Last week did not feature much action on the ATP Tour. However a couple of 250-level clay-court events were running in Morocco and the USA respectively.
In Morocco, the field barely had a bright light. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, the World No. 37, entered the tournament as the top seed. But the Spaniard exited it after winning just one match which set the stage for Borna Coric to claim his first career title. The 19 year old Croat looks like he has an amazing career ahead of him, however to date, he has not managed to win a final in tour-level matches.
Unfortunately, for him, that did not change last week. He was the loser in the Morocco final to Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-2, 6-4.
With the title Delbonis returned to the Top 40 on Monday. He has some work to do if he wants to be seeded for Roland Garros, however the 250-level title is a clear step in the right direction. Delbonis, in his post-match interview, attributed his victory to mental strength:
“I’m very happy to win again on the ATP World Tour. I played at a great level today and it’s great to lift the trophy here. I took my chances, but it was not easy. In the end, I did my job and got the victory. This is what I work for. To win at this level, you have to be mentally focused the whole match.”
In Houston, Juan Monaco faced Jack Sock in the tournament final. Sock, after winning his first title at the same event last season, had to have ambitions of claiming a second championship. The American especially appeared poised for a second title after he took the first set in Sunday’s final.
However, in the late sets, Monaco showed exactly what has made him such a dangerous player for so long. The 32-year-old Argentine took the final two sets in Houston to post a final line score of 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Although he entered last week ranked 148th in the world, the title thrust him up 62 spots and well into the Top 100 on tour. It will be interesting to see where Monaco’s game is over the course of the clay-court season, because he is a player that might credibly challenge for the fourth round of the French Open or even the quarters.
As far as the clay-court Grand Slam build up goes, Houston and Morocco count for something. But currently running for all qualified players is a tournament that really matters – the 2016 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. The tournament featured Novak Djokovic as the top seed (he’s out of the tournament now), and it is also noted as the event that Roger Federer finally made his return in.
Prior to Monte-Carlo, the Swiss Maestro had not contested an event since the Aussie due to knee surgery and then illness during the American hard-court swing. Where his game is at right now is a question mark, but if he is playing well, then there’s potential for a Federer-Nadal/Raonic/Murray final in Monte-Carlo. That championship match, regardless of who is in it, is one that is scheduled for April 17th