By James Crabtree
Roundup from Asian Swing!
Before you get excited about all the Euro indoor events it is time to reflect and appreciate what just happened back East… Far East!
Yes, it has been a very busy few weeks.
Lucky number seven? – The ATP 250’s, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
A French affair featured in the Bangkok final where Richard Gasquet collected his seventh career title over Gilles Simon in an unexpected but rather convincing fashion.
In Kuala Lumpur Juan Mónaco continued his most productive season since 2007. The Argentinian also collected his seventh career title and first trophy on a hard court whilst thirty year old Frenchman Julien Benneteau added to his own misery losing his seventh straight final.
All as expected? – The ATP 500’s, Beijing and Tokyo
The China Open in Beijing followed, with Florian Mayer and Feliciano Lopez showing form to reach the semis. Many felt Jo-Wilfred Tsonga could claim back to back titles after his success in Metz a couple of weeks prior. His attempt however was thwarted by the road block known as Novak Djokovic. Now, it should be noted that since the London Olympics Novak has reached the final or won every tournament he has been in. The guy is looking seriously dangerous for the end of year championships, and dare we say 2011 form?
During the same week in Japan hometown hero Kei Nishikori snatched every possible headline becoming the first countryman to win the title in its forty one year history. Milos Raonic was the victim of downright brilliance whether it be returning, passing or volleying. Almost everyone had written the tournament off as a definite win for Andy Murray or Tomas Berdych, so to see the emergence of a new star is like the addition of a new metal on the periodic table.
Don’t count your chickens – The ATP 1000, Shanghai
Shanghai is doing what it can to be a fifth slam, so accordingly all the big names (minus the injured Rafa) were there. The draw progressed without too many shocks, except for Radek Stepanek rolling back the years, beating Gasquet, Isner and scaring Murray.
The semi-finals featured the top four seeds. Djokovic took out Berdych and Murray faced a tired looking Federer. During their meeting Murray had his return of serve reputation boosted a few statistical percentiles thanks to Mr Federer hitting three double faults in a row!!! What, what, what the!!! That just doesn’t happen, it’s like you or I succeeding three aces in a row.
The final was a spectacular, and to boot another chapter was added to the Djokovic vs Murray saga. Let’s just say Murray had all but the trophy in his bag, his paws on the cheque and his feet up in first class sippin’ crystal, or Iron Brue.
And then that rally happened. You know, the one where Djokovic was 4-5, love thirty and got lobbed, played the risqué shot between his legs then finished with a little backhand drop shot. Now I know Murray had numerous match points after that, and there was that awesome tie breaker that went on longer than LOTR but until then the fire within Djokovic had not been ignited. The scary part is the magnitude of his flame? Is Djokovic an odd year gem? Can he replicate in 2013 what he did in 2011? Will he hurdle Federer and capture the number one position in the year end rankings?
Only time on tell, bring on Paris and London.