Welcome to this week’s edition of Catching Up With Tennis Pulse, and the atmosphere is brimming with unpredictability as the 2018 French Open begins. With the influx of talent and surprising new winners on the ATP Tour this clay-court season, not to mention recent stellar performances from Thiem, Zverev and even Djokovic; Roland Garros really is anyone’s for the taking.
Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon
An ATP 250 tournament held in Lyon, this is one of the final two events before Roland Garros. It recently transitioned to clay, with France’s Jo Wilfried Tsonga winning the inaugural edition in 2017. The Frenchman has been sidelined after suffering a muscle tear in his left thigh at the Marseille Open in February.
Top seed Dominic Thiem defeated local Gilles Simon 3-6 7-6(1) 6-1 in the final in 2 hours 25 minutes to capture his tenth ATP title and eighth on clay. After upsetting Rafael Nadal at the Madrid Open and breaking his streak of 50 consecutive sets won, Thiem continues to exhibit a fondness for the red dirt that has earned him the moniker “the Prince of Clay”.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 26, 2018
Down a set and a break in the final, the Austrian mounted a comeback that rattled the usually solid Simon. Thiem was able to break back and wear down the fatigued Frenchman in a second set tiebreak, before running away with the final set.
“I’m super happy. I fought really, really hard for this title,” Thiem said post-match. “I’m really happy that I won the title. It’s always something very special. It’s my tenth title, which is a great number.”
With this victory, Thiem also secured his 200th tour-level match win and 29th win of the 2018 season, second only to Alexander Zverev (30).
Journeyman Simon was denied his 14th ATP title, although making the final without being seeded is an achievement in its own right. The tournament also featured John Isner, who lost to Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the quarterfinals. Norrie went on to lose to Simon in the semifinals. Jack Sock and Gael Monfils were also eliminated in the early stages.
Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open
The final ATP 250 event before Roland Garros, this tournament is hosted at the Tennis Club de Genève; which is the largest and oldest tennis club in Switzerland. Stan Wawrinka is the two-time defending champion, having triumphed in 2016 and 2017. The Swiss was granted a wildcard into the event, and even seeded as the third seed. Perhaps Wawrinka could emulate Djokovic’s recent successful run in Rome? It was certainly feasible, given the “lesser quality” of competition in Geneva.
Wawrinka defeated American Jared Donaldson in his opening match, but fell to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 4-6 0-6 in his next match. The Swiss number two is on a comeback after undergoing two left knee surgeries, but is apparently nowhere near close to his former self.
Probably not how he imagined it … but a moment Marton Fucsovics will never forget!
Bravo Marton ??? pic.twitter.com/JrSs4AcTom
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 26, 2018
Fucsovics would reach the final, and defeat German Peter Gojowczyk 6-2 6-2 in just over an hour to capture his maiden ATP title. The 26 year-old ends Hungary’s drought for an ATP champion, as their last titlist came in 1982 (Balazs Taroczy).
“I really love Switzerland,” Fucsovics declared after his victory. “Last year, I played my first ATP quarter-final in Basel and now I won my first title here, so it’s really special for me. We’ve been working a long time for this. The last two years were very hard for me in my life, but hopefully I will have a very long career after this.”
Furthermore, this victory ensures that Fucsovics reaches a career-high of No. 45, the first Hungarian to break the top 50 since Taroczy was ranked No. 12 over three decades ago. Fucsovics fought past Frances Tiafoe, Wawrinka and Steve Johnson en route to his first title and the future looks bright for Federer’s occasional hitting partner.
Finalist Gojowczyk was competing in his second final of the season (l. to Tiafoe in Delray Beach in February). The German overcame David Ferrer, Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini before falling in the final. Nevertheless, he rises to a career high of No. 43 and will face Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the opening round of the French Open. Fucsovics squares off with Canadian Vasek Pospisil in his first main draw match at Roland Garros. Good luck to both men.
All eyes will be on Paris as the 2018 French Open kicks off. Djokovic, Zverev, Thiem…all are possible contenders and potential finalists. But let’s face it, the title is Nadal’s to lose. The Spaniard has been so dominant at this event, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he will emerge with his 11th title and add another Undecima to his already legendary resume. To everyone else, we can only wish them the best of luck.
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