Well hello, everyone. So much has happened in the past couple weeks – the Freaky team was traveling while Serena won the WTA Championships and the men played their last Masters in Paris but we managed to stay fairly current while en route – and now we’ve all arrived at the start of the ATP tour’s final week in London at the World Tour Finals.
But let’s cruise back over to Bercy for a moment, the slick Parisian dance club of tennis tournaments. It’s not just the strobe lights and DJs but the hint of desperation in the air, as a few toned and tanned men strained to keep the party going just a little longer. Federer, Wawrinka and Gasquet played their way into the even more swank and exclusive O2 Arena this week. Federer even scored an additional dose of confidence with a top 10 win over Juan Martin del Potro in the Bercy quarterfinals. I caught Roger’s three set loss to Djokovic in the semis, and felt like he proved he had refreshed his game, if not quite his full mental intensity. To paraphrase an ecard thingy I read on Facebook today: Roger can still play like a rock star but it’s getting harder for him to recover like one.*
And there’s no rest for the weary Roger this week. His reward for making it to the O2 (for the 12th time!) is another meeting with Novak Djokovic in the first of his round robin matches. Del Potro and Gasquet, who played an entertaining three sets today, are also crowding his section. On the other side of the dancefloor, the WTF ingenue and sometime Federer wing-man, Stan Wawrinka, beat Tomas Berdych today in three sets (go Stan!) and on Tuesday we’ll see if this weekend’s Bercy finalist, David Ferrer, can beat Rafael Nadal twice in the space of a week. While some of us are keeping a close eye on Roger’s performance at what has been one of his best tournaments, the main storyline in the cold, sober, light of day may be Djokovic vs. Nadal. Though Nole’s path to taking back the top ranking is about as difficult as swimming from London to Paris with Pierre on his back – per The Independent, he’ll need to defend his WTF title, lead Serbia to victory in Davis Cup next week (I guess the season isn’t over) and count on Rafa winning only one match in London – it says a lot about his mojo right now that we’re considering it a possibility.
“I’m building something for what’s coming up.” Nole said/warned reporters in London. “If I finish No. 1 that would be an incredible achievement.”
And even if he doesn’t get that numero uno back next to his name this year, winning his fourth tournament in a row and riding out his current 17 match winning streak puts him in the pole position come 2014.
Then again, think of the mischief Roger would stir up if he managed to win the tournament for the seventh time in his career. Hey, why not? As he told told the Beeb on Monday: “The French Open is always going to be hard as long as Rafa Nadal is around. But on the other surfaces, if I am playing well, it’s more in my racket than in anybody else’s racket.”
Of course, Stan could always surprise us.
What are you looking for this week in London?
A couple random queries/notes:
1. Does slapping the WTF right after Bercy compromise the tournament’s status to a pseudo exhibition?
2. Richard Gasquet is the most mysterious of the top ten players. What the hell makes him tick?
3. How nice is it to read Andy Murray’s status updates and realize he’s just another tennis fan like the rest of us?
4. I’m excited to check out ESPNs latest 30 for 30 doc “This is What They Want” on Jimmy Connors. Anyone seen it yet?
*Roger may beg to differ, if his quote via the BBC is any indication: “Last year I was world number one at some point, and I was 31. So at 32 you can’t play tennis any more? I just don’t believe in that quick a turnaround.”