The main purpose of this weekly series is for readers to easily catch up on anything they might have missed in tennis. With that in mind, here goes for week six: Venus wins her 49th career title, Kei gets his fourth on the trot in Memphis, Taylor Fritz busts out in a big way, Thiem beats Rafa in the semis then backs it up by winning the Buenos Aires title, SanTina's unbeaten streak continues, Bencic breaks into the top 10 for the first time, Klizan and Vinci win the biggest titles of their careers, Ash Barty makes a winning return, and Monfils' futility in ATP finals continues.
Exhausted? Take a breather and let's delve a bit deeper.
A pair of Frenchmen -- Nicolas Mahut and Gael Monfils -- take the spotlight this week. Gael Monfils' loss in the Rotterdam final leaves his career record in ATP finals at 5-18. That is a poor output by any metric. The list of opponents who have beaten him in finals indicate many missed opportunities: Klizan, Ljubicic, Montanes, Stepanek, Melzer, and Petzschner. Still, this was a positive week for Monfils, as he rises two places in the rankings to #16, continuing his solid start to 2016 after making the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Nicolas Mahut rises to #40, a mere four spots away from reaching a new career high. His success in Rotterdam was twofold; he made the semifinals in singles and then won the doubles title. With Jack Sock out of action last week, Mahut borrowed Vasek Pospisil to take the doubles event. The 2015 U.S. Open doubles champion (with Herbert) rises three spots in the doubles rankings to #13.
MY 2 CENTS
One of the bigger stories on the ATP Tour this week was Taylor Fritz making his big breakthrough in Memphis. While Fritz had a great tournament, caution should be exercised in making any definitive statements about his prospects going forward. So many times we've seen the progress of young talent crushed under the weight of expectation and media pressure. American men's tennis has been starved of Grand Slam talent since Andy Roddick's retirement, and even longer since the Sampras-Agassi era ended. We've been hearing about the so-called "next wave" of American tennis players for 15 years now, and Fritz now assumes the mantle of the "one to watch." Hopefully, he will be able to manage the added spotlight that comes with his meteoric rise up the rankings. He began the year ranked #174 and is now, at #102, on the cusp of breaking into the top 100 for the first time. Going back another year, he began 2015 ranked #1151.
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St. Petersburg - Vinci d. Bencic 6-4 6-3 (Wickmayer, Babos, Ivanovic, Bencic)
Kaohsiung - V. Williams d. Doi 6-4 6-2 (Lee, U. Radwanska, Sevastova, Putintseva, Doi)
The winning streak continues for SanTina. Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have not lost a doubles match on the WTA Tour since Cincinnati last August. During that stretch, they've reeled off 40 consecutive wins, including four more in St. Petersburg last week on their way to the title. They were tested in the semifinal when they beat the third seeded Spanish duo of Medina Garigues and Parra Santonja in a super tiebreak. They are now just five wins shy of overtaking Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova for the longest doubles win streak of the last quarter century. Hingis and Mirza, holders of the last three Grand Slam doubles titles, have already won four titles in 2016 to go along with the nine they won together in 2015. All together, that's 13 titles in less than 12 months.
MY 2 CENTS
Belinda Bencic breaks into the top 10 for the first time after making the finals in St. Petersburg. Still only 18 years old, Bencic has been building an impressive resume for a teenager the last couple of seasons: she made the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open at 17, and beat Serena Williams en route to the Rogers Cup Toronto title last year. Her official entry into the WTA top 10 feels like an arrival of sorts. It would not surprise me if Bencic remains there for a long, long time.
Venus Williams is almost twice Belinda Bencic's age, and the oldest woman inside the WTA top 100. Yet, Williams scored her fourth WTA title since the start of 2015, tying Aga Radwanska, and leaving her behind only Serena and Kerber with five during that span. She also won five straight-set matches in Kaohsiung to capture the 49th title of her career. After a poor start to the season -- losing in the first round in Auckland and the Australian Open -- Williams has won seven straight matches, including two wins in Fed Cup the week prior to the Taiwan Open.
The heavy strapping on Venus' left leg remains a concern; it's been a constant presence since sustaining an injury in the Wuhan semifinals last September. Her movement in Kaohsiung was noticeably better than during her first round loss in Melbourne. Still, it cannot be said that Venus won while playing her best tennis. As has been the case numerous times since her resurgence, Williams won with a lot of grit and resilience. If her body cooperates, she could be a real force throughout the rest of the season.
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