Aces and Faults: Tsonga, Radwanska raise hardware at Rogers Cup
Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga held off Roger Federer to win in Toronto, while Agnieszka Radwanska beat an inspired Venus Williams to claim her first title this season.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: By the numbers, this was the most impressive run to Rogers Cup title in 12 years. Tsonga, who hasn't earned a win over a top-10 player in over a year, blasted his way through the field, beating Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer (all of whom are in the top 10) en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 title since 2008.
This was the level of tennis we have always expected from Tsonga. Behind some big serving, a reliable backhand and good movements in and out of the corners, Tsonga played like a man on a mission to get back into the conversation. Mission accomplished.
Tsonga's all-out attack is featured prominently in this final hot shot:
Agnieszka Radwanska: While Venus Williams grabbed the headlines throughout the week with her inspired play, it was Radwanska who quietly worked her way through the softer half of the draw to win her first title of the year, beating Venus 6-4, 6-2 in Rogers Cup final. Not only did she avenge her Wimbledon fourth-round loss to Ekaterina Makarova, but she also notched some good wins over No. 8 Victoria Azarenka and Sabine Lisicki.
Radwanska has been pretty invisible since two rough losses early in the year -- first in the Australian Open semifinals and then the Indian Wells final. The Pole really needed this victory -- her biggest title since winning Miami in 2012 -- to help her relax and just play pressure-free tennis.
Highlights from the final:
Venus Williams: She fell just short of another Premier-level title this season, but there was nothing negative about Venus' week in Montreal. Her three-set win over Angelique Kerber in the third round was the match of the tournament based on competitive quality and contrast of styles. She maintained that level of play to pull off the upset of the tournament, beating sister Serena 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals for her first win over Serena since 2009.
Her high-quality play combined with her ability to recover and win back-to-back-to-back three-setters showed how confident she is in her fitness and her game. This was inspiring stuff from Venus.
Highlights from the all-Williams semifinal:
Roger Federer: Another solid week of tennis for Federer that ended one victory short. He took care of his draw with wins over David Ferrer, Marin Cilic and Feliciano Lopez, but couldn't match Tsonga's level in the final. He's now 2-5 in finals in 2014, but he continues to put himself in position to win these big titles. He blamed the turnaround from night matches to day matches for his disappointing form in the final. His last words to the press: "It wasn't my day, man. It was just a s****y day."
Don't be so hard on yourself, Roger. It was your first hard-court tournament of the summer, and you made the final.
CoCo Vandeweghe: The 22-year-old American has rarely inserted herself in the conversation of rising young stars, but everything seems to be coming together for her now. A quintessential power player, Vandeweghe's consistency and speed have always been her downfall, but she was incredibly resilient in her run to the Montreal quarterfinals.
Coming in as a qualifier, she became the Serb Slayer. She ousted Ana Ivanovic 6-7 (7), 7-6 (7), 6-4 in the second round in a match that ended after midnight, only to turn around the very next day to beat Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (8), 2-6, 7-5. These were intense, tight matches that Vandeweghe played with poise.
Feliciano Lopez: The 32-year-old Spaniard is playing some of the best tennis of his career, now up to No. 16 after making his third-career ATP Masters semifinal in Toronto. He beat three top-20 players in Roberto Bautista Agut, Tomas Berdych and hometown player Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
Caroline Wozniacki: The Dane should take nothing but positives from her three-set loss to Serena Williams. It was the best match she's played in years.
Grigor Dimitrov: Another ATP Masters semifinal for the Bulgarian. But honestly, even if he had lost in the first round, he would still make the ace list for the backhand pass he hit against Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals. Watch it:
Andy Murray: He was the only player to take a set off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto and actually led the Frenchman 3-0 in the final set before losing 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. When I asked Murray on Sunday what single thing has stopped him from finding his top level this year he cited his repeated inability to close out leads in the final set this year. "I need to stop messing up," he put it.
Eugenie Bouchard: A very nervous Bouchard was broken in the first service game of her opening match in Montreal, and after falling behind 5-0, a distressed Bouchard told coach Nick Saviano, "I want to leave the court." I'm inclined to chalk up Bouchard's shocking 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 loss to No. 86 Shelby Rogers in the second round to just a bad day at the office. It was her first match since making the Wimbledon final, and she was playing under distracting circumstances in her home country. But it was still a surprising performance from a player who has built her 2014 resume on the back of pressure-packed performances at the majors.
Maria Sharapova: In her first match since Wimbledon the Russian was able to gut herself to a three-set win to Garbine Muguruza but she couldn't repeat the feat against Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round, losing 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Kevin Anderson: You'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer guy on the ATP Tour than the big serving South African, but boy, did he choke hard in the quarterfinals. Twice he was one point away from his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal, and twice he blinked. Serving at 5-4, 40-15 in the third set against Grigor Dimitrov, Anderson had match points on his racket and made a complete mess of them including one sitter at the net. To top it all off he lost with a double-fault on match point in the third set tiebreaker.
Bob and Mike Bryan: The brothers have been stuck at 98 ATP titles for over two months now, winning their last title in Monte Carlo. The U.S. hardcourts haven't been kind so far. They lost to Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey in the Citi Open quarterfinals, and then came away winless in Toronto, losing 6-2, 6-4 to the makeshift pairing of Marin Cilic and Santiago Gonzalez.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
In case you missed it
• Despite the blackout that left players taking cold showers in the dark after their matches, and vendors wringing their hands over how to sell warm beer and cold hot dogs, the Montreal tournament pulled in 181,996 fans, a new world record for a week-long women's sporting event. The men's event in Toronto also had great attendance. I thought the social media coverage from both tournaments was top-notch too. Now if only they could something about partisan fans applauding service faults...
• Congratulations to 18-year-old Noah Rubin and 15-year-old CiCi Bellis for winning the USTA 18 Boys' and Girls' National Championships. Their reward: A main draw wildcard at the U.S. Open. Here's some perspective: With Bellis' entry, there will be a a player in the U.S. Open field born in 1999.
• Say hello to the new WTA No. 2 Simona Halep.
• This is Roger Federer in a nutshell: He hits a great tweener, then three shots later shanks a ball into the stands:
• Benoit Paire is hovering dangerously close to dropping out of the top 100.
• Victoria Azarenka took a nasty fall in her opening match in Montreal and limped through the rest of the tournament with pain in her right knee. When asked about the injury in Cincinnati, where she's still practicing with heavy tape, she said she was playing with pain. For a player who has had her injury problems over the last 12 months, it's surprising that she's being so gung-ho about playing through injury.
• During the first set tiebreaker of their semifinal match, Venus set up a point beautifully and finished a big forehand down the line. Serena called for a Hawk-Eye challenge, the ball was barely out, and she rolled to win the breaker. That was the moment I realized how far these two had come in their careers and how far their rivalry has come. Serena would never have called for a Hawk-Eye challenge on her sister five years ago, especially on a point in which Venus did everything right.
• Our complicated relationship with Gael Monfils continues. This was so entertaining, but why can't he just win more matches?
• Bar chat: If their careers were to end today, who had the more successful career: Tsonga or Radwanska?