There were two ATP250 tournaments played this week and both crowned very hard-working champions, in two great finals that were, due to the weather in Casablanca, at times played simultaneously. Both Juan Mónaco (Houston) and Pablo Andújar (Casablanca) showed once again that hard work pays off. Same goes for the finalists of both tournaments, John Isner and Albert Ramos.
Two in two for Mónaco
When he won the title in Viña del Mar in February, Juan Mónaco ended a title draught of four and a half years. And it apparently gave him wings, as since this title, he participated (with two wins) in two Davis Cup triumphs for Argentina, reached one Masters 1000 semi-final, and today, he won his second title of the season at the Men’s Clay Court Championship, in Houston.
On his way to the final, he defeated qualifier Tatsuma Ito in the second round (he had a bye in the first, as all first four seeds), then fought hard to defeat both Kevin Anderson and, in a very tricky semi-final, Houston-native Michael Russell.
In today’s final, he was facing the hero of the last Davis Cup tie for the United States, John Isner. Mónaco, however, started the match strongly, breaking not once, but twice the powerful Isner serve to take the initial set 6-2. Isner hadn’t been broken the whole tournament until that set.
We really thought that Isner would do it again in the second set, as he broke Mónaco at the very start of the second set. In two of the three matches he played, he had come back from a set deficit to win the match and advance. Pico did have chances to even out the score after being broken, nine of them to be exact, but he squandered most of them when Isner’s serve didn’t do it. This way, Isner hung on to take the second set 6-3 and send the final to a deciding third set.
The last set was, to say the least, tight, and in the end, it is Mónaco who timely broke Isner’s serve for the third time in the match to earn the chance to serve for the championship, a chance he did not miss, sealing a 6-2 3-6 6-3 win and earning his second title of the season in this wake, a fifth in his career.
After the match, Mónaco admitted not being surprised at his break point conversion rate (3/15):
“I knew I’d have many [break points]. I mean, you can make the opportunity but it’s tough to do it, yeah. Because he serves very well. I mean, he just focus [sic] very much on that point because otherwise he lost [sic] his serve. So then he concentrates very much. He serves even better when he faces the break points, so I knew that I lost many but I’m happy because I won the important ones.”
It is, really, the triumph of the hard work put forth by Pico and his team since the middle of last year, and a lot of it is due to the input of his coach since the beginning of the year, Gustavo Marcaccio, who discussed what it means to train an elite player nowadays with BA Tennis during the Davis Cup, last weekend (video in Spanish):
A hard-working team that really reaps nice rewards since the beginning of the season and who will try hard to best fatigue and travel in Monte Carlo this week, where Mónaco is set to face Robin Haase in the first round. Mónaco, with his title, equals his career high ranking of no 14. As for Isner, his semi-final win made him the no 1-ranked player in the United States, as he reached a career high of no 9, relegating Mardy Fish to no 10. Isner will not play Monte Carlo this week.
Congratulations to both players on this incredible week!
Once again, Pablo Andújar triumphs in Casablanca
Last year, the tournament of Casablanca was the stage of Spain’s Pablo Andújar’s first career ATP title and this year, he obviously did not want to relinquish it, as he played a brilliant tournament all the way to the finals, where he met fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos, who was playing his first career ATP final.
We had to wait many hours for the start of the match, as it was postponed due to rain, conditions that would come twice to halt the match as well.
When the match started, Andújar took only 24 minutes to take the measure of a visibly and understandably nervous Ramos, taking the opening set 6-1.
The second set, however, was much tighter, as Ramos found back the game that led him close to the top 50 (which he entered following his great performance this week for a career high of no 42), keeping in a very close distance of Pablo Andújar and coming close to breaking him in the defending champion’s initial service game of the set, until the rain came to interrupt the play for the first time, at 2-2, 40-40, on Andújar’s serve.
Upon resuming play, Ramos broke for the first time in the match, taking a lead he would finally lose trying to serve out the set, as Andújar broke back at love to level things 5-5. And then, again, came the rain and yet another interruption, albeit shorter than the first one.
Both players hung on to their serve to force a second set tiebreak, where both players had chances to take matters into their own hands. It was finally Pablo Andújar who took the tiebreak, and the championship, with a 6-1 7-6(5) win, in front of his parents, thus winning his second ATP title and successfully defending the crown he’s gotten last year.