March 1, 2009

South of the Border

All the action wasn't in Dubai this week, and both men and women were in full action in Acapulco, Mexico.

The ATP World Tour 500 event was worth just as much as the higher-profile tournament in the Mideast, but didn't attract quite the controversy, or the names, as the Dubai games. Twelfth-ranked David Nalbandian claimed the top seed, but he was upset in the first round by Daniel Koellerer of Austria.

The most notable name in the draw was probably Tommy Robredo -- the twenty-six year old came to Mexico fresh off two title wins in South America and had brought his ranking from #21 to #15 in just a few weeks. But his twelve-match win streak hit a brick wall against Jose Acasuso, who he's already met three times this year.

Acasuso didn't have much time to celebrate his triumph, however, as Gael Monfils defeated him in the semifinals in straight sets on his way to the title match.

But the ultimate victor in Mexico this week was fourth seed and defending champion Nicolas Almagro, who needed just over an hour to win his fifth career championship. When Monfils' second serve fell apart, Nicolas was able to capitalize on break opportunities and took home the $300K paycheck.

Venus Williams also wore the winner's sombrero in Acapulco as she claimed her second title in as many weeks. Though she had struggled in earlier rounds, dropping sets to qualifier Greta Arn and top-thirty player Agnes Szavay, she had little trouble against Italian Flavia Pennetta, coasting through the final, 6-1, 6-2.

It was an impressive win for several reasons -- Venus dominated in both first and second serves, and converted two out of every three break chances she had. But more importantly she showed some real power on clay, a surface on which she has been far from dominant. And she defeated an opponent who's given her some trouble in the past -- prior to Saturday night's match-up, Pennetta had held a 3-2 record over Venus, including three straight wins from 2007-08. Venus's win in Mexico could be a good sign for her as she gets ready for Roland Garros, less than three months away.

Slightly further north Mardy Fish won his first title of 2009 in Delray Beach, taking out qualifier Evgeny Korolev, 7-5, 6-3. It was the first time in the tournament's seventeen-year history where the top seed came away with the title, and continues something of a comeback for American palyers after Andy Roddick won in Memphis last week.

Congrats to all this week's winners!

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