for Japan, not only for its unique culture but also because a Japanese company (Mizuno) crafted tennis rackets tailored specifically to his preferences. Greg Rusedski, who was ranked 130th, had previously won a title in Newport that year, and reaffirmed his potential to be a challenging opponent on faster surfaces. The Canadian, who would become a British citizen two years later, advanced to the semifinals after defeating three Top 20 players in a row, with each match featuring dramatic three-setters where he was on the brink of losing.
Jonathan Stark , an American player two years older than Rusedski, delivered an incredible serving performance (~50% of points directly behind the serve in his last two matches) in the largest city of South Tyrol. Stark nearly lost in the opening round against the defending champion but then breezed through another four matches, including a dominant victory in the final over Cédric Pioline – the only seed in the last eight. Although Rusedski would go on to achieve more successes at the end of the Century; in the mid-90s, both he and Stark appeared to be at the same level as one-dimensional big-servers. Stark’s willingness to regularly play doubles may have contributed to block his development in singles (he became the best doubles player in the world in 1994). Similar story with other US player, David Pate, who belonged to the fastest servers in the late 80s, but put an emphasis on his doubles career. 18-year-old Thomas Johansson (Aussie Open champion nine years later) received a ‘wild card’ being unranked and advanced to the quarterfinal where he played a competitive match!
A remarkable match took place in the Tel Aviv quarterfinal, where Andrey Cherkasov defeated Andrea Gaudenzi 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 after 3 hours and 54 minutes (the Russian withstood three match points). This contest was the longest “best of three” match in ATP history until 2009 when Rafael Nadal overcame Novak Đoković after a 4-hour battle. In the meantime, Nadal had equaled Cherkasov’s record in the first week of 2008. The Tel Aviv title went to Stefano Pescosolido, an intriguing player who ended his career with a notably low win/loss ratio (40%) and never broke into the Top 40 in the rankings. Despite these statistics, Pescosolido claimed two titles in only two final appearances, defeating higher ranked Jewish players: American Brad Gilbert in Scottsdale ’92 and Israeli Amos Mansdorf in Tel Aviv.
Shanghai (Masters 1K; hard semi-indoors)
(16)🇵🇱Hubert Hurkacz d. (5)🇷🇺Andrey Rublev 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(8) – 1 m.p.
Sydney ($875K; hard indoors) – week 40
🇵🇪Jaime Yzaga d. (6)🇨🇿Petr Korda 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(7)
Toulouse ($375K; hard indoors)
(5)🇫🇷Arnaud Boetsch d. (2)🇫🇷Cédric Pioline 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3
Athens ($175K; clay outdoors)
🇪🇸Jordi Arrese d. (3)🇪🇸Alberto Berasategui 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
In the second consecutive week of the Asian swing, the tournaments in Kazakhstan and China had a non-standard schedule, taking place between Wednesday and Tuesday as well as Thursday and Wednesday, respectively.
It’s quite unusual in tennis for a player to hit their peak performance after turning 30, but this is precisely the case for Adrian Mannarino. The 35-year-old Frenchman, known for using the lowest string tension among professional players (just 12 kg), has been enjoying the best period of his career. After turning 30, he achieved his best results in Grand Slam tournaments, reaching the fourth round twice (equalling his performance before turning 30). He has also equalled his best performance in Masters 1000 events in 2023, making it to the quarterfinals. Moreover, all four of his ATP titles were won after turning 30, with three of them coming in the last thirteen months. In the final held in the Kazakh capital, Mannarino displayed his resilience by coming back from a 1:3 deficit in the second set (in the quarterfinal he fought off eleven set points against Jurij Rodionov, one of three Austrians who advanced to the last eight). He has a 24-8 record after the French Open. Hamad Međedović , a wild card entry from Serbia, who is potentially one of the best Serbian players following world’s top player retirement, reached his second ATP semifinal (his first was in Gstaad) before losing in an all tie-break encounter to the eventual runner-up. He finished the previous season ranked inside the Top 300 and has now become a Top 100 player, indicating that he will be regularly competing at the main level in 2024.
The Beijing tournament boasted an impressive line-up, featuring one of the strongest fields in the history of ATP 500 events, with eight Top 10’rs participating. Jannik Sinner faced challenges with cramps in his opening round, vomiting in the quarterfinal, but managed to overcome them. He then went on to deliver some of the best tennis of his career, defeating two higher-ranked opponents in consecutive matches, both in straight sets. This remarkable performance propelled him to a career-high ranking of No. 4 and guaranteed a berth in the season-ending event in Turin. After the two-hour no-break struggle, which was his third final encounter with Daniil Medvedev this year, Sinner expressed his gratitude, saying: “Daniil, thanks for letting me win at least one match. We have had some very tough battles, especially this year. Thanks for making me a much better player. I have been training a lot to beat you. My team are working a lot. Thank you very much and it is special to share this moment with you.”
Just seven days after decisively defeating Stefan Edberg in a Davis Cup dead rubber, German Michael Stich faced off against the Swede again, in the Swiss final, securing his tenth title. This victory marked for Stich the beginning of one of the most successful last quarters of the season in the Open Era. During the post-final ceremony, Stich presented commemorative medals to the ball boys, one of whom happened to be a future 20-time Grand Slam & 10-time Basel champion, Roger Federer, who was just twelve years old at the time.
The capital of the Italian island of Sicily played host to a final showdown between the two best clay-court players of the mid-’90s. In a nearly two-hour battle, Thomas Muster prevailed over Sergi Bruguera, winning just one point more. This marked the first of four finals between them, all of which the Austrian eventually won. With this victory, Muster embarked on a nine-match winning streak against Bruguera, ultimately holding a 12-3 record in their rivalry. Federico Sánchez, who stood as the tiniest player at the time (measuring only 168 cm at 60 kg weight), reached – as a lucky loser – the lone ATP semifinal of his career. His journey included victories over a player with the same surname (Emilio Sánchez), although unrelated. Tragically, Federico passed away in 2014 after a fall down a flight of stairs.
In the Malaysian capital, Michael Chang – third best American at the time, the son of Taiwanese parents – emerged as the champion. He had a penchant for excelling in Asian tournaments, and after his triumph, he continued to participate in two more events in the region. For the beaten finalist Jonas Svensson, it was 14th and last final (record: 5-9). An interesting quirk of this tournament was the presence of three players with the surname Chang (張 – Chinese character). Unranked Carl Chang, three years older brother (and coach) of Michael, received a wildcard to make his ATP debut at the age of 24 (he managed to win a set, marking the only set won of his career at this level). Additionally, Albert Chang, a Canadian player of Chinese origin, also made an appearance thanks to a wildcard. In the third and last “double bagel” match of the season, Ramayah Ramachandran, Malaysia’s best player at the time, endured a 0-6, 0-6 loss that lasted just 42 minutes. This marked the second and final time in his career that he received a wildcard for an ATP-level event. In the first week of the season, also in Kuala Lumpur, he had managed to win a game against the eventual champion Richey Reneberg in a match that lasted four minutes longer.
Beijing (ATP 500; hard outdoors)
(6)🇮🇹Jannik Sinner d. (2)🇷🇺Daniil Medvedev 7-6(2), 7-6(2)
Astana (ATP 250; hard indoors)
(6)🇫🇷Adrian Mannarino d. (5)🇺🇸Sebastian Korda 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Basel ($775K; hard indoors)
(2)🇩🇪Michael Stich d. (1)🇸🇪Stefan Edberg 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2
Palermo ($290K; clay outdoors)
(2)🇦🇹Thomas Muster d. (1)🇪🇸Sergi Bruguera 7-6(2), 7-5
Kuala Lumpur-2 ($275K; hard outdoors)
(1)🇺🇸Michael Chang d. (7)🇸🇪Jonas Svensson 6-0, 6-4
The sixth edition of the Laver Cup took place in Vancouver, following previous stops in Prague, Chicago, Geneva, Boston, and London. Unfortunately for tennis enthusiasts eager to savor every moment of the event, much like two years ago, the competition concluded with the very first match on day three. In 2021, “Team Europe” dominated “Team World,” but this time, the tables were turned. Interestingly, the contest was more closely fought two years ago, with six matches going to “super tie-breaks,” of which the European team won five. This time, there were too many straight-set matches, which somewhat diminished the unique appeal of this event.
Team Europe was without the top three players in the world, and two other prominent Europeans; Stefanos Tsitsipas and Holger Rune were initially selected but had to withdraw due to injuries. In this context, the European team appeared somewhat haphazardly assembled. There seemed to be less chemistry among the teammates compared to the “American” team, three of whose players had contributed to the trophy a year ago. Among the three debutants in the team led by the McEnroe brothers, Ben Shelton made the most significant contribution, alongside Frances Tiafoe (his fourth appearance in the Laver Cup). Each of these two players secured a win in singles and two wins in doubles (the decisive three points they scored together). The next stop for the Laver Cup is Berlin.
After a four-year hiatus due to Covid-19, China has reopened its doors to tennis with two minor events. However, these events were held in a rather unconventional manner. Instead of the traditional Monday-to-Sunday format, they took place from Wednesday to Tuesday. This scheduling adjustment was made, in part, due to the fact that Shanghai will host its prestigious tournament over two weeks this year. If Aslan Karatsev had won his semifinal, both finals would have been composed of all Russian native speakers. Alexander Zverev, who claimed his 21st title, survived a scare in two matches being two points away from a straight sets defeat.
“Laver Cup” – Vancouver; hard indoors
World d. Europe 13-2
Chengdu (ATP 250; hard outdoors)
(1)🇩🇪Alexander Zverev d. 🇷🇺Roman Safiullin 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-3
Zhuhai (ATP 250; hard outdoors)
(1)🇷🇺Karen Khachanov d. (8)🇯🇵Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6(2), 6-1
Jason Stoltenberg , one of the most most accomplished junior players of the 1980s, fell short of his expectations in men’s tennis. Some have attributed his underwhelming performance to deteriorating eyesight. In 1993, inside the Top 100 he was one of only four players using corrective lenses, alongside the French players Stéphane Simian, Guillaume Raoux, and the German Karsten Braasch.
Stoltenberg’s victory in the Davis Cup semifinal on grass (Chandigarh) could be considered one of his most significant achievements at the time. In a straight-set triumph over Leander Paes, he saved five break points while trailing 0:3 in the second set. The other Indian player, 32-year-old Ramesh Krishnan , known for his playing style reminiscent of the 1970s, suffered a one-sided defeat in the second rubber against Wally Masur and subsequently decided to finish his career.
In the other semifinal, a complete shocker unfolded. The Swedish team, regarded as the best of the 1980s, failed to secure a single victory against Germany on their home turf. The Swedes had reason to expect a 2-0 lead after the first day in Borlänge, as Magnus Gustafsson had previously defeated Michael Stich in the Stuttgart final a few months earlier, on clay. Stich demonstrated that, in his case, the distinction between outdoor and indoor conditions was more crucial than the specific surface, and he exacted his revenge in four sets under the roof. In the second rubber, Mark-Kevin Goellner defeated Stefan Edberg, arguably delivering the match of his career in the “best of five” format.
In both ties, the host teams suffered decisive losses in doubles, with tie-breaks required in straight-set defeats. The players from India didn’t even win a set during the weekend, Swedes won just two.
The most closely contested tie in the World Group play-offs occurred in Christchurch as New Zealand succumbed to Austria with a score of 2-3. The Austrian team, without the fatigued Thomas Muster, managed to secure a decisive victory as Alex Antonitsch emerged triumphant in a five-setter (being a few points from a 4-set defeat) that included three tie-breaks. It was a somber weekend for Goran Prpić . The 29-year-old Croatian gave his all in Copenhagen but lost in five sets in singles on Friday and in doubles on Saturday. On Sunday, in the deciding rubber, he came close to playing another five-setter but was ultimately forced to retire. It marked his final match at the main level, as chronic issues with his right knee got the better of him. The most surprising upset unfolded in Tel Aviv as Switzerland, the Davis Cup ’92 runner-up, fell to Israel despite having two of their main players; Amos Mansdorf emerged as the weekend hero, defeating them both.
Semifinals (host first)
India – Australia 0-5, Sweden – Germany 0-5
In the Davis Cup finals’ “Group Stage”, 16 teams congregated in four cities (Bologna, Manchester, Valencia, and Split this year, hard indoors everywhere), forming four groups, each with four teams. This format has been in place for the second consecutive year.
Among the eight teams that advanced further to the “Knockout Stage”, the most surprising is Finland, mentally led by former world No. 13 Jarkko Nieminen. They caused the biggest upset of the week by eliminating the United States. Otto Virtanen  emerged as a Finnish hero. The 22-year-old Finn with a powerful serve, who hadn’t won an ATP match prior to this week, managed to secure three consecutive rubbers for his country, including two victories over players much more experienced than him.
Carlos Alcaraz, being disappointed by his semifinal loss at the US Open, made the decision to withdraw from the event. The second-best active Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut, who is currently third in the rankings, is sidelined due to injury and hasn’t played for two months. This weakened the Spanish team, causing them to miss out on the finals, a significant setback for the tennis powerhouse of the first two decades of this century, especially considering that the finals are taking place in Spain once again.
Canada, the defending champion, deprived of two players who won the trophy a year before, shocked spectators in Bologna as they outplayed Italy and then dominated their group, finishing with an impressive 8-1 record. Challenger player Alexis Galarneau  strongly contributed with two singles wins and three doubles victories. The Czech team performed even better, concluding the group stage with a perfect 9-0 record, marking a historic achievement in this new format.
The weakest teams in terms of rankings, Sweden & South Korea, had similarly poor outcomes as theoretically much stronger Switzerland; each securing just one victory out of the nine possible.
In an intensely contested tie between two big tennis nations, Britain triumphed over France in a late-night conclusion of the week (11 pm on Sunday), saving four match points in the deciding doubles (four unreturned serves). Dan Evans helped the Brits the most.
In the most captivating tie of World Group I, Slovakia overcame Greece in Athens at the Panathenaic Stadium, a unique venue in the world entirely constructed from marble. Stefanos Tsitsipas continues to grapple with finding his form, managing only one point (out of 2.5 possible), narrowly avoiding defeat in his first singles as he was just three points away from losing to a much inferior player.
Group A / Canada, Italy… Chile, Sweden
Group B / Britain, Australia… France, Switzerland
Group C / Czechia, Serbia… Spain, Korea
Group D / Netherlands, Finland… USA, Croatia
Last week at the US Open, Goran Ivanišević celebrated yet another major title as Novak Đoković‘s coach. Thirty years ago, as the best left-handed server in the world, he wasn’t as fortunate in New York, being ousted in the second round after losing a tie-break while leading 5:0. Afterwards, he decided to fly to the Romanian capital to participate in a clay-court event as a “wild card.” It was a surprising decision given the upcoming indoor season, but a fruitful one as he secured his seventh title. The runner-up, Andrey Cherkasov, didn’t go on to play in another ATP final, even though he was just 23 years old at the time. “I feel good; it’s my first victory this year,” Ivanisevic said. “Mentally, I’m in a better state now, more confident. Therefore, I hope I’ll win three or four more tournaments this year.” (he’d add two more). The main favorite for the title, Thomas Muster, was shocked in the second round by Tomas Nydahl , a Swedish lucky loser, who put an end to Muster’s campaign (16 matches won in a row on clay). Nydahl spent the years 1991-92 playing only at the Challenger level.
In a rainy Bordeaux, the French Open champion Sergi Bruguera initiated something that, at the time, could be perceived as his pursuit of the No. 1 ranking. The Spaniard secured his tenth title, marking his first victory on a surface other than clay. On Saturday, Bruguera was forced to play two matches, a situation he had experienced earlier that year in Gstaad (there in the semi- and final combination). Diego Nargiso , frequent partner of Ivanišević in doubles as a teenager, advanced to his first ATP final (as the first lucky loser in the season) not dropping a set, after being defeated in the third round of qualifying by an US player who never even entered the Top 200 (Brian Devening).
Bucharest ($500K; clay outdoors)
(1,WC)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević d. (8)🇷🇺Andrey Cherkasov 6-2, 7-6(5)
Bordeaux ($330K; hard outdoors)
(1)🇪🇸Sergi Bruguera d. (LL)🇮🇹Diego Nargiso 7-5, 6-2
Margaret Court clinched her 24th and last major title half a century ago. She no longer stands as the sole record holder, as Novak Đoković has matched her achievement with his fourth US Open title. The tournament witnessed several upsets, but the three standout players of the season, Đoković, Daniil Medvedev, and Carlos Alcaraz, reached the semifinals, replicating their feat from Wimbledon ’23. However, there was a notable difference this time: Alcaraz had easily defeated Medvedev in the Wimbledon semifinal, but in New York, he succumbed to the Russian, losing 1-3.
For the first time since 1995 (Wimbledon), four players ranked outside the Top 100 advanced to the fourth round of a Slam tournament. Among them, left-handed  Dominic Stricker‘s journey stood out. He ousted Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round after a fiercely contested four-hour match. Stricker had saved a match point in a qualifying round.
One intriguing season story revolves around Ben Shelton. The young American, armed with a potent left-handed serve (149 mph), often loses in the early rounds this year but excels in Grand Slam tournaments. Following his quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, he continued his impressive run with a semifinal berth at the US Open. Shelton introduced a unique celebration during the fortnight, the ‘hang-up call’ which drew some playful mocking from Đoković after their semifinal clash.
In a significant retirement announcement, John Isner , one of the tallest players in tennis history, decided to conclude his career, 16 years after his professional debut. The 38-year-old giant’s farewell match embodied his career style, featuring multiple tie-breaks. Unfortunately, he squandered a match point, marking his 33rd (!) defeat of this kind (5th “best of five”), an infamous record. Also 31-year-old Jack Sock announced his retirement, but he appeared only in doubles. Meanwhile, Andrey Rublev, the 26-year-old Russian, continues to hold an infamous record of his own. He has lost all nine of his major quarterfinals, three of them to his compatriot and close friend Medvedev, always falling in straight sets despite promising starts in the opening set.