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Pro Media & News

Take Five: Claire Liu, Emilio Nava win biggest career titles on clay

Victoria Chiesa | May 16, 2022

Welcome to Take Five, a weekly series on recapping five of the biggest stories from American tennis over the last week on the professional tennis circuit. There were titles at all levels of the circuit for U.S. players last week, while John Isner's surprise season of doubles success (say that three times fast!) continued at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome. 

1. Claire Liu wins biggest career title at WTA 125 in Paris

Revenge was sweet for Claire Liu last week at the Trophée Lagardère in Paris, France. The 21-year-old American captured her biggest career title with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Beatriz Haddad Maia in the inaugural final at the WTA 125 event.


Analogous to ATP Challenger events, WTA 125s are the second-highest level of women's competition, right below the WTA Tour, and just above the ITF World Tennis Tour. Liu's best previous showing at this level came last August in Chicago, where she reached the semifinals and lost to future US Open champion Emma Raducanu. 


Sunday's final was the second match between Liu and Haddad Maia in as many weeks: The Brazilian won in three sets in the quarterfinals of the WTA 125 in Sasint-Malo, France


"She's such a good player and she's been winning so many matches, so I knew it was going to be tough," Liu said after the match, as reported by the WTA.


"I just tried to stay on my side of the court and play my game. I didn't play as well last week, and she played very well. Today was just a little bit of a reversal, I just played a couple of the big points well."


All seven of Liu's professional titles have come on clay, success she credits to growing up on the surface at the USTA's national training center in Carson, Calif. En route to winning the trophy in Paris, she took out former Top 30 player Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine in the first round, and former Top 20 player and top seed Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the semifinals. 


Liu's victory puts her back into the WTA's Top 100 this week at world No. 92. She reache her career-high ranking of world No. 83 in April. 

2. Emilio Nava wins first ATP Challenger in Kazakhstan

A two-time junior Grand Slam finalist in 2019, 20-year-old Emilio Nava is starting to make waves on the professional tour. The Californian, son of two former Olympians and cousin of fellow American ATP pro Ernesto Escobedo, won his first ATP Challenger title last week in Shymkent, Kazakhstan—as a last minute entry. After getting into the main draw as an alternate, Nava knocked off top seed Tennys Sandgren in the opening round and didn't lose a set on his way to the title.

As a result of the victory, Nava soars nearly 100 spots in the ATP rankings this week to a new career-high of world No. 261. He'll look to continue his winning streak in Shymkent this week, as back-to-back ATP Challengers are taking place in Kazakhstan's third-largest city.


3. John Isner reaches another Masters 1000 doubles final in Rome

John Isner has been the most sought-after doubles partner on the ATP Tour this season. After winning the Sunshine Double with two different partners—Jack Sock in Indian Wells and Hubert Hurkacz in Miami—the big-serving Isner reached a third final in Rome with Diego Schwartzman.


With a gulf in height between the 5-foot-7 Schwartzman and the 6-foot-11 Isner, the pair quickly became fan favorites at the Foro Italico—so much so that they even were christened with the pormanteau "Isnerman." They came oh-so-close to victory against Croatia's Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in the final: The pair had a championship point in the match tiebreak in their eventual 6-2, 6-7(6), [12-10] defeat.


But as a result of his prowess on the doubles court this year—fellow American Reilly Opelka called him the "best half-courter in the world"—Isner is now ranked a career-high No. 20 in doubles.


Elsewhere in Rome, Amanda Anisimova continued her good form by reaching another quarterfinal at a WTA 1000 event, while Marcos Giron, in as a lucky loser, upset former finalist Diego Schwartzman in the second round. In women's doubles, Desirae Krawczyk and her Dutch partner Demi Schuurs reached the semifinals. 

4. Bernarda Pera reaches WTA 125 final in Germany

Sidelined for nearly three months earlier this year, Bernarda Pera is getting her groove back. The 27-year-old Croatian-born American also reached her first WTA 125 final last week in Karlsruhe, Germany, where she finished runner-up to Mayar Sherif of Egypt. Seeded No. 8, Pera came from a set down in her first two rounds against promising young Germans Nastasja Schunk and Jule Niemeier and went all the way to the final, where she lost out to the No. 2 seed and former Pepperdine University star.


Pera retired from her first qualifying match at the WTA 1000 event in Doha in February, and only returned to the tour last week: In her first event back in Saint-Malo, she reached the quarterfinals. 


5. Casey Ratzlaff wins in Turkey

Days after leading the U.S. men to their best-ever finish at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup in nearly two decades, Casey Ratzlaff was back winning matches. The top-ranked U.S. man in the wheelchair rankings reaced the singles semifinals at the Corendon Airlines Open in Antayla, Turkey, and partnered South Korea's Ho Won-Im to win the doubles title. It's his fourth doubles title this year with a fourth different partner and 19th of his career. 


Other U.S. notable results last week around the world:

  • Ellie Halbauer was the singles champion at the ITF World Tennis Tour W25 event in Sarasota, Fla.
  • Bruno Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov were the doubles champions at the ITF World Tennis Tour M15 in Antalya, Turkey. Kuzuhara also reached the singles semifinals.
  • Joshua Sheehy was the singles finalist at the ITF World Tennis Tour M15 in Cancun, Mexico.


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