Welcome to Catching Up With Tennis Pulse; a weekly recap segment where we review the latest movers and shakers on the ATP circuit. Tread with caution, as there seems to be a preponderance of injuries this season that have culminated with your favorite superstars withdrawing from numerous tournaments.
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Top seed Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from the Acapulco Open hours before his opening match with compatriot Feliciano Lopez. The two-time champion (2005, 2013) aggravated the injury that forced him to retire against Marin Cilic at the 2018 Australian Open. He apparently felt a “sharp pain’ in his hip during practice a day before his scheduled match, and was advised by his medical team not to play through it. The Spaniard then went on to announce his withdrawal from the Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami. Get well soon, Rafa.
With the top seed absent, there remained a plethora of former champions who could lay claim to the title. Among them were four-time champion David Ferrer (2010-12, 2015) 2016 winner Dominic Thiem and defending champion Sam Querrey.
Nonetheless, it was Argentine Juan Martin del Potro who returned to the form that saw him win his maiden Grand Slam. The 2009 US Open champion defeated South African Kevin Anderson 6-4 6-4 to win his 21st title. En route to the final, del Potro overcame serve-and-volley specialist Mischa Zverev, Ferrer, Thiem and World No. 5 Alexander Zverev.
The Argentine not only extended his win streak over Anderson to seven straight matches, but he also leap-frogs the New York Open champion in the rankings; taking the No. 8 spot as Anderson falls to No. 9.
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Few have had a better start to 2018 than France’s Lucas Pouille. The Montpellier champion and Marseille finalist reached his third final of the season at Dubai, and a victory here would ensure he broke into the top 10 for the first time in his career.
Pouille would have to settle for second place, as Roberto Bautista Agut capped off an astounding week that saw him drop only one set before capturing his first ATP 500 title. The Spaniard defeated Pouille 6-3 6-4 to win his eighth ATP World Tour title and second in 2018 (Auckland).
Bautista Agut now rises seven spots to No. 16 in the ATP rankings, whereas Pouille still reaches a new career high of No.12. The Frenchman did avenge his recent loss in the Marseille final to Karen Khachanov, defeating the Russian 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the second round.
Top seed Grigor Dimitrov resumed his subpar 2018 season, falling to unseeded wildcard Malek Jaziri in the first round. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion has left a lot to be desired this year. Russian Evgeny Donskoy; who is perhaps best known for his surprise upset of Roger Federer at the Dubai Open in 2017, fell to Serbian Filip Krajinovic in the quarterfinals. Jaziri and Krajinovic would go on to lose to Bautista Agut and Pouille respectively, in the semifinals.
Having won all his five ATP titles on clay, Fabio Fognini could be considered a specialist on that surface. It therefore came as no surprise when the Italian won his sixth title in Sao Paulo, defeating unseeded Chilean Nicolas Jarry 1-6 6-1 6-4 in 1 hour 33 minutes. The final was a thrilling encounter that saw numerous swings in momentum, as is common with Fognini.
.@fabiofogna is champion in Sao Paulo!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 4, 2018
Fognini is now second in match wins for the 2018 season with 14, behind Austrian Dominic Thiem (16). The Italian cracks the top 20 and sits at No. 19 while Jarry reaches a career high of No. 61. Jarry came close to becoming the first Chilean since Fernando Gonzalez (Vina del Mar 2009) to capture an ATP World Tour title but fell short in his quest.
Nevertheless, the Chilean has had a strong start to 2018; reaching the quarterfinal in Quito, semifinal in Rio and final in Sao Paulo. I sense a pattern here; will Jarry emerge victorious at his next event, which could potentially be Indian Wells?
Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka have both withdrawn from Indian Wells and Miami. With only a few days before the commencement of the BNP Paribas Open, Roger Federer is all but assured of the No. 1 ranking through Miami. Will the defending champion be able to win the Sunshine Double for a fourth time? Be sure to comment below, and follow us on www.tennis-pulse.com for complete coverage of the BNP Paribas Open.