It’s been a week since the Australian Open and there is still a week to go before we see Roger Federer in Rotterdam but in the meantime, the tennis world still had plenty of buzz and activity to keep any withdrawal symptoms in check. Here’s a list of tennis happenings this past week in no particular order.
- Rafa’s back! He has chosen Viña del Mar (an ATP 250 clay court tournament) as the stage for his comeback. He is signed on not just for singles but also the doubles tournament with long time friend Juan Monaco aka Pico. Chile is his first stop on the Golden Swing ATP tour; he is set to play in São Paulo (single as well as doubles with Nalbandian) and Acapulco too though I’m still not sure whether Buenos Aires fits in there as well.
- He is yet to play his first match. However, we have already caught glimpses of the Bull practicing and he looks like he is rearing to go. In the meantime, he’s given autographs, held babies, took countless photos, and met with the Chilean president – all in a day’s work for a tennis superstar. Viña del Mar has probably never had such a high profile season and all eyes will be firmly fixed on Rafa to analyze every detail of his game as he toils, grunts and vamoses on his beloved red earth.
Davis Cup runneth over…
- The first round of the Davis Cup took place this weekend and clearly the most outstanding match was the historic doubles rubber between Switzerland and defending champions Czech Republic. With Stepanek pulling out with injury, Berdych teamed up with Lukáš Rosol to face off against a Federer-less Swiss team. Wawrinka paired up with Roger’s long-time friend Marco Chiudinelli, ranked 139 in the world.
- Marco surprised most everyone by playing far and above his ranking which was more apparent especially in the beginning when Stan was having trouble finding his serves and made quite a few unforced errors. Rosol meanwhile was certainly no Stepanek both in terms of doubles experience and skill level.
- Thus somehow, the two teams were quite evenly matched. But no one expected just how evenly matched they were. The Czechs took the first and third sets and the Swiss took the second and the fourth to send it to a 5th set decider. In Davis Cup as we know there are no 5th set tie-breaks and that is where the drama started. The 5th set itself took 215 minutes (Other Davis Cups doubles rubbers across the world began and ended in this time-span). The Swiss served 2nd in the set which in my opinion made it infinitely harder from them to keep defending time and time again; they saved 12 match points. But finally, when serving to go up to 23 all, Marco was broken for the first time in the entire match, he double-faulted on the 13th match point. The Czechs finally won with the scores as follows: 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7(3), 24-22. The match was 7 hours and 1 minute long, by far the longest match in Davis Cup history. It was also the 2nd longest match in tennis history only behind the Isner-Mahut Round 1 match at Wimbledon 2010.
- Stan Wawrinka would say he’s been having the worst luck the past 2 weeks. After that intense 5-setter he lost to Novak at the Australian Open, and losing the doubles rubber, he went down in 4 sets to Tomas Berdych in the singles rubber of the final day of the Davis Cup. He was almost about to push it to a 5th set being a mini-break up in the 4th set tie-break. But a momentary lapse in concentration saw Tomas sneak in and take the match away, ensuring a QF place for the Czechs. It has now been 9 years in a row that the Swiss have failed to make it out of their first round Davis Cup matches.
- While Stan must be understandably gutted, I look at these matches in a positive way in terms of how far he has come. It’s rare for Djokovic to have to fight so hard against players other than the rest of the Big 4 and yet Stan pushed till the very end. Same with both the matches at Davis Cup. He just needs that 2% extra something to push himself mentally to the top but otherwise I would say this has been a solid start for the man.
- In other Davis Cup news, the biggest upset was Spain crashing out to Canada in the first round. The Spanish Armada was missing several key players with Nadal, Ferrer, Almagro and Verdasco all either opting out or injured. The remaining Spaniards ultimately found the force of Milos Raonic and Co. too much to handle. This was the first time since 2006 that Spain faltered in the first round of the Davis Cup. On the flip side, this is the first time in Canada’s history that they’ve made it through to the Davis Cup QFs.
- The Italy vs. Croatia and USA vs. Brazil matches cut it really close and Italy and USA needed the last rubber before they found themselves the winners. But the results of the other ties went mostly according to predictions. Thus, Italy, USA, Czech Republic, Canada, Serbia and Kazakhstan all won three rubbers and are through to the QFs. France and Argentina did a comprehensive clean sweep over Israel and Germany respectively, each winning all 5 rubbers.
Federer in sloooow motion…
- In the midst of Davis Cup madness and Rafa’s return, there was a bit of Federer magic perfectly timed to make sure we didn’t go stark raving mad missing him. Roger might still be in sunny Dubai but Credit Suisse launched a three-ad series to give us something to Oooh! and Ahhh! over in his absence. Each clip is only 36 seconds long but it’s enough to keep us happy for the time being. Here’s the link for the ATM machine commerical and also the one at the Mercedes dealership. About the commercial at the florist’s I can only say Credit Suisse must have peeked inside my dreams because it looks eerily similar ;-).
7 days till Rotterdam, let the countdown begin! Allez!