By Maud Watson
The stage was set for an enthralling Madrid third-round encounter between clay court king Rafael Nadal and the resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro was fresh off his second title of the season, which he won in impressive fashion by thrashing Fernando Verdasco in the Estoril Open final. And while the odds would have still been heavily stacked in favor of Nadal, whose clay court record speaks for itself, there were many who saw the slight potential for the upset should Del Potro continue to find the form he had back in 2009. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as Del Potro was forced to withdraw before the first ball had been struck, citing a hip injury he sustained during his first round victory over Mikhail Youzhny. He has already endured a number of injury setbacks in his young career, and this is just one more frustration to add to his list as he was in midst of finding his way back to top form. The hip can be a tricky injury, but hopefully this will prove to be relatively minor so that Del Potro can soon resume climbing his way back towards the top of the pack where he belongs.
One to Watch
Hardcore tennis fans may recall seeing the name Julia Goerges pop up in draws over the course of the last several months, but she hadn’t become as well known as her compatriot Andrea Petkovic. That may be all about to change. Goerges stunned world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki last week to take the title in Stuttgart, and lest anyone think the victory might have been fluke, she backed it up for the second week in a row by eliminating the Dane in the third round of Madrid. Whether or not she’s ready to start stringing several of these big wins together and become a legit major contender is a question that remains to be answered, but for now, she’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Home Crowd Delight
Okay, so the field wasn’t as stacked as it was back in Melbourne, Indian Wells, or Miami, but there’s little doubt that Novak Djokovic was carrying around some immense pressure when he opened his clay court campaign at the Serbia Open – the tournament owned by his family. But Djokovic answered the call, taking the title without the loss of a set. The win also meant that Djokovic remains unbeaten in 2011. Adding to another great week for the Serb, Djokovic was awarded the prestigious Order of St. Sava of I class, the highest decoration of the Serbian Orthodox Church. His reaction to the honor was touching, and it was wonderful to see him recognized for what he has done and continues to do outside of tennis, too.
The women’s game is floundering a bit with many of its top stars out of action or struggling to find their feet on the clay, but there may be a ray of hope in the near future. Kim Clijsters has resumed training, and while her participation at the French is still very much in doubt, positive reports from the Clijsters’ camp seem to indicate that at the very least, she should be ready to go for the grass court season. Also, it was announced earlier this week that Venus Williams has signed on to compete in the Wimbledon warm-up at Eastbourne for the first time since 1998. The multi-time Grand Slam champion is also still listed to possibly play in Brussels, the last event before the start of Roland Garros. While her participation there is still surrounded by many question marks, her decision to sign up for Eastbourne bodes well for an early summer return, which is something the WTA could desperately use.
Hold the Cheese
That’s what Gael Monfils probably wishes he’d said if only he’d known it was in the pasta he had ordered. The Frenchman was in dire straits from the start against Juan Monaco in Madrid, having thrown up before he even stepped out onto the court (and again after). He was in obvious distress throughout the course of the match and was ultimately forced to retire down 6-2, 3-0, handing Monaco safe passage into the third round. It was later revealed the cause of Monfils’ distress was an allergic reaction to cheese that he was unaware had been in the past dish he’d eaten earlier. Though certainly a bizarre and unlikely incident, it’s still a harsh reminder to the players how careful they have to be about what they put into their bodies.