February is often an overlooked month in men’s tennis with four ATP 500 events and eight 250 tournaments scattered across the globe.
South America has four, North America three, Europe three and the Middle East two with a plethora of points on offer for players suited to all surfaces.
A blend of stars within the top 10 and further down lock horns throughout the month that generally contains stunning upsets, scintillating matches, brilliant narratives and a variety of characteristics that make each tournament special.
February serves as a quartet of weeks that allows players to rebound or capitalise on form following the Australian Open on surfaces natural to them.
Some might see the stretch as a time to leave their comfort zones or even set up their season by accruing points and an abundance of prize money.
In recent years we have seen some epic contests that have gone on to become instant classics, like Alexander Zverev and Jenson Brooksby in Acapulco last year or Andy Murray against Philip Kohlschreiber in Dubai in 2017.
Countless players have clinched unexpected titles, such as Thiago Seyboth Wild in Santiago in 2020, Victor Estrella Burgos’ trio of Quito titles from 2015-17, Horacio Zeballos stunning Rafael Nadal in Chile in 2013, Mirsa Basic in Sofia in 2018 or Laslo Djere’s run to the Rio title in 2019.
The all time greats have enjoyed their fair share of success throughout the second month of the calendar, with Roger Federer claiming nine titles in Dubai and multiple in Rotterdam, even reclaiming the No.1 ranking following his venture to the Netherlands in 2018.
Nadal has won copious titles on various continents and surfaces throughout his many February escapades, as has Novak Djokovic, who himself has won five titles in Dubai alone.
2022 has provided similar excitement with Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas and Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien providing their nations with the utmost excitement, reaching their maiden ATP semifinals in Buenos Aires and Cordoba respectively.
Varillas began the year ranked at 105 and now sits at 77, a career high for the Lima native, while Dellien commenced the year at 132 and has stormed up the tally to 96, edging closer to his career high of 64.
Perhaps one of the more unexpected narratives from this year’s sequence of events is Cam Norrie’s mesmerising run on the South American clay, progressing to the Buenos Aires final where Carlos Alcaraz would inflict defeat on the UK star before setting a rematch in the Rio decider where he emerged victorious from 5-7 0-3 0-30 behind in what was a truly incredible contest.
Norrie now has an ATP 500 title to go with his Masters 1000 from Indian Wells in 2021, and has now equalled Andy Murray’s total of five clay court finals on tour.
Many questioned the 27-year-old’s decision to play in South America considering he was the defending champion in Delray Beach on the American hard courts, but he has entrenched himself as an all-surface force that currently sits third in the Race to Turin.
Daniil Medvedev is another that has used this month to find form, claiming back-to-back titles in Rotterdam and Doha to storm back inside the top 10.
China’s Yibing Wu became his nation’s first ever title winner in the Open Era following his historic championship in Dallas, in which he saved numerous match points in the final against John Isner, while Sebastian Baez put an abysmal six months behind him to capture his second career title in Cordoba.
February generally gives an indication of players that might just enjoy successful seasons and if previous years are to go by, the trends might be set to continue throughout 2023.
Take Carlos Alcaraz in 2022, Felix Auger Aliassime in 2019, Karen Khachanov in 2018 or even Marin Cilic in 2014, all of them went on to have barnstorming years after capturing one or more titles in February of each season.
The month might not contain a Grand Slam, but it can go a long way to winning you one.