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ROGER DID IT AGAIN! Federico Mariani

The Swiss returns to the scene of his epic 2017 triumph...and wins another epic! There were few illusions as to who the favorite

though the first set was a little tricky at times.

was going into the Australian Open. But to call Roger Federer the favorite felt very strange,

For the organizers, Federer’s solid play was a

given that he is nearly 37 years old, an

blessing, seeing as almost all the other top

unheard-of age for a top tennis player. But

players met an inglorious end pretty early on

while his younger colleagues all fell by the

in the tournament. Nadal lost to Cilic (though

wayside with injuries and fitness issues, it was

he was largely defeated more by his own

the positively geriatric Swiss who seemed like

body than by the Croat), Djokovic bowed out

a spring chicken on the searing hot courts in

to the inspired Chung and Dimitrov lost his


way against Edmund. Murray didn’t even play due to a lack of match fitness.

Perhaps even more impressive than the fact

But while officials were certainly hoping for a

that he won his 20th Grand Slam was the

Federer win, a clean sweep is never nice. So,

manner in which he won it. Up until the final,

the close final was indeed a blessing for

he had not dropped a single set. Indeed, he

anyone looking for an interesting spectacle.

had barely even been challenged in most sets

Despite a slow start, Cilic fought back

until the last round. When the draw was

ferociously several times, especially in the

announced, few predicted such a smooth path

fourth set where he had to come back from a

to the title for Federer. He had arguably the

break down to eventually force a deciding set.

toughest road to the trophy of all the top

For a dangerous moment, Cilic looked like the

competitors, and his quarter-final matchup

player who demolished everyone in his path

against Tomas Berdych in particular seemed

at the 2014 US Open, reeling off five straight

almost unfairly harsh compared to the other

games in the fourth and taking all the

matches played in that round. But the draw

momentum in the world into the decider. But

turned out much better than was initially

after leaving the court to compose himself,

predicted, with most potentially tricky

Federer righted the ship in the fifth and closed

opponents losing early. Berdych was the only

out the encounter with comparative ease.

real hurdle on the road to the final, and Federer cleared it relatively easily, even

The momentous occasion of Federer’s

achievement overshadowed much of the rest of

was not to be.

the tournament, but it’s worth noting some of the other players’ accomplishments. Cilic, of course,

The 2018 Australian Open could ultimately not

reached his third Grand Slam final, a huge

live up to the very high standard set by the 2017

accomplishment that not many men have

edition. To be fair, however, almost nothing

managed in the Fab Four era. Chung Hyeon, of

could. The final was again a five-set contest, but

course, was a sensation, beating Zverev and

Cilic is no Nadal, and the quality of the match

Djokovic en route to the semi-finals, where the

was nowhere near as good. That being said, it

physical toll of his fairytale run finally caught up

was still a memorable tournament for many

with him. Kyle Edmund had a similarly

reasons, chief among them Federer’s 20th Slam

unexpected string of impressive victories, with a

win. For him to achieve such a feat at the 200th

win over Grigor Dimitrov being one of the best

Grand Slam of the Open Era was very special,

performances of the whole tournament. Finally,

and will not soon be forgotten by those who

Tennys Sandgren enjoyed perhaps the most

witnessed it.

unexpected run of all, reaching the quarter-finals out of absolutely nowhere. Of course, while there were many pleasant surprises at this year’s Australian Open, there were an equal number of disappointments. Sascha Zverev was one of the most obvious, as much was expected of him going into Melbourne. Instead of contending for his first Grand Slam title, he was unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament by the energetic Chung in the third round. The 6-0 fifth was particularly difficult to watch for fans who thought that 2018 would be the German’s year. A similar fate befell Dimitrov, who was pegged as a dark horse to win the Australian Open and had a favorable draw. A heavy favorite in his match against Edmund, he could not find the required extra gear to power him past the unheralded Brit. Local hope Nick Kyrgios will also look back at the event as a lost opportunity. He had his chances against Dimitrov and, had he won, he would have had a clear path to at least the semi-finals. But, unfortunately for long-suffering Australian fans, it

A Love-Hate Relationship Giorgio Perri Odi et amo is probably the best-known poem by Catullus, a Roman poet and revolutionary. It deals, like so much else in literature, with the contrasting feelings that love engenders. It is often said that there is thin line separating love and hate, and for Rafael Nadal no tournament better illustrates the contrasting sensations of love than the Australian Open. First, the good: Nadal has reached the final in Melbourne four times and won the title once. Most players would kill for the opportunity to reach four Slam finals in their whole careers, and Nadal has done it at just one event. But for all his success there, the Spaniard has rarely left the land of kangaroos in a happy, healthy state. His first setback Down Under came in 2006, when he missed the entire tournament due to a

as he constantly came up against the buzzsaw

foot injury. The next few years were better from a

that was Novak Djokovic. He lost six matches to

physical standpoint, culminating in his first title in

the Serb that year, all in finals.

2009, but things took a serious turn after that. His

2012 seemed a very promising year indeed, and

extremely tiring semi-final match against

Nadal came into the Australian Open as a hot

Fernando Verdasco took a toll on the Spaniard,

favorite. He beat Tomas Berdych and Roger

and the rest of his season was mired in injury

Federer en route to the final, and it seemed as if

and frustration. He lost his first ever match at

his long run of bad luck would come to an end.

Roland Garros that year, missed Wimbledon and

And for much of the championship match it

lost in the semi-finals of the US Open.

seemed as if everything would go according to

The next year Nadal had to withdraw from his

plan, even though a fifth set was eventually

match against Andy Murray in the quarter-finals

required. During that fifth set he was up 4-2 and

in Melbourne, but returned in 2011 hoping to get

15-15, but made a terrible mistake at the net

back on form. Alas, it was not to be. This time

which changed the whole tone of the match. He

around a thigh complaint proved his undoing.

never recovered, and Djokovic eventually

Though he did finish his quarter-final match

claimed victory. The match, which turned out to

against David Ferrer, he was never able to

be the longest final in Australian Open history,

properly compete due to the injury. Shaking

took physical toll on Nadal, which again had

hands with his friend and compatriot after the

knock-on effects in the following weeks and

match, Nadal was clearly in distress, both


physically and emotionally.

Nadal again missed the Australian Open in 2013

The rest of the year was very difficult for Nadal,

due to injury, but was back, again, in 2014 and

hoping to make up for lost time. Once more

that it came in the first round, and it marked the

everything was going according to plan: he

first time since 2013 that Nadal lost in the first

reached the final without too much effort and

round of a Slam.

faced Stan Wawrinka, the talented but generally

His loss to Federer in the 2016 Australian Open

underperforming Swiss. Nadal had never lost to

final will still be fresh in most people’s memory. It

Wawrinka, and it seemed a foregone conclusion

was an incredible match, and one that Nadal had

that the Spaniard would win his second trophy.

all but won when he was up a break in the fifth

Unfortunately for him, fate had other ideas. After

set. But as happened against Djokovic all those

a competitive first set, which Nadal lost, his back

years ago, he simply could not hold on. A

gave out, and he played the rest of the match

resurgent Federer shut Nadal out, leaving the

with almost no power in his shorts. Wawrinka

Spaniard to once again wonder just what it was

was so unsettled by his opponent’s obvious injury

about the Australian Open that always seemed to

that he actually lost a set before mercifully ending

curse him.

the heartache in four.

He would certainly have that same feeling again

2015 would hold little in the way of compensation

a year later when, during his match against Marin

for the previous year’s disappointment, as Nadal

Cilic, he had to withdraw once more due to injury.

ran into a ruthless Tomas Berdych in the quarter-

Yet even with all this misery and disappointment,

finals, and suffered a 6-0 second set en route to

one thing is for sure: Nadal will not give up on the

a painful defeat. The next year would prove to be

Australian Open, no matter what it throws at him.

even worse, when Verdasco finally got his revenge for his semi-final loss to Nadal in 2009. Even worse than the defeat itself was the fact

Chung unisce la Corea

completely tore it up. Now most definitely a household name, Chung has rocketed to stardom on the back of a fairytale run Down Under, and nobody is happier about his

Alessandro Mastroluca

success than the ATP. There has been a

When Hyeon Chung won the inaugural Next

tennis in Asia, and new stars like Chung go a

Gen ATP Finals at the end of 2017, beating out high-profile contenders like Alexander Zverev to the title, not too many people had heard of the young Korean. Though he had been on the ATP Tour for quite some time, and played about 100 matches, he had not exactly set the world on fire with his results to date. Yes, he was considered a rising young star, but one that required more experience

major push over the past few years to grow long way to popularizing the sport in that region. Along with Li Na in China and Kei Nishikori in Japan, Chung is now the de facto ambassador for the sport in South Korea. Indeed, he is already the highest-ranked player from that country, though he is not yet the most successful in terms of ATP titles. Due to the experimental nature of the Neg

before he would realize his full potential.

Gen Finals, no points were awarded for that

If his victory at the Next Gen Finals added an

Hyung-Taik Lee remains the only South

interesting new chapter to the script of his career, his exploits at the Australian open

win and cannot be considered as a true “title.� Korean to win a Tour-level title, having won the event in Sydney in 2003 (d. Juan Carlos Ferrero). Lee Duk-Hee (1982 Fort Myers) and

Cho Yoon-Jeong (2002 Pattaya, 2003

skating sensation, and the swimmer Park

Auckland, 2006 Canberra) are the only other


two South Koreans to reach Tour-level finals. But to what can we ascribe Chung’s sudden Chung, of course, is the first player from his

success? Well, much of it has to do with

country to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, and

defense. Like his hero, Novak Djokovic,

the five consecutive matches he won en route

Chung thrives in long points. The longer, in

to the last four represent his longest single

fact, the better. In Melbourne, he played 166

winning streak in an event. He is also the

points of nine shots or more, which equates to

youngest semi-finalist in a Slam since Cilic

16% of all his points. That is an incredibly high

reached that round in Melbourne in 2010.

number, and he won 55% of such points, the

Chung’s victory over Djokovic was the most

best percentage of anyone at the tournament.

popular tennis match in the history of South

Of course, such defensive prowess comes at

Korea, attracting four times as many viewers

a price, and his body simply could not take it

as last year’s Federer-Nadal final.

any more during his match against Federer.

Leo Seungwon Baek, the editor of Tennis

His excellent defense extends to his return

Korea, says that Chung’s success has been a

game as well. He is in the Top 10 when it

godsend for tennis in the country. “Korea has

comes to both earning break points and

long envied Kei Nishikori's success,” he said

converting them, as well as the number of

recently. After the Australian Open, he is now

points won against first and second serves.

just about as popular as Yuna Kim, the figure

This bodes well for his future on the Tour. Very

after closing 2017 with 27 wins and 17 defeats at

often the player who ends the year as world

Challenger level. Sohyun Park, perhaps the most

number one is also the player who has the best

promising of South Korea’s young women, will

return statistics. In Melbourne, he converted 47%

also take heart from Chungs successes, and

of the break points he earned, a very good

hope to follow in the footsteps of Yoon-Jeong

number indeed.

Cho (No. 45 in 2003) and Sung-Hee Park (No. 57 in 1995). It may be too early to predict such a

Of course, Chung’s career is only beginning, but

thing, but the early signs are certainly there for a

he is already inspiring millions of youngsters. His

real revolution in Korean tennis, with Chung

timing is perfect as well, since right behind him is

leading the way.

yet another impressive Korean youngster in Lee

The sky is the limit for Chung himself, and with

Duck-Hee, who is the third-ranked Junior in the

the top of men’s tennis in flux there is definite

world. In fact, Chung defeated Lee in a

room for a youngster like him to make some big

Challenger event in Taiwan at the end of 2016.

moves this year. With his game very similar to

Enthusiasm is also bubbling at an even lower

that of Djokovic and with the Serb struggling with

level with Soonwoo Kwon, a school friend of Lee

injuries, Chung might find himself with a ready

Duck-Hee, who won the Australian Open Asia-

niche to occupy in the coming months.

Pacific Wildcard Playoff in Zhuhai last December

The New Kyrgios: Focused And Fighting Fit Marco Di Nardo Nick Kyrgios has never been a

he will retire before he is 27.

each match needing three tie-

model tennis player. Though

Not exactly what Australian

breaks to settle the winner. He

he has always been obviously

fans, desperate for a new

is 2-3 against Nadal, but away

talented, the young Aussie’s

champion to live up to the likes

from the clay he owns a 2-1

propensity for on-court

of Pat Rafter and Lleyton

record when playing the

tantrums has perpetually held

Hewitt, want to hear. At 19

Spaniard. He has completely

him back from reaching his full

years of age Kyrgios beat

dominated Djokovic in their two

potential. Capable of beating

Nadal at Wimbledon, and it

matches, never losing to the

the likes of Rafael Nadal and

was thought that he would

Serbian. Granted, both

Roger Federer, he has

quickly mature into a superstar.

matches were in 2017, not

generally been just as likely to

Nole’s best year, but the

melt down and argue with the

But while his tennis game has

results are still significant.

umpire (or even fans) as he

improved in the past few years,

Murray is the only member of

was to play world-class tennis.

his attitude has not. Averse to

the Fab Four he has not

training and determined to

cracked, having lost all five of

Off the court, things were often

skate by on talent alone,

their meetings.

just as rocky as on it. He would

Kyrgios has spent little time on

often tell journalists that he

training courts and a lot of time

All of this he has accomplished

does not like tennis and is only

courting controversy. Against

while barely even trying, with

playing for the money, and that

Roger Federer he is 1-1, with

an obvious borderline disdain

for the sport that is his

beat Djokovic in Acapulco and

livelihood. Indeed, that disdain

Indian Wells, while also

shows itself more often during

reaching his first Masters 1000

the dog days of the ATP

final in Cincinnati.

season, during small tournaments and against less

During the first weeks of the

glamorous competition. He

2018 season, Kyrgios built on

often phones in his

his improvements from last

performances during these

year. He won the title in

encounters, leading to early

Brisbane and reached the

tournament exits and low point

fourth round of the Australian

allocations. Kyrgios obviously

Open, where his solid play was

craves the biggest stage and

overshadowed by the exploits

once he gets there, he usually

of players like Hyeon Chung,

delivers. It’s the rest of the time

Kyle Edmund and Tennys

that’s the problem.

Sandgren. In the fourth round he faced Grigor Dimitrov in one

Even though Kyrgios can hold

of the best matches of the

his own against the best in the

tournament, and the Bulgarian

world, his career statistics

needed every trick in his

would not seem to indicate that

of 2017. At the Australian

playbook to get past the

he should be able to do so. His

Open, he lost to Andreas Seppi

Australian 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6.

best ranking is 13, and he has

in excruciating fashion. Having

Most importantly, Kygrios

only won four tournaments.

gone down two sets to love, he

managed to navigate the

Given his incredible talent and

fought his way back into the

opening section of the season

big match temperament, he

match to force a fifth set, where

without any controversy, a

should definitely be a Top-5

he even had a match point.

major step forward for the

player. The only thing that has

Ultimately, however, he lost the


kept him back is himself.

match 10-8 in the fifth. The loss was so difficult to digest that

2018 might very well prove to

So what might he be capable

Kyrgios started to change his

be the year Kyrgios started

of if he actually started caring

approach to prevent it from

taking himself, and his sport,

about his job? Well, we might

ever happening again. His

seriously. If he does, there is

soon find out. The past few

tantrums became less

almost no ceiling to what he

months have seen a different

frequent, while his effort in

may achieve, especially with

Kyrgios, more focused and less

each match became visibly

men’s tennis still in a state of

prone to weekly implosions.

more intense. No longer would

flux. His destiny is, now more

Kyrgios has admitted as much,

he surrender points or even

than ever, in his own hands.

and says that he experienced a

games in a fit of apathy.

shift in his thinking at the start

Shortly after these changes, he

hours, Wawrinka and Djokovic

most amazing final that lasted

displayed some out of this

almost six hours. That match is

world tennis in this match.

till date the longest final of any

the Australian

Wawinka played quite possibly

Grand Slam and is likely to

one of the matches of his

stay there for a while.


career, and would have

After winning the first set in a

learned an awful lot about what

captivating 80 minutes of

it means to be playing at that

tennis, Nadal had won the first

high a level. Also, during the

set of a final between the two

Champion Novak Djokovic has

course of the match, Stan

for the first time in three

played some captivating

would have learned a lot about

attempts now. Djokovic once

himself as a person too.

again lifted his game in the

Anyhow, Djokovic who is the

second and third sets to take a

master of any close matches,

2-1 lead. From there, Nadal

sidestepped that bullet and

fought back to take a 4-2 lead

his most amazing wins at the

won the match smashing

in the deciding set, but a

Australian Open!

winners galore en route to that

couple of errors allowed the

impressive win.

Djoker to come in and close

Novak Djokovic: Nerves of steel at

Akshay 6 times Australian Open

matches in Melbourne over the course of time. The Serb has shown resilience, composure and the will to win many times and we take a look at some of

Stan Wawrinka (2013, Fourth Round) Scoreline: 1–6, 7–5, 6–4, 6– 7(5), 12–10 A match the lasted over 5

out the match in 5 hours and Rafael Nadal (2012, Final)

53 minutes.

Scoreline: 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6– 7(5), 7–5

Andy Murray (2012, Semi-

Nadal and Djokovic played the


Scoreline: 6–3, 3–6, 6–7(4), 6–1, 7–5 Another match that perhaps had even more quality than that final was the semifinal match against Andy Murray. The Djoker took his rivalry with Murray to another plane in 2012, and this match was a start to it all. After finding himself a set down very quickly, Murray fought hard to come back and take a 2-1 lead. Once in that position and insight of a third straight final, Murray perhaps panicked a little and gave away the fourth set cheaply (6-1). In the deciding set, the Serb was on the verge of victory leading 5-2 when Murray fought back one final time to draw level at 5-5. In the end though, Novak’s composure pulled him through. Coming into the 2018 Australian very fresh, Djokovic is making a comeback post injury and would be hoping to go deep into his favourite Grand Slam.

Juan Martin Del Potro: The Legitimate Threat to the Big 4? Akshay Former World No.4 Juan Martin Del Potro is accustomed to the speculation surrounding him about his ability to break into the Top-5 and probably the Big-4 again. But the ‘Tower of Tandil’ as he is better known has all the artillery to beat the best in the business on his day. It is because of the variations in his game that the Argentine lifted his first major at the tender age of 21, defeating Roger Federer at the US Open in

counted out the Argentine on the basis of his


ranking. Del Potro may have been on the back

The moment people started tagging him as the

foot after his injury but like all champions do, the

‘Next Big Thing’, the injury bug followed soon as

Argentine has climbed back the ranks and is

he found himself with a troubled wrist that forced

giving stiff competitions to the big guns at

him to skip most of the 2010 season. The injury

tournaments that matter.

was so serious that he only ended up playing 3

Having been ranked as high as No.4 on the ATP

tournaments in 2010. But as we all know Del

Charts (2011) and now ranked No.11 in the

Potro is a fighter and it was his sheer hard work

World, Del Potro’s desire to reach there would

and determination that has gotten him on the

only transform him into a more unpredictable

verge of breaking into the Top-10 again, a place

player to beat, something that he can capitalize

he truly deserves to stay in.

on in the near future

Unlike the other players behind the Top-4 who

If his ground strokes find the range he looks for,

face troubles to overcome their demons, Del

his opponent is definitely in for a hard time.

Potro hasa poise about himself that has helped

Delpotro also has the knack to mix his games

him remain calm in the most trying times. The

from the aggressor at the back of the court to the

respect he has for fellow players has often come

player with soft hands at the net.

out in form of appreciation for others and this

Yet to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000

sense of humility has helped him command

Event, the Argentine would be looking forward to

respect not demand it!

what promises an amazing season for him. What

Not many players have ever taken Del Potro’s

can we expect out of the Tower of Tandil now?

abilities for granted and have never judged or

Well only time will tell!

Australian Open 2017: Strong Is Beautiful Alessandro Mastroluca

Strong is beautiful. This phrase, used by the

such notions. “It is,” she wrote, “as if, with

WTA to promote the Tour, has never seemed

Williams gone, the players answered the

so apt as after this year’s Australian Open

challenge implicit in her game: hit harder. Run

final. Caroline Wozniacki, perhaps the most-

faster. Serve bigger. Lunge farther. Be brave.”

maligned player on women’s circuit, has put up with a lot over the years. She was

In the end, Wozniacki had to wait 43 Slams

mercilessly mocked when she became world

before winning her first. Only Flavia Pennetta

number one without ever having won a Slam,

played more before her maiden title. The final

and called every nasty name in the book each

was everything it promised to be, with two

time she reached a Major final and fell short.

contestants equally desperate for the trophy

When her personal life fell apart it was seized

engaging in some of the best tennis of the

upon with glee by the press and endlessly

fortnight. Simona Halep has also never won a


Major, despite having already been world number one. Indeed, it was the first ever final

But now, all of that falls away. After being

between a world number one and world

written off countless times over the years, she

number two without either player having won

finally won her first Major in Melbourne, and at

a Slam previously. Halep has also faced many

the same time ascended back to the top of the

of the same insults as Wozniacki, and wanted

world rankings. It is the first time since the

nothing more than to finally silence those

introduction of computerized rankings that

voices. The tension in the final was palpable,

someone has managed to reclaim the number

and unfortunately for Halep her demons will

one ranking six years after losing it. For

continue to haunt her for a while longer yet.

Wozniacki’s double triumph to come during the 200th Slam of the Open Era makes the

Halep’s loss will sting all the more given that

whole experience even sweeter. The last

she had played perhaps the match of the year

person to win the tournament before the Open

against Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals.

Era was Billy Jean King, another strong

But midway through the second set in the

woman who Wozniacki certainly drew

final, she missed an easy forehand that

inspiration from.

seemed to break her spirit. She never recovered.

Of course, cynics have been pointing out that Serena Williams was absent for the Australian

Perhaps as impressive as the victory itself

Open, as if this somehow denigrates the

was the way Wozniacki won it. In seven total

Dane’s win. Louisa Thomas, writing in the

matches, over 1006 total points played,

New Yorker, vociferously disagrees with any

Wozniacki only made 40 backhand errors

(according to Craig O'Shannessy on the

She reached her first semi-final appearance at

Australian Open website). The Dane has

a Slam since the 2016 US Open before falling

always been famous for her stellar defensive

afoul of Halep, another loss to a world number

skills, but this statistic is truly extraordinary. It

one in a career full of them (the only time she

is certainly a major reason why she became

has beaten a world number one was when

the eighth maiden Grand Slam winner of the

she defeated Serena Williams in the

past 31 Majors. The other were Schiavone

Melbourne final in 2016). But the German has

(2010 Roland Garros), Li (2011 Roland

a new coach and is fully motivated getting

Garros), Kvitova (2011 Wimbledon), Stosur

back to the top of the game. If the Australian

(2011 US Open), Azarenka (2012 Australian

Open is any indication, she might reach those

Open), Bartoli (2013 Wimbledon), Pennetta

heights sooner than anyone expected.

(2015 US Open), Kerber (2016 Australian Open), Muguruza (2016 Roland Garros),

Elise Mertens was another big story Down

Ostapenko (2017 Roland Garros), Stephens

Under, reaching her first ever Slam semi-final.

(2017 US Open).

In the last 19 Slams, 18 players have made the semi-finals for the first time in their

While most of the attention has been focused

careers, the signs of plenty of young talent in

on the final, there were a number of other

the women’s game. The Belgian was ranked

storylines at the Austrlian Open worth

127 in the world just a year ago, and became

mentioning. Kerber's comeback is perhaps

the first woman from her country to reach a

the top of that list, and after her run to the

Slam semi since Kirsten Flipkens in 2013. En

semi-finals she is now back in the Top 10.

route to the semi-finals Mertens defeated two

seeded players in a row for the first time in her

But the young Bencic was overshadowed by an

career and is now a Top 20 herself.

even younger phenom, the 15 year-old Marta Kostyuk. She became the youngest player to

Another player who had a good tournament,

ever win an Australian Open main draw match,

though she did not advance very far in the draw,

going through the qualifiers all the way to the

was Belinda Bencic. She became only the sixth

third round before falling to Elina Svitolina. A

player to defeat both Venus and Serena Williams

promising gymnast as well as a tennis prodigy,

before turning 21, a small group that includes

Kostyuk won the ITF event in Burnie to follow up

Anna Chakvetadze, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin,

her Australian Open success and enter the Top

Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova.

300. Though still extremely young, the sky seems

to be the limit for the Ukrainian.

of the tournament. Things went awry for her from the start, as umpire Fergus Murphy would not let

The biggest disappointment of the event was, of

her walk out on court before she had finished

course, the absence of Serena Williams, though

eating her banana. A curious occurrence that set

there were a few others as well. Garbine

the tone for her disappointing defeat.

Muguruza lost in the second round to the Su-wei Hsieh, a 32 year-old whose wily slices were too much for the Spaniard. Coco Vandeweghe, last year’s semi-finalist, lost in the first round to Timea Babos, in perhaps the biggest early upset

Caroline Wozniacki: The Arguable No.1 Akshay After a stupendous start to her career, Dane Caroline Wozniacki failed to live up to the expectations and put behind all the criticism of being the World No.1 without winning a Grand Slam. Was it that her fellow competitors raised the ante or was it her mentality that led to her downfall. Wozniacki played her first professional tournament in 2005 at the age of 15 and climbed steadily up the WTA charts all the way to No.1 in October 2010 at the age of 20. With high ambitions in her mind, the Dane was very consistent and forced her opponents to earn almost every point against her.

Wozniacki’s rise: 2008-2010

Expectations started rising as people started

Wozniacki’s climb to the Numero Uno in the

considering her the next big thing in WTA. Her

World came during a phase when the World No.

consistency was unmatched and the only way

1 ranking was the most unstable. The 2008

to beat her was to overpower her, something

season was characterized by its frequent

not players could do.

changes in the No.1 ranking, with Justine

Wozniacki's playing style centered on the

Henin, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena

defensive aspects of tennis with her

Jankovic and Serena Williams all holding the

anticipation, movement, agility, footwork and

position at one point during the season.

defense being her strengths, something that

In 2008, Wozniacki was awarded the Newcomer

was way better than others.

of the Year Award courtesy her jump in rankings and also some notable performances on tour.

The reign over WTA: Oct 2010 - Jan

With three WTA titles to her name in 2008,


Wozniacki’s presence was being felt on tour as

Late in 2010, when World No.1 Serena Williams

she was turning into a dreadful opponent, who

was out, Wozniacki capitalized on the

had a promising future.

opportunity presented to her and courtesy some

In 2009, the Dane reached the maximum

deep runs in almost every tournament she

number of finals by a WTA player including her

played, Wozniacki finally gained what every

first Grand Slam final at the US Open.

tennis player aspires for – the World No.1 rank.

She went on to hold this position till the year end. By achieving this feat, Wozniacki became the fifth WTA player to hold the No.1 ranking without a winning a Grand Slam. The closest competitor for this elusive spot was Vera Zvonareva who too was quite some points behind the Dane. People were getting more convinced about Wozinacki’s abilities as she only needed to win a Grand Slam to get the approval of the tennis pundits who had already started questioning her ability to lift a major. 2011 begun with Wozniacki the year with another good run at a Grand Slam event, reaching the semi-finals before losing to Li Na after holding a match point. That is where the tennis experts started doubting Wozniacki’s knack to win big matches. Though she won 6 titles in 2011, it was the Grand Slams that really mattered. With consistency in her performances in general, Wozniacki just edged ahead of Petra Kvitova for the year-ending World No.1 spot. Tennis greats started questioning Wozniacki’s game style, accusing her of being too defensive. Also WTA was seeing the rise of the likes of Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, who were not far behind from dethroning the Dane.

The Downfall: Jan 2012 – May 2017 With a constant change in her coaching staff along with players stepping up their game to

another level, Wozniacki faced the heat when Azarenka finally overtook the Dane for the No.1 spot after lifting the Australian Open. The fellow WTA players had a hang of the Dane’s game style as they outplayed her many times during the year. After being No.1 at the beginning, Wozniacki dropped out of the Top-10, but finally fought her way back into the Top-10 after lifting 2 titles at the end of the year. There is no doubt about the talent Wozniacki possesses; it is just a case of lack of self belief of crossing the final hurdle. Wozniacki’s confidence stands at a tipping point, which once crossed, will get her back to her prime and probably help her fetch Grand Slam glory.

The Resurgence: May 2017 – Present What has been a redefining year for the Dane, Wozniacki raised the bar to another level this year and was the leading match winning in 2017. Ending the year inside the Top-3 of the WTA Rankings, Wozniacki won the biggest title of her career so far when she beat Venus Williams to lift the Season Ending Championships in Singapore. With new confidence and new zeal to win, it would be interesting to see where Wozniacki ends up this year!

How has Maria

semifinals, until she ran into then-ranked 19,


was a terrific start for the Russian after 15

comeback gone? Veronica Bruno

Kristina Mladenovic. The Stuttgart tournament months of missing out on competitive play. Although she played only eight tournaments in 2017, she progressed well in three of them. One of the positive results came at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, where she got

Maria Sharapova’s comeback produced some

through her first three rounds. She also ousted

mixed results in 2017. Coming back from a 15-

world No. 1 Simona Halep in her first round,

month suspension after testing positive for using

signaling that she was a force to reckon with.

the performance-enhancer meldonium, the

The American grand slam was also the first

Russian player was hoping for a smooth return

time that she qualified for the main draw—due

back on the Tour. Although the road back proved

to her increased ranking—outright. The wins

to be much bumpier than perhaps the former

here helped the Russian justify her presence

world No. 1 anticipated, there were also plenty of

and certainly served as confidence boosters

signs that leave her fans hopeful and still make

for her first title since being banned.

her one of the major contenders in 2018.

WTA title in China

Here’s a look back at Sharapova’s comeback

Sharapova capitalized on her successive

effort so far.

rounds at the U.S. Open by powering through to her first title at the Tianjin, China open, a win

Performance in tournaments

that helped the tennis star push through back

The five-time grand slam champ came out strong

into the Top 60. Although the highest ranked

in her first event, a Stuttgart clay tournament she

player she beat on the way to a title was

has won in the past. Coming in unranked, she

ranked #25, the win in China solidified her

was given the first of her controversial wild cards

presence as one of the players to watch once

in order to compete. Even more polemic, her first

the first grand slam rolls around in 2018, in

match was scheduled to coincide with the first


day she was allowed to play competitively,

coming off her doping ban. However, the Maria

Disgruntlement over wild cards

Sharapova impressed several of her critics with

Banking on her famous name, several

positive wins over high caliber players Roberta

tournament heads gifted the Russian superstar

Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova in her couple of

wild cards to their tournaments, including clay

matches. She made it all the way to the

tourneys in Madrid and Rome, and the Masters

even in Toronto, Canada. With her lower ranking,

major boost after reach four rounds at Flushing

she would never have garnered a spot at those

Meadows. After grand slam season was over, the

tournaments and thus, would never get the

Russian silenced many of her critics winning her

chance to increases her ranking. This perceived

first WTA tournament since the ban, at the Tianjin

favoritism lead to several of the top players in the

Open in China, where she started out the

WTA complaining about her preferential

tournament ranked #86. The WTA win placed her

treatment, including Caroline Wozniacki and

even closer to the Top 50, finishing the year at #57.

Genie Bouchard going so far as to call her a “cheater.” It certainly didn’t help matters when

Two years later, welcome back

her agent dismissed the complaints as only

Two years after having tested for a banned

whining from several “journeyman players.”

substance while at the Australian Open, the 2008

Making her case to the grand slams proved more

AO winner is still generating headlines, but also

difficult with the French Open saying no to

seems to be forgiven in many ways. With Serena

Sharapova, citing their non-doping policy.

Williams and Victoria Azarenka out of the

Although there was debate among officials at

tournament, Sharapova was asked to present at

Wimbledon, with some in favor while others

the opening draw ceremony, alongside last year’s

agreeing with the French Open decision. In the

men’s winner, Roger Federer. Even though the

end, the Russian player decided to forgo any

presenter is always a former champion—which

further controversy on the matter and opted out

Sharapova is—feting her so soon rubbed many

of asking for a wild card to the main draw.

wrong. But fans seemed to be enthusiastic about

Although she said she would compete in the

her return to the game. There are less complaints

qualifying rounds, she ended up withdrawing

about her presence since she’s entered the

from the rest of the grass season due to a minor

tournament in the Top 50 (ranked 48) on her own,

thigh injury.

without any special favors. Perhaps her peers feel

For the U.S. Open, the two-time French Open

she paid her dues last year and showed maybe a

champ qualified for the main draw outright. Her

little humility under so much scrutiny and criticism.

performance in Flushing Meadows helped bump

Sharapova also progressed to the semis at the

up her ranking even further, going from 146 to

Shenzhen Open this year, an indicator that 2018


just might be her turnaround time, a full two years

after her lowest moment.

Ranking rise

Ranked No. 48, fairly seeded and included in the

Maria Sharapova was unseeded at her first

main draw at the Australian Open, it’s up to Maria

tournament in Stuttgart but her semi performance

Sharapova—and Sharapova alone—on how great

there boosted her spot to #258. She broke

her comeback will continue to progress for the rest

through the top 200 after the clay season, with a

of 2018.

It’s hard to believe Belinda Bencic is only 20 years of age. It’s three years since the 17-year-old Swiss

The World Needs Belinda Bencic Dominic J Stevenson

player made her way into the top ten and her career high ranking thus far of number seven. It’s only a matter of time until she finds herself even higher, after a long and winding road back to the top. She has the game, a highly likeable and bubbly character and in her compatriot Roger Federer a mentor who she played alongside at the Hopman Cup in January, representing Switzerland. After her early potential and being labelled ‘the next big thing’ Bencic suffered several injuries that delayed that progress. Now she has returned and is fighting fit and her tennis is flowing it is hard to deny that once again she is not headed for one

place and one place only – the top of the tree

in Perth, Australia. She showed her strengths

of women’s tennis.

and her youth, her dynamism and charm,

While her late 2017 unbeaten streak (three

perhaps unveiling herself as the perfect

consecutive titles which ran well into the off-

protegee of such a gifted man as himself. If

season, as she played while others bathed on

anything, it fit, and there was nothing out of

beaches) continued into the new year as she

place. There may be an almost generational

won her three group singles matches in the

age gap between the players, but she is every

Hopman Cup round robin phase, she did finally

inch the perfect partner, seventeen years after

succumb to a returned-to-form Angelique

Federer last won the event with other Swiss

Kerber in their meeting in the final, before

great Martina Hingis making up Team

Bencic and Federer won the event in the final


match – the decisive doubles against

This leads us to the season of 2018. Bencic is


fit, tough and clearly very hard to beat. She

As she showed over the first week of the new

looks up for the challenge ahead, like she takes

season, she was every bit worthy of being

great value and pleasure from the experience,

Roger Federer’s partner for the Hopman Cup

and is a consummate young professional. She

didn’t want to be offered wild cards to events, to give her a helping hand back up to the top, she took the hard way – the way of true value – and worked her way back up every inch. She is now in the top 100 again, and climbing. At the time of writing she had, somewhat unluckily, been drawn to face last year’s finalist Venus Williams in the first round of January’s Australian Open. It’s the kind of match up that is a clear highlight for round one. While it feels a little unfortunate for both players – as only one will make it through to round two – Belinda Bencic, off the back of a highly successful Hopman Cup and end to 2017, is likely to fear nobody. Her winning streak over recent months, her lofty confidence, and her surge back up the rankings makes her very dangerous and the idea of the challenge of one of the Williams sisters so early on may mean if she can overcome that hurdle she will be the floater to watch going into the ensuing stages. For her attitude, potential, style of play and past experiences, women’s tennis is much richer for her

return. Her youthful and smiley interviews post matches are akin to those of Ostapenko, finally revealing her age which is completely hidden during match play. Between those two women they freshen up the WTA at a time when nobody is really taking charge. Serena Williams may come back with her eyes on a couple more slams and the outright record, but players like Bencic and Ostapenko are likely to figure somewhere important in that equation and we could be in for some fascinating times ahead. As for Bencic, if she can stay injury free and do what her ability promises, then the sky is the limit. It’s hard to argue that she isn’t a future world number one with multiple slams under her belt a little way down the line. There are other contenders and other young impressive female players, but none more so than this young Swiss woman. Watch this space… Belinda Bencic is just what the world has been needing.

Simona Halep Sharada The trajectory of Simona Halep’s 2015 season has been somewhat steeply curved, with lows and highs following each other almost simultaneously. Yet, despite the difficulties that she may have had this year, Halep reaching the WTA finals was never in any doubt. As the top-seed in the event, Halep has been drawn in the Red Group alongside Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta. Of the three, the only player to have troubled her the most is Sharapova, against whom she has a zero-to-five head-to-head record. But not having a positive win-loss ratio never stopped Halep from trying, and it’s a given that she will continue to try pushing Sharapova in a bid to get that first victory over the Russian in Singapore. In her own way, Halep is somewhat of an unconventional trend-setter. As a teenager,

almost six years ago, when Halep spoke about having a breast reduction surgery and the resultantly positive effect it had had on her tennis, not many were convinced. But it did take pluck for her not only do what she felt was right to benefit her career, but also to continue to ignore the scepticisms that surrounded her personal decision. Coming into the WTA finals, Halep is perhaps the only player who has – and will – benefit the most from Serena Williams’ absence. Not because of lack of qualitative addition to the tournament, but because last year, she was the only player who got the best of the American in their Round Robin match, who also went on to finish as the runner-up in the event in what was her maiden appearance. As such, if Halep is able to yet again spin her bad results into an excellent run-of-form in Singapore, she will be the favourite in the tournament even as many of her fellow qualifiers struggle with their own inconsistencies.

for the first time in her career.

also in-sync with the theme

However, as deserving of

that had come up in the Slam

plaudits as Muguruza’s

Down Under – of the far

achievements were, there

experienced players leaving

was one other player, who

their younger rivals far behind

2017 unto

seemed to be a candidate of

in the dust.


an equal stature – if not more

Moving on, as the year

– of being acknowledged as

progressed, if anyone had

the ITF world champion. That

anticipated Williams to fade

player is Venus Williams.

away after her Australian

The International Tennis

The 2017 season had a lot of

Open heroics, her reaching

Federation announced

firsts for the seven-time Major

Garbine Muguruza – along

the final Wimbledon – in quite

winner. She began the year

a resemblance to 2003 –

by emerging as an unlikely

ensured that she remained in

finalist at the Australian Open,

focus as a player to watch out

which in turn renewed her

for. A player who was a

rivalry in Grand Slam finals

beacon of relative

with her sister Serena. It was

consistency amidst the

her first final at a Major since

prevailing tumultuousness on

2009 Wimbledon, and it was

the Tour. Then again, though

The resurgence of Venus Williams: From


with compatriot Rafael Nadal – as the ITF women’s world champion. The Spaniard did, indeed, have a successful year in which she went on to win her second Major – at Wimbledon – before ascending as the world no. 1

she did narrowly miss out on

token practicality. The bigger

the setbacks she has had on

reaching the final at the US

perspective that makes itself

the court, she isn’t ready to

Open, she bounced back

obvious is that, she too, is

move away from tennis for

spritely by reaching the final

looking forward to tilting the


of the WTA Finals in

results of any similar finales in

“I have no plans of stopping

Singapore. A tournament to

the months to come on her

anytime soon. It seems

which she had qualified after

side. And, the only way for

somehow that 2020 Tokyo is

a gap of almost seven years.

her to do so is by focusing

on the horizon. Isn’t that wild?

The spans of time that have

about extending the continuity

I’m trying to stick around for

divided Williams’ career in

she had established in 2017.

that,” Williams had

terms of the finals she had

Not only by going the

mentioned, clearly specifying

played before, and the ones

distance in tournaments, but

her objective. Considering

which she had contested in

also by making a turnaround

that she is a five-time Olympic

2017 are nothing less than

in her rankings by re-entering

medallist across all three

milestones. They also narrate

the top-five of the WTA

disciplines in the sport, these

the tale of a singular

singles rankings. The latter,

aren’t words that have been

longevity. And, it’s vis-à-vis

again, after an absence of

casually thrown around. But,

the latter aspect that the need

almost six years.

ones that denote

for Williams’ continuity in the

These, then, bring us to the

purposefulness. Then, in

sport gains even more heft.

hastening of Williams’

attempting to scale this goal a

Each of her three losses in

retirement. Even these

few years down the line, 2018

the three finals she contested

aspirations – both from her

may see the start of the era of

quelled the hope that Williams

fans and herself – weren’t

Venus Williams yet again that

would finally add to her

enough, Williams’ comments

could potentially make her a

Majors’ collection. But, as

in an interview with the

world champion in more ways

difficult as it still is for her fans

Entrepreneur is enough of a

than one.

and enthusiasts to get over

reiteration that irrespective of

these defeats, they also heighten the incentive of waiting for Williams to try and win them anew, come the forthcoming season. On Williams’ side, the matterof-factness with which she introspected upon this troika of results also goes beyond

What Remains of the Fab Four

other hand, all have

he decided to push on

physically punishing play

regardless, a decision that may

styles which are now catching

have had a knock-on effect on

Gabriele Ferrara

up to them.

his 2018 season, when it turned

There was a time not too long

Nadal's problems

going into the Australian Open.

Despite enjoying a great 2017

He had to withdraw there due to

season, Nadal still

injury as well, though this time it

succumbed to injury well

was a thigh complaint that

before the end of the year.

forced him out. Luckily, this

His oldest nemesis, knee

setback does not seem to be

injury, once again reared its

serious, and he is expected

ugly head in the fall, forcing

back on the court relatively

the Spaniard to withdraw from


both the ATP Masters 1000

At the moment, Nadal is

event in Paris and the ATP

scheduled to play in both

World Tour Finals. There

Acapulco and the Masters 1000

were already signs of trouble

events at Indian Wells and

in Shanghai, where Nadal

Miami. This has raised a few

handily lost to Federer in a

eyebrows from analysts, who

one-sided final. Up to that

have again questioned Nadal’s

point he had already play 74

scheduling. Unlike Federer,

matches in 2017, winning 65,

who has been very careful not

a heavy workload indeed. But

to push his body too far, Nadal

ago that the Fab Four utterly dominated tennis. For years, at seemingly every Slam, at least three of them would reach the semi-finals. Sometimes, they would all reach the final four, completely shutting out all opposition (this happened at the 2008 US Open, 2011 French Open, 2011 US Open and 2012 Australian Open). These were the years when all four men, or at least most of them, were in their best physical shape and suffered minimal injuries. Federer, always the “old man” of the group, was often at the wrong end of very physical matches, regularly losing to his younger rivals during this period. Now, everything is different. The Swiss has won three Majors in the last 12 months and is once again knocking on the door of the world number one ranking. His younger peers, however, are struggling. Federer has always had a very fluid game that took little physical toll on him, and his ability to listen to his body and play a lighter schedule is finally bearing fruit late in his career. Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, on the

out that he was not 100% fit

seems to be positively daring

to the Fab Four, all of whom

There was no single event

his body to break down. It has

can sympathize with each

that caused Murray’s injury.

been a constant concern

other when it comes to injury

Instead, it is the culmination

throughout his career, with

struggles. Andy Murray,

of a career’s worth of playing

Nadal almost always

Sparta to Djokovic’s Athens,

a very physical, defensive

choosing a heavy workload

had hip surgery earlier this

style. Murray has always

over more rest, a philosophy

year, while Djokovic had a

taken pride in his ability to

he believes keeps him in the

procedure on his elbow not

chase down more balls than

best possible competitive

long afterwards.

just about anyone else in

shape. It seems unlikely that

Murray believes he can be

professional tennis, and it has

he will ever alter this

fully fit in time for Wimbledon,

won him many tournaments.

approach, and he will

the tournament where his hip

Unfortunately, there is a prize

probably continue down this

pain finally became too much

to be paid for such physical

road until the end of his

for him. “I felt pain already


career. How it will affect his

before Wimbledon,” he

It’s a similar story for

quality of life after his career,

recently said of the injury. “It’s

Djokovic, who played in the

however, is another question

got better but still it’s

Australian Open, though he


extremely tiring mentally

was obviously not himself. A

when every single time you

reworked service motion,

Murray and Djokovic: under

are walking you are feeling

which he had hoped would

the knife

your hip, from the first minute

ease the strain on his elbow,

If Athens cries, Sparta does

that you wake up in the day

did not work well enough, and

not laugh. This old saying is

and start walking to when you

he lost early. After the

particularly apt when it comes

lie down at night.”

tournament, he decided that enough was enough and opted to have surgery. “I missed the competition too much,” he said of his downtime due to injury. “I was hoping to recover fully during the break, but it still felt bad.” Like Murray, Djokovic is not sure exactly when he will be able to play at his best level again, but like Murray he is hoping he will fully recover in time for the next Slam. Djokovic, of course, also has an extremely physical style of play, and has become famous for the incredible stretches

and slides he can perform on

long-standing injury, though

Magnus Norman, whose

hard courts. But again,

his was to his knee. He lost

calming influence was a

everything adds up, and it’s

early at the Australian Open

major reason for Wawrinka’s

likely that his incredible

to Tennys Sandgren, but tried

rise over the years. It will

defense is at least partly to

to remain positive about the

likely be a few months before

blame for his current


we can fully assess the


“I have to be positive,” he said

impact of both the injury and

Both men now need to

after the loss. “I came here

the loss of his coach, but

perform a very delicate

not knowing if I could actually

Wawrinka seems confident

balancing act. It is clear that

play the first match, and the

that he will not return to the

they badly want to compete

last 12 days went better than I

bad habits that plagued him in

for Slams again, but they also


the years before he started

need to give their bodies time

As with all players returning

working with the Swede. The

to fully recover before jumping

from injury, it will take

biggest indicator of his level

back into high-level

Wawrinka some time to get

will come when he hits the

competition. Neither of them

comfortable with his body

European clay. If he can get

are spring chickens, and if

again. It will be particularly

some decent results there, all

they rush back too quickly

difficult for him since he is no

bets are off for Roland

they might re-injure

longer being coached by


themselves, and at that point it might prove to be careerending. It is difficult to be patient in such circumstances, but it’s simply a burden they will have to bear. Wawrinka’s return While he has never officially been a member of the Fab Four, Wawrinka has become a bit of an honorary member over the past few years. He won three Slams at a time when nobody outside of the Fab Four has come even close to such a feat, so he is often mentioned in the same breath as these greats. Like Djokovic and Murray, he underwent surgery to repair a

The Unsung Goffin Dominic J Stevenson

One of the unsung heroes of the ATP tour in 2017 was undoubtedly Belgium’s David Goffin. Having been a stand-in for the final round of the 2016 round robin phase of the year end ATP Finals not only did he earn his place outright in 2017, and some, but he proved to be the surprise package of the tournament much as he had been throughout a very strong year. To those who don’t know the name or the diminutive fellow’s game, he’s a staple of the upper echelons of the tour and has been for some time, getting better as he ages (he has just turned twenty-seven). While having no huge weapon, he is a hardworking, nimble and athletic man with a game that is easy on the eye and a character that is quiet and highly likeable. In an age of fame and celebrity, he is the perfect antidote – a sportsman doing his job and doing it extremely well, nothing more. David Goffin ended the year strongly and finally captured a few titles, deservedly not left empty handed. His two titles of 2017 came in Shenzhen and Tokyo outdoor events. Perhaps he is approaching a stage in which he can shake the ‘always the bridesmaid’ feeling, but it doesn’t look like that sits uncomfortably with him, and he responds well to losses. As he looks ahead after his best season yet, and ponders how to go that extra mile with some of those bigger titles, he must surely be filled with hope and high confidence. In an era of not just good but great players he is constantly improving, showing a desire to win – in his quietly unassuming fashion – against the game’s top players, and is still crawling up the world rankings, currently the world number 7. Think not of the absence of players, but of his win-loss record for 2017, second only to Rafael Nadal. It’s a frightening thought really, as it stands, let alone when pondering that he missed a couple of months through injury (after a fall at Roland Garros), including the entire grass court season. That goes

to say just how good a season the Belgian has had. He’s surely the most underrated player on tour and one of the chief protagonists to take advantage these past months during the absence of some of this generation’s finest. He finally proved his worth, undeniably, at the recent ATP Finals in London. You cannot argue that Dimitrov wasn’t a worthy winner, but Goffin having beaten Nadal and Federer over the previous week then almost turned the tables on Dimitrov, after an embarrassing loss to the Bulgarian in the round robin phase of the year end finals. Goffin, though, doesn’t feel like a nearly man. In an age of tall players and huge weapons, he has carved out a space for himself, and made it clear that having a splendid all-round game is something to allude to. His character and hard work have been displayed consistently. There are other unheralded contenders, not including the young arrivals in the men’s game. Players of the ilk of Goffin, such as Diego Schwartzman and perhaps Filip Krajinovic have pushed on and asserted themselves as players with something to say in the coming years. Goffin’s humble approach and lack of fanfare makes him feel almost unseen, as other players at the top have something more glamorous – Federer’s game, Nadal’s power, Djokovic’s steely character, and so on – but he is quietly forging his own path based on the sport he clearly loves. Missing out on the Davis Cup trophy after winning both his ties in the final must have been another great disappointment, and yet he always seems to keep going, getting stronger, better and arguably more and more of a threat to the elite of the sport. He may be a silent force, but he is really one of the players making the most noise.

A Tribute to Andy

resolute in his quest to return

to push through the Federer-

back to the sport that he loves.

Nadal-Djokovic stranglehold on

Murray, how will

Here’s a look back at some of the

grand slams, always coming

he return?

most memorable moments in the

close. It wasn’t until the year

indefatigable talent’s great career

2012, though, that all the hard

so far:

work finally paid off. He beat

both Federer and Djokovic to

2012: The great breakthrough

win two of his incredible major


titles that year. First, he

recovery after having gone under

In any other era Andy Murray

defeated the Swiss in three sets

the knife to correct the chronic

would have probably have won at

in the London Olympic finals to

hip injury that’s almost derailed

least six grand slams, probably

clinch his first Gold medal,

his career. The three-time grand

closer to Andre Agassi’s eight, a

winning on home soil, the first

slam champ is now undergoing

player he shared a similar style

British man to do so since

the arduous process back to 100

with. However, the great Scot

1908. The Gold medal was the

percent fitness, hoping to be

had the misfortune of playing

foremost step in establishing

ready to compete at his most

during the reign of legends Roger

Murray as one of the Big Four

successful slam, Wimbledon, in

Federer and Rafael Nadal, and

in tennis.

2018 summer.

then Novak Djokovic’s during his

Veronica Bruno Andy Murray is on the road to

incredible dominant streak. It’s a

Proving that the Gold was no

Some pundits have said that no

real testament that the Scot

mere fluke, the Scottish player

tennis player has gone through

achieved the titles that he did

followed up Olympic success

hip surgery and bounced back.

during this time. Especially in the

with his first grand slam win at

But the Brit has been written off

year 2012.

the U.S. Open, a hard fought

before and he’s pulled through with his stubborn perseverance. Certainly no one would have predicted that Murray would be the only men’s singles player to win two Gold medals in the era of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. Andy Murray will need to call on that type of conviction more than anything else as he builds his health back from major surgery and attempts a comeback in his 30’s—a usual expiration date in competitive men’s tennis. The Scottish player is remaining

victory over Novak Djokovic in For years Murray had been trying

five grueling sets. The first set

tiebreak between the Scot

the All-England Club was Fred

Andy Murray made one grand

and Serb was the longest in a

Perry in 1936. In 2013, a year

slam final that year, losing to

U.S. Open final, and tied the

after he lost the final to Roger

Novak Djokovic in Australia,

longest final in the

Federer, Andy Murray won the

but won two Masters 1000

tournament’s history. Murray

Wimbledon title on home turf. All

titles. But perhaps the biggest

may have only won three

across the United Kingdom,

win for the Brit that year came

titles that year, but two of

people celebrated in the streets

at the end of the season when

them were big ones and set

and the Scot became the second

he achieved the first Davis Cup

the tone for the rest of his

man to simultaneously hold the

title for Great Britain since

career. He is the first man to

Gold medal and the Wimbledon

1936, becoming only the third

win Olympic Gold and the

title, along with Rafael Nadal.

person in the tournament’s

U.S. Open in the same year,

Unlike his difficult win over

history (in its current format) to

and he became the first

Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open

remain undefeated in all his

British man to win a grand

the year before, this time he

singles rubbers. In an uneven

slam since Fred Perry in

prevailed over the Serb in three

year for the Gold medalist,

1936, and the first Scottish

straight sets. The second grand

bringing home the Davis Cup

player since Harold Mahony

slam title also proved that the

title after almost 80 years was

in 1896. The skinny kid from

Brit was a multi-slam winner and

a great sense of pride for his

Glasgow was not only one of

belonged in a club above the


the best players in the world,

one-hit slam achievers Juan

he was now a Gold-medal,

Martin del Potro and Marit Safin.

2016: The great year

grand slam champion.

Andy Murray began the year

2015: Wins first Davis Cup title

with his second clay Masters

2013: First British man to

for Great Britain in almost 80

1000 title—in Rome—and used

win Wimbledon in 77 years


that as a platform to hit the

The last British man to win at

courts like a freight train at top

speed. He won his second Wimbledon title— his third grand slam win—putting him in contention of overtaking Djokovic for the top ATP ranking spot. Most impressive in his run of titles that year was his second Gold medal in the Rio Olympics, defeating Juan Martin del Potro in an incredibly captivating four-set final, becoming the only man in tennis history with a double singles Gold medal. And he didn’t stop there. He powered through a surge of titles, including two more Masters, the even more impressive ATP Final title, and what at the time seemed like an unsurmountable number of ranking points to finally sit on top of the leader board after seven years as No. 2. To cement his breakthrough year, he also received a knighthood from the Queen. Will he return? The hip joint is such a pivotal part of a tennis player’s movement. It’s hard to tell if Murray will reach the kinds of heights he achieved in 2016. It’s clear that pushing himself so hard that year took its toll in 2017, with the 30 yearold suffering from first an elbow injury, and then the more debilitating hip that knocked him out of the game since summer 2017. Andy Murray has suffered from several ailments throughout his career, including kneecap problems and his troublesome back. He’s no stranger to surgery and recovery either, having taken time off at the end of 2013 to get surgery and heal his lower back. The former world No. 1 has dealt with these setbacks and bounced back before. Throughout it all, his appetite for tennis has never waned and he is willing to rebuild himself to persevere again. We will have to wait and see how much the time off will help or hurt his career at this ripe stage.

Leander Paes

tennis player by displays of immense

However, what both Paes and

courage at Wimbledon and the French

Bhupathi have done is given the

and Mahesh

Open, however their lasting effect

young Indian tennis player another

remained miniscule compared to what

option that may help cover his costs.


the former have provided.

Looking at how well the duo has done


While India maybe one of the thriving

Indian – Sania Mirza resorted to the

contribution to

economies of the world in relation to

doubles’ game having suffered

certain aspects, it remains a poor

various injuries. Sania is a Grand

country still. The mass population still

Slam champion herself now, having

considers tennis as a rich man’s sport,

won the Aussie Open and the French

and to be fair it does come at a price.

Open with Bhupathi.

Indian Tennis! Akshay

in the category, another promising

Other sports such as football and cricket are the growing sports in the

Most young kids in India start out

There may not be a Grand Slam

country, mainly because the price of

idolizing Rafael Nadal, who has

champion from India when it comes to

the equipment to play the sport is

gained even more popularity in the

the singles' game, but the country is

miniscule compared to tennis.

nation than Roger Federer in certain

blooding good doubles' players every

areas because of his charitable

year. We look into what makes the

For instance a tennis racquet costs a

foundation in Anantpur that has

doubles' game so popular in the land

minimum of $60 and as you go from

helped children take up the sport as

with the world's second largest

one level to another it keeps on

kids. However as they grow up, due to


increasing. To play at the top level,

a lack of infrastructure and few ATP

you need a racquet that costs

challenger level events, promising

While India is most definitely not the

$250-300 which is almost

youngsters struggle to convert their

biggest nation when it comes to the

unaffordable to the middle class

talent at junior level into the

sport of tennis, it is perceived as a

population. To add to the cost of a

professional level.

nation that is thriving on the success

racquet, there are hardly any open to

of its favourite sons Leander Peas and

all tennis courts in the country, while a

Together Bhupathi and Paes have

Mahesh Bhupathi. The two together

membership to a club is even more

made the doubles’ game a very viable

have put Indian tennis on the map,


option for aspiring players in India.

and have won 30 Grand Slam titles winning three of those together.

From a very young age kids learn their Also, with the cost of travelling the

skills at the net and plan their careers

country if not the world, is also paid

in such a way, so they can make

The duo together have inspired

from the player’s own pockets as

tennis their lively hood. In fact, the duo

generations of young Indian players,

sponsorship deals at the grass-root

has made tennis an attractive career

who idolize both Paes and Bhupathi

levels are anything but lucrative. Also,

option for these youngsters as the

while growing up. There might have

looking at the fact that hardly any

sport ‘for the rich’ does pay rich

been other greats from the country in

Indian ever truly made it as a tennis

dividends even in the double’s game.

the past such as Vijay Amritraj or

player one is forced to give up on his/

Ramanathan Krishnan who

her ambitions early.

themselves inspired generations of

Unfulfilled Potential Dominic J. Stevenson It’s a terrible thing to have an ability and not fulfil its potential, to have pure talent but perhaps not the desire, temperament or work ethic to allow it to blossom. Not every person with a gift has all the other necessary aspects come together to enable its emergence, the accompanying satisfaction and perhaps even longevity. To observe it clearly can be rather frustrating, and it’s never more witnessed than in professional tennis. Producing a talented tennis player is one thing, getting them to where they are able to go to is quite another. Talent is natural, achievement, however, takes endless hours of work and commitment, of practice and refinement. Tennis players can make a very good living without ever hitting the heights so few ever do. You don’t need to, and the attitude of some shows just that. Why go that extra mile when you can live comfortably, travel the world, and never worry about your existence just by sticking to your comfort zone? There are more and more examples of this type of player, this modern person, in both the men’s and women’s games, to whom it’s not a life of tennis, it’s tennis facilitating a wonderful life of travel, fame and fortune. It feels, owing to prize money nowadays, that fewer players are completely committed to their work than in years gone by. Perhaps this is just the veneer of social media and how much easier it is to access and see player’s lives, but it does lend to an increasingly fragile image for the game. Not only are disrespectful comments made increasingly about a dislike of, even a disdain for tennis, but the example being set by some of the younger players to those tempted to pick up a racket, encouraged by these socalled role models, is rather negative at times, and is possibly going to be framed by such behaviour. Some players like to party, do endless adverts and photo shoots. Well, some of the top guys like Roger Federer and Serena Williams do that too, but they

became icons of the age first through their primary jobs – tennis players. They worked hard, and still do even to this day, to create a foundation upon which they built their legacies. They train and have trained in the past until there was little time left. Then, when it was possible, and they had a gap in their schedules, perhaps they did an advert or something. Many players seem to forget to train and are posting endless social media photos of other activities. Too often nowadays it seems professional sportspeople are blinded by the big money and fame thrown at them, just because they are known or good looking and it seems tennis gets a little left by the wayside. The balance must be right, and it isn’t easy, but ask those at the top, those who have reached it and maintained a high level for years, and they would mostly say it was worth all the hard work and effort, the passion for the game. Many players have the raw talent, but to match that with the necessary strength of mind and character, the total commitment and even the understanding of the position of a successful sportsperson is indeed a

rarity. It is that which elevates one above the rest, that which inspires others, which fuels longevity and enjoyment, for all parties. Those we witness at the top for endless years are a rare breed, much less common than the remainder, the everyday sporting folk. That’s what makes them so very special, they encompass all the necessary traits down to perfection. They are what to aim for, they are the inspiration of the layman.

Where Are All the Female Coaches? Dominic J. Stevenson You might have noticed that there is a distinct lack of female coaches both across the men’s and women’s games. Equality has long since been discussed (as a discernible divide between the two tours remains) and this feels symbolic of a wider issue that goes beyond the making of families postplaying career. The history of ladies’ tennis is every bit as rich as that of the male counterparts, there are multiple names from the past decades who have made a mark with physical, mental and tactical prowess. Nowadays there can be no question that Serena Williams has everything in spades to match Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, as did Graf and Seles to Sampras and Agassi, and Navratilova and Evert to McEnroe and Borg, and so on back in time. The question is not about who

would win should the men face the women in

world of tennis. Okay, so perhaps the union didn’t go

competition and that question is neither helpful

quite as either party would have hoped – with no

nor fair. The matter is that the women in tennis have

grand slam title success, but one recent example is

been every bit as strong

not enough to base an

minded, talented and tactical as the men, and

entire argument on, and Murray’s fitness suffered

this is not and has not been fairly reflected by coaches

somewhat during their partnership, which certainly

in modern tennis. So, are men better coaches? I don’t think so, although perhaps there is a stigma attached to hiring a female coach, be it for the

did have its highlights. A great coach doesn’t necessarily need to have been a great player, as we have witnessed in other sporting fields, but they do

women, or even the men. Andy Murray was not only brave for trying to move the situation forwards but truly within reason to hire a female coach and send such a positive and necessary message to the

need to connect with and understand their player and be able to envisage their path and keep them on it, getting the best out of the player. There are as many women who understand the game, its demands and

what it takes to be successful as there are

coaching role needs to be attended to, to help see a

towards male coaches and that feels like a massive

men. This experience isn’t being used, is not being

rise in numbers over the coming years. Men coach

imbalance. It was brilliant to see past Wimbledon

taken advantage of, and an ongoing situation that

both men and women. It would be nice to see

champion Conchita Martinez in Garbiñe

clearly neglects the fairer

women coaching both as

Muguruza’s camp during

sex seems to bring nothing to promoting and truly

well. Such roles should be taken on merit and nothing

Muguruza’s winning campaign at Wimbledon

encouraging equality for the future of tennis.

else. A rise in numbers in the coming years would

2017, while her more permanent coach Sam

Too much is still made in society of gender and sexual orientation (see the whole Margaret Court comment furore of early 2017, which may be

surely send a positive message, in a time when words with little indication of action seems to be the case. When partnerships

Sumyk was absent for his child’s birth. There was something special about that union, the temporary replacement, and the outcome. It was something

imminently reignited at the Australian Open), rather than focussing on skills and ability, and opportunities being given to those with desire, experience and knowledge. It’s clear that the role of women in

between coaches and players end I keep hoping people will make more assertive and challenging decisions when making their next move coachwise. The women’s tour leans predominantly

to celebrate for many reasons, not least seeing a female coach embraced at the culmination of a brilliant tournament. With all due respect to Sumyk, who is brilliant in Muguruza’s corner, it felt like a positive move forwards. Martina Navratilova’s time as Agnieszka Radwanksa’s coach didn’t last long, and that had seemed a fascinating partnership at the start. It clearly didn’t work, although the idea of seeing the great Martina in a coaching role to a female player near the top of the WTA rankings was something exciting indeed. There are female coaches,

there are examples - see Ostapenko’s Spanish

availability to coach and be on tour for more than half

were some incredibly negative reactions across social media

coach, Medina Garrigues but there’s an imbalance

the year, as is generally necessary. This does lend

to Murray’s hiring of Mauresmo as his coach earlier

that could it be altered would see tennis with some

towards a trend, but cannot be the sole argument for

this decade that depict the times and some of its

of the equality it seeks, with

why this situation continues.

overbearing attitudes quite

a message that backs up what some are saying. The

Many of the male coaches are also fathers with the

well. That might be an all too common mindset that is the

technology is advanced year on year and is in a

duties and responsibilities of that role, and manage to

real reason behind the lack of female coaches, because

constant state of modernisation, of flux, and yet the number of female coaches reflects certain aspects are far behind, maintaining the inequality

coach on either a part time or full-time basis. The balance is key, as a player with children or as a coach. The difference here is not that the women are more

surely there should and could be a higher number of female coaches than there is at present. The game, and by that, I mean the men’s and women’s games, would greatly

tennis needs to see a shift away from. On the men’s side, Kukushkin’s coach is his now wife (their partnership leading to marriage), Istomin’s is his mother, and in the past not only Murray has been coached by a woman, but also Djokovic, Safin and Ivanisevic, to mention some big names, had periods of their careers being shaped by female coaching. So, there are examples, but they are few and far between. While women’s postplaying career can see them commit to having a family and the life that goes with that, it produces less

important than the men in the lives of the children but are perhaps more willing to make the sacrifices. There

benefit from a louder collective female voice, in every avenue of the sport of tennis.

Hard Courts, Hard Injuries? Alessandro Mastroluca “There are too many injuries, those who run the circuit should think about it more. I do not speak only for myself, but for the health of all of us players. There is life after tennis, and if we continue to play on such hard courts, I do not know what will happen to us.” These are the words of Rafael Nadal, who had to withdraw due to injury at this year’s Australian Open during his quarter-final match against Marin Cilic. It marked the second time he has had to withdraw from an Australian Open quarter-final, the first coming against Andy Murray eight years ago. The question whether hard courts are worse for tennis players than other surfaces has been a hot topic for many years. Nadal in particular has led a bit of a crusade against hard courts for many years, dating back to at least 2013, when he again complained about hard courts while competing in Melbourne. The director of the Center for Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Sheffield has refuted Nadal’s claims, saying that there is no direct link between injuries and the type of surface players compete on. Hard courts, of course, are the dominant surface in professional tennis. The vast majority of the ATP World Tour takes place on hard courts, including most of the Masters 1000 events (six are played on hard courts and three on clay). Two of the four Slams are also on hard courts. So, if it was harder on one’s body to play on hard courts it would be a concern, given that almost all professional tennis takes place on these courts.

But are hard courts all bad? There is some evidence to suggest that there are some good aspects to hard courts. An analysis by Craig O'Shannessy, who is on Djokovic's staff, revealed that 70% of points on hard courts finish within four shots. Nadal is no exception. As an example, in his career at the Australian Open he has finished 62% of his points in four or fewer shots. So, rallies are generally short on hard courts, in contrast to the eternal slugfests on clay, meaning that players spend less time actually playing on the court. An important aspect in this discussion is that not all hard courts are the same. It is not enough to say a tournament has a “hard” surface, as the speed of the courts have to do with amount of silica in the covering paint, as well as the characteristics of the underlying layers and the base underneath. Just looking at the recent history of the Australian Open we can see that the gluey Rebound Ace was very different from the current Plexicushion, which is different again from Deco Turf and other variants. But while there is a very real difference in the various hard courts, in general there has been homogenization as far as tennis surfaces are concerned. There are more similarities between them all now than ever before, which has led to the virtual disappearance of surface specialization. The trend of homogenization can be seen in the Court Pace Index, which measures the court speed at each Masters 1000 event. The effect of all of this is that players tend to move in the same way in different conditions. One strange consequence of this movement is the increasing fashion among players to slide on surfaces that don’t traditionally allow it. Djokovic is

the most famous proponent of this new trick, and slides all over the place on hard courts. It is a practice that does player bodies no good at all. Caroline Martin and Jacques Prioux performed a study on different playing surfaces and came to some interesting conclusions: “A study of incomplete matches in Grand Slam professional tennis tournaments from 1978 to 2005 reported the following results: higher rates of incomplete matches on Australian Open hard courts...than on other surfaces.� The report goes on to state that players who playe more on clay than on hard courts experience fewer long-term knee issues. Indeed, injuries to knees and ankles are definitely milder on surfaces that allow for natural sliding, such as clay. Sliding on a hard courts exacerbates these injuries.

Tiegermann, in a dated study, and Daniel Ura,

problem and has led to various injuries, both

along with other researchers from the mechanical

minor and major.

engineering department at the University of

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to this

Sheffield, have come to similar conclusions in

problem, though an increased willingness to vary

their studies. They analyzed the consequences of

surface performance from tournament to

sliding on hard courts, and the effects are worse,

tournament, as we have seen in the last season

especially regarding the force imparted on the big

or so, might be step in the right direction. It might

toe and foot soles. The deformation of the soles

just lead to a paradigm shift in the way players

increases the friction against the surface as well

move on the court, and a decrease in sliding on

as the temperature at the contact points. The

surfaces where it is most harmful.

excessive heat leads to more sweating, which

Even grass tournaments might need to

increases blistering. One need only see Chung’s

experiment with grass variants that provide more

foot selfie to be believe this.

traction for players. After all, keeping the top

The biggest complaint about the grass court

players on the court as long as possible is in the

season has always been about slipping and

best interest of everyone, so working together on

sliding, especially early on in tournaments when

this issue needs to be a top priority for all

the grass is still fresh and slick. Even at the


Championships, slipping has always been a big

Some old, few new: Promising start to the 2018 women’s season

made it to the final in Auckland

twist her ankle in her opening

(lost to Julia Goerges), before

round in Melbourne. Halep

winning her first Major

bandaged her ankle and came

defeating Simona Halep in a

out fighting – saving match

nerve-wracking final at the

points in her marathon


Australian Open. The Dane

matches against Lauren Davis

also regained the world no. 1

(third round) and Angelique

ranking ending the unwanted

Kerber (semi-final) – only to

epilogue that had tagged her

miss out on the winner’s

previously as the world no. 1

podium in a taut three-setter.

without a Slam. Now that she

The German told her own tale

has got this monkey off her

– of resurgence – while in

back, the world seems to be

Australia, carrying the German

Wozniacki’s oyster to conquer.

team aloft at the Hopman Cup,

Meanwhile, the wait to win her

before winning the singles title

first Major has had to be

in Sydney. Her unbeaten run

extended for Halep. The

only ended against Halep in

Romanian won the singles and

what was a gripping contest of

doubles titles in Shenzhen and

shot-making as much as it was

looked to be in peak form at

a duel of wills. Prior to her

the Australian Open, only to

defeat to Halep, Kerber,

What a year 2017 had been for women’s tennis. From veterans asserting their mien to youngsters coming of age, there was something in store for everyone on the WTA Tour. Ahead of the 2018 season that is right around the corner, it is but natural to expect that more such exciting results will be follow suit, starting right away at the Australian swing. Caroline Wozniacki reigned supreme Down Under as she

however racked up some easy

Another former world no. 1

lost in the first round of all three

wins – one of which came

Garbine Muguruza, who had

tournaments she played in

against Maria Sharapova in the

been battling injury throughout

2018 – Brisbane, Sydney and

third round.

the Australian swing – starting

the Australian Open – which in

The Russian had looked

in Brisbane – extended her bad

turn extended her run of first-

sharper in her opening two

patch of results in Melbourne.

round defeats to 13

rounds, but her tame defeat at

The Spaniard, seeded third at

tournaments, all the way back

the hands of Kerber proved

the Australian Open, crashed

to 2017. The only consolation

that the former world no. 1 had

out to Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh

for Mladenovic was that she

her work cut out for her to

in the first round. The

won the women’s doubles title

make her way back into the top

unpredictability of Hsieh’s

at Melbourne Park with Timea

bastion of the sport.

game also brought down

Babos. Could this change

Sharapova’s conqueror at the

another seed in the 26th

things for her?

2011 Wimbledon and 27th

seeded Agnieszka Radwanska

Ostapenko struggled in

seed Petra Kvitova also had a

in the third round, before

Shenzhen and Sydney, losing

disappointing outing in

Kerber dealt with her challenge

in the first rounds and made it

Melbourne. The Czech played


all the way to the third round at

out a topsy-turvy first round

The likes of Kristina

the Australian Open before

against German Andrea

Mladenovic and Jelena

bowing out.

Petkovic, before losing in three

Ostapenko also continued to

Venus Williams, the 2017


disappoint. The Frenchwoman

Australian Open finalist, began

the season on a slow note in

Brisbane in the semi-finals,

Kostyuk, who downed the

Auckland. Her slowness,

before exiting the Australian

25th seed Shuai Peng in the

however, was entirely

Open in a tame fashion to

first round at the Australian

stopped in the first round at

Simona Halep in the quarter-

Open and the more

the Australian Open as she


experienced Olga Rogowska

was upset by Belinda Bencic

There were other names too,

in the second round before

in the first round.

on whom expectations were

hitting a block against

Among the other players who

heavy as the 2018 season

countrywoman Svitolina.

were expected to start off

started. Of these, Sloane

There were a couple of

well, world no. 3 Elina

Stephens and her compatriot

relatively better-known names

Svitolina began the season

Coco Vandeweghe lost in the

in this mix as well, like Naomi

with a title-run in Brisbane.

first round itself, while Briton

Osaka and Ashleigh Barty.

However, a run-in with a

Johanna Konta advanced one

As the season unwinds

determined Elise Mertens in

round further before making

further, which of these players

the Australian Open quashed

her way out.

will lay a more complete claim

the Ukrainian’s hopes.

Some youngsters popped up

to it? Well, we will soon find

Karolina Pliskova, the world

on the radar like the unknown


no. 5, lost to Svitolina in

15-year-old Ukrainian Marta

155 points separating him from the world no. 1 ranking currently being held by his rival Rafael Nadal, Federer seems to be on the cusp of regaining the top-spot in the ranking after a near six-year absence. s Nadal, who had trouble with his knee ahead of the first Slam of the year, and which forced him to pull out of the Mubadala Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, came flying through the blocks as well in the first week of the tournament.

Old guns run roost as the 2018

precursor to the 2018 season was a mixed-bag, with both positives and no-so-positives

season begins

coming through its duration.


in the ATP Tour in the first

Sharada For several players on the men’s tennis tour, the 2017 season segued into a lengthy off-season, while for the rest it

So, what became of the players month of the new season? To start off, there’s no better player to discuss first than Roger Federer. The 36-year-old successfully defended his Australian Open crown and

was a full and proper tennis

finished unbeaten in the swing

calendar which, in turn, meant

Down Under that encompassed

a truncated off-season as per

his route from the Hopman Cup

usual norms of the sport.

in Perth right up to Melbourne

However, just as the wait seemed to be coming to an end for all the players who had thus been forced to end their season mid-way, there were a few setbacks that arose unexpectedly. As such, the off-season serving as a

Park. It was the first time since the 2008 US Open that Federer had defended a Major and yet again, for the second straight year, nostalgia ran high. Oh yes, Federer’s Slam count also peaked as well to 20, wowing his fans some more. With only

His dominance made another Fedal clash seem inevitable, before his physique betrayed him again. This time, with his right hip causing problems plumb in the middle of his semi-final against Marin Cilic forcing him to retire painfully in the fifth set when down 2-0. The only silver lining that came off that injury was that it wasn’t serious and the Mallorcan is expected to make his way back to the circuit in time for the Mexican Open in Acapulco. Meanwhile, in an inconspicuousyet-ominous fashion, Cilic swept into his third Major final. The Croatian, who reached the semifinal at the Maharashtra Open in Pune, was in the thick of things Down Under. He didn’t give up without a fight in the final against Federer – a contrast to his outing in the 2017 Wimbledon final – but at the end of five sets, just fell a

tad short of matching up to

had a less-than-promising

Federer’s grit.

outing in Australia. Playing the Hopman Cup – along with

Others in the fray

Angelique Kerber – Zverev

Novak Djokovic came to be

lost three of his four men’s

the player in vogue ahead of

singles matches in the

the new year with him

tournament including the final

earmarking purposefulness

to Federer. He looked to have

with some new hiring in the

shrugged off his initial slow

form of Radek Stepanek (as a

start in Melbourne, but it was

fellow coach along with Andre

premature as he bowed out to

Agassi) and Craig

Chung despite holding an

O’Shannessy (as a technical

initial advantage in the match.

expert). But, try as he might,

Milos Raonic and Stan

his elbow interfered with his

Wawrinka tried to look past

aspirations as he went down

their injuries, but the Canadian

fighting in a tough straight-

lost in the opening round while

setter to the 21-year-old

the 2014 Australian Open

Hyeon Chung, winner of the

champion was upset by the

inaugural edition of the Next

eponymous Tennys Sandgren

Gen ATP Finals in 2017.

in the second round.

Speaking of whom, the

Sandgren, whose off-court

youngster was the actual find

conduct became the most

of the tournament. Prior to

debatable aspect about him,

ousting the six-time former

caused one more upset – in a

champion at the start of the

lacklustre Dominic Thiem –

second week, the South

before finishing off with a

Korean massively upset the

quarter-final run (lost to

fourth seed Alexander Zverev

Chung) in Australia.

in the third round, finishing

The home hopes, then, remain

their five-set tussle with a

centred on Nick Kyrgios and

bagel in the fifth set. Chung

Thanasi Kokkinakis. While the

made it all the way unto the

latter’s run ended early at the

semi-final, before blisters in

Australian Open, Kyrgios

his foot blighted his much-

showed poise and maturity in

awaited match-up against

his temperament as he


reached the pre-quarter-final

Suffice to say then Chung’s

where Grigor Dimitrov snipped

fellow Next Gen star Zverev

his flight in four sets.

Not that the Bulgarian survived the aftermath of this win for much longer. Unsteady and edgy in his performances since his second round – against USA’s Mackenzie McDonald – Dimitrov’s prospects were worrying. And, in his quarter-final against Britain’s Kyle Edmund – who kept the country’s banner flying high in Andy Murray’s absence – things came to a head. Edmund snapped Dimitrov’s inconsistency in four sets to become the only sixth British men’s singles player to have reached the Australian Open semi-final in the Open Era. A combination of being overwhelmed and being injured, however, ended the 23-year-old’s Australian journey in the penultimate round at the hands of Cilic. There were others, too, in consideration. From David Goffin to Juan Martin del Potro to Jack Sock to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. The rest of the younger lot were there as well. From Denis Shapovalov to Andrey Rublev, and to Daniil Medvedev to Alex de Minaur. Some started off well, only to see getting tapered off at the Australian Open. The rest of the season is, however, wide open. Could these names better themselves along the way?

(though being in the limelight cannot be an easy way to grow deeper into adulthood, especially for some) and take their eyes off the prize. Those with success and those with longevity of career know what it takes. The example is there for us all. But that takes an extra level of desire and passion for the sport, for your work. The blueness of the water – whilst a lovely thing to share with your social media fans – does not a great tennis player make. The off-season is key. It’s a valuable period to address one’s hopes for the early

New Balls, Please

scheme of tennis things, and

Dominic J. Stevenson

focus our attention on the year

A lot happened last year, on

The social media feed almost

both the men’s and women’s tours. The clock was rolled back by the two male greats (Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) while a multitude of ladies won tournaments. The men picked up all manner of injuries, as that in part defined the year in the ATP, and the women had peaks and troughs in form, as the lack of a WTA leader in Serena Williams’ absence became clear – a few contenders, maybe, but nobody stealing the show. Venus Williams also rolled back the years, sadly only ever coming runner up. So, it’s over and it’s the perfect time to take stock, contemplate the grand

ahead. New balls, please. spilled over recently with photos of players from different locations where the focus was mostly the player surrounded by water bluer than blue, as if they were all having a secret contest to see who could be in a photo with the clearest and bluest water. Well, they all won. However, it didn’t last long, and they were soon back to it, posting photos of their off-season training sessions – in preparation for their usual kind of contest once more. In all fairness, they don’t get much time off, not if they want to be the best. It’s clear they do not all aspire to be that, as numerous romances, photo shoots, advertisements and other distractions steal their focus

stages of the year ahead and even further down the line. At the earliest stage, it can feel like make or break for the whole season. Starting the season well, while not the be all and end all, can do wonders for both ranking and confidence moving deeper into the year. Let’s just take Federer’s example from this past year. He wasn’t even sure what he could manage at the Australian Open as he came back from injury, and that success propelled him towards his best year for over half a decade. Given what had preceded it, perhaps he would say it was his best season to date, even. Without that title it’s highly debatable he would’ve had the year he went on to have. 2018 feels like an epic season, even before a ball has been struck competitively. 2017 left us with a lot of questions, about both the men’s and women’s tours. The

Australian Open starts soon and seems to arrive with a great deal of uncertainty compared to other years. Starting with the ladies - will Serena play, or won’t she? It’s been going on a while, and until she turns up and starts her title defence, who really knows. If she does, could she, postchildbirth and in the early days of motherhood after almost a year off, pull off slotting right back into her place at the top, once more resuming her time in the throne of ladies’ tennis? Will the other women who were fighting for top spot be up to the challenge, and will one of them step up and steal the crown indefinitely? Will Angelique Kerber find form again under the stewardship of the brilliant Wim Fissette? And what of Jelena Ostapenko – will she prove herself the rightful pretender to the throne as the future long-term world number one? In the men’s game, the first question is - can Roger and Rafa do THAT again, or even win one more slam apiece in the coming season? Never bet against Mr. Federer on grass and Mr. Nadal on clay, not if they can stave off injuries. And what of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and even Stanislas Wawrinka with their new look teams, as the fresh names and faces that arrived in

2017 look to cement their

players’ head to head.

statuses moving in on the

Muguruza, in the ladies, has won a

upper reaches of the game?

couple of slams. That winning form

What of Milos Raonic and Kei

could see her take residence at the

Nishikori, also coming back

top should it continue. But if year-end

from injuries? And Grigor

number one Simona Halep, or brief

Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev,

number one Karolina Pliskova are to

David Goffin, Kevin Anderson

have any substantial hold over the

and Jack Sock, who all took

ranking they’ll need to break the slam

advantage of the absence of

curse and finally experience the

some top players?

winning feeling. Watch out, too, for

Predicting upcoming Australian

Elina Svitolina, Caroline Garcia, the

Open champions is as hard as

aforementioned Ostapenko, and a

it’s ever been, a sport in itself

plethora of young female players also

at present. Those returning

chomping at the bit.

from lay offs might need a little

2018 poses big questions, is an

longer to climb back to any

incredibly exciting prospect and could

semblance of their best form.

turn out to see several generations

Federer is surely left as the

doing battle all at once like never

favourite, and perhaps

before. What’s clear, is that the young

Dimitrov, now the world

guns are firing on all cylinders and

number three, is another major

the stalwarts and the lesser aged but

contender. Nadal ended the

experienced players are either going

season injured, so, his chances

nowhere (in the sense of retiring or

depend on if that has cleared

even fading quietly away) or are

up and he’s had a good off

growing into themselves and finding

season or not, although the

ways to become better players (see

niggles he was suffering were

the examples of Dimitrov and Goffin).

most likely wear and tear over

There are more names being bandied

a long and intense season. His

around than usual, as regards

chances of finally winning a

contention for the big, early titles of

second Australian Open title

the year, and it’s anyone’s guess

(after three final losses since

what could happen. The fact that

his only win in 2009) will also

anything could really happen is what

depend on whether he can find

makes endless discussion and

a way to break his Federer

promise for the season ahead. Let’s

hoodoo of 2017, in which

hope they can all keep injury at bay

Nadal lost all four of their

and we get the best of everyone.

encounters – an unusual

Then, we’ll be in for a treat. A real

occurrence to say the least as

treat, indeed.

Nadal still has a rather substantial lead in the two

Tennis Nutrition: Energy, Proteins and Gluten Marco Di Nardo Just as technological advances in tennis have massively changed the sport over the decades, so changes in training and awareness about nutrition have also influenced how players approach the game. Novak Djokovic recently highlighted just how important nutritional considerations have become for players, when he announced that he had completely cut gluten from his diet. He claimed that it completely changed his life, and encouraged everyone to try it themselves. Andy Murray took him up on his advice, but it’s unclear whether he has found such a change in diet to be as useful as Djokovic has. Not all talk about nutrition needs to relate to gluten, of course, and there are many other things we must take into consideration when building a healthy tennis diet. Let's examine some of them. Energy bars for tennis When playing tennis at a high level, the use of so-called “energy bars” can, in some cases, be very useful. In fact, carbohydrate intake before any sporting activity is essential, so as to build up as much glycogen as possible. But in order to “save” glycogen reserves during events, it is important to introduce other carbohydrates during practice sessions and matches. Since downtime in matches is rather short, liquids with maltodextrins, which are generally digested fairly

quickly, are used. At the same time, however, these carbohydrates should not be consumed in excessive quantities, because they would cause excessive “glycemic steering.” This impacts the production of insulin, which leads to hypoglycemia, and negatively affects performance. For this reason, integrating energy bars into your wider diet can have positive effects, as they have nutrients like proteins, lipids and fiber, and they can be consumed without risking an excessive increase in blood sugar. That being said, digestibility is inferior when compared to liquids, so each athlete must find the balance of the two that works for them. Proteins: quantity and quality It is generally recommended that your daily protein intake equates to about 0.8-1g/kg of body weight. So, a person weighing 70 kg should take

solved by the consumption of protein-rich plants. Here are some examples (along with how much protein in grams 100g of such food contains): soy (37g), seitan (36g), pine nuts (31g), dried lentils (22g), wheat (12g). The main advantage of animal proteins is the presence of essential amino acids, as well as the fact that the proteins contained in animal products are easier to digest. Unfortunately, plants often contain compounds that make some of the proteins contained within them harder to digest. For this reason, even if they have a high percentage of protein, foods like soy do not have the same protein quality as meat, fish, milk or eggs. It is therefore very important for athletes, and therefore also for tennis players, that most of the proteins they consume come from animal 60-70g of protein per day. According to the


principles of the Mediterranean Diet, proteins

For tennis players engaging in high intensity

should represent about 10-15% of total calories.

activity, sports nutrition experts recommend a

Other food philosophies, such as the Zone Diet,

daily protein intake of 1.5 and 2.2g/kg of body

provide a much higher percentage of protein

weight. However, such high-protein diets (with a

(30%). Without a doubt, a sportsperson needs a

percentage of protein intake over 35% of total

higher caloric intake than a sedentary person,

daily calorie intake) are not recommended for

and therefore also requires more protein.

extended periods of use, especially if not

The quality of proteins is just as important as the

engaged in regular intense physical activity.

quantity: i.e. whether the source of the protein is from an animal or a plant. Overall, it is a good

Gluten: many doubts, few certainties

idea to use proteins from both animal and plant

It is worth briefly talking about gluten, especially

origin in a complementary way. Almost all

given its high profile of late. The issue of

carbohydrate-rich foods are of vegetable origin.

eliminating gluten from sporting diets has been a

Cereals, for example, have an average of about

hot topic since Djokovic did so, apparently to

70-75% carbohydrates, while legumes and

good effect. It is important to note, however, that

starches are also very rich in carbohydrates. The

some people suffer from a gluten intolerance.

problem of protein deficiency in vegetable diets,

When these people cut gluten from their diets

such as those followed by vegetarians, can be

they will definitely experience several positive

side-effects, especially when it comes to sporting performance. This was likely the case with Djokovic. The vast majority of the population does not suffer from such an intolerance. For these people, the efficacy of eliminating gluten from their diet is unclear, especially in the long run. It is a fact that cereals such as wheat, barley, oats and rye can be replaced by rice and corn, as well as other cereals not belonging to the family of grasses (buckwheat, quinoa, etc.). But focusing only on gluten-containing cereals is not essential, or at least not for everyone. Finally, a clarification must be made: gluten is a protein complex that is not naturally found in cereals. It is formed after the cereal has been reduced to flour and then formed into a mixture, when prolammins and glutenins (present in cereals) come in contact with water while the flour is kneaded. For this reason, derivatives of cereals contain gluten (durum wheat pasta, soft wheat bread, barley bread, etc.), and not cereals as they are found in nature.

Change Is Another Name For Victory

obstacles, rather than be

Federico Coppini Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so reality is shown in all its many forms. Dwell peacefully as change itself liberates all suffering sentient beings and brings them great joy. (Buddhist proverb) People do not like change. Well, babies with wet diapers do, but most of us tend to not like it very much. Routine provides a sense of comfort, and people’s role in their family, group, organization and community are important in that they are usually constant and consistent. However, change and transition are not always to be feared. We are all able to change while keeping a positive, flexible attitude. Imagine a boulder blocking the flow of water: this image is a rigid mentality. Instead, we need to be curious about change, we need to understand how it is possible to continue to navigate in spite of any


discouraged by them. Faced with adversity, people Here are some challenging

are often overwhelmed by

changes an athlete may

shame and guilt, and they


stop caring for themselves.

- Being cut from the team.

Sometimes they have a lot of

- Experiencing a sudden

inward anger and adopt self-

coaching change.

destructive behavior, such as

- Suffering a serious injury.

abusing drugs or alcohol.

- Being forced to withdraw from competition for whatever

When you are overwhelmed

by a disruptive change, you

by doing the right things.

need to get up right away.

daily routines and exercises aimed at achieving your

Finally, always take care of A champion faces any

the fundamentals, because

challenge proactively, and

these do not change.

instead of trying to avoid it he

ultimate goal. Knowing this, ask: am I pursuing my dreams or am I

embraces it. Remember that

To become a champion, you

living the day? I'm fighting for

the more you avoid a

are always required to go for


challenge, the more you will

the gold, to give your best in

continue to avoid it.

all areas of your life, and never put in a half-hearted

Maximize a positive attitude

effort. The key is to implement

Obsessed With Winning? You Will Lose Stefano Massaro

Before moving to China, Renato Canova trained Kenyan marathon runners. Since he is an extraordinary coach, he not only knew how they should run, but also how they should think. If a marathon runner told him that he wanted to train to win the gold medal at the next Olympics, Canova shook his head. He would not train him, because the athlete’s goal was misplaced. Indeed, it was poorly thought out. How could he, Renato Canova, coach an athlete to achieve a goal that was totally out of their control? The athlete might train very well and follow all the coach’s instructions, but at the Olympics he might still run against someone who trained even harder, or is simply better than him. “I can train a runner to run a marathon in two hours and ten seconds,” Canova says, “but I cannot train him to win gold.” The point is that there is a big difference between

performance objectives and

thought in a drawer in his

performance goals. The

mind and keeps it there. If

performance goal is often out

contemplated from time to

of our control. As such, it

time, that desire becomes a

generates anxiety and is a

source of good motivation.

waste of energy. The

But if considered every day, it

performance objective, on the

becomes a source of stress,

other hand, is completely

and weakens the athlete

under the athlete’s control. If

instead of strengthening him.

an athlete undergoes hours of training, eats correctly, gets

At the beginning of the

enough rest and has enough

season, I always meet with

talent, he will likely manage to

coaches and players and help

reach his performance

them formulate goals for the


next three, six or twelve months. Almost always, the

The goal of an Olympic

first goals that athletes tend to

medal, if properly considered,

focus on are results. They

can be a great motivating

formulate their goals in terms

factor. But what does it mean

of tournament wins and

to properly consider a goal? It

ranking points.

means that the athlete knows that he wants to win a gold

But we have just seen that

medal, but he puts that

the achievement of these

kinds of goals are not always

that they can control.

within the player’s control. It

first service percentage. Fitness is also a very

could depend on a particular

When you only play for the

common and useful objective.

tournament’s draw, how well

win, it gets really difficult to

When focusing on these

the opponent is playing or just

focus on the important things.

things, instead of stressing,

plain luck. When players and

So, at the end of the year, our

reaching smaller targets will

coaches focus only on these

athletes will be so frustrated

encourage both the player

goals, they only create

that may think of abandoning

and the coach.

pressure and stress for

the sport altogether.

themselves, which negatively affects their performance.

Another benefit of This is precisely the reason

emphasizing performance

why coaches need to help set

objectives is that you can

I have often seen players,

objectives beyond their larger

more easily identify what a

when faced with these kinds

goals, ones they can focus on

player is doing right, and what

of goals, turn to superstition in

and realistically achieve –

he is doing wrong. This is not

times of stress. They don’t

ones that are within their

the case when goals are the

want to step on the lines of

control. For example,

only focus. Players then only

the court, for example, or

improving baseline

tend to focus on the fact that

insist on bouncing the ball a

consistency is an objective

they won or lost a match, and

certain number of times

that is within a player’s

not why they lost that match,

before serving. They are so

control, and is also something

or how they can prevent from

worried about not being in

that will help improve their

losing such a match in future.

control of their goals that they

overall game. The same can

When objectives are the

obsess about small things

be said of trying to improve

focus, a player always has something constructive to work on, something which they feel they can control and will make them a better player. All of this is, of course, easier said than done. The importance of winning is so ingrained in our culture that it's hard to change perceptions and attitudes. From the time we are infants, we are taught the importance of results. From good grades to successful performances in school plays and sporting

events – it’s all about the

to think, at first loudly with the

you that, in this and other

results. The culture of the

coach, then to himself, not so

articles I write, I use terms,

result is part of us and it is

much about the fact that the

concepts, thoughts and advice

hard to get rid of it. The only

point is important, but rather

that can be used effectively not

way to do so is to start

how he would like to

only in tennis, but in life in

training in the opposite

approach that point.

general. However, to accurately

direction. That is to say, trying

improve someone’s mental

to focus on the things that are

This exercise, if adequately

strength, one needs must first

in our power.

and repeatedly used in

know the individual’s potential

training, gets the player used

and character. That is

A typical exercise I like to do

to thinking about the process

impossible in an article, but I

perform with students and

rather than the result.

hope these general principles

coaches is to play important

will help you in helping yourself.

points during training. Before

Finally, and for the sake of

the point, the player is invited

clarity, I would like to remind

Tennis world n 51  

Roger Does It Again The Swiss returns to the scene of his epic 2017 triumph...and wins another epic!

Tennis world n 51  

Roger Does It Again The Swiss returns to the scene of his epic 2017 triumph...and wins another epic!