It was a week of mixed fortunes for top seeds Carla Suarez Navarro, Tomas Berdych and Fabio Fognini in Oeiras and Munich. Wimbledon.com reports...
We’re used to seeing Spanish men win titles. Last season, players from the Iberian country won 17 ATP tournaments – the most of any nation – and this year they lead the way once more with five: Rafael Nadal (2), David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
But when it comes to women’s tennis, Spanish winners in recent years have been few and far between, which made it all the more noticeable when Carla Suarez Navarro became the third youngster from Spain to win a WTA title this year, lifting her first crown at the Portugal Open at the weekend.
Suarez Navarro arrived in Oeiras, in the Southern tip of the country, as the top seed and soon asserted her dominance over the field, dropping just seven games en route to the semi-final before seeing off Irina Begu 7-6(3), 6-1.
The 25 year old carried an unenviable 0-5 record in finals into her encounter with former Roland Garros champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, and when the Russian opened up a 4-1 lead in the third set it appeared five near misses were about to become six for the diminutive Spaniard.
But with her trusty forehand and elegant one-handed backhand, Suarez Navarro came storming back to capture 18 of the next 24 points, winning the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes.
The world No. 15 joined compatriots Garbine Muguruza, 20, (Hobart) and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, 21, (Marrakech) in the 2014 winners’ circle.
"I'm very happy I could finally win my first WTA title," said Suarez Navarro after the win. "I was a little bit nervous today. It was a difficult match too - it was windy and we were both making mistakes, and we know each other well, but the most important thing for me was just to be solid.
"On match point I was only thinking to put the ball in, and that's what I did, and I felt so good when I finally finished the match. The ceremony was very special for me. I really love this tournament."
While the No. 1 seed advanced to victory on the women’s side in Oeiras, things didn’t quite go to plan for the highest ranked men at the two ATP events in Oeiras and Munich.
At the Portugal Open, world No. 6 Tomas Berdych looked on course to win his 10th career title and first on clay in five years when he opened up a 6-0 lead in the final against Carlos Berlocq.
But the Argentine, who was playing with renewed swagger after notching the first top 10 win of his career against Milos Raonic in the quarter-final, edged the second set 7-5 before completing the stunning turnaround by taking the third 6-1.
"In the second set, when I changed my tactics I saw the ball better, committed less errors and it opened the door," said Berlocq after collecting his second career title. "To win a title, and against a top 10 player, carries double merits. To close the match the way I did was very emotional."
Similarly to Berdych, Fabio Fognini – one of 2014’s standout players – had one hand on his second title of the season in Munich. The top seeded Italian set up a final showdown with Martin Klizan as he eased past wild card Dustin Brown and qualifiers Thomaz Bellucci and Jan-Lennard Struff in his opening three matches.
When at his best, Fognini is a joy to watch. The world No. 13 plays with a delicate blend of power and feel, and his array of skills suggest it won’t be long before he breaks the top 10. And it was his best that was on full display during the first set of the final as he took the opener 6-2.
But, just like he did when he overcame Fognini to lift his first ATP title in St. Petersburg in 2012, it was world No. 111 Klizan who had the last word, steadying himself to take the second set for the loss of just one game before running away with the third, 6-2.
The Slovak became the first qualifier to win an ATP event since Nicolas Mahut emerged victorious in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in June 2013. He was also the first titlist ranked outside the top 100 since No. 155 Ivo Karlovic won in Bogota last July.
“To come through qualifying - playing eight matches in nine days - is tough,” said Klizan. “It is difficult to be fit every day. I beat many good players, from [Mikhail] Youzhny to Tommy [Haas]. I am very proud of myself that it ended happily.”
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