Photo : @MallorcaChamps
Welcome to the ATP Awards of the Week. Every week from now until the National Bank Open, we will be highlighting the best and worst from the previous week on the ATP Tour.
Ready or not, here it comes.
Wimbledon has arrived.
Last week served as the final opportunity for players to find their form before descending upon the All-England Club for the season’s third major.
After a week of high-quality grass-court tennis, a few new faces have appeared on the radar as players to watch this week at Wimbledon, while another star rebounded in a big way to set up a potentially dramatic and historic fortnight in London.
With the grass court season approaching its climax, here are the final ATP Awards for the grass warm-up events.
Performance of the Week: Daniil Medvedev
With the number one ranking in sight, a confidence-building win on grass was exactly what the doctor ordered for Medvedev, especially after losing in the first round of Halle last week.
The Russian can take over the number one ranking depending on the results at Wimbledon and his title run in Mallorca, his first trophy on grass, should give him confidence.
Medvedev only lost one set on his way to the title and did not even benefit from an easy draw, needing to beat a pair of seeds just to reach the final where he beat Sam Querrey, a three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, in straight sets.
This week’s result surely put to rest any question about Medvedev’s status as a top contender this week at the All-England Club.
Match of the Week: Viking International Eastbourne final – Alex de Minaur d. Lorenzo Sonego 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5)
You could not have asked for a much higher-quality match as the last warm-up before a slam.
De Minaur and Sonego threw everything they had at each other in the Eastbourne final, a two hour and 42-minute slugfest full of exciting rallies and electric shot making.
The match was tight from start to finish, with neither player ever really able to take control. The pair exchanged breaks early in the opening set before Sonego clinched it with a late break.
De Minaur responded by breaking in the opening game of the second set, which was enough to level the match. That would be the last break of the day.
Some of the best drama was saved for the final set tiebreak, which the Aussie led 5-2 before Sonego mounted one last comeback to tie it at 5-5, including a dramatic passing shot at 3-5 to stay alive.
But in the end, de Minaur was not to be denied, taking the breaker 7-5 and the trophy along with it.
Both of these men are worth keeping an eye on at Wimbledon.
Surprise of the Week: Lucky Losers in Eastbourne
It is not uncommon for lucky losers to get into the draw of tournaments the week before a major, but lucky losers very rarely accomplish much at an event.
That was not the case in Eastbourne, where not only did three of the five lucky losers win their first-round matches, they reached the quarter-finals. Two of them reached the semis.
Andreas Seppi and Max Purcell actually met in the quarter-finals, with Purcell advancing to the semis before ultimately falling to third seed Sonego. On the bottom half, it was Soonwoo Kwon who did not throw away his shot and advanced to the semi-finals, ultimately losing to de Minaur.
It will probably be a long time until we see lucky losers be this, well, lucky again.
Forced Error of the Week: Dominic Thiem
A different kind of disappointment this week, not the one you ever want to see.
The world number five retired while leading his opening match in Mallorca 5-2 in the first set against Adrian Mannarino. While at first it could have been considered precautionary for Wimbledon, it turned out to be much more worse.
An MRI revealed the injury was very serious, forcing Thiem to withdraw from Wimbledon and the Olympics. His entire season, including his US Open title defence, is now likely in jeopardy.
Get well soon, Domi!
Upset of the Week: Max Purcell d. Gael Monfils – Eastbourne R2
Speaking of lucky losers, how about Max Purcell? The world No. 283 got into the Eastbourne draw as a lucky loser having only played four matches on the ATP Tour in his career with a 1-3 record.
He took full advantage of the opening, winning his first round match before shocking top seed Gael Monfils in the second round.
Monfils has had a terrible year, but he was probably expecting a relatively easy match-up against the lucky loser. If he did, he must have been caught by surprise.
The Frenchman narrowly avoided an even worse defeat when he dropped the opening set and then trailed by a break in the second.
But after winning the last three games of the second set, including breaking Purcell as he served for the match, and then breaking for a 3-0 lead in the third, Monfils must have thought he was on his way to victory.
Well, Purcell had other ideas, storming back to win six of the next seven games to hand the Frenchman yet another first-round loss, his fifth in 2021.
Canadian Performance of the Week: Vasek Pospisil
Pospisil sort of takes the cake by default here as he was the only Canadian man in action this week. However, his performance may have been enough even had others been playing.
After skipping the entire clay court swing, the 31-year-old reached his first quarter-final of 2021 this week in Eastbourne, beating James Ward in straight sets before topping recent French Open quarter-finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who retired after Pospisil took the first set, to reach the last eight, where he lost to the eventual Alex de Minaur.
Pospisil has struggled in 2021 after being named the 2020 comeback player of the year, but this run on the grass could mark a turning point as the tour shifts to the faster surfaces that he prefers.
Under the Radar: Double Djoker
Probably the only time Novak Djokovic will ever feature in an “under the radar” story.
The world number one did not play a singles event the week before Wimbledon, which is pretty normal for him, especially during the grass swing. But after it paid off in Paris, he won Belgrade the week before the French Open last month, he must have felt that some match action would be beneficial.
So he played doubles.
Teaming up with Carlos Gomez-Herrera, the pair upset two of the four seeded teams in the draw at the Mallorca Open, advancing all the way to the final before Gomez-Herrera withdrew with an ankle injury.
It was Djokovic’s first doubles final in over a decade (since the 2010 Queen’s Club).
Depending on his results at Wimbledon, it will be interesting to see whether he makes a habit of using doubles as a warm-up.