The new tennis season has just started on the ATP Tour with the beginning of the Brisbane International qualifications (it has started last night/at dawn in the WTA), although for the last two days, we were spoiled, as we have been every year since 2008, with the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, a six-player exhibition held in Abu Dhabi, where some of the best players have been coming every year since its instalment.
Exhibition or not, we have been treated quite nicely with some good (and some not so good) tennis over the last two days, even though there was no Gaël Show in the Monfils – Djokovic match, although some points were real early-morning candy! Today, however, not so much so, which was to be expected as both Roger Federer (lost 2-6 1-6 to Nole the Ist) and Rafael Nadal (lost 3-6 2-6 to David Ferrer) were playing their first somewhat competitive match of the season.
Which means that the Abu Dhabi finals will feature World no 1 Novak Djokovic and World no 5 David Ferrer, not before 8AM ET tomorrow, a treat, while just before, at 6AM ET, we’ll have the even bigger treat of an exhibition consolation final opposing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Ain’t that sweet for a Saturday morning! I hope that they’ll put on a better show tomorrow when playing each other than they did today against very sharp opponents (who still had one more match under their belt, Ferrer even having played the Bilbao exhibition just before Christmas).
The season is not starting so well (the pullouts)
Nevertheless, as I said, the new tennis season (the one that gives points) has kicked off early this evening with the Brisbane first round of qualifications and already, there have been several pullouts from the first events of the season, most of them due to injury.
If we knew at the beginning of the month or so that Marin Cilic (knee) and Robin Söderling (still recovering from mononucleosis and who has started light training today) weren’t to play until at least February, some other names, both on the men’s and women’s sides, added themselves to the list, for injuries that, for some, we already knew.
Shortly before Christmas, it was announced that Maria Sharapova, still suffering from the bad ankle injury that she suffered near the end of last season, would not play in Brisbane. Same for Venus Williams, who pulled out of Auckland because of her illness (she does not yet feel ready to participate in a tournament and her presence in Melbourne is in doubt).
Furthermore, from early on this week, other names were added to the list (here in alphabetical order):
- Kevin Anderson, still having knee issues, pulled out of Brisbane, but should play Auckland.
- James Blake, still having knee issues, pulled out of both Brisbane and the Australian Open. I have the feeling that the end is very, very near for the sympathetic American, and I must say it makes me sad.
- Pablo Cuevas, recovering from a knee surgery and who has been out since Roland Garros, has just resumed training and will be out until the Davis Cup weekend in February. From a fan point of view, I’m really missing Cuevas and hope he’ll come back fully healthy and ready to take it back where he left it when he got injured, even though I know it might take time for him to find his rhythm again.
- Robin Haase has pulled out of Chennai for a visa issue. He made the announcement himself on Twitter:
By the way, I am not going to Chennai this year. Had to withdraw. If someone wants to know why, one word: Visa…..
— Robin Haase (@robin_haase) December 28, 2011
Many of you wonder if I was to late with my visa application. I was not.. Long story. Going early to Sydney! Anyone up for practise?
— Robin Haase (@robin_haase) December 29, 2011
- Donald Young pulled out of Brisbane for the proverbial personal reasons.
- On the women’s side, young Brit Heather Watson has pulled out of Auckland because of a sprained ankle.
I think that the tennis season is too long, when injuries from the previous season often get in the way at the beginning of the new one, don’t you?
Rafa to take a month off
Rafael Nadal announced a month ahead that he was taking a month off after the Australian Open, which means that he won’t play any tournament in February and, like in 2010-11, will come back only in Indian Wells. However, if, in the last two years, it was injuries that really declared themselves (or that he declared) during the first Grand Slam of the season (he withdrew in the quarters in 2010 vs Andy Murray due to yet another knee problem that forced him out for several weeks and, last year, he painfully toughed out a leg injury vs David Ferrer in the quarterfinals as well and, again, was forced out for a month, both times when facing red-hot opponents), this year, it’s a lingering shoulder injury that he’s had since before the World Tour Finals that made him take this decision.
Like many, I’m questioning the reason of making such an announcement now, even before official season started, but contrary of quite a few, who think that it’s an excuse in case he doesn’t perform well in Melbourne, I think that the injury is legitimate and does exist. After all, didn’t it impair the end of his preparation for 2012 (as it impaired as well his pre-season, started before the WTF) after the Davis Cup, even putting in doubt his participation in the Abu Dhabi exhibition?
Still, like some, I think that it is, for Nadal, a way of closing definitely the door of Spain’s new Davis Cup captain, Alex Corretja, of a participation from the Mallorca native in the first round, which will take place February 10-12, in Spain, as Corretja had expressed the hope that he may still count on Nadal and David Ferrer in the early stages of the competition.
But Nadal, like a lot of players, has centered his calendar around the Olympic Games and thus ensures the maximum rest in key moments of the season in order to be ready.
On the other hand, Roger Federer will have a very busy February, as he will not only take part in the Davis Cup first round against the United States (on clay, in Switzerland), but also, the week just after, in the Rotterdam tournament and then, at the end of the month, in Dubaï (as is his custom). Although Nadal has nothing to lose nor defend at that time, by playing an extra tournament, Federer can glean precious ranking points and reduce Nadal’s lead at no 2.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) created a very sad precedent this week, when they invoiced USD $75,000 to the Russian Tennis Federation for the transfer of Russian-born player Alex Bogomolov Jr. A spiteful and unjustified move from the USTA, as they admitted themselves that World no 34 Bogomolov was not part of their Davis Cup plans (and thus couldn’t have a chance to play the Olympics).
The ITF granted Bogomolov’s request to henceforth play for his native Russia, where he now is the no 1 player, member of the Davis Cup squad and eligible to participate in the London Games. I can, somehow, understand the grief of the USTA, when they paid for his development and all, but at the same time, didn’t they accept Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl from former Czechoslovakia back in the days? And many other players from other countries as well?
It’s like the pot calling the kettle black, in my opinion.
Russia, as well, is often the victim of players going to represent other countries, mainly Kazakhstan, the latest being Ksena Pervak. However, even if this infuriated the Russian Federation, they never and haven’t invoiced Kazakhstan, whether in the past with other players or in Pervak’s case.
Nevertheless, both federations should take example on Tennis New Zealand (TNZ), whose no 2 player, Sacha Jones, decided this week to play for Australia (her father is an Aussie), as they have better means for her development than New Zealand has. TNZ’s Chief Executive, Steve Johns, albeit admittedly disappointed, wished Jones the best of luck and even told her that the door would always be open if she chose to come back and play for New Zealand someday.
This, my friends, is what we call class. USTA, Russian Federation, take lessons from TNZ!
Mexican fairy tale
We know that a lot of events have had to be completely cancelled due to sponsoring issues. It is the case of the Johannesburg ATP250, for instance and, as well, the WTA will have to find itself a new sponsor, as their main one, Sony Ericsson, will not renew at the end of their deal, in December 2012, “based on the evolution of the business and the brand”, according to the official statement from Sony Ericsson.
The struggles are even worse on the Challenger and Futures (both pro and junior) levels, where many events were also forced to come to an end, among which the GA that was traditionally held just after Christmas in Mexico, the Copa Casablanca. (For the explanation, a GA is the highest level of junior tournaments after the Grand Slams.) However, the Mexican Tennis Federation, in order to pursue this traditional tournament, decided to take the reins of the event (article in Spanish), at the last moment, changing the location, but also the surface, which is now played on clay instead of hard.
That’s what we may call a Mexican fairy tale, and a very happy ending indeed.
Bring on 2012!
The 2012 tennis season started tonight, hence a little ahead of the New Year itself.
So I take this opportunity to wish all the readers of Running Forehand a very good 2012 tennis season! May your favourites know success throughout the season and may we all be witnesses of many an epic again this year, be they on the ATP Tour, the Challenger Tour, the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup, Futures events, the WTA Tour or the Olympic Games.
As well, I wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
For my part, I will keep running both this blog and its French counterpart almost as it is, although with the few differences I’ve already mentioned (translations from Spanish to English on this blog, for instance), and will, as I announced in my previous entry, also add, when time permits, some Challenger Tour and Futures events coverage as well. There is also the possibility of a few very interesting collaborations that are waiting along the road.
Furthermore, you probably noticed that, on the main feature area of the page, you can now find a list of the week’s tournaments on the ATP and Challenger Tours. From next Sunday on, they will be just underneath the Champ of the Week. It is yet another way to keep you informed of what’s going on in the tennis world.
Finally, I’m warning you in advance that as I will spend a big chunk of February in Argentina, the blog might slow down for a good part of my time there, except during the Buenos Aires tournament, of course.
Again, a very happy New Year to everyone!