Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week at the Madrid Open, Andy Murray won his second clay court title in a week and Petra Kvitova downed Serena William's perfect record in 2015 to make her way to the Madrid Open title.
Andy Murray: "Marriage works!" Nice to see Murray's self-awareness after beating Rafael Nadal 6–3, 6–2 at the Madrid Open to win his first ATP Masters 1000 on clay and second clay title in a week. There's no doubt he's been the second-best player on tour this season.
Petra Kvitova: When she plays at her best level, Kvitova is the second-best player on tour behind only Serena Williams. We know how good she can be, it's only a question of whether she can be that good on any given day. Sure enough, the run to her second Madrid Open title was perfectly Kvitovian. She nearly lost in the first round to a qualifier ranked outside the top 100, then finished the week by handing Serena her first loss of the season in a rout and then barely broke a sweat to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: The Russian's resurgent run to the final was a feat of incredible strength and endurance. She played six matches in eight days—including three in a span of 40 hours—and played her best match in the semifinals when she beat No. 2 Maria Sharapova 6–2, 6–4. Kuznetsova, always a threat on clay, has quietly put together a solid 12 months. She's back in the Top 20 at No. 18, her highest ranking since February 2012.
Nick Kyrgios: Sure, he lost to John Isner in straight sets the next day, but the 20-year-old is now 2–0 against Nadal and Roger Federer after saving two match points to beat the top seed 6–7(2), 7–6(5), 7–6(12) in Madrid. He's brash, he's bold, and if he stays healthy, he's the future. It's going to be a fun ride.
John Isner: It didn't grab headlines, but Isner earned his best result in Madrid, making the quarterfinals with wins over Kyrgios, Thomaz Bellucci and Adrian Mannarino. He lost to Berdych in a third-set tiebreaker, but that's a good week for the American.
Rafael Nadal: After walloping Tomas Berdych in the semis to advance to the final without dropping a set, it felt like Nadal was back on course with his game. Prior to the tournament he decided to end his racket experimentation and return to his old trusty Babolat. Against Berdych his forehand was as devastating as ever. Then he came out and played an absolutely terrible match to lose to Murray. That match-to-match inconsistency, which we've seen a few times this season, continues to plague Nadal.
Tomas Berdych: The one question I'm begging to ask Berdych: "You've made the semifinals or better at seven of your eight tournaments this season but have yet to win a title. Are you happy or frustrated with those results?" His answer would be revealing. As for this week, it was yet another semifinal, another poor loss to one of the ATP's Big Four—a 7–6, 6–1 loss to Nadal.
Roger Federer: Setting aside his title run at the Istanbul Open, Federer is 0–2 at the two biggest clay events of the season, losing to Gael Monfils (Monte Carlo) and Kyrgios (Madrid). Looking at the ATP's Road to London rankings, Federer is now at No. 7.
Madrid Open scheduling: Between Murray's late-night match that ended at 3 a.m. to a schedule that left the likes of Serena, Sharapova and Kuznetsova fatigued by week's end, Madrid needs to sort out its scheduling issues. The first change that needs to happen: Reduce the number of matches on the main court from six to five (three day session, two night session), and move up the start time by an hour on the outer courts. Second: The women's final shouldn't be squished in-between the men's semifinal on Saturday. Leave it on Sunday to give players some rest.
Photo of the week
Video of the week
In case you missed it
You say tomato, I say to-mah-toe:
- Milos Raonic withdrew from Rome and will undergo surgery to repair a nerve problem in his right foot. The good news is he's up to a career-high ranking of No. 4.
- It's the Catch-22 of tennis: You need to play matches to get used to playing through your nerves in tight matches. But if you keep losing those tight matches because of nerves, you don't get to play that many matches. You had to feel for Victoria Azarenka, who was in a winning position against Serena in the third round—she led 5-1 in the first set tiebreak and had triple match point in the third set—and lost 7–6 (5), 3–6, 7–6 (1). Serving for the match, she double-faulted three consecutive times to get broken.
- Eugenie Bouchard's losing streak is now at six matches after losing to Barbora Strycova in the first round of Madrid after bageling her in the first set. She lost 0–6, 6–3, 6–3. That's a mental loss.
- More bad news for Canada: Vasek Pospisil took a bad fall during his doubles match with Jack Sock in Madrid and had to retire. Sock and the trainer had to carry him to the locker room.
- Nice to get an update from Brian Baker:
- Gael Monfils and Marcel Granollers played the longest ATP match of the season so far. Granollers won 7–6 (6), 6–7 (7), 6–4 after three hours and 20 minutes.
- Some coaching news: Caroline Wozniacki is no longer using Arantxa Sanchez Vicario as a consultant and Petra Kvitova is no longer working with her new physio Alex Stober. Surprising news from both camps given their recent success.
Madrid Open 2015
- Stan Wawrinka has not won back-to-back matches since winning Rotterdam in February.
- Speaking of coaching: Murray will be the first (and has been the first) to tell reporters that the impact of any coaching relationship is never seen immediately. So it was a little surprising to see Jonas Bjorkman get credit for Murray's back-to-back title runs, especially when it was Mauresmo in the box in Madrid.
- Congratulations to Thanasi Kokkinakis on his Top 100 debut. He joins Borna Coric and Hyeon Chung as the third teenager in the Top 100.
- Once again, Andrea Petkovic won the weekend:
- Should the WTA revisit its Premier Mandatory designation for the Madrid Open? The tournament can pony up the money for the sanction but both the organization and the crowds treat the women as an afterthought, with poor scheduling and empty stands.
- Serena likely sees her loss to Kvitova as a good thing. No more talk of streaks heading into the French Open.
- Umpires need to get in a room and hash it out: Murray mutters something barely audible during a match at 1 a.m. in the morning and gets hit with a code violation for an audible obscenity. Earlier in the day, in primetime, Nick Kyrgios clearly and loudly yells an obscenity to the umpire about a call and doesn't get a code violation. I'm not a prude. I'm just for the rules being enforced uniformly.
- Here's a stunning stat: Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic both have career-high rankings (No. 4) that are higher than Tomas Berdych's (No. 5).
- Historically, Madrid has been a better litmus test for Wimbledon success rather than French Open success. If only Murray and Kvitova had well-proven grass court bona fides....
GALLERY: MADRID OPEN 2015 [FULL SIZE]
Madrid Open 2015