Welcome to this week’s edition of Catching Up With Tennis Pulse, and the latest news is that Marco Cecchinato won his maiden ATP Tour level title. Also, Rafael Nadal won another title on clay.
BARCELONA OPEN BANC SABADELL
World Number 1 Rafael Nadal has been at his devastating best over the past two weeks. Not only has the 10-time defending champion won 19 straight matches on clay dating back to Roland Garros last year, but he has also won 46 consecutive sets on his preferred surface. First time finalist and ATP NextGen star Stefanos Tsitsipas stood little chance of toppling the Spaniard, as Nadal decimated him in the final; taking it 6-2 6-1 in 77 minutes.
“I’m very happy for the victory against a very difficult opponent,” said Nadal post-match. “Tsitsipas has an amazing future. It was a great final for me and the 11th title here means a lot. I enjoyed the whole week and had great support from the crowd.
“It’s very difficult to describe how to win 11 titles at one tournament. To win 11 Monte-Carlos and 11 Barcelonas is something I couldn’t imagine doing. I’m just enjoying every week and the fact I’m playing in a tournament that I enjoy so much means a lot to me.”
This victory marks Nadal’s second straight La Undecima, after his triumph at the Monte-Carlo Masters last week. Not only did he surpass 400 career wins on clay, but he also claimed his 77th ATP title in the process. He is now tied for fourth-most of all time with John McEnroe, behind only Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (97) and Jimmy Connors (109).
Furthermore, the Spaniard retains his position atop the ATP rankings, as a loss this week would have seen him overtaken by World No. 2 Roger Federer. This is Nadal’s 172nd week as No. 1 and he will likely hold onto that position through the French Open.
It was a daunting experience for Tsitsipas; facing a legend like Nadal on his home turf is no small task. Additionally, the court being named “Pista Rafa Nadal” probably did not help alleviate his anxiety. Nonetheless, the young Greek phenom overcame the likes of Diego Schwartzman, third seed Dominic Thiem and Albert Ramos-Vinolas to advance to his maiden final.
“I knew the chances to win were small, but my confidence was rising in every match and while I was expecting a little better today, congratulations to Rafa,” Tsitsipas said after the match. “It was a first experience and tougher than I thought. I’ve watched him millions of times on TV, but it’s tougher to face him in reality.”
Tsitsipas can only grow from this encounter, and he rises 19 spots to a career-high of No. 44.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 29, 2018
Novak Djokovic continues to search for answers, as he fell in his opening round match to Slovak Martin Klizan 2-6 6-1 3-6. After surrendering the first set, the Serb produced a sublime display of tennis reminiscent of his former self, forcing a decider. However, momentum swung between both men and it was a crucial break in the eighth game that allowed Klizan to serve for and win the match.
Monte-Carlo finalist Kei Nishikori was upset in the first round, losing to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 3-6 0-0 RET. The Japanese superstar was forced to retire after feeling fatigue and discomfort in his troublesome right wrist during his opening round match. Second seed Grigor Dimitrov lost to Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinal, and he looks to have finally rediscovered his form after a shaky start to the season. The Bulgarian reached the semifinal in Monte-Carlo but fell to Nadal. Fourth seed David Goffin made it to the semifinals in Barcelona, but lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Gazprom Hungarian Open
An ATP 250 event, the Budapest Open was originally hosted in Bucharest, Romania before being relocated to Budapest, Hungary in 2017. Frenchman Lucas Pouille was the inaugural champion, and he returned as top seed to defend his title.
A moment Marco Cecchinato will never forget.
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) April 29, 2018
To everyone’s surprise, it was lucky loser Marco Cecchinato who claimed his maiden ATP tour-level title. The unseeded Italian defeated Australian John Millman 7-5 6-4 in the final to become the first lucky loser to win an ATP title since Argentine Leonardo Mayer accomplished this feat in Hamburg last July.
Fortune was indeed on Cecchinato’s side, as the 92nd ranked Italian lost in the final round of the Budapest qualifiers a day before the tournament began. He however gained entry into the event as a lucky loser, and the rest is history. The 25 year old Italian previously had only five career tour-level wins to his name, but now rises to a career-high of No. 59.
“I lost last Sunday and now I won the tournament. It’s amazing for me,” Cecchinato said after his victory. “Maybe it’s a dream, I don’t know….. Today is a special day because I won the first title of my career, and I’m very happy.”
John Millman was also seeking his first ATP title but fell short on Sunday. The Australian had in fact completed his semifinal match against Aljaz Bedene earlier in the day after it was suspended due to darkness on Saturday evening. He then had to return two hours later to battle a fresher Cecchinato. Whether that played a role in determining the outcome is best left to speculation, as the match really could have gone either way. Regardless, Millman rises 25 spots to No. 69 in the ATP rankings.
Defending champion and top seed Lucas Pouille lost to Millman in the second round, whereas Canadian sensation Dens Shapovalov seems to be losing steam; also falling in the second round to Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.
With upcoming tournaments in Munch, Istanbul and Estoril, the clay-court season is in full swing. Furthermore, Rafael Nadal will not be competing at any of these events, so someone else has a chance at winning. At least until the Mutua Madrid Open, which commences in a week. Then it’s business as usual for Rafa.
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