October 26, 2009

Back on Top

As the 2009 tennis season winds down, most of the players in action these last couple of weeks don't harbor any delusions of making the cut to enter London. Nevertheless a couple of wins this past week certainly did their part to boost the spirits of a few names who've been out of the mix for some time.

Despite a pretty strong field at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, the top two seeds -- red-hot Nikolay Davydenko and Victor Hanescu -- both lost early. And that allowed more than a few unknown names make it to later rounds. But eventually it was Mikhail Youzhny defeating Janko Tipsarevic in the finals, earning the Russian his fifth career title.

It hasn't been that long since Mikhail won a tournament -- he took home the trophy in Chennai last year -- but recently he's been more known for his on-court outbursts than his actual skills. He had some success during the spring's clay season, but then suffered six straight losses before hitting the hard courts. But earlier this month he made the finals in Tokyo, beating Gilles Simon and Lleyton Hewitt on the way, before heading to his homeland. And his title in Moscow lifted Youzhny to his best ranking in a year.

Marcos Baghdatis has had a similarly frustating stretch since he finished runner up to Roger Federer at the 2006 Australian Open. While I began the year with high hopes for the Cypriot, a series of first-round losses and a month-long absence due to a left knee injury dropped him to a #151 ranking. He didn't have a great summer, but he was able to capture three challenger events with wins over veteran Xavier Malisse and up-and-comer Denis Ostomin.

Baghdatis opened the If Stockholm Open with a win over third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero and benefited when favorite Robin Soderling withdrew with an elbow injury. His ultimate win over Olivier Rochus in the finals gave him his third championship, and his first in over two years, getting him back into the top fifty.

Youzhny will be back on the courts this week in St. Petersburg as the top seed, while Marcos seems to have ended his season on a high note. Whatever the results the remainder of the year, though, both players must be proud of their performances last week -- there's no better way to end the year than with a big win!

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