Alexander Zverev defended his Munich crown at the 2018 BMW Open, capturing his 7th ATP title in the process.

Welcome to another edition of Catching Up With Tennis Pulse, and a lot has transpired over the past week. It appears Alexander Zverev is ready to resume winning championships. Additionally, the list of first-time winners on the ATP tour keeps growing.

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BMW Open by FWU

Hosted in Munich, this ATP 250 event featured some of the world’s best; with the likes of Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini and Hyeon Chung joining the local talent. However, It came down to a battle between two Germans, as Alexander Zverev defeated compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-3 in 71 minutes to successfully defend his title.

“I am obviously very happy with how I played,” said Zverev post-match. “I am very happy to get back-to-back titles here in Munich. It is a very special event for me so I am very happy that I could defend my title.”

A three-time champion himself (2007, 2012, 2016), Kohlschreiber was hoping to become the first four-time champion in the tournament’s history. He was no match for the younger German however, facing six break points and being broken on four of them. He seemed to be in good spirits despite the loss, and rises six spots to No. 28 whereas Zverev remains at No. 3.

Millennium Estoril Open

Another ATP 250 event, the Estoril Open finally produced a home-town champion. Joao Sousa defeated American Frances Tiafoe 6-4 6-4 to become the first Portuguese-born player to win a title on home soil. This would be his third ATP title, and the partisan home crowd energized Sousa all the way to the finish line.

“It’s just amazing. It’s a dream come true,” Sousa said after his victory. “It is very special for a Portuguese player to win here on home soil. I know how hard the organisation worked to make this tournament one of the best in the world and it’s just amazing. The crowd was unbelievable.”

Tiafoe was hoping to become the first American to win a title on European clay since Sam Querrey triumphed at the Serbia Open in 2010. The NextGen star defeated defending champion Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2 6-3 in the semi-finals, but could not overcome the hometown hero and sold out crowd at the Estadio Millenium on Sunday.

“I know how big this is for him. The whole country is behind him,” said Tiafoe. “He’s felt that since the beginning of the week. There are billboards with him here. I bet he’s wanted to win this event for all the years of his career. It’s huge. He played too good and the crowd was definitely for him. It was tough for me. I couldn’t get my feet wet today. He’s one of the nicest guys on tour too, so I have a lot of respect for him.”

Regardless, the 20 year-old American continues to improve this season, after clinching his maiden title in February at the Delray Open. Tiafoe moves up eight spots to match his career high of No. 56, whereas Sousa climbs twenty places to No. 48 in the ATP rankings.

#NextGenATP star Tsitsipas continues to make significant progress in 2018, reaching the semifinals of the Estoril Open.

Top seed Kevin Anderson was upset by Greek phenom Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round. However, Tsitsipas was eliminated by eventual champion Sousa in the semifinals; falling in three close sets.

TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open

Making its debut in 2015, this ATP 250 event has been championed by Roger Federer (2015), Diego Schwartzman (2016) and Marin Cilic (2017). The Croat returned as the top seed to defend his title, but fell in the second round to Tunisian Malek Jaziri 4-6 2-6. Shockingly, the top four seeds were all upset in the second round as Damir Dzumhur, Andreas Seppi and Aljaz Bedene fell to unseeded opponents.

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After showing flashes of brilliance against Nadal at last year’s US open, Taro Daniel defeated five-time champion Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells this year. The Japanese superstar then capped off an impressive week by capturing his maiden ATP title, overcoming Malek Jaziri 7-6(4) 6-4 in just under two and a half hours.

“Obviously really happy. I think today was a great match, a lot of long rallies from the beginning until the end,” Daniel said. “Very happy. I’m obviously pretty surprised that I suddenly won an ATP World Tour title. But I guess things like this happen.”

Having not made a tour-level semifinal prior to this event, it’s safe to assume that Daniel just completed the best week of his career. The 25 year-old faced stiff opposition from Jaziri, another first-time finalist. However, the Tunisian was unable to assert himself during the match and got broken on three occasions. He rises sixteen spots to No. 62, while Daniel climbs thirty-two spots to No. 82.

By virtue of his early-round loss, defending champion Marin Cilic drops one spot to No. 5, as Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov leapfrogs him to gain the No. 4 position in the ATP rankings.

The Mutua Madrid Open kicks off this week, and we shall witness the return of the king of clay. Additionally, eight of the top 10 players in the world will feature at this ATP Masters event, with only Roger Federer and Marin Cilic being the notable absentees. Furthermore, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori hope to improve on their comeback seasons. However, both men are set to meet in a mouth-watering first round clash and the loser will likely return home devastated. Regardless of the outcome, the man to beat is defending champion Rafael Nadal, who holds a paltry five titles at this event. Good luck, guys.

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After his demolition of Thiem at the Monte-Carlo Masters, is there anyone who can stop Rafael Nadal? Who has the best chance prior to the French Open? Leave your thoughts and comments below, and follow us on www.tennis-pulse.com for coverage of the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open.