Champions Tennis League Blog

CTL Star Watch - The Week That Was
18 July 2016, Monday
In one of the busiest weeks of the ATP and WTA calendars, CTL stars had a stellar outing winning titles and achieving Davis Cup glory.  With three ATP tournaments, two WTA tournaments and numerous Davis Cup ties, there was action aplenty across the globe.
At 6 feet 11 inches and armed with a powerful serve, Ivo Karlovic’s game is tailor made for grass.  His best results across his career have come on this surface.  While most players put an end to their grass court season after Wimbledon, Karlovic has always travelled to Newport to play the historic Hall of Fame tennis championships.  This event is steeped in tradition and legends are inducted into the Hall of Fame during the week.
Karlovic had reached the Newport final the last two years and fell agonizingly short to Lleyton Hewitt and Rajeev Ram respectively.  He had another shot at a title this year and faced a similar big server in Gilles Muller in the final.  Two grass court specialists with huge serves ensured that the crowd was treated to a throwback style serve and volley match.  Rallies were short and aces were on offer in every game.  As expected, every set was decided in a tie-break.  After dropping the first set tie-break 2-7, Karlovic came back strongly to take the second 7-5.  The deciding set tie-break was epic and Karlovic managed to edge Muller 14-12 after saving 3 match points in stellar fashion.  This was Karlovic’s 7th ATP title and his first of the year.  To be able to win a title at the age of 37 is a testament to Karlovic’s passion and work ethic.
The semifinals saw a repeat of the deciding tie of CTL 2015, a match between Ivo Karlovic and Marcos Baghdatis.  Baghdatis who had a fine run till the final pushed Karlovic to two tie-breaks.  This time Karlovic had the last laugh and his big serve proved to be the difference.
Divij Sharan, who has mainly played doubles in the challenger circuit took his opportunity at an ATP 250 event with both hands with a fine run to the semifinals.  Sharan and his partner, Purav Raja have enjoyed a good run of form since the grass court season started winning two challenger titles and reaching the semifinals here in Newport.  Sharan also got the opportunity to try out the old wooden racquets from the Hall of Fame museum.
India faced Korea in Chandigarh to fight for a place in the World Group Playoffs in September. India was without Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman who have been the regular singles players over the last few ties.  In walked, two of the Indian stars from Champions Tennis League, Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan.  Ramanathan made his Davis Cup debut for India and played a fantastic match in tough conditions to beat Seong-Chan Hong in four sets.  He recovered from a mid-match slump and was physically stronger towards the end of the fourth set.  His opponent succumbed to cramps when Ramkumar was three points away from a win.
Saketh Myneni, the two time Margaret Amritraj Award winner in CTL for the best Indian player had a tougher outing in his singles tie.  He had to overcome cramps and somehow managed to pull out a win in the fifth set against Yong-Kyu Lim.  After building a two sets to one lead, Myneni suffered from cramps in the fourth set and lost his way for a while.  His opponent suffered from cramps as well in the 5th set and from then on, it was a test of will.  Myneni was the last man standing and took India to a well-deserved 2-0 lead after the first day.  India eventually won the tie 4-1 to progress to the World Group playoffs.
In the Europe/Africa Group 1, Spain was in a similar position to India needing to win the tie against Romania to advance to the World Group playoffs.  CTL 2015 players, Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez were the designated singles players for Spain and they both ended day 1 with wins giving Spain a crucial 2-0 advantage.  Agut, wasted no time in beating Adrian Ungur 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.  Lopez, on the other hand faced a stiff challenge against Marius Copil and got through in five long sets.
Feliciano Lopez had to get back and play the doubles rubber along with Marc Lopez.  The French Open winning team were the favourites but lost the match in an epic five set encounter against experienced doubles players Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau.  Roberto Bautista Agut ensure that Felicaino Lopez will not have to play a deciding tie by beating Florin Mergea 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.  Agut won all his six sets in emphatic fashion and was the star of the tie leading Spain to the World Group playoffs.
Seeded 5th, Fernando Verdasco was at his very best at the Swedish Open in Bastad this week.  He reached the final without losing a single set.  The toughest set he had en route to the final was 6-3. He dominated every match and did not lose more than 5 games in a match till the final.  He looked strong for his second title of the year till he ran into another Spanish player enjoying a stellar 2016.  Albert Ramos-Vinolas ended Verdasco’s campaign with a 6-3, 6-4 win.  Nevertheless, it was another amazing week on clay for Verdasco.