Champions Tennis League Blog

CTL Stars shine at Roland Garros
07 June 2016, Tuesday
Roland Garros or the French Open is widely acknowledged by tennis players and experts as the toughest Grand Slam to win.  Played on red clay, the surface is the slowest among all court surfaces resulting in long taxing rallies.  This year, rain played havoc with the schedule and made the conditions all the more gruelling. The conditions were heavier and the most courts rendered the courts even slower.  Apart from the need to endure lung busting rallies, point construction is crucial to succeed on clay courts.  Mere power is often rendered ineffective.  
In spite of adverse weather conditions, this year saw history made at Roland Garros. In the men’s side, Novak Djokovic completed his Career Grand Slam and in the women’s draw, Garbine Muguruza, a CTL 2014 star won her first Grand Slam title.  There were titles in the doubles tournaments for CTL 2015 stars, Martina Hingis and Feliciano Lopez.
When Garbine Muguruza came to India for the Champions Tennis League in 2014, she was one of the most promising youngsters on tour.  It seemed she was destined for great things on tour.  Born in Venezuela, this Spaniard thrives on all courts with a special liking for clay.  Her first major breakthrough came in Wimbledon last year when she reached the final.  She played a solid final against Serena Williams and impressed one and all.  Little did she know that her opportunity to avenge that defeat would come less than 12 months later on her favourite clay courts of Paris.
Coming into the tournament as the 4th seed, Muguruza was expected to make a deep run in the tournament.  Things looked bleak in the first round when she lost the opening set to unheralded Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.  After navigating through that match, Muguruza was flawless in her run to the final beating challenging opponents like Yanina Wickmayer and former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Her beatdown of former US Open champion, Samantha Stosur in the semifinal was particularly impressive.
In the final, Muguruza started on fire and had an opportunity to serve for the opening set at 5-4.  When Williams broke her back, many believed it was an opportunity lost for the Spaniard. However, Muguruza showed amazing composure to bounce back and break immediately to take the set 7-5.  In the second set too, Muguruza missed a bunch of match points at 5-3 on the Williams serve but showed amazing poise to serve out the match at love.  Muguruza has risen to a career high ranking of 2.  This certainly looks like the first of many slams for the talented youngster.  The CTL family is proud of her achievement and wishes her many titles and accolades.
Among other WTA stars in the singles draw, Elina Svitolina had an impressive run to the round of 16 before falling to Serena Williams. She knocked out 14th seed and former Roland Garros champion, Ana Ivanovic in the 3rd round, 6-4, 6-4.
Martina Hingis was going for history at Roland Garros.  Along with Sania Mirza, she was going for a “Santina Slam”, four Grand Slams in a row.  And along with Leander Paes, she was looking to complete their trophy cabinet as the French Open was the only title missing.  She missed out on the “Santina Slam” but along with Leander Paes, she won the mixed doubles title.  In the final, they beat 2nd seeds Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig after losing the first set.  They won 10-8 in the deciding super tie-breaker.  This was Martina’s 22nd Grand Slam title and Leander’s 18th Grand Slam title.  The pair beat four seeded teams en route to winning the title.
Feliciano Lopez, one of the biggest ATP stars at CTL both in 2014 and 2015 has predominantly focused on singles in his career. This year, he has played with his Spanish compatriot and doubles specialist, Marc Lopez.  In the run up to the French Open, the Spanish team struggled in the Masters 1000 tournaments.  Seeded 15, they shocked the top seeded pairing of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the round of 16.  In the quarterfinals, they beat the local pairing of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a marathon three setter winning 9-7 in the deciding set tie-break.  They were two upsets away from a title and managed to achieve the unthinkable.  In the semifinals, they beat defending champions, Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo and in the final, they beat the legendary Bryan twins.  Both matches were very close three setters.  At the age of 34, Feliciano Lopez managed to win his first Grand Slam title.
Novak Djokovic completed his Career Grand Slam beating Andy Murray in the final and went on to become the first player since Rod Laver to win four slams in a row.  He also became the first player to hold all Slams in the current 3 surface setup.  Back in Laver’s time, three of the four Grand Slams were played on grass and Roland Garros on clay.  Roberto Bautista Agut, the CTL 2015 star came closest to stopping Novak Djokovic.  In a thrilling match that was played across two days in heavy conditions, Agut won the first set and consistently threatened Djokovic and lost out in an extremely tight fourth set.  As the 14th seed, Agut justified his billing reaching the last 16 and played a great match against the top seed.  In his path to the last 16, Agut did not lose a single set.
Apart from Agut, CTL stars Marcos Baghdatis and Fernando Verdasco pushed seeded players to the brink.  Baghdatis won the opening two sets against Jo-WIlfried Tsonga before the Frenchman came back to win in front of a raucous crowd.   Verdasco almost pulled off a great comeback win against Kei Nishikori when he fought back from two sets down to force a 5th set before losing narrowly.
Divij Sharan and Purav Raja won the Challenger title at Manchester.  This was Sharan's 9th ATP CHallenger tite. Sharan and Raja also have won an ATP 250 tournament together when they lifted the title at Bogota in 2013.