Cautionary Novak Djokovic; Minor Setback for Sam Querrey — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Novak Djokovic (Christopher Levy / Tennis Grandstand)

Touch and Go

The spring clay court season of the ATP World Tour is set to kick it into high gear next week, but it may not be firing on all cylinders. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic badly sprained his ankle in his winning effort to help lead Serbia to victory over the United States in Davis Cup play last weekend and is uncertain if he will compete in Monte Carlo. Thankfully, an MRI showed there was no structural damage to the joint capsule or ligaments, but there is a strain on the joint, which requires rest and therapy. Incidents like this are a prime example of why the top players are often reluctant to consistently represent their countries in Davis Cup competition. The team competition’s scheduling leaves little room for recovery heading into regular tour events when freak accidents occur. Djokovic’s health and subsequent ability to peak later in the clay court season are more important, but hopefully he’ll be sufficiently recovered to contest his adopted home tournament. As the most likely answer to the question “Can anyone stop Nadal on clay?” fans are anxious to see Djokovic and Nadal renew their compelling rivalry sooner rather than later.

Bad Timing

On Thursday, David Ferrer announced he has had to pull out of the Monte Carlo Masters due to a thigh injury. For a tournament that is already missing Federer and may yet lose Djokovic, Ferrer’s withdrawal comes at a particularly bad time not just for the Spaniard personally, but for the tournament organizers as well. Ferrer would have come into Monte Carlo riding a wave of confidence after a good showing in Miami where he held match point against Murray before eventually falling in the title match. Additionally, though he has proven he’s a man of all surfaces, Ferrer typically produces his best on the clay. It’s the surface that, with the exception of Nadal, provides him his greatest opportunity to earn a win over the guys ranked ahead of him, which makes his recent withdrawal all the more frustrating for both him and his fans. On a positive note, however, at least the injury has come early in the spring clay court season. Ferrer is hopeful of being ready to compete again come Barcelona, and at the very least looks like he should be set for Madrid and Rome.

Minor Setback

If Sam Querrey was still smarting after losing in the decisive fourth rubber against Djokovic during last weekend’s Davis Cup tie, he’s going to have plenty of time to get over it. Unfortunately, the American was looking to get back on the horse again at this week’s Houston event, but that’s not going to happen. The strained right pectoral muscle, which played a large part in his only winning one game in the last two sets of his encounter with Djokovic, has forced him to withdraw from the tournament. As the top American, Querrey was undoubtedly disappointed at the missed opportunity to add points to his ranking and continue to build on his good start to the season, but resting the injury was the wiser decision. The good news is that it’s certainly nothing serious, and Querrey is very confident he’ll be 100% for his next scheduled event, Madrid.

Homeward Bound

Roger Federer delighted his home fans when he announced his commitment to compete at his hometown tournament in Basel later this year. It was uncertain whether Federer would compete in Basel in 2013 thanks to a contractual dispute regarding the amount of the appearance fee his management team was seeking. It’s hard to knock Federer for his demands (specifics were never confirmed). A number of tournaments dole out exceptional appearance fees to many of the game’s top players. Federer is also at a stage where he needs to be even more vigilant about scheduling. Basel is a great event, but it’s not as essential to the Swiss No. 1 as tune-ups for a major. It’s understandable he’d look for additional incentives to compete at those mid-level, end-of-season events. Thankfully, all parties were able to reach some type of an agreement, which means organizers, Federer, and the fans, are happy.

Dream Team

Captain of Fed Cup Team USA Mary Jo Fernandez has named her squad for the upcoming tie against Sweden, and it’s a squad that’s making headlines. In addition to Stephens and Lepchenko, the team also includes the Williams Sisters. As World No. 1 with a flawless record in team competition play, Serena is a definite ace in the whole. Unfortunately, the Williams Sisters also have a bit of a history of pulling out of the Fed Cup, so we’ll wait to see if this dream team pans out into a reality. Still, with the Fed Cup requirements for qualifying for the Olympics and the upcoming April 20-21 tie set to take place in Delray Beach, odds are strong this time that the Williams Sisters will follow through and compete for the red, white and blue.