After cramps spoiled his blockbuster match against Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals earlier this month, and raised some questions about his fitness level, Carlos Alcaraz reminded the tennis world of exactly why he is the sport’s reigning heir apparent on Sunday.

The 20-year-old won his first grass-court title behind a dominant 6-4, 6-4 final victory over Alex de Minaur at the Queen’s Club Championships and regained his spot as world No. 1.

He has now won five titles this year, with at least one on each surface, becoming the youngest player to do that in a season since 1983. More impressively, while Alcaraz has proven to be a force on hard court and clay over the past two seasons, he has relatively little experience on grass. In fact, this was just his third tournament on the surface.

Djokovic remains the heavy favorite for the Wimbledon title when it gets underway next week at the All England Club, but Alcaraz, whose best result at the event was a fourth-round appearance last year, now enters as the top seed brimming with confidence and momentum. But while fans might now be dreaming about a potential final clash between these two at the end of the fortnight, Alcaraz sounded slightly more measured about what to expect.

“The chances don’t change so much,” Alcaraz said Sunday after the victory. “I mean, Novak is coming to Wimbledon. Right now, I’m feeling better than the beginning of the week, that’s obvious.”

Alcaraz wasn’t the only player raising his stock and collecting some new hardware this week. Here’s what else you might have missed as the grass season rolls on.

Champs corner

Sunday’s title marked the 11th of Alcaraz’s career, which is certainly remarkable, but it’s not exactly Petra Kvitova level. The former world No. 2 hoisted the 31st trophy of her esteemed career Sunday after defeating Donna Vekic 6-2, 7-6 (6) in the Berlin final. She now has the second-most titles on the WTA tour among active players, behind only Venus Williams.

The 33-year-old was in resurgent form throughout the week and didn’t drop a set during her run to the title. With experience very much on her side as a two-time champion at the All England Club, Kvitova might just have as good a chance as anyone to win the Wimbledon title this year. But before she heads to London, she’ll be in action this week at Eastbourne and have a compelling test in her opener Tuesday against Jelena Ostapenko.

Ostapenko was also victorious over the weekend and won her first title of the season by claiming the Birmingham trophy with a 7-6 (8), 6-4 defeat of Barbora Krejcikova in the final. It marked the sixth WTA title for Ostapenko and her second on grass.

Rounding out the week’s tour-level tournaments, Alexander Bublik upset Andrey Rublev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the Halle Open final for the biggest title of his career. With the win, Bublik is now at a new career-high ranking of No. 26. He adorably celebrated the milestone with his family after the match.

And American Ashlyn Krueger took home the trophy at the second-tier WTA 125K Veneto Open. The 19-year-old, who won the 2021 US Open junior doubles title, improved more than 35 ranking spots with the victory and is now at a new high of No. 108. Remember the name.

A surprising goodbye

Anett Kontaveit, who reached the world No. 2 ranking just last year, announced her impending retirement from the sport Tuesday. In an Instagram post, the 27-year-old cited her degenerative back condition as the reason for the decision.

“After several doctor’s visits and consultations with my medical team, I have been advised that I have lumbar disc degeneration in my back,” Kontaveit wrote. “This does not allow for full-scale training or continued competition. Therefore, it is impossible to continue at the top level in such a highly competitive field.”

She said Wimbledon would be her final tournament. Her post was immediately flooded by comments from players like Sloane Stephens, Maria Sakkari, Jessica Pegula, Shelby Rogers and Aryna Sabalenka. But perhaps no one will miss Kontaveit more than Ons Jabeur. The two, who famously and hilariously battled for the final spot at the 2021 WTA Finals, have provided some classic moments over the past few seasons and Jabeur was quick to honor her rival and friend.

Another Federer farewell

Roger Federer officially retired from tennis at the Laver Cup in September, but his farewell tour rolls on. The 20-time major champion was honored at the Halle Open on Wednesday with “Roger Federer Day” to celebrate his iconic career and the 10 titles he won at the German grass-court tournament. The fans in attendance left no doubt how they felt about him.

And if an entire day dedicated to him wasn’t permanent enough for you, he then went to celebrate on the street named in his honor. The tournament renamed the road leading to the main stadium in his honor in 2012, and he had to remind everyone of this fact and to of course stop for a photo op Wednesday.

Next stop on the better-late-than-never farewell tour? Wimbledon. And he kicked that celebration off in royal fashion in a behind-the-scenes training video with the tournament’s ball kids and the Princess of Wales.

In “athletes are just like us” news, Jessica Pegula faced a nightmare travel scenario on her way to England ahead of her first grass-court tournament at Eastbourne over the weekend. The top-ranked American ended up with a very lengthy layover in Atlanta and seemingly didn’t even have her luggage during her daylong delay.

But luckily for Pegula, the Georgia Tech women’s tennis team was more than happy to help her out in her time of need. The squad gave her use of their practice facilities and even provided her with some official team gear to wear.

Is this a good omen for her grass-court season? Unclear. But at least Adidas must be happy about the synergy.

Zendaya’s new movie

The first official trailer for Zendaya’s new tennis-themed movie, “Challengers,” was released Tuesday, and it didn’t take long for Tennis Twitter to take notice of the 26-year-old actress’ forehand technique.

Even actual professional tennis players, including Liam Broady, were entranced by what they were seeing.

Laura Robson, who retired last year, said it was “giving [Daniil] Medvedev,” and tennis-player-turned-pickleball-player Noah Rubin said he had “never hit a forehand that clean.” Brad Gilbert, ESPN’s very own analyst who helped coach Zendaya and her co-stars to prepare for the movie, seemed more than impressed.

With this, and a perfectly screamed “Come on!” from Zendaya in the trailer, let’s give this movie four stars and all of the awards already.

Source link

Alcaraz, Federer, Zendaya and more from tennis this week