Underdogs shine again!

Generally, it was a week for the ‘so-called’ underdogs again! Caroline Garcia won the biggest title of her career to date, the premier level 5 event in Wuhan. She really has got a big powerful game, fighting back from the brink of defeat against Ash Barty in the final. Barty was one of my picks at the start of the week here and served for it twice in the second set, but Garcia was resilient and roared away with it in the decider. It was an impressive week for Garcia as she added Kerber, Cibulkova, and Makarova to her list on her way through the draw. Barty really impressed me, serving big and drilling big forehands all week. The wins over Konta, Radwanska and Pliskova were all hard fought but she played some big-time tennis in Wuhan. Top seed Garbine Muguruza lost to Jelena Ostapenko in the last 8 and Simona Halep was hammered 2 and 1 by Daria Kasatkina in her second round match, having received a bye in the first. Muguruza had been having problems with a thigh injury but Ostapenko showed her battling skills all week, having been a set and a break down against Barbora Strycova in the second round. The Latvian eventually ran into Barty in the semi’s and was well beaten 3 and 0!

Despite being the second seed, I couldn’t see past Time Babos in Tashkent but after coasting all week she ran into Kateryna Bondarenko, who won her first title in 9 years. Top seed Kristyna Pliskova was ousted by Kurumi Nara in the second round. Nara was the only player to take a set of Bondarenko last week! It was power play all the way from the Ukranian who also looked solid off the ground! Vera Zvonareva’s comeback continued as she made the semi’s, where she bumped into Bondarenko, retiring a set and 4/1 down! Aryna Sabalenka had a breakthrough week, making the semi’s, the 19-year-old Belarussian reminds me in style of Vika a bit! Slightly less controlled right now but lights out when she is on!

However, Second seed David Goffin (one of the favs) did claim the title in Shenzhen. The Belgian hasn’t been in the best form of his career by any stretch of late, but 3 set victories over Henri Laaksonen and then Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final, was enough to get the job done in China. I have to say, Laaksonen has impressed me whenever I have watched him, he seems to have plenty of heart! Top seed Sascha Zverev somehow got through against Steve Darcis. The Belgian led by a set and a break and he was also a break up in the third, he just couldn’t close it out though, he served for it a couple of times. Damir Dzumhur finally took Zverev out in the quarter’s, the Bosnian continued his good form before running into ‘The Dog’ in the semis.

Injury deprived us of a final in Chengdu, as Marcos Baghdatis had to retire at *2/3 in the opener with a back injury against Denis Istomin. Istomin whom has had a string of injuries himself went straight over to the Cypriot after he had gone down in a heap, afterward he said that having suffered so many injuries himself he was worried about his pal! He was striking the ball well when I watched him last week, pulling away with some heavy groundstrokes against Yuichi Sugita in the semis! I actually liked Sugita’s chances at the start of the week but Istomin just had too much! Sugita was actually the top seed left at number 5 by the quarters after Thiem, Ramos-Vinolas, Khachanov and Rublev had all lost. Thiem losing to Argentine Guido Pella, who went on to make the semi’s and add to his underrated hard court CV!

Cameron Norrie moved up to 136 in the rankings after winning the Challenger in Tiburon. The Brit took out Tennys Sandgren in the final!

Andy Del Potro

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