As the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championship gets underway in Memphis, the questions is: After last week, which story speaks the loudest?
- Victoria Azarenka’s win in Doha, ending her 10-match losing streak to Serena Williams?
- Serena capturing the #1-ranking despite the loss to Vika 6-7(6), 6-2, 3-6
- Rafael Nadal capturing the Brazil Open title in his second comeback tournament
- Roger Federer losing the Rotterdam quarterfinals to Julien Benneteau
- John Isner’s loss to Tommy Haas in the SAP Open semifinals in San Jose
DOHA: Serena is now officially the oldest woman ever to hold the #1 ranking. In 1985, Chris Evert was the top-ranked player just a few weeks before turning 31. That said, Victoria Azarenka can reclaim the top spot this week in Dubai – if Vika reaches the final and Serena gets beat.
BRAZIL: Though not back in top form, one has to admit Rafael Nadal’s return to the sport has been impressive these past two weeks. After seven months off to treat his injured left knee, Rafa made Vina del Mar, Chile the site of his first event back…where he lost the final to relative unknown Horacio Zeballos.
This week, he went at it again in Sao Paolo and rolled all the way to the title, defeating David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3. It is Rafa’s 51st singles title overall – his first since winning Roland Garros last year – and this week, he sounded a lot more positive during the post-match interview: “When the knee is feeling better like today I feel like that I can do more of the things that I used to do my entire life…If the pain is bearable like it was today, then it’s fine.” Oddly enough, he and Nalbandian were doubles partners at the start of the tournament, but Rafa decided to pull-out of the doubles-draw after their first-round win, not wanting to overexert the knee. The comeback continues on clay in Acapulco starting February 25th…
ROTTERDAM: Juan Martin del Potro captured the title on Sunday with a 7-6(2), 6-3 win over Julien Benneteau, but the shocker came with defending champion Roger Federer’s loss to Benneteau in the quarterfinals (3-6, 5-7). Overall, Julien broke Roger’s serve five times, and it was a Federer double fault that brought-on match point. We all have bad days, but this is Roger Federer! No one is quite accustomed to seeing Roger concede over 400-points with an early exit at an ATP World Tour 500 tournament.
SAN JOSE: The American tennis fan just wants to see some consistency from the hard-hitting John Isner. In Davis Cup, the guy will defeat Roger Federer on the road, on clay…then lose a first-round five setter to Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil. He’s won the longest match in tennis history, yet he’ll under-perform in the semifinal of an ATP World Tour 250 event like San Jose. At this stage of his development, as top-20 player – like it or not – the expectation is that John will regularly make the finals of events like the SAP Open.
The lingering question after Saturday’s loss to Tommy Haas (3-6, 4-6): Does John Isner have this expectation of himself? Credit to Tommy – Haas has been playing phenomenal tennis over the past six months and has climbed back into the top-25 – but this should have been a routine win for the top-ranked American. It’s time for John to craft the entire package, physically and mentally, rather than relying on first serve percentage. Oh, and congrats to Milos Raonic, by the way…the defending champion defeated Tommy Haas in the SAP Open final 6-4, 6-3.
THIS WEEK: The ladies are in Memphis, Bogota and Dubai. The guys are in Memphis, Buenos Aires and Marseille.