Mondays with Bob Greene
Kei Nishikori beat Santiago Giraldo 6-2 6-2 to win the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in Barcelona, Spain
Maria Sharapova beat Ana Ivanovic 3-6 6-4 6-1 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany
Grigor Dimitrov beat Lukas Rosol 7-6 (2) 6-1 to win the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania
María-Teresa Torró-Flor beat Romina Oprandi 6-3 3-6 6-3 to win the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Marrakech, Morocco
Asia/Oceania Zone Group II Playoff: Indonesia beat Hong Kong China 3-1
“This is an important win for my career.” – Nicolas Almagro, after upsetting top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open.
“I had a lot of opportunities in the second set. I didn’t take advantage of break points, so credit goes to him.” – Rafael Nadal, following his loss to Nicolas Almagro.
“I just tried to hang in there. For the first half of the match I thought it might not be my day today, but somehow I turned it around.” – Maria Sharapova, who came from behind to beat Ana Ivanovic and win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix for the third time.
“She’s just a great player, and that’s what happens when you play against great players in big matches like this. You need to use your opportunities.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing the Stuttgart final to Maria Sharapova.
“I was playing well. I felt I should be in the final and I’m very happy to win.” –Kei Nishikori, who won his first clay court title at Barcelona, Spain.
“I feel great about the week. It was not an easy day for me. Kei played very good. I have good feelings about my play and my improvement.” – Santiago Giraldo, who lost to Kei Nishikori in the Barcelona final.
“It’s a funny story, because on Friday I asked (Robert) to play doubles but we weren’t sure if we would be playing. We got in as lucky losers and we won the tournament. It is an amazing tournament.” – Jesse Huta Galung, who teamed with Stephane Robert to win the doubles in Barcelona.
“I have worked really hard to start winning titles. I have put in enough effort, time and sacrifices to get here.” – Grigor Dimitrov, after capturing the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania.
“A run to a final was very good. It was a perfect week … If you had told me I would have reached the semifinals at the start of the week, I would have taken it.” – Lukas Rosol, who lost to Grigor Dimitrov in Bucharest.
SUCCESS ON CLAY
Kei Nishikori bested Santiago Giraldo to win his fifth tour-level title and second of the year. The key, however, is it was his first triumph on clay. The first Japanese-born player to win a clay-court title, Nishikori dropped his opening serve. No problem. After Giraldo held for a 2-0 lead, he didn’t win another game until deep into the second set as the quickness and fire-power of Nishikori was too much for the Colombian. “This title and (my run in) Miami helped my confidence, especially this week on clay,” Nishikori said. There are three big tournaments coming up in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros, so I hope I can do well and increase my (Emirates ATP Rankings) points. My next goal is to get to the Top 10.” Nishikori is the first non-Spaniard to win in Barcelona in 12 years. “I was good on clay when I was little – like 14 (years old). I was winning all the European juniors events,” Nishikori said. “Now it’s much tougher than hard courts and I was struggling a bit. But I’ve been playing well these past couple years so there’s no fear to play on clay.”
Stuttgart, Germany, is rapidly becoming Maria Sharapova’s favorite stop on the WTA Tour. The Russian captured the Porsche Grand Prix for the third straight time, coming from behind to defeat Ana Ivanovic. It was Sharapova’s first title of the year and 30th of her career. It also is the first time she has won a tournament three times. In the battle of former world number ones, Ana Ivanovic ripped through the first five games of the match, captured the first set and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the second before Sharapova found her big game, blasting winners off both sides. “From the first moment it was always a close match,” Ivanovic said. “It was always a few close balls to decide each game, and it went on the whole match,” Ivanovic said. “In the second set she definitely went for those big shots, though, and she made some amazing points.”
His domination on clay no longer a sure thing, Rafael Nadal is finding it difficult to add to his great record on his favorite surface. The world’s top-ranked player saw his 41-match winning streak at the Barcelona Open snapped by Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals. Seeking his ninth title in Barcelona, Nadal lost to his fellow Spaniard 2-6 7-6 (5) 6-4. The left-hander hadn’t lost in Barcelona since his debut in 2003 when he was just 15 years old. Injuries forced Nadal to miss the tournament in 2010. It was Almagro’s first career win over Nadal, who failed to convert any of his five break points in the second set. Almagro’s winning the second set snapped Nadal’s streak of 44 straight sets in Barcelona. Nadal saved the first match point. He didn’t survive the second. Nadal hadn’t been eliminated this early in consecutive clay-court tournaments since 2004, when as an 18-year-old he also failed to get past the quarterfinals in Stuttgart and Båstad. “That’s sport,” Nadal said. “Obviously it’s not the happiest day for me, but obviously I never thought I would win here 70 matches in a row. It was not my day today. I felt I did a lot of things well today to win the match, but at the end, (there) remained a little bit. Just accept the situation and keep fighting.”
Grigor Dimitrov moved a step closer to the top 10 when he sailed through the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania, without dropped a set. In the final, Dimitrov, the top seed in a tournament for the first time in his career, toppled Lukas Rosol, who was trying to defend his title. It took only 81 minutes for the 22-year-old Dimitrov to win his second title of the year. “It feels good to have won,” Dimitrov said. “I lifted my game, not having been happy with my previous matches in the tournament. I knew I had to lift my level, especially after the first set. Lukas is a very good winner who hit some outstanding winners.” The two battled evenly until Dimitrov easily captured the tiebreak 7-2. After that, the Bulgarian dominated. The win moved Dimitrov to 13th in the rankings. “Grigor was just amazing today,” an impressed Rosol said. “I played good tennis, but Grigor was better on the court and I had no answer. I am sure he will break into the Top 10 very soon.”
Horia Tecau can team with seemingly anyone else and win his home tournament, the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy, doubles title. Or it seems that way. Tecau won Bucharest for the third straight year, this time teaming with Jean-Julien Rojer to stop the Polish pair of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 6-4 6-4 in the final. Tecau had partnered Robert Lindstedt to the title in 2012 and Max Mirnyi to last year’s trophy. “It’s always great to win at home,” Tecau said. “We got great support from the crowd, but, of course, you also feel some extra pressure here. I’m very happy that I won this title with Jules after winning here during the past two years as well.” It was the third title this year for Tecau and Rojer. They also captured the PBZ Zagreb Indoors and the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca.
They were a pickup team that lost in qualifying. Yet there they were, collecting the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell doubles title. Jesse Huta Galung and Stephane Robert teamed up the Friday before the main draw began in the Spanish city. They got into the main draw as “lucky losers,” then refused to be defeated. “We played our own games all week,” Huta Galung said. “Maybe the other teams don’t know us as well, so we didn’t have anything to lose. Maybe the pressure was on them.” The Dutch-French team became just the third duo to win a WTA Tour-level title as “lucky losers.” In the final, they knocked off Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, who had two won the Barcelona. So, where do the winners go from here? “We don’t know,” Robert said. “Next week I will be at my highest ranking and Jesse will be around No. 70. So it is still not possible to play regularly on the ATP World Tour, so we might need to play with other players to earn more points before teaming up again.”
The final battle at the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem came down to two unseeded players seeking their first title. It was María-Teresa Torró-Flor who became the sixth first-time WTA champion of the year as she beat Romina Oprandi in a see-saw battle. Neither player had ever been in a final before. “It was a difficult match,” Torró-Flor said. “In the second set I started to lose my focus and Oprandi took advantage of that and took the set. I called my coach to the court and he told me I had to keep focusing and work hard like I always do, and after that I started to play a bit better. It was difficult, and I had to fight a lot, but I feel really happy to win my first title.” Torró-Flor took a 5-1 lead in the final set, then lost a chance to serve out the match. In her next service game, she never faltered. Other first-time WTA champions this year include Garbiñe Muguruza, Tsvetana Pironkova, Kurumi Nara, Caroline Garcia and Donna Vekic. With the exception of Pironkova, all of the first-timers are age 22 and under.
STEPPING INTO FATHERHOOD
Novak Djokovic is preparing to join Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka as the only members of the current Top 10 to have children. The Serbian right-hander announced that he and fiancée Jelena Ristic are expecting their first child. “Jelena and I are truly blessed to soon become parents! My love is pregnant!,” the world number two and six-time Grand Slam tournament champion wrote on Facebook. Djokovic and Ristic were engaged last September. Federer, who had twins with wife Mirka in 2009, is expected a third child in the coming weeks.
Andy Murray broke into tears when he accepted a civic honor in his Scottish hometown of Dunblane. When the local council awarded their favorite son “the freedom of Stirling,” Murray stopped to compose himself and several times wiped his eyes. “I think everyone knows I’m extremely proud of where I come from,” Murray said, his voice cracking. “Moving away was one of the sacrifices I had to make for my job, and every time I come back it’s quite emotional.” Among those in attendance were Murray’s parents, grandparents and girlfriend Kim Sears. Murray also received an honorary degree from the University of Stirling, whose courts he practiced on when he was young. “Tennis players don’t really come from Scotland, so it’s a strange story, but shows that anything can happen if you believe and you dream and work hard, then you can achieve whatever you want to,” said Murray, who currently is ranked eighth in the world.
SLIPPING IN, BRIEFLY
An injury to Caroline Wozniacki’s left wrist opened the door slightly for Johanna Konta of Britain. Konta lost in the final round of qualifying at the Porsche Grand Prix to Italy’s Giola Barbieri. But when Wozniacki withdrew from the clay-court tournament, Konta, as a “lucky loser,” gained a spot in the main draw. Unfortunately Konta’s stay in Stuttgart didn’t last long. She was ousted in the first round by Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 7-6 (4) 6-4.
Victoria Azarenka’s season is getting shorter and shorter. The world’s fourth-ranked player has pulled out of clay-court tournaments in Madrid and Rome as she recovers from a foot injury. Since reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals, the Belarusian has played in only one tournament, at Indian Wells, California, USA, where she lost her first match. The left foot problem flared up at the Australian Open, where she was seeking her third consecutive title. “Hey, everybody, unfortunately I won’t be competing in Madrid and Rome this year,” Azarenka said in a video posted on her Twitter account. Missing the Madrid Open and the tournament in Rome leaves Azarenka with little time to gain match fitness ahead of Roland Garros, which begins on May 25.
Ilie Nastase, at one time one of the highest-paid players in Europe, is running for a seat in the Romanian parliament. Once known as the “bad boy” of tennis, Nastase will stand in the Bucharest by-election for a seat in the Romanian Senate. Now 67 years old, Nastase will be a candidate for the Conservative Party, a small group that was founded by Dan Voiculescu, a former collaborator of the Communist Political Police, the Securitate. “Today, I want to get involved (in politics) to help sports in Romania,” Nastase said. “I want to fight for the adoption of a law on sponsorship, without which sport in this country is going to die.” Nastase led Romania to the Davis Cup final three times. He won the US Open in 1972 and in 1976 was the first European to exceed USD $1 million in career prize money. He retired from competition in 1984. Nastase ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Bucharest in 1996. The by-election will be held on May 25.
Barcelona: Jesse Huta Galung and Stephane Robert beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3 6-3
Bucharest: Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 6-4 6-4
Marrakech: Garbiñe Muguruza and Romina Oprandi beat Katarzyna Piter and Maryna Zanevska 4-6 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Stuttgart: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci beat Cara Black and Sania Mirza 6-2 6-3
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$590,148 Portugal Open, Qeiras, Portugal, clay
$590,148 BMW Open by FWU AG, Munich, Germany, clay
$125,000 Tunis Open, Tunis, Tunisia, clay
$117,586 Prosperita Open 2014, Ostrava, Czech Republic, clay
$250,000 Portugal Open, Qeiras, Portugal, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$5,077,700 Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay
$5,077,700 Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay
$100,000 Open de Cagnes-Sur-Mer Alpes-Maritimes, Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, clay