It has been 15 years since the “German Open Tennis” lost its prestige and was downgraded from a Masters 1K event to an ATP 500 tournament. Alexander Zverev, a native of Hamburg, kickstarted his remarkable career in his birthplace back in 2014 when, as a 17-year-old boy, he made it to the semifinals. However, it took him nine long years to finally claim the championship trophy, marking his first title in a year and a half. The moment he clinched the victory was deeply emotional, as he fell to his knees with tears of joy in his eyes. “This is my home, where I grew up and started playing tennis,” Zverev expressed, overwhelmed with the significance of the win. “It was an incredible and emotional experience. I can’t find the right words to describe it; I’m just extremely happy right now. It feels almost like my first title again.” Due to adverse weather conditions, Zverev’s last two matches were played indoors, and impressively, he didn’t even have to face a tie-break throughout the week. This triumph marks his 20th title, with only three members of the “Big 4” having won more titles among active players.
The Australian players had a fantastic week as well, with Aleksandar Vukic (of Montenegrin origin) reaching the final in Atlanta and Alexei Popyrin (of Russian origin) capturing the title in Umag. Vukic’s unexpected journey in Georgia surprised many, given that he had mainly been competing at the Challenger level for several years, with just two ATP quarterfinals in his resume. On the other hand, Popyrin has found himself in the past few years hovering between the 70th and 100th rankings, alternating between Challengers and main-level events, occasionally having to play qualifying rounds for big tournaments. He possesses the skills that could easily put him among the Top 30 players in the world, he just needs to be consistent with his results. In the last set of the “Croatia Open”, he overcame cramps and a *3:4 (0/30) deficit… he was six points away from defeat also in a three-hour semifinal. Worth noting: 17-year-old Dino Prižmić, ranked 287th, reached the quarterfinals in Umag in only his second main-level appearance, both of which occurred on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula. Meanwhile, his renowned compatriot, Marin Čilić, 17 years his senior, returned to the tour after a seven-month absence (knee surgery) during which he dropped from no. 17 to 100 in the rankings. Taylor Fritz, who claimed a title in the first event during the Summer season on hardcourts in North America, wasted two match points in the 2nd set of the final – the same happened to him earlier this year as he’d triumphed at Delray Beach.
Thirty years later, it is still baffling how Mikael Pernfors triumphed in Montreal without having won an ATP title for nearly five years. Pernfors, a runner-up in the 1986 French Open, was once regarded as part of the broader elite group in the second half of the 1980s. However, a series of injuries, including knee and tendon issues from the early 1990s, hampered his progress, and he had managed only two minor titles at the main level. At one point, his ranking dropped as low as No. 1095 forcing him to seek points in the Satellites. However, the resilient 30-year-old made a comeback to the Top 100, thanks to three Challenger titles. His Canadian victory over Jason Stoltenberg in the second round was already considered an upset, but then he achieved the unimaginable by defeating the World No. 2, Jim Courier, with a convincing score of 6-3, 6-2. Notably, just a few months earlier, Pernfors had lost to Courier 0-6, 3-6 at Key Biscayne. Courier admitted: “Everything was wrong. Mikael played very well and let me beat myself.” This win bolstered Pernfors’ self-confidence, enabling him to overcome higher-ranked left-handed opponents in straight sets in his next two matches. Pernfors’ last hurdle was the 23-year-old Todd Martin, who reached a career-best achievement at that time by advancing to the final. Initially, the tall American seemed to have the match in the bag, given his height advantage of 25 cm, superior serving, and aggressive receiving. Despite Martin leading 5:2* in the decider, he faltered due to tentative play, allowing Pernfors to seize the opportunity with his agility. Consequently, Pernfors secured the title after an impressive comeback, arguably the best in his career. Unfortunately, for Martin, he was never again as close to winning a tournament featuring the world’s best players during the next ten years, while Pernfors returned to the position he held before that miraculous week in Canada. At the end of 1993, Pernfors won a Challenger event in Bermuda, actually marking the end of his career.
In an upset during the second round in Hilversum, Sergi Bruguera was eliminated in straight sets by the crowd favorite, Paul Haarhuis; the Dutchman often raised his level of play with the enthusiastic support of the home crowd. Although only one seeded player advanced to the quarterfinals, the lineup of the last eight was still strong, comprising players who had all previously won ATP titles. The final saw Carlos Costa dominate Magnus Gustafsson, snapping his 9-match winning streak, as Costa rediscovered his 1992 form when established himself as a clay-court specialist. However, his mixed participation on clay, grass, carpet, and hardcourts had a negative impact on his clay-court performances the following year.
Hamburg (ATP 500; clay semi-outdoors)
(4)🇩🇪Alexander Zverev d. 🇷🇸Laslo Đere 7-5, 6-3
Umag (ATP 250; clay outdoors)
🇦🇺Alexei Popyrin d. (6)🇨🇭Stan Wawrinka 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4
Atlanta (ATP 250; hard outdoors)
(1)🇺🇸Taylor Fritz d. 🇦🇺Aleksandar Vukic 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4
Montreal ($1.4M; hard outdoors)
🇸🇪Mikael Pernfors d. (13)🇺🇸Todd Martin 2-6, 6-2, 7-5
Hilversum ($235K; clay outdoors)
🇪🇸Carlos Costa d. 🇸🇪Magnus Gustafsson 6-1, 6-2, 6-3
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