Photo: Susan Mullane/camerawork usa
For most residents of planet earth, 2021 has been a questionable year at best.
But there are a few tennis stars who are loving life right now.
Some of the year’s biggest breakout players added to their impressive resumes this week on the ATP and WTA Tours with a couple of big wins with the Tour Finals fast approaching.
Here’s what you need to know:
In Case You Missed It: Sinner, Kontaveit keep rolling
What a 12 months it has been for 20-year-old Jannik Sinner.
The Italian claimed the fifth title of his career last week, just shy of one year after winning his first, by defeating Diego Schwartzman to win the European Open in Antwerp. He did not drop a set on his way to the title, winning five of the eight sets 6-2, including both in the final.
With the win, Sinner is now within striking distance of qualifying for the ATP Finals in Turin. He now sits 10th, only 105 points back of Hubert Hurkacz for the final qualifying spot (because Rafael Nadal, who currently sits eighth, has already ended his season).
He also joins an illustrious list of players to win four or more titles in 2021. He is tied with Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, and Alexander Zverev with four, while Casper Ruud leads the way with five.
On the women’s side, Anett Kontaveit kept her incredible run of form going in 2021, reaching her fifth final of the season and claiming a third title (fourth if you count the shared Grampians Trophy in January) at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
The Estonian has won three of her last six tournaments.
In Moscow, she steamrolled her first four opponents without dropping a set, including a 6-1, 6-1 dismantling of second seed Garbine Muguruza, before mounting a comeback to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova in a thrilling three-set final.
Another 2021 breakout star shone in Moscow, as Aslan Karatsev won his second career title, and second in 2021, on home soil without dropping a set.
There was a breakthrough on the women’s side in Tenerife, with 21-year-old American Ann Li winning her first career title at the Tenerife Ladies Open.
It was a rough week for Top 10 players, as both Andrey Rublev and Elina Svitolina, the top seeds in Moscow and Tenerife, lost their opening matches.
Despite his early loss, Rublev qualified for the ATP Finals last week. On the women’s side, both Maria Sakkari and Iga Swiatek clinched their spots at the WTA Finals.
Must Watch: Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime look for Turin push
Time is running out for players to book their spots at the ATP Finals, with only a few weeks and three spots remaining.
Two Canadians are still in contention and will look to bolster their bids this week.
Félix Auger-Aliassime is taking the big swing at the ATP 500 event in Vienna, but will have his hands full in a loaded field where he is the sixth seed.
The Canadian has a brutal draw that could see him meet Indian Wells champion Cameron Norrie in the second round followed by a quarter-final clash with Alexander Zverev.
He is joined by a handful of Turin contenders in the Austrian capital, including Matteo Berrettini, Ruud, Hurkacz, and Sinner. Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top seed.
Auger-Aliassime is currently 12th in the race, 625 points behind Hurkacz for the final spot, meaning even with a title this week he will not move into a qualifying position. He is going to need some help if he is to qualify for Turin.
Shapovalov is in the same boat, only he is much farther back, 16th and 1120 points, but has a slightly easier task in front of him this week in St. Petersburg, where he is seeded second.
The Wimbledon semi-finalist will open against either Federico Delbonis or Pablo Andujar and could meet seventh seed Alexander Bublik in the quarter-finals. He is in the same half as Moscow champion Karatsev, who beat Shapovalov twice in Indian Wells earlier this month. Andrey Rublev is the top seed in St. Petersburg.
The Canadian is also competing in doubles alongside Rohan Bopanna. The pair reached the quarter-finals of Indian Wells just a few weeks ago. Auger-Aliassime is playing doubles alongside Andreas Mies in Vienna.
There are no Canadian women in action this week on the WTA Tour.
On the women’s side, a strong field arrives in Romania for the Transylvania Open, led by home favourite Simona Halep. Also competing are the red-hot Kontaveit and US Open champion Emma Raducanu
Under the Radar
Last week on the ATP Challenger Tour, Canadian Alexis Galarneau reached the quarter-finals of the Bogota Open, upsetting second seed Daniel Altmaier in the second round. It was his second Challenger quarter-final in 2021.
The Canadian men had some big success on the ITF tour, with Filip Peliwo and Joshua Peck both getting their hands on some hardware.
For Peliwo, he took home the singles title at the M25 Nur-Sultan, beating top seed Andrey Kuznetsov in the final in straight sets.
In Cancun, Peck and partner Mwendwa Mbbithi took down the top seeds to claim the doubles title at the M15 event. Also in doubles, Liam Draxl reached the final in Vero Beach.
Galarneau is back in Challenger action again this week in Lima, while Brayden Schnur will be competing at the Challenger event in Las Vegas.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.