The 2014 ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament featured several big names in men's tennis, headlined by No. 1 seed and defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro.
It marked the Argentine's first appearance in nearly a month since a disappointing Round 2 loss at the Australian Open. With arguably the most powerful forehand on the ATP and a massive serve, Del Potro seems destined for success yet again on the indoor hard courts of Ahoy Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
James Buddell of ATPWorldTour.com reports that Del Potro didn't play tennis for 20 days due to a nagging wrist injury after his five-set loss in Melbourne to Roberto Bautista Agut, as Del Potro described how he sought medical attention:
I had played well in Sydney, but when I got to Melbourne the surface was faster and the balls were different. I started to feel something wrong at the beginning of the tournament [against Rhyne Williams]. After my five-set match against [Roberto] Bautista Agut, that is when I sought advice from my doctor.
It didn't seem like Del Potro was quite fit enough to defend the trophy, as he lost in the quarterfinals to Ernests Gulbis. Fellow power player in No. 3 seed Tomas Berdych wound up with the singles title this time around, defeating Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
Andy Murray, who was seeded second and was the 2009 tournament champion, fell to Cilic in the quarterfinals.
French compatriots Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were the fourth and fifth seeds respectively, but Cilic beat Tsonga in the second round en route to the final, while Philipp Kohlschreiber disposed of Gasquet at the same juncture.
The complete draw for the tournament can be viewed at ATPWorldTour.com, along with match stats and further information about the competitors.
Read on to find out how the tournament unfolded throughout the week, with scores and results from each stage of this exciting first entry in the ATP's annual 500 series.
No. 3 Tomas Berdych def. Marin Cilic; 6-4, 6-2
A valiant run to the final in the Netherlands ended in an abrupt manner for Marin Cilic on Sunday, as third seed Tomas Berdych powered his way past his upstart adversary 6-4, 6-2.
After an Australian Open run to the semifinals in which he pushed eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka to three tiebreakers in a four-set loss, Berdych thrived in the Davis Cup in winning both of his singles match. Then he came to Rotterdam ready to roll, dropping just one tiebreak set to Jerzy Janowicz in the quarterfinals.
This marked the first singles title for Berdych since the end of 2012, which is a surprisingly long drought for a player of his caliber. The win puts Berdych at No. 6 in the world, per ATPWorldTour.com.
Cilic was coming off of a singles title triumph in his native Croatia before this tournament and used that momentum to beat the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray en route to an encounter with Berdych. Unfortunately, the combination of power and precision from his counterpart was too much to overcome.
Berdych capitalized on Cilic's second serve with his thunderous groundstrokes, winning 14 of 24 second-serve points and converting three of four break opportunities, while Cilic didn't take advantage of any of his three break chances.
The Czech champion expressed some relief in a playful jab at Cilic after he'd secured the win, per the tournament's official Twitter account:
A happy Berdych jokes: 'Marin, you had a good week, but there can be only one winner.' @tomasberdych— ABN AMRO WTT (@abnamrowtt) February 16, 2014
This should serve as a launching point for Berdych as the 2014 campaign progresses. With this title under his belt, perhaps it will lead to more and even success at the major tournaments. Wawrinka's breakthrough in Melbourne proves that there is room to move up despite an entrenched elite hierarchy in men's tennis.
Between Rafael Nadal's frequent health issues, the potential decline of Roger Federer and Andy Murray's early rust, there should be ample opportunities for Berdych to further prove himself.
Tomas Berdych def. Ernests Gulbis, 6-3, 6-2.
Marin Cilic def. Igor Sijsling, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
The ABN Amro final in Rotterdam is set after thrilling action saw Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic emerge victorious in their semifinal matches.
Berdych, the tournament's No. 3 seed, made quick work of Ernests Gulbis, who hails from Latvia and had won two of the last five meetings between the two.
Alas, Berdych was simply more sharp this time around in all regards, as the Czech Republic star eased his way to victory—although he says it was anything but, according to the Associated Press, via Fox Sports: ''Probably it looks on paper that it was easy, but it definitely was not."
The second match of the day was marginally more competitive, mostly thanks to the strong home crowd in attendance for Igor Sijsling.
Cilic, fresh off a tournament win in Zagreb, unranked in Rotterdam and rolling after an upset over Andy Murray, was simply too much for Sijsling to handle. Sijsling started hot, but simply did not have enough to go the distance.
Berdych owns a 4-2 head-to-head advantage against Cilic, but with both men playing at such a high level, anything can happen in the final.
Ernests Gulbis def. No. 1 Juan Martin del Potro; 6-3, 6-4
Marin Cilic def. No. 2 Andy Murray; 6-3, 6-4
No. 3 Tomas Berdych def. Jerzy Janowicz; 6-7(9), 6-2, 6-4
Igor Sijsling vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber...in progress
Friday's singles quarterfinal action features plenty of surprises as the top two seeds were each knocked off in straight sets.
Defending tournament champion Juan Martin del Potro saw Ernests Gulbis record a dozen aces in his 6-3, 6-4 loss. The Argentine would squander his only break point of the match in the final game, missing out on an opportunity to potentially extend it to three sets.
Delpo maintained his fighting spirit until the very end, but it was clear that his banged-up wrist was giving him problems as he was unable to hit the ball as cleanly as he had hoped.
Gulbis will take on Tomas Berdych in the semifinals on Saturday. Berdych fought from behind in Friday's opening quarterfinal to defeat Jerzy Janowicz.
In the night session, second-seeded Andy Murray was dispatched by Marin Cilic with an identical scoreline. As The Sunday Times tennis correspondent Barry Flatman points out, Murray was a shell of himself during key break points, going 0 of 4 for the match.
Will Andy Murray justify that defeat as him still rehabbing after the back surgery? More accurately he wasn't match tough on break points.— Barry Flatman (@Barry_FlatmanST) February 14, 2014
Murray also had no answer for Cilic's first serve, winning just 4 of 36 points on the first-serve return for the entire match. It didn't help that the Croatian was able to put 62 percent of his first serves in play.
Cilic has now knocked off two of the top five seeds in the draw and has a favorable draw through to Sunday's final.
Round 2 Results
No. 1 Juan Martin del Potro def. Paul-Henri Mathieu; 6-2, 7-6(2)
Philipp Kohlschreiber def. No. 4 Richard Gasquet; 7-5, 7-5
No. 3 Tomas Berdych def. Nicolas Mahut; 6-4, 6-3
Ernests Gulbis def. No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov; 6-4, 7-6(3)
Jerzy Janowicz def. No. 6 Tommy Haas; 6-4, 6-4
No. 2 Andy Murray def. Dominic Thiem; 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Igor Sijsling def. Michael Berrer; 6-1, 6-2
There were some classic matchups on Day 4 in Rotterdam, and the high level of competition led to a number of upsets throughout the day.
Philipp Kohlschreiber pulled off the biggest upset of the day over No. 4 seed Richard Gasquet. The German was actually down 4-5 in both sets before turning it on down the stretch. He won three sets in a row in each set to come away with a quarterfinal win.
No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov also went down despite one highly impressive shot against Ernests Gulbis:
Gulbis hit 12 aces and won 85 percent of first-serve points to secure the win and play his way into the quarterfinals. Of course, this serving performance was not quite as impressive as that of Jerzy Janowicz, who totaled 18 aces to only two double faults in his upset win over No. 6 Tommy Haas.
Of course, not every top seed went down. No. 2 Andy Murray certainly had his problems in the second set against Dominic Thiem, but he came back with some consistent serving in the final set and never saw a break point to ensure the win.
Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro also was able to advance thanks to an easy first set:
He remains the favorite to win the tournament, but he will have to keep up his strong play against Gulbis in the quarterfinals.
Round 1 Results
No. 1 Juan Martin Del Potro def. Gael Monfils; 7-6, 6-3
No. 6 Tommy Haas def. Fernando Verdasco; 6-7, 7-6, 7-5
Dominic Thiem def. Jarkko Nieminen; 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
Nicolas Mahut def. Daniel Brands; 7-5, 6-3
No. 4 Richard Gasquet def. Thiemo de Bakker; 6-7, 7-6, 6-3
No. 2 Andy Murray def. Edouard Roger-Vasselin; 6-3, 6-3
Marin Cilic def Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; 6-4, 6-4
All eyes were on the big names starting their tournament, and none disappointed, as Del Potro, Murray, Gasquet and Haas all moved on.
While the top two seeds did so with relative ease, both Gasquet and Haas found themselves entrenched in a battle. Verdasco gave Haas all he could handle, bashing 10 aces, but in the end Haas was able to outlast the Spaniard. The difference was Haas' ability to win 64 percent of his second serve points, as opposed to just 48 percent for Verdasco.
Gasquet also found himself deeply immersed in a battle over the first two sets against De Bakker, but settled down in the third. This was a service display, as De Bakker ripped 16 aces to Gasquet's 13, while the underdog won 80 percent of his first-serve points to Gasquet's 79 percent.
But everyone was curious to see Murray, who returned to action in January after a back surgery and is now 8-2 since coming back. On Tuesday, he spoke to ATPWorldTour.com about his participation in this tournament and moving forward:
It is important for me to challenge my body just now, to see how good it is. I obviously played my first five set matches in Australia, then in the Davis Cup. In those events you have a day off between matches, but if I play well this week I will be competing a few days in a row. The next month or two, I will still be learning about my body. But so far it has been good.
The first tournament [at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha] was hard, but when I got to Australia I started to feel better. I was practising with top players every day, so my body and game was adjusting to playing that level and intensity again.
When I played Federer in the [Australian Open] quarter-finals that was a bit of a shock to the system. The Australian Open may have been a little bit too soon, but I wasn’t far off. My body was stiff and sore after the match.
Del Potro found his difficulties in the first set against Gael Monfils, but bolstered by the tight set win handled his business with less issues in the second. He'll remain favored to meet Murray in the final, in a juicy potential showdown.
Round 1 Results
Ernests Gulbis def. Denis Istomin; 6-4, 7-6
Igor Sijsling def. No. 7 Mikhail Youzhny; 6-2, 6-2
No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov def. Dmitry Tursunov; 6-2, 1-6, 6-4
Marin Cilic def. Lukas Rosol; 6-2, 6-2
Jerzy Janowica def. Julien Benneteau; 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau def. Michael Berrer/Sergiy Stakhovsky; 6-2, 6-7(6), 10-5
Johan Brunstrom/Jarkko Nieminen def. No. 4 Rohan Bopanna/Aissam-Ul-Haq Qureshi; 7-6(4), 2-6, 11-9
Lukas Rosol/Andreas Seppi def. No. 1 Ivan Dodig/Marcelo Melo; 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-6
Julian Knowle/John Peers def. Philipp Kohlschreiber/Florian Mayer; 6-3, 3-6, 10-7
Day 2 of the tournament saw the first major surprise, as No. 7 seed Mikhail Youzhny was wiped off the court by Igor Sijsling, 6-2, 6-2. This was comfortable for Sijsling, as he won 80 percent of his first service points.
According to ESPN, the wild card Sijsling needed just 75 minutes to dispose of Youzhny.
No. 8 seed Grigor Dimitrov needed to recover from a horrid second set to overcome Dmitry Tursunov. It was a tale of three sets, as Dimitrov dominated the first, completely botched the second and recovered to win a tightly contested third.
Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis also moved on in their first-round matches. Cilic's reward for moving on is a date with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 5 seed at this surprisingly stacked tournament.
Andy Murray, Edouard Roger-Vasselinon, Richard Gasquet and Juan Martin Del Potro will all be in action on Wednesday, so the stakes for this competition will be upped quite a bit as the real heavy hitters take the court.
On the doubles side, Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, the No. 1 doubles team coming in, were ousted in a close match that went to a tiebreak in the second set and saw the duo losing 10-6 in the third.
Melo tweeted about the loss in his native language of Portugese:
Mais uma semana dura p nos. Jogamos bem, mas não conseguimos vencer, faz parte. Semana que vem tô firme no Rio Open jogo com o Marrero.— Marcelo Melo (@marcelomelo83) February 11, 2014
A rough translation of the tweet is: "Another tough week. We played well, but could not win. Next week I'm firmly in the Rio Open match against [David] Marrero."
Also joining the top doubles team in the loss column is the No. 4 duo of Rohan Bopanna and Aissam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. After losing the first set, Bopanna and Qureshi couldn't crack the team of Johan Brunstrom and Jarkko Nieminen in the third despite a strong 6-2 win in the second.
With the big dogs like Martin del Potro, Murray and Tsonga all gracing the court on Day 4, the action is certain to heat up on Wednesday. And after one upset already took place on Tuesday, it will be interesting to see if one of the best players in the world gets knocked off in the next round.
This may not be a Grand Slam, but there are still plenty of intriguing matchup possibilities to come.
Round 1 Results
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Ivan Dodig; 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4
Michael Berrer def. Jesse Huta Galung; 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
No. 3 Tomas Berdych def. Andreas Seppi; 6-3, 6-3
No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Florian Mayer; 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Sergiy Stakhovsky; 6-2, 7-5
Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu hasn't advanced past the second round at this tournament in four previous appearances, per SkySports.com. However, he'll have a chance to do so after defeating Ivan Dodig despite dropping the opening set.
After a couple of three-set matches to kick the day off, with Michael Berrer's win over Jesse Huta Galung being the other, third seed Tomas Berdych took care of business against a formidable Round 1 opponent in Italy's Andreas Seppi.
Bedych advanced easily by a score of 6-3, 6-3, utilizing his strengths on the hard court against an overwhelmed foe in Seppi, who never had a break-point opportunity.
The going proved to be tougher for the only other top seed in action in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He survived a 4-6 first-set loss to the gritty Florian Mayer before dropping only four games for the rest of the match.
Favored Philipp Kohlschreiber cruised 6-2 in the first set against Sergiy Stakhovsky and broke his opponent at 5-5 in the second before serving out the match successfully.
Tuesday has some intriguing talents in action consisting of Grigor Dimitrov and Mikhail Youzhny. They may only be the eighth and seventh seeds respectively, but Youzhny has five Grand Slam quarterfinals appearances in his career and the 22-year-old Dimitrov just advanced to the quarters at the Australian Open.
Plus, unseeded 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz will look to bounce back from his dip in form, so his progress—or lack thereof—will be worth following.