Let’s Get It Started!

Okay let’s start this year off right on Tennis Diary and jump right in. I spent the first day of the new year at the Rose Bowl which, for non-American readers, is a quaint amateur college football game played in front of 94,000 people.

College sports in the U.S. command huge television contracts and 100,000 seat stadiums though the amateur designation is problematic. Remember when tennis was an amateur sport? Amateur in that case meant players were paid under the table. In the college football version, a father tried to sell his talented football playing son to a university for $180,000 last year.

We don’t have that in the tennis world today but we do have Wayne Odesnik. Odesnik was caught bringing vials of human growth hormone (HGH) into Australia this time last year and should have received a two year suspension. The International Tennis Federation reduced the suspension to one year thus allowing him to begin competing immediately.

The curt official announcement of the suspension reduction mentioned cooperation on Odesnik’s part. He gave information of some sort to the authorities and it had to be one of two possibilities. He gave up names of people who provide HGH to tennis players or he named tennis players who use HGH. Hell, it could have been both. But I doubt it.

In all the years that U.S. baseball has been dealing with steroid issues, very few people turned in other baseball players and only one of them was a fellow baseball player. Jose Canseco wrote a book naming baseball players who used steroids because he was angry that he’d been kicked out of baseball. And to make some money of course. If Odesnik did turn in other players he can expect a detached retina or two the next time he gets drawn to the net on a dropshot.

Odesnik should invest in a pair Oakley sunglasses to protect his eyes in either case. If he gave the names of HGH providers to authorities and those providers turn evidence on players to reduce their legal troubles, it’ll all fall back on Odesnik.

Instead of looking backward at last year I’m going to look forward. As I get older I find this a healthier approach to life. So what is the main trend this year? Like most other sports today the answer is rehab. No not drugs silly. Rehab from injuries.

Justine Henin says it’ll take months of play until she recovers properly from an elbow injury though for her that might be a good thing. In her first professional tour of duty, anger and hurt from a muddled childhood propelled her to seven slams with attitude. After she retired then returned she was too well adjusted to want to rip someone’s head off. Maybe an elbow injury is just the adversity she needs to get that attitude back.

Juan Martin Del Potro tried to come back at the end of last year after an eight month break for a wrist injury, but he lost both matches and shut it down. That injury was really unfortunate because he looked like he’d make the twosome of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal a threesome. We can only hope the injury was a one-time thing and not a result of his style of play else we’ll still be looking for someone new to fall in love with at the top of the men’s game.

Dinara Safina says she’s healthy after enduring a season full of painkillers for a stress fracture in her back. I’d never heard of a stress fracture in the back before and didn’t know what it meant. A vertebra actually fractures from the pressure put on the back and typically the fracture is in the lower back. Stress fractures happen slowly over time and that means Safina was playing in a way that put unmanageable pressure on her back. It’s that style thing I mentioned above. If she can regain her power game without having to change her style significantly she should be okay physically. Let’s not worry about that mental part at the moment.

Alright, tournaments are underway and one semi-tournament slash exhibition is already complete so hang around as we get ourselves underway.