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
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