Cutting Del Potro some slack; familiar foes to meet for Davis Cup finals — The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
Just as they did three years ago, Spain and the Czech Republic will face off to take home the Davis Cup title. It’s familiar territory for Spain, the most dominant Davis Cup team of this century. Playing in their home country on clay, they proved too much for the American squad, with David Ferrer – less than a week removed from a semifinal showing in New York – coming up big to send his nation to the final. On the other side of the draw, the Czechs took on last year’s finalist, Argentina, and it was the talented Tomas Berdych who continued to play the type of tennis that took him to the semis of the US Open to get the Czechs back to the final. The Czechs will host Spain for title honors in November, but they will have their work cut out for them. No matter what surface they choose, Spain’s depth will be a huge obstacle. But if Berdych can maintain his form and Stepanek play his brand of quirky tennis that makes so many opponents uncomfortable, it could make for a very entertaining end to the 2012 season.
While two teams were celebrating a trip to the final, another Davis Cup team was busy pointing fingers. Unfortunately for Juan Martin del Potro, the bulk of the blame for Argentina’s loss to the Czech Republic fell on his shoulders. Some called the Argentine’s wrist injury into question, claiming he could have played singles on Sunday, and another source accused him of not being a team player. It’s difficult not to suspect that del Potro is getting the short end of the stick. He’s never been classified as high maintenance, so it’s hard to imagine him being a problematic team member. And while it’s not an excuse if that is in fact the case, there have been numerous reports of alleged rifts between the various Argentine players for years, so if del Potro chose not to socialize with his teammates for much of the tie, that ought to be seen as par for the course with fault on both sides. The more mind-boggling thing is that his injury would be brought into question. He was clearly suffering back in Cincinnati and was unable to fully crack it at the US Open. With essentially no recovery time since mid-August, it would have been more surprising if his wrist were 100%. Besides, at the end of the day, the guy was a hero who bounced back from a devastating semifinal loss to Federer to bring home an Olympic Bronze with a victory over Djokovic. Cut him some slack.
As tumultuous as the situation with Argentine tennis is, it’s nothing compared to the turmoil that is enveloping tennis in India. Mahesh Bhupathi has come out swinging against the AITA – the governing body of Indian tennis – in the wake of the organization handing him and partner Bopanna a two-year ban from Davis Cup. The ban shouldn’t have come as a shock to the players, as the AITA had warned both Bhupathi and Bopanna that action would be taken against them when they were allowed to refuse partnering with Paes in favor of partnering with one another for the 2012 Olympics. It’s easy to see both sides of the equation. The feud between Bhupathi and Paes is well documented, and Bhupathi had gotten comfortable playing with Bopanna in preparation for the London Games. On the other hand, a country has the right to field what it feels is the best team possible for bringing home a medal, and there’s little doubt that on paper and past results, Paes and Bhupathi fit that bill. The AITA wasn’t out of line to ask the two men to put their differences aside to achieve success. There’s plenty of blame to go around. The only thing for certain is that with Bhupathi claiming years of mismanagement by the AITA, and the AITA striking back to refute those claims, things are bound to get a lot uglier before the matter is resolved. Expect more drama to follow.
There are still some big tournaments left to be contested, but with the US Open done and dusted, many are already starting to look toward the 2013 season. Venus Williams has fans buzzing with the news that she’s planning to play Hopman Cup with countryman John Isner, making the American duo the second high profile tandem alongside Djokovic/Ivanovic to commit to the mixed team competition. It will mark the first time Venus has played the event, and it arguably couldn’t come at a better time for her. It’s less stressful than a formal WTA event and guarantees her a set number of matches, which is just what the doctor ordered as she looks to ease her way back into competition next year. And as a side note, they’re not a lock to walk away the victors, but Isner and V. Williams have to make for one intimidating combo in the mixed doubles!
He’d undoubtedly prefer to be back out and winning on the tennis courts, but Rafael Nadal did enjoy a spot of good fortune earlier this week as he was named Spanish Vanity Fair’s “Male Personality of the Year.” At the awards reception, Nadal talked very candidly about where he is in his career. His comments hinted that he may be looking at another five years, but he also suggested that his current hiatus from the game could further extend his career. In the end, it all depends on how much longer his body can hold up, as well as where his physical struggles leave him mentally. For now though, Nadal seems to be enjoying himself, which, assuming we don’t see him the rest of this season, should leave him plenty fresh and ready to go in 2013.