July 31, 2009
Who would have thought that a year which began with tears of agony on the shoulders of his arch nemesis, would ultimately lead Roger Federer towards a gratifying turnaround?
After his Aussie Open defeat to Rafael Nadal, a shell-shocked Swiss took his bruised ego, and battered body towards a six-week break from the tour. With no play in February, and a return to action in March, Federer’s reluctant play would be evident throughout the Indian Wells tournament.
His efforts in reaching the semifinals in Palm Springs were not spectacular, and his lethargic loss against Andy Murray was bizarre to say the least.
Lapses in concentration were becoming the norm in competition, a constant staple throughout the season for Federer.
After his loss to Murray, a stoic and subdued Federer was asked to comment on his miss-firing backhand.
“Ah, yeah, I have those moments quite frequently”, said Federer.
Quite frequently? Here is a guy who was known for flicking backhand passes on a dime just a little over a year ago.
With the dust of desert behind him, the sunshine of Miami would be next up. A much needed victory would be greatly appreciated.
Federer was once again granted a relatively safe, and turbulent-free passage throughout the Key Biscayne event—until the semifinals of course. This time around, the final four stage would feature another one of the games current and future stars, Novak Djokovic.
In a carbon copy of a the Murray match in California, Federer had many opportunities to close out his Serbian opponent. He went ahead, fell behind, and inevitably came up short at another major tour stop.
During the early stages of set three, the culmination of a 10-month struggle without a tour title, as well as being pushed around by the “next” generation, propelled Federer to not only release his anger, but also his tool of trade, his racket.
After an uncharacteristic brush with the dark-side, the mangled fragments of Federer’s frame were not the only distraught pieces of the Swiss which remained on center court—he simply had no understanding of what was wrong with his game.
The lack of trust in his shots, accompanied by confusion, prompted the Swiss to make this statement during his post match presser:
“I haven’t been winning twenty tournaments in a row, so nobody expects me to win really. No, look, it’s been a tough last year or so, especially in the hardcourts. My game never really clicked, you know, except for the Open where I thought I played great. I think when I was finding my form again, you know, it hit me with the back problem. It was unfortunate, you know, but thank God the hardcourt season is over.”
Once again, this was coming from a man who had won five US Open titles, and three Aussie Open crowns. Oh my God, was more like it.
With another brief and much needed hiatus from the sport, a rattled Roger would return to the dirt, in the quest for stained socks, and better results.
His appearance at the Monte Carlo Masters would be spearheaded by the news of his marriage to long-time girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec—not the recent string of losses to his three main rivals.
Although Federer’s stay in Monaco would be brief, and mediocre, the demeanor of the former No. 1 seemed to be lifted a touch—would tennis be less of a priority now that he was married, or, would his partnership with his long-time companion lead to a rejuvenated spirit when competing?
Battling through another tough-to-swallow defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic in Roma, Federer’s off-court news seemed to once again eclipse his on-court struggles: Fatherhood would be around the corner.
With Rafael Nadal winning everything under the sun on the clay, Federer’s new perspective on life, and tennis itself for that matter would take him straight into the lions den, the Madrid Masters.
Suddenly, traces of the “old” Federer had resurfaced. His movement became liquid-like; his forehand catching the outside edge of the lines—on purpose. The altitude, and a worn down Nadal added to the sheer brilliance of the Swiss. Roger could not have asked for a better week.
Defeating, Soderling, Blake, Roddick, del Potro and Nadal in succession would be just the way to diffuse his title drought. The statement was made.
With his confidence on the rebound, a push towards the only slam which had eluded him thus far, would be up next—the French Open.
The road to French glory would not be easy—constant adversity, coupled by the added pressure of the King’s dismissal, meant this would have to be the year.
Although the like of Tommy Haas and Juan Martin del Potro almost spoiled the “Grand Slam” parade, Federer’s long quest was finally over—three years of finishing second were a distant memory.
The tears of Australia, were traded in for the pride of his national anthem—tears certainly do have different forms.
The dichotomy which was Roger Federer’s year, would take the Swiss towards a record breaking journey in London, the hallowed lawns of Center Court were ready for some magic.
Throughout the two weeks which saw Federer grace his way towards the record books, a distinct glimmer in his eyes had returned: The passion for competition, coupled with a new life, had created an unmatched synergy throughout the fortnight. The Greatest of All Time would be crowned.
With his 15th grand slam stashed away in his vault of excellence, Roger would dawn the tennis world with one final tranquil piece of news towards his remarkable season: Not one, but two babies would added to Federer family. May we welcome, Myla Rose, and Charlene Riva.
So there you have it folks, just another routine year in the seemingly fabled career of the worlds No. 1 ranked player. It surely took some time, but the turnaround season of the Swiss definitely did not seem possible when it commenced in January.
It is uncertain, if, and when the Swiss super-star will return to the circuit. At this point, we may not see Roger back in action until the defense of his US Open title. A much deserved leave of absence, may I add.
Life is different now for Roger Federer, if anything, he has a broken racket, and two babies to thank for his resurgence to the top.
The career of the Swiss has taught a truly life valuable lesson to all who are concerned: With any obstacle comes the notion that a brighter day is a ahead, a day in a which what didn’t kill you, made you stronger, with perspective being the underlying catalyst to success.
Above all, perspective and Roger Federer go hand in hand.
June 24, 2009
The dawn of brilliance, at least for the past seven years anyways, has been filled by not only the worldly shot-making of a true racket wizard, but also a fashionista in the making.
Roger Federer will be the first to admit that his on and off-court attire was not always at the forefront of his tennis mind. Matching his belt with his shoes was never the initial priority after the physical exertion of a four-hour training session. A jump-suit and a quick shower more than sufficed.
But with the long time union of his future, and now current wife, Mirka Federer, all that changed. A tennis great, and great-dressed-tennis-player were under construction. The man from Basel had transformed himself from denim to couture, in about the same amount time it took to slap a forehand winner down-the-line. The chic star was born.
Although a finely groomed Federer readily appeared red-carpet-ready whenever he pranced around his favorite city or restaurant throughout the enticing tennis destinations around the world—it was his on-court attire which produced the most headway.
With the inception of the RF brand (courtesy of Nike), a frenzy of Federer followers were given the opportunity to own a piece of their hero. The mere tennis mortal, could finally embrace an item of the “great Fed” tightly clenched in their western-hitting palms.
With time, fans saw the further development of R-Fed’s on-court duds, which evolved with the elegance and grace of his traditional strokes. From his belts, to his euro-fitted shirts, all the way to his latest Wimbledon inspired “military look”, Roger has always blended and personified what the ambassador of tennis should look like. Leaders need to stand out—they lead after all.
From an air-conditioned shirt which he debuted in 2006, to a blazer which turned into full-blown three piece suit by 2007—there was no situation or dinner party for that matter, which Rog was not ready to conquer. Don’t worry, the tuxedo shorts were not forgotten.
The seamless intent which went into every on-court creation, stayed on course with the fabric which is Federer’s game. Sleek and legendary.
However, in the continued quest to be different (greatness is always viewed as different), the ugly head which is known as the tyrant of criticism set to spoil the creative representation of the Swiss.
As recent as this week at the All England Club, an uproar of sorts was constructed pertaining to “the military style jacket” which the Swiss wore when he entered Center Court.
Many have said that Federer looked like a “weenie” and that Nike was further attempting to exploit the tennis great in order to heighten their newly developed Country Club image. Duh!
The criticism begs the question, what would you do?
With the majority of Federer’s “actual” merchandise not being available for purchase, Nike exec’s have never been interested in actually selling the “military jacket” per say. The essence in which Roger Federer is utilized globally, is based on the model of a “brand awareness” tool, more so than a shirt or a pair of wrist-bands sold. Nike’s sole objective has been to attach their name with the greatest player on the planet.
And how does this all benefit Roger? Certainly from a monetary standpoint, no question; a monsoon of sneakers, sweaters, and custom made socks—but is that really the RF reason?
What Federer actually attains in acquiring his “own clothing” is the ability to distance himself from his competition, and draw a definitive line in the sand when it comes to—I’m simply better than the rest of you.
This is not about being cocky, or having Roger’s ego reach the heights of the Burj Al Arab, it’s about embracing himself in the courage of saying, without a shadow of a doubt—I’m the best player, period.”
Those words may rub some of you the wrong way. Whether it’s the Federer’s choice of attire, or mindset for that matter, his designed intention is not to produce a stigma of hatred or any type of misinterpretation. Federer believes in himself, and certainly is confident in what he wears. You feel successful when you look successful?
Federer has exemplified that notion of gaining absolute confidence, as much as possible.
With Federer’s latest choice in combat gear drawing comparisons to Captain Merrill Stubing, from the Love Boat—it is safe to say that Roger would disagree.
“I went for a modern military look, hope people like it.”
You have to remember here folks, Rogers intention and Nikes for that matter, are not centered around his new “flavor of the month” item, creating sales for the masses. That will never happen.
These types of in-your-face marketing tactics are created to get us thinking, formulate discussion, intrigue, and sometimes disgust in what the elite Champion decides to wear.
The intention is not to have the public burst out in hysteria, engaging in a tooth and nail war to purchase the new Federer item—merely to remember the Federer item.
The next time Roger enters a stadium around the world, in some novelty inspired get-up which may or may not tickle your fancy, it is important to keep one essential method of reflection present.
A certain peRFection was achieved.
June 4, 2009
Traditionally the second Thursday at the French Open is a day of rest for the men. A day in which reaching the semi-finals can be appreciated; with the practice courts littered with tee-shirts instead of coloured shirts, as well a soccer trick to two.
But this year, for obvious reasons, a different feeling will commence into the final weekend. An eerie but hollow feeling if you will, has cast its doubt over the beautiful skyline of Paris. The Tour Eiffel is still standing strong (rusted and scorn with years of experience); and the lovely Louvre, elegant as always maintains its usual host of Mona Lisa seekers. But back on the courts at the grounds of Roland Garros, the perennial grunting and biceps of a popular champion are missing — where is Rafa?
You better believe that a few people today (who are not avid tennis fans of course), inquired into the exact whereabouts of Nadal’s practice session? Excusez-moi monsieur où est le Rafa? The answer translated back in English probably went something like this: you are fresh out of luck! (With a french accent of course).
Instead, a few new faces will be shining (as part of that eerie hollowed feeling I was talking about), with the likes of del Potro, Gonzalez and yes Robin Sodering all making there maiden French open, final fours. Don’t worry I didn’t forget Federer.
With an early hotel check out, and a plane straight back to the coastal oasis known as Mallorca, you would like to think that Rafa could finally escape into chill mode, and not worry about the grind of an already fatiguing season? Um no.
Nadal did make reference to looking forward to getting back to his pool for a days, to reflect and heal his battered and bruised body (as well as ego). But come on now, this is Rafa we’re talking about everyone — cheer up — he’s back on court. With a rare few days of catching some Spanish sun, did you really think this motivated spring board was going to sit around and see how fast his custom made Kai goes — did ya?
Not that we expect the guy to work any harder or anything? I mean let’s give the guy a break. He literally rocked France for four years; had a stellar clay season, and is still the number one hombre on the planet. Let’s also not forget we have a different Rafa on our hands now, with the young champion turning 23 yesterday.
A difference in age will undoubtedly record much of the same results. How did that saying go again, the more things change the more they say the same…or wait was it, it’s a difference of degree rather than kind? Since I learned the latter of the two statements in University (which cost me a pretty penny I may add), I’ll be more inclined to go with that one.
If anything, a difference in age will allow Rafa to quickly get over being Solderling-ed, last Sunday in France. (With age comes experience right)? The six-time slam champ can now look forward (past the Tour Eiffel or course) to the constant and ever present desire to once again improve.
Nadal in fact has been on court the past few days; getting his new kicks from Nike, and working out at one of the only grass courts in Mallorca. Rafa is scheduled to arrive in London on Saturday to begin preparation for his defense of Queens Club; which will culminate with his efforts at Wimbledon in three weeks time.
With a heavy duty daily plyometric routine, and one handed push-ups no less — Nadal has been keeping sharp. He has also kept in touch with his mentor (the first man from Mallorca, Carlos Moya) for wisdom — and need not worry, plenty of guys to hit with.
Sometimes the present, allows us to appreciate the past. Throughout the four seasons of Nadal’s success on clay, my fondest memories of him have always been pictures of his training sessions on grass; the day after the French final. To me, this effort and dedication epitomizes the greatness of Rafa. He is as blue-coloured of a tennis player that has ever played–not the mention one of the best.
His desire to constantly improve has allowed him to stay ahead of the field — improvement that will see him stay there. You can bet that Nadal’s mentality is already fully entwined in the lush lawns of England; a mentality which is working overtime to ensure a repeat on center court.
That exact mental fortitude and unbridled commitment to success is what draws the tennis world to the passion of the Spaniard. It is that same passion which provoked that fan today, who brushed aside the notion that Nadal not being around– to continue to search. The search continues.
Although we did said au revoir to Rafa this week (in what seemed like an awfully long time), his upcoming trip to London will surely bring forth many electrifying moments for the English and world wide fan.
No day of rest, is simply no joke, when speaking of the current world number one. And as Rafa himself suggested when asked to evaluate his level of play after his loss — his black and white sentiments, which are always right to the point, went something like this: “So when one player bad, must lose. That’s what happened today. I have to accept with the same calm when I win than when I lose. After four years I lose here, and the season continue.”
Exactly! The season continues, and with the hardest working man in tennis ready to begin his on slot on pristine courts of the All England Club, I urge everyone of you out there to enjoy the four chaps playing in the semi-finals in Paris. There will be great tennis no doubt– but come Wimbledon — it is all but certain that one of the final-four spots will be taken by an all too familiar, and deserving face.
June 3, 2009
With the stunning defeat of Rafael Nadal from this years French Open, Roger Federer can at least for the time being stop his daily ritual of stabbing his Rafa voodoo doll when he wakes up in the morning.
With four consecutive heart breaking defeats to the Mallorcan spanning the 2005 – 2008 French Open’s, Federer will never have a better opportunity than this year to capture the last piece of his grand slam puzzle.
Father time waits for no man and Roger isn’t getting any younger. His clay game will be no better in a years time (trust me), and the field around him (which will likely include Nadal) will have improved. So what you waiting for Roger — pick up your game mate!
The pending question going forward will be whether or not Federer will able to handle the pressure? Although Roger recently advanced to the quarterfinals in Paris, his drive to the finals almost took an abrupt halt when he went down two sets to love against German, Tommy Haas. Luckily for Roger he was able to hold it together and with the fortune of a drop in form from the flaky German, Federer lived to fight on in France.
I caution you all to take this whole pressure issue seriously. I know Roger is a great champion, but the immense pressure of becoming the favorite to win this tournament must be getting to him. Not just any tournament mind you the one tournament that will propel him into the greatest player that ever lived. Try that hat on when you get a chance, it weights a ton. Even for Federer, that will not be an easy proposition to deal with.
Other circumstances that have added pressure to the Swiss as the days to the finals become nearer have /will be the early stage in which Nadal was defeated; as well as the opposition still standing in his way. If Rafa had been knocked out in the semi’s, Federer’s mind would have remained on his matches, and not on the opportunity of a lifetime. Once again don’t think for a minute that Roger doesn’t think about Nadal’s departure on every changeover and during his dinner plates of pasta. It’s simply comes down one of those situations where Federer would just as easily trade in his entire prize money from the tournament to be super imposed into Sunday’s final as soon as possible, to avoid the anxious, anxiety driven, countless amounts of balls he potentially has to hit, before Sunday actually rolls around.
Alas that’s not how it’s going to work, and Federer must dial in his focus immediately with some serious trouble on the horizon with his quarterfinals foe being Frenchmen, Gael Monfils.
Monfils has been in optimal form thus far in the championships and will be ready to rock come Wednesday afternoon. With the crowd on his side, I could see Gael taking out Federer if the Swiss doesn’t set the tone early. There will not be a two sets to love comeback victory in that one.
Although Federer is 4-0 lifetime against Monfils, the Paris native is behaving like he believes he can win the whole thing, and with the way he played against Andy Roddick, he might just be right. Never have I seen Monfils more determined to close out a match than he was against Roddick. The steal look in his eyes, followed by constant chest pumps, and shouts of ALLEZ, shook the very foundation of court Suzanne Lenglen. Federer will have his hands full with Sliderman, that is for certain.
Putting aside the other possible treats for Federer going forehand: the del Potro’s the Robredo’s the Gonzalez’s or even the Soderling’s, Roger also has this small matter of being caught up in a little piece of history this year. If Federer’s premonition comes true and he finds himself on Chatrier court next Sunday, and let’s just say (keeping with the theme of good spirits here of course) that Roger wins the event — none other than American great Andre Agassi will be on stage during the trophy ceremony presenting the coupe de musketeers.
Remember it was Agassi himself defying all odds, who came into the 1999 French championships with dreams of capturing the final piece of his grand slam collection. Agassi by no means had the greatest of years coming into that event, and even contemplated withdrawing from the tournament before the first round. But on the wisdom of his coach at the time Brad Gilbert, Agassi entered the tournament and won the title as the 13th seed – wisdom which became life altering.
The win did not come easy for Agassi with complicated early round wins over Arnaud Clement and Carlos Moya (the defending champ). Those come from behind wins were pale in comparison to what Agassi faced in the finals.
Standing in his way from becoming only the fifth man to ever win all four grand slams was the most unlikely of opponents, Andrei Medvedev. Agassi had been a big brother figure to Medvedev throughout the championships, providing him with tips and strategy towards his up coming matches.
Agassi’s advice was so great in fact, that Medvedev found himself jumping to a resounding two sets to love lead in just over an hour. Aren’t fairy tales suppose to end with a positive ending? With no hope in sight, the Parisian fan’s got on his side, and Andre roared all the way back to not only take the next three sets, but also complete the most improbable of victories in the place that was historically the toughest for him to succeed.
Fast forward to 2009 and ten years later. Federer has also struggled thus far in this championships, but much like Agassi, has found a way to summon his inner most champion and come through. Much like Agassi’s campaign in ’99, all of the top seeds around Federer have faded. There were no Sampras’, Moya’s or Kuerten’s left for Agassi to battle, leaving a Soderling level chap by the name of Andrei Medvedev in his way.
Don’t quote me here by saying that Soderling will make the finals this year — I mean it’s possible but there is still a lot of tennis to be played.
The premise that needs to be kept here is that the stars have certainly aligned for R-Fed this fortnight to capture the crowing jewel of his tennis career. Whether or not he will be able to achieve this feat, and whether or not the power of “history has a way of repeating itself”, will internally lend its helping hand, is yet to be determined.
Whatever the case one thing is for certain: Andre Agassi will be in Paris this Sunday, and will be waiting much like he was ten years ago on the podium in the middle of Chatrier stadium. This time around Andre will be wearing a suit, trading in his tennis duds for the honor of presenting the trophy to the King of France. Whether or not that player is the man who will be — only the sixth man to ever win all four grand slams is yet to be determined. There was once four remember. First things first, Mr. Monfils must be taken care of — not going to be easy.
May 27, 2009
Just when we thought American, James Blake was getting out of his recent funk, the soon to be 30-year old crashed out of the first round at Roland Garros yesterday; at the hands of qualifier, Leonardo Mayer no less. I’m not taking anything away from Mayer here, the guy can play ball, but let’s be frank here for a moment, he is simply not in James Blake’s league. I know many of you will suggest that Blake has never excelled on clay, and that his third round finish in 2006 (his best run to date), was nothing to write home about. But my concerns for the American are of a different nature.
Sure Blake is not that good on clay, and he is getting older (by tennis standards), which will inevitably make his trademark first step and forehand less effective. But with only one quarter-final showing in the majors during the last three years, the former J-Block leader needs to reevaluate.
After another inexplicable loss in the early stages of a grand slam event, Blake had this to say after his match with Mayer.
“Nothing went right. I wasn’t ?? served pretty well in the first set or two, and then that wasn’t going well”.
You don’t say James, usually when you lose to a guy that is ranked 78 places below you, your serve could not have been the lone factor in your poor performance?
Perhaps the most disappointing point brought up by Blake in his presser yesterday, was his outlook on how Americans approach clay tennis.
“For the Americans, a lot of times this isn’t our main goal of the year. Ours is generally Wimbledon and the US Open. I think if we were to try to prepare completely for the French Open, we would be giving away some of our advantage at the Wimbledon and the US Open. That’s where we excel.”
We’d rather, I think, prepare best for what our strengths are. I think Andy has proved that by winning the US Open and getting to the finals of Wimbledon a bunch of times.”
So what you are saying James is that American players would prefer to bypass one of the four most important tournaments of the year in order to, perhaps play well at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open? I see–not being too picky here or anything, but when was the last time any American player won either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open? A distant 2003 comes to mind.
With that being said, I’m not hating on Blake or the American boys, they are all fine tennis players. But the truth never seems to hurt less with each passing year in Paris — you guys are just not that good on clay. Nevertheless, I for one would like to see Blake pick up his mediocre start to the 2009 season, by adding a few words of wisdom to the former number four ranked player in the world.
First off–James my man, you need a new coach. I’ve said this time and time again, Brain Barker is just not cutting it anymore. I know the relationship is strong, but if you want to continue to be a top player, a new voice in your ear is necessary. At the bare minimum hybrid a new coach into your system, ala Andy Murray.
Secondly, work on your slice backhand and volleys. That business about not being able to a teach an old dog new tricks is so Tomas Muster. Blake possess great athleticism, and if harnessed by a more feel oriented game, the semi-Harvard grad would see plenty more opinions on court, instead of his day to day surf and turf forehand routine.
Thirdly, bring back the sleeveless. No I’m serious! When the going gets tough, go back to what worked the best. With players being so ritualistic these days, and with Blake’s best days consisting of no farmers tan, let the poor guys biceps see some sun. My memo to Fila is in the mail!
Lastly, keep enjoying the game JB. We all know about the adversity that you went through in 2004. But as of late, Blake’s on court demeanor is portraying more sentiments of tennis being more of a chore than a privilege. One of my fondest memories of Blake was during his epic classic at the 2005 U.S. Open against Andre Agassi. Even though Blake had given up a two sets to love lead during that quarter-final, a standing ovation by a rocking Ashe stadium, followed by an ear-to-ear smile by Blake, proved that even during the hardest of on court moments, everything needs to be put into perspective.
With two slams still on tap in 2009, I sure hope Blake was right when he said that Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are the tournaments that the American guys excel in the most.
May 19, 2009
For the first time since 2007, and only the second time ever, Fed finally earned a clay-court victory over the Spanish juggernaut that has run over him (and his confidence) for some time. Fed took the title of the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open with a 6-4 6-4 win over the world’s top ranked player, Rafael Nadal. Whether this occurrence was an anomaly, or the foreshadowing of things to come, remains to be seen. What is for sure, however, is that Fed made some seemingly minor adjustments that had major implications.
Rafa’s high topspin forehand to Fed’s backhand has obviously been the bain of Fed’s existence recently. In Madrid, Fed mitigated the devastating effects of this matchup nightmare by tactfully hammering his forehand down the line to Nadal’s backhand. Rather than focusing on nailing a winner, Fed put the ball in the corner and set up the next shot with Nadal scrambling to get back into position. Not only did this keep the looping ball away from Fed’s backhand, but it also cost Nadal some positioning strength.
On the topic of positioning, Fed was also able to disrupt Rafa’s through the use of timely drop shots. We will not know for sure if this strategy worked because Nadal was fatigued from the previous day’s match (4+ hour win over Djokovic), but perhaps this is the way Fed will need to exploit Rafa if he hopes to win in Paris.
Fed also seemed more aggressive in returning Rafa’s serve, which has received some attention in the past months. Nadal has hinted that his second serve could use some work, an indication that maybe his confidence is not as bullet proof as it has been since his run at the #1 ranking and into this year. If Fed is to have any chance of winning at the French this year, he will need, amongst other things, something to rattle Rafa’s confidence. While the Madrid title is peanuts compared to any major, Rafa may finally be feeling the pressures of being expected to win every time he hits the court. Perhaps this will allow Fed to relax and execute his game-plan better.
While it is far too premature to project the results of this one match on to the rest of the season, the end of Nadal’s 33 match winning streak on clay gives Federer’s legion of fans the slightest glimpse of hope heading into Roland Garros.
May 14, 2009
With the recent drug scandal surrounding Frenchmen, Richard Gasquet, an interesting thought came to mind in regards to the ATP and how drug abuse can seriously jeopardize their product. Granted, Gasquet is not a marquee player anymore, he is perhaps one of the most talented guys in the world, but let’s be honest here for a minute, most people would not be able to distinguish him in a line of ten men. If he is accused of his crime and suspended, so be it. He will hopefully learn from his infraction and move on and become a better player and or person. The ATP will continue day to day activities with no dust on their jackets.
A potentially broader, more devastating question which the ATP hopes they never have to answer, would be, what if the accused player (instead of Gasquet), in this whole pending drug mess were Rafael Nadal? Would the ATP keep it under wraps, or would the information leak out and destroy Rafa’s imagine? More importantly would it destroy the tour all together?
Unlike other professional sports, tennis relies on a selected casts of characters to pay its bills. If Lebron James or Alexander Ovechkin, were caught doing performance enhancing or recreational drugs, the reprecautions of their actions would defiantly be felt no question. However, because these two superstars participate in team based sports, what does a fan of Los Angeles Lakers really care if Lebron is suspended, he has Kobe; and how much sleep is an avid follower who attends every home game of the Pittsburgh Penguins really concerned if Ovechkin sits out for a year or two, he has Sidney Crosby. The NBA or NHL would still be able to fill many of their multiple arenas.
Tennis, unfortunately does not have that luxury. If Nadal were to be suspended, it would globally effect the entire tour, from sponsors, tv coverage/ratings, and merchandise sales. In a nut shell, Nadal is the ATP.
For arguments sake, let’s just say that the unthinkable happened, and Nadal was caught for doing some sort of banned substance that was not allowed in his sport, would it be released?
I challenge anyone out there to go and search any major tournament, grand slam or masters 1000 event, and muse over the roster of players. Which player do you think is plastered on every tournament website, every billboard and brochure for that event? Well it ain’t Amir Delic.
With Rafa gone, every tournament would have a lot more to worry about then missing Gasquet’s backhand, it would be more about survival at that point. You thought resorting to a gas station sandwich, after losing your lunch in grade ten was bad.
I’m sure you would not hear any complaints from Rafa’s end if he was not forced to play Madrid this week. But with expectations and millions of dollars involved, the stakes were far to high for him to be chillin back in Mallorca, and having his mom make him his favorite Cocido.
Ion Triac (the tournament owner of Madrid), or any high roller that owns a tournament around the world (see Novak Djokovic), hopes and prays, each and every night that Rafa will accept their invitation to participate, show up, and blast a forehand or two around their center court. His presence is pretty much mandatory to run a successful show.
But could Rafa realistically get away with an act of substance abuse, or would his market value keep him in the clear? I’m inclined to suggest that Nadal is far to valuable for the tour, and even if he were to be convicted of abusing a substance, it would either get shoved under the carpet, or if accused the harshness of his sentence would involve him not wearing custom made Nike’s.
You can bet your drop shot that this would be favourtism, but everyone has to eat, and Nadal puts food on everyones table. Whether or not such an occurance would ever transpire is yet to determined, but one thing is for sure, when you’re hot you’re hot, and nothing it seems can stand in your way when you can single handedly fill up stadiums and make corporate investment, grin from ear to ear. Somewhere, out there, Mariano Puerta wishes he wore capri’s.
April 28, 2009
With constant rain creating extreme tension in regards to the order of play at the Roma Masters this week, it got me thinking, should every major tournament on the calender be forced to have a roof, or some sort of cover on there show courts?
The All England Club unveiled there new roof on center court this week, as rain and Wimbledon have gone hand in hand now for over a century. The state of the art roof is ready to go, and will allow the shrine of the tennis world to be well manicured, over the fortnight this summer.
The Aussie Open has two retractable roofs, and the up coming Madrid Masters, has believe it or not, three courts that can be covered. Magic box which is the new name of the Madrid venue, is to my mind the model that should be looked at, as new tennis stadiums are built around the world.
However, is it really a cost effective practice for roof-less venues, to get roofed, or is it in the best interest of each and every tournament to just deal with mother nature and take it as it comes? Well, I will say this, having tennis is always better than not having tennis. With ticket exchanges becoming a nightmare for events to honor, as well as T.V. coverage commitments, putting in a removable umbrella on a center court or two, only has positive outcomes.
I remember having some of the worst weather that I can recall in recent memory, at the 2008 Masters Toronto event. Everyday included some sort of rain, resulting in empty stands when matches actually began, and not allowing players adequate practice time, therefore effecting their level of play throughout the week.
I believe some careful considerations needs to be taken into account here in regards to this subject, as orders of play are meant to be kept, not put off and lost.
I know what many of you will be thinking, what about those days after a wash out occurs? Those days which perhaps Nadal or Federer would be forced to play two matches, to the approval of the crowd? I never said having a roof was perfect, and being allowed to view ones favorite player twice during a certain day, is all but a mouth watering proposition. But when looking at it from the perspective of the player, I can tell you that is not what they are looking for.
Just think, having no more rain delays, would be a delightful idea for a spectator or player to have when waking up the day of a match and having the certainty that irrespective of the conditions above, there will be a cool drink to be enjoyed by the viewership, as the bull ring will be alive and animated with good clean, and dry action.
April 23, 2009
With the claycourt swing in full tilt, the fitness level of every ATP warrior will be on display and tested as the next month takes the tennis world towards the French Open. What struck me as a concern today, was the recent withdrawal of 7th seeded David Nalbandian, after the Argentine won his third round match at the Barcelona Open and was forced to forfeit his quarter-final clash with top seed, Rafael Nadal, because of a hip injury. When is David going to learn? I mean the 27-year old has had a respectable career, but undoubtedly has underachieved because he cares more about Big Macs and donuts than he does about his off court training. Does David not see how he is affecting the tour?
With his latest fitness related injury, he is depriving the tennis public of a great clash between himself and Nadal. A match that could have reached epic proportions, which will now NOT take place because Burger King and not King David as he is referred to, simply can not take the court, because his body has/is/will break down as a result of neglect. I believe David would have had a great shot at challenging Rafa, as he is one of the few and far between players on tour that has every shot in the book, and executes his game plan to perfection against the games greatest.
I remember, one of our resident correspondents to the site, Rob Steckley (who is a supremely fit guy), talk about playing Nalbandian in the juniors and David being one of the few guys that he was not able to beat. Steckley, BTW defeated Andy Roddick on numerous occasions as a junior. There has never been a question in my mind that David can consistently be a top five player.
Nevertheless, what the tour is missing to a great degree in my book, is fit players. There is no question that the top four players in the world are in great shape, I would also throw in the mix, Andy Roddick, David Ferrer and Llyeton Hewitt who are players that are religious about their off court preparation.
A player like Nalbandian is an utter disgrace to honest, and he will begin to see (more often that not at this point), the absolute results of his years of stopping off at IHOP and Denny’s on his way back from tour events. The clock waits for no man, my Argentine friend, and unless you intend to pick up your training and eating habits, there will certainly be more debacles like the one that was encountered at the end of last years Davis Cup. I hope somewhere out there, Novak Djokovic is listening.
April 10, 2009
As I spoke briefly about the debacle in Houston, Texas this week in my daily post today, the hot topic has clearly been the disappearing act of ALL of the seeded players in the U.S. Clay Court Championships. I believe I have to further investigate this topic.
Is this just a coincidence or should the organizers of the Houston event perhaps look into making the tournament into a hardcourt event, held either before Indian Wells or during the summer hardcourt swing, leading up to the U.S.Open? Here’s why. The States has never, ever been known for hosting or creating any top claycourt tournaments or players of any kind. I know, I know, I will be getting a ton of emails about the Couriers and Micheal Chang’s of the this world and how they won the French Open in the LATE 80’s and early 90’s. But let’s be serious here people, without a grand slam on the dirt in a decade for the U.S. and with only the great Andre Agassi winning the Roma Masters back in 2002, what is the point really of having the Houston even on the calender?
As I eluded to in my post today, Tommy Haas provided some insight into why the departure of the entire staff of seeded players this week in Texas had occurred. “It’s not easy playing here, to be honest,” Haas said. “The balls are hard and the clay is slippery. If you don’t hit the ball clean, it flies away.”
I also went onto making this point about the Houston event. Well Tommy let’s be brutally honest here and tell the people the truth, shall we? Although Houston is a great event, and the players and fan’s seem to enjoy themselves, the bottom line is that the U.S. Claycourt Championships are played on American soil, which in tern can not in anyway facilitate any sort of proper texture or maintenance towards to the claycourts. There is a reason these problems do not arise at Monte Carlo or in Roma, because the venues and the grounds crews have the equipment to properly construct the court surface as to the desired playability of the competitors.
I just do not see any real point to a claycourt tournament being held in the States. I mean, what it also does is take a lot of guys out of the loop when traveling to Monte Carlo next week, a place they should be playing! The Houston-Monte Carlo connection has never really worked has it? How many back to back winners of Texas and Monaco as there been in the history of the ATP World Tour? Thank you very much.
Furthermore, I think going forward the ATP World Tour should look into restructuring the Houston event, perhaps as a hardcourt tournament at some other time during the year. Now don’t get me wrong people, I know a lot of you out there are thinking, what about all of those claycourt events after Wimbledon? Why are they there? Is that right? Isn’t that suppose to be the start of the summer hardcourt season? Well certainly I would say “yes” to all of the above, but let’s combat one issue at a time and fix this Texas massacre, before it loses all credibility.