The Golden Swing: A Recap of 2019 and Preview of 2020

Laslo Djere during the Golden Swing

With the Australian Open now rapidly approaching its conclusion, with just the men’s finals left to play, the attention of the tennis world will soon shift to South America for the Golden Swing. A number of the world’s best players will be making the trip to compete at the four clay-court events in Cordoba, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, which is replacing Sao Paolo’s Brasil Open. Here’s a look back at what you might have missed in 2019 and what to look forward to this season.

The 2019 Golden Swing in review

Cordoba

The inaugural Cordoba Open saw a stunning result, as the Argentinian wild card Juan Ignacio Londero stormed into the final, where he beat his countryman Guido Pella 3-6 7-5 6-1 to win his first ATP Tour title, having never previously won a match on the main tour. Pella, who was also looking for a maiden ATP title, had seemed to be in charge after winning the first set, but Londero hung tough to level the match in the second, before sweeping to victory in the decider.

Pella had endured the tougher path to the final, having faced the veteran Paolo Lorenzi, 2017 Monte Carlo runner-up Albert Ramos Vinolas as well as Argentine #1 Diego Schwartzman and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. Londero, on the other hand, picked up wins over the relatively unheralded Nicolas Jarry, Lorenzo Sonego, Pedro Cachin, and Federico Delbonis. Top seed Fabio Fognini, who would go on to win the Monte Carlo Masters in April, lost in his opener to Aljaz Bedene.

Buenos Aires

The Argentina Open, an ATP 250 event, saw French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato enjoy his best week of the season. The Italian routed Schwartzman in the final, winning 6-1 6-2. Schwartzman, who had won a bruising encounter with top seed Dominic Thiem in the semifinals in a final-set tiebreak, looked to be carrying a slight injury into the title match and Cecchinato was swift to take advantage.

It was another excellent performance in a final from the Italian, who won his third ATP title in as many finals, stating in an interview with the ATP that: “winning my third tournament in my third final makes me happy…I know that I’ll continue to have good results if I stay mentally solid”. He did not drop a set all week in the Argentine capital in beating Cristian Garin, Roberto Carballes Baena, Guido Pella and Schwartzman.

Rio de Janeiro

The Rio Open, an ATP 500 event, remains the most prestigious tournament during the Golden Swing and it always attracts a strong field, with 2019 no exception. The final saw Serbia’s Laslo Djere beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight-sets, 6-3 7-5 to claim the first tour-level title of his career. Djere dedicated his win to his parents, who are deceased, with the Serbian saying: “I want to dedicate this trophy to my parents…my parents have…had the biggest impact on me and because of them I am who I’m today….and I hope they’re watching me now”.

Djere did not lose a set in the tournament, beating the top seed Thiem in his first match, then following that up with victories over Taro Daniel, Casper Ruud before beating Auger-Aliassime in the final, although he benefitted from the withdrawal of Bedene ahead of the semifinals. Auger-Aliassime had toppled second seed Fognini in the first round before beating Garin, Jaume Munar and Cuevas to reach the final.

Sao Paolo

The 2019 Brasil Open proved to be the last edition of the ATP 250 event, the only indoor clay-court tournament of the season, but it ended in fine style, with Pella winning his first ATP Tour title by beating first-time finalist Cristian Garin in straight-sets, 7-5 6-3. The court surface in Sao Paolo played unusually quickly, with Pella handling the conditions superbly in wins over Carballes Baena, Marco Trungelliti, Rio champion Djere and Garin in the final.

Entry Lists for 2020 Golden Swing*

Cordoba Open: https://tennisuptodate.com/cordoba-open-entry-list-released-schwartzman-ruud-and-pella-all-involved/

Londero is back to defend his title, but it won’t beat easy for the Argentinian. There is no shortage of talent on the roster in Cordoba, with world #14 Schwartzman leading the way.

Argentina Open: https://canaltenis.com/entry-list-atp-250-buenos-aires-2020/

Cecchinato, the defending champion, will return to action on the clay in Buenos Aires. Also set to be in action in the Argentinian capital are top ten stars Thiem and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.

Rio Open: https://rioopen.com/en/2020/01/the-singles-entry-list-for-2020/

Djere has unsurprisingly elected to return to Rio to defend his title, whilst Thiem and Berrettini will also be playing Rio, where there is a very strong field once again.

Chile Open: https://twitter.com/chile_open/status/1216891650875805696

Schwartzman will be the top seed in the inaugural Chile Open, where he will be the only top twenty player in action.

*Note: Jarry has been suspended for doping, but is fighting this charge.

What to watch for during the 2020 Golden Swing

  1. Breakthroughs on the ATP Tour

Not for the first time, there were a number of first-time champions and finalists during the Golden Swing. Indeed, three of the four champions, Londero, Djere and Pella, picked up their maiden ATP Tour titles, with Pella using his success as a springboard to put together a career-best season, which saw him crack the world’s top 25 and reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Auger-Aliassime and Garin, both finalists during the Golden Swing, also went on to enjoy fine seasons, with the Canadian reaching two further finals and Garin winning titles in Houston and Munich.

But who might breakthrough this season. One player to watch out for is the 16-year-old Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, who has gone 13-0 so far this season. The 16-year-old Spaniard’s performances have earned him a wild card into the Rio Open, where he will make his debut on the main tour. He has already proven himself an effective counter-puncher. The 21-year-old Felipe Meligeni has also been awarded a wild card in Rio.

He reached the quarterfinals at the Punta del Este Challenger, with his aggressive forehand allowing him to dictate proceedings, although he will need to temper that power with greater accuracy to succeed at the highest-level. Another young gun to watch for is the 20-year-old Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. He made the NextGen Finals last season after some sterling successes on the Challenger Tour and he can do damage from both wings, with his backhand a particularly effective shot.

  1. Can the Top Seeds Go Deep?

The seeded players struggled throughout the Golden Swing in 2019. Shockingly, the top two seeds at the four tournaments went a combined 2-8, with Thiem’s wins in Buenos Aires the only victories scored by a player seeded first or second. Fognini and Cecchinato lost their first matches in Cordoba, whilst also Fognini also lost his opener in Buenos Aires and in the first round in Rio, where Thiem also made an early exit. In Sao Paolo, Joao Sousa and Malek Jaziri lost in their openers.

However, with a number of the world’s best set to lead the way during the Golden Swing this season, it is hard to see a repeat of their calamitous 2019 showing. Thiem, who will contest the Australian Open final with Novak Djokovic, will be the star attraction, but the likes of Berrettini and Schwartzman will also be targeting deep runs during the Golden Swing, with the chance to rack up valuable ranking points not one to be missed.

  1. The Introduction of the Chile Open!

As mentioned previously, the Chile Open in Santiago is coming to the Golden Swing in 2020, replacing the Brasil Open in Sao Paolo. The ATP Tour was last in Chile with the 250 event in Vina del Mar, which ended in 2014 with a Fognini victory over Leonardo Mayer. It will be interesting to see, not only who wins the first edition of this tournament, but how much crowd support the tournament has. The Santiago Challenger has generally been a success, so it will be interesting to see how the organizers, who have run Chilean Challengers, handle the ATP Tour event.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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