Nadal’s back on top and Gasparyan breaks through
He’s ba-aaack. Well, to a certain degree, at least for Rafael Nadal, who landed his third title of the season in beating Fabio Fognini in Hamburg. What implications does this have down the line for the rest of the 2015 season with regards to Nadal potentially mounting an assault on the US Open? Nothing at all. A player of Nadal’s prior great stature winning an ATP World Tour 500 event shouldn’t even be up there as being noteworthy. But because of Nadal’s setbacks, every little victory is a well, a victory for him in terms of the bigger picture.
He is a fallen great, there’s no mistaking that, but after losing twice to Fognini on clay already this season, at least Nadal managed to turn the tables and pick up a title. His other two titles this year were in Argentina on clay and then on grass at the Mercedes Cup (both of those being 250 events). So at least the victory in Stuttgart is a step up for him and it was his first European clay title of the season. Progress. Baby steps for the giant of tennis, but you can’t help get the feeling in watching Nadal at the moment that he will never be back in the position of being the giant upon whose shoulders, someone will be standing.
Gasparyan gorgeous backhand lands Baku triumph
But the weekend simply cannot pass without mention of young Russian Margarita Gasparyan. Congratulations to anyone who picked her out for success this week in Baku because her victory came from nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Just to highlight that fact, prior to her incredible run in Azerbaijan she had failed to win a single WTA match. From five previous appearances in the main draw of a WTA event, Gasparyan was 0-5.
This is a player who knows how to win though. She has racked up four wins from four ITF Final appearances this season and she rounded off 2014 as the 217th ranked player in the world and she is currently just outside the top 100 at the moment. Potential. She’s projected to break the top 100 soon. You can’t go jumping the gun and expecting her to be racking up title after title this season of course, that’s unrealistic, but this was a huge step forward for her, and it is worth tracking her progress all the same.
En route to the Baku title, Gasparyan took down two of the top three seeds at the tournament in the form of second seed Karin Knapp, which followed the Russian having dumped third seed Dominika Cibulkova out of the International tier tournament. She had a little moment in the sun at Wimbledon recently after her first round loss to Serena Williams. Gasparyan drew huge praise from the eventual champion after producing an inspired start in the match, rattling off winners which seemed to throw Williams off her game, the Russian missing out on a break point to go 4-1 up in the first set.
The crowning moment for Gasparyan in her Baku final victory, over another player who is rapidly on the rise -- Romania's Patricia Maria Tig -- was her match winner. It was a sublime, one handed backhand. That was the first winner of its type on the WTA this season, and the first time on the Tour for over a year that someone has won a match off a one-handed backhand.