The year 2014 began with 3 ATP250 tournaments being played out simultaneously at different parts of the world. While normal service resumed on the WTA Tour with Serena carrying on from where she left off in 2013- winning at Brisbane and looking invincible again- the men’s tour is turning out to be a more interesting affair. Qatar, Brisbane and Chennai- the 3 venues for 2014’s first ATP tournaments.
Qatar: World no. 1 Rafael Nadal stormed through the draw- with a yet to be fit Murray falling on the way- to claim his first title of the season. This is going to be the first of many, as Nadal starts 2014 on the cusp of all-time greatness, already well on his way to break Federer’s Major records. Nadal faced Monfils in the final, dropping the second set in a tie break during a lapse of concentration. He won the final set 6-3 to assert his domination on the quick courts of a sultry Brisbane- cementing himself as a favorite for the Australian Open starting later this month in Melbourne. While Djokovic chose not to play any of these warmup tournaments, Nadal will head into Melbourne with great confidence- especially knowing that he is usually not a good starter to the season.
Brisbane: It was back to the old guard for Brisbane 2014. Roger Federer was the no. 1 seed, and seemed to have an easy draw to win his first tournament of the season. But lately, no draw seems to be easy for the Swiss Great- with players like Chardy likely to pose problems to his shaky forehand. With his adorable twin girls looking on from the stands with their mother, with another one on the way, Federer looked comfortable enough reaching his first final of 2014 dropping only one set. He was to face old foe, and another old man of the game, Hewitt on home turf. Hewitt hadn’t reached the finals of an Australian event since his ’05 Aussie Open Safin final, and hadn’t won a tournament since Jan 2010. Federer, on the other hand, looked confident with new ‘coach’ Edberg- determined to grind it out when needed and show some newfound mental strength. But it was all an illusion, as Federer played one of the worst first sets in recent memory to hand it to the Aussie 6-1. Federer found his range in the second, fighting back and taking it into a third- where Hewitt saved 7 break points in the first 3 games. Federer’s breakpoint conversion has always been questionable, and it came back to haunt him after Hewitt broke him and held on to take the final set 6-3. It was a humungous upset, and Federer had no answers once again. If Federer can’t win Brisbane, what can he possibly win for the rest of the year? We will soon find out.
Chennai: Right from the beginning, Swiss no. 1 seed Wawrinka was hailed as the favorite entering the hallowed courts of India’s only ATP tournament. He was already a one-time winner (2011), and had reached the last 2 finals. He made it 3 in a row, facing journeyman Roger-Vasselin in the final- another surprise finalist after last year. Surely, there couldn’t be an upset- not after Wawrinka enjoyed his best year on tour- even making it to the WTF in London last month. As of now, Wawrinka looks like the Swiss no. 1 with Federer really not looking the dominant force he was, and he proved it by dismantling Roger-Vasselin in a tournament that didn’t have the usual big names as previous years. Indian Yuki Bhambri was a surprise quarterfinalist, before being beaten by Russian Pospisil. Wawrinka has begun another promising year with a bang, winning his 2nd Chennai Open title in 3 years. The single-handed backhand could bring the magic in Melbourne like he had done so last year, almost beating eventual Champion Djokovic in 5 tough grueling sets. The mental edge that was lacking in 2013 could now appear and take Wawrinka into possibly the top 5 in 2014.