Azarenka Continues to Make Noise; Roddick Drops to Lowest Ranking in 10 Years — The Friday Five
by Maud Watson
Return the Glory
Last weekend saw three ATP stars recapture some positive vibes as they each added another championship title to their list of accomplishments. Nico Almagro, always a danger on clay, looked sharp as he successfully defended his title in Brasil and mounted a case to be considered a dark horse contender at Roland Garros in the process. Canadian sensation Milos Raonic, who pulled out of Davis Cup play due to a misreading of a knee scan, showed little sign of any injury, as he worked his way to tournament champion in San Jose for the second consecutive year. As big as the wins were for Almagro and Raonic, however, the guy who might have been most pleased with his win last weekend was Roger Federer. After the debacle of the Swiss Davis Cup defeat, a run to the Rotterdam championship was just what the doctor ordered. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in his psyche as he takes to the court in Indian Wells.
You probably haven’t heard of her, but 19-year-old Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino completed a great weekend for Spain, claiming her first WTA title with her win in Bogota. Granted, it was a weak field to begin with, and it only grew weaker as the final approached, but you can only play those in front of you. There’s also no substitute for big match play, so while it’s far too soon to tell what this young lady is capable of, keep an eye on her to see if this impressive win will lead to future breakthroughs on the game’s grandest stages. Of course the bigger story was the win in Doha by Victoria Azarenka, who continues to make as much noise with her game as she does with her shrieking. Though she herself has attempted to stem the talk, there are already murmurs comparing her to Djokovic, as her win in Doha sees her remain perfect in 2012. Irrespective of what people think of her attitude and theatrics, she appears more than capable of comfortably wearing the badge of the hunted, and there’s no denying that she’s going to be difficult to beat anywhere and on any surface.
Sam Querrey has been given a second chance at finding success on the ATP World Tour, and it looks like he may be intent on not wasting it. The Californian has switched coaches and has hired Brad Gilbert on a trial basis. The former coach of Agassi, Roddick, and Murray may prove to be just what Querrey needs, as he has a proven track record of being one of the best when it comes to understanding the game and strategizing. If anyone can help put Sam in the right mindset and teach him how to best utilize his strengths and guard against his weaknesses, it’s Gilbert. Here’s to hoping he can help get Querrey back on track, because with Querrey’s talent, anything short of returning to the Top 20 should be considered unacceptable.
At the beginning of this week, Andy Roddick was ranked No. 27. It’s a ranking that many upstarts, journeyman, and other former top ten players struggling with injury would love to have. But for Roddick, it represents his lowest ranking since 2001, and it’s a source of major frustration. He also finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place. After sustaining a fresh ankle injury in San Jose, he admitted it might be best to rehab it, but he also wanted match play. He opted for the latter and remained in Memphis, but after a straight-set dismissal by Malisse, he’s going to get to rehab it after all. The good news for Roddick is that he doesn’t have much to defend in the near future, but this time period may prove to be the most trying and telling of his career. Tennis has a way of flipping these scripts on their heads and producing a Cinderella story, like Pete Sampras at the 2002 US Open, but you have to wonder if this latest setback doesn’t have Roddick thinking that retirement is sounding better by the second.
After being treated to some vintage Hewitt during the Australian hard court summer, fans of the Aussie will be disappointed to learn “Rusty” is to undergo foot surgery and sit out another four months. It’s a real testament to his heart and drive that he isn’t thinking of retirement, stating he feels he’s hitting the ball better than he has in years and can’t wait to get back out there. Hopefully he’ll still be sharp come this summer, as with the dedication he has shown to both the Davis Cup and the sport in general, it would be completely unjust to not award him a wildcard into the Olympics and allow him one last crack at representing his nation on one of the world’s greatest stages.