If you remember, a couple of days ago, I started talking about the players who had known some kind of resurgence throughout the 2011 season. I should say those who have improved to the point of reaching, this season, their best career results. I started this part with Alex Bogomolov Jr and Janko Tipsarevic, then continued with Mardy Fish, Feliciano López and Radek Stepanek. Today, the conclusion will be about Spaniard Marcel Granollers and Argentine Carlos Berlocq.
Then comes the inevitable question you may have: why Carlos Berlocq? Yes, I’m conscious of the fact that he has played a lot on the Challenger Tour this season (where he actually rocked it for the last half/third of the season) and that he’s a second-tier player, a journeyman, but he’s has such good results that he has, this year, reached his highest career ranking. That is why: because to me, even journeymen can have great seasons (obviously) and, most of all, deserve to have it mentioned. I’ll go in depth into his season further down.
Of course, there would be more players that I could add to this list but then, it would mean I’d have to spend a whole week just into those players who did improve during the season. The choice of the last five, I think, was quite arbitrary from me and I know it. To me, the last two players, who were more known for being great doubles players, are as important as every other player on the ATP Tour. And so I kept them for last… although far from least!
Marcel Granollers: doubles aren’t everything
As I mentioned in introduction, Marcel Granollers, up to this season, was more known for his doubles skills than for his singles performances. Until this season, he had only won one title (Houston, 2008) and made one other final (Valencia, 2010). However, the “doubles specialist” label was really stuck to him, with the five titles and as many lost finals he had up to this season.
The year hasn’t really started differently for Granollers, as he won the Auckland tournament with Tommy Robredo, reached, with the same partner, the round-of-16 of the Australian Open and lost in the finals in Zagreb with Marc López. In singles, for the same tournaments, he reached the second round and then suffered two first round losses.
In the first half of the season, his best results were a round-of-16 in the Miami Masters 1000 (l. David Ferrer), and a quarter-final appearance in Belgrade (l. Filippo Volandri).
It is, really, after Wimbledon that Granollers showed progress in his game, enough to win the second singles title of his career in Gstaad (d. Fernando Verdasco in the finals), thus cracking the top 40 for the first time in his career, then the quarter-finals in Kitzbühel (l. Juan Ignacio Chela), and, seeded for the first time in a Grand Slam, the third round of the US Open (l. Juan Carlos Ferrero).
However, he had his best moments in Valencia, just like he did in 2010. With a very difficult draw ahead of him, he defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov, Marin Cilic, Gaël Monfils, and Juan Martín del Potro, and this only to reach the finals, where he met another improbable finalist, Argentine Juan Mónaco, in a very entertaining final, which Granollers won in three sets (this article is from my French blog), earning himself, with style, his second title of the season and the biggest title of his career (Valencia is an ATP500 event).
The win in Valencia made Granollers enter the top 30 for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old Spaniard finished the year ranked no 27, a career best.
In 2012, I can only hope that the sympathetic Spaniard will keep on improving his singles game and, hopefully, enter the top 20 at some point in the year. One thing is for sure: his performance in both singles and doubles makes him a player to watch and follow, and one who should definitely have his place in the Spanish Davis Cup squad next year.
Carlos Berlocq: the dream year of a journeyman
If you go onto Carlos Berlocq’s profile on the ATP website, don’t surprise yourself to be redirected to the 28-year-old Argentine’s doubles profile, and not his singles one. The change still hasn’t been made, even though Berlocq has known, in 2011, the best singles year of his career, in his tenth season as a professional.
Before this year, Berlocq’s best ranking has been 66 in the world but injuries played a part in making his career more difficult than it should’ve been. However, since the end of 2010, he has shown steady progress and consistency in his game, to get back and maintain himself into the top 100.
At the beginning of the year, the Argentine played only on the ATP Tour, with mitigated success, although the players he lost to were logical losses (for instance, Philipp Kohlschreiber, David Nalbandian and Thomaz Bellucci, to name a few). However, he caused a few surprises in Miami, first by defeating Ernests Gulbis in the second round, then losing a very tight two-setter to Tomas Berdych in the third.
It is, however, in the second half of the season, when he got back to the Challenger Tour, that Berlocq has known the most success, winning the first of his five titles in Turin and he’s known his best performance on the ATP Tour a few weeks after, when he reached the quarter-finals of the Umag ATP250 (l. Juan Carlos Ferrero).
Of course, everyone remembers his US Open loss to Novak Djokovic, when he was all but destroyed by the world no 1 in the second round, but he took it with great humour and just afterwards went to, logically, win Challenger events in Todi and in Palermo, and finishing the season on a winning note (after two first-round defeats in the ATP250 events of Moscow and St. Petersburgh), winning his last two events of the season, the Copa Topper in Buenos Aires (d. Gastão Elias in the finals) and then the Challenger of Montevideo (d. Máximo González in the finals). In Buenos Aires, Berlocq had topped it off by also winning the doubles, along with partner Eduardo Schwank (with whom he had won his first career ATP doubles title, in 2010, in Stuttgart).
Berlocq finished the year at a career-high no 61 and I’m only hoping that he can maintain this ranking, or maybe improve it, in 2012. The Argentine journeyman really deserves the success he’s got this season, as he is a very hard working player, albeit knowingly not a top player. Watching him play, especially on clay courts, is always interesting and quite entertaining.
Coming up tomorrow
2011 – The year of the returns