setback

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Dream Finale

In a fitting end to the 2010 season, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal squared off in the finals of the ATP World Tour Championships. While not as intense as some of their previous encounters, there were some absolutely fantastic rallies and scintillating shot making. When the last ball was struck, it was Federer who came out on top. The loss shouldn’t take away from Nadal’s season, as with a stellar clay court run and three majors in his back pocket, it was clearly his year. But for Federer fans, the performance he put on over the course of the last week is extremely encouraging. Coach Annacone has done wonders with the Swiss Maestro, and he was producing plenty of vintage Federer tennis throughout the tournament. It has certainly set things up for an intriguing start to 2011 as Nadal looks to complete a “Nadal Slam,” Federer looks to regain his hold at the top of the sport, and the rest of field tries break the stranglehold these two have had on the game.

Parting Ways

Earlier this week it was announced that Robin Soderling and Magnus Norman will be ending their partnership as player and coach. The parting was amicable, with Norman wanting to spend more time on his personal life and Soderling, understandably, needing a coach who can be with him full time. The split has the potential to be a setback for Soderling, who has seen his game and ranking improve in leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Norman. At only 26 with his game improving and confidence growing, however, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be able to find some experienced coach willing to step up to the plate and try to take the big-hitting Swede to the next level.

Awarding Excellence

The WTA listed its award winners this week, and the top honor went to Kim Clijsters, who was named the player of the year. While some might have made a case that Serena should have received the honor with two majors (a season that admittedly most players would gladly take), it’s a tough argument to win when she only played six tournaments over the course of the entire year. In addition to player of the year, Clijsters also received the player service award, and her fellow Belgian Justine Henin brought more honor to their home nation by being named the comeback player of the year. The remaining awards fittingly went to Maria Sharapova as humanitarian of the year, Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko as doubles team of the year, and Petra Kvitova as the newcomer of the year.

Convenient Duty

Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev has to be feeling confident of Russia’s chances in the 2011 Fed Cup, having named Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Maria Sharapova for the first-round tie against France in February. The real steal in that lineup is Sharapova, though a source from her team as alleged that Sharapova has stated she is only “very likely” to play as opposed to being a sure a thing. Sharapova has only competed for Russia once, that time coming in 2008 in order to be eligible for the Olympics. She is in a similar situation here, having to make herself available for Fed Cup duty at least once in order to be eligible for the 2012 Olympics. In many ways, her participation is similar to that of the Williams Sisters for the United States, and while you can’t fault a coach for wanting to put his best talent forward, it seems unfair to bypass another player who has continually put in the time (especially with a country like Russia, that has a deep pool to pull from) just so that someone like a Sharapova wants a shot at Olympic glory. Perhaps the system needs to be tweaked and force a player to be available for duty on more than one occasion if they want the top honor of representing their country in the Olympics.

Taking a Stand

Former pro and Tennis Australia’s Todd Woodbridge released a statement earlier this week stating that three players, Brydan Klein, Nick Lindahl and Dayne Kelly, have been barred from contesting the December playoffs for the chance to earn a spot in the Australian Open. All three (and certainly not surprisingly in Klein’s case), have received the bans due to their “numerous accounts of unacceptable behavior at tournaments both locally and internationally over the past few months.” Given the promise some of these juniors have shown, as well as the fact that Lleyton Hewitt is the only Australian male in the Top 100, it’s admirable that Tennis Australia is doing the right thing taking a tough stand with its players, even if it might temporarily hold back their development. Hopefully these guys will turn it around and prove fruitful prospects for a nation that has one of the richest tennis traditions in history.

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.