Photo : Peter Power
Instead of hopping around the globe to Asia, as would be the norm at this time in the tennis season, much of the focus of the tennis world remains in the United States with a pair of events leading into another big one this week.
Here’s what you need to know:
In Case You Missed It: Casper Conquers Hard Courts
In 2021, Casper Ruud established himself as one of the tour’s best clay court players, but now has shown a proclivity for the hard courts too, claiming the inaugural title in San Diego this week.
It is the sixth title of his career, but first off of clay. In fact, San Diego was his eighth final but first not on clay.
The Norwegian looked good doing it too, only dropping one set on his way to the title and capping off the run by demolishing Cameron Norrie 6-0, 6-2.
Ruud moves up to eighth in the race to qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin as a result.
Norrie himself had a good run, knocking off three straight seeds to reach the final: Dan Evans, Denis Shapovalov, and top seed Andrey Rublev.
Meanwhile in the Midwest, Garbine Muguruza picked up her second title of 2021 with an impressive win over Ons Jabeur.
It was a strong field in Chicago, but the draw opened up for the Spaniard, who did not have to face a seeded opponent until the final. Jabeur, on the other hand, beat ninth seed Jessica Pegula, top seed Elina Svitolina, and fifth seed Elena Rybakina just to reach the final before ultimately falling to Muguruza in three sets.
The title is the ninth of Muguruza’s career. Seven of them have come on hard courts. Interestingly, the only two that were won on other surfaces are her only two Grand Slam titles.
Across the pond, Jannik Sinner picked up his second straight title in Sofia, defeating Gael Monfils in straight sets in the final.
A year ago, the Italian won his first career title in the Bulgarian capital, edging Canadian Vasek Pospisil in a third-set tiebreak. This year was far more straightforward, as Sinner did not drop a set in the tournament.
Over in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Alison Van Uytvanck won her first career title, rallying from a set down in the final to defeat top seed Yulia Putintseva.
It was not a great week for the Canadians, as both Bianca Andreescu and Vasek Pospisil lost their opening matches in Chicago and Sofia respectively. Shapovalov reached the quarter-finals of San Diego but bowed out to Norrie, while Félix Auger-Aliassime was forced to withdraw at the last minute with a leg injury.
Must Watch: All eyes on Indian Wells
October over the last two years has been a weird month for tennis. For diehard fans who follow the tours year after year, this month has probably only further added to the general confusion about what even is time anymore.
Last year, Roland Garros was the highlight of October, an event that usually takes place in May.
This year, it’s Indian Wells, which normally lands in March on the tour calendars.
First the first time since 2019, the best of the ATP and WTA tours will descend on California for one of the biggest non-slam events of the season. It’s a significant return for the tours, as Indian Wells was the first big event cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many players having already arrived on site.
COVID is still throwing its shadow over this event, as the top seed on the women’s side, Aryna Sabalenka, has already been forced to pull out of the tournament after testing positive for the virus.
Even without Sabalenka, 15 of the Top 20 will be competing in Indian Wells. Karolina Pliskova will be the top seed. Other big names missing from the tournament are world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Sofia Kenin.
Canada will be well represented on the women’s side with two seeded players: Andreescu at No. 16 and Leylah Fernandez at No. 23. Despite being almost 31 months removed from her victory, Andreescu is the defending champion.
Rebecca Marino will look to join Andreescu and Fernandez in the singles main draw as she is competing in qualifying. Gabriela Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman are both competing in the women’s doubles and will both be seeded; Dabrowski at No. 6 with Hayley Carter and Fichman at No. 8 with Giuliana Olmos.
The men are also missing their would-be top seed in Novak Djokovic, but otherwise boast a strong field that includes 16 of the Top 20, led by US Open champion Daniil Medvedev.
Like the women, there will be two Canadians seeded on the men’s side. Auger-Aliassime slots in at No. 7, with Shapovalov just behind at No. 9. Pospisil will also be competing but will be unseeded. Steven Diez is in the qualifying draw.
With Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal not participating, along with the tournament’s last two champions Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem, there will be a new champion in Indian Wells on the men’s side for the third consecutive year.
Under the Radar
Last week, Canada’s Filip Peliwo reached his second ITF final of 2021, ultimately falling to Rio Noguchi in Pretoria, South Africa.
With most of the attention focused on Indian Wells this week, there are no Canadians in action on the Challenger tours.
However, there are a number of Canadians competing at ITF events, including trios in Redding, Hilton Head and Ithica. There are four in action at the ITF women’s event in Cancun.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.