Rio Open ♦ February 17-23
Rio de Janeiro ♦ Brazil
Rafael Nadal secured his second trophy of the 2014 season by defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-3, 7-6, in the inaugural Rio Open. Nadal held off countryman Pablo Andujar in the semifinals by the narrowest of margins, saving two match points before dispatching the 34th ranked Andujar 12-10 in the decisive third set tiebreaker. The Ukrainian Dolgopolov, who’s slipped to 38th in the world from a career high of 13 in 2012, streaked to the finals with straight set victories over 14th ranked Fabio Fognini and 4th ranked David Ferrer.
Dubai Tennis Championships ♦ February 24-March 1
Dubai ♦ United Arab Emirates
Roger Federer earned his second victory over a “Big 4” opponent this season with a win over Novak Djokovic in the Dubai semis, and followed that upset with another over Thomas Berdych in the finals. Notably for Federer, who was seeded fourth, both matches went the distance after he dropped the first set - he beat top seed Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, and beat the third seeded Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Federer now boasts a 2-0 record against Djokovic and Andy Murray in 2014 after going 0-3 against the pair in 2013. Juan Martin del Potro, the number two seed in Dubai, retired in the first round with a left wrist injury after losing the first set in a tiebreak to Somdev Devvarman.
Abierto Mexicano ♦ February 24-March 1
Acapulco ♦ Mexico
Grigor Dimitrov continues his ascent up the leader board with a win at the Mexican Open. The twenty-two year old Bulgarian beat South African veteran Kevin Anderson 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in the finals. After going 2-3 in tiebreakers during his quarterfinal run at this year’s Australian Open, Dimitrov won all five of his Mexican Open tiebreakers, including two over Andy Murray in the semifinals (4-6, 7-6, 7-6) and another against Ernest Gulbis (4-6, 7-6, 7-5) in the quarters. Dimitrov also exercised a demon this week against Gulbis, who beat Dimitrov in straights sets earlier this month in Rotterdam, 6-4, 7-6. Dimitrov will rise from 28th in the rankings to 16th. The 6’8” Anderson also jumps into the top twenty at 18. He knocked off fellow big-man Sam Querrey in the second round, then scored a second-set retirement from David Ferrer, and beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in the semis before falling to Dimitrov.
Dubai Tennis Championships ♦ February 17-22
Dubai ♦ United Arab Emirates
Venus Williams scored a Dubai Open hat trick, winning the trophy there for the third time after earning back-to-back titles in 2009-2010. Venus dominated the 23rd ranked Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-0 in the finals, and also beat a platoon of notable veterans to reach the final, without dropping a set, including Elena Vesnina in the first round, Ana Ivanovic in the second, Flavia Pennetta in the quarters and Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals. Cornet earned the upset of the tournament in beating top seeded Serena Williams 6-3, 6-3 in the semis, preventing an all-Williams final. Pennetta also scored a big upset with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over world number three Agnieska Radwanska in the second round.
Abierto Mexicano ♦ February 24-Mar 1
Acapulco ♦ Mexico
Top-seeded Dominika Cibulkova held court all the way to the championship with a win over New Jersey native Christina McHale in the finals, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. Cibulkova entered the tournament on a four-match losing streak which began in the Australian Open final against Li Na. Australian Open semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard was seeded second in Acapulco, but fell in the third round to twenty year old Caroline Garcia of France. Garcia, who cracked the top for the first time last season and entered Acapulco ranked 89th, beat Bouchard 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 before dropping a three-set battle to McHale in the semis.
Players to watch ...
►Klara Zakopalova: In just the past two weeks, Zakopalova won the Brasil Open and reached the final of the Rio Open. Her February includes wins over two top 15 opponents: 15th ranked Carla Suarez Navarro in Brazil and 12th ranked Ana Ivanovic at the Qatar Open. For her efforts, the veteran Zakopalova has made it back into the top 32, up to 29th. She also celebrated a birthday this month, turning 32 on February 24th. It’s been a good month.
►Federico Delbonis: The 23-year-old Argentine won his first career tournament at this week’s Brasil Open, defeating Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Delbonis’ best win was a second round upset of the second seeded and 17th ranked Nicolas Almagro of Spain, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. With the win, Delbonis’ ranking climbs seventeen spots from 61 to 44, a career high. A clay court specialist, Delbonis has played four clay tournaments this season and could make some noise at the French Open this year after reaching the second round in 2013.
They said it ...
“Well, I cannot say that yet, but I’m feeling similar pains to the other hand and what I felt four years ago.”—Juan Martin del Potro, on the left wrist injury that forced him to retire from the Dubai Tennis Championships. Del Potro missed nine months in 2010-2011 after having surgery on his right wrist.
“I think just, out of a 10, I was at like a -283.”—Serena Williams after her 6-4, 6-4 semifinal loss to Alize Cornet at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
“Not yet. No, unfortunately not. I do like to hear it and listen to, and when I switch channels, I always stay on the channels and listen to it because I just think it’s a nice and interesting language.”—Roger Federer, when asked if he’s picked up any Arabic since coming to the Dubai Tennis Championships over the years.
“Yeah, it’s eight carats. That’s my lucky number. That’s how he picked eight. Very thoughtful. I should have said eighteen, but ...”—Caroline Wozniacki when asked about her engagement ring at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
<p>Bennett Kelly may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p>