March 18, 2021

Golden Swing Glory

Admittedly I've been a little remiss in covering the action going on in Latin America over the last few weeks, but there have certainly been a lot of performances there worthy of some shoutouts.

From Sara Sorribes Tormo winning her maiden title over a resurgent Genie Bouchard last week in Guadalajara, to Cristian Garin ending his 2021 losing streak with a title in his hometown of Santiago, to -- who can ignore -- the standout runs from the Cerundolo brothers, the younger of whom made history by winning a title as a qualifier at his very first tour-level event in Córdoba.

And this week's results in Mexico have been just as noteworthy.

I'll start in Monterrey, where a wide open field, not to mention early losses from top seeds Sloane Stephens and Nadia Podoroska, has allowed a couple of up-and-comers and under-the-radar stars to really shine. Unlike so many players who quickly lose their momentum after a big breakthrough, Sorribes has kept her winning ways going, opening with a defeat of Lesia Tsurenko and then getting a pass when Kaja Juvan pulled out of their second round. She'll next face sub-hundred-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who stunned Victoria Azarenka last year at Roland Garros and is looking for her first title since 2018. Either stands a good chance of making a nice run here.

But they're not the only ones. My perennial favorite Leylah Fernandez still hasn't had her big breakthrough, but with Sorribes the first seeded player she'd face at this event, she could rack up a good amount of confidence to make her move now. And of course there's Aussie standout Ann Li, the Cinderella finalist for the Grampians Trophy who reached the third round at the Open. The only other seed in her half of the draw is world #52 Saisai Zheng -- not someone that should be taken for granted, but certainly an opponent she's capable of beating.

The stakes might be a little higher in Acapulco, where three top ten and seven top twenty players are contesting the title. And while top seeds Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are still both alive and well, here too there could be some surprises. Cameron Norrie, who stunned Dan Evans in the first round of the Australian Open this year, got a solid straight-set win over a back-on-the-rise Fabio Fognini in the second round, while Dominik Koepfer, a surprise quarterfinalist in Rome last year, is making some headway on the hardcourts after taking out Milos Raonic last night. One of those two will earn a spot in the semis and could make good on the opportunity.

And of course there's young Lorenzo Musetti, still ranked in the triple digits but still high on everyone's radar. Another standout in Rome -- he beat Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori before losing to Koepfer -- he got a win over his first ever top-ten opponent, ousting Buenos Aires champ Diego Schwartzman in the first round. He backed up the victory with another three-setter against Frances Tiafoe and will meet Grigor Dimitrov for a spot in the final four. And while the one-time world #3 may be a formidable challenge, he's not quite playing his best ball and could give the teenaged Italian an opportunity to advance.

It's always encouraging to see players start to make moves during this part of the season. Of course the question is whether success south of the border will translate into big wins on the bigger courts. But we've seen some promising signs over the last few weeks, and any of these guys could surprise us down the road.

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