Roger Federer heavy favorite for US Open, Na Li’s new partnership — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The (Swiss) Cheese Stands Alone

After a week of sublime tennis in which his serve wasn’t broken once, Roger Federer won the Masters Cincinnati title to become the first player to win that prestigious crown on five occasions. He also tied rival Rafael Nadal for most overall Masters titles. It’s obvious the grass court season has once again infused confidence in the Maestro. His forehand has been a thing of beauty, and he’s doing an excellent job of protecting his backhand. In short, he hardly looks 31 and instead appears closer to the man who dominated the game from 2004-2007. He’s not a lone heavy favorite in New York with both Murray and Djokovic posting strong results earlier this summer, but don’t be surprised if he leaves Flushing with major number 18.

Beautiful Partnership

Li Na had been without a title since Roland Garros last year. Struggling to find any consistency in her game, she recently hired Carlos Rodriguez (the man who coached Justine Henin to so much success) to help her out, and suffice it to say, their partnership has started off with a bang. After reaching the final the previous week in Montreal, she went one better in Cincinnati to claim her first tournament win of 2012. Cincy also marked the first time that Li and Rodriguez met face-to-face, and the Argentine coach must have liked what he saw. With any luck, his input will mean more consistent results for Li. She is a deceptively quick mover with penetrating ground strokes off of both wings. If she can learn to better harness that aggression, there’s no reason she can’t pick up more big titles, including another major. Keep an eye on this new partnership, because that combo already looks likely to pay dividends.

What’s In A Name?

For Rafael Nadal, an answer is what’s in a name. In a press conference last Friday, Nadal announced that he is suffering from Hoffa’s Syndrome. While it’s unfortunate one of the game’s greatest is sidelined with this condition, it might have also come as a relief to the Spaniard. His doctor has said it is not significant, and being able to specifically pin down the problem means being able to provide more appropriate treatments. Of course, all of the treatment in the world will not make up for Nadal’s style of play, which is apt to continue to cause problems, so it will be interesting to see if this diagnosis alters his approach to the game and/or his schedule. But for now, here’s to wishing Rafa a speedy recovery and a happy return to the game.

Stirring the Pot

In recent years, Serena Williams has certainly made headlines at the US Open – and not because of her tennis. This year, she’s getting a head start stirring the pot as she complains about the “bad things” that have happened to her at the US Open. She definitely got robbed on a poor line call in 2004, but her gripes about incidents in 2009 and for sure in 2011 are dubious. Her defense in 2009 (besides suggesting that she definitely didn’t foot fault) is that she looked at the lineswoman after the first foot fault call to try and “warn” her not to do it again, and that the lineswoman just shouldn’t make that call at that stage of the match and at that stage of the tournament. So basically, she threatened the lineswoman who should have known that late in a Grand Slam she needs to throw the rulebook out the window. As for 2011, Serena said she got a bogus hindrance call for grunting. She needs to go back and watch the tape. She didn’t grunt – she loudly and intentionally yelled “c’mon!” Yes, plenty of other shriekers are louder, but Serena’s actions made it clear as day that applying the hindrance rule was warranted. In both instances, more fans might have been behind her had she not gone on completely inappropriate tirades and showed a complete lack of remorse for doing so. And she wonders why people don’t give her enough credit for being nice…

Missing the Boat

The WTA has started a celebrity campaign to bring more fans to the game. They’re featuring celebrities like Donald Trump, Aretha Franklin, and Susan Sarandon among others. In a nutshell, the hope is that fans of the featured celebs will follow those celebs to tennis, and in turn, become tennis fans themselves. I applaud the WTA’s creativity, but I wonder if they aren’t glossing over one of the more real issues when it comes to fans of the WTA. I don’t care how many celebs you have in your corner, if you want to bring fans to the game and more importantly, keep them, then they’ve got to do something about the awful screeching. The WTA is to be coming out with further info on a grunt policy in the very near future, so fingers crossed that they’re actually going to be doing something concrete instead of just blowing smoke. After all, no amount of glitz and glamour can mask the ugly sound of someone who sounds like a shrieking banshee.