Short of Vince Spadea getting to the quarterfinals in Estoril, there’s not much excitement this week so let’s look at the Good, the Bad and the Really Bad so far this season.
Okay, let’s start with the players.
Guillermo Canas Way good. He’s wearing himself out trying to prove everyone wrong about his drug suspension. A title on clay at Costa do Sauipe, two wins over Federer, a final in Miami (a Masters Series remember) and a final against Rafael Nadal in Barcelona. No one is hotter. Only thing is, he might be overdoing it. Forearm cramps and blisters during a three hour semifinal at Barcelona then a strained abdominal muscle which forced him to retire in Estoril. Slow down guy, there are a lot more tournaments this year and we’re still counting on you to challenge Federer at the U.S. Open. Who else is there?
Novak Djokovic Djokovic has the übergame of the current version of ATP tennis: brash personality, big enough serve, all court game and that wicked inside out forehand. Not only that but he’s smart. He made tactical mistakes against Nadal and lost in the Indian Wells final. Somehow he didn’t realize that his forehand feeds right into Nadal’s lefty forehand. Nadal is supreme on clay precisely because the slow speed gives him time to run around his backhand. When they met up again in Miami, Djokovic beat Nadal then beat Canas for his first Masters Shield. Two Masters finals in a row and a Masters title, that ain’t bad.
Rafael Nadal After failing to reach a final since Wimbledon last year, Nadal took the Indian Wells title and is rolling as usual on clay with two straight titles.
Serena Williams See Maria Sharapova below.
Roger Federer Two losses to Canas, one to Nadal and this past Wednesday, an event that showed why he’s bad this year and Canas and Nadal are good. Nadal and Federer met in Mallorca for The Battle of the Surfaces, a match played on a hybrid court consisting of grass on one side and clay on the other. It was a weird but fun event with each player given two minutes on breaks to change into surface-appropriate shoes. Nadal scratched out a victory in the third set, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(12-10). And there you have it: Nadal and Canas have heart and desire while Federer appears to have scattered small bits of his heart over the ocean somewhere between Dubai and Miami. Losing to Canas in the first round at Indian Wells is acceptable – who could have guessed the fury of Canas at that point? But Miami? Federer’s fight couldn’t stand up to Canas’s desire. It’s also o.k. to lose to Nadal on clay but not the way he did in Monte Carlo. He looked unnerved as his forehand went missing and he failed to cash in on the few break points he got.
Maria Sharapova Usual story on the women’s tour – injuries. A hamstring pull followed by a shoulder injury both of which combined to totally mess up her service motion. Then there was that beatdown planted on her psyche at the Australian Open by Serena Williams followed by an even worse beatdown in Miami. Sharapova won five games in those two matches that are likely to leave their impression as long as Serena sticks around.
David Nalbandian Nalbandian has reached exactly one quarterfinal this year and that was last week in Barcelona. He started the year at number 8 and he’s now down to 13. And he couldn’t even beat Thomas Johansson in Davis Cup.
THE REALLY BAD
Gaston Gaudio I’ve put him in this year because the guy is so discouraged that he’s considering retirement but he’s been having problems for a while. You often hear that he never fulfilled his promise after winning the French Open in 2004 but that victory probably went beyond his promise. Before that French Open, he’d never gone above a ranking of nineteen. After the Open, he stayed around the top ten for almost exactly two years then lost his confidence and went out in the first round of seven straight tournaments after the U.S. Open last year. He started to lose and couldn’t stop. He’s now down to number 71.
Now let’s look at events:
Equal prize money at Wimbledon. Jeez, finally. Maybe that was enough to convince Kim Clijsters to play there this year. She’s skipping most of the clay court season including the French Open so she can avoid injuring herself – a strong possibility on the WTA Tour – before her wedding in July. She might need the money because she’s retiring for good after the playing Stuttgart in October.
Hmm, that’s the only good thing that comes to mind, help me out here.
Round Robins Tank Confusion reigned supreme as retirements prevented players from advancing so ATP CEO Etienne de Villiers put an end to the experiment that was round robin play. Good news to everyone else but bad news to me. I think players could have adjusted to a little ambiguity and small tournaments could have benefited from the format but nobody listens to me do they?
Angry Players and Tournaments Canas might fit in here. As soon as he shook up the tour by taking Federer out two weeks in a row, his fellow players asked the ATP to refuse wild cards to players returning from drug suspensions. It was aimed directly at Canas who used wild cards to get into five challengers after returning from his suspension to build up his ranking.
Players walked out of a meeting with de Villiers in Miami because they were mad about losing the Monte Carlo and Hamburg Masters events in the ATP’s plan for new changes. Madrid move to clay but there will still be one less clay Masters event overall. Monte Carlo and Hamburg responded by suing the ATP in Delaware. When do we ever mention the word Delaware except to talk about lawsuits?
THE REALLY BAD
Or really good, or both, or just plain frustrating, take your pick. Federer doesn’t lose (much) on hard court and Nadal never loses on clay. We have possibly the two best players of all time on their respective surfaces and they’re each other’s best competition but there’s no rivalry. The only way we get anything is to stick grass on one side of the court and clay on the other and give each player two pairs of shoes. Maybe we should replace the French Open and Wimbledon with the hybrid surface so we’re assured of a thrilling final.
Join in please. Which players and events get your Good, Bad, and Really Bad votes so far?