The week preceding a Grand Slam is not, by essence, the busiest week of the season as far as the number of tournaments played is concerned. It doesn’t, however, mean that what happens in those tournaments is not be memorable.
This week was no different, as a record was tied in Auckland and the first first-time singles winner of the ATP season was crowned in Sydney.
An Auckland hat-trick for David Ferrer
After being outplayed by Nikolay Davydenko last week in Doha‘s semi-finals, David Ferrer got back to familiar surroundings by taking part for an eighth consecutive year in the Heineken Open, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Winner of the last two editions of the tournament, the Spaniard had only dropped a set en route to his third consecutive final, in his opener against the always tricky Yen-Hsun Lu.
In the final, Ferrer faced no 2 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, whom he had beaten six times out of their nine previous encounters.
The German started the match strongly, taking an early break in Ferrer’s second service game, a break he relinquished five games later, only to take it right back and earn to serve out the first set, which he was not able to do.
After conceding the first point of the tiebreak, David Ferrer’s engine really started. Not only did he recuperate the mini-break, he took another one and from then on, there was no turning back for the World no 5. He took the first set 7-5 in the breaker, and dominated a very erratic Kohlschreiber (who finished the match with no less than 41 unforced errors) to win his third consecutive Auckland title (the 19th title of his career), 7-6(5) 6-1.
By completing this hat-trick of titles in New Zealand, Ferrer tied tennis legend Roy Emerson’s four titles at this event, as he had also won the tournament back in 2007. Ferrer’s last defeat in Auckland dates back to 2010, when he lost his opening match, 5-7 4-6, to Arnaud Clément (who ended up losing to John Isner in the final).
Fleming and Soares take the doubles
Prior to the singles final, first-time pair of Colin Fleming and Bruno Soares were facing Johan Brunstrom and Frederik Nielsen in a doubles final that promised to be entertaining.
We were not disappointed.
With a mixture of skill and great reflexes, both teams showed why doubles are so entertaining, as most points ended up being a show in themselves.
The Scandinavian team took the lead early in both sets, only to give it up some time later by the sheer persistence of Fleming and Soares.
Both sets ended up in tiebreaks, and Fleming and Soares were crowned champions, 7-6(1) 7-6(2).
It was an emotional win for the team, particularly for Colin Fleming, as his partner, Ross Hutchins, is fighting a fight of his own against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After their triumph, the Scot signed “for Rosco” the camera lens, whereas Soares signed “with you” just next to it. During the trophy ceremony, Fleming, voice quivering, dedicated the win to his friend and partner: “This one’s for you, Rosco.”
In Melbourne, Fleming will play with fellow Scotsman Jamie Murray, while Soares will play with Alexander Peya.
Bernard Tomic wins his first career title in Sydney
The Apia International Sydney has been a difficult tournament as far as the big names were concerned. Prior to the start of the event, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was forced to pull out because of an injury, while Richard Gasquet did so to get some rest before the Australian Open.
Just before his first match, another Frenchman, second seed Gilles Simon, pulled out because of a neck injury, and Radek Stepanek had to retire mere points into his second-round match against Julien Benneteau due to an intercostal muscle strain.
Furthermore, top seed John Isner fell to countryman Ryan Harrison in his opener. A day later, Isner announced his withdrawal from the Australian Open due to a bruised knee bone.
Defending champion Jarkko Nieminen, for his part, fell in quarter-finals to Bernard Tomic. As for last year’s runner-up, Julien Benneteau, he had a good run, only to come a little short, 8-10 in the third set tiebreak of his semi-final match against Kevin Anderson.
The wee hours of this Saturday morning (in America, that is) saw the crowning of the first first-time winner of the ATP season when Bernard Tomic defeated Kevin Anderson, 6-3 6-7(2) 6-3, in the singles final.
A deserved win for the 20-year-old Aussie, which leads to wonder if his exclusion from the Davis Cup team, as well as Tennis Australia’s decision to cut his funding, was not the kick in the backside he needed to finally put the efforts necessary to capitalise on his immense talent… or if Patrick Rafter and Tennis Australia knew that this would be the way to work with Tomic, for that matter.
First title of the season for the Bryans
In the doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan started the year on the right foot, defeating the new pairing of Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau 6-4 6-4 to win their first title of the season.
A title that bodes well for the best team in the world, who come into Melbourne with a final to defend.
(Photos: Getty images)