The idylls also exist in tennis. And I don’t mean the couples that may arise between players, as Dimitrov-Sharapova, already broken-up, or Pennetta-Fognini, nor other alleged affairs that was commented a few months ago, Nick Kyrgios willing, of Vekic-Wawrinka-Kokkinakis. Niet. What I mean is the connection that sometimes appears between a player and a particular tournament. Either for technical reasons – height, temperature, characteristics of the court or other – which are adapted especially to the style of the player, emotional – public favour, local tournament, feeling of comfort – or motivational, such as the obligation to defend a few basic points to maintain a certain status, the point is that sometimes the spark between player and tournament is created.
It is a phenomenon that has always happened. Herbert Roper-Barrett, finalist of the “all comers” of Wimbledon in 1908 and 1909 and Tony Wilding’s opponent in the Challenge Round of 1911 where he was about to defeat the New Zealander champion, he won the Championship of Suffolk 17 times between 1898 and 1921. It is true it was a small tournament, but it is not less that he was part of the official circuit of British Lawn Tennis Association. The great Jean Borotra felt like a fish in water in the indoor tournaments; he won twelve times the French Covered Court Championship (between 1922 and 1947) and eleven its British equivalent (between 1926 and 1949), tough tournaments at that time, in addition to winning dozen opportunities in the traditional Parisian tournament of La Toussaint (between 1921 and 1938). On the other hand, William Larned, seven-time winner of the US Open, was specialist on grass. Not only by his seven titles at the American Grand Slam, but also by his eleven titles at Longwood and his eight at Meadow Club, two of the most important American tournaments in the late 19th century and early 20th. Most titles in a single tournament (*)
More recently, in the Open Era, these romances also have existed, featuring mainly by the great champions. Rafael Nadal tops this list of “conquerors”. The Balearic, rather than blond or brown, what he really likes is the red from clay courts. He adds 32 titles in the four events with more pedigree in the tennis on clay: Roland Garros (9), Monte Carlo (8), Barcelona (8) and Rome (7). Roger Federer also has his love affairs on the circuit, Halle (8 titles), Wimbledon (7), Basel (7) and Dubai (7) are the tournaments of his interlinings. Novak Djokovic prefers the open of Australia and China, with six victories in each of them. Most titles in a single ATP tournament
This week we also had some examples of idylls. They may not be the Romeo and Juliet or the Tristan and Isolde of tennis, but, though more modest, are also relevant. It is the case of Victor Estrella, who just reedits his triumph in Quito 2015. For the Dominican the Equator Open is his first and only love because these are his only two ATP titles. And also have been his only two finals. A love of maturity on the other hand, since he has conquered Quito with 35 years, 6 months and 2 days. Only Ivo Karlovic, who won last year the title of Delray Beach with 35 years and 11 months, he is a winner more veteran than the Dominican in an ATP 250 tournament. Oldest champion in a ATP250/World Series/Grand Prix tournament
Torrid romance also keeps Richard Gasquet with Montpellier, where since 2013 he has achieved three titles, as well as playing the final of 2014. There is no doubt that this tournament has chosen him, above his French compatriots, not in vain Gasquet has beaten in four years to Julien Benneteau, Benoit Paire, Lucas Pouille and twice to Gael Monfils and Paul-Henri Mathieu. Seven victories, with the only defeat against Monfils at the final of 2014. The athletic Gael is precisely the last Frenchman who has beaten Gasquet in the US Open in 2014. Since then seven consecutive victories of Richard facing his countrymen. Gasquet vs. French players
In Montpellier Dustin Brown and Alexander Zverev stood out. The German could defeat Gilles Simon in the third round, which is his sixth victory against a top-20 after the successful before Querrey, Wawrinka, Isner and Nadal in two times. A considerable record for a player whose highest ATP ranking has been the number 78. As for the very young Zverev, he proved again that the hopes for him are not unfounded; He beat Marin Cilic who is down on his luck, he obtained his third victory against a top-20, and he was close to reach, in his fourth attempt, his first ATP final. Mathieu had to give the best to postpone an event that senses nearby.
Who also has an idyll more than remarkable in this start of season is Roberto Bautista Agut. In his case with the victory. No less than 12 he has already got in the beginning of season, same as Novak Djokovic, who leads the ranking of matches won in 2016 with. In Sofia he won his second title of the season, the fourth of his career, defeating with solvency complicated rivals as Mannarino, Müller and Troicki and demonstrating that his tennis is going through a great moment. Most wins in 2016
His stats in the tournament speak for him. He did not lose even a single set and his serve was broken only once, facing only two balls of break in the tournament, the one got by Troicki at the final and another saved before Muller. His percentage of serve points won, the best of the tournament, he got a quite high 74,14%, record which he has only reached 29 times in his career, for a balance of 26 victories and 3 defeats. Sofia Open 2016 stats
There is no doubt that Bautista, if he follows this route, is contender to the top-10 in the coming weeks. At the moment he is still far, 17th in the world, 825 points behind Gasquet, tenth, but until the clay season he just defends a handful of points – second round in Miami, third in Indian Wells – and he has the opportunity to add much if he would get a couple of good results. We’ll see where is able to reach Bautista who currently plays in Rotterdam this week, as sixth seeded, in an accessible draw if he continues maintaining the level shown so far.
Gabriel Garcia / thetennisbase.com
(*) Herbert Roper-Barret appears in this list with 15 titles instead 17 because two editions of Suffolk Ch. are categorized as “E” tournaments (equivalent to challengers nowdays) and this category is non-countable for records lists.