The ATP Tour events on offer this week were at the 250 level.
But these are two pretty fabulous 250-level events, even if the weather in Munich at this time of the year can be … changeable.
It was tempting enough that young guns Alexander Zverev (in Munich) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (in Estoril) were happy to play a smaller tournament with the two back-to-back Masters 1000 coming right up behind them.
Zverev, with a lot of off-court distractions, returned “home” to defend his 2017 and 2018 titles. And although he looked a little better than he has over his last few tournaments, he still lost in the second round.
That he lost to eventual champion Cristian Garin, who is in splendid form on the clay this year, was hardly a bad loss. But it did drop him down a spot and allow Roger Federer to take back No. 3.
Garin is up to No. 33 and looking at a seed in Paris. He has two titles (in Houston and Munich), and a final in Sao Paulo on his season. But beware anointing him as a legitimate top prospect. The Chilean took just four games against David Goffin in the first round of the Australian Open. And he has played exclusively on clay since them. He didn’t compete at Indian Wells or Miami. So while the rise is impressive, it is … selective if perhaps part of a bigger plan.
ON THE UPSWING
Roger Federer (SUI): No. 4 ===========> No. 3 (As he returns to the clay for the first time in three years, Federer is sitting pretty at No. 3 with nothing to defend).
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE): No. 10 ===========> No. 9 (Tsitsipas squeezes past the injured John Isner with his title in Estoril).
David Goffin (BEL): No. 25 ===========> No. 23 (After dropping out of the top 12 last October, Goffin has been searching to find his form although he has maintained his ranking in the mid-20s).
Lucas Pouille (FRA): No. 32 ===========> No. 28 (Pouille is one of the rare players who won his first ATP Tour title before winning his first Challenger title. He did that this week in Bordeaux. And with 55 points to defend during the Madrid-Rome double, looks fairly set to be seeded in Paris).
Cristian Garin (CHI): No. 47 ===========> No. 33 (Garin wins his second title in a month in Munich this week, leaping to another career high and looking good to be seeded in Paris. It’s the craziest thing; he’s clearly a clay-court lover. And yet, in three tries in the French Open qualifying, he never even won a match. But in two attempts at qualifying at Wimbledon, he has made it through both times. This year, he’ll have to worry about neither).
Pablo Cuevas (URU): No. 67 ===========> No. 51 (The 33-year-old from Uruguay reaches the final in Estoril and gets his ranking up to its highest spot in nearly a year).
Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN): No. 71 ===========> No. 66
Daniel Evans (GBR): No. 85 ===========> No. 81 (The Brit’s ranking is the highest it’s been since Aug. 2017. And worth noting that a year ago, he had no ranking at all. He also was Roger Federer’s guest for a bit of a clay training session last week, so it’s been a good week).
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA): No. 101 ===========> No. 93 (He’s back in the top 100, but there’s some concern as he lost at the Bordeaux Challenger last week, and was a non-starter in Madrid this week).
Tomas Berdych (CZE): No. 104 ===========> No. 99 (Berdych is back in the top 100. He also hasn’t been playing).
Sebastian Ofner (AUT): No. 165 ===========> No. 126 (The 22-year-old reaches a career high after winning the top-level Challenger in Puerto Vallarta last week. But despite the $135,400 in prize money, the top-ranked payer he needed to beat was Mirza Basic, ranked No. 193).
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP): No. 167 ===========> No. 127 (The 19-year-old Spaniard with the decidedly un-Spanish last name gets to a career high with a run to the semis in Estoril from the qualifying. He has a wild card into Madrid this week).
Tommy Paul (USA): No. 143 ===========> No. 136 (Paul withdrew from the Savannah Challenger once he had clinched the French Open reciprocal wild card. But the two matches he won still allowed him to reach another career best).
ON THE DOWNSWING
Alexander Zverev (GER): No. 3 ===========> No. 4
Frances Tiafoe (USA): No. 31 ===========> No. 37 (Tiafoe may have pushed himself out of a seeded spot in Paris, which will make his job exponentially more difficult).
Joao Sousa (POR): No. 51 ===========> No. 75 (The homeboy had a title to defend in Estoril, but lost in the second round to David Goffin).
Malek Jaziri (TUN): No. 75===========> No. 90 (Jaziri was a finalist in the now-defunct clay-court tournament in Istanbul a year ago).
Mischa Zverev (GER): No. 95 ===========> No. 98 (Little brother Sascha isn’t the only Zverev having some struggles in 2019. Zverev has been in the top 100 every week since Oct. 2016).
Taro Daniel (JPN): No. 72 ===========> No. 107 (Ranked No. 114 at the time, Daniel won the now-defunct clay-court event in Turkey over Malek Jaziri in the final. It was his first career title. He lost in the second round of Munich to Guido Pella this year).
Vasek Pospisil (CAN): No. 134 ===========> No. 138
Michael Mmoh (USA): No. 131 ===========> No. 143 (Where is Mmoh? We miss both him – and his fabulous hair).
Lukas Lacko (SVK): No. 121 ===========> No. 151
Jack Sock (USA): No. 149===========> No. 153
Hyeon Chung (KOR): No. 123 ===========> No. 155 (Crazy to think that a year ago, the 22-year-old had just jumped into the top 20 for the first time. He has won just one match this year, and hasn’t played since Rotterdam in February. We spotted him in Miami this year practicing (sort of), and he did make it as far as the draw. But he never played. His back woes continue.