Since 2016, there has been a week featuring two “ATP 500” events in German-speaking cities, except for the Covid-affected years 2020 and 2021 when the “Swiss Indoors” didn’t take place. In Basel, Holger Rune and Félix Auger-Aliassime have managed to rediscover their form. Rune was grappling with a back injury, struggling to secure two consecutive wins for three months. Auger-Aliassime had knee issues, leading to a more extended slump that lasted for six months; just one week ago in Tokyo, he finally broke his bad streak by winning two straight matches. In Switzerland, they crossed paths in the semifinals, mirroring their final showdown on the same court a year prior. This marked Rune’s inaugural event under the guidance of his new coach, six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker, who himself triumphed in Basel thirty-one years ago. During this week, the young Dane decided to part ways with his iconic baseball hat wearing backwards, which he had sported during all his matches for over two years.
Meanwhile, Taylor Fritz, who was striving to accumulate points for the second consecutive year to qualify for the “Masters”, endured his third consecutive week of losing a match decided in a final-set tie-break. This time, his defeat was particularly painful as he came tantalizingly close to clinching victory in two different sets, before succumbing to Alexander Shevchenko, another new Russian face this season, in a nail-biting 7-6, 6-7, 6-7 contest. Fritz couldn’t convert any of his 15 break points (!) spread across six games, including a double match point (he was two points away to win in straight sets when missed an easy ball). Shevchenko experienced a roller-coaster of emotions within 24 hours, following his spectacular vuctory over Fritz, he suffered a bitter after-midnight loss to Auger-Aliassime, squandering a match point on his serve at 5:4 in the decider. The 23-year-old Canadian fought through cramps in that thriller. In the subsequent two rounds, he performed flawlessly on serve, and in the final, which remained without a break of serve, he clinched both tie-breaks with backhand return winners. The previous year in Halle, Hubert Hurkacz won their quarterfinal meeting with identical 7-6, 7-6 scoreline, where only one break point was created. “I’m definitely back. I let my racquet do the talking. That’s always been the motto of my career. I’ve had the conviction that I can be a top player since I was a kid, but there were many doubts this year about my performances and why,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview. “I’m happy that I was able to prove to everybody that I still belong among the best players in the world and that I can play at this level. I never doubted it, but it’s good to confirm it on the court.”
In Vienna, Andrey Rublev secured his spot in the “Masters” by reaching the semifinals, becoming the fifth player this year to do so. The 26-year-old Russian will be participating for the fourth consecutive year in this prestigious event. An enthralling spectacle unfolded in the final featuring Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner. This marked their fourth final encounter this year, with the Russian claiming the first two, and the South Tyrolean winning the subsequent two. In the Austrian capital, Sinner’s local connection is significant, especially considering Dominic Thiem‘s decline. As a German-native speaker, Sinner might be embraced as a home favorite for this decade. After the three-hour final (with the fourth game of the third set lasting 13 deuces), Sinner addressed the packed crowd in an Austrian dialect. He has won 10 titles, as many as the best Italian of the Open Era, Adriano Panatta (French Open 1976 champion). Sinner needs a Grand Slam title to be considered better.
The prospect of determining the year-end world No. 1 between two Americans, Wimbledon and US Open champion Pete Sampras and Australian Open winner, French Open-Wimbledon runner-up Jim Courier, was highly anticipated in the big Stockholm and Paris tournaments (a 159-point difference between them at the time). However, this dramatic scenario didn’t unfold as expected, as both Americans faced early exits in Sweden. Sampras’ second round defeat to Carlos Costa was particularly appalling because Costa was not known for his indoor prowess. Sampras, who had been riding a 12-match winning streak, admitted: “My serve was pretty erratic. I’ve served badly and still managed to win other matches this year, but not tonight.” The match, which concluded just before midnight and drew less than 500 fans, was indicative of the declining status of the “Stockholm Open,” which lost its “Mercedes Super 9” classification in 1995 due to poor attendance in the preceding years. Meanwhile, Courier faced Marc Rosset in a tight third-round match that ended 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 in favor of the Swiss. Despite the tight contest, Courier couldn’t create a single break point. Courier remarked: “I didn’t play a bad match, but I only slept four hours last night. He served so well – 24 aces. It was good for him. It’s indoor tennis, and it’s not fun for me.”
The final in Stockholm featured a clash of two exceptional 6 foot 4 indoor players, both of whom had narrowly avoided defeat in their opening matches against Swedish opponents. Michael Stich couldn’t find a way to break Goran Ivanišević for three sets, but thanks to tie-breaks he led 2-1 in sets repeating the feat he had already experienced at Wimbledon in 1991 and 1993. Ivanišević was playing second consecutive week almost every day, and being visibly tired lost his phenomenal service timing in set no. 4.
In the ’90s, there was an annual Latin Swing at the end of the season with three tournaments held in South America. In the years 1991-92, the tour stopped only on hardcourts in Brazil, including cities like Guarujá, Búzios, and São Paulo. The following year, the tour switched to clay, and included Santiago (Chile), São Paulo, and Buenos Aires (Argentina). The inaugural “Movistar’s Open” was won by unseeded Javier Frana, a left-handed Argentinian who frequently employed serve-and-volley tactics as the only South American player at the time. He defeated Emilio Sánchez in the final, marking Sánchez’s 27th and final ATP final of his career. Frana, inferior player to the Sánchez brothers in general, finished his career with positive records against them both: 2-1 over Javier, 4-1 over Emilio.
Basel (ATP 500; hard indoors)
(6,WC)🇨🇦Félix Auger-Aliassime d. (4)🇵🇱Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(3), 7-6(5)
Vienna (ATP 500; hard indoors)
(2)🇮🇹Jannik Sinner d. (1)🇷🇺Daniil Medvedev 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3
Stockholm ($1.4M; carpet indoors)
(4)🇩🇪Michael Stich d. (8)🇭🇷Goran Ivanišević 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(3), 6-2
Santiago ($200K; clay outdoors)
🇦🇷Javier Frana d. (5)🇪🇸Emilio Sánchez 7-5, 3-6, 6-3
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