Jordan Thompson began the past fortnight by taking a hammering on Paris clay by Rafael Nadal – but the Australian has ended it by lifting his first tennis title for three-and-a-half years on the lawns of London.
On the Sunday when Nadal picked up the Coupe des Mousquetaires at the French Open for the 14th time, Thompson, the first victim in the Spaniard’s triumphant Roland Garros run, was to be found hoisting silverware of his own at the Surbiton Trophy in London.
But there was to be no Australian double at the first of the pre-Wimbledon grass-court events as Arina Rodionova was beaten in the women’s final.
Looking much happier on the ‘green stuff’ which suits his attacking instincts, Sydneysider Thompson defeated American Denis Kudla 7-5 6-3 to take the Challenger title.
Though it’s nominally a second-tier event, it’s a tournament which brought Andy Murray out to play this week and has now provided a much-needed boost for the 28-year-old Thompson, who’s not had the best of seasons.
Indeed, he cut a particularly dejected figure, hanging helplessly over the net when being pulverised in the first round at Roland Garros by Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“Definitely, the clay court swing was a bit rough for me so I was really keen to get started on the green stuff, and it couldn’t have started any better,” said world No.82 Thompson, after winning his first tournament since another Challenger in Canberra in 2018.
Playing in his first championship match since his only tour-level final – a grass-court final defeat in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands in 2019 – Thompson was dominant against Kudla, who’d beaten Murray in the semi-finals 24 hours earlier.
On a damp afternoon in the London suburbs, Jordan, who’d earned the best win of his career by knocking out champion Murray on the grass at Queen’s Club five years ago, again showed his comfort on the surface against world No.81 Kudla.
The American wasn’t playing at the level he’d showed against Murray but was never allowed to once Thompson recovered from a slow start and began to dictate behind his serve, while breaking Kudla’s delivery four times.
“It’s awesome,” said Thompson after his one hour 35 minute victory. “It’s been a good week and a high-quality match today.”
Kudla reckoned Thompson had played a “hell of a match” and suggested the Australian “deserves to now buy me a beer.”
‘Tommo’ promised he would do just that before going off to Nottingham for his next pre-Wimbledon outing.
Earlier, Melbourne’s 32-year-old Rodionova, who’d hoped to lift her first singles crown since an ITF event in Portugal in 2018, found Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck a class above in their final, going down 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.
In a final that had a delayed start because of rain, Russian-born Rodionova, the world No.188, raced into a 3-0 lead but once the Belgian found her range, there never seemed any doubt she would repeat their last final meeting in Nottingham last year.
Elsewhere, another Aussie Chris O’Connell, who’s said he’s not decided about competing at Wimbledon because no ranking points would be on offer, eased his way into the main draw at the Stuttgart ATP event by winning his final qualifier against German Peter Gojowczyk 6-3 6-4.