If we start with the premise that not all tennis tournaments can be treated as equals over a 12-month calendar, then this wasn’t a major event.
The ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, a Masters 500 event held every year in Rotterdam, is more or less a footnote on the ATP World Tour calendar—but this year, it’s as if the event seemed bigger. Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka, respectively ranked No. 4, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 in the world, were the four top seeds in the Netherlands.
Should we be surprised that Stanislas Wawrinka managed to win the tournament in his first visit in the Netherlands in a decade?
The (other) Swiss joined fellow countrymen Heinz Gunthardt, Jakob Hlasek and Roger Federer in capturing this Rotterdam title. But it was far from an easy win, as Wawrinka lost a set against Jesse Huta Galung in his first match, then against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his second, and in the final against defending champion Tomas Berdych, whom he beat for the sixth straight time.
It’s an important win for Wawrinka, because it’s such an important time for him. At 29, he likely doesn’t have much time left with the sport’s elite—unless there’s something about being from Switzerland, as Federer proves to us—and yet he’s just a few months removed from his best season yet.
A year ago, Wawrinka captured the 2014 Australian Open only a few months after a semifinal loss in the 2013 US Open. His career was on the upswing and it probably still is—in Melbourne this year, it is he who gave Novak Djokovic his biggest test in the semfinal. (He lost, but that’s beside the point.)
Much to my dismay, I continue to believe that Federer’s level will one day soon dip well below the standards we’ve been accustomed to from him, while Rafael Nadal’s body may be in the process of forever breaking down. Beside the Djoker, there could shortly be a very massive void on Tour. Why couldn’t Wawrinka be that No. 2 player for a season or two? For example, he has played about 200, or so, fewer matches than Berdych, also a 29-year-old.
Meanwhile, I think I’ve figured out why this Rotterdam tournament was so much fun. If every tennis season starts on a high note with the Australian Open, there’s quickly a lull after the first major tournament—the clay court season only starts in April, meaning that there are two full months with not many large-scale tournaments. Players need to play, and thus a draw such as Rotterdam’s. Maybe it’s not a surprise that this weekend’s final was its third between members of the Top 10 in seven years.
Next on the list of similar smaller events is the Rio Open this week and the Argentina Open on the last week of February. The BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open are both held next month and, of course, neither of the main draws should disappoint.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG