ATP Tour Roundup
The clay season has eclipsed its midway point, and only three weeks of play remain before the French Open. Last week, the ATP Tour headed to three in events in Munich, Estoril and Istanbul. There were some surprise winners and finalists as well as veteran champions.
Schwartzman Wins Maiden Title
No. 87-ranked Argentine Diego Schwartzman won his first title on Sunday in a 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-0 upset over 29th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov. In a strange finish, Dimitrov smashed his third racket of the day while down 5-0, resulting in a game penalty and the end of the match while denying Schwartzman a traditional finish. Dimitrov later apologized.
Schwartzman was down 5-2 in the second set when Dimitrov began suffering from cramps. Schwartzman came back to claim the set in a tiebreak before pulling away in the third set. The little-known Argentine is the second-lowest ranked player to win a title this year, but he will enjoy momentum and a jump in the rankings after this breakout week.
Almagro Triumphs in Estoril
Nicolas Almagro capped a resurgent week in Estoril, Portugal by defeating fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-3. Almagro, ranked 71st, is enjoying a comeback after injuries hampered his 2015—he missed the entire summer hardcourt season and failed to qualify for the U.S. Open.
Now, Almagro is returning to form. He defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on clay this season in Buenos Aires and put together a week of excellent tennis, defeating young gun Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals in a masterclass of clay-court ballstriking.
In the final, Almagro led in the first and second sets before letting Carreno Busta back into the match, forcing himself to play tiebreakers in both sets. He pulled away in the third set, winning the championship on his third match point.
Almagro is a clay-court specialist—all 23 finals that he has reached have come on clay—so look for him to make a run and perhaps score some upsets in Madrid, Rome and Paris.
Kohlschreiber At Home in Munich
Philipp Kohlschreiber bested his 2015 performance in the Munich final by winning the title on Sunday, a tight 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(4) affair. Most importantly for Kohlschreiber, last year’s match—a loss to Andy Murray, also ending in a third set tie break—differed from Sunday’s in that he was able to come through in the tiebreak.
Kohlschreiber, who was born nearby in the southern German town of Augsburg, seemed at home this week. “It is my tournament,” he said in the trophy ceremony. “There are so many people who support me here. Such a very special thing to win here.”
He will carry confidence from this win into the Masters 1000 tournaments this month in Madrid and Rome.
Clay Surprises and the Home Stretch
Clay tends to surprise. Its slow bounce neutralizes big serves. Shots that would normally produce winners are returned, producing long rallies. Players need to be comfortable with sliding. For this reason, clay opens a window for specialists (usually from Europe and South America) and upstart players to make an impact. (An example is Diego Schwartzman’s win this week).
As such, it’s hard to predict who will win titles. Before Nadal’s dominance, a different player won the French Open every year from 2001-2004, and most were not household names. No one player has established a dominant clay-court season, though that may change this week at the Masters 1000 tournament in Madrid. The intrigue of clay is part of its attraction, and it will keep things interesting in this home stretch.