Welcome to the ATP Awards of the Week. Every week from now until the National Bank Open, we will be highlighting the best and worst from the previous week on the ATP Tour.
Ok, for real this time, the clay-court season is now over and the attention of the ATP Tour can focus, and remain focused, on the hard courts for the rest of 2021.
Yes, there was still clay-court tennis being played last week. And no, not at the Olympics.
With most of the world’s best either in Tokyo or taking a rest before the hard courts, some unheralded players took advantage of their absence to make some career strides.
It was a good week for breakthroughs as a pair of players won their first career ATP Tour titles, with a couple more reaching maiden finals.
Here are our ATP Awards of the Week.
Performance of the Week: Carlos Alcaraz
The 18-year-old Spaniard has been a player to watch for a couple of years now and has been tapped by many to be a potential future star.
If Alcaraz was not on your radar already, he probably is now after he claimed his maiden title in Umag this past week.
He did it the hard way, too, beating three of the top four seeds in a row, two of whom have clay-court titles to their name. Alcaraz finished the tournament strong, beating top seed Albert Ramos Vinolas and fourth seed Richard Gasquet in the semis and final, both in straight sets, to get his hands on the trophy.
Expect to hear that name more in the future.
Match of the Week: Gstaad QF – Hugo Gaston d. Christian Garin 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (11)
24-point final set tiebreak. Enough said.
Ok, a little more context. Gaston had upset Frederico Delbonis in the second round in a third set tiebreak and was in tough again against another top-tier South American dirtballer in Garin.
After splitting the first two sets, Garin took the early lead in the third, before the craziness set in with three straight breaks from 4-3, including Gaston breaking as the Chilean attempted to serve out the match at 5-4.
The final set tiebreaker was a nail-biter. From 4-all, the next 12 points went to the server, with both men holding, and failing to convert, multiple match points.
At 10-all, Garin grabbed a minibreak at long last and had his first match point on his own serve, his fourth overall, but could not close it out.
From 10-11, Gaston won three straight points to wrap up the victory and advance to the semis, where he beat Laslo Djere to reach his first tour-level final, ultimately losing to Casper Ruud.
Surprise of the Week: Brandon Nakashima
An American making the final of Los Cabos was not a surprise, especially considering that they accounted for 10 of the 28 spots in the draw.
But the fact that it was not John Isner, Taylor Fritz, or Sam Querrey is quite surprising.
In fact, it was world No. 115 Brandon Nakashima who came out of nowhere to reach the title match, beating three of his countrymen, J.J. Wolf, Querrey and Isner, on route.
It was the first career tour-level final for Nakashima, who had not even won a match on the main tour in 2021 prior to last week.
Nakashima was halted in the final by Cameron Norrie, who picked up his maiden title with the win, but still an impressive, and surprising, week for the 19-year-old American.
Upset of the Week: Vit Kopriva d. Denis Shapovalov – Gstaad R2
Coming off a Wimbledon semi-final appearance, seeded No. 1, up a set against a player outside the top 200 who was making his ATP Tour debut, Denis Shapovalov seemed well on his way to an easy victory in his opening match at the clay-court event in Gstaad.
Well, Vit Kopriva clearly had other ideas.
The 24-year-old from the Czech Republic, who again was competing in his first-ever main draw last week, rallied from a set down, completely controlling the match as Shapovalov unravelled on his way to his first top-10 victory in just his second ATP Tour match.
Kopriva benefited from some erratic serving as Shapovalov double faulted 10 times and only won 32 percent of his second serve points.
The Czech would go on to reach the semi-finals.