It was a very good week for the sensations of this year’s Australian Open – Milos Raonic & Alexandr Dolgopolov – both young players reached their first ATP finals… In the biggest tournament of the week (Rotterdam), Robin Soderling  defended his title for the first time in career, becoming also the first player of the season who won a title being one point away from defeat, and the first one to win two titles. In the second round match Soderling with a forehand winner saved a match point against Philipp Kohlschreiber. Soderling had to win the event to stay at the No. 4 in the world. Andy Murray who would have replaced him, surprisingly lost 4-6, 1-6 in the first round to Marcos Baghdatis, despite a 3:0 lead at the beginning of the match with two breaks of serve. No doubts Soderling has been in the form of his life – won 19 out of 22 matches since Paris ’10, including three titles (8 in total). The beaten finalist – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  had to wait 15 months for his seventh career final (5-2 record). The Frenchman was lucky because got a walkover in the quarterfinal (Berdych’s flu). In the final he was serving exceptionally well through a set and a half but suddenly lost his rhythm in the 8th game of the final set and was broken to ’15’. “I had many tough matches this week,” says Soderling. “I had to fight a lot for every match. I was lucky, I had the margins on my side. I think to win tournaments like this, you need to of course play well, but you need a little bit of luck as well.”
Milos Raonic  capturing his first career title in San Jose, becomes the first Canadian to win an ATP title since Greg Rusedski in 1995, and the first title winner born in the 90’s (before the start of the tournament, Raonic met with his idol Pete Sampras, who had won the first major title a couple months before Raonic was born). Sampras lost an exhibition match to Gael Monfils (6-7, 4-6), Monfils withdrew from the semifinal against Raonic with a left wrist injury, and the 20-year-old Canadian agreed to play an exhibition match with Ivo Karlovic, which lost in two tie-breaks, so he played five consecutive tie-breaks in three days (won 6-4, 7-6 his quarterfinal against Richard Berankis). In the final, the defending champion Fernando Verdasco  led *6:2 in the first tie-break and missed a relatively easy forehand, trying to pass Raonic down the line. The Canadian fought off another three set points, and at 6:6 played the best rally in the entire final to get the first set point. In the second tie-break, Verdasco saved two match points, but on the third match point, someone from the stands yelled, and it distracted Verdasco’s concentration – the Spaniard couldn’t return properly, but the referee didn’t replay the point and the cool and relaxed Raonic could celebrate the success with his box. Raonic says: “It’s been amazing… I came here and had probably my best week. I can’t stop smiling. I’m happy about it and I hope I can keep it going more than six weeks into the full year schedule and see where I am at the end of the year.” Raonic’s record in 2011: 15-3 (counting also qualifying tournaments). He was the lowest ranking player accepted to enter the main draw – No. 156 in the last week of 2010, when the tournament entrance had been settled. He faced break points only in four games throughout the week, being broken once – when he served to win the match against James Blake, for whom it was the first tournament since October 2010.
Nicolas Almagro  regained his title in Costa do Sauipe. The Spanirad triumphed in Brazil three years ago. He has improved his record in finals to 8-2 (all finals on clay). “The truth is that it was a beautiful final, a final that I was very happy to be part of,” Almagro comments, “It’s clear that the tournament is a very important one not only for me but here in all of Brazil and I’ve been lucky enough to win it twice and I will continue to try my best in the future here.”
S: (1)Robin Soderling d. (8)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
D: (2)J.Melzer/P.Petzschner d. (4)M.Llodra/N.Zimonjic 6-4, 3-6, [10-5]
San Jose (250)
S: Milos Raonic d. (1)Fernando Verdasco 7-6(6), 7-6(5)
D: S.Lipsky/R.Ram d. A.Falla/X.Malisse 6-4, 4-6, [10-8]
Costa do Sauipe (250)
S: (1)Nicolas Almagro d. (4)Aleksandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 7-6(3)
D: (2)M.Melo/B.Soares d. P.Andujar/D.Gimeno-Traver 7-6(4), 6-3
Choker of the week:
Eduardo Schwank in the first round at Costa do Sauipe became the first player of the year who could win a match in two different sets but lost them both. After winning the 1st set against Lukasz Kubot, led 5:3 in another two sets, holding a match point at 5:4 on serve in the 3rd set. Kubot won 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(2) after 3 hours 8 minutes.