Slumping Caroline Wozniacki and John Isner Continue Spiraling Downward — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Clinic

We’ve all heard the phrase a player is “putting on a clinic.” It frequently happens in the early rounds of tournaments when the top-ranked players barely lose games, let alone sets against their less-accomplished opposition. What we don’t often hear about, or see for that matter, is the veteran 30+-year-old putting on a clinic against the sport’s best. Yet that’s just what happened Tuesday night as Tommy Haas shocked everyone, including himself, by becoming the oldest man in over thirty years to defeat the World No. 1. Haas might as well have been called King Midas that night, for everything his racquet touched turned to gold. And for those who will argue that it was one of the uglier matches from Djokovic, they’re right. He never could find his rhythm, particularly off the forehand wing. But the biggest reason behind his poor play – and Djokovic admitted as much – was the phenomenal shot-making coming from the other side of the net. Haas was getting it done from everywhere in the court, and even in the long rallies, it was Djokovic who blinked first. Equally impressive, Haas followed up his big win with a thrashing of No. 11 seed Simon to reach the semis. It may not come consistently, but hats off to Haas for managing to produce the kind of tennis that took him to No. 2 in the world 11 years ago and proving that even in tennis, age is sometimes still just a number.

Taking Action

Maybe they would have done it anyway. Maybe they realized it was time to start keeping up with the Joneses – aka Indian Wells. Whatever the reason, IMG has announced it s plans to start upgrading the year’s second Masters event, and not a moment too soon. Plans include the building of three new stadiums, upgrades to the current center court, and adding an acre of green space. Despite the fact that construction won’t begin until have next year’s event, organizers are confident that the three phases of upgrades will be completed in time for the 2017 edition of the Sony Open. News of the upgrades is both much-needed and much-welcomed for the event that used to unofficially be known as the “Fifth Slam” – a moniker that most believe now belongs to the BNP Paribas Open. Miami has a ways to go before it catches up with all of the changes that have been made to the event in the desert, but the Sony Open is taking a step in the right direction.

Boon Continues

Between the exhibition tours and Rafael Nadal opting to make his return to competitive tennis at the small 250 event in Chile, tennis in South America has enjoyed a surge. Things continue to get better for the continent with the news that the Rio Open is a go for next season and will be staged in the middle of February during the South American Golden Swing. The Rio Open, like the Memphis event it is replacing, will be a combined ATP and WTA event. With eight clay courts and a center court that seats 7,000, the Rio Open will also be the largest tennis event in South America. And while the women’s purse is relatively small, its $1.2 million prize purse for the men is sure to draw top talent. This new event should prove a major positive for tennis in South America and the sport globally, especially since it appears to have the makings to provide some drama and excitement during one of the traditionally slow pockets on the tennis calendar.

Caroline Wozniacki (Christopher Levy for Tennis Grandstand)

Called Out

Hall of Famer Ann Haydon-Jones joins the list of tennis pundits questioning Caroline Wozniacki’s ability and drive for the game. The former Wimbledon and Roland Garros champion argued that instead of focusing on her new line of lingerie, Wozniacki ought o be focused more on her tennis. She also cited other women who currently cash in on their looks, which Jones conceded is not necessarily a bad thing, but you need to have the results on the court to back that up – something that’s sorely been lacking for the Dane of late. Of course, Jones alluded to the fact that Wozniacki might be looking to make her fame elsewhere if she feels she’s incapable of winning the big one, but based on her own comments, it’s unlikely Wozniacki feels that way or would admit to such feelings. Unfortunately, she’s done little in recent memory to prove Jones or any other critic wrong on such an assumption. Maybe this latest bout of commentary from Jones will catch Wozniacki’s attention. Then again, Wozniacki has been downright stubborn about making adjustments, so it’s likely she’ll just continue to spin her wheels. Still, one can hope.

Brutally Blunt

Isner actually won a match before being dismissed in the third round by Cilic in Miami, but it was still a disappointing effort from the American. What wasn’t disappointing, however, was Isner’s reaction to where he’s at with his game right now. There were no excuses. He confirmed that he isn’t physically tired, nor is he mentally tired. To put it diplomatically, Isner stated he knows he needs to get his butt in gear, and he’s looking forward to starting that process as part of the American squad that will be taking on Serbia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals. He’s in luck, too. Team USA is led by Captain Jim Courier, a man well known for being one of the hardest workers in the history of the game. If anyone can possibly get through to Isner, it’s Courier. Plus, just as Davis Cup last year proved what Isner is capable of when firing on all cylinders, perhaps Davis Cup this year will be where he’s once again able to put it all together and gain some momentum going into the rest of 2013.