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Sousa, Ramos-Vinolas, and Bublik kick off February swing with ATP titles

Joao Sousa won his fourth career title in Pune. Photo credit: Tata Open Maharashtra

By Ricky Dimon

Joao Sousa has been outside the top 100 since March of 2021 and he went into the Tata Open Maharashtra at No. 137 in the world. The 32-year-old had not played in an ATP final since 2018.

From completely out of nowhere, everything turned around for Sousa in Pune. The Portuguese veteran completed an improbable run to his fourth career ATP title by beating Emil Ruusuvuori 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-1 in Sunday’s final.

“[It’s] a great week for me,” said Sousa, who will soar 51 spots to 86th in the rankings on Monday. “As I said yesterday, we’ve had a few tough moments in the past two years and to get the title today is just a dream come true. If you’d asked me six months ago if I would be in a final, I would have said no.”

Albert Ramos-Vinolas won his fourth ATP title in Cordoba. Photo credit: Cordoba Open Facebook

Albert Ramos-Vinolas also captured his fourth ATP title, going one step further at the Cordoba Open than he did last year. The 2021 runner-up seemed to be in line for another final loss when he trailed Alejandro Tabilo by a double-break in the third set, but Ramos-Vinolas roared back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

“I’m really happy,” the 34-year-old Spaniard assured. “(It’s) incredible for me to have the fourth title. It was very difficult today. I was almost lost, and somehow I came back. I cannot be more happy.

“I don’t know [how I came back], to be honest. I think I played a little bit more aggressive from 1-4 [down in the third]. He missed some first serves. He was serving good and I started to return a little bit more aggressively than before. When [I came back from] 1-4 to 3-4, I was feeling I had a chance.”

Kazakh tennis player Alexander Bublik beat world No. 3 Alexander Zverev for his first ATP title. EPA-EFE/EMILIO NARANJO

There was no such drama in the Open Sud de France championship match. Alexander Bublik had never won an ATP final (previously 0-4 in finals) and he was a heavy underdog against Alexander Zverev, but the 35th-ranked Kazakh cruised 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and nine minutes.

Bublik broke Zverev four times in just 10 return games.

“I played four finals before and [in] the fifth final I have won against a great player against Sascha,” the 24-year-old commented. “It is great. All my game together. I was serving well and returned well and kept my nerve. I was lucky in the moments and when I had my chances I used them.”

Bublik now moves on to the ATP 500 in Rotterdam, where he will go up against Andy Murray in the first round. Ramos-Vinolas, meanwhile, gets right back in action as the Golden Swing continues in Buenos Aires.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.