The new tennis season might have started in the old year, but the kickoff was still quite spectacular. In a week marked by some new ruling controversy, especially when it came to the enforcement of the time violation rule, the tennis was nevertheless at times quite spectacular with, for example, this jewel of a point by Mikhail Youzhny in Doha…
… or this spectacular semi-final match between Marcos Baghdatis and Grigor Dimitrov in Brisbane (full match in the video below)…
… and, of course, the first three winners of the ATP Tour this season.
Richard Gasquet crowned in Doha
The first winner of 2013 was Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who hung on to prevail, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3, over finally resurgent Nikolay Davydenko at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, in Doha, on Saturday.
Davydenko back at last?
The first final of the season was the first in 20 months for Davydenko, when he won the title in Munich, and I’m sure no one forgot his happy hugging of the BMW he had then won:
Since then, it had been mainly downs for the former World no 3, who has had to deal with various injuries and the constant lack of rhythm they ended up causing.
However, his performance in Doha was more at the image of his glory days, and the 31-year-old, who had won the tournament in 2010, came very close to doing so a second time. All week long, he has been very convincing, mixing up splendid defence and scorching aggressive play with impressive results.
It is not everyday that a well-playing David Ferrer ends up outplayed, and this is just what the Russian did in the semi-finals, and not even a pothole in the court, like it happened in Ferrer’s first-round match (video), would have saved Ferrer this time.
There is something about Davydenko’s game, when he is in form, that bothers the Spaniard, and this match was no different.
Until the final, Davydenko did not lose serve, and he might have left Doha with his first title in nearly two years, hadn’t he tightened up when he was up a break in the second set, sensing the end getting closer, then suffered a hip/groin injury, most likely due to not being used to getting that far in tournaments anymore.
Is the “good ol’ Davy” back? Time will tell, but if he keeps that level of form, everyone should be wary.
Difficult road to the title for Gasquet
As for Richard Gasquet, the road to his eighth career title has not been an easy one. The Frenchman came really close to bowing out as early as the second round, against a surprising Grega Zemlja.
Just like he did in the final, Gasquet waited for the inevitable moment when his rival would tighten, and it is what happened.
This doesn’t mean, in any way, that Gasquet did not play well throughout the tournament, all the contrary! After all, he won it. However, there was something in his performance that was reminiscent of his last title, in Bangkok, when a major collapse from Jarkko Nieminen in semi-final brought him to a maimed Gilles Simon, whom he easily defeated for the championship.
In fact, the only thing that may end up a little preoccupying for Gasquet, especially when he will get to face other top players, is his habit of staying a good ten feet behind the baseline in the vast majority of the rallies. Perhaps it worked when he was waiting for his opponent to make an error. However, against the best of the game, this might only cost him dearly.
For now, deserved congratulations are in order, as Gasquet fully earned his trophy in Doha.
Emotional title defence for Andy Murray in Brisbane
Andy Murray came into the Brisbane International as the defending champion. Obviously rusty, and for other reasons which we found out during the trophy ceremony, the Scot surrendered a set to an inspired John Millman in his opener, then was led a merry chase by Denis Istomin in the quarter-finals, before having a slow start and a mighty semi-final comeback against Kei Nishikori, whom a knee injury forced to retire down 0-2 in the second set.
In the final, he was opposed to a Grigor Dimitrov we were not expecting to see anymore. Playing his first career singles final, Dimitrov, now coached by Magnus Norman’s academy (yes, the same Magnus Norman who brought Robin Söderling into top 5), played solid tennis during the whole week, starting with his upset of no 2 seed Milos Raonic in the second round, then of seventh seed Jürgen Melzer, both in straight sets, before his breathtaking semi-final against Marcos Baghdatis.
In the final, we were treated to high voltage tennis, despite Dimitrov failing to serve out the first set, which could have changed the whole match. Andy Murray triumphed, 7-6(0) 6-4, but had great words for his opponent during the trophy ceremony:
“It’s his first final. I think everyone agrees he played some extremely exciting tennis. It was a very tough match. He just changed coach and started with a new team, so congratulations to them. I’m sure they’re going to do great things together.”
We can only agree with Murray: this week’s performance bodes well for the Bulgarian, whom many had started despairing ever seeing from him. I’m sure this was the first of many finals for Grigor Dimitrov.
As for Murray, he seems ready for the Australian Open, and has said this week to be very motivated to do better than last year in Melbourne (he lost a tough five-setter to eventual winner Novak Djokovic).
Janko Tipsarevic triumphs at last in Chennai
He reached the semis in 2010 and 2011, and lost a tough, no break final to Milos Raonic last year. Finally, the stars aligned for Janko Tipsarevic in at the Aircel Chennai Open, where he finally put his hands on the winner’s trophy after defeating first-time ATP finalist Roberto Bautista Agut (who upset first seed Tomaš Berdych in the quarter-finals), 3-6 6-1 6-3.
Before reaching the finals, Tipsarevic also had the better of a first-timer, this time Aljaz Bedene who, after upsetting Robin Haase and Stanislas Wawrinka, reached his first ATP semi-final, only to fall to the Serbian after taking the first set.
It was a week to remember for Tipsarevic, but also for Bautista and Bedene of whom, I’m sure, we will hear more in the months to come, particularly the young Slovenian.
Last stretch before the Australian Open
With events in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as no Challenger Tour events due to the Australian Open qualifications, the ATP enters its last stretch before the first Major of the season.
Of course, I will try and cover the most possible of the two events, and especially of the Australian Open qualifications, as much as work will enable me to.