Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Roger Federer grabbed his 81st ATP title in Shanghai, American Alison Riske won her first WTA tournament in Tianjin and Sam Stosur earned her third Japan Women's Open title.
Roger Federer: After a much-needed post-Davis Cup vacation, Federer wasn't sure whether he was going to make the trip to Asia to play the Shanghai Rolex Masters and ended up confirming his entrance into the tournament just a few weeks before the event. He looked rusty in his opening match against Leonardo Mayer, where he had to scrap and give Lady Luck a kiss on the cheek after saving five match points to win. After the match's late finish, Federer didn't get to bed until 4:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and was stuck in a battle to get his week back on track. He saved his best for his highly-anticipated encounter with Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, where he routed the No. 1 6-4, 6-4 in a match that was never as close as the scoreline would indicate. About 24 hours later he was, for the first time in his career, the Shanghai Masters champion. He's also back up to No. 2 with a chance he could finish at No. 1.
It's an incredible turnaround after a poor and frustrating season last year, which was clouded by injury. "I'm not half broken like I was last year," Federer said. "I'm enjoying myself on the tennis court. I'm playing the way I was hoping I could play again. Everything fell into place. I'm playing a very consistent, solid season."
How close was Federer to being out of the tournament? This close:
Bob and Mike Bryan: The twins lost just one set en route to their first Shanghai title and thus completing the "Career Masters," with at least one win in all nine ATP Masters 1000 tournaments. Then they got to jam with Andy Summers of The Police:
Alison Riske: The 24-year-old Pittsburgh-native became the fifth American to win a WTA title this year, beating Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4 to win the Tianjin Open. She didn't lose a set all week. She's back into the top 50 at No. 44, just four off of her career-high.
Karolina Pliskova: The Czech is having a stealthy good year. She's up to No. 27 after winning her second title of the season, this time saving match point to beat Camila Giorgi 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-6(4) to win Linz. She'll likely be seeded for the Australian Open.
Sam Stosur: The Aussie wins the Japan Open in Osaka for the third time in her career, beating Zarina Diyas in three sets. Tennis Australia should consider moving the Australian Open to Osaka. Of Stosur's six career titles, three have come there.
The Kids: All in all it was a great week for the WTA's younger generation: 22-year-old Pliskova won, 17-year-old Bencic made her first final, 20-year-old Elina Svitolina made yet another semifinal and 21-year-old Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan is up to No. 34 after making her first final. Even 16-year-old Naomi Osaka had a good week, getting a wildcard into Osaka and beating Erika Sema before pushing Svitolina to three sets. And then there's 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, who cracks the top 100 for the first time after beating Zheng Jie and CoCo Vandeweghe in Osaka.
Gilles Simon: It was great to see Simon show glimpses of his 2008 self in Shanghai. He rallied from 0-3 down in the final set to beat Stan Wawrinka in the second round, dropped a third-set bagel on Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals and did everything he could to test Federer in the final before losing in two tiebreakers. He had his chances against Federer -- he served for the first set and had set points in the second -- but the Frenchman just didn't have the edge it takes to win the big points. Still, he's saved what was otherwise a disastrous season. He's now back in the top 20.
Fabio Fognini: I'm all for getting more personalities in tennis. Chronic and reliable racket-smasher? Big fan. Occasionally amusing dust-up with an umpire? All for it. Self-castigating monologues at the back of the court littered with British-accented f-bombs? The more the merrier. But when a player directs the negative energy at either another player or worse, the fans, they've crossed the line. After losing to a Chinese wildcard, Fognini proceeded to push Wang Chuhan with his elbow after shaking hands with the umpire and then flipped off the partisan crowd as he walked off court.
The ATP responded by fining him $2,000 for a "visible obscenity". That's chump-change for Fognini. Fognini has been allowed to run free for long enough. He's threatened umpires, directed slurs at other players and repeatedly insulted ticket-buying fans. A pithy fine will do nothing to change that.
Leonardo Mayer: I'm guessing the Argentine is still sick to his stomach after having Federer on the ropes and putting in some tentative volleys and groundstrokes to squander five match points.
Stan Wawrinka: The search for Stan continues. He looked well in control of the third set against Simon and just collapsed. Here's an interesting quote from Wawrinka after that loss, when he was asked to summarize his season: "It's been an amazing year, but really tough also," he said. "Last year, it was a special year. I was playing good almost every tournament. I was really focused on every tournament, making some good result. This year it's completely different. It's a big rollercoaster. I won a Grand Slam, a Masters 1000. And I made some really s***** tournaments, losing first round. It's not easy to stay at the top."
Photo of the week
Vine of the week
Federer fan of the week:
In case you missed it
- Nadal was diagnosed with appendicitis before the start of the tournament in Shanghai and opted to forgo surgery in favor of antibiotics. It worked and he took the court and lost. You would think the reasonable course of action now would be to have surgery, heal up, and be fully fit for a concentrated training block in December. But Nadal says he wants to wait until after the World Tour Finals. Why risk it?
- Wawrinka may have had an unfavorable result in Shanghai, but he became the fourth player to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals.
- Djokovic had no answers to Federer's perfect game in their semifinal, but he did offer a pretty awesome stare-down:
- Tough luck for Madison Keys, who ended her season with a retirement (rib injury) in Osaka.
- Stanford star Mallory Burdette has decided to hang up her racket after persistent shoulder problems. Genuinely sad to hear the news. She had a great game for the pro-level and was as grounded and intelligent as they come.
- Giorgi has made two finals this year. She had at least one match point in both matches. She lost them both.
- Anastasia Rodionova and Alla Kudryavtseva edge out Flavia Pennetta and Martina Hingis for the final doubles spot at the WTA Finals. And with that the field is set.
- Two years ago Novak Djokovic helped get his brother Marco a wildcard into Dubai. He also used his influence to help Viktor Troicki get a wildcard at this year's China Open. Now Austrian media is reporting that Jurgen Melzer brokered a deal to get his brother Gerald a wildcard into Vienna.
- For all the harping about the state of American tennis, the women continue to show the future has promise. Riske joined Keys and Vandeweghe as first-time titlists this season.
- Really tough on the tournaments after China when the WTA Finals field has been set. Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic played one match and withdrew from Linz and the remaining tournaments are hard to take seriously.
- With the chance to knock off Djokovic and finish the year No. 1, I'd be very surprised if Federer skipped the Paris Masters.