Federer_backhand_Rotterdam

2018 ATP Tour 500 series: The Finals

The 2018 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments brought more incredible story lines throughout the year, here’s a recap of all the ATP 500 finals…

With Roger Federer starting the series with his historic return to World No.1 in Rotterdam and book-ending it with his 99th career title in his hometown of Basel in October. There was also an 11th Barcelona title for Rafael Nadal, a first for the likes Kevin Anderson, Diego Schwartzman, Borna Coric and Daniil Medvedev at this level and the first of any kind for Nikoloz Basilashvili, who won Hamburg as a qualifier and then added a second later in the year in Beijing as he upset Acapulco champion Juan Martin del Potro in the final.

 

ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament – Rotterdam

 The first ATP World Tour 500 of the season took place indoors at the AHOY Arena in Rotterdam where Roger Federer took a wild card in a bid to become the oldest ever World No. 1. The 36-year-old Swiss achieved the feat by defeating local favourite Robin Haase in the quarter-finals and went on to face second seed Grigor Dimitrov in the final. Federer, who began the year by defending his Australian Open title, was looking to claim a record third crown in Rotterdam having triumphed in 2005 and 2012 – the last year he had been No. 1 – as well as the 97th of his illustrious career. Dimitrov, still full of confidence from his victory at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals in London, reached the final after a freak eye injury to David Goffin in the semi-finals. However, he was no match for the top seed as Federer raced to a 6-2, 6-2 victory in under an hour to cap what had been a memorable week for the Swiss legend.

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Rio Open presented by Claro – Rio de Janeiro

The South American clay court season was in full swing as the Tour reached the fabulous Jockey Club Brasileiro in Rio de Janeiro, host to Brazil’s first ATP World Tour 500 tournament since 2014. Two-time defending champion Dominic Thiem’s hopes of a third Rio title were ended in emphatic style by Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals and the Spaniard went on to book his place in the final with another impressive victory over Fabio Fognini. There he faced sixth seed Diego Schwartzman, the 5’7” Argentine who hadn’t dropped a set all week including wins over Gael Monfils and rising Chilean Nicolas Jarry in the semi-finals. And it was the South American who dominated the final as he eased to a 6-2, 6-3 victory to claim his first ATP World Tour 500 title and broke into the Top 20 for the first time at No. 18.

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Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – Dubai

The 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final saw second seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille take on No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut for the prestigious title. Pouille came into the tournament in impressive form having won the title earlier in February in Montpellier and had reached the final in Marseille the previous week. He was also on the verge of breaking into the Top 10 for the first time only to be denied by Bautista Agut who battled to a 6-3, 6-4 victory to claim the biggest title of his career – his eighth overall – becoming the first Spaniard to win the Dubai crown since Rafael Nadal back in 2006.

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Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC – Acapulco

Juan Martin del Potro captured his biggest title for nearly five years as he defeated in-form South African Kevin Anderson to win the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on the hard courts of Acapulco. Del Potro, who hadn’t won an ATP World Tour 500 title since Basel in 2013, maintained his perfect record against Anderson with his seventh win in seven meetings against the recently-crowned New York champion, coming through 6-4, 6-4 in the final. It completed a fantastic week for the Argentine, who had beaten both Zverev brothers – Mischa and Alexander – as well as three Top 10 players (Thiem, Zverev and Anderson) and four-time champion David Ferrer along the way. Anderson, who was appearing in his third final in just his fourth event of 2018, was looking to claim his first ATP World Tour 500 title.

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Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – Barcelona

Spring was in the air as the European clay court season arrived in Barcelona in April and, having claimed his 11th title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters the previous week, Rafael Nadal was looking to do the same on home soil. Now back at World No. 1, the Spaniard claimed his 400th win on clay by defeating David Goffin in the semi-finals and faced 19-year-old Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas for another ‘undecima’. Tsitsipas, who had registered impressive wins over Rio champion Diego Schwartzman, World No. 7 Dominic Thiem and No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta, was appearing in his first career ATP final. As expected, Nadal breezed to a 6-2, 6-1 victory to make it 19 straight wins on clay as well as 46 consecutive sets on the surface as he captured his 77th career title.

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Fever-Tree Championships – Queen’s Club, London

The smell of freshly cut grass signalled the arrival of Summer and the ATP World Tour 500 series had two tournaments in the same week. At The Queen’s Club in London, Novak Djokovic accepted a wild card for his first appearance in the tournament since 2010 as he looked to rediscover his form and the decision proved to be a good one as he reached his first final since winning the grass court title in Eastbourne 51 weeks earlier. There he faced former champion and 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic having won 14 of their 15 previous encounters. The title looked to be heading the Serb’s way as he took the first set 7-5 and had a championship point in the second, but Cilic – who had match point against Feliciano Lopez in the final 12 months ago – saved it and hit back to force a decider after taking the tie-break. Djokovic was then broken for the first time in the tournament at 4-3 in the final set as the Croatian captured his second title at The Queen’s Club after an epic 2-hour, 57-minute classic. Despite the loss, it proved to be the kick-start to Djokovic’s season while the tournament was named ATP World Tour 500 event of the year for the third time.

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Gerry Weber Open – Halle

Over in Halle, Roger Federer arrived at the Gerry Weber Open having captured his 18th grass court title in Stuttgart the previous week and needed a 10th title here to hold on to his World No. 1 status. Having reached his 12th final in Halle, the Swiss faced rising Croatian star Borna Coric, the 21-year-old from Zagreb who had only won two of his nine matches on grass at Tour-level prior to the week but who had stunned Alexander Zverev in the first round. The opener went to a tie-break and Federer had two set points at 6-4 only for Coric to hit back and take it 8-6. The Swiss, on a 20-match grass court winning streak, took the second set 6-3 to force a decider, but the Croatian wasn’t to be denied as he broke twice to take it 6-2 and claim his first ATP World Tour 500 title as well as his second overall (2017 Marrakech).

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German Tennis Championships 2018 presented by KampmannHamburg

Back on the clay, the German Tennis Championships in Hamburg turned out to be a week Nikoloz Basilashvili will never forget. On the verge of losing his final round of qualifying match against Jurgen Melzer, the World No. 81 survived and went on to defeat Philipp Kohlschreiber, Pablo Cuevas, Pablo Carreno Busta and Nicolas Jarry to reach the final. There he faced a man who knows all about winning this title the hard way in Leonardo Mayer, the two-time Hamburg champion won the title in 2017 as a Lucky Loser. The final turned out to be a classic as Basilashvili won 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 to become the first Georgian man to win an ATP title and with it became the highest ranked player from his country having jumped to No. 35.

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Citi Open – Washington

In July, the North American Summer hard court swing arrived in the U.S. capital of Washington D.C. for the Citi Open. The build-up was dominated by the news of Andy Murray’s return to action and after two lengthy victories over Mackenzie McDonald and fellow Briton Kyle Edmund, Murray battled to an emotional 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 victory over Marius Copil in a match that finished at 3.00am and left the former No. 1 in sobs of tears as he left the court. It proved a match too far for Murray who withdrew from his quarter-final against rising Australian teenager Alex de Minaur, who then went on to defeat Andrey Rublev in just under three hours and book his place in the final against defending champion Alexander Zverev. It was the youngest final on Tour since Nadal and Djokovic met in Indian Wells in 2007 and the youngest in Washington since 1982 (Lendl d. Arias), but it was the 21-year-old German who went on to become the first player to defend his Washington title since Juan Martin del Potro in 2009 with a 6-2, 6-4 victory. It was the third title of the season for Zverev, while De Minaur broke into the Top 50 for the first time by reaching the final.

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China Open – Beijing

Into October and the Tour arrived in Asia for another double-header of ATP World Tour 500 tournaments in Tokyo and Beijing. At the China Open, top seed and US Open runner-up Juan Martin del Potro faced Hamburg champion Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final and it was the Georgian who captured his second career title – both at this level – with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over an out-of-sorts Argentine. Del Potro, who had been suffering the effects of a cold, was looking to claim his third title of the season and 23rd of his career.

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Rakuten Japan OpenTokyo

Over in Tokyo, the 2018 Rakuten Japan Open was being held indoors at the Musushino Forest Sport Plaza while its usual home at the Ariake Colosseum was undergoing renovations in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Local superstar Kei Nishikori was looking to become only the third player alongside Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras to win three Tokyo titles but the two-time champion came up against an inspired Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who had come through qualifying to reach the final. Despite the vociferous local support, Nishikori was powerless to stop the rising Russian, who eased to a 6-2, 6-4 win to claim his third title of the season having also defeated local favourites Alex De Minaur in Sydney and Steve  Johnson in Winston-Salem. With his first ATP World Tour 500 title, the 22-year-old became the first Russian to win the Tokyo crown.

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Erste Bank Open 500 – Vienna

After suffering disappointment in the Acapulco final earlier in the season, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson didn’t have to wait too much longer for his first ATP World Tour 500 title as he defeated Kei Nishikori to win the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna. Anderson, who was appearing in his fifth final of the season, defeated the Japanese superstar 6-3, 7-6 to claim his second title of the year and book his place at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. Nishikori, runner-up in Tokyo earlier in the month, was looking to end an eight-match losing streak in ATP Finals since his last title in Memphis in 2016.

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Swiss Open Indoors – Basel

Having won the first ATP World Tour 500 title of the season in Rotterdam, Roger Federer also won the last one by defeating Romanian qualifier Marius Copil to claim his ninth Swiss Open Indoors title in his hometown of Basel. Copil claimed his first Top 10 wins against No. 6 Marin Cilic and No. 5 Alexander Zverev and the No. 93 was looking to capture his first ATP title as he faced Federer in front of his adoring fans. Appearing in his 12th final in his last 12 appearances at the tournament where he used to be a ballboy, the 37-year-old Swiss came through 7-6, 6-4 to capture the 99th title of his career. It was also his 21st ATP World Tour 500 title, one more than his nearest rival, Rafael Nadal.

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