The first big titles of the tour's annual Asian swing were decided over the weekend, with successes for Milos Raonic, Petra Kvitova, and Joao Sousa. Wimbledon.com reports...
Milos Raonic must get very tired of people asking when he's going to live up to his potential. Will he show himself to be the next big thing, the next Grand Slam champion, the future of men's tennis which the ATP is so desperately seeking? Well, the Canadian flung a response back in his doubters' direction with his upset of Tomas Berdych to win the Bangkok title, proving that he has not been ambling around aimlessly after all.
The third seed toppled Berdych 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final of Thailand's major tournament, and, as you'd expect, it was all about his first serve. 18 aces, 95 per cent of first serve points, and just one break point made life very difficult for Berdych, who, as top seed, was looking for his first title of the season.
"He was exceptional," Berdych said of his younger opponent. "He was serving really well and didn’t give me many chances. Basically, the match was about two points. Both of them Milos handled better and so he deserved to win."
The win means that Raonic moves a 6ft 5ins-sized leap towards competing in the ATP's high profile season-ender in London, now just 180 points behind the returning Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
"I think I'm playing great tennis, I'm serving really well, I'm doing a lot of good things," Raonic said. "If I keep that up I think I'll have opportunities and will put myself in a good position, no matter who [I play]."
If Raonic's week in Bangkok was one of stepping forwards into the limelight, Petra Kvitova's in Tokyo was one of stepping back into it. The 2011 Wimbledon champion has struggled with form and fitness almost ever since her ground-breaking second half of 2011, in which she picked up the Wimbledon title, the WTA Championships and the Fed Cup title. But she summoned the best of her scrappability, first in a nerve-jangling three-set win over Venus Williams in the semi-finals, the great champion narrowly falling 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) to Kvitova, and then in a 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber in the final.
The first entirely left-handed final on the WTA since Melinda Czink beat Lucie Safarova in Quebec in 2009, the scoreline accurately reflected a lot of big hitting and a lot of big missing from both sides of the net. 17 winners wrapped up the first set for Kvitova before she went wayward in the second. But she pulled herself together to zoom into a 4-0 lead in the decider, before hitting a trademark cross court forehand winner to clinch the win.
"In the first set I was attacking every ball and hitting so many winners but in the beginning of the second set I made some easy mistakes and felt slower in my legs, and that's what Angie was waiting for," Kvitova said. "I knew it wasn't over until the last point, though. After the second set I knew what I had to do - play the same way as the first set, stay aggressive and cut the mistakes down again.
"I'm very happy I could win this final today. For me the whole tournament was great - I felt good all week on the court. I really enjoyed my week here and it's even better to come away with the title."
The result, her 11th WTA title, means that Kvitova bounds back into the world's top 10, from No.11 to No.7, and she has lost just four of the 15 finals she has contested.
Meanwhile across the Sea of Japan, Bojana Jovanovski defeated Zhang Shuai to win the inaugural WTA $125k in Ningbo, China.
While Jamie Murray and John Peers continued their successful doubles partnership with their third title as a team in Bangkok, it was a day of firsts for Joao Sousa, who won his maiden ATP singles title with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Julien Benneteau in Kuala Lumpur. The world No.77 described it as "a dream come true," saying that he had to "just gave it my best."
With the season on countdown to the year's finales in London and Istanbul respectively, the ATP and WTA are playing in Beijing this week, with the ATP also in Tokyo.
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