Aces and Faults: Spaniards rule the clay courts in Houston
Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, players from Spain and France ruled the tours, winning titles in Houston; Katowice, Poland; Bogota, Colombia and Casablanca, Morocco.
Fernando Verdasco: Has it really been four years since Verdasco won an ATP title? The Spaniard snapped his six-match losing streak in ATP finals by defeating countryman Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 7-6 (4) to win the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston. This was Verdasco's fourth clay title and his first since winning the Barcelona Open in 2010.
More importantly, Spain's talent on the clay courts was in full display in Houston. Verdasco and Almagro faced off in the first-ever all-Spain final in Houston, and Verdasco reached the doubles finals with partner David Marrero. Watch out for the Spaniards as we approach the clay-court season.
Highlights from his win:
And of course, Verdasco celebrated his victory the traditional way.
Alize Cornet: Cornet was the marathon woman of the weekend, winning four-straight three-set matches to win her first title of the year at the Katowice Open. Her signature win came in the semifinals, where she came back from a bagel set to beat No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 to make her second final of the season. In the final she saved match point to edge Camila Giorgi 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-5 in over three hours. It's all finally coming together for Cornet, who rises to No. 21. That's her highest ranking since 2009 when she hit a career-high of No. 11 only to succumb to the pressure and injury, falling outside the top 100 in 2012.
Caroline Garcia: 2014 is shaping up to be the year that Generation Next arrived en masse. Garcia, 20, won her first WTA title and scored her first top 10 win all in one day, beating top seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-4 to win the title in Bogota. She became the first woman in almost two years to win both the singles and doubles events at a WTA event, pairing with Lara Arruabuenna to win the doubles title. Ranked No. 51 this week, she's now on the verge of breaking into the top 50 for the first time in her career.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: While the French women shined in the WTA events, the Spanish men owned the ATP over the weekend. Along with Verdasco and Almagro making the Houston final, three out of the four semfinalists in Casablanca were Spanish (the fourth was Argentinian). Garcia-Lopez emerged triumphant, beating Marcel Granollers 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to capture his third ATP title. A Spaniard has won in Casablanca five of the last six years.
Dustin Brown: Insert the German antonym for schadenfreude. Brown is one of those players you want to see do well because he turns people into tennis fans with his style and shot-making. He's back to a career-high No. 87 after scoring his first top 10 win over John Isner in the second round of Houston.
Camila Giorgi: The 22-year-old Italian made her first WTA final at the Katowice Open, beating the No. 2-seed Roberta Vinci and No. 3-seed Carla Suarez Navarro and dropping just one set en route to the final.
Maria Sharapova: I'm probably going to have to write Supergoop! more times than I'd like -- and its typo-laden analogue Sugarpoop! -- but props to Sharapova for choosing to invest in a skincare company that is all about preventing sun damage. It never ceases to shock me how many tennis players refuse to wear sunscreen. It's flat-out idiotic.
Gilles Simon: The Frenchman would have been the third seed in Casablanca, but he decided to play the event after the entry deadline and had to play through the qualifying tournament. Two of his qualifying matches -- against players ranked No. 370 and 599 -- went three sets and then he lost in the first round to Federico Delbonis. Next time set a calendar reminder, Gilles.
Sloane Stephens: She flew all the way down to Colombia and had a great chance at making her first WTA final -- don't forget, she's still the only player in the top 20 without a final appearance -- but lost 6-3, 6-3 to No. 129 Mariana Duque-Marino. Meanwhile, Garcia -- another 20-year-old -- walked away with the title.
Sam Querrey: Bad luck for Querrey, who was the last American standing in Houston. He made his first clay semifinal since he won the Belgrade Open in 2010, and then had to withdraw due to a pinched nerve in his back.
WTA top-seeds: Radwanska and Jankovic were the only top-10 players in action last week and they both outranked the International-level fields in Katowice and Bogota by a huge margin. They were the overwhelming favorites to win and both suffered bad losses, with Radwanska losing in front of her home crowd to Cornet, and Jankovic failing to defend her title in Bogota.
17: Match win streak for Bob and Mike Bryan, who have now won four straight titles after winning their first of the season in Delray Beach. Here's their Houston celebration:
3: Titles shy of 100 for Bob and Mike Bryan.
5: ATP titles won by a player who's 30 years old or older this season. Verdasco and Garcia-Lopez added to that tally over the weekend.
4: Breaks of serve Jack Sock was able to secure against Ivo Karlovic in a 6-1, 6-4 win in Houston. The match took just 55 minutes and Karlovic had some... colorful tweets about it.
21: Wins for Radwanska in 2014, tying her with No. 2 Li Na for the most tour wins so far.
1: Game won by Ryan Harrison in his first-round loss to Donald Young in Houston. Harrison later pulled out of doubles with a back injury.
2: Top five wins for Cornet in 2014. She defeated No. 1 Serena Williams at the Dubai Championships and now Radwanska in Katowice.
Photo of the week
In case you missed it
• The Katowice Open merged two courts into one overnight for the quarterfinals:
• That's a lot of Bryans:
.@Bryanbros interviewed by father Wayne after winning 16th match in a row, 6th straight final @mensclaycourt. #USClay pic.twitter.com/4Gj2KjIqWf
— Greg Sharko (@SharkoTennis) April 12, 2014
• Things got a little bit heated between Jack Sock and Nicolas Almagro in their quarterfinal clash, after Sock seemed to take issue with Almagro calling down the umpire to check a mark. Sock walked up to the net and let Almagro know what he thought about it, while Almagro responded in kind. The Spaniard went on to win 6-2, 6-4.
• One of the perks of losing early in Houston: John Isner put on a really long pair of khakis to watch the Masters with Caroline. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
• Don't look now but Klara Koukalova (formerly Zakopalova) has 20 tour wins this season. That's just one off the lead.
• Feliciano Lopez was forced to retire from his second-round match in Houston due to... pollen allergies.
• Another former player into the coaching game: Thomas Enqvist will coach Verdasco this week in Monte Carlo.
• Intriguing: Ewan McGregor was filming a movie at the LTA's National Tennis Center and our intrepid spies were there:
So this happened. #stalkingworks pic.twitter.com/ZxG4qRBfcs — Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) April 13, 2014
• Leave it to the Masters to make Wimbledon look like a rowdy tailgate. Thank goodness we don't have anything as awkward as the Butler's Cabin jacket presentation.
• Is there any better tennis vista than Monte Carlo? (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
• According to Jon Wertheim, Nike and Adidas are in a bidding war over Grigor Dimitrov. Is there really any way Nike doesn't win that one?
• This weekend's U.S. Fed Cup tie will put Stephens and Madison Keys against Cornet and Garcia. Good one.
• I'm just going to end it on this:
YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS PHOTO OF STOSUR AND QUERREY. #sams. (h/t @dannykendall) pic.twitter.com/fTGKJxpv1R — Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) April 8, 2014