The ATP has just ticked off the second week in its annual post French Open/Wimbledon hangover, and with no Olympics this year to bridge the gap between the European summer and US Hard court seasons, we find ourselves in a particular dry patch for storylines in the tennis world. However, as the sun still shines in Europe and the last few embers of the clay court season continue to burn, last weeks Hamburg 500 and Gstaad 250 events saw a relatively surprising number of the world’s elite take to the court and left us will an equally surprising amount of takeaways to analyse. Here are three names who either seen their stock heat up or cool off after the weeks action in Hamburg and Gstaad.
It’s impossible to say at this stage, but in a few years time we could be looking back at last weekend as the moment it all changed for Lorenzo Musetti. The 20 year old Italian has been one of the more curious prospects on tour over the past 18 months, proving both his immense potential with multiple top 10 wins (over Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassme, respectively) and his potential limitations with two puzzling five-set defeats at Grand Slam level versus Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas, respectively (both of which Musetti led two sets to love before tailing off and losing fairly comfortably). Coming into the Hamburg 500 event unseeded, few would have picked him for the title, particularly with the tour’s looming teenage monster, now world no.5 Carlos Alcaraz, looming ominously in the top seed spot. Musetti took care of business with remarkable professionalism in his half, taking out Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina and last week’s Båstad 250 titlist, Francisco Cerundolo, without too much fanfare on route. The latter result landed Musetti in his first ATP final at any level, and a secured him a date with Alcaraz, himself seeking a remarkable 5th title of the season. The match encapsulated everything we know about the two young stars; incredible shotmaking on both sies of the net, a Musetti choke from 6-4, 5-3 up (which saw him blow two match points on serve, and a further three in the second set tiebreak), a ferocious Alcaraz fightback, and a fittingly exubarant crowd in raptures for the entire back half of the contest. The Italian finally broke the Spainard’s will in the 10th game of the deciding 5th set, getting over the line 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4, claiming his first tour title and, easily, the biggest win of his blossoming career. Now adorning a new career high of 31, whether this is the catalyst the dynamic upstart needs to drive into mainstream contention remains to be seen. At the very least, Musetti may have proven to not only us, but more importantly himself, that he is able to get over the line when the pressure is at its highest.
Man, how great is it to see Dominic Thiem out on a clay court murdering tennis balls again? While he ultimately walked in and out of Gstaad empty handed (thanks to a fairly routine straight sets loss at the hands of the streaking Matteo Berrettini), this week marked another big leap forward for the 2020 US Open champion, who is looking more and more like his former self with every passing match. While a semi final appearance at a quiet resort town in Switzerland in a dead patch of the calendar might not normally be a newsworthy result for a former major champion, Thiem’s reversal of fortunes in the past two weeks must come as a relief, as it follows a nightmarish 11-match losing streak since returning from a debilitating wrist injury suffered just over a year ago. While the comfortable clay courts will soon be in the rear view, the former world no.3 will no doubt be the benefactor of several wildcards in the second half of the season and if he can continue to build on the form he displayed in Gstaad, there’s a great chance he quickly establishes himself as the unseeded player noone wants to see throughout the US Open Series.
It feels like Andrey Rublev is coming to a crossroads. While it’s been far from a disastrous year for the 24 year old Russian (he currently sits 7th in the race to the ATP Finals in November), a disturbing trend is beginning to surface that could spell trouble for his game going forward. It’s fair to say Rublev has always been a player who has worn his emotions on his sleeve, however, the extent and frequency of his infamous outbursts (often involving acts of near self-mutilation) seem to be increasing at an alarming rate. In a vacuum, his second round exit at the hands of the admittedly in-form Francisco Cerundolo isn’t a horrific result. But the developing trend of Rublev being completely unable to reign control over his own temper (which was again on display during the straight set defeat) is concerning , particularly as it seems to be coinciding at least somewhat with a drop in the rankings (down to 8th from a career high 5th late last year) and a persisting lack of progress at Grand Slam and Masters 1000 level. Don’t forget, it was only a couple of months ago where it nearly bought him a disqualification at the French Open, when he slammed a ball into his chair during his first round match and the rebound narrowly missed striking an unsuspecting nearby court-sweeper. The wheels haven’t fallen off just yet, but it feels like until the fiery Russian is able to reign in his emotions at least to a manageable level, we shouldn’t expect top level consistency from him anytime soon, and that’s a shame given the talent he so clearly possesses.