By Maud Watson
And the Award Goes to… – In the aftermath of the Oscars, one of sports’ most prestigious awards, the Laureus Awards, were announced earlier this week. Tennis twice took top honors, with Serena Williams winning for Sportswoman of the Year, while Kim Clijsters took home the prize for Comeback of the Year. The only head scratcher for me was Federer going away empty handed, especially since he essentially had a better season than Serena Williams. That said, track star Usain Bolt, who won Sportsman of the Year, was a deserving candidate, and overall, it was still another great showing for tennis.
Bit of Joy – After the devastating earthquake that caused the tie between Chile and Israel to be delayed by a day, it was host country Chile that gave their home nation something to smile about in the wake of tragedy. Chile ultimately won the tie 4-1. After the win, Chilean star Fernando Gonzales dedicated the victory to his fellow countryman and announced he was going one step further to assist with relief efforts by pulling out of Indian Wells to tour the areas hit hardest by the quake, as well as leading calls to raise aid.
The Good Goran Returns – Much to the delight of up-and-comer Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic has agreed to continue to serve as his part-time coach. He’ll be with Cilic for both the Miami and Madrid Master 1000 events. This is not a permanent change, as Brett is still Cilic’s full-time coach. Given Ivanisevic’s experience, however, there’s no doubt his influence will further enhance the younger Croat’s game and see him continue his climb up the rankings.
Tennis Channel to the Rescue – After a couple years of multiple complaints from viewers, Indian Wells worked out a deal that will see Tennis Channel become the main cable provider for the tournament. It may not be ESPN2, but I was happy to see the network switch. It’s ridiculous that two of the biggest events in tennis, Indian Wells and Miami, should be on a network like Fox Sports that offers a random and small amount of coverage across the United States. It cheats the fans, and in a way, it cheats the tournament. At least this year, there should be a little less hate mail flying around as fans can tune into Tennis Channel to get the coverage they deserve.
Humiliation for Great Britain – It’s no secret that the nation of Great Britain, once a powerhouse in Davis Cup play, has been struggling to find a foothold in the competition. Particularly in the wake of the retirements of both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, as well as a lack of participation from current British No. 1 Andy Murray, the people of Great Britain have collectively had to hold their breath with each nerve-wracking tie. But this past weekend was more than nerve-wracking for the Brits; it was humiliating, as current British Captain John Lloyd “earned” the distinction of becoming the first British captain in 110 years to lose five successive ties, the latest coming at the hands of Lithuania. Now just a step away from being relegated to the lowest level of the Davis Cup competition, the LTA is reviewing what went wrong against the tiny Baltic nation. Sources speculate John Lloyd may get the sack, and many, including Boris Becker, are suggesting that Tim Henman is the ideal candidate to replace Lloyd. I’m not opposed to Henman taking over the helm (though he’s already stated he’s not interested in the position at this time), but I personally think the LTA is missing the point if that’s all that is done. Even Henman himself has stated it isn’t fair to blame Lloyd or Annacone for Britain’s poor performance. If the talent isn’t there (or properly developed as the case may be), it’s hard to win a Davis Cup match, irrespective of who’s guiding the ship.
By Maud Watson
The Back Saga Continues – Once again, Dinara Safina’s back has forced her to withdraw from a tournament. This time, it is the prestigious BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Safina has stated that her back is still causing her too much pain to even consider competing next week in California, and is now setting her sights on the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Safina is missing a golden opportunity to compete at Indian Wells, given that the field is already weakened by the absence of the Williams sisters, and it is dicey she’ll be able to compete in Miami. If Safina is forced to continually miss these large events, she may find herself hanging her racquet up much sooner than expected, which would be a loss for women’s tennis.
The Show Will Go On – Despite the devastating earthquake that hit Chile this past weekend, the Davis Cup tie between host nation Chile and Israel will still be contested this coming weekend, just a day later than planned as players and officials were understandably delayed in making the trip to the South American country. Israel is a nation that has obviously seen more than its share of turmoil over the past decades, but I must admit that I have my fingers crossed that the Chilean team is able to bring a bit a joy to their home country as sport can so often do for troubled nations.
Headed to the Hall – This past Monday, it was announced that the Woodies (Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde), Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, Owen Davidson, Brad Parks, and Derek Hardwick will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame later this summer. It’s nice to see some of the greatest doubles teams in history get some recognition, as well as Brad Parks, who will be the first wheelchair tennis player enshrined at Newport. Fernandez, Davidson, and Parks were on hand at Madison Square Garden Monday evening for the Billie Jean King Cup, where they were officially recognized and congratulated for their impending enshrinement. And in case you missed it, Venus Williams also defeated Kim Clijsters in three tight sets to take the exhibition title.
More Hip Woes – The latest player to fall victim to hip surgery is Germany’s Tommy Haas. Germany’s Bild reported that Haas could be out for as many as six months as he recovers from recent surgery to his right hip. At least Haas should be able to retain a protected ranking for when he does return, but one has to feel for him given that he enjoyed a resurgence in his career the latter half of 2009. Perhaps that resurgence will be what ultimately pushes him to bounce back from this latest setback.
Victory at Last – After being touted as one of the game’s next great talents before falling into an early slump, Ernests Gulbis finally won his maiden title this past week at Delray Beach. Gulbis took out big man Dr. Ivo Karlovic 6-2, 6-3 to become the first Latvian to notch up a tournament win on the ATP World Tour. The question will be if this victory is merely a flash in the pan or the sign of bigger and better things to come for the player with so much talent but who has thus far proved to be nothing more than a massive underachiever.