By Maud Watson
Joining the Party
In recent years, the men’s game has been defined by the Federer/Nadal rivalry while pundits looked to the likes of Murray, Djokovic, Del Potro, and others to possibly break the grip these two have had on the sport. For a multitude of reasons, none of these players had been able to consistently hang with Federer and Nadal. But that trend appears to be changing, as this past tournament at Indian Wells would surely seem to suggest that Novak Djokovic has indeed made it a three-man show at the top. His win over Federer in the semis marked his third win this year over the former No. 1 and also earned him the No. 2 ranking. And while he started off shaky against Nadal in the final, Djokovic ultimately found his confidence to take the title and remain unbeaten in 2011. There’s still a lot of tennis left to play, and Nadal will still be the dominant favorite on the clay. But the idea that Djokovic could be the new No. 1 in a year or less is certainly looking like more and more of a possibility. One thing is for sure…the men’s game just got even more interesting.
Pillar of Consistency
While perhaps not quite as captivating as the men’s tennis last week, Indian Wells proved that the women’s game is in many ways still as unpredictable as ever. The draw completely fell apart, with many of the seeds proving they were ripe for an upset. But if one person remained consistent, it was Caroline Wozniaki. She was a solid wall that her opponents couldn’t find a way around, over, or through, and her solid groundies took her to the title. The plus for Wozniaki is that it’s one more big tournament under her belt, but there was no denying that she lost some of her poise in the final. That’s not to take away from Bartoli who had a phenomenal tournament. But Wozniacki didn’t look as convincing and confident in the final, making far more unforced errors that her fans are used to seeing. You have to believe with her consistency she may eventually win a major, but until she can more securely sock away these big titles (especially after the draw opens up), that first Slam may still be a little while away.
Let’s Make a Deal
In one of the best stories of the week, tennis fans (and many sports fans in general) were happy to hear that 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras had his trophies returned from the thief who had lifted them from a storage unit when the Sampras’ were in the process of moving. The return came as a result of a deal struck by those representing Sampras and the lawyer representing the thief. The items were returned anonymously behind a hospital in an LA suburb. In exchange for the return of the trophies and awards, Sampras agreed to pursue no further action against the thief, which means he will not regain any of the other items that were stolen, such as the furniture. In principle, it’s a shame that the thief is allowed to get by with anything, but in reality, Sampras and sports enthusiasts couldn’t be happier with how this whole ordeal ultimately played out.
Earlier this year, Kim Clijsters suggested that 2011 could be it for her. But this week in Miami, the Belgian hinted that she might opt to play through the 2012 Olympics before hanging it up for good. Kim ought to be feeling pretty positive about her body’s chances of lasting that long too, as she also announced that the shoulder injury that forced her to retire against Bartoli in Indian Wells is doing much better. Hopefully Kim will be able to maintain this newest timetable for her professional career, as the game and fans could definitely use her.
Answering the Call
You had to figure it was coming, and once again, the game’s top stars didn’t disappoint. In order to raise money to help aid the victims of the devastating tragedies that hit Japan earlier this month, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer, Jurgen Melzer, and others took part in another fundraising charity event. But this time around, they put the racquets away and traded the tennis ball for a soccer ball as they took to the field against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Though the tennis stars ultimately lost the match, hats off to those who participated and gave fans a special treat as they found yet another unique way to get people to open their pocket books to help those in need.