Photo: Stuart BarracloughMarcus Ferreira and Thales Santos (BRA)
SANTOS, BRAZIL: The first Grade 1 tournament of 2014 saw a strong field of players in action as Marcus Vinicius Ferreira and Thales Oliveira Santos claimed their second title of the year.
Leading the women’s entrants was current joint world number one Joana Cortez who, in a change from her regular partner of 2013, Samantha Barijan, was partnering Loreno Melo ranked 22. The draw also featured four other Top 20 ranked players; Flavia Muniz (6), Pauline Bourdet (9), Magalie Garnier (17) and Maraike Biglmaier (19).
The men’s draw also drew a lot of attention with the crowds with some of the biggest names in the game in action including World No. 1 and current World and European champion Alessandro Calbucci.
Vinicius Font, the highest ranked Brazilian in the men’s game at No. 3, was also proving a big pull for the crowd with his partner, a former European champion, Alex Mingozzi, as were the Pan American champions Marcus Ferreira and Thales Santos who were looking to add to their success in the year’s opening tournament in Sao Vicente, Brazil two weeks earlier.
As the action got underway, the women’s top seeds, Cortez and Melo, were awarded a first round bye, as were the other seven seeded teams, but when they finally took to the court they were ruthless in their despatch of Ana Maciel and Thaynara Moraes, dropping just one game in each set of a straight sets victory.
YouTube video: Alfredo Soria
Only the eighth seeds were unable to progress to the quarterfinals having surrendered a one set lead. Following their impressive opening match, things got much harder for Cortez and Melo but still they managed to work their way through the draw to reach the final where they were to face the fifth seeded French pairing of Magalie Garnier and Elodie Vadel.
No byes in the opening round of the men’s tournament though as all 32 pairs saw action and after two rounds of action all eight seeded teams had won through to the quarterfinals.
Font and Mingozzi then suffered a slight scare as the top seeds dropped the opening set of their quarterfinal and only levelled the match on a tiebreak before easing through the decisive third set. A final clash between the top two seeds remained a possibility as Calbucci and his partner Luca Cramarossa continued to show good form and only dropped six games over three matches to reach the semifinals.
The second seeds then looked sure to book a place in the final against Font and Mingozzi when claiming the first set 61 over Ferreira and Santos. However, the 2013 Pan American champions were soon on level terms and in a tense final set, which ended 75, the Brazilian third seeds progressed to a second final in as many tournaments this season.
Both finals were evenly contested, much to the delight of those cheering the players on, and went the distance. In the women’s final, Garnier and Vadel looked set to upset the odds with a 63 first set win but, despite two very close following sets, it was Cortez and Melo who emerged victorious 36 75 64 to take the title.
A three set battle ensued in the men’s final too where first blood went to the third seeds with Ferreira and Santos conceding only two games in the opening set of this showdown. The top seeds pulled level with a 75 second set win and, with both teams showing no signs of letting up in the deciding set, the title came down to a tiebreaker.
As close as the games leading into the tiebreak had been, it came as a surprise that one team would dominate the tiebreak and with a crushing 7-1 win the title went to Ferreira and Santos handing them back-to-back title triumphs in the opening weeks of 2014.