Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tennis: Post-Australian Open Storylines

The early part of the tennis calendar has come and gone and now everyone is gearing up for red clay season leading up to the second Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros in a couple of months. But before that happens, let's touch on a few storylines that happened post-Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic's Undefeated Run

Fresh off winning his second slam title at Melbourne, Novak Djokovic went on to win all three events he entered (Dubai, Indian Wells, and Miami) compiling a 24-0 record, one of the best starts in tennis. Even more spectacular, he went 4-0 in matches with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and took over the #2 ranking of the latter. If he can keep this up on the red surface, he'll be a force to be reckoned with all year.

Not All Doom and Gloom for Nadal and Federer

Yes, between the two of them they've only won 1 title for the year, but people writing their obituaries are shortsighted. Nadal is still the #1 player in the world holding THREE slam titles. He reached the finals at both Masters tournament which is great for him and his favorite part of the season is still ahead. He is well poised to steal Djokovic's thunder in the next few months. As for Federer, people forget that the LAST person to defeat Djokovic was the Swiss at the tail-end of last year. And while he's no longer the "best player" out there, he has only been defeated by either Djokovic or Nadal this year. Both combined have 27 major titles. They are proven champions. Don't count them out. Ever. That Fed-Nadal match though in Miami? Let's just forget that happened.

What's Happening in the Women's Game?

Good question. With Justine Henin gone and Serena/Venus in the injured list, the WTA has been lacking its stars. Yes, Kim Clijsters claimed the Australian Open and even claimed the #1 ranking for a week, but lack of play and injuries are not letting her dominate the field as many expected her to. World no. #1 Caroline Wozniacki plays a lot and won in Dubai and Indian Wells so her ranking is secure, but respect that comes from slam wins still isn't there. Maria Sharapova did well to reach the finals at Miami and re-enter the top 10, but she lost to Victoria Azarenka who claimed her 2nd Miami title. The Serbians (Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic) are still in play, but just aren't winning enough matches and with clay season everyone should watch out for defending French Open champion Francescha Schiavone even though she hasn't done much since then.

Losing Australian Open Finalists Still Losing

What the hell happened to Andy Murray and Li Na? Yes, they both lost at their chance to win their first Grand Slam title a couple months back, but the fact that neither player have won ONE SINGLE match since then is inexcusable. In Li's defense, some of her matches were actually quite close and competitive and most of her opponents were ranked within the top 40. Murray's last two losses however were in straight sets from guys outside the top 100. Just... wow.

Americans Keep Falling Behind

As noted above, injuries have forced the Williams sisters out of the game for now and their rankings are falling. Serena (ranked #10) is the lone top ten American in either the men or women's tour and Venus is #15. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is the next best American woman at #41. For the men, Mardy Fish is the highest ranked at #11. Let that sink in. I mean, that's all you really need to know about the state of American tennis. Once top-ranked Andy Roddick is now at #14 while Sam Querrey and John Isner are next up, both top 30. Relative to other countries, this collection and rankings aren't THAT bad, but Americans and especially its media certainly have higher expectations.

And A Few More Storylines...

Buoyed by his SF showing at Indian Wells and win against 4th seed Robin Soderling in Miami, Juan Martin Del Potro seems to be on his way back... Mediocre results in Indian Wells and Miami for Milos Raonic, but he went on a tear post-Australian boosting his rankings and giving many a new player to watch... Nine of the top 10 singles players played doubles at Indian Wells and team Federer/Wawrinka made it into the finals after beating Nadal/Lopez... Once again the tennis community came together to raise money for disaster relief, this time for the victims of the Japan earthquake/tsunami... And finally, so long, farewell to Mario Ancic who officially retired from professional tennis at the age of 26.

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