By Maud Watson
Cloud of Suspicion
Rafael Nadal has been complaining about a pain in his foot, and maybe that’s because he just shot himself in it. Following his defeat of Juan Martin Del Potro, tennis forums across the web were abuzz with fans lambasting Nadal for what they perceived as gamesmanship. The accusation stemmed from the extended medical timeout the reigning champion took going into the first set tiebreak – a time when Del Potro had the momentum. Fans and Del Potro rightfully questioned the timing and legitimacy of Nadal’s timeout, as he appeared to have no problem moving about the court throughout the course of the match. His case was further hampered when an MRI revealed that what he once thought was a broken foot or other serious potential match-ending injury was nothing more than minor swelling. And while Nadal is undoubtedly feeling some pain, Patrick McEnroe was right to suggest that there’s a strong case that Nadal is a hypochondriac who is blowing things way out of proportion. His recent actions have also led others to start looking back at some of his previous medical timeouts. For example, at last year’s Wimbledon he called for the trainer in rounds 2 and 3 against Haase and Petzchner, with both timeouts conveniently coming in matches where he was two sets to one down. As both McEnroe and Shriver have also pointed out, as of late it seems that whenever Nadal has a loss, there’s always some reason other than his opponent played better. For a guy who’s supposed to be such a proponent of sportsmanship, his recent actions have been questionable. They’ve also led many to start taking a harder look at some of his other habits, such as making the opponent wait before the coin toss. Worse than that is not just the excessive amount of time he takes between points (which gets grossly excessive at the bigger moments) and his receiving coaching from his box during matches, but that he openly admits to being guilty of these actions and only sees it as a problem if he gets caught. These actions are all a disservice to himself and his fans. There’s little doubt that he’s one of the most talented players to have ever picked up a racquet, but this cloud of suspicion could and should mar his reputation. He currently doesn’t deserve the label of the humble class act that many were once so quick to award him.
The Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles final will be contested by two women who have enjoyed breakthroughs at this year’s Championships. For Sharapova, her return to the Wimbledon final marks her first major final appearance since a long struggle with injuries left her floundering to find her top form. Her opponent, big-hitting Petra Kvitova has gone one better than her performance last year to reach what will hopefully be the first of many Grand Slam finals. It’s hard to envision how this one will play out. It will be dependent upon how well Sharapova handles being the heavy favorite as well as how well Kvitova copes with the nerves of playing in her first final. One thing is for certain: this has the potential to be a spectacular contest.
On the Map
It’s been a topsy-turvy Wimbledon, and while there are some familiar faces still competing at the business end of things, it’s been refreshing to see some new ones. The women’s draw in particular has seen a number of new names reach the latter rounds, but one of the best stories is that of German Sabine Lisicki. Previously touted as a future top prospect, she has struggled with injury (one the result of a misdiagnosis) but may now be back on the right path. Her big serve took her to the semis before falling to Sharapova. Don’t expect this to be a flash in the pan for her. And on the men’s side, don’t expect the run of Bernard Tomic to be a flash in the pan either. The teenager has already endured his share of controversy thanks in large part to his father, but his breakout performance at Wimbledon would seem to suggest he’s finding the right balance in life and that he’s the real deal. Keep an eye on him, as he’s a definite future Top 10 talent and Grand Slam contender.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga only had one win against Roger Federer, but perhaps crucially, it was a win that came from 1-5 down in the final set when the two met in the Canada Masters 1000 event. Maybe with that in the back of his mind (and possibly in the back of Federer’s as well), Tsonga refused to throw in the towel during his Wimbledon quarterfinal as he became the first player in history to come back from a two-set deficit against the Swiss Maestro. Even if Tsonga doesn’t reach the final, the Federer win was huge. It should only add to his confidence, and hopefully help him post more consistent results.
A New Voice
Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic has found herself a new full-time coach in the form of Nigel Sears. Both parties are expected to be anticipating a long-term relationship, especially since Sears left his post as head of women’s coaching for the LTA and British Fed Cup Captain. Under his leadership, British women’s tennis did see improvement, as evidenced by the success of Robson and Watson. As the former coach of Daniela Hantuchova, he also knows what it’s like to deal with a mentally fragile player. So while it will take time, all signs indicate that Ivanovic may have just hired the key to regaining her top form.