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The 2019 tennis season begins....

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    This week’s Tour level finals are a few hours away. Who is in them, and how did that come about?

    The bigger of the two events on the ATP this week is in Barcelona, as that is a 500 whereas Budapest is a 250. So let’s start with that. And the big story of this is the name missing from the final – Rafael Nadal. As in Monte Carlo, he lost in the Semi. His defeat to Fognini on the Riviera was, by his own admission, a very poor performance. He was still struggling in R2 of this (R1 was a bye), having to come from a set down to beat Leonardo Mayer. R3 was an old school match against David Ferrer, who had a good run in the penultimate tournament of his career, that Nadal won 3&3 (Ferrer beat M.Zverev and Pouille to get to that stage). Then 7-5 7-5 against Jan-Lenard Struff, which is less convincing than normal, followed by a 4-6 4-6 loss to Dominic Thiem today.
    The assumption is Rafa will have it sorted by Paris, and will still be favourite to take the title both there and in Madrid and Rome in advance of that. But he does usually hit the ground running, winning these two events and that hasn’t happened this year. He appears far more vulnerable than usual. By contrast doesn’t, Thiem doesn’t. Indeed Nadal’s eight games is the most any of his opponents have taken off him so far en route to the final. The win over Rafa also matters as Thiem was the runner-up in Paris last year... Thiem’s opponent in the show piece will be Daniil Medvedev, who is having a good clay court campaign. The only set he has dropped was in R2 against Albert Ramos Vinolas (more on whom later).
    One other note from Barcelona is this tournament had one of those occasions where two players play in the final round of qualifying, and then meet again in the 1st Round proper after the defeat player gets a lucky loser berth and is drawn against the guy who beat him. The players in this case Nicolas Jarry and Marcels Granollers. Granollers won their final q match 6-7[3] 7-5 6-4, only for Jarry to get revenge in the main draw 7-5 4-6 6-4. Based on those six sets, I’d say it was a draw between the pair of them! Jarry went on to beat #2 A.Zverev and #13 Dimitrov to make the QFs (lucky indeed) before losing to Medvedev.
    Over in Budapest, the final is between two non-seeded players, Matteo Berrettini and Filip Krajinovic. Krajinovic even came through qualifying. Berrettini has won one Tour level title before (in Gstaad on clay last year) whilst Krajinovic is more known for hard courts – his only previous Tour level final was actually a Masters Series one, the Paris Indoor at the back end of 2017 (l to Sock). That was an event that all of the big four either missed or withdrew from with injury.

    Missing or withdrawing from injury was also the main story in the WTA’s leading event this week in Stuttgart. That could have been a battle for the No.1 position, but the chase was undermined before the start when one of the candidates, Simona Halep, scratched due officially a left hip injury but also likely a mix of fatigue and disappointment after the Fed Cup epic the previous weekend.
    That left Naomi Osaka defending her spot from Petra Kvitova. What Osaka needed was SF points, and she got those thanks to over Hsieh Su-wei and Donna Vekic. The Vekic one came via a third set tie-break, and somewhere during that match Osaka did herself an abdominal injury that forced her to withdraw from playing Anett Kontaveit in the last four. Kontaveit had also benefitted from a retirement from Vika Azarenka in the QFs, though not until the third set. Azarenka had previously beaten defending champion Karolina Pliskova and Vera Zvonereva (who got in as a lucky loser) in the first two rounds, not in that order.
    So Kontaveit into the final. There she will play Petra Kvitova, who would be the first Woman to finally win two titles in 2019 if she takes the match. Petra already leads the WTA in finals reached, with this being her fourth (won Sydney, r-up Aussie and Dubai). The most intriguing match Kvitova faced was her first against a youngish Beligan player, Greet Minnen. Minnen, ranked outside the top 200 but playing way better than that, had fought through three rounds of qualifying and beat Dominica Cibulkova in R1. She has a big serve and game, but Kvitova came through in straight sets. Three setters against Sevastova and Bertens in the next two rounds sent Petra to the showpiece. Bertens, by the way and rather surprisingly for an arch-clay courter, had never previously won a match at Stuttgart prior to making this year’s Semi. She has said the indoor nature of the court and shallower than usual layer of clay used make it play much more like a hardcourt. That is rather backed up by the two players in the final. One, Kvitova, is a double Wimbledon champion and the other, Kontaveit, has only previously won one Tour level tournament and that also on grass in Rosmalen.
    The other WTA event of the week is in Istanbul, and the final here also features a Czech player. That is rising star Marketa Vondrousova. She plays Petra Martic in the final, which means another new name on to the roll of honour for 2019 as, despite Vondrousova having made a final previously this year (in Budapest), she hasn’t won a crown. But she has won one previously, way back in 2017 as a 17 year-old, whereas the much more experienced Martic (aged 28) only has two Tour level runner-up efforts on her resume.

    And what of the Brits? Well, as stated up thread, none were involved on the WTA with just Cameron Norrie playing singles on the ATP. Those paying close attention will have already figured out he lost in R1 because, as mentioned in a previous post, he was up against Ramos Vinolas. And as I state above Ramos Vinolas took a set off Thiem in the tournament, which means he must have beaten Norrie. And indeed he did, comfortably (2&2).
    Much more happened on the doubles court though, both in terms of entrants and success. Indeed both ATP finals tomorrow (checks watch – today!) will feature Brits. J.Murray/Soares take on Cabal/Farah in Barcelona, which is #2 vs #3 seeds and K. & N.Skupski play Daniell/Koolhof in Budapest, which is #3 against non-seed. Murray/Soares only just edged past the other half-British pair in the Barcelona Semis, beating Salisbury/Klaasen 11-9 in a match breaker.
    Back over to Mitteleuropa, where two other British or half-British pairs went out in the QFs, which by context represents rather different levels of success. It would have been a disappointment for Inglot/Bopanna, as they were the #1 seeds for the event and Inglot the defending champion. But for Bambridge/O’Mara it was both a notable achievement and an opportunity lost as to get there they had to beat #2 seeds Gonzalez/Middelkoop in R1, but then didn’t back it up against a non-seeded pair at the next stage.


      Results of today’s various finals were:-
      Thiem beat Medvedev in Barcelona in a meeting of two players who both already had a title to their names this season. Pretty comfortably by the scoreline, in fact (4&0). Thiem now joins Federer on two titles for the season, whilst Medvedev sits next to his goatiness on three finals played.
      Berrettini beat Krajinovic in Budapest, recovering from a set down to do so. As noted above that means he now has two career titles and Krajinovic is still to break his duck.
      On the Women’s side, the streak has been broken as Petra Kvitova becomes the first player to have two 2019 titles to her name after a straight sets win against Anett Kontaveit in Stuttgart. That put Petra within ~150 points of Naomi Osaka at the top of the Women’s rankings, but she isn’t going to take over as no.1 any time soon as following Stuttgart 2018 she won titles in Prague and Madrid back-to-back; she isn’t even defending her Prague crown this year, so is sure to lose points and then can only hold station by retaining the Prem Mandatory in Spain.
      The Istanbul final went Petra Martic’s way in three as she beat Marketa Vondrousova. That was Martic’s first career crown. A better day for Petras than Czechs overall, then...

      On the Brits/Doubles front, the Skupski brothers picked up their second title together (career) in their third final as a tandem of 2019 as they beat Daniell/Koolhof in Budapest, whilst J.Murray/Soares could not repeat their Sydney final victory over Cabal/Farah, losing in straight sets to be beaten in a title match against the Colombians for the first time (now 2-1 career to the British/Brazilian pair in finals with these line ups, Jamie Murray also has a further 1-1 against Cabal/Farah in his previous team with John Peers).

      On to next week, and what we have in store. Or more like what is already going on in the qualies where some of the Brits are concerned. This is as there are more playing this week as Paris begins to loom and people accept that they have to play some on clay sooner or later.

      The ATP events (both 250s) are in Estoril and Munich.
      Dan Evans was the only Brit playing singles in Portugal, and he even won three straight sets in the qualies to be one away from the main draw, but then lost two in a row to fall at the final hurdle. Evans was the 2nd seed in the qualies draw, which means he still has a decent chance of playing the main draw if there are lucky loser slots going. There will be Brits playing the doubles, with Salisbury/Ram the top seeds and Bambridge/O’Mara also on the drawsheet.
      Munich is one of the most venerable events on the calendar (first held in 1900) and used to be a step higher in the pecking order. It’s also where Andy Murray became the first Brit for yonks to win a Tour level clay court event back in 2015. It would be lovely if Kyle Edmund were to follow him, as winning any form of title is clearly the next step in his career. Edmund is seeded #5, and the only Brit in either the main or qualifying singles draws. His first round opponent is Denis Kudla (USA). Two British or partially British pairs are seeds in the Doubles, Inglot/Bopanna taking top billing and N./K.Skupski being the 3rd ranked pair.

      The WTA events this week are both Internationals, one in Prague as alluded to above, the other in Rabat.
      The Prague entry is heavy on Czechs, Slovaks and other Slavs obviously, but light on Brits. Completely weightless on the later in fact.
      Rabat, by contrast, had two singles entrants from these shores, both seeds albeit at different levels of the event. Jo Konta has a little 7 by her name in the main draw. She plays Wang Yafan in R1 which sounds eminently losable. Harriet Dart was the 5th seed in the qualifying draw, but lost her first match to Harmony Tan of France. Dart and Konta are also teaming up for the Doubles, but might not last long having landed #2 seeds Panova/Zvonareva in R1.


        Good week for Jo Konta so far. Her best of 2019 in fact. Wins over Wang Yafan, Anna Bogdan and #2 Hsieh Su-wei, all three-setters, have taken her to her first Semi of the season. The victory over Hsieh on a clay court is arguably Jo's best standalone win of 2019 to date (she also dismantled Hsieh in Indian Wells, but that was on hard and the best by ranking was beating Sloane Stephens in Brisbane back in January). Jo's last four opponent is #4 Alja Tomljanovic to take place today. It will be their third meeting this year, with the previous results one a piece. Tomljanovic won in two in R2 of Brisbane, Konta won in three in R1 of the Aussie, three of the five sets went to tie-breaks (2-1 to Konta). The implication is that it will be close.
        Konta alongside Dart also had a good R1 win in the Rabat Doubles, beating #2 seeds Panova/Zvonereva, but they were then heavily beaten by Garcia Perez/Kalashnikova in the QFs.

        Over on the ATP, Dan Evans luck was out in the Estoril Lucky Loser draws. Unless the regs have changed (they were a 50/50 pick between the two highest ranked players eligible), as the second highest ranked player eliminated in final qualifying Evo was involved in any of these. There were two... and both went to the other guy! That left Kyle Edmund in Munich as the only Brit playing main draw singles. For two sets. Which was how long it took Denis Kudla to beat Edmund. A poor result on the Yorkshireman's part.
        Alongside Konta, there are other Brits still standing on the full tour as of right now, and these are Bambridge/O'Mara, who are through to the Estoril Semis. They will play G.Granolllers/M.Lopez in that, which is an interesting combination as Marc Lopez used to have a very successful partnership with Gerard Granollers much better know older brother, Marcel (Slam runners-up, Tour champions). The other Brit in Portgual, Joe Salisbury, lost in R1 with partner Rajeev Ram. Which was disappointing, seeing as they were the top seeds for the event. Also top seeded were Inglot/Bopanna in Munich. Same outcome, out in R1. K./N.Skupski did win their R1 match in Munich, but then fell at the next hurdle.


          Konta is into the Rabat final, after beating Tomljanovic in straight sets (just one tie-break this time) Her first Tour level final on clay, and indeed the first Tour clay court where she was won more multiple matches. Also her first final since Nottingham last summer. Her opponent will be Maria Sakkari, and to be honest despite them being the 6th and 7th seeds (Konta the lower), I'd make Sakkari the strong favourite tomorrow despite her not having won a Tour level title before.
          Obviously given the above, neither of Konta or Sakkari has a title to their name in 2019 to date. And neither do the two finalists in Prague, Teichmann and Muchova, who are both into their career debut title matches.
          Last edited by Janik; 03-05-2019, 21:24.


            On the Men's side, Bambridge/O'Mara are into the Estoril final. That is their third of the year, but the previous two were defeats (they do have two Tour titles together from 2018). There is British honour to defend on Sunday - the 2018 Estoril doubles champs were Edmund/Norrie.


              In shock news, there were no new names to add to the ATPs roll of honour from 2019 last week. That is because two champions, Stefanos Tsitsipas in Estoril and Christian Garin in Munich had previously won in Marseille and Houston respectively. A second title had been guaranteed for somone in Munich, as Garin's opponent in the final was Matteo Berrettini, who was fresh from winning in Budapest, so was on a nine match winning run. That was the second extended run of success that Garin ended across the week, as in the QFs he beat top seed Sascha Zverev, who had won the Munich title in both 2017 and 2018. Tsitsipas' win came over Pablo Cuevas, in what was the veteran Uruguyan's first singles final in over two years (it's nearly as long since he was in a doubles title match).
              Talking of doubles, Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara suffered their third final defeat of the season in Estoril. This one was to French pair Chardy/Martin.

              Two new names were certain on the WTA as the four singles finalists were all in their first of 2019. Or in the case of the Prague pair, first ever. That one went to Jil Teichmann, who beat Karolina Muchova in three. Over in Rabat, Maria Sakkari made it a good week for Greece with her first ever Tour title. I presume this was the first time ever that a Greek woman and man had won Tour events in the same week, given it was Sakkari's debut crown and there was no Greek male around that I remember at the time when Eleni Daniilidou was a top 20 player and winning occasional Tour events (having looked it up, she collected 5 titles between 2002-08 though technically she could add to that as she hasn't officially retired yet). By elimination, Sakkari winning the Morocco title means Jo Konta didn't. She gave herself every chance, going into a 6-2 4-2 lead. But Sakkari raised her level somewhat, and Jo sadly (though rather more commonly these days) blinked at the line rather than closing things out. Indeed Konta won just one more game from that score. The mentally rock solid player is a thing of the past, albeit she is nowhere near as flaky as the pre-2015 version. A pity to end a great, breakthrough week on clay on that low note.

              Regarding Konta, the Rabat run was both her first clay court event with three straight wins, her first QF, SF and Final on the surface and also took her career wins on clay into double figures (a pretty incredible stat for it to be in single figures for a former World No.4, but there you go). It means her last title remains the biggest one she has claimed, in Miami, but that is now over two years ago. Miami is a Prem Mandatory for the Women, which gives a nice segue into this week as the one clay Prem Mandatory is underway in Madrid. And indeed R1 is completed, as that was played on Saturday and yesterday. Konta was in the right side of the draw for her R1 match to be played on Sunday, and, having hopped over the Med she picked up a good win over Alison Riske. So having won 7 matches in her previous three complete Tour level clay court seasons, Jo has won 5 inside a week...
              Making it lucky 13 will be an enormous ask though, as her R2 draw is Simona Halep! Ulp. The other aim would be advancing her ranking from the 41 being runner-up in Rabat raised it to, to inside the top 32. That is a major ask as R2 in Madrid is par with last year, so she will only gain points if she beats the French Open champion on her best surface, and Jo reached R3 in Rome in 2018, so again will need to be taking down seeds to improve on that. The 100 points left on the court in Morocco hurt, as with those she would be within 90 of the target as opposed to 190 away (and also ahead of Sakkari rather than behind her!). Konta vs Halep is due up tomorrow.

              Konta is the only British woman playing in Madrid as she was the only one whose ranking was high enough to make the main draw, and the others didn't opt to battle through qualifying. They might all be in some high value challenger instead (which reminds me, I must update on those!). Likewise, Kyle Edmund is the only British man in the singles draw as Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie are absent. Norrie must have been close to making the main draw cut, but as he didn't has skipped the qualies, which surprises me a bit given his past success on clay. Evo not bothering battling through the difficult route on comfortably his worst surface is no shock at all. Edmund has now dropped too low down to be seeded at an event like this, which means he has got a nasty R1 draw in Monte Carlo champion Fabio Fognini.
              That takes place tomorrow, but first Edmund and N.Skupski will start their doubles campaign which is due on court imminently. They are far from the only British or half-British pair in Castile, though only #3 J.Murray/Soares are still standing. That is because Salisbury/Ram and Inglot/Bopanna both lost in R1.

              On the non-British front, this is due to be David Ferrer's last ever tournament. He has drawn fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in R1, with the winner to play Sascha Zverev in R2. It could be a blaze of glory to finish with. A notable name included on the Men's drawsheet is Juan Martin del Potro, who would be playing his first event since February and only his second in over six months since his latest injury setback. Despite Delpo's long absence, he is still the 7th seed for the event. He has a R1 bye and then a tough starter on Wednesday against Laslo Djere, who has been making some noise this season. Delpo is also playing the doubles w/ Nishikori (intriguing pairing) and they won their R1 match today. Also due on Wednesday is probably the most intriguing match of the event so far, Rafa Nadal against Felix Auger Aliassime. There is much to be learned about both players in this. Auger Aliassime (who has been wild-carded in) came through nearly as eye-catching a match in R1 when he beat fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

              On the Women's side, Petra Kvitova is the defending champion, whilst Halep and Angie Kerber could nip past Naomi Osaka to the No.1 ranking, but only by winning the title. In notable matches to date in the Women's draw, Svetlana Kuznetsova justified receiving a wild card by beating Aryna Sabalenka in R1, and Vika Azarenka went down in three to Sloane Stephens in R2. Madrid is the only Prem Mandatory that Vika hasn't won yet. Another year. It wasn't all bad news for Belarus though - Aliaksandra Sasnovich knocked Stuttgart finalist Anett Kontaveit out in R1.


                British singles interested ended on Monday as Konta lost to Halep and Edmund to Fognini. Both straight sets. Halep has since progressed to a strong looking QF line up in the top half of the draw - she plays Barty, the winner to take on either Osaka or Bencic.
                On the Men's side Federer's return to clay after nearly three years away was a cakewalk against a barely fit Gasquet, who was making his own comeback from injury. Done in under an hour. Djokovic beat Fritz, who had taken down Dimitrov in R1 but Delpo's return from injury only lasted one match as he lost to Djere. The much anticipated Nadal-Auger Aliassime meeting ended in a straightforward win for Rafa. Coming up this evening is David Ferrer vs Sascha Zverev, Ferrer having already extended his career by two more days when beating Bautista Agut in R1.

                On the doubles court, J.Murray/Soares and Edmund/N.Skupski are both through to R2.


                  So, where were we at when I lasted checked in to this thread? Ah yes, got you. That was a while ago.

                  Right, let’s start with the ATP side. David Ferrer’s last hurrah was indeed his match against Sascha Zverev in R2; the big German, who happened to be the defending champion in Madrid, winning 4 & 1. In any other era Ferrer would have won a couple of French Opens and maybe a hardcourt slam, but he will have to be happy with just that one Roland Garros final against Rafa (lost 3,2&3), a runner-up showing at a Tour Finals (l to Federer 2,3&2 in the final in Shanghai), getting to World No.3 and winning 3 Davis Cups with another beaten finalist. In fact, he only ever won one Masters Series title, and that, rather bizarrely given Ferrer baseline tendencies and small stature, came on the lightening quick Indoor courts of the Paris Palais Omnisports (bt Janowicz 4&3). Though Ferrer was more of an all-rounder than I credit, as his 27 career titles included nearly as many on hard (12) as clay (13) and also two on grass (both Rosmalen). He won 5 indoor events as well across his career. The total career earnings of $~31.5million will also have helped.

                  With Ferrer gone, the dramatic match of R3 was Roger Federer’s encounter with Gael Monfils. It looked like being a cakewalk for the Swiss when he won the first set 6-0 in under 20 minutes, but Monfils fought back, levelling then going a break up early in the decider. Federer clawed this back at 2-4, but even so he face match points against at 4-5, saving one with a real gamblers trick, serve-and-volleying on a second serve! Federer eventually won it in a breaker (the 1200th Tour level win of his career), to set up a QF meeting with Dominic Thiem, who had given notice he was on form by beating Fabio Fognini to get to that point.
                  The full QF line-up was excellent in fact (also on the Women’s side, which I’ll get to soon), with #1 Djokovic vs #9 Cilic, #4 Federer vs #5 Thiem, #8 Tsitsipas vs #3 A.Zverev and Wawrinka vs #2 Nadal. Of these, the most disappointing was the top one, Cilic withdrawing citing food poisoning; the most ominous was the last, Nadal destroying Wawrinka (who had beaten #6 Nishikori in R3) 1&2, the most symptomatic was the match between the two young guns as it went the way of the rising Tsitsipas in three against the faltering Zverev; and the most interesting being the Swiss-Austrian match as Thiem saved two Federer match points in the set two breaker and then went on to win himself in three.
                  It didn’t go Thiem’s way today, beaten in the Semis by Djokovic. But as it was two tie-break sets, that is nearly a draw. I would say Thiem is a genuinely live contender for the Slam in a month’s time, if that was stunningly obvious given Thiem made the final last year. Also a live contender is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has taken a major scalp in the last few minutes by beating Nadal in clay in Madrid in three sets. The match with Djokovic will be Tsitsipas’ second career Masters Series final, having been beaten by Nadal in Toronto last year.
                  For Nadal, the defeat to Tsitsipas means he is still without even a clay court final in 2019, much less a title. I don't think Rafa has ever gone into a French Open without a recent clay court title to his name. Also defeat meant that a young gun got him, having first dodged the bullets from Auger-Aliassime in R2 and Frances Tiafoe in R3.

                  Before moving on to the Women, a quick note on the Doubles, mostly about the Brits. Two pairs were still standing at the last update, but Edmund/N.Skupski lost to Rojer/Tecau in R2 (10-5 on a match breaker) and #3 J.Murray/Soares were beaten by Koolhof/Tsitsipas a round later (the QFs). Tsitsipas wasn’t the only player rather more known for singles doing well in tandem, as Dominic Thiem has made the final playing with Diego Schwartzman. Their opponents tomorrow will be Rojer/Tecau.

                  OK, on to the Women. Like the Men, they had an excellent QF line-up, in their case #1 Osaka vs Bencic, #3 Halep vs #9 Barty, #8 Stephens vs Martic and #7 Bertens vs #2 Kvitova.
                  Naomi Osaka, who needed to reach the Semis to be sure of retaining her no.1 ranking, is getting better on clay and even served for the match against Belinda Bencic. But she admitted afterwards that the ranking distracted her focus as she let the lead slip and went down in three. That opened the door for Simona Halep, who won an excellent, high quality match against Ash Barty 5&5. If you can find it, check out the absolutely outrageous drop shot Barty played when 4-3 down but 30-40 (i.e. break point) up in the second set – from 2 metres behind the baseline she cuts across the ball with side rather than under it, sending it flying over the net and then moreorless performing a right angle in the air to drop straight down under a metre from the net and then bounce up-and-down on the spot. Based on this shot I’m presuming she can hit the ball in such a way to make it do a Cha-cha-cha mid-flight if she chooses.
                  Sloane Stephens has been having a rather quiet season so far, so beating Petra Martic for her first Semi of 2019 was a good result. Progress to that stage was relatively quiet, with the R2 win over Vika Azarenka noted up thread the standout result. As for Martic, she had had a tough draw, playing Garbine Muguruza in R1 and with Angie Kerber looming in R2, who like Halep was in with a chance of the top ranking if Osaka was knocked out before the Semis. However, Martic beat Muguruza and then benefitted from a walkover after Kerber picked up an ankle injury in practice on the morning of their match. She initially talked about playing Rome next week, but has withdrawn from that as well. That makes her participation in Paris questionable. However, the French has never been particularly kind to Kerber; even in her miracle year of 2016, when she was 20-1 in the other three slams (Aussie and US champion, Wimbledon R-Up) and the year-end World No.1, she managed to lose in R1 at Roland Garros. Being fit to defend her Wimbledon title feels more vital. So, anyway, Martic got a walkover there, and then benefitted from the retirement of Donna Vekic in the third set of their R3 match. But Stephens toppled her in two.
                  The final QF, Kiki Bertens vs Petra Kvitova, was a repeat of the 2018 final that Kvitova won. To get to that match, Kvitova had had to beat Caroline Garcia and to get to this one she also had to beat the Frenchwoman. That repeat win was achieved, but unlike last year’s final (which, if I remember correctly, was a massively high quality match) this time around it was Bertens who came through fairly easily.
                  In the Semis, Halep won through against Bencic in three, whilst Bertens beat Stephens in straight sets. That meant the Dutchwoman had reached the final without dropping a set en route. Today she parlayed that into taking the title without dropping a set, winning 4&4 to win her first Premier Mandatory level title and deny Simona a return to the top of the rankings. In fact of the 12 sets Bertens played, she only went to 5-5 once (set two against Stephens). Her opponents won 5, 7, 3, 5, 7 and 8 games in total, which is almost Nadal-circa-2018-esque.
                  Last edited by Janik; 11-05-2019, 23:29.


                    One incident from the Women’s final feels worth picking out as whilst it was clearly handled correctly according to the rules of Tennis, natural justice was very much not served.

                    The scenario was Bertens leading 6-4 4-3 and serving, i.e. a break up and closing in on victory. And also beginning to look a bit shaky. She fell 15-30 down, but then played a good forcing shot that generated a highish response from Halep. Bertens was up the court and had a relatively simply put-away volley, but she was tentative which gave Halep enough time to scramble across to her forehand corner and keep the rally alive. But not hit a good shot, the ball floating up for what should have been a very simply put away for Bertens, who by now was all over the net. However, tension or whatever saw her get the ball all wrong and fire it long down the centre of the court.
                    Except rather than crash into the backstop, Bertens wild shot caught Halep, who was ~2m behind her baseline and tearing across to her backhand corner to cover, on the upper thigh. As Tennis uses the rule that if a live ball touches the body of a player they lose the point, and that the ball stays live until it bounces out, that meant rather than 15-40 it was 30-all!

                    It felt unfair, as there is no way on earth that Bertens shot was going to do a u-turn and go in. It also got me to thinking about how other racquet sports handle this. Squash is similar to Tennis, any bodily contact with a still live ball = lose the point. That can feel similarly unfair if a shot beats a player but then hits their opponent directly behind, with the beaten player clearly having no play to retrieve it. Badminton is also the same, but with no bounces in that game it feels necessary – quite often bodily contact is because a player was trying to hit a shuttle that was going out, and got themselves into a mess. That is surely their fault, and they deserve to lose the point. However, one sport does do it the other way, and that is Table Tennis. If a shot has missed the table and hits the opponent, the scorer will award it to the player hit as the ball was patently not going to land in.
                    Tennis could adopt a version of the Table Tennis rule, to whit that if the ball hits an opponent who is currently outside the confines of the court, it shall be called ‘out’.
                    Bertens, benefitting from the lucky point, went on to win the game and serve out the match the next time the balls were at her end.


                      And what of the Brits? Well, next week’s Masters Series/Premier 5 in Rome is already underway in the qualifying. This doesn’t feature any British women, as Jo Konta got a bump to the main draw thanks to withdrawals (Jo was first cab on the rank, so she was always likely to get in) but Katie Boulter isn’t playing. Indeed, Boulter has withdrawn from the French Open and is a doubt for Wimbledon thanks to a back injury she picked up and battled through during the Fed Cup. To already know she is out for weeks and potentially months makes it sound serious. That is a blow to a player who was playing well.
                      Konta needs to reach the QFs to get enough ranking points to be seeded at the Slam. Her chances of doing that look very slim. R1 is OK, all she needs to do is repeat her win of this time last week over Alison Riske. But all that would do is set up a R2 match with Sloane Stephens. R3 would then been either (ulp) Serena Williams, a qualifier, Elise Mertens or Venus Williams! Reaching the QFs (probably opponent there Halep) will be a huge challenge.

                      On the Men’s side, Kyle Edmund has also been handy a nasty draw. R1 sees him face Fernando Verdasco in what should be a battle of epic forehands but one that is on a surface the Spaniard is far more familiar with. If Edmund should win that, Dominic Thiem awaits in R2. And Rafa Nadal is the scheduled opponent for the QFs.
                      Edmund might not be the only Brit in main draw action this week as both Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans are playing the q-draw. And both are only one win away from the main show. Norrie, the #3 seed, came from a set down to beat Peter Gojowczyk in three. He now faces #13 Nicolas Jarry in final qualifying. Evans, meanwhile, took down Robin Haase in two, and now faces #1 Dusan Lajovic for a main draw spot.

                      On the doubles court, it’s the usual suspects/pairs. J.Murray/Soares are seeded #2, Edmund/N.Skupski, Inglot/Bopanna and Sailsbury/Ram also play.


                        Nadal definitely seems to have hit the wall this year, doesn't he? Surprising in that he did well at the Aussie Open, but since then it's been injuries and then very underwhelming clay court season. I wonder if this is truly the beginning of the end this time.


                          Boulter missed a whole year with a back injury when she was a teenager, so yeah, worrying for her.


                            A bit of a false comparison, but there are worse things than a bad back. Get well soon, Nicole.

                            Giving that one a bit of space before returning to much lesser matters on the court. Right, so what happened since Saturday night? Well, Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Madrid final to get himself back into the groove after a patchy few months. Tuning up perfectly for Paris, basically.

                            Over in Madrid, the two Brits in final qualifying both made it through, Dan Evans getting a particularly good win against Dusan Lajovic, who, as the World No.24 will be seeded in Paris (the main draw cuts in the Italian Open come very high) and Cameron Norrie beating Nicolas Jarry in a final set breaker.
                            That meant four players in R1, all of whom played today. Evans reward was a match against fellow qualifier Casper Ruud. However, despite winning one set with a bagel, Evo lost in three. Norrie was drawn against John Millman, and he won that from a set down. He now faces #13 Borna Coric in R2 (Coric beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in R1, btw). He will be the only British male at that stage though, as the battle of the fearhands, Kyle Edmund vs Fernando Verdasco, went Spain's way.
                            There is R2 representation on the Women's side, which, given Jo Konta was the only Brit playing, means she beat Alison Riske in a R1 match for the second consecutive week. Not just back-to-back wins for Konta, but with identical scorelines as well, 6-4 6-1 in both the Spanish and Italian capitals. I suspect Riske would rather not face Konta again soon, thank-you-very-much. Next up for Konta is #7 Sloane Stephens, who had a R1 bye. Whoever wins that plays Williams in R3. Exactly which of Serena or Venus depends on who wins their R2 sister act, Venus having survived a toughy against Elise Mertens in R1 (deciding set breaker needed). That is clearly the tie of the round on the Women's side, but next in line for interest would be defending champion Elina Svitolina against Victoria Azarenka. Best Men's R2 match upcoming? Well Djokovic vs Shapovalov looks tasty. As does whichever of Goffin or Wawrinka that del Potro ends up facing.


                              Serena has pulled out of Rome, as her knee is still bothering her


                                Which makes it 3/4 retirements from tournaments this year. The only time she has lost a match point this year was the Aussie Open QF against Pliskova.


                                  The weather is not feeling very Roman so far. Bloomin' cold on Monday and Tuesday, a complete washout yesterday. That is going to put time pressure on the tournament. Today's schedule has lots of players playing twice, some three times if they win their first singles and also have a doubles that needs wrapping up. Expect lots of withdrawals from the doubles events!

                                  Before the rains came, Cameron Norrie was beaten 2&2 by Borna Coric to end British participation in the Men's singles. Likewise, everyone who played in R1 of the Doubles lost - #2 J.Murray/Soares to Chardy/Goffin, Inglot/Bopanna to #3 Cabal/Farah, and Salisbury/Ram to Pella/Schwartzman. That didn't end British involvement in that though - Edmund/N.Skupski benefitted from a R1 walkover against Berrentini/Fognini. They now play #4 Mektic/Skugor in R2.

                                  Talking of Matteo Berrettini, he has pulled off the shock of the tournament so far - in on a wild card as his Hungarian Open title and BMW runner-up efforts are yet to be reflected in entry list (Berretini will be a seed in Paris), he followed a good win over Lucas Pouille in R1 by registering a first top 5 win in R2 when he beat Sascha Zverev 7-5 7-5. That was one of the few Men's R2 matches completed, with Djokovic-Shapovalov and Goffin (who beat Wawrinka in three in R1)-del Potro due up today.
                                  On the Women's side, defending champions Elina Svitolina vs Victoria Azarenka became the tie of the round with Serena's injury. That was also done on Tuesday, and Azarenka won it. She will now play Garbine Muguruza or Daniella Collins in R3 (Muguruza is unseeded; the seed in this section was Caroline Wozniacki, but she retired after losing the opening set on a breaker to Collins in R1). Also on the Women's side, Jo Konta is currently taking on Sloane Stephens. Stephens won the opener on a breaker, but Konta struck back to level and has recently gone a break up early in the deciding set (she is 2-1 up, but with the balls currently in her hand). Go Jo! If she does win, she will have to take on a fresh Venus Williams later in the day, which seems a bit unfair. She isn't the only one in that boat though - all of Nadal, Federer and Thiem have to win a R2 match and then, if they do, face taking on someone fresh in R3 a few hours later (Chardy/Basilashvili for Rafa, Sousa/Coric for Roger and Verdasco/Khachanov for, well, I suppose for consistency I have to say Dominic). On the Women's side, Azarenka and Ash Barty get the same break as Venus, awaiting the winners of Muguruza/Collins and Mladenovic/Bencic respectively.


                                    I see Nick Kyrgios has been doing his usual ingratiating himself with the dressing room thing again


                                      He can certainly pick his targets. Djokovic and Nadal, eh? With, what, ~35 Grand Slams and however many million fans between them? Come back and talk to us when you've done something worth our time, Nick.

                                      Konta now 5-1 up in the decider on Stephens...


                                        And wins 6-1. She broke from 40-15 down in both of Stephens last two service games at 1-3 and 1-5. That is a bit of an "Oh, Sloane!" moment.
                                        Couple of remarkable statistics from the match:-
                                        Stephens behind her second serve in set 2: 0% (0/7)
                                        Konta behind her first serve in set 3: 100% (10/10)

                                        Jo's second top ten win of 2019. The previous one? Beating Stephens in Brisbane!


                                          Konta has a pretty good record against Venus (including her first Tour title in Stanford), though IIRC that has begun to go south in recent meetings. Today would be a good time to move it back the other way again.
                                          Jo is probably looking like needing two more wins if she is going to be seeded in Paris. Still a huge ask (Halep looms ominously, which is an impressive trick for someone 5'6").


                                            Not looming any more


                                              But more on Nick Kyrgios. According to the reported results, he has been defaulted against Casper Ruud. So, what happened there, then?


                                                As per Ben Rothenberg's twitter:-

                                                So. Nick Kyrgios gets a game penalty after getting broken for 1-1 in the third by Casper Ruud for unsportsmanlike conduct, then throws a chair onto the court, then packs his bag and walks off, then gets defaulted from the match. Eventful 24 hours for him.

                                                Rotherberg has a pinned tweet at the top of his timeline of the interview with Kyrgios yesterday when Kyrgios had a pop at Djokovic and Nadal.

                                                Way to back up your point, mate! No way do the top guys think you are an irrelevant joke. Oh no.


                                                  Here we go, until it gets deleted:-

                                                  Nick Kyrgios said: "I'm f*cking done"
                                                  He may be closer to the truth than he realises...


                                                    I hope he's that I hope he is really okay.