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March 2022

This month saw two of the biggest tournaments outside of the Grand Slams play out on the men’s and women’s side. However, the biggest story of the month came off the court, as world number 1 Ash Barty announced her retirement from tennis at the age of just 25. She won three of the four Grand Slams in her career, dominating to win the Australian Open earlier this year. It has come as a massive shock to everyone in the tennis world, and it remains to be seen whether she will return to the tour in future.

Indian Wells

The first ATP Masters 1000 of the year took place in Indian Wells, California. It began with a whole host of big names crashing out, as newly crowned world number 1 Daniil Medvedev, Alex Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas losing in the Third Round to Gael Monfils, Tommy Paul and Jenson Brooksby respectively.

As a result of that early loss, the world number 1 ranking returned to Novak Djokovic, despite the Serb not playing due to restrictions on unvaccinated players. Carlos Alcaraz continued his strong start to the year, taking out the likes of Roberto Bautista Agut, Monfils and defending champion Cameron Norrie to make the Semi-Finals.

Wildcard Nick Kyrgios also showed why he is one of the most talked about names in the men’s game by taking out Casper Ruud with ease and then losing a dramatic three-setter against Rafael Nadal in the Quarter-Finals. Nadal then beat fellow Spaniard Alcaraz in the Semi-Final to make the Final.

In the other half, Taylor Fritz was the main headline maker, with the Californian reaching the Final by beating Andrey Rublev in the Semi-Finals. In the final, with both players suffering from injuries, Fritz won in straight sets to win his first Masters 1000 title. It is the fourth edition in a row in which the winner has been a first-time Masters winner (the others being Juan-Martin del Potro, Dominic Thiem and Norrie).

On the women’s side, Ash Barty withdrew from the event in the build-up, before announcing her retirement a few weeks later.

As for the tennis played, it was somewhat more predictable than the men’s, with four established names reaching the Semi-Finals: Simona Halep, Iga Swiatek, Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari. Swiatek edged a tight first set over Halep on a tiebreak before wrapping up the win 6-4 in the second set. Sakkari joined her in the Final, overcoming Badosa in three sets. Swiatek took home the title, beating Sakkari convincingly to become the world number 2.

With world number 1 Barty retired, it seems likely that she will become world number 1 in the future. Sakkari also moved up to world number 3 after her Final appearance.

Miami

The second Masters 1000 event of the month is currently taking place in Miami, Florida. Rafael Nadal withdrew prior to the event, announcing he would miss four to six weeks due to a rib injury, putting his participation in the upcoming clay court season in doubt.

At the time of writing, the Quarter-Finals are set. Carlos Alcaraz played sensational tennis to knock out Stefanos Tsitsipas, and will play Miomir Kecmanovic. The Serb also reached the Quarter-Finals in Indian Wells, and took out the champion there Taylor Fritz in the previous round in Miami. Jannik Sinner beat Nick Kyrgios in a dramatic encounter, after Kyrgios received three code violations. He’ll play Francisco Cerundolo, after the Argentinian upset Gael Monfils and Frances Tiafoe to reach unchartered territory for him. Daniil Medvedev will take on Hubert Hurkacz, and Alex Zverev plays Casper Ruud.

After receiving a bye, top seed Arya Sabalenka was beaten by Irina-Camelia Begu. New world number 3 Maria Sakkari also lost early to Beatriz Haddad Maia. Naomi Osaka, now unseeded, showed her class by beating Angelique Kerber in the Second Round, and will play Danielle Collins in the Quarter-Finals. Belinda Bencic will play unseeded Daria Saville (formerly Daria Gavrilova, but has changed her name after marrying fellow tennis player Luke Savilla).

Paula Badosa will play Jessica Pegula, and Petra Kvitova will take on Iga Swiatek, who has been bulldozing through the field so far without dropping a set.

Comebacks

Finally, two former Grand Slam champions returned to tennis, playing on clay at the Andalucia Open on the Challenger Tour (the tour below the ATP Tour where people ranked between 100 and 250 tend to play).

Dominic Thiem, playing his first match since June last year, lost to Pedro Cachin in straight sets, and Stan Wawrinka, now aged 37 and playing his first match since March last year, lost to Elias Ymer in straight sets. With the clay season approaching, it will be interesting to see if they can discover their best form in the coming months.

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