Can you believe the 2016 tennis season is already seven weeks old? The WTA and ATP had stops in Rio (joint), Marseille, Delray Beach, and Dubai this past week, and produced unseeded winners in all five singles events. In other words, things were a bit wacky this week in tennis.
Here's the rundown: Kyrgios wins his first ATP title, Cuevas claimed the Rio title with five wins versus lefties (including Nadal), the top eight seeds in Dubai all lost their first matches, Schiavone returns to the top 100 with a Rio title, Errani wins Dubai, Vinci hits top 10 for first time in her career, and Querrey spoils del Potro's Cinderella comeback in Delray Beach.
Let's dig a bit deeper.
Week seven was all about the Italians on the WTA circuit: Sara Errani won her ninth career singles title in Dubai, Francesca Schiavone claimed her seventh in Rio de Janeiro, and Roberta Vinci made her debut in the WTA top 10. Despite losing her opening match in Dubai, Vinci jumped three spots to #10, mostly on the strength of her title run the week before in St. Petersburg. The news of Vinci's top 10 arrival also coincided with her 33rd birthday. Vinci, who famously ended Serena Williams' quest for the calendar year Grand Slam at the U.S. Open last year, continues to reach new heights in her career; she adds top 10 player to a resume that already included Grand Slam singles finalist and 5-time doubles champion.
MY 2 CENTS
Francesca Schiavone joins Venus Williams as the only players over the age of 35 inside the WTA top 100. With her title in Rio, Schiavone jumps 38 spots in the rankings to #94. Williams and Schiavone also share the distinction of being title-winning 35-year-olds this year. Schiavone reached her career high of #4 five years ago, but began the season outside the top 100 for the first time since 2000. Due to her depressed ranking, Schiavone was forced to enter qualifying at the Australian Open. Her failure to reach the main draw resulted in her first absence at a Grand Slam since 2000 Wimbledon. Winning Rio now gives Schiavone a good chance of gaining direct entry into the French Open. With Schiavone and Venus Williams winning titles in back-to-back weeks, perhaps this will serve as a reminder that the old guard on the WTA still has lots to offer the sport.
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Nick Kyrgios swept through the Marseille field to claim the first ATP title of his young career. Only 20 years old, Kyrgios has already reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals ('14 Wimbledon, '15 Australian), and has shown glimpses of the prodigious talent that has seen him earmarked as a future superstar of the sport. His title run in Marseille included wins over Pospisil, Gabashvili, Gasquet, Berdych, and Cilic in the final. The average ranking of his five opponents was an impressive 23.2, and Kyrgios won each match in straight sets. This result might be the one we end up looking back on as the starting point for Kyrgios' ascendancy on the ATP Tour.
MY 2 CENTS
Juan Martin del Potro is back! The former world #4 made his long awaited return to the ATP Tour at Delray Beach. The Argentine breezed through his first three matches in straight sets before falling 5-7 5-7 to eventual champion Sam Querrey in the semifinals. Due to multiple wrist injuries, del Potro played only 10 matches in 2014 and four in 2015. His last sighting on tour was a first round loss in Miami last spring. The prolonged absence caused his ranking to tumble to #1042 before his reappearance this week. Del Potro's next appearance will be at Indian Wells, after he received a wild card into the tournament. A casual look at del Potro's Twitter account shows just how excited he is to be back playing tennis, and tennis is better off for it. At his best, del Potro was one of the few players capable of beating Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic on the biggest stages. Welcome back, sir. Welcome back!
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