2014 Week-8: Dubai, Rio, Marseille and Delray Beach

WTA RESULTS: Dubai hosted a Premier hard-court event for the ladies, while Rio de Janiero saw clay-court action from both the guys and girls…

Singles: Venus Williams def. Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-0
Doubles: Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova def. Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-2, 5-7, 10-8

From what I saw in Doha, Venus Williams is playing with more confidence and determination than she has in quite some time. Since her retirement from the 2011 US Open and the diagnosis of Sjodren’s Syndrome, she’s struggled with stamina and consistency. Despite falling in Doha’s second-round to Petra Kvitova – who was down 1-4 in the third before making a comeback – Venus was playing aggressive, intelligent tennis with variety in her shot selection. She took that focus to Dubai last week, and on Saturday won her 45th career WTA singles title, posting straight-sets wins over Elena Vesnina (6-3, 6-2), Ana Ivanovic (6-2, 6-1), Flavia Pennetta (6-3, 7-5), Caoline Wozniacki (6-3, 6-2) and Alize Cornet (6-3, 6-0).

Venus, after the match: “Gosh, it’s been like – I think the last tournament I won was at the end of 2012, so probably about 18 months now. But it feels good. That’s all I can say.” Venus was on pace to face sister Serena in the final, but Cornet managed a win over the younger Williams on Friday 6-4, 6-4.

In doubles, after Semifinal appearances in both Sydney and the Australian Open this year, Americans Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears reached their first Final of the year in Dubai…falling to Kuryavtseva and Rodionova. It was Raquel and Abigail’s 14 career WTA final together, and Alla and Anastasia’s 4th career title together; second of 2014 (they won the Brisbane title together).

Kurumi Nara of Japan

Rio de Janiero

Singles: Kurumi Nara def. Klara Zakopalova 6-1, 4-6, 6-1
Doubles: Irina-Camelila Begu and Maria Irigoyen def. Johanna Larsson and Chanelle Scheepers 6-2, 6-0

Last September, she stunned herself by reaching the third round of the US Open. In October, she reached her first WTA Semifinal in Osaka and became one of the top-70 players in the world. Last month, she made her second consecutive third round Grand Slam appearance at the Australian Open. On Sunday, Japan’s Kurumi Nara achieved 2014’s main objective and cracked the top-50 with her first career WTA title at the inaugural Rio Open. Now the main objective has evolved: “I can’t believe it! I guess now I want to stay in the Top 50 this year!”

In doubles, Irina-Camelia Begu from Romania and Argentine Maria Irigoyen teamed for their first WTA title together. Overall, it was Begu’s third career WTA doubles title and Irigoyen’s first.

 

ATP WORLD TOUR RESULTS: The gentlemen had two ATP-250 hard-court events last week in Marseille and Delray Beach…and an ATP-500 event on clay in Rio de Janiero.

EFE/Antonio Lacerda

Rio de Janiero (ATP-500)

Singles: Rafael Nadal def. Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 7-6(3)
Doubles: Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah def. David Marrero and Marcelo Melo 6-4, 6-2

Back problem? What back problem? After Rafael Nadal’s second round win in Rio over Albert Montanes, he said: “The back, well, it’s bothering me a little. Right now it’s not hurting my game, but I’m serving a little more gently than I’m used to doing.” By Sunday, it appeared Rafa’s rehab from the Australian Open Final “back-tweak” was complete, taking-down Dolgopolov in a second-set tiebreak. High-praise for Pablo Andujar, who had two match points on Rafa in Saturday’s Semifinal; yet Rafa was still able to pull-off the win 12-10 in the third-set tiebreak. Nadal now owns 48 ATP World Tour Singles Titles, and will rest-up and recuperate this week for the first Masters-1000 tournament of 2014 at Indian Wells.

Since their pairing in 2013, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah had reached three Finals together. Sunday was their fourth, and they finally secured a win. Farah after the match: “We’re so happy we got the monkey off our back! We came up short in a couple of finals and now I hope way more titles will come our way.” They also reached the Finals this year in Brisbane and Vina del Mar.

Marseille (ATP-250)

Singles: Ernests Gulbis def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(5), 6-4
Doubles: Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin def. Paul Hanley and Jonathan Marray 4-6, 7-6(3) 13-11

A two-time Delray Beach Champion, it was a surprise to see Ernests Gulbis in the Marseille draw this week. Turns out, it was a great move for the Latvian, as he captured his fifth career ATP World Tour singles title, posting wins over Bautista Agut, Mahut, Gasquet and Tsonga to raise the trophy.

The guy is now undefeated (5-0) in ATP World Tour Finals. Now, if he can just maintain focus and keep his cool through the year to put himself in more positions to win. Ernests, after the match: “My long-term goal in tennis isn’t to be Top 20. It’s to be No. 1. Anything less than that wouldn’t make me fully satisfied. I don’t want to get to 30 years old, look back on my career and say I didn’t make something of it. Everybody’s looking for satisfaction in life.”

Julien Benneteau thrilled French fans by winning his 9th career ATP World Tour Doubles Title; first with partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin (his 7th career ATP World Tour Doubles Title). The French pairing pulled off the close win in a 13-11 championship tiebreak over Paul Hanley and Jonathan Marray (their first ATP World Tour Doubles Final together).

Delray Beach (ATP-250)

Singles: Marin Cilic def. Kevin Anderson 7-6(6), 6-7(7), 6-4
Doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan def. Frantisek Cermak and Mikhail Elgin 6-2, 6-3

Since falling in the second round of the 2014 Australian Open, Marin Cilic has won the title in Zagreb, reached the Rotterdam Final, and with a three set win over Kevin Anderson, capped off an amazing three weeks by capturing his 11th career ATP World Tour Singles Title in Delray Beach. Cilic defeated Benjamin Becker, Ryan Harrison, Teymuraz Gabashvili and John Isner to reach Sunday’s Final. He’s now 18-4 on the season, and seems to be the player to watch, with serious momentum heading into the year’s first Masters-1000 tournament at Indian Wells.

Last week, Bob and Mike Bryan reached their 142nd career ATP World Tour Doubles Final together. It was a tough loss to swallow, falling again to Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen – the pairing that eliminated the Bryans from this year’s third-round at the Australian Open. This week, they’d only have to win three matches to raise the trophy; their 94th career ATP World Tour Doubles Title. With a walkover in the second-round, the brothers then defeated Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock to reach the Final with Cermak and Elgin. Bob and Mike lost only 12-games all week. With their first title of the year and 3rd career title in Delray, Bob said after the match: “We’re very happy to kick-start the year here in Delray…We’re starting to hit our stride.”

THIS WEEK: The ladies play on the hard-courts in Florianopolis and Acapulco…while the guys play on hard in Dubai and Acapulco, and on clay in Sao Paolo.