WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | Three-time major finalist Ash Barty will mount a comeback, attempting a second career - "Tennis 2.0" - after seventeen months away from the sport.
Elena Vesnina is hoping her wildcard into the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy will provide a springboard back to the top of the WTA.
Elena Vesnina is hoping her wildcard into the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy will provide a springboard back to the top of the WTA.
Catch up on all of the weekend's Fed Cup action, and find out who's playing where as the WTA turns to St. Petersburg and Taiwan.
Former World No.26 Tamira Paszek improved to 9-0 in WTA qualifying matches this season to reach yet another main draw, plus a preview of Tuesday's main draw action.
Misaki Doi's finally roused her slumbering campaign to life on Monday with a straight set win over Kristyna Pliskova at the Taiwan Open.
Happy Chinese New Year, and welcome to the year of the monkey! The 12 years of the Chinese Zodiac are represented by animals - which players are monkey? Find out here.
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his ruthless run of form in Sunday's Garanti Koza Sofia Open final, turning aside Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4.
It was another dominant showing from the Spaniard, who did not relinquish a set in three matches en route to his fourth tour-level title. A battle between the two ATP World Tour winners from the second week of the 2016 season, with Bautista Agut having prevailed in Auckland and Troicki in Sydney, the top seed needed 82 minutes to lift the trophy.
"It is always special to win a title," Bautista Agut said. "I have to be happy about this start to the season, the way I play. I am enjoying to be on the court. I just can’t be happier.
“I used drop shots a lot today because he is a great defender and sometimes he stays very far from the baseline. I needed to find a way to break the rhythm and drop shots gave me a lot of points today. To beat Viktor you have to work a lot. He is a very tough opponent. He runs a lot, he makes you play a lot of balls, he defends really well. We played a lot of rallies today and I like that as a Spanish player."
Bautista Agut secured the lone break of the first set in the eighth game, claiming a total 20 of 25 (80 per cent) service points in the opener. In the second, he looked to run away with the match after grabbing an immediate break, but Troicki answered in kind with a break back. The Serb could not hold off Bautista Agut for long, however, as the eventual champ converted another break for 2-1 and held his nerve to the finish line. He triumphed on his second match point as a Troicki return sailed wide.
The 27-year-old Castellon de la Plana native is in the midst of his best start to an ATP World Tour season, posting a 12-2 record and notching two titles. He entered Sofia on the heels of a run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open, equaling his best Grand Slam result. He takes home €82,450 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
Troicki, meanwhile, was bidding to claim his fourth title in his ninth final. The Sydney champion (d. Dimitrov) is also off to a career-best start with a 10-3 mark. He earns €43,430 and 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points for his run to the final.
"He was playing better – more offensive, more aggressive, took more risks," said Troicki. "He also didn’t’ miss many balls. I felt like the better I played, the better he played. I had a long match yesterday. I needed to be 100 per cent fit to win. He started the season very well. He played great the last four tournaments. So I congratulate him. He deserved the win.
"It was still a good week for me. I reached the final again in four weeks. It is a great start to the season. I hope to keep it up with the good results. That is the only way to make it to the Top 10 which is my goal. I have to achieve it this year."
Both players will travel to Rotterdam for next week's ATP World Tour 500 event. Bautista Agut opens against Joao Sousa, while Troicki faces qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov. A potential rematch is in the cards in the semi-finals.
Third seeds Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop fought back from the brink of elimination to claim the inaugural Garanti Koza Sofia Open doubles title on Sunday.
The Dutch duo survived Philipp Oswald and Adil Shamasdin 5-7, 7-6(9), 10-6, staving off two championship points in the second set tie-break. It was both players' first ATP World Tour doubles titles, rallying from a set down on three occasions during the week. They overcame a total five match points, having saved one against Dimitar Kuzmanov and Alexander Lazov in the first round and two more in beating countrymen Thiemo de Bakker and Robin Haase in the semis.
"They played really well in the beginning," Koolhof said. "Then out of the blue we broke them and we started to return better and I think our returns made the difference in the end."
Koolhof and Middelkoop, who split €25,070 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points, refused to surrender after falling behind a set and a break at 4-1 in the second. They would break back and force a tie-break, where they once again found themselves with their backs against the wall, facing match points at 7-6 and 9-8. A service winner would deny the first and a Koolhof putaway at the net turned aside the second. They would reel off nine of the last 12 points in the ensuing Match Tie-break to emerge victorious after one hour and 47 minutes.
It has been a strong start to the season for Koolhof and Middelkoop after winning the ATP Challenger Tour doubles crown in Bangkok last month. The tandem won seven Challenger doubles titles in 2015.
"I am not sure it is the best tactic but somehow it worked for us this week," said Middelkoop. "We played really solid on all those match points. To win four Match tie-breaks in a row, at that level, is something special.
"Our hopes are for the bigger tournaments but we have to be realistic. We just came from Challengers, pretty much from Futures actually. To win a first ATP World Tour title is the first step to reach higher levels but higher levels mean tougher opponents, so we need new tactics to play against Top 30 guys.”
Oswald and Shamasdin, meanwhile, were bidding for their first title together. The Austrian fell to 3-3 in ATP World Tour doubles finals, while the Canadian dropped to 2-2.
Estrella Burgos rallies to defend Ecuador title
Richard Gasquet won the third all-French final at the Open Sud de France by beating Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday. It was Gasquet's third title from four straight finals at the ATP World Tour 250 indoor tournament.
Gasquet is now 13-12 in ATP World Tour finals, having last clinched a trophy in May 2015 at Estoril (d. Kyrgios). The 29 year old earned 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €82,450 in prize money.
"It was great for me to win another title," Gasquet told ATPWorldTour.com. "I am very proud to win my third title here, because it was a great match against a good friend. He had nothing to lose, so it was great to win."
Mathieu swept into a 3-0 lead at the start of the pair's eighth meeting, but Gasquet regrouped and recovered to 3-3. Mathieu saved two break points in a 12-point seventh game, then broke Gasquet to 30 to serve for the set at 5-4. But the 34 year old went onto win three of the next 18 points as the momentum moved into Gasquet's favour. The first set lasted 55 minutes.
Gasquet grew in confidence by breaking to Mathieu in the first game of the second set. He could have taken a 5-2 lead, but was later forced to save two break points in a 12-point eighth game. The World No. 10 went on to complete his fourth win of 2016 in one hour and 48 minutes.
Mathieu last beat Gasquet in February 2009 at Rotterdam. He is now 10-59 against opponents in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. He last beat an elite member, then No. 5-ranked Nikolay Davydenko, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It was his 10th ATP World Tour final (4-6 mark) and his first since reaching the title match at 2015 Kitzbuhel (l. to Kohlschreiber). The World No. 93 is now 5-3 on the season. He goes onto his next tournament with 150 points and €43,430.
Mate Pavic and Michael Venus captured their third ATP World Tour team title - and their second trophy of 2016 - on Sunday at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
Second seeds Pavic and Venus defeated German brothers Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev 7-5, 7-6(4) in the 80-minute doubles final.
Pavic and Venus, who are now 3-2 in ATP World Tour finals, also lifted last month's Auckland title (d. Butorac-Lipsky). They earned 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and shared €25,070.
"We've had a great week here," Venus told ATPWorldTour.com. "It's my first time in Montpellier, everyone has been really helpful. All of the volunteers have done a tremendous job. We really enjoyed it and hope to be back."
Pavic and Venus broke on a deciding deuce point at 5-5 in the 36-minute opener. The Zverev brothers could not convert a set point opportunity at 5-5, deciding point deuce. Pavic and Venus, who won 86 per cent of their first service points, took a 3/0 lead in the Match tie-break and maintained the advantage for victory.
Pavic is now 3-7 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals, while Venus is 3-2 overall. The Zverevs, who also reached the Munich final (l. to Peya/Soares), earned 150 points and split €13,170.
Bautista Agut tops Troicka to win Sofia Open
Czechs, French, Swiss reach Fed Cup semis
Gasquet defends Open Sud de France crown
Watch interview and relive match point as Australian teen Blake Mott, ranked 721, wins his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on home soil in Launceston. Video courtesy of Tennis Australia.
Edmund sees off Evans in Dallas Challenger final
Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Duran’s new partnership paid immediate dividends as the pair saved all eight break points faced to down Thomaz Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner 7-5, 6-4 in the doubles final of the Ecuador Open Quito on Saturday.
Carreno Busta and Duran were playing together for the first time on the ATP World Tour and will split 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and $25,070. The unseeded Spanish-Argentinian team upended No. 2 seeds Purav Raja and Rajeev Ram in the opening round and No. 3 seeds Austin Krajicek and Nicholas Monroe in the semi-finals.
“We were having dinner together at the Australian Open, and I asked Pablo if he wanted to play in Quito together,” Duran said. “Perhaps it was a lucky break.”
“[Guillermo] is a good player with solid returns, serves and volleys, and with him we were a very complete team,” Carreno Busta noted. “It’s easy for me when my partner is playing well.
“We were a bit nervous at the start, since it was our first final. But we were able to take advantage of our opportunities.”
Bellucci and Demoliner had worked hard to get to the final, as all three of the Brazilians' victories this week had come in Match Tie-breaks, including a quarter-final win over defending champions Gero Kretschmer and Alexander Satschko. Bellucci’s busy week in Quito continues, as he will be playing for the singles title on Sunday against Victor Estrella Burgos. The Brazilians will share 150 rankings points and $13,170.
In the final of the 2015 Argentina Open, Rafael Nadal topped good friend Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-1 for his 46th career clay-court title and improved his tour-level record against the Argentine to 6-1. Next week, both player could meet again in Buenos Aires, this time in the second round.
Top seed Nadal will have a first-round bye, while Monaco can set up an eighth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with his occasional doubles partner by winning his first-round match against a qualifier. The pair won the 2015 Doha doubles title together, and finished runners-up at Vina Del Mar in 2013.
The 31 year-old Tandil native will hope that local support and some home cooking will help him overcome a one-sided rivalry against the Spaniard. Monaco’s only win against Nadal came when the latter retired from their second-round match in Cincinnati in 2007. Monaco has yet to win a set against Nadal on clay, and has been on the losing end of three 6-0 sets in their past three meetings.
On Saturday, Monaco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga visited Buenos Aires Playa, situated alongside the Rio Plata, to play mini tennis and interact with fans. Tsonga is seeded third this year in Buenos Aires and Monaco, the 2007 champion, is playing in his first tournament since he sustained a season-ending wrist injury in Kitzbuhel 2015. Monaco is very happy about the way his wrist feels and has been training hard in advance of his home event.
“These are new feelings after seven months away from the circuit, but I feel good after having a long time to recover,” Monaco said. “I'm thankful I can return here in Buenos Aires because it's one of the tournaments I like the most.
"It's a nice way to pass the time. It was very enjoyable to play with the kids. They are fans of tennis and it's always fun to meet them and visit these beautiful spots around Buenos Aires."
Venus, Stephens propel U.S. to 2-0 Fed Cup lead