Don't miss any stories Follow Tennis View

Week in Review: Best and Worst of Paris, Pattaya, Davis Cup

Feb 2nd 2014

The week after the Australian Open featured two small WTA tournaments in Paris (Premier) and Pattaya City (International), while the men focused on the first round of Davis Cup action.  Many of the familiar names fulfilled expectations, but unsung heroes also emerged.


Russian women:  After accomplishing little of note at the Australian Open, they rebounded with strong results on two continents.  This might not seem surprising, since world No. 5 Maria Sharapova held the top seed in Paris.  But it was not Sharapova who raised her flag highest there, despite two solid wins that marked a step forward from her inconsistent form in Melbourne. 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Taking center stage instead was a countrywoman who upset Sharapova in a semifinal. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova battled to the biggest title of her career with five consecutive three-set victories, four after losing the first set.  The former junior star had plateaued since a 2011 breakthrough campaign, but winning a set from Agnieszka Radwanska at the Australian Open may have served notice of a brighter 2014 to come.  Three straight top-10 victories over Angelique Kerber, Sharapova, and Sara Errani revealed more fitness and greater belief than we ever have seen from the still-maturing Pavlyuchenkova.

A continent and a half away, Ekaterina Makarova won the second title of her career—and the first on a hard court—at Pattaya City.  Makarova had reached the quarterfinals at three of the last five hard-court majors yet struggled to maintain consistency in singles.  (She reached the Australian Open final in doubles as the partner of Elena Vesnina and ranks in the top eight of those rankings.)  Her classic lefty shot-making arsenal is rarely seen in the WTA these days.

Also in Pattaya City, Vera Zvonareva secured her first victory since the 2012 Olympics in Pattaya City, the third event of her comeback.  Although the win came against an anonymous opponent, Zvonareva needed this positive sign to keep believing that she can reignite her career.   Another former world No. 2, Svetlana Kuznetsova captured her 500th career win there. This achievement seemed fitting for a woman who has won major titles on two different surfaces and troubled nearly every champion of her generation.   (Justine Henin is the main exception.)  Kuznetsova issued a walkover in the next round, which also seemed fitting for a woman who never could string together success for long.

Kei Nishikori:  Playing the hero in a Davis Cup tie at home, the Japanese No. 1 delivered all three victories that his nation needed.  To be sure, Nishikori was favored in both of his singles matches and received a retirement on Sunday, while an unheralded doubles partner assisted him in Saturday’s victory over a favored Canadian team.  But a man whose biggest title came in Tokyo deserved the chance to bask in the admiration of his compatriots again.  The last of his three victories also secured the first triumph for Japan at the World Group level.

Alize Cornet:  French players often crumble under the pressure of playing before their home fans.  One might have expected the easily flustered Cornet to join that group in Paris this week.  To the contrary, she battled through three-setter after three-setter before succumbing in one last epic to the much higher-ranked Sara Errani.  Each of Cornet’s matches lasted more than two and a half hours, adding up to 11 hours and 38 minutes of court time across three victories and the narrowest of semifinal losses.  She should bring plenty of confidence to Fed Cup next weekend, played in the same arena.

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych:  Expected to steamroll an overmatched Dutch squad, the world No. 7 did exactly that.  Berdych sometimes has made the easy look difficult (and the difficult look easy) but made the easy look even easier in dropping just 14 games over the six sets of his singles matches.  He also partnered Radek Stepanek to yet another doubles victory for the two-time Davis Cup defending champions.  Often seen as an aloof egotist, Berdych gains great pride from contributing to his nation’s cause. 

Kimiko Date-Krumm:  Who would you take in a three-set, three-hour battle between a powerful 20-year-old ranked No. 35 and a crafty 43-year-old ranked outside the top 100?  If you picked Garbine Muguruza over Kimiko Date-Krumm, as most of us did, you picked wrong.  Prevailing in a 14-point third-set tiebreak, Date-Krumm continued to show the value of experience against women who weren’t alive when her professional career began.

Fabio Fognini:  Like Nishikori and Berdych, he delivered two singles victories and contributed to his team’s doubles victory.  Unlike those two men, Fognini achieved the feat on the road despite a hostile Argentine crowd.  After a solid second-week effort at the Australian Open, this weekend positions him well for the upcoming South American clay swing.

Julia Goerges:  The subplots just kept coming from Pattaya City despite its minor status and indifferent draw.  One more before moving on:  Goerges, a talented shot-maker who has stagnated for over two years, reached her first semifinal there in 32 tournaments.  Coming on the heels of an Australian Open upset over Errani, that result should give her fans hope for a revival.

Andrey Golubev:  Known largely for a long losing streak in 2011, the Kazakh No. 2 won the only decisive fifth rubber in Davis Cup this weekend.  Golubev did so in style, blasting away Ruben Bemelmans in straight sets after Belgium had rallied from a 0-2 deficit to level the tie.  A key reason why Kazakhstan had seized the 2-0 lead in the first place was his resilience under pressure on Friday.  Saving match points against Belgian No. 1 David Goffin, Golubev wrested away a 12-10 fifth set in the weekend’s most dramatic thriller.


Juan Martin Del Potro:  Injuries have played too prominent a role in the first month of the season.  The Australian Open witnessed setbacks to three marquee stars in Serena Williams (back), Maria Sharapova (hip), and Rafael Nadal (back).  Also among the casualties there, although we did not know it at the time, was world No. 4 del Potro.  Suffering from pain in his left wrist during both Australian matches, he flew to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for an examination this week.  Surgery on del Potro’s right wrist sidelined him for several months in 2010, so fans will hope that his left wrist does not suffer the same fate.

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova:  The 2014 campaign could not have started much more ominously for the former Wimbledon champion.  Downed in the first round of the Australian Open, Kvitova withdrew from Paris with a respiratory illness.  Looming in the not-so-distant future is another trip to North America, where her asthma-like condition tends to flare up.

Sam Querrey:  On Friday, he faced a must-win Davis Cup match against an opponent far outside the top 100 in James Ward.  Querrey handled his business with sufficient if not stunning efficiency through the first three and a half sets, not facing a break point.  Two service holds from a four-set victory, then, he collapsed in dropping 10 of the last 11 games and five straight breaks.  Querrey watched Andy Murray and Great Britain celebrate their victory in San Diego two days later, surely ruing the pivotal role that he played in contributing to it. 

Sabine Lisicki:  Filled with talent, German tennis often seems star-crossed by injuries.  Tommy Haas and Andrea Petkovic have suffered more than their share, as has last year’s Wimbledon finalist Lisicki.  Unable to serve effectively in her opener at Pattaya City, Lisicki issued a walkover as the top seed. She has struggled to produce her superb grass form during other periods of the season, and injuries that curtail her court time are part of the reason why.

Team Canada:  When it rains, it pours.  First, singles No. 2 Vasek Pospisil dropped out of the tie against Japan with the back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Australian Open.  Then, singles No. 1 Milos Raonic declared himself unfit to play just before the weekend, citing an ankle injury.  Adding damage to destruction, singles alternate Frank Dancevic suffered a stomach muscle injury and retired from the fourth rubber against Nishikori.  Peter Polansky, the only healthy player remaining from Canada, must be anxiously awaiting his fate. 

Simona Halep:  Her first match as a member of the top 10 did not have a happy ending.  On the fast indoor courts of Paris, home hope Kristina Mladenovic bombed Halep into submission.