Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. This week, age prevailed on the ATP tour as David Ferrer, Ivo Karlovic and Gilles Simon all captured titles. On the WTA, Simona Halep won her first title of the year in Dubai and Sara Errani grabbed her first title in almost two years in Rio.
Simona Halep: There were quite a few question marks swirling around Halep as she began her tournament at the Dubai Championships. Was she on the verge of a slump? Her poor loss to Ekaterina Makarova in the Australian Open quarterfinals and a surprising loss to Garbine Muguruza on home soil in Fed Cup seemed to indicate a decline could be imminent. Then came rumors that she was nursing an injury that might force her out of the tournament. But Halep returned to her position at No. 3 in the rankings with a strong run to the Dubai title, after she overcame a slow start to put on a clinic and defeat Caroline Wozniacki, and then Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the final. This was precisely the week Halep needed to reassure herself that she's still got it.
David Ferrer: The Spaniard is now 13-1 on the year after he won his second title of the season at the Rio Open with a 6-2, 6-3 to victory over Fabio Fognini. I spoke to Ferrer after his big win and was surprised to hear him say he knows he's in the last few years of his career. That just makes these wins -- and a potential charge back up the rankings -- even sweeter.
Ivo Karlovic: Following the 2015 ATP trend of success for the older group of players, 35-year-old Karlovic blasted his way to the Delray Beach Open title while losing just one set, beating Donald Young 6-3, 6-3 in the title match. Karlovic, who was 0-4 in finals last year, became the oldest player to win an ATP title since Jimmy Connors won in Tel Aviv in 1989 at 37-years-old.
Gilles Simon: The Frenchman continued his strong run of form with a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4) win over Gael Monfils to capture his second Marseille Open title. That makes three players over 30-years-old who won ATP titles this week.
Sara Errani: Errani saved three match points in her quarterfinal against Brazilian wildcard Beatriz Haddid Maia and then rolled to the title with a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win over Anna Schmiedlova for her eighth WTA title.
Karolina Pliskova: It's February 23rd. Do you know who's had the fourth best season on the WTA so far? None other than the 22-year-old Czech, who made her second Premier final of the season (and the biggest final of her career) in Dubai. A week after making the semifinals in Antwerp, Pliskova fought her way to the final by beating a string of quality players in Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Ana Ivanovic, Lucie Safarova and Garbine Muguruza. She fell short at the final hurdle, but she proved once again that she's playing well above her ranking at No. 13 and it's just a matter of time until she's firmly into the Top 10.
Fabio Fognini: The fatigue was understandable for Fognini in the Rio final against Ferrer. He played over five hours of tennis in the previous 48 hours after he beat Federico Delbonis in the quarterfinals and then pulled off the upset over Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. His over No. 3 Nadal snapped a 0-23 losing streak to Top 5 players and handed Nadal his first loss in 12 years in an ATP semifinal on clay. Given his weak start to the season, this was an out-of-nowhere run from the Italian, who played with good aggressive intent throughout the week. It was the best tennis we've seen from him in nearly a year.
Garbine Muguruza: She made her first WTA semifinal of the year in Dubai after a a memorable come-from-behind win over Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3.
Gael Monfils: The Frenchman did what he always does: Win matches in France. But his 5-17 record in finals speaks volumes about his career.
Donald Young: That's back-to-back semifinals for Young, who made the semis at the Memphis Open last week and did one better this week, reaching his first ATP Final since 2011. His best win of the week came against No. 24 Alexandr Dolgopolov.
John Isner: The top American lost in his opening match at the Delray Beach Open, losing 6-4, 6-4 to Marinko Matosevic. Isner, now ranked at No. 20, is 3-3 on the year with losses to Gilles Muller, Sam Querrey, and Matosevic. He needs a boost of confidence before Indian Wells, where he's defending semifinal points.
Belinda Bencic: The teen phenom has won just one match in 2015. That came in the first round of Dubai over No. 58 Karin Knapp. Venus Williams blew her away in the second round, winning 6-1, 6-2.
Ernests Gulbis: He's still winless in 2015 after a loss to Jeremy Chardy in Marseille and an early exit at the Dubai Championships, where he lost to Denis Istomin. He's now 0-5 this season and hasn't won a set in his last three tournaments.
Angelique Kerber: The No. 11 hasn't won back-to-back matches since Sydney. She lost in the second round of Dubai to Flavia Pennetta and is already out of Doha after a 6-0, 6-3 loss to Victoria Azarenka in the first round.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
Shot of the week
In case you missed it
- This tweet from The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta summarizes Nadal's week:
- We have come to expect him to win any and all clay tournaments he plays, especially one that does not feature Novak Djokovic. But after a 3:18 a.m. finish in the quarterfinals, Nadal complained of fatiguing early in his semifinal against Fognini and cramped in the third set. It was an understandable physical response, especially given the tough conditions in Rio. But it's still a rare sight to see Nadal undergo that kind of physical distress, even after a long injury layoff.
- Lost in all the commotion of Fognini's upset of Nadal were the spats between both men and chair umpire Carlos Bernardes. According to one Spanish-speaker, Nadal went so far as to tell Bernardes that he was going to ask the ATP not to put Bernardes on his matches because he puts too much pressure on Nadal for time violations. It was an uncharacteristic outburst from the Spaniard given that Bernardes is doing nothing but enforcing the ATP rule as written.
- Thanasi Kokkinakis has successfully qualified for three consecutive ATP tournaments. The 18-year-old, now up to No. 138, is doing it the hard way. Respect.
- Caroline Wozniacki did well to make the Dubai semifinals given a niggling knee injury.
- Halep withdrew from Doha citing an injury. But you know who didn't withdraw? Pliskova. She's played nearly non-stop tennis since the beginning of the year, going from Australia to North America to Europe to the Middle East. Every player wants to ride the wave of momentum, but with Indian Wells and Miami coming up, isn't it time for a break?
- Here's a collection of WTA Hot Shots from Dubai:
- Nadal is the heavy favorite at the Argentina Open this week. Surely he makes his first final and wins, right?
- Fognini's get on match point to defeat Nadal is one of the most spectacular match point shots I've ever seen.
- Food for thought quote from a colleague in Rio this week: "Fognini is a flat out better tennis player than Ferrer. But tennis about more than that, isn't it."