No one gave any chances to Argentinian Carlos Berlocq and Slovakian Martin Klizan, when two clay-court ATP 250 events got underway on April 28, 2014. But the two guys played the tournaments of their lives and won in the finals by beating their more celebrated opponents. In Oeiras, Portugal, Berlocq lost the first set 0-6 in 29 minutes to the top seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic but came back strongly to take the next two 7-5, 6-1. Berlocq not only won the match but became the fifth man from his country in the last decade to win at Portugal. Another lesser known player did the same in Munich’s BMW Open, where coming to the tournament as a qualifier, World No. 111, Martin Klizan beat world no. 15 Italian Fabio Fognini. Like Berlocp in Oeiras, Klizan also lost the first set to Fognini, 2-6, before bouncing back with great gusto to take the next two 6-1, 6-2 and emerge as the 2014 Munich Open champion.
Berlocq had a rather easy progress at Oeiras, where he didn’t lose a single set in the tournament, until Berdych outplayed him 6-0 in the first set of the final. His toughest moments in the event came in the first sets against Milos Raonic of Canada in the quarterfinal and Spaniard Daniel Gimeno Traver in the semifinal. He won those first sets 7-5 against Raonic and 7-6 in the tie break against Traver. But other than that Berlocq looked in good touch. Tomas Berdych had had a great start to 2014, reaching his first Australian Open semifinal, where he lost to the ultimate champion Stanislas Wawrinka. Then he won the Rotterdam Open by defeating Marin Cilic. In Oeiras, he appeared on course with that 6-0 opener against Berlocq. But Berlocq was no easy meat afterwards, as he fought back with great resilience. At 4-4 in the second set, Berlocq’s tenacity proved too much for Berdych. The Argentinian went into the lead in the eleventh game and converted the first set point to force the decider. In the final set, Berlocq miraculously raised his game broke away to an assailable 5-0 lead. A break of serve by Berdych went in vain as Berlocq broke right back and won the championship in style. He kept the Argentinian flag flying high at Portugal to join countrymen, Juan Martin del Potro, winner in 2011 and 2012, David Nalbandian, who won in 2002 and 2006 and finally Juan Ignacio Chela and Gaston Gaudio, winners in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
Another surprise packet at Oeiras was the victory of Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, who defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a 130-minute battle of nerves. Kuznetsova had the game in her pocket as she served at 40-40 with a lead of 4-1 in the decider but then she lost her way. In a great turn around, Suarez Navarro raised her game to win 5 games in a row to clinch the title, leaving the Russian completely crestfallen. Though Navarro won the first set, the former World no. 3 Kuznetsova rebounded in the second set to win 6-3 and looked good to take the title. But she could not have foreseen the third-set drama, where Navarro dominated the proceeding reeling point after point after trailing 1-4 and forced Kuznetsova into committing a large number of unforced errors, including the one on the match point, when the Russian sent a straightforward forehand into the net.
In the men’s doubles, Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky retained their Oeiras title by beating Pablo Cuevas and David Marrero 6-3, 3-6, 10-8. The match was not without a fight, however, as Cuevas/Marrero equaled the set score winning the second and put up a spirited performance in the third.
The Portugal Open proved lucky for the women’s doubles pair of Sania Mirza of India and Cara Black of Zimbabwe, who won their first title of the season by defeating Eva Hrdinova and Valeria Solovyeva 6-4, 6-3 in the final. The pair was unlucky in Stuttgart recently, when Mirza/Black lost to Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in the final. The victory will boost their confidence as they go forward to the second grand slam of the year at Roland Garros. Before that, the title win at Oeiras will also keep Mirza/Black on course for the WTA Championships at Singapore.
In the Munich Open final, Martin Klizan fought fiercely to win his second ATP World Tour title. The World no. 111 beat world no. 15 Fabio Fognini 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 in 89 minutes and became a proud owner of a white BMW 420d convertible, apart from collecting 250 ATP points. It was a big achievement for Klizan, who came into the main tournament as a qualifier. On his way to the final, Klizan beat Russian no.1 Mikhail Youzhny 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 in a hard-fought second round match. In the semifinal, he got defeated the German defending champion Tommy Haas 6-3, 6-2, before coming face-to-face with Fognini. The men’s doubles crown at Munich was won by Jamie Murray and John Peers, who defeated Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 6-4, 6-2. In 2014, Murray/Peers were able to reach the semi-finals at Casablanca and Bucharest but couldn’t progress beyond.