wrist surgery

Argentina Could Evade Underdog Status in the Davis Cup Final

It wasn’t so long ago that players from Argentina dominated the ATP rankings, with Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Gaston Gaudio, Mariano Puerta and David Nalbandian all spending time in the top 10.

The only one of those players still active today is Nalbandian, and he’s going for something again that he and his compatriots weren’t able to achieve, a Davis Cup title. But the final obstacle to achieving that goal is a longtime tennis powerhouse in its own right: Spain, led by top-five players Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.

Pulling off the upset against the host nation will be a difficult task for Argentina, but there are some things that could work to their advantage:

A Top 10-Caliber Player of Their Own

Juan Martin del Potro will be leading the singles effort for Argentina. This has been a year to remember for the 23-year-old as he rebounded back from wrist surgery, returning his ranking to the top 15. He’s a force on all surfaces, particularly clay, which the players will be doing battle on this week.

A Top 15-Caliber Player, Too

The likely second singles spot will go to Juan Monaco. “Pico” has been ranked as high as 14 in the world and has a winning record against Ferrer.  All three of Monaco’s career singles titles have come on clay, so surface shouldn’t be a factor. He’s also on one of his best stretches in years: reaching the round of 16 at the U.S. Open, the finals in Valencia and the quarterfinals at the Paris Indoors event.

Fresher Legs

While Nadal and Ferrer were facing the best of the best at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, the Argentine players were able to start preparing for the year’s final event a little earlier. Ferrer was able to win two of his round-robin matches relatively easy, but did have a battle against Tomas Berdych at the 02 Arena. Nadal didn’t advance out of group play, but did go three sets with Mardy Fish and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. With the way Nadal and Ferrer play, any extended matches add more wear-and-tear on their bodies.

The (Good and Bad) Experience Factor

While Argentina has yet to win the Davis Cup, the team has advanced to the finals twice since 2006. Nalbandian and Juan Ignacio Chela were both members of those squads, and have played during years where the team was the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament. Those two are entering the latter stages of their careers, and more than likely will end them without Grand Slam glory. But they’ve seen almost everything the tour has to offer, and could be a steadying hand when the pressure is on in the final tie of 2011.

Clijsters Sidelined, Baltacha out of Commonwealth Games but Mirza Boost for Organisers

*Current Queen of the US Open Kim Clijsters has been forced to pull out of next month’s China Open with an infected foot. The Belgian star recently had a mole removed from the base of the foot but the wound has become infected. “I’m very sorry to have to cancel,” said the 27-year-old. “The wound on my sole is healing really bad – playing tennis is not possible.” Serena Williams has already announced that her foot injury sustained when stepping on broken glass in Munich earlier this year will also keep her out of the competition. She hopes to return for Moscow.

*Scotland’s Elena Baltacha has pulled out of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi with a chronic liver condition linked to her immune system. “After a lot of thought and discussion, I have taken the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the Games,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport. “Conditions in Delhi are such that going there would pose too high a risk to my health. I am incredibly disappointed because I was really excited about playing for Scotland but I will be cheering on Team Scotland with all my heart, in particular my fellow tennis players. I am very, very sad that I won’t get to play alongside them.”

*Under fire Commonwealth Games bosses will undoubtedly be buoyed by the news that top Indian star Sania Mirza will be staying at the much-maligned Players’ Village, contrary to recent rumours. Her father, Imran, told PTI News: “She will check in to the Village with the rest of the team.”

*Despite losing his first comeback match since his wrist surgery Juan Martin del Potro seemed very pleased with the condition he is in. He, perhaps surprisingly, lost to the Belgian Olivier Rochus in Bangkok on Tuesday but his wrist seemed to be near full strength according to the Argentine. “The most important thing for today is my wrist,” said the 2009 US Open winner, “and it’s perfect. I hope to play five or six more tournaments between now and the end of the season. It was a great moment for me being with the fans on centre court playing a match again. I felt very happy. I lost today but I have good things to take for the future.” For the full interview check out the ATP World Tour website.

*There is no movement this week within the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings released on Monday (September 27th). Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela leaps 14 places to No. 39 while Belgium’s Xavier Mallisse climbs five to No. 50. Spain’s Pablo Andujar jumps 28 places to No. 77 after losing the Bucharest final to Chela and Somdev Devvarman jumps 17 to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings finally bring good news for troubled Russian star Dinara Safina who has climbed ten slots to No. 49 this week while Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic climbs two to No. 50. Another Russian, Alia Kudryavtseva, sees a massive rise from No. 82 to No. 57 and Elena Vesnina does likewise from No. 72 to No. 58.

*Gilles Simon’s title at Metz last week was his first since becoming a father during the US Open. “Thanks to my fiancée for being here,” he said. “She was worried that I would be distracted – I think I’ve given the best response today.”

*Spanish pinup Fernando Verdasco is known to be a fan of martial arts and has been learning some local specialties while playing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in some Muay Thai alongside 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist Somjit Jongjorhor on stage in Bangkok and former ATP pro Paradorn Srichapan also joined in. “I would love to learn more Thai boxing,” said Verdasco. “I’ve always loved martial arts so maybe when I stop playing tennis I can learn some more. It was a lot of fun to learn some of the moves today.”

*Top seed Rafa Nadal has also been experiencing local culture while competing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in Thailand’s ‘A Million Trees For The King’ project by planting a tree in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Afterwards he partook in some local pastimes with friends. “I did a lot of things,” said the reigning Wimbledon, French and US Open Champion who took part in a religious ceremony with Buddhist monks on the beach over the weekend. “I was with friends. I was on the beach, very nice beach. We did water sports, we went to golf one time, we went [go-carting] another time. So we did a lot of things. We went there, having fun in Hua Hin and enjoying a lot.”

*Kazakhstan’s Evgeny Korolev is set to miss up to four months after undergoing elbow surgery today (September 30th). It is a problem which has dogged him since January and that has seen him drop from a career-high No. 46 to No. 97. Robby Ginepri will also be missing from the tour for the rest of the season after also undergoing elbow surgery on an injury suffered in a biking accident. Ginepri reached the fourth round at Roland Garros this year before falling to Novak Djokovic.

*29-year-old Frenchman Thierry Ascione has announced his retirement from professional tennis following the conclusion of play in Metz last week. “Right before and right after the match it was really emotional,” he said. “I had a beautiful career. I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to be a champion. To be one, I think I would have needed a different personality but I don’t regret anything. I had the best times and through tennis I met my best friends.”

*London fashion week has just finished for 2010 and tennis got near the catwalks with Andy Murray and Serena Williams in attendance along with actress Sarah Jessica Parker and photographer Mario Testino to see Burberry unveil its latest collection. “I’m looking forward to seeing the clothes,” said British No. 1 Murray. “I like Burberry so it should be fun.” “This is my first fashion show in Europe,” added fashionista Serena. “I like Burberry, I always do the ones in New York so it was definitely something I wanted to come and do. I can’t believe I’m here I’m so excited.”

RUTHLESS NADAL IS TOUGH OUT AT FRENCH OPEN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Defending Champ Out – It’s approximately three months down the road, but Juan Martin del Potro has already ruled out his chances of attempting to defend his US Open title. The Argentine, who recently underwent wrist surgery, stated that if all went according to plan, he should be able to play during the fall season. I sympathize with del Potro but greatly admire his realistic grasp of the situation. He noted that the US Open would always be a special place for him over the course of his career, but that he didn’t want to rush his comeback. He obviously has a good head on his shoulders and recognizes the advantage of his painful decision to skip the last major of the year as a decision that could, and should, pay dividends later. My fingers are crossed we see him make steady progress at the end of 2010 and in full flight come 2011.

King of Clay – Lest there be any doubt, Rafael Nadal added yet another tournament to his already impressive tally of titles, and he did so in ruthless fashion, including a relatively routine straight-sets victory over Roger Federer in the Madrid final. I tip my hat to Nadal for his composure in taking the title in Madrid, because it wasn’t just any ordinary title. His win in Madrid not only saw him become the first player to complete the Masters 1000 clay court hat trick in a single season, but it also saw him surpass Andre Agassi as the all-time Masters 1000 title leader with 18. While I’m not as sold as some on the idea of it not being matter of “if” Nadal will win Roland Garros but “how easily” he’ll win the title, there’s no doubt that it’s going to take something extra special from someone in the field to knock Nadal off course for his fifth French Open victory.

Raising French Hopes – Last week I noted that Justine Henin had suffered a shock early exit in Madrid. Her exit was courtesy of a one Aravane Rezai, and it included a bagel in the third.  After seeing the way Rezai played Venus Williams in the final of Madrid to claim the biggest title of her career, however, I suddenly understand that victory over Henin a little better. Rezai proved she’s got game, she’s developed some composure, and she has been knocking on the door. There’s clearly a difference between a player going on a hot streak as opposed to being the real deal, but Rezai is starting to look more and more like she could be a contender.  And for the nation of France, her potential arrival couldn’t come at a better time.

Head Scratcher – The verdict is out on the case of Wayne Odesnik, and he was given a two-year suspension for being in possession of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). That suspension wasn’t a shock, but what ultimately led to it was. In a statement, Odesnik made in response to the ITF’s verdict, Odesnik said, “The sole reason I was in possession of this banned substance was under doctor’s advice for treatment of a recurring shoulder injury. I was unaware at the time that this would be considered an anti-doping violation.” Odesnik claims that he was planning to apply for a therapeutic use exemption, and that may very well have been the case. But given the controversy surrounding HGH in the world of sports, as well as the number of suspensions the ITF has meted out over the last couple of years, it’s puzzling that Odesnik wouldn’t have done a better job of staying on top of applying for the exemption, particularly since there’s no guarantee it would have been granted.

Royal Presence – As if there wouldn’t already be enough pressure on the one lone Brit capable of making a run to the title on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, Andy Murray now has extra incentive to find a way out of his slump. Queen Elizabeth II, who last attended Wimbledon when Virginia Wade won the title in 1977, will once again be attending The Championships.  Nationalistic politics and pride aside,  Murray might draw some inspiration from the current reigning monarch who might very well be making her own return to Wimbledon because she sees in Murray a strong possibility of ending the British drought.