After the ATP Masters 1000 tournament at Monte Carlo, tennis players were required to choose from several clay-court tournaments in many European venues because some of them have overlapping schedules. For example, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the BRD Nastase/Tiriac Trophy at Bucharest had identical schedules. In addition, the Bucharest event fell under the ATP 250 category. Again, two more ATP Master 250 events began on April 28; of which one is the Portugal Open at Oeiras and other is the BMW open in Munich. Tennis stars select the tournament after taking a look at the draw and the possibility of their collecting ranking points from a particular tournament. Another factor is local participation. As an example, there were several Spaniards at Barcelona and in the ongoing Munich Open, a number of German players have entered. One common objective for the players is getting as much match practice as possible before the year’s second Grand Slam at Roland Garros, beginning May 25, 2014.

Nishikori The curtain came down on the Barcelona Open on Sunday April 27, 2014 with a few amazing results. While Kei Nishikori emerged as the first ever Japanese-born player to win a clay court title on the ATP circuit, Rafael Nadal lost his first match here in 9 years. From 2005 to 2013 no one could beat the King-of-Clay. In 2010, however, Rafa pulled out of the tournament due to fatigue. But whenever he came here, he always ended as the Champion. In this tournament, however, compatriot Nicolas Almagro ended Rafa’s 41-match winning streak, when he beat him in the quarterfinal. Moreover, after Rafa dropped a set against David Ferrer in his 2008 final victory, he has won 44 straight sets until Almagro snapped that streak too. In another out-of-the way result, 2014 was the first year since 1997 that the final did not feature a Spaniard.

Almagro, however lost 5-7, 3-6 in the semifinal to Santiago Giraldo of Colombia on Saturday. Thus the Colombian faced Nishikori in the final. In the other semifinal, Nishikori overpowered Ernests Gulbis of Latvia without Gulbis offering much of the resistance to the fast improving Japanese.  The 24 year old Nishikori played an almost one-sided final against Giraldo and finished the proceedings in mere 73 minutes with a score of 6-2, 6-2. The Japanese sent down two aces and produced 19 booming winners in playing a dominant role all through the match.

The doubles crown at Barcelona was won by the Dutch-French team of Jesse Huta Galung and Stephane Robert. The pair defeated the fifth seeded team of Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-3 in just under an hour. Galung/Robert had entered the tournament as lucky losers and ended up as champions.

In Bucharest the ATP Masters 250 world tour title and the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy was claimed by the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who beat the defending champion Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 7-6, 6-1 in just 81 minutes. Dimitrov played four matches on his road to the final and he did not drop a set. This was Dimitrov’s second title after he lifted the Abjerto Mexicano Telcel Trophy in Acapulco two months ago. After easily winning the first set tie-break, Dimitrov kept up the pressure on Rosol by taking an early 2-0 lead in the second set. Dimitrov broke Rosol once again and ran away with the match.

Meanwhile in the indoor clay courts of Stuttgart, Dimitrov’s girlfriend Maria Sharapova also won the Porsche Grand Prix title on Sunday. In the final Maria faced Ana Ivanovic, who began by dominating in the first set. Ana took the opening set 6-3 and led 3-1 in the second. But just when everyone thought Ana would end up as winner, Maria raised her game and took the next two sets 6-4, 6-1. In the later stages of the match, Maria played high quality tennis to win her third consecutive title at Stuttgart and 30th title of her career.