no doubt

Further Calls for a Shorter Tour Highlight Injury Problems

Last week’s article looked at whether Russian star Elena Dementieva’s shock retirement outlined a tendency for money-rich stars to get out of the sport for other pursuits more readily. Over the past few days interviews with top players have seen calls for a shorter tour due to the physical strains the current setup puts on players contributing to early retirements.

The professional tennis tour currently lasts through nearly eleven months of the year with a bevy of tournaments and challengers being hosted every week for players to choose from. During the Dementieva piece it was highlighted how the Top 10s on either side can afford to pick and choose their tournaments more carefully as they already have a host of ranking points backing them up.

For everyone else, however, it’s a case of scrounge every point you can get. It’s like an expensive, and slightly more entertaining, version of Hungry Hungry Hippos. It makes for a long and exciting tour for us fans but what about the pros involved week-in, week-out?

Over recent years a number of top pros have “fizzled out” due to injury or mental strain after a bright start. Jennifer Capriati faced all sorts of issues off-court while players like Marcos Baghdatis and David Nalbandian have never quite reached where they should have because of continual injuries.

As we speak, Nikolay Davydenko has had his 2010 ruined due to wrist injuries while we can only hope that Juan Martin Del Potro returns as exciting and vigorous as he was throughout 2009 next year.

And further down the ladder, American Taylor Dent has finally given up the goose after doing so well to fight back from a debilitating back injury. It is so sad to see such problems happen to genuinely worthy individuals. Of course they are always thankful for what they have experienced and accomplished. But there is no doubt that they will always feel they could, and probably should, have had more.

With Rafael Nadal’s mentor Toni admitting that Rafa is going to have to play a reduced calendar from 2011 to prevent complete destruction of his knees, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have also been calling for a reduced tour to help the physical and mental conditions of people who, for all the fame, riches and glory, do spend roughly ten months of the year away from friends and family having to keep themselves in peak condition for fear of losing touch with the top.

“I think it’s time we shifted back a bit and we get a proper off-season,” said world No. 2 Federer. “Four weeks is just not enough. I think six is much better as you can take two weeks off… practise three, four weeks which is a lot for us in our world.”

Federer also added that it may help the closing tournaments of the year who are often hit with withdrawals from top players who have either long-since secured their places at the WTA/ATP Finals, or want to end the year earlier to enable them to recuperate and prepare for their assault on the Australian Open.

The calls have previously been backed by Nadal and also world No. 3 Novak Djokovic, who both sit with Federer on the Players’ Council.

Andy Murray also added that players such as Dent, Nalbandian and Lleyton Hewitt would be helped by a less demanding schedule being placed on their body.

“There’s no time for you to take a break to get rid of an injury,” the 23-year-old Scotsman told The Sun newspaper. “Instead players end up playing through it and that actually shortens careers.

“There should be fewer mandatory tournaments because you get punished so much for being injured and I don’t really think that’s fair. If after the US Open you had two or three months when you could actually take time off to recover, players would have longer careers.”

It’s not just the length of the tour which proves a gripe for some players either. Some despise the constant switch between surfaces and the changes in speed from one tournament to another prove a problem for consistency. Before this week, 64 ATP Tournaments had been played this calendar year. We’ve had 36 on hard courts, 22 on clay and six on grass.

“I like varying surfaces… indoor tennis should be fast,” said Murray. “But it’s annoying when it changes week to week. Last week [in Valencia] was one of the slowest courts we’ve had all year, and here it was lightning quick.

“It would be nice for the players to have a run of tournaments on the same surfaces. It’s tough to play tennis week in, week out if you’re always changing the surface. You’re not going to play your best tennis after just two days.”

The new, lightning-quick surface at Paris is proving a hit with the players who feel that many have been slowed down too much in recent years.

“It’s a different type of tennis,” said American No. 1 Andy Roddick. “I believe it’s become so monotonous … it feels like there is a slow court available nine months of the year.”

Federer backed up those sentiments: “It’s nice that some tournaments have made the courts faster again. I’m not saying it should be the trend for all the tournaments, but indoors is supposed to be faster. We only have one indoor Masters 1000, so I think it should be the fastest one, which is the case.

“Shanghai was brutally slow; Toronto was very slow as well. The only other one that is a little bit fast is Cincinnati, then Miami and Indian Wells have been also slowed down drastically. It’s good for the players, honestly, to experience a faster court again, and a bit of two-shot tennis is fun for a change to do. It’s tricky, it’s not easy—but it’s fun.”

Could the change in surfaces be contributing to the increase in injuries? Could the continuing change of pace be a problem? The Sports Medicine Information website lists common tennis injuries along with treatment and prevention techniques. Surely one of the biggest preventions of all would be to reduce the strain on tennis pros?

The ATP schedules for 2012 and 2013 will be finalised during a series of board meetings to take place during the ATP Finals in London in the next couple of weeks. It remains to be seen whether they will listen to their top pros or whether the dollar signs will continue to be too hard to resist.

The Elected Representative: Caroline Wozniacki – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Hanging it Up

After previously stating that he might give it a go in 2011 and see how both his body and ranking held up, American Taylor Dent has decided to officially call it a day on his career. An exciting serve-and-volleyer who reached a career high ranking of No. 21, his career was unfortunately hampered by multiple back injuries. With his wife and young son Declan, Dent will have plenty to keep him busy in retirement, but he’s already expressed interest in staying connected with the tennis world. No doubt that with his charming disposition, he could make a great addition to Tennis Channel’s commentary booth. Another retirement, albeit less publicized, was that of Czech doubles specialist, Martin Damm. You can expect to see him back on the tennis scene right away, however, as he has already announced that he will be coaching American sensation Ryan Harrison. Harrison wowed audiences at the US Open this past summer, and he’ll be looking to utilize Damm’s expertise to take the next step in his budding career.

Prayers Answered

Maybe it was the numerous complaints from fans across the country. Maybe it was a more lucrative deal. Whatever the reasoning behind the switch, American tennis fans will be thrilled to note that the Indian Wells and Miami Masters, two of the largest events in tennis, will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ABC in 2011. This is welcomed news after the two tournaments had previously been aired on the affiliates of Fox Sports, which meant poor, haphazard coverage that led to plenty of hate mail and angry postings. Hopefully the change in carriers will also lead to an increase in viewership, participation, and popularity of the sport in the United States

Repeat Champs

This past weekend, Italy defeated the United States in a repeat of the 2009 final. The title marked Italy’s third championship in just four years. Granted, the United States was fielding a relatively young team that included teenage Fed Cup rookie Coco Vandeweghe, but much credit has to be given to the veteran Italian squad that included both Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. The victory in particular had to be the icing on the cake for Schiavone, who enjoyed her best season as a professional. Perhaps both of the Italians will be able to channel the positive boost from the Fed Cup title into their play in 2011, much the same way Schiavone did this past year.

London Calling

Tournament organizers and Parisian fans were disappointed when current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was forced to pull out of the final Masters event of the season, having cited tendinitis in his shoulder. Hopefully the injury is not a result of the tweaks he has made to improve his serve, and Nadal and his camp will be praying it doesn’t become nearly as problematic as his knees. At the very least, Nadal will be doing all in his power to ensure that he is ready for the final tournament of his season, the ATP World Tour Championships in London. He’s yet to add that impressive title to his long list of accomplishments, and after a poor showing at the same event last year, he’ll be looking to make amends at the end of what has been the best season of his young career.

Elected Representative

While much of the United States was focused on its national elections, the WTA had its own election earlier this month. Newly-crowned year-end No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki will be joining the WTA Player Council, replacing Patty Schnyder. In addition to Akgul Amanmuradova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Wozniaki will be joining Schiavone and both Venus and Serena Williams. As Wozniaki’s star has only continued to shine brighter with each tournament she enters, it’s safe to say that hers will be a voice that carries some weight as the Player Council works to continually shape policy and life on the WTA.

Another Betting Scandal – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Another Betting Scandal

The fall is traditionally the quiet time of the tennis year, but controversy never sleeps. IMG owner Ted Forstmann has admitted to betting on sporting events involving IMG clients. The news made a splash on the tennis radar when allegations were that he lost $40,000 betting in favor of Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal in the 2007 Roland Garros final. Reports alleged that he made the bet after receiving inside information from man from Switzerland. No doubt Forstmann made a mistake on this one. Irrespective of the fact that the amount of the bet was a drop in the bucket when compared to his annual income, there’s a definite conflict of interest when it comes to betting on your own clients. The story also seemed a bit far-fetched given that Roger Federer has generally been the epitome of good sportsmanship and fairness, so it was always assumed unlikely that Federer would risk the humiliation and ban he would be slapped with if he had aided in the betting. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this is that none seem to even be considering the possibility that Federer could be guilty in any of it.

Injury Update

Not that it’s a shocker after all the reports last week, but Serena Williams has officially called it a season, citing that she re-tore the tendon in her foot. Things are much grimmer for her fellow competitor Aggie Radwanska, however. The young Pole’s worst fears were realized when it transpired that the stress fracture in her foot has required surgery. She will need at least three months to recover before she can return to competition, which means she’ll be missing the first major of the year. Despite the setback, still look for Radwanska to collect some big upsets in 2011, as her unorthodox game will continue to give the big hitters fits, even if she is going to be starting the season behind the eight ball.

History Saved

In case you’ve missed it, it wasn’t all that long ago that the West Side Tennis Club stadium at Forest Hills, home to the US Open from 1915-1977, was headed towards being turned into a bunch of condos. The vote on what to do with the club ended in a draw, 123-123, but those wanting to keep the club stadium intact won out, as it would have taken a two-thirds majority to seal the condo deal. The question in the coming weeks will be if this is just a temporary reprieve or if the club has truly dodged a bullet. With neither the USTA nor the International Tennis Hall of Fame in a position to offer much financial assistance, it could be the former. Hopefully it will achieve historical landmark status or their fortunes will turn around by some other means, as it would be a shame to see this historical venue fall victim to financial woes.

Fearless Leader

On Wednesday it was announced that Patrick Rafter would be stepping up as the captain of the Australian Davis Cup team. The Aussie will have some big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of the legendary Harry Hopman, Neale Fraser, John Newcombe, and John Fitzgerald. Rafter has long been considered one of the nice guys on tour, and having won back-to-back US Open titles, he knows what it takes to get to the top. His experience and attitude should only pay dividends, and when coupling that with Tony Roche on as coach and Rafter’s good relationship with Lleyton Hewitt nearly sure to cement the younger Aussie’s commitment to the team competition, things look positive for the Australian team. Hopefully the results will come, as Rafter never had the pleasure of winning the Davis Cup as a player, and it would go a long way towards filling that void if he were to do it as a captain.

Back on Track?

Last week proved the perfect storm for Ana Ivanovic, and it may have just given her the boost she needs as she starts to look ahead to 2011. The young Serb, whose fall in the rankings has been well publicized, had no intention of playing in Linz but made the last minute decision to take a wildcard when Serena Williams unexpectedly withdrew. The result? She worked her way to the final. The fact that she hadn’t won a title in two years must have been the furthest thing from her mind as she thrashed the Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder, dropping just three games to claim victory. It’s too early to tell if this was just a good week, or if this is the beginning of a comeback that will see Ivanovic work her way back into the Top Ten next season. Many hope it’s the latter, and there’s little doubt that the WTA Tour could use another big name back at the top.

Caroline Wozniacki: Girl With a Keen Fashion Sense

So what do you do if you are the top seeded player at the women’s at the US Open 2010 tournament and you have overcome some of your biggest foes on court by playing well and working hard?  Yes, you take a break  and attend the “Fashion’s Night Out” in New York City.  The largest public fashion show in the history of  New York City.

That ‘s where Caroline Wozniacki was last night and she did it in style. The delicious Dane looked hot in her dress and no doubt grabbed much of the attention of media and photographers at the New York event.

In her own words Sweet Caroline told us on Twitter what she wore at the Fashion’s Night Out event:

Sweet Caroline has a keen fashion sense after reading the US Open interview of September 6 where she told the press the following:

Q. How important is it to look good on the court for you?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Well, I’m so lucky that I am the face of adidas and Stella McCartney and I have my own special line that no one else is wearing. I think that’s really nice. For me it’s important to feel good on court and of course to look good. Then I can focus on my tennis at 100%.

Q. In this case, don’t you think it’s a bit short, your dress?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I think it’s nice. I definitely am sure I’ll get a lot of male fans now (laughter).

Jump On The Nalbandwagon

Anyone else ready to jump on the Nalbandwagon?

While I can’t claim that nifty term as my own, I have no doubt that many tennis fans and members of the media will be starting to mention Nalbandian’s name as a real threat as the U.S. Open approaches. The Argentine is sure to be on many people’s list of darkhorse candidates. Giving Nalbandian the underdog tag however, is not doing him any justice. The reasons for his fall in the rankings has nothing to do with a lack of talent or work ethic.

Few players have had to endure the injury troubles that Nalbandian has faced in the past couple of seasons. I’d put him up there with Tommy Haas in terms of veteran players with tons of skill and little luck. Having reached the finals of Wimbledon in 2002, Nalbandian is one of only a few players who have made the semis of every other Grand Slam as well. (U.S. Open in ’03, Australian Open in ’06 and the French Open in ’04 and ’06.)

Nalbandian’s injury troubles began in May of 2009 when he was sidelined for the rest of the ATP season after undergoing hip surgery. When he came back for the start of the 2010 season, an abdominal injury sustained during practice delayed his return until February. He managed to squeeze in two months of play before a right leg injury derailed his progress shortly before Wimbledon. Nalbandian was seemingly unable to remain healthy.

A month ago he made his return to the tour and since that time has been absolutely on fire, winning 11 matches in a row including his victory this morning in Toronto over 5th seed Robin Soderling, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. No wonder he seems so uncharacteristically cheerful in his press conferences this week. I feel like Nalbandian’s biggest surprise in his comeback so far has been his noticeable attitude adjustment rather than the crisp ball-striking that I figured would surely return to him.

“I’ve been a long time out of the circuit, and I’m really enjoying this time now,” Nalbandian revealed after the match. Talk about an understatement!

He went on to say that the injuries, “…made me think about that and get more motivation to come, to play, to enjoy it, and work on my last few years on the tour.”

Nalbandian’s impressive winning streak began with a 3-2 Davis Cup quarter-final victory by Argentina versus Russia in July. He was instrumental in that win by knocking off both Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets.

He followed up that impressive display by marching right through the draw at the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C. His path of destruction left top-thirty level guys like Wawrinka, Cilic, Simon and finally Baghdatis in its wake.

Toronto has provided players like Nalbandian with an excellent platform towards recovery in the past. Two years ago it was Nicolas Kiefer of Germany who reclaimed his game by marching all the way to the finals where he lost to Rafa Nadal. While Nalbandian came into the tournament with a good number of wins under his belt, this is a Masters 1000 tourney with a much tougher crowd to face.

The journey for Nalbandian will only get more difficult each day he stays alive in Toronto. Next up is either world number four, Andy Murray or Gael Monfils. Once again Nalbandian will be labeled the underdog, but other players should beware if they treat him that way or they might be joining Robin Soderling with an early visit to Cincinnati.

Coach Changes For Federer and Murray: The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Coach Onboard – One of the two big news stories that broke earlier in the week was that Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer has announced that he’ll be working with American coach Paul Annacone. Paul Annacone is one of the most respected coaches in the sport, and his work speaks for itself. He’s had the experience of dealing with a legend of the game in Pete Sampras, as well as helping a guy discover his best form late in a career as shown in his work with Tim Henman. With the possible exception of someone like a Darren Cahill, it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Federer at this stage in his career. The move also represents just one more signal that Federer is still hungry and is committed to getting back to the top, and he’s not afraid to admit that he may not be able to do it solo. Annacone still has some lingering commitments to the LTA before the two can consider going fulltime, but this has all the makings of another positive turnaround in Federer’s career.

Coach Overboard
– On the opposite end of the coaching carousel is the news concerning Andy Murray and Miles Maclagan. Murray announced that after just less than three years, he is parting ways with Maclagan. Murray explained the reasons behind the split, with most of them stemming from MacLagan and Murray having differing opinions about where he is and how to get to where he wants to be. I’m inclined to see this as a very positive move for Murray, and it’s no disrespect to Maclagan. He’s done a great job with Murray, taking him to two Grand Slam finals and the No. 2 singles ranking. But there’s no doubt that Murray’s career has at best stalled, and at worst, has been in a steady decline since the Aussie Open final, excluding his unexpected run to the semis of Wimbledon. Murray is in no rush to replace Maclagan and will be staying with his part-time coach, former professional Alex Corretja, through the US Open before reevaluating the situation. Sometimes a ball of negative energy, Andy Murray can undoubtedly be a handful to coach, but there’s bound to be a nice selection of coaching candidates willing to harness that emotion and take a talented player like Murray to the next level. Stay tuned…

Fish Flying High – Confident coming off his win in Newport, Fish continued to accumulate the victories with his second straight tournament win in the inaugural ATP event in Atlanta. Battling the competition and searing summer temperatures, Fish hung on to take a third set tiebreak over fellow American John Isner in the final. It’s great to see Mardy’s hard work to get in better shape and bounce back from injury is paying dividends in a relatively short window of time. It’s also good to see him playing it smart, opting to withdraw from singles competition in Los Angeles in order to rest and give his tweaked ankle an opportunity to recuperate (and it’s probably not such a bad thing his attempt to win the doubles was abruptly cut short by the Bryan Brothers). If Fish continues to grow in confidence, he could be a dangerous floater this summer, and with his ranking jumping yet another 14 places after his performance in Atlanta, he may even earn a seed for the final major of 2010.


The Road Back?
– Less publicized over the weekend was former World No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze’s win over Johanna Larsson to win the Slovenia Open. Chakvetadze seems to have predominantly (and understandably) gone in a downward spiral ever since the traumatic robbery experience she and her family endured at their family home in Moscow in late 2007. With her ranking now outside the top 100, Chakvetadze has been a mere shadow of the Top 5 player she once was, but this win in Slovenia may just give the Russian the confidence she needs to get her ranking and her game going in the right direction once again.

Not Hanging it Up…Yet – Earlier in the year, James Blake looked all but ready to retire. He wasn’t enjoying himself on the court, the wheels had come off his game, and he was playing with pain and a lingering injury. Now, after playing without pain and earning a relatively routine win over Leonardo Mayer in his opening match L.A. , Blake is feeling much more positive about his game. His current approach couldn’t be better, setting small goals and just enjoying being out on the court. Blake has always been one of the better sportsmen in the game, and he’s had some great results in his career. Will he get back into the Top 20? Top 50? That’s hard to say, but it’s great to see that Blake may at least be able to go out on a positive note and on his terms when the time comes.

Check World Tennis Magazine’s Interview with James Blake:

Ana Ivanovic Snubbed By Rogers Cup – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Plot Thickens – Once again, mystery surrounds American tennis star Serena Williams. No doubt she’s injured, and no doubt she is questionable for the final major of the year. But it’s fair to say that there are a number of question marks surrounding how Williams acquired the injury and just how much of a threat is it to her chances of competing at the US Open. First we heard she hurt her foot and would miss the World Team Tennis season. Then we hear she needed stitches and has pulled out of all of her scheduled hard court tune up events. Now we know the World No. 1 has undergone surgery and may not make it to the Big Apple. Throw into the mix the type of injury (deep cuts on the bottom of her foot from stepping on broken glass in a restaurant), and Serena Williams has left many in the general sports world scratching their heads. The good news for Williams is that if she is able to play the US Open, she’ll still be considered one of the heavy favorites. She’s never needed many matches going into a major to post big results, so while not ideal, her lack of preparation will not be nearly as detrimental as it would be to her fellow competitors. And perhaps just maybe this latest injury will work up a little sympathy for the 13-time Grand Slam champion so that others prove less apt to revisit her infamous meltdown in the semifinals against Clijsters last year.

Serbian Snub – One of the more surprising stories of the week was the wildcard snub of Ana Ivanovic for the upcoming Montreal event. Tournament organizers defended the snub, stating that they wanted to ensure Quebec native Stephanie Dubois, whom they felt was an equal, if not bigger draw than Ivanovic for the Canadian crowd, received a wildcard into the event. As Ivanovic never quite reached the popular status of a Maria Sharapova or Williams sisters, it’s difficult to argue with the logic of the tournament organizers who presumably know what their fans want. Playing the qualies could also work in Ivanovic’s favor. Players have talked about the added hunger and mental boost that comes with earning a place in the main draw, not to mention the added advantage of having a few matches under the belt when coming up against an opponent when main draw play is underway. So while already having a ranking that would automatically see her entered in the main draw would have been preferred, qualifying for and playing the Montreal event has the potential to pay dividends later.

Recognition for Martina – The International Tennis Hall of Fame has announced that the 2010 recipient of the Eugene L. Scott Award will be none other than Martina Navratilova. The award is being given in recognition of Navratilova’s contributions to the sport of tennis, which includes her commitment to insightfully and thoughtfully commenting about the nature and state of the sport. It is appropriate that Navratilova receive this award at this stage in the game, given that she has continued to contribute to the sport of tennis in the face of her own battle with breast cancer.

Two for Two – Rising Hungarian star Agnes Szavay completed two spectacular weeks this past weekend, taking her second title in as many weeks in the Czech capital of Prague. She won the Budapest title the previous week in her native Hungary. Granted, the fields at both of these events were not exactly stacked the way that they are at the top tier tournaments, but Szavay may finally be starting to gain some consistency and deliver on the some of the promise she showed earlier in her career. Her Prague win saw her jump 11 places in the rankings, and she’ll be keen to maintain the momentum and raise that ranking even more over the course of the hard court summer season.

Mixed Bag – In a recent poll of America’s favorite female sports stars, tennis took the cake, with current stars Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova making the list, as well as Anna Kournikova and tennis legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova also earning spots among that elite ten. It was great to see such a wide spread among the tennis stars that appeared on the list, and particularly for someone like Billie Jean King who played a huge role in laying the groundwork for women’s tour, to see women’s tennis so well represented had to be immensely satisfying. On the flip side of all of this, no male tennis player earned a spot among the top ten male sports stars. One could argue they face stiffer competition with the popularity of the NFL, NBA etc., but it was still mildly surprising to not see the likes of Federer or Nadal on the list. Not that either of the European men will be broken up about losing a popularity contest in the United States, but it would still be great to see the men fare a little better in 2011.

Tennis Is Well Represented At The ESPY Awards – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Defending Champs Out – This past weekend marked the quarterfinals of the 2010 Davis Cup competition and promised plenty of good tennis matchups. But one result few could have seen coming was France’s thrashing of defending two-time champion Spain. Spain has gotten used to dishing out some 5-0 defeats of its own, but unexpectedly found itself on the receiving end of such a defeat as it suffered its first 5-0 loss since 1957. There’s little doubt that this was a disappointing showing for Spain, irrespective of the fact that they were without their No. 1 Rafael Nadal. They have won without him before, and France certainly wasn’t able to field their star players either. It was Spain’s misfortune that they ran into the one team that could match them for depth of players, and congratulations are in order for the nation of France that may be ready to make its first run to the title since 2001.
Coach in the Corner – Peter Lundgren is going to be coaching a man from Switzerland, but this time it isn’t Roger Federer. It’s the number two man for the Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka. This is a great move on Wawrinka’s part, whose results over the course of the past year have been up and down and have seen his ranking slip to outside of the Top 20. Lundgren has had another high profile pupil in Marat Safin, so there’s no doubt he possesses the ability to handle talented players and get their careers going in the right direction. Hopefully he will be able to do the same for Wawrinka by getting him to channel his talent and play within his own boundaries. If so, he could well be headed back to the Top 10.

Back on Track – On the historical grass courts of the Newport Casino, Mardy Fish suddenly found his game and emerged victorious. Fish has been an unfortunate victim of some serious injuries over the course of his career, and he’s also admitted to being more than a little negligent when it came to ensuring he was putting in the time on and off the court to be at his best. But they say it’s never late than never, and nearing his 29th birthday, Mardy Fish may be ready to make a run to the upper echelons of the men’s game, his ranking having jumped 30 places with his victory in the city by the sea. Last year’s Newport finalist appearance turned out to be a catalyst to a great summer for Sam Querrey, and it may bring Fish the same kind of results during the 2010 US Open Series.
Highest Honor – This past Saturday saw the induction of seven new members into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This induction also had a different feel as it focused on some of the greatest doubles teams of all time (though not the first…see Hewitt/McMillan, Class of 1992), and saw the induction of the first wheelchair tennis player, wheelchair tennis founder and pioneer Brad Parks. Don’t expect this to become a trend at the Hall, but rightfully I think we can expect to see more stellar doubles teams and wheelchair tennis athletes behind the podium during Enshrinement Weekend in the future.
And the ESPY goes to… – Okay, not as prestigious as the Oscars or the Emmys, and personally I think there’s a bit of American bias with these awards, but it is worth noting that tennis was well-represented at the 2010 ESPY Awards. Not surprisingly, Roger Federer and Serena Williams took top honors in the sport of tennis, while Kim Clijsters was named the Comeback of the year. But what was best was seeing that John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut took the cake for best Record-breaking Performance. Again, the quality of the tennis was not the greatest in this match, but a big thank you to those guys for gutting it out for just over 11 hours and putting tennis on the map in a multitude of ways.

Don’t Sell Your Federer Stock Just Yet – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Tumble Continues – One of the big headlines at the All England Club this past Wednesday was the dismissal of six-time champion Roger Federer at the hands of Tomas Berdych.  Despite Federer’s history at SW19 and the difference in seeding between the two, I have trouble calling this a big upset. Berdych possesses a big game, he clipped Federer earlier this year, and over the past few months, Berdych has been the better player. There’s no doubt this was probably the most painful loss Federer has suffered since his 2008 defeat to Nadal, and the early loss also means that Federer will slip to No. 3 in the rankings, the first time he’s been out of the top two since 2003. It will take time for him to bounce back from this one, but I’m not ready to sell my Federer stock just yet. The fact is, any year you win a major is a good year. Plenty of players would still gladly trade places with Federer. It’s the nature of the beast that he has set the bar so high that any loss such as this is that much more monumental because it happened to one of the greatest players to have ever picked up a racquet. Fans of the man from Switzerland are going to have to get used to these losses coming with more frequency, but don’t stick a fork in him. He’s not done yet.

Roddick Rocked – Wimbledon has continued to see a few more shockers this week, and one of the biggest was Roddick’s exit to Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei. Lu played an incredible match beginning to end and most amazing is the fact that he found a way to cross the finish line even as he admitted that he never believed he was going to win the match. But as happy as one might have felt for Lu, there had to be some sympathy spared for Roddick. Had he been told prior to the match that he was going to hit more aces, less unforced errors, more winners, have more break chances, and win more total points, I’m sure he would have liked his odds at advancing.   But just as with last year’s final, it came down to a handful of big points and one crucial break in the final set. The loss isn’t as gut-wrenching as his 2009 final loss to Federer, but he’ll want to look to get something going fast on the hard courts, or he’s apt to start slipping into a slump.

Venus Vanquished – The women’s quarters also provided a surprise when Tsvetana Pironkova routinely upended Venus Williams 2 and 3. It was a lackluster display from Williams, who despite hitting 10 more winners than her younger opponent also hit 23 more unforced errors. The fact that the elder Williams never found a way to win the match wasn’t an entire surprise, as neither Williams sister is known for having game plan B when the wheels come off. The good news for her is that an early loss, irrespective of the tournament, rarely tends to have any hangover effect. She’ll still be considered a strong contender during the US Open Series and the final major of the year.

Double Trouble – I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of upsets in the doubles competition. The Williams sisters, on what seemed an inevitable path to becoming just the third team in history to accomplish the Grand Slam, lost to the hard-hitting combo of Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. On the men’s side, Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman also denied seeing history made, at least for the time being, with their defeat over the American team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The Bryans were aiming to break their tie with the Woodies for most titles won as a team just a week prior to the induction of the Australian pair into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As disappointing as the losses must have been for each of these losing teams, they will be back with a vengeance in New York, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bryans standing atop the mountain alone for most titles won before the final major of the year.

Fine Time – Earlier this week, Rafael Nadal was slapped with a $2,000 fine for illegal coaching. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier could hardly be blamed for giving Nadal the warning, having given him an unofficial warning to stop the chatter with his box earlier in the match. The case was made even stronger given that in his defense of this particular incident, Nadal basically admitted to having received illegal coaching at other times.  But Nadal is not the only player guilty of this offense. Justine Henin is notorious for this, as is Maria Sharapova, and many more could be added to the list. I’m not naïve enough to think that illegal coaching will ever be completely eradicated, but it was refreshing to see someone have the backbone to try and enforce the rule and reduce it. Coaches are paid to scout the competition, and it’s up to the player and coach to devise a game plan prior to a match. Once a match starts, it should be one-on-one out there and up to the players to make the necessary adjustments to come out with a W. That’s one of the unique aspects of tennis. So I hope that the officials continue to do their best and enforce the rules at all levels of the competition and preserve the integrity of the game.

HEWITT A THREAT AT SW19: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Blast from the Past – My biggest praise this week goes to Australian Lleyton Hewitt. Not only did he defeat six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in the final of Halle, but he did so after having undergone two hip surgeries. The match had more than shades of the old Hewitt who was at the top of the game nearly ten years ago, with the Aussie chasing down everything that Federer threw at him. While it has to be said that Federer’s game did go off, there’s no doubt Hewitt played a large part in making it so. Down a set and 0-40 at four-all in the second, Hewitt refused to succumb. Federer clearly became a bit rattled and began to press, ultimately resulting in Hewitt snapping his 15-match losing streak against the Swiss. Wimbledon is a different prospect with the matches all being best of five, but given his status as a former Wimbledon champ and his current run of form, Hewitt’s suddenly looking like a decent pick to go deep at SW19.

Back on Track – After the dismal circumstances under which Sam Querrey made his exit at Roland Garros, it was nice to see him quickly back on the horse and in the winner’s circle this past weekend at the Queen’s Club. Querrey held his nerve to take a tight two-set victory over compatriot Mardy Fish, whom it also has to be said put together one of the nicer weeks of tennis he’s had in awhile. And as a sidebar to Querrey’s win and Hewitt’s, I think it’s safe to say that while it’s tough to bet against the big boys at the majors, this Wimbledon feels a little more wide open than it has in recent memory.

Undecided – Well, the Swiss Miss may not be done after all. No, Martina Hingis isn’t contemplating making yet another comeback to the singles game, but she is seriously considering the possibility of coming back to play doubles on the WTA Tour, naming American Lindsay Davenport as her current choice of partner. Hingis has already committed to playing 14 matches in World Team Tennis for the New York Buzz this summer, and given her level of talent, it’s hard to imagine it will take her long to shake the dust off her game. She’ll also be teaming with former partner Anna Kournikova to play the Legends Doubles event at Wimbledon, and I’m sure many are hoping that a potential return of Hingis to WTA Tour doubles will entice Kournikova to eventually follow suit.

Salt to the Wound – Brit Alex Bogdanovic has made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t thrilled when he learned he wouldn’t be receiving one of the Wimbledon main draw wildcards despite the fact that he meets the ranking criteria. But he didn’t give up hope at having another shot at winning a main draw match and opted to take his chances in the qualies. It was there in the second round that he came up short against talented Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, losing by a heartbreaking 24-22 in the third. I’m not a huge Bogdanovic fan, and I perfectly understand the logic behind not granting him a wildcard. But at 24-22 in the third, you gotta feel a little sympathy for the guy.

More Returns – This week has marked the return of a couple more players to the main tour just in time for the Big W. Eastbourne has seen Belgian Kim Clijsters bounce back nicely from the foot injury that kept her out of Roland Garros, as well as Frenchman Gilles Simon, whose absence from the 2010 season has been long and frustrating. While it’s a big ask for either to set high expectations for Wimbledon (Simon much more so than Clijsters), it’s great to see them notching some wins under their belt and gaining some momentum as they’re shortly to head into the heart of the summer season. And in case anyone missed it, former No. 1 and French Open champion Thomas Muster will be making a return to the Challenger Circuit at the age of 42. I’m not quite sure what the thought process was behind this return other than for love of the game, but to each their own.  Maybe he was inspired by Kimiko Date Krumm.