Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, the men made some noise in Paris-Bercy as the final field was set for the ATP World Tour Finals and Caroline Wozniacki ran a marathon.
Novak Djokovic: Heading into the BNP Paribas Masters last week, all of the talk surrounded Roger Federer's quest to finish the season at No. 1 and the apparent resurgence of Andy Murray, but Djokovic put the kibosh on both storylines. In his first tournament since becoming a father, Djokovic became the first man in the tournament's history to win in back-to-back years, capturing his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title of the season and sixth title overall with his 600th career match win. He didn't lose a set all week, snapped Murray's 11-match win streak with a 7-5, 6-2 win in the quarterfinals and, with his 6-2, 6-3 win over Milos Raonic in the final, put himself in good position to fend off Federer's charge and finish the season at No. 1. Not a bad week's work. He heads to the ATP World Tour Finals in London riding a 27-match indoor win-streak.
Check out his defensive work in the final:
Andrea Petkovic: It had been a disastrous fall season for Petkovic, but the German rebounded to win the Tournament of Champions in Sofia, coming back from a break down in the third set to beat Flavia Pennetta 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 for her third title of the year. She'll finish the season ranked at No. 14, her highest season-ending finish since 2011. Petkovic now heads to Prague to rejoin her German teammates for the Fed Cup final against Petra Kvitova and the Czech Republic.
Milos Raonic: A few months ago Raonic looked like shoo-in to qualify for his first ATP World Tour finals, but he arrived in Bercy with only two wins in his last three tournaments. Playing a must-win match against Federer in the quarterfinals, Raonic tallied the biggest win of his career and just his second top ten win of the season with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory over the world No. 2. A few hours later, Kei Nishikori's win over David Ferrer meant Raonic had booked the final spot for London, but Raonic didn't let his Paris run stop there. He turned around to beat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 for his third top ten win of the year and second career ATP Masters 1000 final. All in all it was a gutsy week for Raonic, who nearly went out in his opening round to Jack Sock.
Highlights from his big win:
Kei Nishikori: Nishikori worked hard in his first three matches, notching wins over Tommy Robredo, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ferrer in three sets. He finally ran out of gas against Djokovic, but Nishikori secured his spot in London, becoming the first Asian man to qualify for the year-end championships. If he's rested and healthy, he could be the dark horse at the O2.
Check out this stick save from Nishikori vs. Djokovic:
Andy Murray: He goes into London on a 20-3 tear after six straight weeks of play, securing his spot with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. After the match, Murray sarcastically signed the camera "Bad Year!", referring to the apparent criticism he's heard about his season. Murray is up to No. 6 in the rankings and has a great shot of finishing the season in the top four.
A confident and relaxed Andy Murray is a good Andy Murray:
Caroline Wozniacki: Just 48 hours before running the New York City Marathon, Wozniacki was dressed up like Batman's sidekick Robin and partying until 4 a.m. Less than 12 hours before she was set to run her first marathon, she was hanging out with Serena Williams at a New York Rangers game, stuffing her face with fist fulls of popcorn. The early wake-up call on Sunday morning meant she had no time for breakfast, but was able to scrounge two bagels as she waited for her start time to come around. She had never run more than a half-marathon in her training, and when she hit the wall late in the race, she dreamed of vanilla milkshakes to distract herself from the pain. And when all was said and done, Wozniacki finished with an incredibly impressive time of 3:26, raising over $80,000 for charity. Everything about Wozniacki's marathon experience was awesome.
Fabio Fognini: It's exhausting to list out even a fraction of Fognini's clownish behavior in 2014. He was fined over $28,000 at Wimbledon for damaging the court and unsportsmanlike conduct. He flipped off the Chinese crowd at the Shanghai Rolex Masters after losing to a wildcard. He's been overheard insulting fans in the stands during his matches. He levied an ethnic slur at a fellow competitor. He's made threatening gestures at chair umpires. Like I said, it's exhausting.
So it was appropriate that Fognini's season would end with yet another verbal exchange with a chair umpire who initially refused to shake Fognini's hand after he lost to French wildcard Lucas Pouille. Will the ATP ever step in on behalf of fans, umpires and fellow competitors and crack down on Fognini's boorish behavior?
Grigor Dimitrov: Before his qualification fate for the World Tour Finals had even been determined, Dimitrov told reporters in Paris-Bercy that he had no intention of playing in London as an alternate. Dimitrov made good on his word. The London alternates will be David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez, after Tsonga, who wants to ready himself for the Davis Cup final, and Gulbis, who is injured, ruled themselves out of the ATP World Tour Finals. Dimitrov's decision to skip the event is a surprising one. Why not go as an alternate, get a feel for the venue and the event, all while pocketing a sizable paycheck to hang out in London for the week? A fan favorite, his presence -- even as an alternate -- would have been a boost.
Roger Federer: His winning streak through Shanghai and Basel was bound to end and he put in a tired performance in his loss to Raonic. That loss -- combined with Djokovic's run to the title -- put the year-end No. 1 spot just about out of reach. Djokovic would have to play a disastrous tournament in London to keep the door open for Federer. Then again, getting a few additional days of rest couldn't hurt Federer at this point in the season.
Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil: The Wimbledon champions didn't play together much during the fall and they paid the price. They got nipped by Australian Open champions Robert Lindstedt and Lukasz Kubot for the Slam champion exemption at the World Tour Finals, missing the final spot by just 50 points.
Photo of the week
Tweet of the week
In case you missed it
- Dimitrov played Paris-Bercy with a new blacked out racket. He's been experimenting with the new Federer line of rackets for a while.
- A strong final push from the American men put Sam Querrey at No. 34, Steve Johnson at No. 37 and Jack Sock at No. 42 to finish the season.
Sweet shot here, Sam:
- Speaking of Sock, he played Raonic five times this season and had a 0-5 record in a series of tough, tight matches. Who knows what his season looks like if he just gets one of those wins. Their last three matches ended in third set tiebreakers.
- Poor Kevin Anderson. He beat No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in one of the biggest wins of his career and then fell to 0-12 against Berdych, this time losing 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Fun fact: All 12 of their meetings have occurred in the last three seasons.
- Victoria Azarenka is back training:
- And Juan Martin del Potro is doing this:
- Who would be the better part-time player: Rafael Nadal or Kei Nishikori?
- Dominika Cibulkova -- who made the Austrailian Open final, won Acapulco, made the Kuala Lumpur final in April and then made just one quarterfinal for the rest of the season -- finishes the season at No. 11. Is that insanely high or insanely low?
- After all the talk this season of the breakout performances from the likes of Wawrinka, Cilic, Nishikori, Dimitrov and Raonic, how funny will it be if the season ends with the ATP's Big Four in the top four?