The tennis world seems to experience a fallout after the Aussie Open, with no major events to be played until late May. But Grand Slam Events or not, the ATP chugs on, with three minor tournaments this week.
First, the first ever South African Open was held in Johannesburg. The field of 32 held some respectable competition, but none moreso than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer.
Second, at PZB Zagreb Indoors, the draw contained many of the finer players from Eastern Europe, including Croatians Marin Cilic, Mario Ancic and Ivo Karlovic. Other well-known competitors were Igor Andreev, Paul-Henri Mathieu, and Andreas Seppi.
Lastly, Chile hosted the Vina Del Mar Movistar Open, the first tournament on red clay this season. Like at Zagreb, most of the competitors were local. Veteran Fernando Gonzalez was the top seed, followed by the likes of Tommy Robredo, Jose Acasuso, and Juan Monaco.
- Champion: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France
- Runner-Up: Jeremy Chardy, France
- Semi-Finalists: Fredrico Gil, Portugal and David Ferrer, Spain
Hard courts, outdoors.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated fellow countryman Jeremy Chardy to win the first ever South American Open, 6-4 7-6(5). Despite Chardy serving well (57 percent on first serves), he never managed to break Tsonga.
The relatively short match was loaded with short points, with the players firing a combined 27 aces. Tsonga did not drop a set all tournament.
Tsonga has attempted to right the ship after several disappointing losses already. After bowing out in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open to Fernando Verdasco, he rebounded with a purpose, hammering through the field of Johannesburg.
Jeremy Chardy's victory over David Ferrer in the semi-finals. Chardy won 1-6 7-6(9) 7-6(4). The young Frenchman has taken no time to begin his climb in the ATP Rankings, ascending 13 spots already since January.
Chardy fought back from a first-set blowout and also saved match point in the second set. The three set match nearly lasted three hours.
Chardy has also shown in the first month and a half of 2009 that he can compete with the ATP's finest. He played well against Novak Djokovic in Melbourne and saw solid results in Sydney.
Local favorite and veteran Rik De Voest dumped Ivan Navarro in the first round. Navarro, coming in at 73rd in the world had high hopes for this season, but the Spaniard has only gathered one win in four tournaments played so far.
That was over Frenchman Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy, currently ranked 340th.
- Champion: Marin Cilic, Croatia
- Runner-Up: Mario Ancic, Croatia
- Semi-Finalists: Jan Hernych, Czech Republic and Viktor Troicki, Serbia
Hard courts, indoors.
Towering 20-year-old Marin Cilic continued his early season success with his second tournament win in 2009, with the previous being in Chennai. He defeated fellow countryman Mario Ancic 6-3, 6-4 in a mere 90 minute show.
Cilic, despite serving terribly, converted on four of his six break point chances while Ancic was far less opportunistic, only converting two of twelve. Cilic, like Tsonga, also won without losing a set in the tournament.
An unlikely first-round match pinned the talented young Latvian Ernests Gulbis up against 30th-ranked Dmitry Tursunov of Russia. Gulbis would come back to take the victory, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. The two players went toe-to-toe all match, and Gulbis only broke Tursunov twice. It was all he needed.
Gulbis would lose in straight sets in the second round to 425th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia. Dodig also defeated top seeded Igor Andreev in the first round.
Top seed Igor Andreev being dismissed in the first round by Ivan Dodig in dominating fashion, 6-1, 6-4. The 22-year-old qualifier defeated two Top 50 players, while the only other time he saw a top player was when he was destroyed by Novak Djokovic in 2008.
Andreev, not known for being a hard court player, turned in one of his worst performances. He barely made contact on Dodig's serve, winning three total points off it in the match.
He has now bowed out in the first or second round of tournaments three times in 2009, a trend he will certainly not want to continue heading into the clay season.
- Champion: Fernando Gonzalez, Chile
- Runner-Up: Jose Acasuso, Argentina
- Semi-Finalists: Tommy Robredo, Spain and Pablo Cuevas, Uruguay
Red clay, outdoors.
Fernando Gonzalez, a Chilean, did not disappoint the locals of Vina Del Mar. He won his fourth career Movistar Open title in convincing fashion over Jose Acasuso of Argentina, 6-1, 6-3.
Gonzalez won in less than an hour, serving an incredible match and also capitalizing on break point chances. Acasuso never had an opportunity to break.
Fernando has had a solid season already, but he will most be remembered for his five-set epic victory over Richard Gasquet of France in the Australian Open.
Relative unknown qualifier Pablo Cuevas defeats Albert Montanes of Spain 7-6(2), 6-4. Cuevas served effectively throughout the match, and also pushed Montanes on his serve, winning close to 50 percent of the points.
Cuevas, the 171st ranked player, had a career best tournament. Despite being flattened by eventual champion Fernando Gonzalez, Cuevas quickly turned his season around in a flash after defeating Nicolas Lapentti, Albert Montanes, and Paul Capdeville in order.
He also had won five consecutive matches, going back to qualifying.
No major upsets here. But the biggest surprise of this tournament was fifth-seed Juan Monaco's exit. Monaco was demolished by Fernando Gonzalez 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinal round.
He has been in free fall since his career-high ranking of 14th in the world back in the early part of 2008.
What Awaits This Week
The first ATP 500 event since the Australian Open commences from Rotterdam this week. A very talented field is lined up, including Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The second red clay tournament of the year, the Brasil Open will also begin play from Costa do Sauipe this week. The field consists of several players in the Vina Del Mar draw, including Tommy Robredo, Albert Montanes and Jose Acasuso.
Lastly, the first tournament on American soil is the SAP Open from San Jose, California. This is a hard-court lover's dream. The field includes some of the best, with top seed Andy Roddick followed by Juan Martin Del Potro, James Blake and Radek Stepanek.