By Maud Watson
The results may have been lost in the anticipation of Indian Wells, but last weekend saw some noteworthy victories on the ATP World Tour. Kevin Anderson broke hearts after saving match points against Roddick before dismissing Isner and ultimately winning the Delray Beach title over Australian qualifier Matosevic. Anderson hasn’t done enough to warrant being considered a dark horse at any of the bigger events, but the 6’8” South African has proven more than capable of playing the spoiler. Meanwhile, David Ferrer added to his case for being considered an outside chance to take the title at Roland Garros or any of the lead-up Masters 1000 events by securing his third consecutive title in Acapulco with his victory over Verdasco. He certainly has the game and tenacity to give anyone trouble, but as always, it’s questionable whether he has the mental fortitude to play his best when it really counts. A player who has exhibited plenty of mental fortitude over the years if Federer. He continued his good run of form, defeating Andy Murray in the final of Dubai to show he has more than enough game left to win another major or two. Hopefully these results will translate into a growing mental confidence, because while Djokovic, Murray , and especially Nadal will always pose a potential problem to him, his biggest hurdle seems to be between the ears.
It’s not every day a losing finalist garners much attention, but Andy Murray deserves it after his run to the Dubai final last week. In his quarterfinal match against Berdych, he squandered multiple match points and got down a break point before clawing his way across the finish line. Then in the semifinals, after blowing Djokovic away the first set and a half, he found himself in a position to serve it out, only to be broken and see Djokovic level things at 5-5. It appeared to be shades of the Australian Open semis all over again. This time, however, Murray held his composure and broke the Serb to still seal the deal in two sets. Though he fell shy against Federer, there’s little doubt that this tournament marks a turning point in his career. He’s keeping his temper relatively in check, and he’s bouncing back from the lows in matches much quicker. Whether or not he’s capable of managing this at a Slam remains to be seen, but his performance in Dubai could move some back towards once again asking the question “when,” not “if” Andy Murray will win a major.
Roger Federer is getting more vocal, and his latest complaint is that time violations are not enforced properly. Personally, I’m in agreement with Federer. It’s up to the chair umpires to use their best judgment, as there will be occasions where an excessive amount of time is warranted. But when excessive time is taken merely as a mind trick against an opponent or a stall tactic to gather wits before a big point, it needs to stop. The same goes for those who have long rituals between points, especially if it holds up an opponent’s serve. But what is most interesting about Federer’s comments is that he chose to single out Nadal. It would have been preferable for Federer to leave out names, but it’s still not on par with Nadal’s comments about Federer back in January. Federer is, after all, stating a fact. Nadal has been the highest profile offender of this rule for a number of years, but for all intents and purposes, Djokovic is right there with him. Given Federer’s history with Djokovic, it’s surprising he wouldn’t name him, too. Then again, perhaps it’s Federer laying the groundwork for should he meet Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells, hinting that Rafa should pick up the pace or be prepared for Federer to ask the chair umpire to work on him. And maybe, just maybe, their rivalry is no longer the love fest it once was.
Off into the Sunset
Shortly after Fernando Gonzalez calls it a career, Croat Ivan Ljubicic will be doing the same after the Monte Carlo Masters. Often referred to as “a poor man’s Federer,” Ljubicic was always fun to watch and a dangerous floater at any event. His presence on the circuit will be greatly missed, but it sounds like he won’t be straying too far from the game. We all look forward to what he’ll bring to the table as he looks to serve the sport in other ways.
Chalk another one up for Brazil, as the South American nation is set to see another one of its own enter the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten, a three-time winner of Roland Garros who shocked many when he won the Tennis Masters event in Lisbon to finish 2000 as the No. 1 ranked player in the world, will take his place among the legends this coming July. He’s a deserving addition, and congratulation to him for this honor.
(Photo via AP)