TEBBUTT: A FEEL-GOOD TENNIS WEEKEND
© Onur Cam – Istanbul Cup
Just two weeks after the thrills of Wimbledon, it’s nice to see lesser tournaments come up with a decidedly inspired group of winners, providing tennis aficionados with an enjoyment unrelated to the usual marquee names of the sport.
This past weekend, four tournaments on the WTA (Istanbul and Bastad) and ATP (Hamburg and Bogota) tours had a cool quartet of champions – including Caroline Wozniacki (above) who triumphed at the inaugural Istanbul Cup in Turkey. The hard-court event in a good looking new stadium provided the just-turned 24-year-old with the 22nd title of her career, and gave her at least one in each of the past seven seasons.
It’s hard not to cheer for Wozniacki after the heartbreak of the ending of her engagement to golfer Rory McIlroy. To be told in a phone call, after the wedding invitations had been sent out, and just days after she had last seen him and all seemed okay, was a cruel blow. It happened just before this year’s French Open and anyone who saw her there saw a young woman who looked white as a sheet – completely devastated.
But Wozniacki has always been one of the sunnier personalities on the WTA tour and many fans will be happy she was able to win in Turkey, albeit against a modest field in the $250,000 WTA International level event.
Ranked No. 15 and the top seed, she beat the second seed and No. 24-ranked Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-1 in the final in just 67 minutes.
It remains difficult to see her getting back to the No. 1 ranking she held in 2010 and 2011 when she won six tournaments in both of those years.
Just watching her in Istanbul it’s easy to see that she just doesn’t play aggressively enough to truly threaten the bigger hitters in the women’s game. Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Eugenie Bouchard, Angelique Kerber, Ana Ivanovic et al possess the weapons to overpower her. Wozniacki’s only top-15 victory so far in 2014 was over No. 15 Sabine Lisicki in Dubai back in February.
Still, her win in Istanbul has to be an ego boost – with her ranking going up from No. 15 to No. 13 – and some kind of consolation that McIlroy wasn’t the only one with a tournament victory over the weekend.
The most compelling win last Sunday was Leonardo Mayer’s 6-7(3), 6-1, 7-6(4) victory over David Ferrer on the red clay in Hamburg at the bet-at-home Open. An ATP 500 event, it was the only one of the four tournaments going on that wasn’t on lowest tier of the WTA or ATP events.
Coming into 2014, the 26-year-old (now 27) Mayer had not ranked higher than No. 51 (2010) and had never been in an ATP final. He got to his first final in Vina del Mar, Chile, in February, losing 6-2, 6-4 to Fabio Fognini.
After that, the Argentine went through tough times – losing five straight first rounds between Rio de Janeiro in February and Bucharest in May.
Last month he got a boost by reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and his ranking dipped inside the top-50 for the first time.
But there were still few signs of what was to come in Hamburg, especially after he lost 6-1, 6-1 to Mikhail Youzhny in the first round in Stuttgart two weeks ago.
Against Ferrer, the unseeded Mayer was a distinct underdog, even after beating host country favourite Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi-finals. Mayer was seriously red-lining his game – whaling forehands and belting his one-handed backhand with abandon. When he didn’t win a close first set against Ferrer, it seemed logical that the more experienced Spaniard would seize control.
Mayer didn’t go away and controlled most of the rallies – even tossing in some serve-and-volley and net-rushing. He played a weak game when he served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, and then he double-faulted ahead 4-2 in the tiebreak to surrender the mini-break to Ferrer. But a crafty lob that drew a backhand smash error by Ferrer and two big serves and a happy Mayer had the tiebreak 7-4 and his first ATP title.
It’s questionable whether he will be able to ever again summon the form he showed in Hamburg on such a big occasion – and he likely won’t be in the Masters 1000 events in Toronto (Rogers Cup) and Cincinnati in August because his ranking was too low at the entry deadline.
Still, he played fantastic tennis in Hamburg, especially against Ferrer, and was largely responsible for an exciting final.
In the picture at the top of Mayer, he is flanked by Corona “representatives.” Here are two more Corona reps with a couple of Goodtime Charlies in a picture taken during Canada’s Davis Cup tie in Toluca, Mexico, in March of 2011.
The Hamburg event was also noteworthy for emergence of Alexander Zverev, and notably in his hometown. Australian Open 2014 junior boys champion, the 17-year-old Zverev defeated Robin Haase (51), Youzhny (22), Santiago Giraldo (34) and Tobias Kamke (83) before running out of gas in the semi-finals – 6-0, 6-1 against Ferrer.
A gangly 6-foot-4, Zverev is the younger brother of 26-year-old Mischa Zverev, who has ranked as high as No. 45 (2009) and has career wins over Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Gilles Simon, Nikolay Davydenko and Tomas Berdych.
Their father, also Alexander Zverev, played Davis Cup (18-18) for the former Soviet Union and the family moved to Germany from Moscow in 1991.
© bet-at-home Open 2014
Young Alexander as given a wild card into the Hamburg event by tournament director Michael Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon champion. Together with 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios of Australia, two years older than him, Zverev is the top teenage prospect at the moment and a leader of what might be called “Generation Next Next.” That’s if Milos Raonic, 23, Grigor Dimitrov, 23, Jerzy Janowicz, 23, Kei Nishikori, 24 and Bernard Tomic, 21, are among those considered as Generation Next.
© Claro Open Colombia
Tomic, after double-hip surgery in late January following a first round (4-6 ret.) loss to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, made headlines when he was beaten 6-0, 6-1 by Jarkko Nieminen in his first tournament back at the Sony Open in Miami in March. That premature attempt at a return lasted a mere 28 minutes – the shortest match since the ATP began keeping such records in 1991.
Tomic lost five of his first six matches on his comeback but managed to win a round at Queen’s Club, at Eastbourne and at Wimbledon on the grass to show signs he was finding the form that took him as high as No. 27 in 2012.
It all came together at the Claro Open in Bogota last week, including a 6-4, 6-4 win over Vasek Pospisil in the quarter-finals, when he overcame defending champion Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(4) in the final. Karlovic hit 39 aces (five short of his own record for a best-of-three match) while Tomic had 27 and made just enough service returns and passing shots in key moments, especially in the third-set tiebreak, to get the second title of his career. Sydney, 2013, was his first.
“This title is huge,” Tomic said, “and it’s one I will always remember.”
As hard as it is to believe, considering the storied history of Australian tennis, Tomic’s victory was the first for someone from his country in South America since Ken Rosewall won in Buenos Aires in 1968.
Ranked No. 124 going into the event, Tomic has moved back into the top-100 at No. 70. Side-tracked by off-court issues the past few years, he remains one of the unique talents in the sport and it will be interesting to see if he can use the win as a springboard to better days. He was given a wild card in Bogota, and his obvious joy at his success there might indicate he is maturing and getting closer to realizing his potential.
© Collector Swedish Open
Mona Barthel, 24, has been another of those players with considerable talent but someone who has seemingly under-achieved.
She first came to many peoples’ attention at the 2012 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells when she led then world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 4-1 in the third set before losing 6-4, 6-7(7), 7-6(6) in the second round. Barthel has amazingly easy power off both sides but has been a disappointment, basically playing mindless tennis, just whacking the ball with not much of an idea of how to play the percentages – or control her emotions.
She had managed to win two tournaments – Hobart in 2012 and the Paris Indoors in 2013 – but they appeared to be aberrations.
On Sunday in Bastad at the Collector Swedish Open, the German defeated Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa 6-3, 7-6(3) for her third title. With the win, Barthel moved her ranking up from No. 61 to No. 42.
There have apparently been family issues holding Barthel back, maybe now she can start to fulfill the promise of her remarkable ball-striking ability.
An element of fate may have contributed to her win in Bastad. She said after the match that her family used to visit Sweden in the summertime when she was younger. And in the 2014 WTA Media Guide, she lists Stuttgart and Bastad as her favourite tournaments.
Another oddity: both winners on the weekend, Barthel and Wozniacki, have the same birthday – July, 11, 1990.
SUMMER TWEET SPOTS
Serena Williams has been getting ready for the North American hard court schedule by training in Croatia. She did find some time for other pursuits, as this Instagram picture suggests. Williams is listed as playing Stanford, Montreal (Coupe Rogers) and Cincinnati – three weeks in a row – starting next week. Going by past history, that seems like a mighty ambitious schedule for the world No. 1 who turns 33 in September.
— Beatrice Bouchard (@beebsbouchard) July 18, 2014
Here’s a shot tweeted by Eugenie Bouchard’s ‘older’ sister Beatrice. To see images, please click “view image on Twitter”.
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) July 15, 2014
Like the good team player that he is, Vasek Pospisil (with Radek Stepanek and Frederic Fontang) pitched in to help out when there was a rainy day last week during the Claro Open in Colombia.
— Mylan WTT (@WorldTeamTennis) July 20, 2014
John Isner and Megan Moulton-Levy played for the Boston Lobsters in World Team Tennis. It’s not hard to figure out who is 6-foot-nine and who is 5-foot-zero.
— Jordan Tunbridge (@JordanTunbridge) July 20, 2014
It will immediately become one of the finest showcourts in tennis – the revamped Margaret Court Arena at the Australian Open. It now not only has a retractable roof but also retains its clean-lined, intimate feel.
Ana Ivanovic Facebook
Could Ana Ivanovic possibly look more relaxed on vacation than she does in this picture from her Facebook page last week? Hopefully, when it’s 4-all in the third set of a tough match on the hard courts of North America this summer, she can draw on the memory of that peaceful time for some calm and composure in the heat of competition.