By Maud Watson
While the much-anticipated Davis Cup matchup between Spain and the United States is still over two months away, the fireworks are starting a little early with Spanish Captain Albert Costa submitting an appeal to the ITF, arguing that the court surface chosen by the U.S. shouldn’t be allowed for use in the upcoming tie. In some respects, it seemed that Costa may have found a loophole in his favor, but rules are always open to interpretation. As it stands, the ITF unanimously ruled in favor of the U.S., saying that the court surface chosen by the United States is a type of “acrylic” court used in over 30 different tournaments, including two Grand Slams. They further stated that the regulations did not “specify or imply a requirement for specific brands.” Plus, the ITF had already given the green light to the surface in past Davis and Fed Cup ties, so it was always unlikely that they would now make a ruling suggesting that they had been remiss in the past. While Costa and his squad may be a bit dismayed by the ruling, expect this to only fire them up more this coming July.
Still smarting from his two consecutive losses to Novak Djokovic in the finals of Indian Wells and Miami, Rafael Nadal came into Monte Carlo in a “subdued” mood. But as the Spaniard has done so often in recent years, he simply becomes a different player when on his favored clay court surface. Incredibly, he won his seventh straight Monte Carlo crown, a feat that is unmatched by any player in the history of the game. While he probably had to play a little more defense than he would have liked near the end of the tournament (which included losing a set to Andy Murray in the semifinals), the message he sent to the rest of the field was an ominous one. He’s got his clay court mojo working, and if he gets on a roll, you can be sure it will take something pretty special to derail him at Roland Garros.
It’s hard to feel bad for a 23-year-old multimillionaire, but nonetheless, there must be many a fan who sympathizes with the situation in which Andy Murray now finds himself. Much as he did at last year’s Wimbledon, Murray seemed to rediscover his top form out of nowhere last week in Monte Carlo. Even more impressive, despite having to have pain-killing injections in his right elbow before his semifinal match, he was the only player to push Rafael Nadal to three sets in what was one of the most entertaining and competitive matches of the tournament. Undoubtedly, Murray would have been keen to begin building on this recent run of good form, but he was instead forced to pull out of Barcelona with his elbow injury. Hopefully he will make a speedy recovery and return to building his confidence and presence at the top of the game, as the sport and Great Britain could use a top notch Andy Murray back on the scene.
Upping the Ante
Earlier this week, Wimbledon announced that they were going to be upping their prize money for their singles champions, with $1.8 million slated to go to both the men’s and women’s singles winners. The move stemmed from the fact that the British government imposes a tax on the endorsement income of individual players competing or practicing in the UK. The feeling is that in this economic climate, such a policy might deter players from playing any of the UK warm-up events, such as Queen’s, as well as the ATP World Finals scheduled to be contested in London at the end of the season. Wimbledon tournament organizers did not want to see their quality of field suffer the same fate. Frankly, the law does seem a bit ludicrous, especially when considering team events are not taxed the same way. Hopefully the tennis lobbyists, who have been lobbying for two years now, will be able to work out an agreement with the government to avoid this potentially harmful effect in the future.
His name is perhaps not as well known as some of the others who are part of what pundits have termed the “Spanish Armada,” but Nicolas Almagro is a man to be reckoned with, especially on clay. With his win over a struggling Nikolay Davydenko in the third round of Barcelona this week, the Spaniard will crack the Top Ten for the first time in his career when the rankings are released on Monday. For sure, Almagro is by far and away the most at home on clay, but with the confidence that comes from entering the Top Ten, be sure to keep an eye on him as the season progresses.