Sunday, 6 January 2013

Joining the Winner's Circle

In 2012, Fernando Verdasco was (behind Stan Wawrinka) the second highest ranked ATP player, not to take home a title.  For the Spaniard, who appeared to lose his way somewhat amidst the wealth of fellow-countryman on tour, his poor run of form has seen him stuck around the 20-30 mark in the rankings, having been as high as World #7 back in 2009.

Hoping to make the New Year get off to a more positive beginning, Verdasco opted out of Brisbane, Chennai and Doha, choosing instead to play alongside Anabel Medina Garrigues at the mixed-doubles Hopman Cup in Perth.  The pair had played together at the mini-Fed/Davis Cup event the previous year, where the French team, comprising Richard Gasquet and Marion Bartoli pushed them into second place in the group stages and deprived them of a shot at the final.

This year, Verdasco and Medina Garrigues went one better, coming through an injury depleted group of South Africa and USA (who lost John Isner part way through the event) and secured some revenge against the French (who again were unfortunate to see Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdraw) with a 3-0 record.

For their troubles, they were to face the hotly-tipped top seeds from Serbia, boasting the #1 ATP tour player Novak Djokovic and former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.  The three match final (incorporating a men's singles, a women's singles and a mixed doubles match) saw Djokovic easily defeat Verdasco in the opening match, before Medina Garrigues levelled the tie with a tough three-set encounter against the Serb.  It was in the decider, though, where the Spaniards came alive, proving themselves a much more experienced doubles pairing than the two singles specialists from Serbia, taking the match, the tie and the championship 64 75..

It is the fourth time that Spain has lifted the Hopman cup in it's 25-year history, and sees Fernando Verdasco, one week into 2013 improve 100% on his 2012.

Elsewhere, in the ATP, Richard Gasquet picked up accolades in Doha after overcoming Nikolay Davydenko.  The Russian, who has done little on tour since winning Munich in 2011, has often found much to smile about at the Qatar Open.  A former finalist on two occasions, he lifted the trophy back in 2010.  This year, he facilitated Gasquet's victory by putting out the top seed David Ferrer in the semi-final in bombastic style 62 63.  Then despite taking a 1-set lead in the final, Davydenko appeared to falter, allowing Gasquet to fire off some impeccable backhands to secure the victory 36 76(4) 63.

Finally in Chennai, India, last year's beaten finalist, Janko Tipsarevic, made sure this year by defeating surprise finalist Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets.  Currently ranked 71 places below his Serbian opponent, Bautista Agut took the first set to 3, before Tipsarevic's experience kicked in and he closed out the match 2 and 3.

In next week's final tune-up prior to Melbourne, the men head to Auckland and Sydney, with the WTA joining the men in New South Wales and Hobart.

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