Photo : Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
With the second Grand Slam of the year right around the corner, tennis goes on strong, with players hungry to win trophies and get match-fit on clay. Here’s what to watch this week and catch up with what happened last week.
Must watch this week
Denis Shapovalov is the No. 1 seeded player in Estoril, Portugal this week, and is looking to win his second tour-level title and first on clay. His path to the title is all but simple. As the tour’s level deepens with younger talent and the old guard still as motivated as ever, the ATP 250 event is full of big names who will challenge each other to lift the trophy.
Shapovalov is looking to bounce back from a tough loss suffered at the hands of fellow Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime last week in Barcelona. The points added in Estoril and the practice on clay courts will be important for the left-hander on the road to Roland Garros and to help getting back to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.
Another ATP 250, the tournament in Munich is also filled with stars of the game looking to get some precious match practices ahead of the Madrid Open happening next week. Two-time Munich Open champion Alexander Zverev is the top seed this week and will try to win his 15th tour-level title.
The two previous times he lifted the Munich Open trophy, the German No. 1 went on to win one of the two ATP Masters 1000 tournaments the weeks after: Rome in 2017, and Madrid in 2018.
Madrid WTA 1000 opening rounds
The first WTA 1000 on clay starts on Thursday, April 29th, and the best players on the planet are in the draw. The entire World’s Top 5 is present, with Ashleigh Barty as the top seed, followed by World Nos. 2 and 3, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, respectively. The tournament, a joint men’s and women’s event, features the opening rounds for the WTA first, and ends on the second Saturday on May 8th. Canada’s Leylah Fernandez will be playing in the qualifying round.
Sadly, for Canadian fans, World No. 6 Bianca Andreescu announced her withdrawal from the Madrid Open, as she confirmed a positive result for COVID-19. With the quarantine rules, she will be able to play at the WTA 1000 in Rome should she test negative after the isolation period.
In case you missed it
The prestigious ATP 500 tournament held in Barcelona delivered epic battles and entertainment that exceeded any fan’s expectations. The final match was worth that of any Masters tournament, with the top two seeds, Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas locked up in the longest best-of-three-sets match of the year, lasting three hours and 38 minutes.
Match points were saved by both players, with Tsitsipas breaking serve in a crucial moment in the second set. A double-fault from top seed Nadal in the ensuing tie-break costed him the set, but the clay-court legend ultimately prevailed. The title also saw Nadal take back the World No. 2 ranking from Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev.
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty finished off her amazing week in Stuttgart with a third-straight win from a set down to win the WTA 500 title. The Australian fended off hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka, masterfully applying a variety of sliced backhands, drop-shots, and pin-point accurate forehands.
By defeating World No. 7 Sabalenka, Barty improved her winning streak against Top 10 players to 10 in a row. With win in Stuttgart, Barty adds an 11th career title to her haul, and second clay-court title. Her only other title on the clay? Roland Garros 2019!
The Serbian Open 1 received the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and many other great players. For the disappointment of the local fans, Djokovic was ousted in an epic match against No. 3 seed Aslan Karatsev. World No. 10 Matteo Berrettini had too much for the Russian in the final, though, winning in a high-quality three-set match to win just his fourth career title — and third on clay.
Under the Radar
Rebecca Marino plays her second tournament since her participation at the Billie Jean King Cup, where she played a key role to give Team Canada a win over Serbia, winning her only singles match, giving Canada a 2-0 lead (first to three wins.)
Playing in Zagreb, Croatia, one of Serbia’s neighbouring countries, qualifier Marino is looking to win her first title of the year, on any tour. She will look to carry the momentum from the Billie Jean King Cup victory to go deep into the ITF tournament.
Over on the men’s side, Steven Diez plays in the Roma Garden Open II challenger, and Brayden Schnur and Peter Polansky play at the Ostragroup Open 2021 By Moneta, in Ostrava, Czhech Republic. Good results in these tournaments could help the Canadians to get closer to a spot at Roland Garros, the second Grand Slam of the year, starting on May 30th.
You can watch ATP Challenger Tour matches live here.