ATP Weekly Update week 15: Clay court swing gets underway
Pablo Andujar (left) and Steve Johnson (right) were the first champions of the spring clay court season in 2018. Photos: ATP World Tour

ATP Weekly Update week 15: Clay court swing gets underway

The first two clay court crowns of 2018 were handed out this week as the ATP World Tour makes its move toward the red dirt of Europe.

pete-borkowski
Pete Borkowski

Here is your VAVEL USA ATP Weekly Update. Every Monday, we will be posting results and analysis from the previous week’s singles action on the ATP World Tour, along with a preview to the upcoming week. Keep coming back to VAVEL USA every Monday for your ATP Weekly Update.

The clay court season got underway this week with a pair of tournaments on the ATP World Tour with significant results. A historically-low ranked champion, a rare title defence, and a pair of first-time finalists were just a part of what went down over the past seven days. Here is your ATP Weekly Update for week 15 of the 2018 season.

Last Week’s Results

Marrakech

The lone tournament on the continent of Africa, the Grand Prix Hassan II, likely featured what will stand as the feel-good story of 2018 as world number 355 Pablo Andujar, ranked as low as 1824 back in February, won his first title in four years by using a protected ranking to enter the draw before blowing through it to win the fourth title of his career, and third in Marrakech after winning the titles in 2011 and 2012, by blowing out second seed Kyle Edmund 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

Pablo Andujar became the lowest ranked player this century to win an ATP World Tour title this week in Marrakech. Photo: ATP World Tour
Pablo Andujar became the lowest ranked player this century to win an ATP World Tour title this week in Marrakech. Photo: ATP World Tour

Andujar, who had undergone three elbow surgeries over recent years, took advantage of a draw that fell apart around him, not needing to beat a seeded player until the final, and only dropping one set on route. Edmund had a bounce-back event after struggling following his Australian Open semifinal run earlier this year, not dropping a set on route to the first final of his career. But in that final, he was no match for Andujar. The Spaniard’s win makes him the lowest-ranked player to win a title since 1998.

The seeded players had a hard time finding their clay feet in Marrakech, with only three seeded players reaching the quarterfinals. Edmund was joined by Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon, seeded fourth and sixth respectively, with Gasquet advancing to the semifinal before losing to Edmund. Top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas was upset in the second round by qualifier Alexey Valutin.

Houston

Defending champion Steve Johnson became the first man since countryman Andy Roddick in 2001 and 2002 to successfully defend the title at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston, handing another first-time finalist a defeat to win his second consecutive title. Johnson, who beat Thomaz Belluci in the 2017 final in a third set tiebreak, edged Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren in three sets to claim the third title of his career.

Steve Johnson kisses the trophy for the second year in a row in Houston. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/AP
Steve Johnson kisses the trophy for the second year in a row in Houston. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/AP

Johnson came through a gauntlet to claim the title, beating five consecutive Americans, including young guns Ernesto Escobedo, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz as well top seed and recent Miami champion John Isner, just to reach the final, with three of those matches going three sets.

Sandgren, who had struggled since his Cinderella run in Melbourne, finally managed to string some wins together and managed to book a spot in the first final of his career with a semifinal win over Ivo Karlovic, but could not finish off Johnson in the hard-fought three-set final.

Rankings Update

Mover of the week: Tennys Sandgren

Tenny Sandgren lines up a forehand during the first ATP World Tour final of his career. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/AP
Tenny Sandgren lines up a forehand during the first ATP World Tour final of his career. Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/AP

The 26-year-old American had struggled after his breakout performance at the Australian Open but finally pulled himself together to reach the first final of his career this week. That performance saw Sandgren jump nine spots in the rankings, past his previous career-high of number 54 and into the top 50 for the first time of his career at a new career-high ranking of number 47.

Marrakech champion Pablo Andujar had the biggest jump of the week, climbing 201 spots back into the top 200 for the first time since June 2016, up to number 154. Marrakech runner-up Kyle Edmund moved up three spots to a new career-high of number 23. By not defending his title in Marrakech, Borna Coric fell 11 spots down to 39th. Since he was defending champion, Steve Johnson did not gain any points and fell victim to Sandgren’s jump, falling one spot from 50 to 51.

Race to London

Place Name Points Change
1 Roger Federer 3110 -
2 Juan Martin del Potro 2120 -
3 Marin Cilic 1480 -
4 Hyeon Chung 1280 -
5 John Isner 1085 +1
6 Kevin Anderson 1070 -1
7 Kyle Edmund 945 +4
8 Alexander Zverev 935 -1
9 Diego Schwartzman 835 -1
10 Roberto Bautista Agut 825 -1
11 Grigor Dimitrov 815 -1
12 Fabio Fognini 765 -

After sliding down the table the last few weeks, Kyle Edmund rebounded in the Race to London. Thanks to his runner-up performance in Marrakech, the Brit moved up four spots back into a qualifying spot, knocking Diego Schwartzman out in the process. By reaching the quarterfinals in Houston, John Isner moved up another spot from sixth to fifth.

This Week’s Action

The clay-court swing heats up big-time this week, with most of the tour’s best kicking off their dirt campaigns.

Monte Carlo

Six of the world’s top ten lead the field at the first clay court Masters 1000 event of the season, the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. 10-time champion and world number one Rafael Nadal leads the field. It will be the Spaniard’s first main-tour event since pulling out of the Australian Open with a hip injury, although he was dominant on clay last weekend in Davis Cup.

Rafael Nadal bites the trophy after winning his record-breaking 10th title in Monte Carlo last year. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal bites the trophy after winning his record-breaking 10th title in Monte Carlo last year. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Due to Nadal’s dominance in Monte Carlo, only three titles have been won by two other men since 2005. Novak Djokovic, who won the title in 2013 and 2015, joins Nadal as the only other former champion in the draw. The two champions could meet in the quarterfinals, although Djokovic could have to go through 2017’s second best clay court player, Dominic Thiem, to reach the quarters.

The draw is about as open as a Nadal-on-clay-led draw can be, as none of the 2018 big-title-winners will be in Monte Carlo. Australian Open champion Roger Federer, who is skipping the entire clay court season, Indian Wells champion Juan Martin del Potro, and Miami champion John Isner, are all skipping Monte Carlo, meaning for the first time since 2002, the season’s first four big events will be won by four different men.

Check back next Monday for a wrap up of week 16 and a look ahead to week 17 on the ATP World Tour. Come to www.vavel.com/en-us/tennis-usa/ every Monday or follow us on twitter @VAVELUSATennis for your #ATPWeeklyUpdate

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