Coric & Vondrousova claim first titles as Schiavone is the bully of Bogota and Johnson wins Houston!

17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova claimed her first WTA title after navigating her way through three rounds of qualies initially in Biel. After dropping a couple of sets in doing this she then made her way through the main draw without dropping a set. She was undoubtedly the stand-out performer from the week, with wins over Kristyna Pliskova, top-seeded Barbora Strycova and then Anett Kontaveit in the final. The indoors courts in Biel showed what she has at her disposal, with the power, craft and movement all evident in landing the title. It follows a stint of 6 months on the sidelines with an elbow injury in the second half of last year. The wait will have seemed worth its while though as 2017 has seen two ITF titles and now the biggest victory of her short career in Biel. She has clay down as her favourite surface though, so let’s see what happens come the next few months.

At 36 Years of age, Francesca Schiavone could literally be Marketa’s mother. I actually thought it had been a few years since she had last ended up on the winner’s podium, on checking, she actually won Rio last year which had slipped my memory! It appears the Italian is still a bit of a flat track bully over on the dusty courts in South America. Like Vondrousova, she went all week without dropping a set in Bogota. The wins over an erratic top-seeded Kiki Bertens (who was gubbed by having to play twice in a day due to weather) and more impressively the useful Johanna Larsson set her on the way. Lara Arruabarrena made her way through the bottom half which was weakened by the loss of Katerina Siniakova in the second round to Sara Sorribes Tormo. Schiavone just had too much nous for the Spaniard in the final, who was also struggling with a thigh injury as the match progressed. She was always going to be up against it then. The Italian using her slice and spin to maximum effect in these scenarios.

Steve Johnson won the second title of his career, this time in Houston. I remember his first very well as it was in Nottingham last year, being on at 25/1 also helps ‘jog’ the memory a bit as well. The red clay in Houston is apparently playing a lot slower than what people seem to assume, so this makes the victory for Johnson more surprising. The fourth seed battered Fernando Verdasco and then got some help from his top-seeded compatriot Jack Sock, who blew up from 3/1 in the decider in their quarter-final encounter. He also suffered from severe cramp in the final against Thomaz Bellucci. The Brazilian as he has done many times previously though lost his focus allowing the American to hit through the cramping and gain a victory that looked unlikely.

Borna Coric went one better than last year in Marrakech, where he lost in the final to Federico Delbonis. The 20-year-old Croat also won his first title with a victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber. Top seed Grigor Dimitrov lost his opening match to Tommy Robredo, how bothered Dimitrov was about this week would be questionable to me. Coric put in several dogged displays though after pasting Diego Schwartzman in straights first up. He cut it fine against local wild card Reda El Amrani in a final set breaker, before coming from a set down against second seed Ramos-Vinolas. In the final, Kohlschreiber failed to capitalise on his set and a break lead (he was also a break up in third) and also missed five match points!! His failure to finish off the job has been a problem for the German in the past and so it proved again. The Croatian doesn’t seem to suffer from the same difficulties and with age will come greater things for sure.

Andy Del Potro

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