By Bob Greene
Horacio Zeballos beat Rafael Nadal 6-7 (2) 7-6 (6) 6-4 to win the VTR Open in Viña del Mar, Chile
Richard Gasquet beat Benoit Paire 6-2 6-3 to win the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, France
Marin Cilic beat Jurgen Melzer 6-3 6-1 to win the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in Zagreb, Croatia
Rhyne Williams beat Robby Ginepri 7-5 6-3 to win the Challenger of Dallas in Dallas, Texas, USA
Lauren Davis beat Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3 2-6 7-6 (2) to win the Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Michigan, USA
Czech Republic beat Australia 4-0 at Ostrava, Czech Republic
Italy beat the United States 3-2 at Rimini, Italy
Russia beat Japan 3-2 at Moscow, Russia
Slovak Republic beat Serbia 3-2 at Nis, Serbia
World Group II
Switzerland beat Belgium 4-1 at Bern, Switzerland; Sweden beat Argentina 3-2 at Buenos Aires, Argentina; Spain beat Ukraine 3-1 at Alicante, Spain; Germany beat France 3-1 at Limoges, France
Zone Group I
Europe/Africa at Eilat, Israel: Great Britain and Poland advance to the World Group playoffs on April 20-21; Bosnia/Herzegovina and Georgia are relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group II in 2014
Americas at Medellín, Colombia: Canada advances to the World Group playoffs on April 20-21; Chile and Peru are relegated to Americas Zone Group II for 2014
Asia/Oceania at Astana, Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan advances to the World Group playoffs on April 20-21; India is relegated to Asia/Oceania Zone Group II for 2014.
Zone Group II
Asia/Oceania at Astana, Kazakhstan: Indonesia is promoted to Asia/Oceania Zone Group I for 2014
“I’m shocked. I’ve beaten one of the best players of tennis history. It’s an incredible sensation.” – Horacio Zeballos, after upsetting Rafael Nadal in the final of a clay court tournament.
“Although I didn’t make it (to win the tournament), for me it is a huge achievement playing all the week.” – Rafael Nadal, when he received the runner-up trophy.
“It’s tough now. Before we had Kim (Clijsters), we had Justine (Henin) and, OK, now we have Yanina and Kirsten, and they’re a good team, too, together with the younger girls. But if one of them can’t play, it’s getting a lot tougher.” – Ann Devries, Belgian Fed Cup captain, after Belgium lost to Switzerland.
“I felt I played an almost perfect match, for sure the best one in a year, year and a half. Everything worked perfectly – serve, return, movement on court.” – Marin Cilic, after winning the Zagreb Indoors for the third time.
“In the morning when I was practicing, it was even difficult to walk. I took some pain-killers before the match and adrenaline helped me when I was on court. (Ekaterina) Makarova is a really tough player and it was hard to get many points out there, but I tried my best, but it just wasn’t enough.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, who played despite her injury and lost her second singles match in Japan’s 3-2 loss to Russia.
“It shows that I have had a good career so far, and when I started playing tennis I never dreamed of winning 300 matches on tour, especially reaching the Top 10. Winning 300 matches is something big.” – Jurgen Melzer, whose 300th career victory came against Lukas Rosol in the quarterfinals of the PBZ Zagreb Indoors.
“Obviously it was a great week for us. Today, we think we played our best match of the tournament. We had to, because (Ivan) Dodig and (Mate) Pavic beat a lot of good teams this week.” – Julian Knowle, who teamed with Filip Polasek to win the Zagreb Indoors doubles.
“We were leading 2-1 and we had a chance to win, but this is the Fed Cup and this is tennis. My players gave their best and that’s all I can ask of them. This is the start for us, not the finish. We only have three players in the top hundred, and if we want to improve our players need to get higher rankings. It’s a long way to reach this goal, but we need to try.” – Takeshi Murakami, Japan’s Fed Cup captain.
SOUTH AMERICAN STUNNER
Rafael Nadal’s return didn’t go quite according to plan. Playing in his first tournament since losing early at Wimbledon last June, Nadal was shocked again as he fell to Argentine Horacio Zeballos in the VTR Open final to claim his first career title. “I still think I’m dreaming,” an emotional Zeballos said. “It’s an honor playing against him. I enjoyed being with him at the locker room, eating with him. He’s a great guy, I would like to ask him if he’s from this planet.” It was Zeballos who played as if he came from another planet. When Nadal served to stay in the match, he was broken by Zeballos to close out the nearly three-hour match. Nadal has been sidelined by a troublesome knee injury, and his comeback was delayed by illness. The reigning French Open champion is scheduled to play two more tournaments in his South and Central American swing. “This is one of the best weeks of the last months,” Nadal told the crowd following the match. “I want to thank you all.”
Rafael Nadal didn’t just fall in the singles final at Viña del Mar. The Spaniard also reached the title match in doubles, only to once again wind up with the runner-up trophy. Nadal and Juan Monaco lost to the Italian pair of Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace 6-2 6-4. It was Lorenzi’s first doubles final, while Starace captured his sixth crown in his ninth final. “I’m really happy because Potito and I are very good friends,” Lorenzi said. “It was a great victory for us against Monaco and Nadal. We hope to play in another tournament again as soon as possible.”
After dropping the opening singles match, surprising Switzerland rallied for a 4-1 first-round Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II victory over visiting Belgium. With the win, Switzerland advanced to the World Group playoffs in April. Romina Oprandi and Stefanie Voegele won both of their “reverse” singles matches to clinch the victory. Oprandi, Switzerland’s top player, beat two higher-ranked opponents, Kirsten Flipkens and Yanina Wickmayer, losing just 10 games in the process. Voegele’s win over Alison van Uytvanck clinched the tie. “On paper they were the stronger side, but we had some compensation for that by playing at home and being able to choose the surface,” Swiss captain Heinz Guenthardt said. “But never mind that, I feel our players played absolutely at the maximum of their capacity and you can’t really ask for anything more. It was a perfect weekend.”
Marin Cilic continued his winning ways in Zagreb, Croatia. The top-seeded Cilic won his nation’s top ATP event, the PBZ Zagreb Indoors, for the third time. This time he stopped Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in the title match. Cilic also won the Zagreb tournament in 2009 and 2010. He now has won nine career titles. Melzer was never in the contest as Cilic began the day by winning the first two games and racing to a 5-3 first-set lead. Melzer won just one more game. “He deserved the victory,” said Melzer. “It was a really good match he played – very well from the baseline, had good serve. I had to play for all points on my serve.”
In an all-French final, Richard Gasquet won his second title of the season, stopping Benoit Paire in the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. “It’s fabulous to win two titles in a season, especially so early,” Gasquet said. “I’m very motivated for the remainder of the season.” He also captured the Qatar Open in January and now has nine career titles. Paire was playing in only his second ATP Tour final, losing to Andreas Seppi in Belgrade, Serbia, last year. “I rushed a lot of my shots,” Paire said. “I thought about the final in Belgrade where things went bad for me. When I lost the first set 6-2, I told myself ‘it’s happening again.’ I think the result is a bit normal. You must play a few finals to know how it feels.”
Beginning its run to a third straight Fed Cup championship, the Czech Republic crushed Australia 4-0, thanks to Petra Kvitova coming back from match point down to beat Samantha Stosur 2-6 7-6 (3) 6-4. “It was my first really good match this year,” Kvitova said in an on-court interview. “When I lost the first set I didn’t want to give up the match. I knew the next matches could be very tough, which is why I fought a lot, and the key was the tiebreak in the second set.” Stosur had lost her opening singles match to Lucie Safarova on two tiebreaks. Against Kvitova she played much better tennis. But after missing a match point 67 minutes into the match, it was Kvitova who picked up her game. “I don’t think I did much wrong today,” Stosur said. “It was one that just slipped away. Petra played a very good match. In the second set I thought we were both playing very high quality, and when it comes down to that, it was just a point here and a point there.”
Russia had to battle to get past Japan, but it did just that in its first-round Fed Cup World Group tie. Japan’s Ayumi Morita won both of her singles matches, but Russia’s Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova captured the decisive doubles match to give the home squad a 3-2 victory. “It was tough, but it was an amazing couple of days for us and we are so happy that we beat Japan and it was very difficult for us,” Vesnina said. “Ekaterina was a real hero for us as she helped us win a couple of crucial points.” Makarova won her first Fed Cup singles match, besting Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, to keep Russia in the contest. Then she teamed with Vesnina for the winning point. Suffering from an Achilles injury, Date-Krumm decided to play only minutes before the match was to begin. The 42-year-old said she decided to play as she believed it would be too much pressure to ask rookie Misaki Doi to play her first World Group singles match in such a pressurized situation.
Marc Gicquel and Michael Llodra were just doing what has become normal. They became the eighth all-French pair since 1987 to win the doubles at the Open Sud de France. It was their first ATP World Tour team title. “Now I can say that I won all the French tournaments – except Roland Garros – as Montpellier was the one I was missing,” Llodra said. “My objective in doubles is to beat Guy’s (Forget) doubles record of 28 titles. I won’t stop until I beat him.” Llodra has won 24 career doubles titles, while Gicquel won his first since the 2010 Brisbane International. “It’s been a great week for me and I want to thank ‘Mika’ for playing with me here in Montpellier,” Gicquel said. “We had a lot of fun on and off court and I am delighted that my fourth career title comes here in Montpellier and in France.”
Dallas: Alex Kuznetsova and Mischa Zverev beat Tennys Sandgren and Rhyne Williams 6-4 6-7 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Midland: Melinda Czink and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni beat Maria-Fernanda Alves and Samantha Murray 5-7 6-4 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Montpellier: Marc Gicquel and Michael Llodra beat Johan Brunstrom and Raven Klaasen 6-3 3-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Viña del Mar: Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace beat Juan Monaco and Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-4
Zagreb: Julian Knowle and Filip Polasek beat Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic 6-3 6-3
San Jose: www.sapopentennis.com
São Paulo: www.brasilopen.com.br
Buenos Aires: http://copaclaro.com/atp/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$1,728,200 ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, hard
$546,930 SAP Open, San Jose, California, USA, hard
$455,775 Brasil Open, São Paulo, Brazil, clay
$2,369,000 Qatar Total Open, Doha, Qatar, hard
$125,000 Copa Bionare, Cali, Colombia, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,212,750 US National Indoor Tennis Championships, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard
$706,214 Open 13, Marseille, France, hard
$493,670 Copa Claro, Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay
$2,000,000 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hard
$235,000 US National Indoor Tennis Championships, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, hard
$235,000 Copa Claro Colsanitas, Bogotá, Colombia, clay