By Maud Watson
The 2013 tennis season got underway this week, but unfortunately for Nadal, his season didn’t start with it. Citing a stomach bug, the Spaniard pulled out of the Abu Dhabi exhibition event in late December and then shocked everyone when he named that same bug as his reason for not only withdrawing from Doha, but the Australian Open as well. His decision left even his most ardent fans scratching their heads and had others spinning conspiracy theories. Wild conspiracy theories aside, he does seem to be taking an exceptionally long time to recover from this stomach bug considering it had to have hit him at least a few days before Abu Dhabi for him to have not made the trip there. And while everyone understands Nadal’s need for caution and recognizes that a major isn’t the most ideal event for his return, making a comeback at the Australian Open might not have been such a bad thing. At best, he was always going be the fourth favorite to win it. The same won’t likely be true if he returns on the clay in February. With his track record on the dirt, fans will have high expectations for him irrespective of how long he has sat out of the game. Couple that with the natural pressure that comes from returning from an extended layoff, and it could be an even bigger ask for Nadal to deliver when he finally does return to competition. A potential poor return on the clay would also likely be more damaging to his mental game than an early loss on hard courts. So who knows how it will all shake out? The only thing for certain is that Nadal has managed to kick off 2013 with more questions than he ended with last season.
Cruel Twist of Fate
The player who arguably suffered the biggest disappointment in the opening week of the 2013 season was Andrea Petkovic. The affable German, who had more than her share of injury woes in 2012, was to play the Hopman Cup alongside her compatriot, the resurgent Tommy Haas. But in her opening match against young Aussie Ashleigh Barty, she suffered a knee injury that sadly left her in tears. She’s since had to pull out of the year’s first major with a rupture of the medial meniscus. She will be out another one to three months, depending on whether the rupture can be treated via a simple trimming or will need to once again be sewn. Hopefully it will be the speedier option. With a jovial disposition, hers is a personality from which the WTA could greatly benefit, and after all she went through last year, she’s due a good run of form in 2013.
It seems officials aren’t wasting any time in implementing the ATP’s new measures to better enforce the 25-second rule between points. They’ve handed out more than a few warnings and violations this week, and with the mini-meltdowns of Monfils and F. Lopez, it’s apparent that it’s going to take some adjustments from the players. Wrinkles like determining when the umpire should start the clock, show some leeway with the rule, and what constitutes a player being ready to serve all need to be ironed out, but the actions of officials this week do provide hope that this will properly up the tempo of the sport. It was particularly rewarding to see one official give Lopez a warning when he was triple set point down. After all, if the rules aren’t adhered to in the most crucial moments of a match, why have them in the first place? It remains to be seen if umpires will have the courage to apply the rules in equal measure against the megastars and on the bigger stages, but their actions this week certainly show promise.
Rumbles Down Under
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it thunder Down Under, but Bernard Tomic is making some noise in Perth. The young Aussie is paired with the even younger Ashleigh Barty in the Hopman Cup, and he’s delighted the home fans with a solid win over Tommy Haas and a very impressive victory over Novak Djokovic. Granted, there isn’t a lot on the line at the team competition. It’s a fun time that allows the competitors the opportunity to get a few matches under their belts before the Australian Open, so no one, including Tomic, is operating under the assumption that someone like Djokovic was giving the same kind of effort he will in Melbourne. But the Serb, and Haas for that matter, didn’t tank their matches against Tomic either. Based on his comments, the Aussie is also taking confidence from the victories and interpreting them as his hard work paying off. But the most crucial point of all is, that for a guy who generated a lot of negative press at the end of 2012, these were the kind of positive headlines he needed to boost his image. In short, Tomic couldn’t have asked for a better start to his 2013.
Don’t Kneed This
American tennis hopes took a hit earlier this week when John Isner was forced to pull out of the Hopman Cup with a right knee injury. It capped off a forgettable week for the American, who lost both of his singles matches to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson and France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga respectively. Isner remained upbeat about his situation however, stating that even though he was unsure if he was suffering from tendinitis or something more serious, he’s always experienced speedy recoveries and plans on being ready to go for the Australian Open. Hopefully the towering American’s self-assessment is correct. Between the majority of the points he has to defend coming at the front of the season and a string of lackluster results dating back to the second half of 2012, Isner is in dire need of a strong showing in Melbourne.