Aces and Faults: Federer, Ivanovic tune up for Wimbledon with grass titles
Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic and Grigor Dimitrov kicked off the grass season with titles.
Roger Federer: He won a record seventh Gerry Weber Open, beating No. 54 Alejandro Falla 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) in the final. He also defeated No. 12 Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals ... even if Federer didn't realize it. With three victories at the ATP 250 tournament in Halle, Germany (he received a walkover in the quarterfinals), Federer improved his Open era-leading grass-court winning percentage to .874 (125-18) and completed a productive week in preparation for Wimbledon.
Ana Ivanovic: The Serb rebounded from a disappointing third-round loss at the French Open to win the Aegon Classic, her first title on grass. She leads the tour this year with 37 victories an is tied with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova -- both of whom she's beaten in 2014 -- with three titles. Ivanovic, who didn't drop a set in Birmingham, England, while facing five opponents ranked outside the top 32, is also up to No. 11 in the rankings and No. 6 in the Race to Singapore standings.
Grigor Dimitrov: A late wild-card entry after a first-round loss at the French Open, Dimitrov won the Aegon Championships to become the first player with titles on three surfaces this year. The 23-year-old Bulgarian, who won a clay-court title in Romania and a hard-court title in Mexico, crushed Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals and saved a match point in the second set and rallied from a break down in the third to edge Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (8), 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6) in the final in London.
Feliciano Lopez: The 32-year-old Spaniard had a great week at Queen's Club despite a tough loss in his first final of the year, beating Dusan Lajovic, Lleyton Hewitt, Kenny De Schepper, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. He's defending his title in Eastbourne this week.
Radek Stepanek: The 35-year-old Czech knocked out Andy Murray and made the semifinals of Queen's before losing to Lopez. He was crafty throughout the week -- which included wins over Bernard Tomic and Kevin Anderson -- and played one of the best points of the tournament, which you can see at the 51-second mark below:
Kimiko Date-Krumm: The 43-year-old dismissed defending champion Daniela Hantuchova 6-4 6-0 in Birmingham, as well as recent Strasbourg champion Monica Puig 9-7 in a third-set tiebreaker. She was routed by Casey Dellacqua in the quarterfinals, but the 1996 (!) Wimbledon semifinalist -- who is ranked No. 65 -- will be a dangerous floater at the All England Club.
Nemanja Kontic: Since Ivanovic linked up last year with Kontic, a relative unknown in WTA coaching circles, she's been a different player. She's freer these days and that's translated into better tennis. This was Kontic's first tournament coaching on grass and he's now 1-for-1. "I'm kind of person that I just can't be all about work, work, work," Ivanovic said. "I need to really find down time. I enjoy reading. I enjoy walking. I need to find this balance. He made sure I had time to do that, and it was OK. I wouldn't feel guilty doing that either. So I started to be happier just enjoying life more, and I think that made the big difference."
Rally 4 Bally: The British tennis community came together on Sunday to honor former British No. 1 Elena Baltacha (who died of liver cancer at age 30 in May), with exhibitions at Queen's, Birmingham and Eastbourne. It was a fun event that drew the likes of Murray, Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Tim Henman, Marion Bartoli, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska. All proceeds were split evenly between the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the Elena Baltacha Foundation. Donations can still be made here.
Andy Murray: He had eight set points in the first set against Stepanek and lost 7-6 (10), 6-2 in the third round of Queen's. In the grand scheme, there's no need for the defending Wimbledon champion to panic. Murray deserved some time off after his hard-earned run to the French Open semifinals, and the few extra days of rest may do him good for the third major of the year. Plus, he earns high marks for how he fielded question after question about Amelie Mauresmo. Asked by a British reporter about the advantages of having "a lady in your corner [rather] than a chap," Murray had the perfect response: "Lady and chap? Man and woman. Let's stick with that."
Rafael Nadal: With a quick turnaround after his ninth French Open title, an opening-match exit in Halle (where he fell to Dustin Brown 6-4, 6-1) was understandable. But it's hard to ignore his three-match skid on the surface, which dates to his 2012 loss to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Sorry, but no matter his form or the surface, Tsonga shouldn't be losing 6-2, 6-4 to an injured Marinko Matosevic.
Ernests Gulbis: He was back last week to grabbing headlines for his mouth and not his tennis. Gulbis lost to De Schepper 7-6 (3), 7-5 in his first match at Halle but remained in the spotlight: He told the BBC he gambled away a portion of his French Open winnings and dismissed questions about Murray's hiring of Mauresmo by joking that he might hire Sharapova or Ivanovic.
Sloane Stephens: Still on that quest to win a WTA title, Stephens lost to No. 36 Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-1 in the Birmingham quarterfinals.
3: Players who have made a final on three different surfaces this year: Federer, Dimitrov and Ivanovic.
34: Points played in the third-set tiebreaker of a quarterfinal match between Brown and Philipp Kohlschreiber, who won 18-16.
107: The average rank of the opponents Nadal has lost to in his last three matches on grass: No. 85 Brown, No. 135 Steve Darcis and No. 100 Rosol.
36: Dellacqua's new career-high ranking after making the Birmingham semifinals. She began the season ranked No. 130.
Photo of the Week
In case you missed it ...
• It's a rare sight for the No. 1 player to get the "wooden spoon," but that's what happened to Nadal at the Gerry Weber Open. He lost to Brown, who lost to Kohlschreiber, who lost to Falla, who lost to the champion, Federer.
• Federer was a point away from sealing the singles and doubles in Halle. He and fellow Swiss Marco Chiudinelli had four match points but lost to Julian Knowle and Andre Begemann 1-6, 7-5, 12-10 in the final.
• Check out Murray:
Blue steel. #Rally4Bally pic.twitter.com/BwbJTkefvV
— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) June 15, 2014
• Sharapova can fangirl like the best of them:
Maria Sharapova is proud. pic.twitter.com/1y9r7i8Wwa
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 15, 2014
• Watching Ivanovic play this week -- admittedly against soft competition -- it was easy to be reminded why she made the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007. Wimbledon dark horse? Let's see how the draw pans out.