European indoor swing has begun with tournaments in Zagreb and Montpellier (first edition in 2010, last year wasn’t held, this week replaced a tournament in Johannesburg).Mikhail “Colonel” Youzhny after many years on the tour has finally modified his image a bit – playing for the first time with full beard (in the past sometimes he used to wear a stubble) notched his 8th title in Zagreb. He faced the toughest opponent in the quarterfinals as he overcame Ivo Karlovic saving seven set points in the 1st set and being two points away from eliminating in the deciding tie-break (7-6, 3-6, 7-6). Youzhny triumphed also in doubles, in the previous season only Andy Murray won a tournament in both singles & doubles (Tokyo). The two-time champion Marin Cilic still struggles with a patella tendon injury. Paul-Henri Mathieu returned to the professional tennis after a 15-month break in Montpellier (last week played a qualification match in a Challenger). It was a decent comeback, Mathieu ousted a newcomer Stebe, and played a tight 1st set against Nieminen in the following round... Tomas Berdychconfirmed his Top 5 aspirations, winning easily four straight matches. His ultimate opponent Gael Monfils drops to 23% in ATP finals #; he’s the first guy to participate in two finals in 2012. Monfils’s younger brother – Daryl (b. 1993) – debuted in doubles, along with Gael lost in the first round quickly. “It was a close match, decided by one or two points. I’m happy that I was the one to become the champion and get the last break and finish it with my serve. I was surprised to come to an indoor tournament with such a high level. It’s great to have a title from here.” said Berdych, for whom it’s the second title in France. Good times for the Chilean tennis have gone away. Two heroes of the Olympic Games 2004 (Athens) and former Top 10’ers are near the end of their careers, in Vina del Mar the Chilean heroes played first ATP tournaments this year thanks to “wild cards”: a four-time champion Fernando Gonzalez  lost in the second round, Nicolas Massu  already in the opening round. Juan Monaco , who had signalized a good form at the end of last season, got the title quite convincingly, ending the four-year title drought – he lost seven straight finals in the meantime, including two final defeats in this tournament, albeit in Santiago two years ago. Actually Monaco’s setbacks began in Vina del Mar in 2008, he reached his highest ranking then (No. 14), but was forced to withdraw from the final due to injury – it was the first of those seven losing finals in a row. “Third time is lucky they say, so this time it’s true,” joked Monaco. “I lost the last seven finals, so this is a very special moment for me. I’m very happy because I fought a lot, I practised a lot and I was thinking a lot about winning a tournament again. [It gives me] confidence and motivation.” Two of the three beaten finalists this week, Carlos Berolcq and Lukas Lacko debuted in ATP finals.
S: (3)Mikhail Youzhny d. Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-3
D: M.Baghdatis/M.Youzhny d. I.Dodig/M.Pavcic 6-2, 6-2
S: (1)Tomas Berdych d. (3)Gael Monfils 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
D: N.Mahut/E.Roger-Vasselin d. (3)P.Hanley/J.Murray 6-4, 7-6(4)
Vina del Mar (250)
S: (1)Juan Monaco d. (7)Carlos Berlocq 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-1
D: F.Gil/D.Gimeno-Traver d. (4)P.Andujar/C.Berlocq 1-6, 7-5, [12-10] – 1 m.p.
Choker of the week: Maximo Gonzalez, who led against a qualifier Rogerio Dutra Da Silva 6-0, 2:0* (deuce) in the first round at Vina del Mar to lose 6-0, 6-7(3), 3-6.
# Record in finals of this week finalists: 8-10 M.Youzhny, 7-6 T.Berdych, 4-13 G.Monfils, 4-8 J.Monaco