Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. While Fed Cup action took place across the globe, the ATP's tournaments saw landmark wins for Richard Gasquet and Victor Estrella Burgos.
Richard Gasquet: The Frenchman won his first title since 2013 on Sunday, capturing his second Montpellier title after he won 14 straight points to open the final before a sick Jerzy Janowicz retired after three games. Janowicz had been dealing with a fever for two days and couldn't muster the energy to compete on Sunday. "I knew he was sick when we were warming up," Gasquet said. "I saw very quickly at the beginning of the match that he couldn’t play at all." Despite the way it ended it was a good week for Gasquet, who beat Gael Monfils 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals.
Victor Estrella Burgos: The 34-year-old from the Dominican Republic became the oldest first-time title winner on the ATP and the first Dominican man to win an ATP title with his 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 victory over Feliciano Lopez in the Ecuador Open final. "The truth is that Quito has become a very special city for me," Estrella Burgos said. "It actually already was, as I've won Challengers here. Today has been a very tough day for me where I was a set up, and later I lost the tie-break. In the third set I was up a break, and I didn't manage the nerves well. I got a little bit nervous, but thanks to God, I relaxed a bit in the tie-break, and I was able to win the mini-break and win the match." The win puts Burgos on the verge of his Top 50 debut. Read more about him here.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The 31-year-old beat Andreas Seppi for the first time in five matches to win the Zagreb Indoors. Garcia-Lopez beat Seppi 7-6 (4), 6-3 to win his fourth career ATP title.
Serena Williams: Let's be clear: Serena Williams didn't have to return to Indian Wells. She's No. 1 and doesn't need the tournament for points or titles. The matches won't serve as a lead-up to a major. She has already left millions of dollars on the table for skipping it the last 14 years. But her return to Indian Wells is good for the tournament, good for the sport and good for her. She gets a chance to rewrite the history of her family's relationship with the tournament -- from all indication, Venus will continue to skip the event -- and she comes off as the magnanimous one. For a player who has had her own rough moments regarding her on-court image, this decision continues this era of the more mature Serena.
Andrea Petkovic: The German won the Fed Cup Heart Award last year and made a pretty good case for winning it again this year. She went into the weekend 0-3 on the season and was struggling with her confidence, and was under pressure from the start after Australia's Jarmila Gajdosova pulled off a stunning win over Germany's No. 1 Angelique Kerber. Petkovic responded by enduring a three hour and 16 minute epic to beat Sam Stosur 6-4, 3-6, 12-10 to stay level after Day 1. On Sunday, after Kerber gave the Germans a 2-1 lead with a win over Stosur, Petkovic stepped up to clinch the tie, beating Gajdosova 6-3, 3-6, 8-6.
Highlights of Petkovic's win over Stosur:
Maria Sharapova: She wasn't happy to have to go to Poland after the Australian Open, but Sharapova certainly made the best of it. She went 2-0 over the weekend, including a strong 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska on Sunday to seal the win for Russia and move them into the semifinals. They'll host the Germans in April. The question is: Will Sharapova be there?
Highlights of Sharapova's clinical win over Radwanska:
Venus Williams: The older sister served as the clincher in Argentina, leading the U.S. to a 3-1 win over Argentina. Venus went 2-0 over the weekend and sealed the win after CoCo Vandeweghe, who was subbed in for Serena (illness) on Day 2, lost on Sunday. Venus is now 11-1 for the season and the win put the U.S. into the World Group playoffs for a chance at promotion.
Amelie Mauresmo: From coaching Andy Murray, to the Australian Open final, to leading France to a historic comeback against Italy -- it was all in a week's worth of work for Mauresmo. For the first time ever, France rallied from 0-2 down to win, beating the four-time champions 3-2 with a flourish. The key move was Mauresmo's decision to replace France's No. 1 Alize Cornet in favor of the youngest woman on the squad, No. 62 Kristina Mladenovic. Mladenovic had only played one singles rubber for France, but Mauresmo liked how her aggressive first-strike tennis matched up against Errani.
“I was either going to be a genius or a nonsense captain," Mauresmo said later. Turns out, it was genius. Not only did Mladenovic rout Errani 6-4, 6-3, but Caroline Garcia also rallied to beat Camila Giorgi 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 and then Mladenovic and Garcia teamed up to absolutely destroy the No. 1 doubles team of Errani and Vinci, winning 6-1, 6-2 to seal the comeback. “They took control of everything,” Mauresmo said. “They were returning like a joke!” It was the first pairing ever between Mladenovic and Garcia, and it handed Vinci her first doubles loss in 19 Fed Cup matches. The comeback marked just the 7th time since 1995 that a team has recovered from going 0-2 down.
The French will travel to the Czech Republic in the semifinals. The defending champions blew past an outclassed Canadian squad to win 4-0 without losing a set.
Garbine Muguruza: The curse and glory of Fed Cup: It takes a team. In her Fed Cup debut for Spain, Muguruza did her best to single-handedly earn the win over Romania as she went 2-0 in singles, including a great win over No. 3 Simona Halep. But the Romanians won the decisive doubles to advance to the World Group playoffs.
Victoria Azarenka: She brought some good spirit to the Europe Zonal ties and went 2-0 with wins over Tsvetana Pironkova and Heather Watson to help Belarus earn a shot at promotion. All that while dealing with lost luggage and the surprise news that her coach Sam Sumyk had been hired by Eugenie Bouchard. Keeping her focus couldn't have been easy.
Team Netherlands: In the surprise result of the weekend, The Netherlands knocked off Slovakia 4-1, with Arantxa Rus and Kiki Bertens teaming up to win three singles matches against Magdalena Rybarikova and Anna Schmiedlova.
Agnieszka Radwanska: It was always going to be an uphill battle for Poland against Russia, but this was a disappointing result for Radwanska. She didn't win a set against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova. The losses were even more of a let-down after how hard she's worked over the years to get Poland back into the elite group.
Simona Halep: Should we be concerned about Halep? Her poor performance in the Australian Open quarterfinals was surprising, and she was blasted off the court at home by Muguruza over the weekend. She's 0-2 against Top 25 opposition this season.
Denys Molchanov: We'll let the investigation into his curious loss to Agustin Vellotti at the Dallas Challenger play out, but this is some incredibly damning evidence of match-fixing.
Malek Jaziri: The man from Tunisia retired while up a set on Denis Istomin and then withdrew from doubles. In both instances he was set to face an Israeli in the next round. Given the Tunisian Tennis Federation's history here -- they were issued a 1-year ban by the ITF for instructing players not to play against Israelis -- Jaziri's actions are more than suspicious. The ATP says it is investigating the situation.
Photo of the week: Fed Cup
Photo of the week: ATP
Video of the week
Zing! You just got ninja'd:
In case you missed it
- To summarize, France will go to the Czech Republic and German will go to Russia for the Fed Cup semifinals. The Teams for France and Germany will likely remain the same, and the Czechs should surely coax Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova back into the fold, but the big question is Russia. Will Sharapova want to interrupt her clay regimen to travel to Moscow? If not, the Germans have a good chance of making their second straight final.
- It was an interesting week for Eugenie Bouchard. She came under a touch of criticism from her Fed Cup captain and teammates for opting out of the first round against the Czech Republic. It was an understandable skip in the big scheme of things. She had other more important things to worry about -- like hiring a coach -- and there are a number of top players who skipped opening ties this weekend, such as Kvitova. That being said, after doing the hard work to get Canada up into the World Group, it was a let-down for Bouchard not to show up and see if she could lead the Canadians into the semis.
- As for Bouchard and Sumyk, this is a great pairing. Sumyk, who coached Vera Zvonareva before his five year stint with Azarenka, is a calm but intense presence. He knows how to work around strong and sometimes difficult personalities. He also knows how to get a player to master an all-court game and that's precisely what Bouchard needs. Right now she's a one-note baseline basher with the talent for more and Sumyk could be the one to help her get there. But the coach-pupil relationship is a two-way street. With her star on the rise and the scrutiny intensifying, how flexible will Bouchard be? Is she willing to take Sumyk's advice to heart, which may mean losses in the short term, in exchange for long term gain?
- You must read these translated comments from Gilles Simon in L'Equipe, as he talks about the nebulous concept of "talent".
- Here's hoping Serena gets the R&R she needs and deserves. She was still coughing in Argentina and didn't look great in the first set of her 7-5, 6-0 win over Maria Irigoyen. Her next tournament is the Dubai Championships next week.
- It's so weird to see Stan Wawrinka down to No. 9.
- Everyone's favorite sportsman from Melbourne, Tim Smyczek, won the Dallas Challenger after Rajeev Ram retired due to illness in the final. In case you missed it, Smyczek was a guest on Slate's Hang Up and Listen Podcast last week.
- Mardy Fish returned to competition for the first time since August 2013, pairing with Mark Knowles in doubles at the Dallas Challenger. He plans to play Indian Wells and Miami. Good to see him back on court.
- Maybe the secret to solving tennis' match-fixing problems is just broadcasting all Challengers matches. Hard to hide when people all over the world are watching.
- Is there a more anticipated possible match-up in the spring than Bouchard-Azarenka? Who knows, it could happen in the second round of Indian Wells.
- Received a few questions about what might happen with Sumyk now coaching the IMG-represented Bouchard and his wife, former player Meilin Tu, representing Azarenka for Lagardere. Tu has been incredibly loyal to Azarenka, so I'm not sure why anything would change.
- Am I the only one who thinks it's very odd that there was a full-on Sugarpova stand at Krakow Arena this weekend? Talk about being a hospitable host. The stuff was flying off the shelves, too.
- I'm still amazed at what France was able to do on Sunday against the Italians. Mladenovic/Garcia made Errani/Vinci look like doubles rookies.
- Capping things off with this tweet of the weekend from Andy Murray: