February landmarks for Karlovic, Simon, Lopez, as Murray returns to No3

Marianne Bevis looks back at what has been an intriguing February thus far on the ATP Tour

Hot on the heels of the first Grand Slam of the year, February brings one of the most packed months on the men’s tour.

No fewer than 12 tournaments bring four ATP 500s to the table and ample opportunity for points and rankings.

• Top-10 clay-court stars Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer headed for the ‘Golden Swing’ in the sunny, terracotta environs of South America—with mixed results.

• World No3 and defending champion Nadal made an unexpected semi exit in Rio and so dropped to No4 in the rankings behind Andy Murray. He now tries to make up lost ground with his first visit to Buenos Aires since 2005, but he is also attempting to equal the all-time record of Guillermo Vilas with 46 clay titles.

• However, fellow Spaniard, No9 Ferrer, had more than one reason to celebrate his first Rio title. By winning his 23rd trophy—his second this year—he reached a record seventh in the ‘Golden Swing’. He also broke the top 20 on the Open Era match-wins list, passing Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick.

• While Nadal stays on clay, Ferrer now heads to the 500 in Acapulco, which switched from red clay to blue hard courts last year. Ferrer won three times in Mexico when the tournament was on clay, and will be up against the hard-court prowess of Kei Nishikori and defending champion Grigor Dimitrov if he is to make it four.

• Top seed Nishikori goes for his 200th match-win in the first round and his second title in three weeks after claiming Memphis.

• Talking of hard courts, new records were set in North America’s Delray Beach. Just one week short of his 36th birthday, Ivo Karlovic became the oldest winner in the tournament’s history and the oldest title winner since Jimmy Connors won in Tel Aviv in 1989 age 37. The 6ft 11in Croat also hit 91 aces, a tournament record.

• In dramatic contrast to the outdoor sun of North and South America, the European indoor swing reached his climax in Marseille with a victory for Gilles Simon—his 12th trophy. The only Frenchman with more in the Open Era is Yannick Noah.

• This is the latest of an indoor rush for the 30-year-old Simon: a quarter-final finish in Montpellier, the semis in Rotterdam and now victory in Marseille. It takes him to No16 in the rankings, his highest since September 2013.

• More ranking milestones: With so many points to win and lose during these few weeks, there have been some impressive moves in the rankings.

o Victor Estrella Burgos, at the age of 34, became the oldest first-time champion in the Open Era when he won his maiden title in Quito two weeks ago. With the Challenger title this week in Morelos, Mexico, he has broken into the top 50 for the first time, at No48, and will be is seeded No7 this week in his Acapulco debut.

o More top-100 career-highs came to Andreas Haider-Maurer, up 17 to No57, Joao Souza, up 11 to No77 and Damir Dzumhur, up 18 to No87.

o Also worthy of a shout-out is 33-year-old Feliciano Lopez, who is up to a new career-high No13 following his 370th match-win to reach the final in Quito. He competes in Dubai this week—in doubles and singles—if he is well.

But the Dubai Duty Free is perhaps the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative of the Tour’s 500s. Now boasting this week’s top three ranked players and a first prize of over $0.5 million, find out what milestones are up for grabs in the desert.

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