ATP Weekly Update week 18: Home favourites clean up on clay

Alexander Zverev and Joao Sousa both claimed titles in their home countries as the biggest stars took the week off.

ATP Weekly Update week 18: Home favourites clean up on clay
Alexander Zverev and Joao Sousa cleaned up the crowns on clay this past week. Photos: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images (Zverev), Estoril Open (Sousa)

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.

It was a great week for local fans on the ATP World Tour. With the King of Clay taking a week off, the rest of the field had a chance to claim some hardware on the red dirt of Europe and the locals took full advantage. The home fans had plenty to cheer about as local favourites won two of the three titles up for grabs. Here is your ATP Weekly Update for week 18 of the 2018 season.

Last Week’s Results

Estoril

Despite Portugal being right in the heart of the clay court tennis world and the nation having hosted a tournament since 1990, a Portuguese man had never claimed the title in the Western Iberian nation. That all changed on Sunday as Joao Sousa finally broke through to become the first Portuguese man to win a title on home soil, winning the Estoril Open.

Joao Sousa poses with his Estoril Open trophy. Photo: Estoril Open
Joao Sousa poses with his Estoril Open trophy. Photo: Estoril Open

Sousa kicked off his bid for the historic title by upsetting eighth seed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the opening round. He followed that up with three-straight three-set victories, including an upset of third-seed Kyle Edmund in the quarterfinals before surviving a third-set tiebreak against Barcelona runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals. In the final, Sousa left nothing to chance, putting away Frances Tiafoe in straight sets to finally give the Portuguese a long-awaited local winner. Check out the full final recap here.

Tiafoe put up an impressive run on the red clay where Americans have historically struggled, knocking off fourth seed Gilles Muller in the second round and second seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the semifinals to reach his second final of 2018. A week after breaking through to reach the first final of his young career, the 19-year-old Tsitsipas kept his hot run going by upsetting top seed Kevin Anderson in the second round before eventually falling painfully short of a second straight final in the semis against Sousa.

Munich

Defending champion Alexander Zverev got off to a rocky start in his bid for a second straight BMW Open title, but after dropping the first set of his first-round match 14-12 in a tiebreak, the world number three hit his stride. The young German would not lose another set in the tournament, thrilling the local fans by winning an all-German final over compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber for a second consecutive title in Munich. Check out the full final recap here.

Alexander Zverev defended his title in Munich last week. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Alexander Zverev defended his title in Munich last week. Photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

A draw full of locals lived up to the excitement, as three of the four semifinal spots were claimed by Germans, with Zverev and Kohlschreiber being joined by 22-year-old Maximilian Marterer, who upset third seed Diego Schwartzman on his way to the first tour-level semifinal of his career before losing to Kohlschreiber. In the other semifinal, Zverev won a battle of NextGen stars with Hyeon Chung.

Istanbul

While home favourites were stealing the spotlight in central and western Europe, madness was breaking out in the east. No seeded players reached the final four at the Istanbul Open and when the dust finally settled on the red courts of Turkey, Taro Daniel was holding the first trophy of his career, having defeated Malek Jaziri in a battle of first-time finalists.

Taro Daniel poses with the first trophy of his career after winning in Istanbul. Photo: Koza World of Sports/ATP World Tour
Taro Daniel poses with the first trophy of his career after winning in Istanbul. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

As the seeds struggled, Daniel took full advantage. The Japanese helped cause the chaos by upsetting fourth seed Aljaz Bedene in the second round. That would be his only meeting with a seeded player in the tournament. Three-set wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals followed before Daniel put away Jaziri in straight sets in the final for a maiden ATP World Tour title.

It was a nightmare week for seeded players, with only one of the eight seeds managing to win a match. That was fifth seed Paolo Lorenzi, who reached the quarterfinals before falling to world number 110 Laslo Djere, who reached the first tour-level semifinal of his career in Istanbul. Defending champion Marin Cilic was the overwhelming favourite to win the title, but his defence fell short in his opening match where he lost in straight sets to Jaziri.

Rankings Update

Mover of the Week: Taro Daniel

Taro Daniel surged to a new career-high ranking after winning in Istanbul last week. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Taro Daniel surged to a new career-high ranking after winning in Istanbul last week. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Istanbul champion’s jump may not be on most people’s radars, but Daniel had the largest jump of the week, climbing 32 spots back into the top 100 and up to a career-high of number 82 in the world.

Sousa’s title on home soil saw him climb 20 spots back into the top 50 at number 48. The man he beat in the semis, Stefanos Tsitsipas, continued his climb up the rankings, moving up four spots to yet another career-high at number 40. Munich semifinalist Maximilian Marterer moved up six spots to a career-high of number 67.

Thanks to Milos Raonic not defending his runner-up points in Indian Wells, Kyle Edmund moved up one spot to a new career-high of number 22. Grigor Dimitrov also moves back up to number four in the world after Marin Cilic failed to defend his title in Istanbul.

Race to London

Place Name Points Change
1 Roger Federer 3110 -
2 Juan Martin del Potro 2130 -
3 Rafael Nadal 1870 -
4 Marin Cilic 1650 -
5 Alexander Zverev 1545 -
6 Hyeon Chung 1380 -
7 Grigor Dimitrov 1265 -
8 John Isner 1095 -
9 Kevin Anderson 1080 -
10  Roberto Bautista Agut 1050 +1
11 Dominic Thiem 1025 -1
12 Kyle Edmund 1000 -

The Race to London saw minimal change after week 18’s results. The only minor change sees Munich quarterfinalist Roberto Bautista Agut flip spots with 2017 qualifier Dominic Thiem, who was idle last week.

This Week’s Action

Madrid

As the big stars return to action this week at the Mutua Madrid Open, there is only one question that everyone is asking: can anyone stop Rafael Nadal? The King of Clay returns the tournament he has already won five times, including last year, having won his last 19 matches and 46 sets on clay. The world number one, who needs to win the title to retain that ranking, leads a strong field that form a brutal draw for the defending champion, although his draws in Monte Carlo and Barcelona were supposed to be difficult too.

Rafael Nadal bites into his fifth Madrid trophy in 2017. He'll look to add a sixth this week. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal bites into his fifth Madrid trophy in 2017. He'll look to add a sixth this week. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Including Nadal, 17 of the world’s top 20 are (or were as first-round play started on Sunday with world number 17 Tomas Berdych being upset) in action. Only world number two Roger Federer, number five Marin Cilic, and number 13 Sam Querrey are taking a pass on the event of the top 20.

Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the only two former titlists contesting Madrid, with the latter having a nightmare opening match against 2014 Madrid runner-up Kei Nishikori. 2017 runner-up Dominic Thiem will also look to finally break through at the Masters 1000 level after having lost to Nadal in last year’s final. Berdych is also a former runner-up but has already been eliminated.

Check back next Monday for a wrap up of week 19 and a look ahead to week 20 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