Aces and Faults: Murray wins Queen's club; Kerber, Federer earn grass titles
Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Andy Murray joined John McEnroe and Boris Becker as a four-time Queen's Club champion, Roger Federer grabbed his eighth title in Halle and Angelique Kerber won her maiden grass title in Birmingham.
Andy Murray: The last time Murray lost to anyone other than No. 1 Novak Djokovic was Feb. 26, 2015. Since that loss to Borna Coric at the Dubai Championships, Murray is 31-0 against anyone not named Djokovic (he's 0-3 against the Serb in that span). Murray couldn't have asked for better Wimbledon preparation after winning his fourth title at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club on Sunday. The Brit played two matches on Sunday after his semifinal against Viktor Troicki was rained out on Saturday, beating Troicki in straight sets and then turning around to beat Kevin Anderson 6–3, 6–4 for the title.
Roger Federer: Just as Queen's has seen consistent domination by Murray, Federer simply owns the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. The Swiss won his eighth title in Halle, beating Andreas Seppi 7-6, 6-4 for his fourth ATP title of the season. After coming through a tight opener against Philipp Kohlschreiber, winning 7–6 (8), 3–6, 7–6 (5), Federer was never broken for the remainder of the tournament and he went 6-0 in tiebreakers. That's some clutch play.
Angelique Kerber: Only one player has been more successful than Kerber at the Premier-or-higher level tournaments this year: Serena Williams. The German finally won her first grass-court title, beating Karolina Pliskova 6–7, 6–3, 7–6 to win her third Premier-level title of the season. Kerber withstood 51 winners from the big-hitting Czech in the final, hitting 34 winners to just 14 unforced errors in their protracted final. At 4-all in the third-set tiebreaker she went on to reel off three straight points for the win.
Sabine Lisicki and Ivo Karlovic: More aces! Literally! Both Lisicki and Karlovic broke the WTA and ATP single-match ace records last week. Lisicki fired 27 aces at the Aegon Classic, shattering the previous mark shared of 24 aces in a match, hit by Kaia Kanepi and Serena. A few days later Karlovic broke his own ATP record when he hit 45 aces to beat Tomas Berdych in Halle.
Here's all 27 of Lisicki's aces against Belinda Bencic:
Karolina Pliskova: Aside from a small title in Prague, Pliskova cooled off from her red-hot start of the season when the tour turned to clay. Now, back on a surface that suits her, the Czech was just three points away from capturing her first Premier-level title and landing her Top 10 debut. Nevertheless, it was a solid week for Pliskova and her performance gives you reason to believe she could do something big at Wimbledon.
Viktor Troicki: Is the Serb a darkhorse for a deep run at Wimbledon? Ranked at No. 25, he's torn through the grass season so far. Two weeks ago he marched to the Stuttgart final, losing to Rafael Nadal, and last week he beat Marin Cilic and John Isner to make the Queen's semifinal, losing to Murray. Not bad for a guy who had never made a grass court semifinal before this year.
Kevin Anderson: Like Troicki, Anderson had never been past the quarterfinal stage of an ATP grass event before last week. He scored four quality wins in Queen's, beating Lleyton Hewitt, Stan Wawrinka, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Gilles Simon before losing to Murray in the final.
Rafael Nadal: It was a quick turnaround for Nadal, who went from winning the title in Stuttgart to losing in his opening round to Alexandr Dolgopolov in Queen's, 6–3, 6–7, 6–4. Nadal led 4-2 in the final set but couldn't hold on. Given how nervous he played in the third set it's hard to gauge what to expect from him at Wimbledon.
Simona Halep: It's official: Simona Halep is in a slump. It may not be as pronounced as Eugenie Bouchard or Agnieszka Radwanska's current troubles—both lost early again in Birmingham—but it's just as worrisome. The Romanian lost 2–6, 6–0, 7–6 to Kristina Mladenovic in the Birmingham quarterfinals. Since losing to Serena in three sets in the Miami semifinals in April, Halep just hasn't been the same player. She failed to advance to a final on clay, her best surface, and crashed out quietly from the French Open. Now after a disappointing result in Birmingham, she has reportedly split with her coach Victor Ionita right before Wimbledon.
Grigor Dimitrov: Last year's champion left Queen's quietly with a 6–4, 7–6 loss to Gilles Muller in the second round.
Kei Nishikori: He was looking strong in Halle and headed for a final showdown against Federer. But a calf injury forced him to retire to Seppi in the semifinals. Can Nishikori get healthy in time for Wimbledon?
Photo of the week
Video of the week
In case you missed it
- Kristina Mladenovic, always an erratic talent, is starting to string quality wins together. She beat both Bouchard and Halep in Birmingham, dropping bagel sets on each.
- Nick Kyrgios lost to Stan Wawrinka in Queen's and proceeded to tell reporters he felt disengaged in the match and didn't want to be there. He then pulled out of this week's Aegon Open in Nottingham to "take a break." Whether due to physical injury or mental fatigue, the 20-year-old is struggling with a full ATP schedule.
- Gael Monfils was looking good in Halle. Then he went for an insane shot out wide, went down hard and retired from the match.
- We don't want to harp on things, but Eugenie Bouchard has now lost 10 of her last 11 matches after yet another opening round loss.
- Worrisome: Victoria Azarenka withdrew from Birmingham with a left foot injury.
- Laura Robson made her return after 17 months out of the game with a wrist injury. Given a wildcard into Birmingham qualifying, she lost 6–0, 6–1 to Daria Gavrilova. That she finished the match without pain is a victory.
- Ana Ivanovic continues to mystify. She had a great run at the French Open to make the semifinals, then in her title defense in Birmingham she lost in the second round to Michelle Larcher de Brito. And yes, she double-faulted on match point.
- This exchange between the Murrays is what makes them great:
- Wimbledon makes no secret about wanting a certain, uh, "type" of player to do well and be showcased. Last year's finalist Eugenie Bouchard is currently ranked No. 12. Last year's semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov is ranked No. 11. Both aren't playing as well as they were this time last year. Will the All England Club give them a boost for a top eight seed on Wednesday?
- While nearly everyone else is playing lead-ups, here's Serena Williams: