The curtain has been come down on another thrilling week of tennis. There was plenty to enjoy across the globe, with the stars descending in force on Dubai for the first WTA 1000 event of the year only for Barbora Krejcikova to emerge as a surprise champion, whilst on the ATP Tour it was a week to remember for British tennis. Here’s a look back at three of the stories you might have missed.
Andy Murray Rolls Back the Years (Again)
Andy Murray is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t he? At this late stage in his career, nothing comes easily for the three-time Grand Slam champion, but there are few players more determined than Murray. He had to work exceedingly hard at the Australian Open, winning two gruelling five-setters before finally running out of steam against Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.
He was back on court in Qatar and back with his nose grindstone. Seemingly by force of will (though there was plenty of high-quality shotmaking too), Murray came through energy sapping rollercoasters against Lorenzo Sonego, Alexander Zverev and Alexandre Muller to reach the semifinals. There having made a fast start, he found himself down amongst the dead men with Jiri Lehecka saving for the match. Somehow, however, Murray came again to save five match points and take the match to a deciding tiebreak which, unsurprisingly, he won.
That set up a semifinal against the resurgent Daniil Medvedev, who had arrived in Qatar fresh from winning his first title of the season in Rotterdam. Murray battled gamely, but the Russian simply had too much quality and energy, ultimately winning comfortably enough in straight sets. Still, there are plenty of positives to take for Murray. A fairytale return to the very top of the game is surely out of the question, but count him out entirely at your peril.
Cameron Norrie demonstrates his clay-court quality
Whisper it quietly, but Cameron Norrie is becoming something of a clay-court expert. He now has eight victories from nine matches since arriving in South America and, crucially, a fifth tour-level title. He may even be dreaming of Roland Garros glory later this year, though one suspects that the man he beat in the final in Rio, Carlos Alcaraz, may have something to say about that. As might Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who do, after all, own 44 Grand Slams between them.
Still, it has been an excellent couple of weeks from the Briton. He has shown real versatility in his game, combining his superb fitness levels – which allow him to grind most opponents into the dust – with good hands and increasingly penetratining groundstrokes. This excellent run on the clay is not entirely surprising, Norrie’s game has always suited the surface, and it should be remembered that Alcaraz was carrying an injury, but even if Alcaraz was not entirely fit, beating him on the terre battue is no mean feat.
Krejcikova is on a different planet
Just wow. The Dubai Tennis Championships highlighted once against what is so enjoyable about the WTA Tour. Going into this tournament most would have picked Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek as the two women to beat. It almost seemed certain that they would meet in the final. Only for the world #30 Krejcikova, not exactly known for her prowess on fast-paced hard courts, to knock them both out, Sabalenka in the last eight and Swiatek in the final, to win her first title since she triumphed in Ostrava last season (where, as it happens, she also beat Swiatek in the final).
While the rest of the tour are racking up mental baggage against the world #1, the Czech seems to bring her best whenever she faces off against the world #1. She also plays like someone with a point to prove, which is perhaps unsurprising. She is, after all, a Grand Slam champion in both singles and doubles, yet rarely seems to get the respect her numerous accomplishments deserve.
Main photo credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports