Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Andy Murray grabbed his first title since Wimbledon in July 2013 and Petra Kvitova notched her third title of the season, while Maria Sharapova and David Ferrer suffered early exits.
Andy Murray: It was about time. Murray returned to the top ten by winning his first title since he won Wimbledon, ending a 15 month drought with a win at the Shenzhen Open. But it wouldn't be Murray without just a little bit of drama. In the final against Tommy Robredo he saved five match points to win 5-7, 7-6 (9), 6-1. The shot that bailed him out was his forehand, which he found at some point during his three-set semifinal win over Juan Monaco and continued to blast in the final. That's the shot that's been missing over the last year and it was good to see it do some damage once again. With his title in Shenzhen, Murray moves up to No. 10 in the ATP Race to London.
Highlights from the final:
Petra Kvitova: They should have called it Wuhanbledon. After a generally disappointing North American hard court swing, Kvitova got some time to rest and train and then took the quick low-bouncing courts at the Wuhan Open by storm and secured her spot in the WTA Finals. She scored her first top ten win of the season in the final, beating Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-4 in a rematch of this year's Wimbledon final. Kvitova has now won three titles in 2014, her highest tally since her breakout run to six titles in 2011. She smiled sheepishly when I asked her about her erratic record -- she's 3-0 in finals this year while also losing in her first match at 5 of 17 tournaments -- but said it's all about confidence. By the time she gets to the business of a tournament she's confident. Her 14-4 career record in finals speaks for itself.
Highlights from the final:
Kei Nishikori: Since having surgery on his foot in early August, Nishikori has now won 10 of his last 11 matches. In his first tournament since making the U.S. Open final, Nishikori lost just one set en route to his third title of the season at the Malaysian Open, defeating Julien Benneteau 7-6(4), 6-4 in the final. He's now up to a career-high No. 7 in the rankings.
Eugenie Bouchard: She was foiled again by Kvitova, but Bouchard's run to the Wuhan final put to rest any concern that her Wimbledon hangover would persist through the end of the season. She admitted her European summer, which saw her win her first title and make the semifinals of the French Open and final at Wimbledon, left her wiped for the North American summer. Her tournament preparation felt rushed and the confidence was lacking. She wisely pulled out of the Hong Kong Open to get her body and game back on track and proceeded to make her first WTA Premier final, scoring a straight set win over Caroline Wozniacki in the process.
Julien Benneteau: Sure, we could focus on Benneteau moving to 0-10 in finals in his career. Or, as Benneteau pointed out to L'Equipe, we can celebrate him for making at least one final for seven consecutive seasons. We're all about the glass half-full.
Ernests Gulbis: For the first time since making the French Open semifinals, Gulbis won back-to-back matches. He lost to Benneteau in straight sets in the Malaysian Open semifinals. Baby steps.
Angry baby steps, as it were:
Caroline Garcia: The first few days of the Wuhan Open belonged to Garcia. She saved match point to come back from 2-5 down in the third set to defeat Venus Williams 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (6) in the first round. Then she followed it up the next day by beating fifth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7). With a straight set win over CoCo Vandeweghe in the next round, Garcia advanced to her second WTA Premier quarterfinal of the year, where she lost to Kvitova. But this run from Garcia came out of nowhere -- she had won just two main draw matches since Wimbledon -- and she did it by playing incredibly aggressive. I'm curious to see if she can keep that up.
Timea Bacsinszky: The Swiss qualifier earned her first top five win by defeating Maria Sharapova 7-6 (3) 7-5 in the third round of the Wuhan Open and pushed Wozniacki to three sets in the quarterfinals. Ranked as low as 240 this season, Bacsinszky is now 11 spots away from her career-high ranking of No. 37, which she reached back in 2010.
Viktor Troicki: Troicki's goal when he began his comeback in July -- when he was ranked No. 847 after serving a 12-month suspension for a missed doping test -- was to earn direct entry for the Australian Open. Based on his current form he just might do it. Troicki scored the biggest win of his comeback last week at the Shenzhen Open when he beat David Ferrer, a player he had never won a set off of, 6-3, 6-4. He went on to make the quarterfinals to boost his ranking to No. 152. He was granted a wildcard into this week's China Open where he's already beaten Mikhail Youzhny.
Maria Sharapova: The Russian remains in search of a consistent level, losing in straight sets to Bacsinszky in the third round of the Wuhan Open. She's made just one semifinal since winning the French Open.
Simona Halep: The slump continues for Halep, losing 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Garbine Muguruza in her first match in Wuhan.
David Ferrer: The Spaniard is now 0-2 since the U.S. Open, losing to Troicki last week in Shenzhen and Marcel Granollers this week at the Japan Open. He's won one match since making the Western and Southern Open final this summer.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
Ernests Gulbis and Pablo Andujar make flatbread in Kuala Lumpur:
In case you missed it
- Nick Kyrgios lost in the first round of the Malaysian Open and has shut down his season.
- Rafael Nadal beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an exhibition match in Astana, Kazakhstan.
- Roger Federer confirmed he'll play the Shanghai Masters. He'll also play two matches in India for the International Premier Tennis League after Nadal pulled out. Very odd scheduling choice given he will end his season in the Davis Cup final and begin soon after at the Brisbane International.
- Li Na's retirement ceremony at the China Open will be held on Tuesday at 7:30 pm local time.
- After shock retirements and a number of high profile early losses by the top seeds, leave it to Li Na's good buddy Kvitova to save the Wuhan Open.
- The Murray forehand remains the key to his success. It's the shot Ivan Lendl helped him unleash.
- Toni Nadal ambushing Spain's new Davis Cup captain Gala Leon on Spanish radio was wrong and credit to Leon for handling the whole thing with class. Some of the criticisms surrounding her hiring may be fair -- she doesn't have much experience and it sounds like there were other candidates the players preferred. But shouldn't the criticism be directed at the Spanish Federation? They're the ones who gave her the job.