ATP Weekly Update week 23: Rafael Nadal keeps making history

Another year, another French Open title for Rafael Nadal as the King of Clay tore through the draw to wrap up a historic 11th Parisien crown before the tour shifts to his rival's territory.

ATP Weekly Update week 23: Rafael Nadal keeps making history
Rafael Nadal sinks his teeth into his 11th French Open crown. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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.

If you had déjà vu this week, you can be forgiven. It seems the King of Clay may never be dethroned. The tour hit its halfway point this week with the same man once again finding himself clutching a trophy on the red clay of Paris. With the clay season done and the grass season about to begin, here is your ATP Weekly Update for week 23 of the 2018 season.

Last Week’s Results

Roland Garros

Two weeks ago, the season’s second Gram Slam tournament got underway with 127 men wondering if they could be the one to stop Rafael Nadal. In the end, the answer for all 127 was the same: no. The Spaniard’s pure domination of red clay seems to have no end in sight as the King of Clay swept through the final week two win a record 11th French Open title. The victory ties Nadal with Margaret Court for the most titles at a single major.

Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his historic 11th French Open title. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his historic 11th French Open title. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Only briefly in the quarterfinals, when he trailed by a set and a break against Diego Schwartzman before a rain delay allowed him to regroup, did the tournament look in doubt for Nadal. The world number one only dropped one set in the entire tournament, that being the opener against Schwartzman, capping off his run to more history with a blowout semifinal win over Juan Martin del Potro before avenging his lone clay-court loss of the season to Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the final.

The win is Nadal’s 17th Grand Slam title, putting more space between himself and Pete Sampras (14) and Novak Djokovic (12). He also keeps pace with Roger Federer, who won his 20th major back at the Australian Open, by re-closing the gap to three major titles. It is the 79th title of his career and 58th on clay.

Dominic Thiem (left) advanced to his first major final at the French Open, only to be outclassed by Rafael Nadal. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Dominic Thiem (left) advanced to his first major final at the French Open, only to be outclassed by Rafael Nadal. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

After reaching the semifinals in Paris the last two years, Thiem finally took the next big step by reaching his maiden major final. To do it, first he had to take care of the man who beat him in the Madrid final, Alexander Zverev, whom he polished off in straight sets. In the final four, Thiem put a stop Marco Cecchinato’s Cinderella run in straight sets to finally clear the hurdle and reach the French Open final. In the title match against Nadal, the 24-year-old put up a strong fight in the opening set but could not hang with the King of Clay as he faded after dropping the opener.

After being the biggest surprise of week one, Italy’s Marco Cecchinato found a way to one-up himself in week two. The Hungarian Open champion became the lowest-ranked man to reach the semifinals in Paris this century and did so by causing the upset of the tournament in the quarterfinals when he stunned Novak Djokovic in an epic four-setter. After taking a two-sets-to-love lead, Cecchinato was blown out in the third set but managed to cut the 2016 champion’s comeback short by saving set points before winning an epic fourth-set tiebreak 13-11.

Ranking Update

Mover of the Week: Marco Cecchinato

Marco Cecchinato was the major shock at Roland Garros, upsetting Novak Djokovic to reach the semifinals. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Marco Cecchinato was the major shock at Roland Garros, upsetting Novak Djokovic to reach the semifinals. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Italian came into Paris ranked 72nd in the world having never won a match at a major in his career. But he got hot at the right moment, storming to the semifinals and new career high ranking of number 27 in the world, 45 spots higher than where he was at the start of the tournament.

By beating Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals, Juan Martin del Potro moved past the Croat to match his career-high ranking of number four in the world. Runner-up Dominic Thiem climbed up one spot to number seven. Despite failing to keep his nerve after the rain delay in his quarterfinal with Nadal, Diego Schwartzman did enough to move up one spot in the rankings to his new career-high of number 11.

Within the top fifty, five men reached new career-high rankings: Cecchinato, Denis Shapovalov (23), Stefanos Tsitsipas (37), Peter Gojowczyk (41), and Maximilian Marterer (50), who moves into the top 50 for the first time in his career after reaching his first round of sixteen at a major.

Nadal, seen here at the moment of victory, wrapped up one of his best clay court season's ever with a dominant win in Paris. He needed a strong run to keep his number one ranking and managed to pull it off in style. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Nadal, seen here at the moment of victory, wrapped up one of his best clay court season's ever with a dominant win in Paris. He needed a strong run to keep his number one ranking and managed to pull it off in style. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Coming into the clay court season, Rafael Nadal had a massive task ahead of him, needing to defend all four of his titles from 2017 to hold on to the number one ranking. Nadal essentially did just that, winning four titles, trading Madrid for Rome, and hanging on to the top spot for all but one week of the clay court season. He will still be ranked number one for at least another week.

Race to London

Place Name Points Change
1 Rafael Nadal 5040 +1
2 Alexander Zverev 3495 -1
3 Roger Federer 3110 -
4 Juan Martin del Potro 3020 -
5 Dominic Thiem 2985 +1
6 Marin Cilic 2370 -1
7 Kevin Anderson 1620 -
8 John Isner 1500 -
9 Hyeon Chung  1380 -
10 Diego Schwartzman 1365 +6
11 Grigor Dimitrov 1365 -1
12 Kyle Edmund 1350 -1

After only competing in one event prior to the clay court season (due to injury), Rafael Nadal was a long way back in the Race to London back in April. But as he often is by the end of the clay court swing, the Spaniard is back in the number one position to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals. His performance in week one of the French Open was enough to move him ahead of Roger Federer, but the title allows him to leapfrog Alexander Zverev and move into first.

Reaching the final helped Dominic Thiem, who has been hovering near the bottom of the qualifying zone for most of the season, move into a much safer spot at number five, now more than 1600 points inside the qualifying zone.

Dominic Thiem celebrates a point during his maiden major final in Paris. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Dominic Thiem celebrates a point during his maiden major final in Paris. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Some of the surprises of the French Open made major leaps in the Race to London. Quarterfinalist Diego Schwartzman moved up six spots to within striking distance of qualification at number ten. Marco Cecchinato, the biggest shock of the tournament, climbed 30 spots up to number 13 in the race.

This Week’s Action

After two months on dirt, the tour will now shift to the laws of western Europe as the grass court season gets underway.

Stuttgart

After taking the entire clay court swing off, all eyes will be on world number two Roger Federer who will make his return to the tour this week at the Mercedes Cup. The Swiss be looking for a better start to the grass court season than a year ago when he was upset in his opening match. The upside of that early loss is that it means Stuttgart is the only tournament over the next two months where Federer has no points to defend. That means Federer can retake the number one ranking back for a third time in 2018 should he reach the final.

Roger Federer will return on his beloved grass courts this week in Stuttgart. Photo: Lars Baron/Bongarts
Roger Federer will return on his beloved grass courts this week in Stuttgart. Photo: Lars Baron/Bongarts

The Swiss won’t have the easiest comeback as he will have to contend with a deep draw, led by defending champion and second seed Lucas Pouille. The powerful Tomas Berdych and explosive Nick Kyrgios are seeded third and fourth respectively, with two-time runner-up Philipp Kohlschreiber seeded fifth. Also lurking is grass-court threat Feliciano Lopez. The Spaniard, seeded eighth, was the runner-up to Pouille last year before going on to win the Queen’s Club.

The Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic round out the seeds at number six and seven. Raonic will be contesting his first event since falling to Shapovalov in Madrid, a win that allowed the 19-year-old to climb past his compatriot in the rankings. It will be the first time in Raonic’s career that he will be seeded below a fellow Canadian at a tour-level event.

s-Hertogenbosch

Defending champion Gilles Muller will look to get off to another strong start on his favourite surface at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships. The Luxembourger won the title a year ago, his first on grass despite his deadly serve-and-volley game, by beating fellow serve-monster Ivo Karlovic in a two-tiebreak shootout. Muller would ride that momentum into Wimbledon where he reached just the second major quarterfinal of his career, beating Rafael Nadal on route. The Luxembourger is on the only former champion in the draw.

Gilles Muller won the title in s-Hertogenbosch last year and will look to defend it this week. Photo: Ricoh Open
Gilles Muller won the title in s-Hertogenbosch last year and will look to defend it this week. Photo: Ricoh Open

Muller will look to defend his title as the third seed behind a pair of Frenchmen. Adrian Mannarino is the top seed, followed by countryman Richard Gasquet. Rounding out the seeds are Fernando Verdasco, young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas, Robin Haase, Yuichi Sugita, and Andreas Seppi.

Check back next Monday for a wrap up of week 24 and a look ahead to week 25 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