Here’s how the week shaped up across the tennis world:
ATP Barcelona (500 level)
Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal, fresh off winning Monte-Carlo, and two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori both fulfilled expectations and advanced to the final without dropping a set.
Nishikori was the only prominent healthy player to skip Monte-Carlo (it’s the only optional Masters 1000) and has maintained momentum from a strong spring in which he won Memphis again, made the quarters in Indian Wells for the first time (losing to Nadal) and made the final in Miami (losing to Novak Djokovic).
Nadal, meanwhile, is back to the point where he expects to play great consistently. He cruised past veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semifinals, going a whole match without dropping serve for the first time since January and the first time on clay since May, but was still not happy with his performance.
While clarifying that he’s pleased with his level of play in general, Nadal said in his press conference, ““It was my worst match of the tournament. I did not like my match today. I played better yesterday and the day before yesterday. You can always have a day when you don’t play well. Tomorrow I want to win and I’m very competitive. Today was not my best level.”
Sunday’s blockbuster should be a good one.
WTA Stuttgart (Premier level – 470 points for the champion)
The WTA was close to a star-studded final of their own, but Cinderella story Laura Siegemund crashed the party. With defending champion and World No. 3 Angie Kerber advancing to the final on one half of the bracket, Siegemund beat Simona Halep (still clearly injured following Fed Cup), Roberta Vinci and, on Saturday, Aga Radwanska. It’s the first WTA-level semifinal and final of the 28 year old’s career. She is the first qualifier to make the final in Stuttgart, which will feature an all-German championship match on Sunday.
Kerber made her way back to the final by taking out Petra Kvitova in three sets, who in turn had eliminated Garbine Muguruza in a power-packed three-setter. Kerber can’t quite catch Radwanska to reclaim the No. 2 ranking, but a win on Sunday would make it very likely that she does by the time the French Open draw is held.
ATP Bucharest (250 level)
250 level events can often be forgettable, but Bucharest presents a noteworthy final. Rising French prospect Lucas Pouille booked a spot in the first ATP final of his career, where he will face veteran Fernando Verdasco, who’s making a surge back up the rankings. Pouille, 22, would be in the top 50 for the first time with a win, while Verdasco, a former top ten mainstay, has already jumped from No.86 back to the top 60 and would be just outside the top 50 again with a win. In his first final in since April 2014, the 32 year old is seeking his eighth career title, a paltry total due to his 7-14 career record in finals.