History was made on Sunday when Nikoloz Basilashvili won the ATP clay-court title in Hamburg.
He became the first player from Georgia to ever win a tour-level title, and he did it the hard way, coming through the qualifying rounds and winning seven straight matches to triumph.
For a player who’d never before before been ranked inside the top 50, this victory would normally be the biggest story of the week.
Yet victories to Olga Danilovic in Moscow and Matteo Berrettini in Gstaad were equally stunning, and perhaps even more more unlikely than Basilashvili’s title-winning week in Germany.
Danilovic’s win on the clay courts of Russia was practically unthinkable. The 17-year-old left-hander from Serbia had never before played in the main draw at a WTA event, having exited in the Madrid qualifying rounds in May this year in what was her only other appearance at a tour-level event.
She didn’t even qualify in Moscow; she fell at the final hurdle to Spain’s Paula Badosa Gibert yet took her place in the main draw as a lucky loser following a withdrawal.
Ranked No.194, she proceeded to beat former top-15 player Kaia Kanepi, top seed and world No.10 Julia Goerges and Aliaksandra Sasnovich – who’d recently reached the fourth round at Wimbledon – to take her place in the final opposite fellow 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova.
.@danilovic_olga has done it! Wins her first WTA title!
— WTA (@WTA) July 29, 2018
Berrettini, meanwhile, became the youngest Italian to feature in an ATP final in 15 years and went on to stun second seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the final.
The 84th-ranked Berrettini had never been beyond an ATP-level quarterfinal prior to his breakthrough in the Swiss Alps – he didn’t drop a set all week – but he’s now knocking on the door of the top 50 after vaulting 30 places in the latest rankings.
He also captured the Gstaad doubles title with compatriot Daniele Bracciali to complete a dream week.
Berrettini is passionate about the environment; according to his player profile his dream job would be to work with animals as a biologist. But for now, he’s found another satisfying career path.
“I just practise really hard and I am just living the experience that I live every day,” he told atpworldtour.com when asked to explain how he’d attained success so quickly after beginning the season outside the top 100. “I hope I will have a really long career… I am enjoying this kind of life.
“(It was an) unbelievable week, really. I think I played the best tennis of my life and I am really happy. Of course I dreamed about (winning an ATP title), but it is so far. When you start, you have to think about the small things to reach and last year I won first ATP Challenger Tour title. Now, I am here with a tour-level trophy.”
Danilovic, who is both the first lucky loser and first player born in the 2000s to ever win a WTA title, expressed similar sentiments to Berrettini.
“There are no words to describe this kind of feeling,” she said. “Yesterday, I said, ‘This is the final, and this is my life, this is the moment that I live for.’
“Being able to win, it’s even a better feeling, and I’m so happy for it.”
The Serb is the daughter of Pedrag Danilovic, a talented basketballer who played in the NBA in the 1990s. She is coached by former world No.2 Alex Corretja and is a three-time junior Grand Slam doubles champion, most recently with Marta Kostyuk at the 2017 US Open.
She’s now up to 112th in the rankings.
Basiliashvili, meanwhile, has shot all the way up to No.35, putting him on the cusp of a Grand Slam seeding.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 29, 2018
At just 26, he’s already been married for five years and has a three-year-old son named Lukas. Like Danilovic, Basilashvili’s father excelled in his own field – in this case, he was a dancer in the Georgian national ballet.
Basilashvili had previously featured in two ATP finals – Kitzbuhel in 2016 and Memphis last year – but this was by far his biggest week on tour, given it came at ATP 500-level and involved so many wins on the trot.
“What a match today. I’m extremely tired, I played seven matches. I literally gave, in every match, my heart,” Basilashvili said.
“I’m pretty sure every player worked so hard for this, but it’s an unbelievable moment for me.”
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