Although the rain-interrupted final in the US capital featured seeded players, predicting this outcome at the start of the week would have been quite audacious. Both Daniel Evans and Tallon Griekspoor, with ages of 33 and 27 respectively, hadn’t previously competed at this level. Unfavorable weather conditions played a significant role; top-seeded Taylor Fritz had to endure two matches on Friday, lasting a total of 4 hours and 21 minutes. As a result, his energy was depleted by the mid-2nd set during the semifinal against Griekspoor. While Evans exhibits technical brilliance, his consistency has often been lacking. Arriving in Washington with a 1-8 record since his semifinal appearance in Barcelona in April, he dropped his opening set. However, he astonishingly turned the tide, securing ten consecutive sets without being seriously threatened. Reflecting on his journey, Evans remarked: “I wasn’t playing very well and I wasn’t happy with my game. To do the work I’ve done and to stick with it and come through is amazing. The last game sort of summed up my week. I got out of trouble [he saved four break points]. I really appreciate all the support.”
In the other hardcourt event of the week, Stefanos Tsitsipas improved his relatively modest finals record (10-17). He outplayed Alex de Minaur in the championship match, who had aimed to secure two titles this year in Mexico. Among the Head-to-Head matchups of elite players born in the 90s, the Tsitsipas vs. De Minaur rivalry is the most lopsided, with Tsitsipas leading 10-0 (including the NextGen final). Tsitsipas consistently dominates the encounters, often securing straightforward sets due to the overpowering speed of his forehand, which proves too daunting for De Minaur’s grinding style of play.
Dominic Thiem emerged as a contender for the world No. 1 spot following his victory at the US Open ’20 and his appearance in the ‘Masters’ final a few months later. However, subsequent injuries began to plague him, leading to an extended break, a dip in form, a parting of ways with his coach Nicolás Massú, as well as mounting frustration stemming from heart-wrenching defeats (for instance 6-7 to Tsitsipas twice in deciding sets this year). Finally, almost everything clicked for Thiem at his home Austrian event. Thiem, ranked 116th and competing as a wild card, adeptly navigated through challenging situations, particularly in the first round where he staved off seven set points across two sets, and in the semifinal where impressively, he overcame five match points. Despite his valiant efforts, Thiem found himself overmatched in the final against Sebastián Báez. The Argentinian, a diminutive player at 170 cm, has specialized in clay courts due to their reduced emphasis on serving. Worth noting is Alex Molčan‘s remarkable comeback, one of the most impressive “best of three” turnarounds in the Open Era. The talented left-handed Slovak rallied to defeat Sebastian Ofner 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 in round two, saving two match points at *0:5 in the 2nd set (with Ofner also leading 6:5*, 30/0 in the 3rd set).
It’s a rare occurrence for a player to secure a title while being on the brink of defeat in three matches within a week (one game at least). This remarkable feat only happens once every few years, and it unfolded in California. Richard Krajicek  clinched his first title of the year despite being just 2, 4, and 2 points away from defeat in the second round, semifinal, and final, respectively. His journey was a nail-biting one, with moments of survival and resilience. In the second round, Krajicek faced a challenging battle against Jason Stoltenberg. After dropping the opening set, he found himself trailing 2:5 in the second-set tie-break. However, he managed to turn the tide and narrowly escaped defeat before destroying his opponent in the decider. The semifinals presented another intense serve-and-volley showdown, where Krajicek emerged victorious against Pete Sampras, marking his first triumph in their competitive Head-to-Head which ended 6-4 for the Dutchman. The final, lasting 2 hours and 39 minutes, witnessed an amazing turnaround. Despite a disastrous start (seven games lost in a row), Krajicek’s determination shone through. Although he was unable to break Michael Chang‘s serve in 15 tries, he displayed exceptional prowess in two tie-breaks. Notably, this encounter marked their third meeting where a deciding tie-break was essential, with Krajicek ultimately securing a 2-1 edge in those matches. Reflecting on his triumph, Krajicek revealed his mental approach, after changing his racket with the new balls: “I was thinking that a 6-0, 6-0 result in the final wouldn’t be satisfying. I told myself, ‘Now, I must make it happen. I need to take action to create a competitive match.’ With a fresh start and a new attitude, I pretended I was trailing 1:0 and chose to put the first set behind me.” Krajicek’s remarkable victory earned him a prize of $39,600 and a unique place in the history of the Los Angeles tournament. He became the first repeat winner since Jimmy Connors achieved the feat in 1973-74.
Kitzbühel. Thomas Muster, one of the biggest clay-court specialists of the 90s, only once triumphed in the biggest tournament on clay in his home country. He participated in 15 editions of the Austrian Open (regularly in the years 1984-1998, excluding 1989 when he was seriously injured, and again in 2011 when made a bizarre comeback at age of 44). Muster’s quest for victory in 1993 was an arduous one. Navigating through a challenging draw, Muster faced formidable opponents en route to the title. In the semifinal, he confronted Andrei Medvedev, a player he had previously struggled against, losing twice in a row in straights to him. In the final Muster faced Javier Sánchez, who had secured back-to-back wins against Muster in the events leading up to the clash in the Alpine town. Nine days earlier in the Hilversum quarterfinal, the member of the famous Spanish family defeated Muster 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, so the score of each set was repeated in their final, but all sets went to Muster’s account in a two-day contest (suspended on Sunday due to rain). Notably, this triumph came during a period when the tournament boasted a 48-player draw, later reduced to 32 in 2008. The event’s status fluctuated over the years, transitioning from an ATP 500 tournament to a Challenger event in 2010, and ultimately settling into a 28-player draw format starting in 2011.
Sergi Bruguera embarked on a distinctive path by skipping the grass-court season to continue his dominance on clay. While he experienced success in Gstaad, his journey was marked by surprising setbacks in Stuttgart and Hilversum. The city of Prague in the newly formatted Czech Republic, witnessed Bruguera’s triumphant display against Andrey Chesnokov in a two-hour final. Bruguera showcased his resilience by rallying from a 2:4 deficit in the opening set – the sole set during the entire week where he found himself trailing. This tournament also marked the emergence of Jiří Novák [584, WC], an 18-year-old Czech talent whose future achievements would solidify his legacy as one of his country’s finest players post the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Novak won his ATP debut in a dramatic fashion, but in the second round got a lesson from Bruguera… Despite the lowest prize money in the week, Los Angeles attracted better players than two clay-court events.
Washington (ATP 500; hard outdoors)
(9)🇬🇧Dan Evans d. (12)🇳🇱Tallon Griekspoor 7-5, 6-3
Los Cobos (ATP 250; hard outdoors)
(1)🇬🇷Stefanos Tsitsipas d. (5)🇦🇺Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4
Kitzbühel (ATP 250; clay outdoors)
🇦🇷Sebastián Báez d. (WC)🇦🇹Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-1
Los Angeles ($275K; hard outdoors)
(4)🇳🇱Richard Krajicek d. (3)🇺🇸Michael Chang 0-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5)
Kitzbühel ($375K; clay outdoors)
(3)🇦🇹Thomas Muster d. (6)🇪🇸Javier Sánchez 6-3, 7-5, 6-4
Prague ($340K; clay outdoors)
(1)🇪🇸Sergi Bruguera d. (3)🇷🇺Andrey Chesnokov 7-5, 6-4
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