Rafael Nadal set for Return – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Home Sweet Home

In an announcement that had to come as no surprise to many, it was decided that the French Open can remain known as Roland Garros, as it will continue to be staged at its current location. The decision comes with the caveat that many updates will be made to the present site over the course of the next few years, including the construction of new courts, a new press center, and a retractable roof over center court, which would allow for the potential of night matches. This will all be made possible by expanding the site by approximately 12 acres, which should hopefully also give fans a bit more elbow room. But these changes for some, such as former World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, are not enough. As Mauresmo and other opponents have argued, the decision means that the French Open will remain the smallest of the four majors, and it will still be limited in the renovations that can made in order to compete with the other three Grand Slam events. These arguments are all valid points, and it’s possible that this current vote may only be delaying the inevitable. But personally, it was nice to see it stay at home. It is a beautiful venue, and it also has a great history (check out the 1928 Davis Cup France vs. United States tie, and be sure to check out the history behind flying ace Roland Garros).

Added Incentive

Rafael Nadal set for return

For the third consecutive time, the ITF and WTA have worked out an agreement stating that ranking points will be awarded to those women who compete at the 2012 Olympics, with the ATP expected to once again also follow suit. The thought process behind this decision is that it should help guarantee the headliners compete in London, but this decision should also be raising the question as to whether or not tennis even belongs in the Olympics in the first place. It hasn’t always been a staple of the Games. It was missing from the docket for more than 60 years following the 1924 Olympics before returning as a full medal sport in Seoul in 1988. But the fact that ranking points are needed to entice the players to compete is further proof that merely representing one’s country is not enough to convince them to participate. This is nothing against the players. Many have freely admitted that while winning an Olympic gold medal would be wonderful, winning a major would still mean more. It’s also a long season, and it’s understandable that if a player can’t add to his or her ranking, he or she might opt to take that week off. Tennis is also one of the few Olympic sports that allows professionals to compete, and given the nature of the sport, it’s not as if these players don’t already compete against one another on many large international stages week in and week out. It’s a tough call, but maybe it really is time to consider pulling tennis from the Olympics or revamping it to remain true to the Olympic spirit by only allowing amateurs to play.

Brief Hiatus

Perhaps after his stumble in Rotterdam, Andy Murray is learning from last year’s disaster. The young Scot has opted to pull out of Dubai citing a wrist injury. There seems to be some speculation as to the real severity of the injury, but all are in agreement that his withdrawal was the right move. Last year he angered Dubai tournament organizers by admitting he was ill prepared and merely tinkering with his game after his early exit. It’s good to see that this time around, Murray now appears to be taking a step back and mentally preparing himself for the long season ahead. He isn’t scheduled to play again until tennis’ “March madness” when Indian Wells and Miami are contested back-to-back. He might still be smarting from his poor performance in the Netherlands, but hopefully Murray will be ready to step it up once again.

Return Set

It’s official. Rafael Nadal will be well enough to represent his native Spain in the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Belgium, and Captain Albert Costa has named him to the team that will also include David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, and Feliciano Lopez. Costa noted that having the luxury of fielding Nadal would bring “certain tranquility” to the team. Hard saying how “tranquil” his multitude of fans will feel, however. Presumably Nadal wouldn’t play unless he’s 100%, but he’s generally shown a very strong commitment to Davis Cup and might be tempted to play even if not quite top notch. All eyes will be looking to see how he covers the court as an indicator of what we can expect from him this coming spring.

New Coach

The young Frenchman Richard Gasquet is now working with Italian Riccardo Piatti, though he will continue to employ the services of countryman Sebastien Grosjean. Tennis fans will remember seeing Piatti in Croat Ivan Ljubicic’s corner when Ljubicic reached a career high ranking of No. 3. Gasquet is currently suffering from shoulder injuries, but fans will be holding their breath to see if Piatti will prove to be the coach who can finally help Gasquet put it all together and realize his true potential. It hasn’t been fair the amount of pressure that has been put on Gasquet since before he was ten years old, but it would be an absolute travesty if he were never able to maximize his game and get the most out of his career.