How ATP and WTA top 20s shape up ahead of Miami as Roger Federer finally faces fall
Aslan Karatsev has reached a career-high of No 27 in the world after the rankings refreshed on Monday, a reward for his first ever ATP title – just one of the biggest stories over the last seven days of tennis.
- 27. Aslan Karatsev (+15; new career high)
- 52. Lloyd Harris (+17; NCH)
- 83. Emil Ruusuvuori (+4; NCH)
- 87. Sebastian Korda (+5; NCH)
- 94. Lorenzo Musetti (+26; NCH)
Last week’s champions: Alexander Zverev (Acapulco), Aslan Karatsev (Dubai)
Aslan roars again
Aslan Karatsev was written off by almost everyone, myself included, as a flash in the pan. It wasn’t feasible that someone who had been nowhere in tennis terms – outside the top 250 – when lockdown hit could be anything other than a man on the hottest of hot streaks. Well for now, the streak continues.
In Dubai, where admittedly conditions suited his big-hitting, early-striking game, he beat Dan Evans, Lorenzo Sonego, Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev on his way to the final, where he demolished South Africa’s Lloyd Harris – another of this week’s big movers – to clinch his first ever ATP title. Only Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem have the distinction of beating him this year.
He was still a wildcard entry into the ATP 500 event though, with the paucity of events and restrictions on global travel leaving places at top-level tournaments at a premium. However, now that he is inside the top 30 for the rest of the year virtually guaranteed, he is unlikely to need many more wildcards.
Most intriguingly of all, the best may be yet to come. Karatsev’s best surface traditionally is clay, and he will have his pick of tournaments thanks to his brand spanking new ranking. Who knows, maybe this flash in the pan will turn into a full-on kitchen fire.
Zverev’s title tally puts him in esteemed company
Alexander Zverev saw off Next Gen rival Stefanos Tsitsipas in Acapulco to claim his first title of 2021, but at the age of 23 has already surpassed plenty of players in terms of titles won.
His triumph in Mexico, which took place in front of fans in a stadium for a change, saw him seal a 14th ATP title, more than the likes of Pat Rafter, Tim Henman, Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych. However, Rafter has two grand slam titles to his name which is two more than Zverev currently has – although few believe that will be the case when the German finally hangs up his racket.
The points earned mean he will overtake Roger Federer, who has been well protected by the effective freeze on points earned previous to his injury (and lockdown), next week, although the system has already been branded “a mess” by Zverev himself, who under normal circumstances would have been propelled into the top four in the world thanks to his results by now. Andrey Rublev could also catch Federer after Miami but only if he wins the title.
The shine taken off Miami
Few would also bet against Zverev making it 15 titles in Miami either after the first Masters 1000 event of the year has been hit by a slew of withdrawals.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all opted against travelling to the US for the tournament citing various different reasons, with the world No 1 also saying he wanted to spend time with his family and Nadal mentioning being in the right shape for the clay.
Dominic Thiem too is not playing, meaning Zverev will be the third-highest ranked man in the draw (assuming neither Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev withdraw in the time it takes you to read this sentence – which is not impossible) with just five of the world’s top 10 playing at what is supposed to be one of the ATP Tour’s flagship events.
However, at least Andy Murray has not withdrawn and in fact seems positively eager to head to Florida, having just become a father for the fourth time. He had been awarded a wildcard in Miami, although the withdrawal situation is such that his ranking (119) would actually have merited a place in the main draw.
The thinning out of the field in Miami is a shame. At least one journalist had naively hoped this would be the first tournament close to normality. However, it could be an opportunity for some big points for players who have found it hard to ladder their way up the semi-frozen rankings.
Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti is one of those and arrives in fine form, having come through qualifying in Mexico to then beat Diego Schwartzman, Frances Tiafoe and Grigor Dimitrov en route to the semi-finals. He is still only 19 and yet to play grand slam main draw, and is another for whom the clay-court season cannot come soon enough. First though, a chance for a few more scalps in Miami.
Men’s top 20, Monday 22 March
- Novak Djokovic
- Daniil Medvedev
- Rafael Nadal
- Dominic Thiem
- Stefanos Tsitsipas
- Roger Federer
- Alexander Zverev
- Andrey Rublev
- Diego Schwartzman
- Matteo Berrettini
- Denis Shapovalov (+1)
- Roberto Bautista Agut (-1)
- David Goffin
- Gael Monfils
- Pablo Carreno Busta
- Grigor Dimitrov
- Felix Auger-Aliassime (+1)
- Fabio Fognini (-1)
- Milos Raonic
- Cristian Garin
- 38. Daria Kasatkina (+23)
- 69. Leylah Fernandez (+19; NCH)
- 81. Viktorija Golubic (+21)
- 87. Margarita Gasparayan (+39)
Last week’s champions: Daria Kasatkina (St Petersburg), Leylah Fernandez (Monterrey)
Almost a Russian national championships
It was a quiet week on the WTA after a glut of tournaments in the Middle East, with very few opting to travel to Russia for the tournament in St Petersburg. In fact, none of the top 30 were in any sort of competitive action.
Inactivity brings opportunity though and the many Russians who headed home cashed in: there was only one non-home player (Romania’s Jaqueline Cristian) in the quarter-finals. In the end it was the battling Daria Kasatkina who won through coming from a set down in three consecutive matches to reach the final, where her opponent Margarita Gasparyan was forced to retire three games into the second set.
Kasatkina, 23, has been as high as No 10 in the world, specifically in 2018 when she reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and Wimbledon to become Russian No 1, but her form fell off a cliff in 2019, a slump that was barely arrested by a switch in coach. In all she lost 10 first-round matches over the course of the season, and was probably among the players glad of the suspension of play in 2020. However, 2021 has already been her year having won a first title in three years in Australia and now a second just two months later. She has often cited making leaps forward mentally more than physically, paying tribute to trainer Didac Perez, who previously worked with fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Kasatkina is looking forward to her preferred clay and she, like many others, has pulled out of Miami (although the women’s draw, even having lost Serena Williams, has been less blighted than the men’s).
Another rising young Canadian
In the men’s game, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are both talked about as future grand slam winners from Canada. Don’t rule Leylah Fernandez out of the conversation either, and she is younger than both of them.
The 250-tier tournament in Monterrey may not have boasted the best field – world No 48 Nadia Podorska was the No 2 seed – but you can only beat those you face and Fernandez has done exactly that, claiming the title without dropping a set.
Granted, she only beat one top 100 player in world No 57 Sara Sorribes Tormo, but Mexico has clearly become a popular stamping ground for the Florida-based 18-year-old. She reached the final in Acapulco last year and beat Sloane Stephens in Monterrey before losing to eventual champion Elina Svitolina.
Women’s top 20, Monday 22 March
- Ash Barty
- Naomi Osaka
- Simona Halep
- Sofia Kenin
- Elina Svitolina
- Karolina Pliskova
- Serena Williams
- Aryna Sabalenka
- Bianca Andreescu
- Petra Kvitova
- Kiki Bertens
- Belina Bencic
- Garbine Muguruza
- Jennifer Brady
- Victoria Azarenka
- Iga Świątek
- Elise Mertens
- Jo Konta
- Madison Keys
- Marketa Vondrousova
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