In the end, St Petersburg and Vienna turned out better than they might have, testament to the extent to which the final match’s quality determines our appraisal of an entire event. A dud decider can negate an entire week of solid play, while drama at the death might inspire us to re-assess the tedium the preceded it, generously to relabel it ‘build-up’. I’ve been sick enough to distend time itself, but even so it felt as though both tournaments this week had a lot of build-up.
St Petersburg, Final
(4) Cilic d. (2) Tipsarevic, 6/3 3/6 6/2
St Petersburg witnessed a resumption of normal service, insofar as Janko Tipsarevic was back to his most characteristic, following a brief few weeks in which he was uncharacteristically at his best. Here he was losing a final to someone ranked lower than him, a habit he had made his own before the title-spree of recent weeks. He was unusually unadventurous, particularly in the sets he lost. Winning begets confidence in some, but perhaps Tipsarevic isn’t that way disposed. For others, favouritism can become paralysing.
Any hope that the second seed would be able to feed off the crowd’s energy was doomed to disappointment. The energetic parts of the crowd didn’t show up, and occasional shots of the sparse attendees showed they were not alone. The hall, at best, was half-full. There was also no commentary, further deflating the vibe for those who had stayed home. What those who didn’t watch missed was a fairly engaging tennis match, although it was the less ostensibly less-fancied Marin Cilic forcing the play, prising open the court. He and his players box harnessed whatever energy remained in the stadium, and he rode it to his first title in about 20 months, and a return to the top 20.
(1) Tsonga d. (2) del Potro, 6/7 6/3 6/4
There was energy to burn at the Wiener Stadthalle – which frankly is not best practice from an environmental perspective – and lots more people watching, and commentary: all the trimmings. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro artfully dodged these pockets of combusting energy, and otherwise produced some energetic indoor tennis. Tsonga is naturally more suited to this surface than del Potro, but being French he is also more prone to doing dumb crap for no reason. Both were monstering forehands and serves, as you would expect, and it was the Argentinian who grabbed the initial lead, although he was never the same after he broke in the second set. From his subsequent play, it appeared as though going up a set and a break put del Potro right where Tsonga wanted him, and from there is was just a matter of the Frenchman finishing him off. It more or less did pan out that way, lending the last hour or so a quality of an extended denouement. Tsonga’s win bolsters his chance of qualifying for the World Tour Finals. I hope he makes it.