Enough turkey, it’s back to tennis! Too bad the 2009 season is over. Here are a few of the loose threads begging to be tugged or tied:
All hail Nikolay Davydenko, King of Tennis! (At least for a month or two. . .) Yes, round robin makes for a different tennis ball game and the end of the year is always gimpy, but Nikolay Davydenko’s final victory at the World Tour Finals on Sunday was still impressive. The 28-year-old Russian earned his crown the hard way – beating all three reigning Major titleists to become the WTF champ. Here’s finalist Juan Martin Del Potro describing the mighty Kolya after the match:
“This tournament has a great champion, like Nikolay. He work hard for beat every players here this week. So maybe I have to improve a little bit the little things. But he’s play much better than me, and that’s it. . .He’s very strong. I never beat him in hard court or indoors. He’s very fast. He play like PlayStation. You know, he run to everywhere. Is very difficult to make winners. But I think is a great champion.”
The Argentine is swiftly becoming one of the most gracious losers – and winners – in the game (watch out, Rafa!) But after some consideration, I disagree with his PlayStation analysis of the Russian. Del Potro is the super-sized, super-human tennis monster, an increasingly common model in the increasingly amped up ATP tour. Davydenko is the mere mortal – measuring under 6 feet tall, with a grinding work ethic and few endorsement deals. (Kolya on why Prince doesn’t sponsor him: “I know Prince give everything to Sharapova and no money anymore.”)
Of course some of us would rather have seen Roger Federer end the year as both No. 1 and WTF champ, or cheered Rafa to a comeback, or watched Murray win in London, but I’m happy for Davydenko, the Common Man made King!
In other PlayStation news, Andy Murray and longtime girlfriend, Kim Sears have reportedly broken up after four years of dating because of the Scot’s addiction to video games. Via Telegraph:
(S)ources close to Sears said one of the causes was the world number four’s long hours playing video tennis and PlayStation 3 games such as the best selling Call of Duty sequel.
Brad Gilbert, Murray’s former coach, has said in the past that Murray spends “seven hours a day” playing video games.
The source told The Sun: “He would spend all his time glued to them. In the end she just got fed up with it. She wanted more out of the relationship.”
However, the player’s agent told the paper that Murray “doesn’t play computer games any more than any other 22 year-old”.
If there are t-shirts commemorating this momentous event, I’ll take the “Team Kim” version, size XXLOL.
In WTA news, Serena Williams has finally been fined a record $82,500 (or about 1.25% of her 2009 prize money) and sentenced to a two year “probation” by the Grand Slam Committee for her US Open tirade this September. If she commits a “major infraction” at any of the four major tournaments in the next two years, she will be suspended from the US Open and face additional fines (technically, Williams was fined $175,000, including the $10,000 she paid at the tournament, but the final amount was halved barring another melt down.)
Here’s Serena’s statement (via The Washington Post)
“I am thankful that we now have closure on the incident, and we can all move forward. I am back in training in preparation for next season, and I continue to be grateful for all of the support from my fans and the tennis community.”
I’m not saying that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, or that Serena deserved to be banned and bankrupted for her outburst, but why on earth did it take three months to come up with this? It’s like the old parenting debate: would a quick spanking in the heat of the moment (i.e. a default from the tournament, including the doubles final) have been more effective than a long, indulgent grounding with a decreased allowance? I say the Grand Slam Committee wears the dunce cap for dragging its feet for so long.
The men’s World No. 1, Roger Federer, has experienced his own dramas this season. Though he’s come out on top, it’s hard for his fans to forget the indignities he’s suffered (racquet smashing! tears!) at the hands of his ever-strengthening opponents (and Julien Benneteau). ESPN’s Greg Garber has an interesting analysis of Roger’s 2009 achievements – and puts Fed’s remarkable return to the year-end No. 1 ranking in context. How about this:
In 2004, when Federer first finished No. 1, Roddick was No. 2. The rest of the top 10, in order, looked like this: Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Carlos Moya, Tim Henman, Guillermo Coria, Andre Agassi, David Nalbandian and Gaston Gaudio.
Of those eight players, Hewitt was the only one ranked in the top 50 this year. Yes, it’s hard to stay near the top of the game — much less at the top.
Well, Marat started 2009 ranked in the 20s and Nalbandian was as high as #10, but point taken, I guess.
Fedophile masochists will enjoy the accompanying chart, showing how Fed’s winning percentage has steadily decreased from 2004 to the present (from .925 to .836). Which makes this year’s No. 1 ranking, not to mention his still “live” record of 22 consecutive major semifinals even more impressive.
Roger may still be tops, but killjoy Ivan Lendl thinks Federer has wasted his last chance at the calendar year Grand Slam:
“In my opinion, he easily could have won the Grand Slam (in 2009). Roger may agree or disagree, but his game has not been as good as in years past. It would have been ironic if he had won the Grand Slam playing at less than his best, but well-deserved.”
Lendl also predicts that next year will see four different Major champions.
In Nadal news, Rafa and Team Spain will be battling the Czech Republic in this weekend’s Davis Cup final in Barcelona. Nadal may have had a disappointing second half of the year, but just participating in this weekend’s event is a small triumph for him. The top Spaniard couldn’t make it to last year’s final in Argentina due to injury. Helping his teammates retain the Cup at home, on clay, could be just the confidence boost he needs going into 2010:
“That’s a big motivation for me, to finish the year winning.” Nadal told reporters after going out of last week’s World Tour Finals without winning a set. “I have the opportunity there to play well, to play good tennis on clay and to win, to win something important for my country and for friends.” (via the New York Times)
This weekend’s teams are as follows: Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez for Spain and Radek Stepanek, Tomas Berdych, Jan Hajek and Lukas Dlouhy for the Czech Republic. Click here for more.
In Marat Safin retirement news, the Russian press reports that he’s running for vice-president of his country’s Olympic Committee. Anyone running against him for the post will be interested in what Safin told reporters prior to last year’s Games in Beijing:
“I don’t care about the Olympics. It doesn’t make sense to fly 15 hours over and 15 hours back for that.” (via the Bangkok Post)