I can’t recall the last time we had so much action going on in the very first week of a season or maybe Rafael Nadal’s injury last year created a bit of a vacuum but either way, opening week of 2014 was the perfect way to kick off the tennis year.
Almost every single final played last week featured two top class players who went the distance to deliver a winner, whether it was Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils in Doha, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt in Brisbane, Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams in Auckland or Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in Brisbane. Not to mention Li Na’s heroics in Shenzen and Stanislas Wawrinka’s title repeat in Chennai.
A couple of things stood out the most though. The first is Monfils’ very poor record in finals, which the Frenchman worsened on Saturday despite his incredible form during the second and third sets against Nadal in Doha.
Monfils is a dismal 0-8 against top-10 players in finals and is 4-16 in title matches overall. His loss in Qatar was also his third final defeat there.
The former world No7 has not won a title in over two years, and while he has been plagued by injuries, his lack of focus when it comes to title matches is alarming and needs to be addressed.
It took him a full set before he actually started playing in the final with Nadal, and while credit must be given to the Spaniard for starting so strong, it cost Monfils a real chance of winning the match simply because Nadal has a staggering 95.3 per cent record of winning matches when he’s won the opening set.
Meanwhile, Federer is also someone who missed out on a chance to get back to the champions’ circle. The Swiss has won only one title in the past 16 months – that was in Halle over six months ago. A win over Hewitt in Brisbane could have done wonders to Federer’s confidence heading into Melbourne but the 17-time Grand Slam winner let another defeat feed his doubters.
Player of the Week: Lleyton Hewitt
The Australian lifted his first trophy in three and a half years and took out three higher-ranked players – No28 Feliciano Lopez, No17 Kei Nishikori and No6 Federer – en route to the title.
Flop of the Week: Roberta Vinci
The top seed in Auckland was upset by wildcard Ana Konjuh, ranked 259 in the world. Not the start you’d expect from the world No12.
Is it smart for top players to play the week before a Slam? Will Andy Murray be fit enough to be a contender for the Australian Open? Will Maria Sharapova ever beat Serena Williams again?
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