By Maud Watson
Taking the Reins
A week after Australia named the appointment of Patrick Rafter as its new Davis Cup captain, the United States followed suit. On Wednesday it was announced that Jim Courier would be replacing Patrick McEnroe at the helm of the U.S. team. Courier will have some big shoes to fill, as McEnroe did much to turn around the fortunes of the U.S. Davis Cup squad, which included a title win in 2007. But Courier, a four-time Grand Slam winner, brings plenty of experience to the table, including serving as a member of the 1995 victorious U.S. Davis Cup squad. And, as an added bonus, reports seem to indicate that there’s a slight chance Mr. Courier’s new appointment could entice a healthy Andy Roddick to devote time to Davis Cup duty once again.
Thomas Muster made his comeback debut at the main ATP World Tour level in his native Austria this week, and unfortunately, it didn’t have a fairytale ending. The 43-year-old succumbed to his native countryman Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets in the opening round, though it should be noted that the second set ended in a tiebreak. Perhaps Muster is still polishing off some of the rust, but it is a little difficult to see him putting in another two good years as he stated he hopes to do. Still, judging by the crowd’s reaction to his efforts, there’s little doubt that his comeback is still bringing plenty of smiles to fans’ faces.
In addition to Muster, the ATP World Tour may see the return of yet another veteran in Australian Mark Philippoussis. After securing two wins on the Champions Series seniors’ tour, the veteran Australian has stated that he has found his hunger once again and is contemplating a return to the main tour level. While there are many fans who would love to see Scud see his plan through, it’s certainly questionable on Philippoussis’ part. It’s not as though this is the first time he’s considered such a comeback, and while those who compete on the Champions Tour are champions in their own right, they are retired from the main tour for a reason. The difference in the caliber of play is wide, and Philippoussis is kidding himself if he thinks success on one tour means it will translate to success on the ATP World Tour. Sadly, one has to wonder if Philippoussis’ considerations for a return don’t stem from the fact that he squandered his talent during his prime by choosing to live the good life instead putting in the time necessary to remain more injury-free and to realize his full potential. But then again, if Muster thinks he can do it in his 40s, there’s at least a glimmer of hope for the Aussie to do it in his 30s.
Few would argue that 2010 has been the year of Rafael Nadal. With the No. 1 ranking sewn up, three of the four majors to his name, and achieving the career Grand Slam, it has been his banner year. But Roger Federer, despite the subpar results by his high standards, has still managed to achieve yet another milestone, as he tied Sampras’ record of 64 singles titles with is win in Stockholm last week. At this stage in the game, Connors’ 109 still seems untouchable and McEnroe’s 77 a doable but lofty goal, but look for Federer to add to his total and use this mini-milestone as a springboard to better things in 2011.
In case you missed your daily dose of gossip, it’s worth noting a story that broke late last week followed by one earlier this week. The first concerns the engagement of Maria Sharapova to LA Laker Sasha Vujacic. More than once Sharapova has commented that she couldn’t see herself playing till she was 30, and if her results don’t drastically improve in 2011, don’t be entirely surprised if she hangs up the racquet and decides to permanently soak up the California sun. Then there’s Lleyton Hewitt, who became a father for the third time as he and wife Bec welcomed a baby girl last weekend. The whole charging for texts to find out the baby girl’s name is a little odd (and someone please let me know if that goes to some kind of charity), but congratulations are in order for the Hewitt’s. Don’t look for a third child to have a negative impact on Hewitt’s game either. It’s his body he’ll need to worry about.
By Maud Watson
Hang it up Scud – My apologies to any Mark Philippoussis fans out there. I don’t personally have anything against the guy, but when I read earlier this week that he’s considering the possibility of yet another comeback to the ATP World Tour, I had to shake my head. He claims his reasons for coming back are twofold: he has “unfinished business,” and he wants the money. The guy needs to face reality. He is struggling to beat Jim Courier and Pat Cash on the seniors tour, and it’s no disrespect to Courier and Cash. They’re great players in their own right, but they’re playing the seniors tour for a reason. If Flipper can’t hang with those guys, how does he ever figure he’ll make it into the Top 100 on the ATP World Tour? Maybe if he’d put the time in earlier in his career (which might have curbed his injuries) and managed his finances better, he wouldn’t be in this situation now. Cut your losses, Scud and move on.
Adieu Roland Garros? – It seems plans for a new center court with a retractable roof at the world’s second Slam event of the year have hit a snag according to French Tennis Federation (FFT) Director General Gilbert Ysern. The Paris mayor’s office is now expressing doubts about the project, mainly due to the opposition of green members within the city council. While the FFT is relatively confident the project will still be able to move forward, Ysern has also stated the FFT is prepared to move from the Roland Garros site if their plans are blocked. Given the historical significance of the site, which hosted the famous 1928 Davis Cup tie between the USA and France, and its ties to the famous French aviator whose name the complex bears, it would be a shame to see the site of the French Championships moved to a new location. That said, in an effort to keep up with the other Majors, as well as a few voices from Spain (a nation that has produced the champion at the French major six of the last 10 years) claiming they now have the facilities to host the clay court Grand Slam event, the FFT must be prepared to take whatever steps necessary. Fingers crossed they reach an agreement with the Paris city council.
Serena Sweeps – As if winning two majors, the WTA Tour Championships, and taking the No. 1 ranking weren’t enough, Serena Williams has managed to add one more accolade to her 2009 season. She has set a new record for most prize money won by a woman in a single season, with $6,545,586. Granted, she did win three of the biggest tournaments of the season, but if her prize money total is any indication, it would seem that the women’s tour is plenty healthy.
Under the Weather – Well, we all knew it was just a matter of time before swine flu hit the tennis community, and it finally did this week in Basel. German Tommy Haas was forced to withdraw from the tournament when he tested positive for the H1N1 virus. With the way things can often travel quickly throughout the locker room, tournament organizers and fans alike will hope this is just an isolated incident, especially with the ATP World Tour Championships just around the corner. And here’s wishing a speedy recovery to Haas, who has put together a great season!
Good-Bye Fred, Hello Adidas – Britain’s Andy Murray is back with a vengeance this week in Valencia, showing little mercy to the opposition in his return from injury. And while Andy Murray is undoubtedly happy to see his game back on track, he has even more to smile about with the new multi-million dollar deal that he just signed with Adidas. Murray will be trading in his Fred Perry duds for the three-striped brand beginning in January. Now wouldn’t it be ironic if he won Wimbledon in 2010?