Petra Kvitova's St. Petersburg success, Julia Goerges' top-10 debut and other takeaways from the tennis week

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Triumphant in St. Petrasburg.

An on-fire Petra Kvitova cruising on an indoor court is one of the most impressive sights in tennis and lucky for us, we got to watch the Czech be at her unplayable best to clinch the title in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

A little over a year ago, Kvitova was attacked by a home intruder, who stabbed her left playing hand. She has since had surgery, recovered, and claimed two titles, in Birmingham last June and now St. Petersburg.

As the great Billie Jean King said in her congratulatory tweet to Kvitova on Sunday, the two-time Wimbledon champion is “incredibly resilient” and “a champion in tennis and in life”.

Kvitova, who had accepted a wildcard into the tournament, needed just 65 minutes to take out defending champion Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 6-2 in the final in Russia, to cap a tremendous week with a 21st career title.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from Kvitova’s big run in ‘St. Petrasburg’ and other action from the week gone by in tennis. (For the main takeaways from last weekend’s Davis Cup action, click here)

PETRA’S WIN IMPRESSIVE ON MANY FRONTS

Kvitova took down some big scalps en route to the title, with the average ranking of her opponents being a high 17.2. Her victims throughout the week looked like this: World No. 21 Elena Vesnina, No. 37 Irina-Camelia Begu, No. 6 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 12 Julia Goerges, and No.10 Kristina Mladenovic.

The Czech lefty improved her record in finals to 21-7. That is a 75 per cent winning record in finals. While Kvitova is the first to admit she has struggled mentally on court in various moments in the past, her success rate in title matches is testament to the fact that she can be real clutch when it matters the most.

“I love to play finals. Probably I was born for it,” she was quoted as saying by WTA Insider.

That is a fair statement.

Mladenovic’s comments after the final echoed those of many other players who have been on the receiving end of an in-form Kvitova drubbing.

“There’s absolutely nothing you can do when she’s playing like this, no matter who she playing. I’ve played I think all the best players in the world and no one smashes winners like this for an hour. Just a big congrats to her,” said the Frenchwoman.

Well-said!

GOERGES’ TOP-10 DEBUT

Also a player who boasts a killer forehand that can drop jaws when it’s clicking is Germany’s Goerges, whose incredible streak of winning three consecutive tournaments between October 2017 and January 2018 is finally being rewarded by a place in the world’s top-10 for the first time in her career.

The 29-year-old Goerges joins her compatriot Angelique Kerber, which makes it the first time since 1997 (Steffi Graf and Anke Huber) that two German women are ranked in the top-10.

KOSTYUK KEEPING AT IT

The 15-year-old Marta Kostyuk backed up her historic run to the Australian Open third round, as a qualifier, by winning a $60k title in Burnie, toppling top-seeded Viktorija Golubic in straight sets. The Ukrainian teen started the year ranked 523 and will rise to 185 on Monday. Her victory celebration was a gold medal-winning performance as well.

KEI’S COMEBACK IN FULL SWING

Kei Nishikori’s return from a wrist injury that kept him out of the game since the Canada Masters last August up until two weeks ago has resulted in a Challenger title win in Dallas over the weekend.

The Japanese ex-world No. 4 chose to drop down a tier to get some matches in and after losing his opening round to Dennis Novikov in the Newport Beach Challenger in his first tournament back, he rebounded by winning the trophy in Dallas (ironically defeating Novikov in the first round), taking out Mackenzie McDonald in the final.

While there are plenty of players who have done this in the past, I’m not sure how I feel about someone ranked in the top-30 playing a Challenger. Richard Gasquet also did that last September, when he was looking for some match play upon return from injury.

It’s understandable that players would want to ease themselves into competition after a lengthy break but Challengers are there for players with a lower ranking who aren’t able to compete on the ATP tour and who struggle with finances week-in, week-out, trying to make it into the big leagues. Nishikori took a spot in a draw that could have gone to someone falling under that category.

That said, it’s nice to see Nishikori back on court and picking up titles. It was his first trophy success in two years.

MARINO RETURNS

Canada’s Rebecca Marino, who quit tennis in 2013 due to struggles with depression, made a triumphant return to the sport, winning the $15k title in Antalya, in what was her first tournament in five years. Marino, a former top-40 player, claimed eight successive wins — three in qualifying and five in main draw — en route to lifting the trophy.

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Alexander Zverev's statement wins, Cameron Norrie's stunning debut and more takeaways from Davis Cup round one

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A thrilling weekend of Davis Cup action has come to an end and defending champions France are still alive after surviving a tough tie against Netherlands, playing without Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils.

The French are through to the quarter-finals for a ninth consecutive year, thanks to Adrian Mannarino’s five-set win over Robin Haase to secure a 3-1 triumph for the hosts in Albertville, and they next take on Italy, who overcame Japan.

Here’s a look at the main takeaways from an eventful three days of Davis Cup clashes.

CAM’S DEBUT

On paper, the tie pitting Great Britain against Spain, on clay, in Spain, looked like a slam dunk for the hosts. And while the Spaniards ended up winning and advancing to the quarter-finals for just the second time in six years, the showdown was a lot tighter than expected and it’s all thanks to brilliant debutant Cameron Norrie.

Playing his first Davis Cup rubber for Great Britain on Friday, Norrie, ranked 114 in the world, had never contested an ATP or Challenger-level match on clay. In front of a buoyant Marbella crowd, Norrie stunned Spanish world No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut by coming back from two sets down and taking the win in five.

“That’s one of the most amazing wins/results/upsets I’ve seen in a long time on a tennis court. Well done to Cam Norrie and all the team,” tweeted Andy Murray after the match.

We have to agree with the Scot.

But Norrie’s heroics didn’t stop there. In the fourth rubber against world No. 21 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Norrie stretched the 2016 French Open quarter-finalist to four sets before surrendering. A stunning effort from the 22-year-old!

SIGNIFICANT RESULT IN BRISBANE

Alexander Zverev’s straight-sets win over Nick Kyrgios that sealed a 3-1 triumph for Germany over Australia in Brisbane carries a lot of weight.

For Zverev, it was his first success over a top-50 player in a best-of-five match and it comes on the heels of his disappointing third round loss to Chung Hyeon at the Australian Open. He also fought off inspired debutant Alex de Minaur in five sets in the first rubber (Zverev trailed two sets to one and won in a fifth-set tiebreak). Both wins will no doubt lift the 20-year-old’s spirits and he can use that to tackle a season where he is defending a lot of points, having won five titles last year.

For Kyrgios, this was definitely a big blow considering how highly he rates Davis Cup and how much he wanted to win the whole thing, not just the first round. The 22-year-old draws a lot of confidence and positivity from his performances for Australia and must be deeply disappointed by this result, compounded by the fact he wasn’t 100 per cent fit to compete (his elbow injury hampered his performance).

Still, Kyrgios has shown lots of encouraging signs during the Australian summer, winning the title in Brisbane before making the fourth round in Melbourne and this Davis Cup defeat should not derail his progress.

CORIC RISES IN ALL-NEXT GEN BATTLE

Only one spot separates Borna Coric (47) from Denis Shapovalov (48) in the world rankings, and they both belong to the ATP’s so-called Next Gen group of players, aged 21-and-under. But on court for the fourth rubber of the tie between Croatia and Canada in Osijek, the three-year age difference was evident as Coric, 21, eased past the 18-year-old Shapovalov in straight sets to secure a quarter-final berth for the hosts.

Coric made his Davis Cup debut in 2013, and has been nominated nine times. Shapovalov on the other hand made his debut for Canada in 2016 and has got four nominations to his name.

Playing for his country, and in front of his home crowd, it was Coric’s extra three years of experience that prevailed over the talented Shapovalov.

GLORIOUS GOFFIN

David Goffin’s commitment to Davis Cup continues to pay off for the Belgians, who are through to the World Group quarter-finals for a third time in the last four years. Goffin has won 19 of his last 20 Davis Cup singles rubbers and his two singles victories over the weekend proved crucial for the home side’s triumph over Hungary in Liege.

RIOS’ FINE

Former world No. 1 Marcelo Rios was filmed being abusive to reporters during Chile’s Americas Zone Group I first round tie against Ecuador in Santiago. Rios, who is the assistant team captain for Chile insulted the media and was handed a $2,500.

Why do previous players like Rios – and Ilie Nastase who was suspended for unacceptable behaviour during a Romania-Great Britain Fed Cup tie last year – insist on being part of Davis/Fed Cup when they have no intention of treating the media with respect and behaving themselves? A $2,500 fine seems way too lenient!

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Davis Cup: Nick Kyrgios v Alexander Zverev and other things to look forward to this weekend

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Best of frenemies: Kyrgios and Zverev.

Davis Cup has come under fire in recent years with many players and fans calling for changes to the format and structure in order to ensure that all the top stars can participate without it adding too much load to their already stacked schedules.

A long list of marquee players, like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka are missing this weekend’s World Group first round ties, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to look forward to over the next few days.

Here are a few reasons to tune into the Davis Cup World Group action this weekend…

KYRGIOS-ZVEREV NO. 5

The young rivalry between Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev will take centre stage in Brisbane on Sunday in what promises to be an exciting showdown between Australia and Germany. The tie is likely to still be alive by day three and Kyrgios-Zverev could prove to be the crucial rubber to seal it for either side. Kyrgios leads Zverev 3-1 head-to-head and has more experience representing his country than the German world No. 5.

Zverev is contesting just his third Davis Cup tie (is 1-4 win-loss in the competition) while Kyrgios has won five of his last six Davis Cup rubbers.

Following a disappointing third round loss for Zverev to Chung Hyeon at the Australian Open, success this weekend could be the perfect pick-me-up for him, while Kyrgios, who has long said he dreams of winning Davis Cup for Australia, will be fired up with the backing of the home crowd.

THE DEBUTANTS

Some exciting young faces look set to make their Davis Cup debuts this weekend, including Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who opens the tie against Zverev on Friday.

De Minaur, who turns 19 this month, had an incredible Australian summer, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane (took out Milos Raonic en route) and the final in Sydney (beat Fernando Verdasco, Benoit Paire and Feliciano Lopez en route), before losing his first round to Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open. It will be interesting to see how the talented teen fares with the pressure of playing for his country.

Others set to make their debut are Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady, who have been tasked to take on the Spaniards in Marbella, with Kyle Edmund not fit enough following his heroic run to the Australian Open semi-finals.

CROATIA v CANADA LIKELY TO DELIVER

While Croatia are on a four-tie winning streak on clay – the surface they’re playing on against Canada this weekend – they have also lost five of their last six home ties.

World No. 3 Marin Cilic is exhausted and jet-lagged having played the Australian Open final last Sunday in Melbourne. He is with the team in Osijek but is regarded as the fifth player, who can be fielded if necessary throughout the weekend but is currently not part of the line-up, with the Croatians now led by Borna Coric in singles.

Coric will open the tie against Peter Polansky, while Viktor Galovic will contest his first-ever Davis Cup live rubber when he takes on Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in the second singles on Friday.

The Canadians are led by teenager Shapovalov, who has a 3-2 win-loss record in Davis Cup singles rubbers. Canada are looking to end a four-tie losing streak away from home.

An all-NextGen clash between Coric and Shapovalov will be a mouth-watering prospect on Sunday.

DEFENDING CHAMPS LEFT TSONGA-LESS

Title holders France made a last-minute change to their five-man squad with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulling out of their tie against Netherlands injured and replaced by Adrian Mannarino.

The French will be led by Lucas Pouille, clinched the deciding rubber in last year’s final against Belgium to give his country a first Davis Cup title since 2001, and Richard Gasquet in singles. The Dutch have Thiemo de Bakker and Robin Haase as their singles players, with doubles star Jean-Julien Rojer taking centre stage on Saturday alongside Mattwe Middelkoop.

NEW RULES

A few changes have been introduced to Davis Cup in 2018 including the following rules:

– The introduction of five-man teams in the 2018 World Group and Zone Groups I and II.

– Amendments to the dead rubber policy across the World Group and Zone Groups I and II now mean that no fifth rubber will be played if the fourth rubber is decisive, the same as the current rule for the Davis Cup Final.

– In the World Group, only the fourth rubber will be played if the score is 3-0. The fourth rubber will be best-of-three tiebreak sets.

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