Week 24


It has been eight years since the pre-Wimbledon season on grass was extended from two to three weeks. In theory, to reach the Top 10, you should perform well in different conditions. From this perspective, Frances Tiafoe‘s advancement to the elite group this week makes sense. The 25-year-old American has reached finals on hard courts (both indoor and outdoor) as well as on clay in both Europe and the USA. Now, he has passed the test on grass by claiming his third title in his first grass-court final (Stuttgart). In that final, he saved a match point with a backhand winner down the line. The runner-up, Jan-Lennard Struff, is still deprived of an ATP title. His third failed attempt to raise the trophy must be very painful because he wasn’t broken in the final, fired 28 aces, and almost saved a third championship point for his opponent in exceptional circumstances (he responded to an overhead with a good passing shot, but Tiafoe’s lunge volley proved to be decisive). Richard Gasquet notched his 600th career win. Among active players, only three have won more matches. Gasquet expressed his happiness with this achievement in his on-court interview, saying, “It’s a big accomplishment for me. It’s incredible to achieve it. I’ve played 20 years on the Tour, and to win 600 matches is a big deal for me. I’m very happy with this milestone, and of course, I will try to win some more.”
In the Netherlands, the top-seeded players were eliminated in the first two rounds, which opened up an opportunity for lower-ranked players to capture their first grass-court title. Jordan Thompson, similarly to Struff, is seeking his maiden title and came close to achieving it. In his second final (previously in ‘s-Hertogenbosch too), he was just three points away from experiencing the moment of glory. However, Tallon Griekspoor [38] usually plays his better tennis in front of the home crowd, and it elevated his performance at crucial moments of the final.
The week marked the comebacks of three finalists of major events who had been out of the game for a long time: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori (both sidelined for almost two years, disappeared from the ranking), and Nick Kyrgios (seven months of absence). Raonic, who reached the second round in Den Bosch, and Kyrgios, who was eliminated in the first round of Stuttgart, had early exits…
…while Nishikori had a much better comeback, but instead of participating in an ATP event, he chose a Challenger “75” in Puerto Rico which he won rather easily (appears in the newest ranking at 492). Andy Murray, the former world’s best player, wants to go far at Wimbledon this year. To increase his chances he needs to be seeded, thus he decided to skip the French Open and play two British “125” Challengers on grass (Surbiton, Nottingham). He won both tournaments without being seriously threatened, dropping just one set in the fortnight.
The first edition of the Halle grass-court event, which is still held thirty years later, was marked by one day of suspension due to rain; the following year, the retractable roof was installed at the Gerry Weber Stadion (OWL Arena since 2021). Henri Leconte captured his ninth and last title, four years and eight months after his previous one in Brussels ’88. The 30-year-old left-handed Frenchman experienced a drastic drop in the ATP ranking from 65 to 141 after the French Open ’93 first round loss (the semifinalist in 1992). However, his title and fourth-round performance at Wimbledon allowed him to climb back to the Top 70 within three weeks. It turned out to be his ‘swan song’ as he would never play at the same stage in an ATP or Slam event again. In Halle, Leconte won four matches in deciding sets (two match points saved in the quarterfinal) before securing an emphatic final win over the eleven years younger Andrei Medvedev, who was gaining valuable experience on various surfaces (his professional debut on grass), solidifying his position of the potential future no. 1. It was his first lost final after collecting 5 titles.
Wally Masur lost back-to-back grass finals. In Manchester, he had no chance against fellow Australian Jason Stoltenberg [111]. Stoltenberg, once considered a prodigy, had to wait five years to clinch his maiden title. Earlier in 1993, frustrated with his results at the main level, Stoltenberg decided to play a few Challengers and won two of them (Indian Wells, Taipei – both on hardcourts), which certainly helped boost his self-confidence.
Those players who preferred clay over grass stayed in Italy, moving north from Tuscany to Liguria, and the field in Genoa was almost a copy of Florence’s event. The top three seeds remained the same in both tournaments, and the highest-ranked [15] Thomas Muster triumphed twice, dropping a set in each event against unseeded opponents. In the 1-hour 45-minute Genoa final, Muster fought off five set points in the opener. It was the third straight year that Muster spent two successive weeks in Italy, and the second year in a row he was easily defeated by an inferior player in the first round of Wimbledon (in 1991, he skipped the biggest grass event altogether).
…Finals 2023…
Stuttgart (ATP 250; grass outdoors)
(3)🇺🇸Frances Tiafoe d. 🇩🇪Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(8) – 1 m.p.
‘s-Hertogenbosch (ATP 250; grass outdoors)
(6)🇳🇱Tallon Griekspoor d. 🇦🇺Jordan Thompson 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-3
…Finals 1993…
Halle ($350K; grass outdoors)
🇫🇷Henri Leconte d. (1)🇺🇦Andrei Medvedev 6-2, 6-3
Manchester ($275K; grass outdoors)
🇦🇺Jason Stoltenberg d. (4)🇦🇺Wally Masur 6-1, 6-3
Genoa ($275K; clay outdoors)
(1)🇦🇹Thomas Muster d. (3)🇸🇪Magnus Gustafsson 7-6(3), 6-4
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