Week 8


The 31st edition of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. The event moved from January to February two years ago and it was a good decision because players may spend two consecutive weeks in the Arabian Peninsula, in the proximity of the Persian Gulf. Because of that, generally better players come to Doha instead of Rio where the status (more money & points) is theoretically higher… Andy Murray [70], the best player in the world of 2016, has rediscovered his tremendous mental strength this year after a few years with decent ratio of tight matches. Early this year, he won two marathons in Australia; arguably his fighting spirit was more emphasised in Qatar where he faced the upcoming defeat in three matches (saved 3 match points in 1R, five match points in SF, in 2R he was two points away from defeat… all against players ~10 years his junior). “I think when you’re in better shape, when you start to fatigue, it helps you make better decisions. If you’re struggling quite a bit physically towards the end of matches and in those important moments, it makes you maybe try and shorten the points, or play a different way, which doesn’t give you the best chance of wining. I feel like that improvement physically has helped in those moments.” In the Saturday final he hadn’t enough energy to produce another comeback, but fought bravely again, had a break point for 4-all in the opener and led 4:3* in the 2nd set. Daniil Medvedev [8], who collected his second title within two weeks (on two continents), has improved his H2H record to 6:0 vs Félix Auger-Aliassime. Among the best players born in the 90s/00s, it’s the most one-sided rivalry thus far. The Russian has extremely stable baseline game and exploits shaky backhand of the four years younger Canadian.
Higher status of the event in Brazil comparing to two previous “Golden Swing” events in Argentina, 32 draw instead of 28, the same names among top seeded players though, so it wasn’t shocking that 3 out of 4 semifinalists were the same in Buenos Aires and Rio. Appearance in both semifinals of Bernabe Zapata Miralles [63] is a bit surprising. The 26-year-old grunting Spaniard, who hits the ball with a lot of spin, admittedly played the 4th round at French Open a year before, but prior to this season he had never reached an ATP semifinal; until Covid-19 he was a Challenger player. In a repeat of last week’s Buenos final (first Sunday-to-Sunday finals of the same players since 2016), Cameron Norrie [13] was better than Carlos Alcaraz this time, actually better physically prepared to compete nine matches on clay within two weeks. The Brit came back from *0:3 (0/30) in 2nd (courageous overhead from the baseline) and 0:2* (15/30) in 3rd set, to finish the night session 2-hour 40-minute battle with an ace DTT. Impressive achievement, but the young Spaniard was struggling with his right thigh in the decider, he was trying to shorten the points, and almost succeeded – three points away as he led 5:4. If Alcaraz had won the final (equaling Novak Đoković‘s 6980 points), it’d have been a unique situation with two Nos. 1 simultaneously. Norrie is the first man this year to play three ATP finals… [915] Thomaz Bellucci‘s farewell in 1R. The best Brazilian of the previous decade, who had lost a status of the main-level player in 2018, is some sort of an underachiever. When he was in his early 20s, a few French Open quarterfinals could be expected for him, yet he never surpassed the 4th round in Paris, nonetheless he finishes his career with two proud memories: semifinal in Madrid ’11 & quarterfinal in Rio (Olympics ’16) where ten thousand local fans supported him. In both cases he was stopped by the legends of the game (Đoković & Nadal respectively) being a better player for 1.5 sets.
The South of FranceHubert Hurkacz [11] was the main favorite after Jannik Sinner‘s withdrawal. The big-serving Pole didn’t disappoint, but he struggled a lot in the quarterfinal. He faced a match point against Mikael Ymer in the 3rd set tie-break on second serve, then the best Swede (of the Ethiopian origin) sent his backhand long. “Wild card” Arthur Fils confirmed that his semifinal in other southern French city (Montpellier) a few weeks ago, it wasn’t a fluke. The teenage Frenchman has played two Challenger finals this year, his total record is 15-3, he moves from no. 252 to 104 within two months, so certainly he’s the man to watch this year. He’ll be soon the youngest Top 100 player which means he will not need “wild cards” in several ATP tournaments (he has played his last three events thanks to this special card).


Withdrawal of two great indoor players (Boris Becker & Ivan Lendl) opened the draw for unpredictable outcomes in the Netherlands, nonetheless it was exceptionally tough to expect that “wild card” Anders Järryd would finish the week with the highest prize. The 31-year-old Järryd [156], one of the best players of the mid 80s, was more associated with doubles in the early 90s; admittedly he played one final in each of two previous seasons, but both in Copenhagen, an ATP event one level below Rotterdam. Carpet was his favorite surface though, and that week his return skills were superior to the good serving opponents. Especially his 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win over Goran Ivanišević shocked spectators. Järryd had defeated the Croat after a similar scoreline, but five years earlier when they both were in completely different stages of their careers. “I really needed to get a win like this again,” the Swede said. “The last time I won a tournament was in 1990 in Vienna. This is a big tournament. Getting to the final and winning it meant I had to beat four seeded players. That’s telling something about the standard of my game at the moment.”
ArizonaMichael Chang pulled out, and Andre Agassi was the main favorite to the title. Agassi began his campaign with a double bagel over a tall serve-and-volleyer Sandon Stolle, and continued his dominance until the 2nd set final against Marcos Ondruska. The 20-year-old South African of Czechoslovakian origin (Ondruška) was enjoying tennis of his life in the first quarter of that season on the US courts: San Francisco (QF), Scottsdale (final) and Key Biscayne (SF) – these three events allowed him to make a jump from no. 73 to 27 (career-high). In the following year he was degraded to Challengers and stayed there to the end of his career with occasional ATP Tour flirts.
The 33-year-old Andrés Gómez [183], former French Open champion, reminded he wasn’t done yet, playing a tight match in the first round against the top seed in Mexico (inaugural edition, the event moved from Mexico City to Acapulco in 2001). The Ecuadorian was returning to the tour after a 7-month break, but another tournaments didn’t help him to improve his ranking. The local favorite, Oliver Fernández [197], talented junior, reached his first and last ATP semifinal. He was a big hope for the Mexican tennis after many years since Raul Ramirez‘s retirement. Fernández was unable to enter the Top 100 though, and after a serious injury in 1994 he decided to quit at a young age.
…Finals 2023…
Rio de Janeiro (ATP 500, clay outdoors)
(2)🇬🇧Cameron Norrie d. (1)🇪🇸Carlos Alcaraz 5-7, 6-4, 7-5
Doha (ATP 250, hard outdoors)
(3)🇷🇺Daniil Medvedev d. (WC)🇬🇧Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4
Marseille (ATP 250, hard indoors)
(1)🇵🇱Hubert Hurkacz d. 🇫🇷Benjamin Bonzi 6-3, 7-6(4)
…Finals 1993…
Rotterdam ($575K, carpet indoors)
(WC)🇸🇪Anders Järryd d. (7)🇨🇿Karel Nováček 6-3, 7-5
Scottsdale ($275K, hard outdoors)
(2)🇺🇸Andre Agassi d. 🇿🇦Marcos Ondruska 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
Mexico City ($275K, clay outdoors)
(2)🇦🇹Thomas Muster d. (1)🇪🇸Carlos Costa 6-2, 6-4
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