Aces and Faults: Nishikori, Kerber triumph in Barcelona, Stuttgart
Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Kei Nishikori successfully defended his Barcelona Open title, Angelique Kerber downed Caroline Wozniacki for the trophy in Stuttgart and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won his second title of the year in Bucharest.
Kei Nishikori: Nishikori successfully defended his Barcelona Open title, losing just one set all week and beating Pablo Andujar 6–4, 6–4 in the final. In fact, Barcelona was Nishikori's second consecutive title defense, after winning the Memphis Open in February. And how's this for an impressive Nishikori stat: He's 21–1 when playing a tournament as a top seed. Clutch.
Angelique Kerber: The German has now won eleven consecutive matches after winning the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, rallying from 3–5 down in the third set to beat Caroline Wozniacki 3–6, 6–1, 7–5 in the final. After seemingly in free-fall for the first three months of the season, Kerber has now completely turned her season around and is a genuine threat on clay.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The Spaniard won his second title of the year, beating Jiri Vesely to win the Bucharest Open. At 31 years old, another example of a tour veteran playing his best after 30.
Caroline Wozniacki: She was two points away from her biggest title in years in Stuttgart, having served for the match at 5–3, 30–all. The disappointment was palpable after the match, but Wozniacki has to focus on the positive. She beat the best pure clay-courter in the game in No. 3 Simona Halep, as well as No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro.
Pablo Andujar: Andujar fell short in the final, but he notched upset after upset in Barcelona. He beat No. 12 Feliciano Lopez in straight sets, got his first win over Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinals, and then upended No. 3 seed David Ferrer in straight sets. In the final, he played near lights-out tennis in the second set to force Nishikori to raise his level. Quality week.
Madison Brengle: Can the American secure a seeding for the French Open? She's up to No. 36 after a surprise run to the Stuttgart semifinals, paving the way with a straight set win over No. 4 Petra Kvitova.
Rafael Nadal: After a confidence-boosting week in Monte Carlo, Nadal played a terrible match to lose in straight sets to Fognini in the third round in Barcelona. We'll cede the floor to Rafa here: "My forehand has been my biggest virtue," he said. "But today my forehand was vulgar, it wasn't a forehand worthy of my ranking and career. I need my forehand to push my opponents back."
Fabio Fognini: He beat Nadal for the second time this year, then lost 6–1, 6–3 the next day to a Andujar, a guy he never came close to losing a set to. Such is the life of Fabio Fognini.
Ana Ivanovic: The No. 7 hasn't won back-to-back matches in her last three tournaments and is now 0–3 against Caroline Garcia this year. The Frenchwoman beat her 7–6(6), 6–4 in the first round of Stuttgart. Ivanovic made the Stuttgart final last year.
Maria Sharapova: The three-time defending champion lost her opening match to eventual champion Kerber, 2–6, 7–5, 6–1. There shouldn't be much panic in the Sharapova camp yet though. Sharapova played well enough to win the match in straight sets but Kerber's level in the final frame was unbeatable.
Sabine Lisicki: Coming off a disappointing Fed Cup performance in Russia, the German was double-bageled by Zarina Diyas in her opening round in Stuttgart. Here she is trying to alleviate the tension by singing along to "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, but the lyric seemed to hit too close to home.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
No-handshakes happen on the ATP too. Here's Lukas Rosol and Garcia-Lopez:
Shot of the week
Fognini stuns both Nadal and his girlfriend, Flavia Pennetta:
In case you missed it:
- Halep moves up to No. 2 on Monday as Maria Sharapova slips to No. 3. This is an important race to keep an eye on for French Open seeding purposes.
- Sharapova had a good sense of humor after taking a bad tumble during her loss to Kerber. "I always end up tumbling at some point during the clay season. It's really nothing new. I'm so used to it. It's like, another one bites the dust," she said.
The fans had a sense of humor about it too:
- Another seeding race involves the No. 4 spot on the ATP, which will likely come down to Nadal or Nishikori. Nadal landing outside the Top 4 could have significant draw implications in Paris.
- Fognini may have hit the best shot under pressure, but this shot from Marius Copil in Bucharest was fantastic:
- One of the running jokes in Stuttgart all week was Andrea Petkovic's prescient pre-tournament pick of Kerber to win the title. Really? A Kerber over both Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep? Yes, Kerber. And she was right.
- Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won the doubles title in Stuttgart and the pair is now No. 1 in the Road to Singapore doubles rankings. No. 1 Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis lost their first match as a team.
- Halep hot shot from Stuttgart:
- Not-so-hot shot of the week:
- Happy 30th birthday to John Isner:
- As one teenager departs, another enters: Nick Kyrgios turns 20 on Monday. Also on Monday: 18-year-old Hyeon Chung makes his Top 100 debut at No. 88.
- Want to see what a tank looks like? Take it away Michal Przysiezny, and be sure to stay for match point:
- Current debate bubbling: Is Nishikori the biggest threat to Djokovic at the French Open?
- It was just one tournament, but I loved how aggressive Wozniacki played up until the last 15 minutes of her Stuttgart campaign.
- Home court advantage is a complicated concept in tennis. Players don't actually get to play at home very often, which means the week can be fraught with pressure and stress. Count Kerber as one player who excels when the crowd is behind her.