last resort

THE LEGACY OF RAFAEL NADAL: THE FRIDAY FIVE

Making History – We’ll agree to disagree on the bigger picture of tennis player Rafael Nadal and his career, but I’m more than happy to join the masses who consider him not only one of the greatest talents to have played the game, but the undisputable king of clay.  This was certainly apparent in Nadal’s road to victory this past weekend. Absorbing bludgeoning blow after bludgeoning blow from Ernests Gulbis in the semis, Nadal hung in there with the big hitting Latvian and eventually found a way to grind out a tough three set win.  He then held his composure during a rain-delayed first set against countryman David Ferrer in the final before going on to win the second set and claim his fifth title in Rome.  The title also marked Nadal’s 17th Masters 1000 win, which ties him with Andre Agassi for most Masters 1000 wins, and all before the age of 24.  Undoubtedly the Spaniard will add to this already impressive total, further adding to his legacy in the annals of the game.

Chalk One Up – It took approximately four months, but after coming tantalizingly close earlier in the season, Justine Henin has chalked up her first tournament victory since making her return to competitive tennis.  The win came on her beloved clay, the surface on which she has traditionally enjoyed the most success.  Despite her stumble in the second set, Henin’s three set win over the in-form Sam Stosur was impressive.  Now that she has gotten over that mini-hurdle, it will be interesting to see if she starts swinging a little more freely going into the second major of the year.

Last Resort – After missing several weeks and undergoing multiple treatments, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro has announced that he ran out of options and underwent surgery this past Tuesday to fix his wrist.  It is impossible for Del Potro to name a return date at this stage in the game and has just stated that he will be out for “a long period” (reports indicate anywhere from three to six months). I’m sure I’m not alone and really feeling for Del Potro. He was knocking on the door throughout the majority of 2009 before finally breaking through in a big way at the US Open. It’s a tragedy that this injury comes so close on the heels of his success, but based on his comments, it sounds like he will only come back stronger.

Poor Timing – Earlier this week, Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t shy about his expressing his opinion regarding the timing of Australia’s upcoming inter-zonal tie against Japan this weekend. Coming just a week after the Rome Masters and days before the Madrid Masters, the timing could not have been worse.  Undoubtedly Hewitt would have preferred to spend more time prepping for Madrid, particularly given his lack of match play in 2010, but without the former world No. 1, Australia, historically one of the most dominant nations in Davis Cup play, may not even reach the World Group Playoffs in September. I’ll grant you that the inter-zonal matches are not the same draw as those in the World Group, but this was just one more glaring example of why the ITF needs to do something to restructure the Davis Cup format as it relates to the ATP World Tour calendar.

Latest in Technology – To-date, the hawk-eye technology has been the latest development used to enhance the game of tennis for the players and the fans. Later this month, the Madrid Masters will take things one step farther by airing the men’s and women’s singles finals in 3D. The matches will air in theatres in the cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga.  It will be interesting to hear fans’ responses to viewing matches in this format, and who knows?  It may just become the next latest craze to hit the tennis world.