Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Andrea Petkovic won the Diamond Games in Antwerp, Stan Wawrinka took his second title of the season in Rotterdam and Kei Nishikori continued his dominance at the Memphis Open.
Stan Wawrinka: There have been no signs of letting up from Wawrinka in 2015. He started the season with a win at the Chennai Open, made the semifinals of the Australian Open and captured his second title of the season at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Championships in Rotterdam on Sunday. The win was Wawrinka's first at an ATP 500 tournament and continued his trend of checking off all of the big boxes on his career resume. His 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych in Sunday's final was a great display of his confidence, as was his semifinal win over Milos Raonic, where he snagged two tiebreaks to win 7-6, 7-6. The Rotterdam title also moves Wawrinka past Berdych in the ATP rankings at No. 7 and behind Raonic, who holds the No. 6 spot. But over the first six weeks of the season it's clear that Wawrinka is playing Top 5 ball.
Check out these hands in the final:
Andrea Petkovic: No one has played more tennis in the last 10 days than Petkovic. After playing two lengthy three-setters that kept her on court for over five hours at Fed Cup, the German saved eight match points in her opening match against Alison Van Uytvanck at the Diamond Games in Antwerp to win 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-2 in three hours and 19 minutes, the longest WTA match of the year. That also happened to be Petkovic's first win on the WTA Tour this season. She followed it up with good wins over Dominika Cibulkova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, before getting a walkover in the final from Carla Suarez Navarro, who was forced to withdraw with a neck injury. No one likes winning a title without playing a final, but I'm sure Petkovic didn't mind the extra rest. The title puts her back into the Top 10 for the first time since 2012.
Kei Nishikori: The No. 5 hasn't lost a match in Memphis in three years, and earned the three-peat with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kevin Anderson at the Memphis Open. It wasn't the dominant tennis we're used to seeing from Nishikori though. He lost the first set in every match save the the final, and came dangerously close to falling to Ryan Harrison (6-4 in the third), Austin Krajicek (6-4 in the third) and Sam Querrey (7-6 (5) in the third).
Pablo Cuevas: The recurring storyline on the ATP has been late-career breakthroughs and we can add 29-year-old Cuevas to the list. The Uruguayan is up to a career-high No. 23 after winning his third ATP title at the Brasil Open. Cuevas won his first two titles last year in Bastad and Umag, both on clay.
Daniela Hantuchova: Never question Hantuchova's commitment to her tennis and her career. The 31-year-old linked up with Carlos Rodriguez in Beijing during the off-season and now, just six weeks into the year, she's won her first WTA title since 2013. She rallied from a set down to beat Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win her third Pattaya Open title. She saved two match points in the semifinals against Marina Erakovic, too.
Luca Vanni: A week after Victor Estrella Burgos gave us one of the best stories we'll see this season, 29-year-old Luca Vanni one-upped him. The Italian, ranked No. 149, went into the Brasil Open without ever winning an ATP Tour main draw match in his career. In fact, he had never even played one until just last month. But Vanni served as a reminder that in tennis, the slate is wiped clean from week to week. Vanni won six matches in eight days (three in qualifying) to reach his first ATP final, where he lost in three tough sets to Cuevas.
Ajla Tomljanovic: The 21-year-old made her first WTA final, narrowly losing out to Hantuchova. We're still waiting for the big breakthrough result for Tomljanovic and this was a great step forward.
Kim Clijsters: How many tournament directors would be able to suit up for an exhibition on a moment's notice? In her first year as the tournament director of the newly revived Diamond Games, Clijsters did all the heavy lifting -- sometimes literally. With the unexpected news that Suarez Navarro would not be able to compete in the final on Sunday, Clijsters grabbed her racket and took the court against Petkovic for an exhibition. The retired champion won 5-3 and didn't look like she's missed a step.
Highlights from the Clijsters-Petkovic exhibition:
American men: They didn't come away with any trophies, but the American men took the Memphis Open by storm. Donald Young and Sam Querrey earned their first semifinals of the season -- Young beat Bernard Tomic and Querrey ousted John Isner in the quarterfinals. Querrey is now the second-highest American behind Isner.
It was also a big week for the youngsters. Ryan Harrison -- can we still call him a youngster? -- earned a good first round win over Malek Jaziri and played a fantastic match to push Nishikori to the brink in the second round, losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Jared Donaldson, 18, won the battle of the teenagers when he bested Stefan Kozlov 7-5, 6-0. Then there's 24-year-old Austin Krajicek, who came into the tournament with just one career ATP Tour win. He made the quarterfinals in Memphis with wins over Mikhail Kukushkin and Ivo Karlovic, and he took a set off Nishikori.
And on the ATP Challenger circuit, 21-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo became the fourth American to win a Challenger title this season, winning his first in Launceston, Australia.
Tomas Berdych: Berdych played great tennis to get back to the Rotterdam title match, but he's now 0-2 in finals this season. The most troubling aspect of his losses this year -- to David Ferrer (Doha), Andy Murray (Australian Open) and Wawrinka (Rotterdam) -- is his inability to ride the wave of momentum. He looked to be in the in-form player against Ferrer and got plastered in straight sets. He came off of a big upset of Rafael Nadal and took the first set off Murray, only to crumble in the next three in Melbourne. He again looked to be the more dominant player against Wawrinka, but lost the second set and quickly fell 1-4 down in the third. Don't think for a moment that the ATP locker room hasn;t noticed. The word on their lips? Starts with an "s" and ends with a "t": soft.
Eugenie Bouchard: In her first appearance as the top seed of a Premier-level tournament, Bouchard was derailed by Mona Barthel in her opening match, losing 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 in Antwerp. Barthel zoned in the final two sets and her flat game excels on indoor courts, but once again Bouchard didn't do herself any favors by sticking to her own aggressive game plan. The the Canadian was awarded a wildcard into the Dubai Championships on Friday but withdrew from the tournament with a forearm injury on Saturday. On Sunday she was snapping pics at the NBA All-Star game. Optics-wise, not the best week.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
Dustin Brown, ladies and gentlemen:
Vine of the week
In case you missed it
- Simona Halep confirmed that she has stopped working with Thomas Hogstedt. Her reasoning is the same as when she split with Wim Fissette last year: She wants to stick with Romanians. More here.
- Tough February for the Miami Open. It's one trump card over Indian Wells was the presence of Serena Williams and they lost that when she decided to make her return to the California desert. Now comes word that Roger Federer will skip the tournament.
- Tommy Haas is hard at work on a comeback. He's getting mad and throwing rackets and everything.
- The Ernests Gulbis slump is officially for real: He's won ten matches since making the French Open semifinal and is on a five-match losing streak.
- This tweet happened:
- And then this tweet happened:
- Both Federer and Wawrinka are sitting out Switzerland's first round Davis Cup tie against Belgium. Does the Davis Cup format need fixing?
- A self-imposed 72-hour cool-off period solves a host of problems in life including this one: If you pull out of a tournament citing an injury or illness, don't put "look at how much fun I'm having" posts on social media for a few days. I know it's not fair but it's for the best.
- Nadal expressed his surprise that the ITF has chosen to host the Rio Olympics on hard courts. I'll go one further, Rafa: I'm disappointed. It's been over 20 years since the tennis competition was on clay and it would be a fair return given the last two Olympics were on hard court (Beijing) and grass (London).