Firsts for Ramkumar Ramanathan, Laura Siegemund and 10-times for Rafa Nadal

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ramkumar ramanathan, leander paes, laura siegemund, maria sharapova, kristina mladenovic, rafa nadal, roger federer, serena williams, novak djokovic, andy murray, tennis news, sports news, tennis recap, serve and volley, tennis weekly, indian express There was a week of firsts and a week of tens on the tennis circuit in the week gone by.

For all his controversy, dramatics and egotism, one can’t deny Leander Paes is a huge personality on the tour. One can’t question his achievements and his drive to keep going, keep battling and keep vying for titles – even at 43. His days of adding big titles to his cabinet seem to be long gone with his last big tournament win being the ATP 250 event in Auckland in 2015.

This year, in March, he won the Leon ATP Challenger in Mexico alongside Adil Shamasdin. And at Tallahassee he added the second ATP Challenger title to his list with Scott Lipsky as his partner.

Not just Paes, another Indian was in contention for a title in Florida at the outdoor clay event. Ramkumar Ramanathan who has shown on-and-off performances over the years despite getting plenty of financial aid from the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) provided glimpse of intent and grit during the Davis Cup Asian Oceanie tie against Uzbekistan. Past week, he transferred his big serving and gorgeous volley effort to clay in the USTA event. Playing his first ATP Challenger final, Ram came from a set down to force a third. The decider went all the way before Slovakia’s Blaz Rola bagged a crucial break of serve and hold out with ease. Ram’s first Challenger final might not have gone in his favour but for all his energy and talent, it is finally being put to good use.

Maria Sharapova returned to court after serving her 15-month doping suspension. (Source: AP)

Also in firsts, Maria Sharapova played her first tournament since her doping suspension. The Russian returned to the court to play the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart and after three straight set wins, she couldn’t topple Kristina Mladenovic. The Frenchwoman had a blazing tournament of her own to not only beat Sharapova but also the current World No 2 Angelique Kerber.

The defeat means Sharapova will have to rely on the French Tennis Federation (FFT) to decide her fate for French Open. Had she won the tournament, she would have finished inside the top-200 ranking and her path into the tournament would have been controversy free. But now, FFT will decide whether to hand her a qualifying round wild card or an improbably wild card directly into the main draw.

Although, another first happened in Stuttgart. Germany’s Laura Siegemund won her first Premier title despite enduring some late drama which saw her being docked a point for a time violation. And that violation occurred as Siegemund served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set. She was subsequently broken but won the title in a third set tiebreak. So a wildcard won the title in Stuttgart, only it wasn’t Maria!

Rafa Nadal won his tenth crown at Barcelona Open. (Source: Reuters)

Where some were reaching first final and winning first title, some legends and behemoths of the sport were winning their tenth – their tenth title at the same tournament. Rafa Nadal finds the red clay really special – most of his titles have come on clay and the trend continued.

He got the better of Albert Ramos Vinolas in Monte Carlo final to win the tenth title there and thus his 29th ATP Masters 1000 crown. Fast forward to a week later, the Mallorcan added his 10th crown – another record – in Barcelona. This time, Nadal got the better of Dominic Thiem in the final.

In the past two weeks, Nadal has bagged two titles on clay and created history in both. During the course of things, he dropped just one set (to Kyle Edmund in R32 at Monte Carlo) but to somewhat bring his achievement into question, he faced only one top-10 player (Thiem).

While Nadal is back to winning titles, his historic foe (or friend?), Roger Federer has taken six weeks off and won’t play before the French Open. And Federer played a charity match for his foundation called ‘The Match For Africa’ featuring John Isner and Bill Gates in Seattle. In case you thought he was having a breeze there, you’d be wrong. As was Isner.

And when Federer got done with raising funds for his own charity, he was involved in raising funds for other charities as part of the Met Gala. Even then, Federer played with cute/dork line as he joined Mirka on the red carpet. The theme of the Gala was Commes des Garçons, French for “like some boys”, the Japanese fashion label.

Federer wasn’t the only tennis player at the Gala. Serena Williams who is pregnant and out of the on-going season, looked gorgeous in her first public appearance.

Even other top players on the men’s tour are having an off time. Andy Murray played both Monte Carlo and Barcelona but lost in R16 in Monaco (to Ramos-Vinolas) and semis in Barcelona (to Thiem). Novak Djokovic, though, is another story. He’s still struggling with his return to the court as it showed in the defeat to David Goffin in Monaco.

JUST OUTSIDE!

Moving towards more players who are on the periphery, Swiss player Belinda Bencic has been ruled out with a wrist injury. She will thus not be part of the French Open and her return to court even for the Wimbledon looks tricky.

But in some uplifting news, Petra Kvitova is back on court and hitting balls after recovering from the knife attack in her home which forced her to undergo surgery. YAY!

And in some on-court dramatics, Borna Coric provided his entry for the “Smash Thy Racket” Challenge which has over the years seen great performances from Marat Safin, Benoit Paire and Ernests Gulbis.

Next week action across the tennis courts has the Munich Open, Estoril, Istanbul Open (all ATP) and Rabat, Prague Open (for the women). There’s also the first edition of the extremely interesting Tie Break Tens in Madrid. We’ll have all that in the next week’s edition of Serve and Volley!

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