ATP Weekly Update week one: Wild week to open season

While the three champions may have been recognizable names, there was drama galore in the opening week of the 2018 ATP World Tour season.

ATP Weekly Update week one: Wild week to open season
Gael Monfils, Nick Kyrgios, and Gilles Simon were champions in the first week of 2018. Photos: AFP (Monfils), Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images (Kyrgios), Maharashta Open (Simon)

Welcome to the inaugural 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 of the upcoming week. Keep coming back to VAVEL USA every Monday for your ATP Weekly Update.

Tennis is back and an exciting tone has been set for the 2018 season. Three crowns were claimed in the opening week, although very little of what happened last week could be considered routine. It’s time to look back at week one of the 2018 ATP World Tour season and looked ahead to week two.

Last Week’s Action

Brisbane

Nick Kyrgios was the last man standing in a week full of disappointments for stars. The Aussie overcame three three-setters in the early rounds before crushing Ryan Harrison in the final of the Brisbane International to claim his first title on home soil. Check out the full recap of the final here. Despite winning his first title in his home country, Kyrgios’ thunder was partly stolen by countryman Alex De Minaur. The 18-year-old from Sydney, ranked 208th in the world, reached his first career tour-level semifinal, upsetting former champion Milos Raonic on the way, before falling to Harrison.

Nick Kyrgios hoists the trophy in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Nick Kyrgios hoists the trophy in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The tournament was a nightmare for the big names. Before the first ball was even struck, 2017 runner-up Kei Nishikori and world number one Rafael Nadal both withdrew with injuries. Once the tournament got underway, only two seeds would reach the quarterfinals: Kyrgios and top seed Grigor Dimitrov. Kyrgios would defeat Dimitrov, the defending champion, in the semifinals. Former world number one Andy Murray was supposed to contest his first event since Wimbledon, but pulled out before his first match, pre-empting his withdrawal from the Australian Open. The other six seeds all fell in their first or second round matches.

Pune

The ever-present Gilles Simon was victorious at the first event held in Pune, India, the Tata Open Maharashtra. The tournament had previously been held in Chennai. The 33-year-old Frenchman defeated second seed Kevin Anderson in the final. Check out the full recap of the final here. The run saw Simon knock off the top three seeds in the tournament, taking out third seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round before upsetting top seed Marin Cilic in a semifinal comeback win.

Gilles Simon hoists the trophy in Pune. Photo: AFP
Gilles Simon hoists the trophy in Pune. Photo: AFP

Unlike Brisbane, the tournament went mostly according to plan, with six of the eight seeded players reaching the quarterfinals. The exceptions were Bautista Agut and fifth seed Jiri Vesely. With the exception of Simon, the seedings held all the way to the semifinals. The title was the 12th of Simon’s career.

Doha

After three previous finals losses, Gael Monfils finally broke through to win the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. The Frenchman defeated NextGen star Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the final. Check out the full recap of the final here. Monfils advanced the final courtesy of a walkover when top seed Dominic Thiem withdrew. The title was the 7th of Monfils career. He took advantage of finally not having to face a top-ten opponent in the final, having previously lost to Roger Federer (number one), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (number six), and Rafael Nadal (number one).

Gael Monfils holds the trophy it took him four finals to finally win. Photo: Reuters
Gael Monfils holds the trophy it took him four finals to finally win. Photo: Reuters

The tournament also suffered a major injury withdrawal, as two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic pulled out at the last minute. Like Brisbane, the seeds struggled in Doha. Thiem was the only seeded player to reach the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinal, the top seed defeated 19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, who had upset fifth seed Richard Gasquet in the second round, the second-highest ranked opponent the young Greek has defeated. It was the second tour-level quarterfinal for the former junior number one’s career.

Rankings Update

Mover of the Week: Alex De Minaur

Following the first semifinal of the teenager’s career, Alex De Minaur jumped 41 spots, back into the top 200 to a career-high of number 167. His previous career-high was 182.

Alex De Minaur celebrates advancing to the first tour-level semifinal of his career in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Alex De Minaur celebrates advancing to the first tour-level semifinal of his career in Brisbane. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

All three of this week’s champions made important gains in the rankings. Simon had the biggest jump of the champions, climbing 32 spots to number 57. Monfils moved back into the top 40, jumping up seven spots to number 39. Kyrgios climbed back into the top twenty, jumping four spots to number seventeen.

Stefanos Tsitsipas also jumped eleven spots to a career high of 80. Despite a first-round loss in Brisbane, 2017s Star of Tomorrow Denis Shapovalov moved up a spot back into the top 50. Andrey Rublev’s finals run in Doha moved him up to a career-high of number 32, which should earn him a seeding at the Australian Open.

Race to London

Considering that it has been only one week, it is far to early to talk about the ATP Finals with any seriousness. However, it is worth noting that since 2010, three of the eight Chennai (now Pune) champions, six of the eight Brisbane champions, and seven of eight Doha champions went on to qualify for the Year-End Championships.

Kyrgios, Simon, and Monfils now sit in a three-way tie for the top spot. The runner-ups, Harrison, Anderson, and Rublev also join them in the top eight. Lukas Lacko and John Millman round out the players currently sitting in qualifying position with around ten months to go.

This Week’s Action

Most of the tour’s top stars are not participating in events this week, as the Australian Open starts next week. However, there are still two titles up for grabs with several notable players in action.

Auckland

The American’s lead the charge this week in New Zealand at the ASB Classic. Defending champion Jack Sock is the lone top-ten player in action in Auckland and will be the top seed. He is joined by countrymen Sam Querrey and John Isner, who are the third and fourth seeds respectively. Brisbane runner-up Ryan Harrison will also hop across the Tasman Sea, opening his tournament with a blockbuster against another American, Steve Johnson.

Jack Sock holds his trophy in Auckland last January. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Jack Sock holds his trophy in Auckland last January. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

The young guns from Doha will also make the trip to New Zealand, as Andrey Rublev, seeded eighth, and Stefanos Tsitsipas will contest a blockbuster first-round clash. Youngsters Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung will also both be in action after disappointing starts in Brisbane. Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Cuevas, and four-time Auckland champion David Ferrer round out the seeds.

Sydney

The Sydney International is without any major stars, with no one in the top 20 making the trip. Albert Ramos-Vinolas, ranked 23rd in the world, is the top seed and is joined by Gilles Muller, Diego Schwartzman, Fabio Fognini, Adrian Mannarino, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Damir Dzumhur, and Mischa Zverev as the seeds. They are all ranked between 23rd and 33rd in the world.

The biggest name in action may be hometown boy Alex De Minaur, whose Cinderella run in Brisbane was one of the biggest stories of week one. De Minaur received a special exemption to enter the event and will be hoping to impress in his hometown. He is one of six Aussies in action in Sydney.

Check back next Monday for a wrap up of week two and a look ahead to week three 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