Serena returns. Pouille, Basic and Carballes Baena win!

Serena made her long-awaited return to competitive action in the Fed Cup, partnering Venus in the doubles. They lost a dead rubber to Lesley Kerkhove/Demi Schuurs in Asheville, USA. The Americans had already got the tied sown up. Venus won her 1000th career match in doing so, what a fantastic effort. For Serena, it is time to embrace her being back on court. Let’s see what happens next, she talked positively. Though not at its best, she was surprised how much power she had on her serve. Alexis Ohanian JR stole the show though with her appearance, watching her mother from the stands. Elsewhere in the Fed Cup World Group, there were wins for Germany, who will now host the Czech Republic and France, who will now entertain the USA. G.B had a productive weekend beating Estonia and Portugal 3-0 and then winning the promotional play-off 2-0 against Hungary. Jo Konta and Heather Watson getting it done with Katie Boulter and Anna Smith winning their doubles when asked. They will now play Japan, away in a World Group II play-off in April.

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The top seeds were all in the mix in Montpellier but it was second seed Lucas Pouille who took the title on home soil. Pouille was lucky to get through his semi-final against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Jo looked to be coasting until a hamstring injury resulted in a second set retirement.  Tsonga had looked good beating Andrey Rublev in the previous round. Richard Gasquet took out Damir Dzumhur and top-seeded David Goffin in the quarters and last four respectively. ‘The Gasman’ was no match for his compatriot in the final as Pouille ran away with it 7/6 6/4. It is the Frenchman’s fifth title of his career.

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The event in Sofia took a huge dent due to the pre-tournament withdraws of both Grigor Dimitrov and Hyeon Chung. Stan Wawrinka took a wildcard and top seeding but fell to qualifier and eventual winner Mirza Basic! A breakthrough week for the Bosnian who had already beaten Kohlschreiber in the second round. Basic defeated Marius Copil in the final, Copil hadn’t dropped his serve all week until the finale. Second seed Adrian Mannarino lost his first match against Marcos Baghdatis and fast court specialist Gilles Muller lost in the last 8, to Copil.

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Roberto Carballes Baena was another qualifier who went on to win last week, this time in Quito. Victor Estrella Burgos was previously undefeated here, having won the last three years but he was taken out by Gerald Melzer in the second round. Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta kept up his poor form in weekly tour events since the US Open, with defeat to Andrej Martin. Gael Monfils has made the switch to the South American swing this year, but the third seed lost in the quarters to Thiago Monteiro. Carballes Baena impressively beat Paolo Lorenzi in the second round and then Jarry, Martin and second seed Albert Ramos Vinolas in the final.

Andy Del Potro

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