By Maud Watson
Caroline Wozniacki’s career hit another snag earlier this week when she was surprisingly bounced out of the Malaysian Open in her opening match by qualifier Wang Qiang. The loss completes a trio of disappointing weeks for the Dane, but being dismissed as top seed after holding a match point against a qualifier ranked 186 was definitely the bottom of the barrel for the former World No. 1. Wozniacki attributed the defeat to a lack of energy and focus, but there were apt to be other factors at work here, with the most likely culprit being a need to change coaches and subsequently revamp her approach to the game. She’s no longer spinning her wheels. She’s virtually stalled and in danger of going fully in reverse. She must take a page out of Radwanska’s book and commit to replacing her father with a new coach (and give that coach a fair trial run) and make adjustments to her game, or else she’s very likely to go by way of players like Safina and Jankovic. She has too much potential to let that happen, but that’s what’s going to unfold if she fails to get out of her own way.
Testing the Waters
Mardy Fish fans have reason to rejoice as the American announced that he is planning to make his return to tennis at the upcoming BNP Paribas Open after a six-month layoff due to heart issues. Fish has already twice had to postpone his return to competition, pulling out of both San Jose and Memphis, but his agent reports that Fish has been practicing and working out for three to four hours a day and feels confident about getting back out on the courts. If all goes well with his heart, Fish is optimistic that he’ll be able to play a full schedule for the remainder of 2013. Fingers crossed that this is the case. Not only would it be great for him personally, but with the recent struggles of John Isner, American tennis could use some good results from Mardy.
Asked and Answered
Or, at least plans are being formulated. After an increased amount of chatter from the players – including the Big 4 – asking that more measures be put in place to test for PEDs, the governing bodies of tennis seem to be preparing to take action to meet those demands. The slams and both tours announced their respective commitments to contribute more funding to the ITF anti-doping program, with reports coming out that Wimbledon and the US Open are set to double their annual contribution. The increased funding would mean that the ITF could soon look into providing more out-of-competition testing, blood testing, and possibly even funding a biological passport program. The bureaucratic machinery of tennis tends to move slowly, but it’s encouraging to see that matters on this particular front appear to be moving forward. It would be nice to squelch the baseless doping allegations that have hit tennis the last couple of years.
If there was one tournament victory last weekend that could potentially prove pivotal, it was Petra Kvitova’s win in Dubai. Granted, with Serena, Azarenka and Sharapova all absent, it wasn’t quite the star-studded field that had contested Doha a week earlier, but there was still plenty of talent in the pool vying for Dubai. In the end, it was Kvitova who built on her performance the previous week, all but taking the match out of the hands of her opposition by producing the kind of lights out tennis we know she’s capable of playing. The win couldn’t have come at a better time either with both Indian Wells and Miami looming. The Czech has historically struggled to produce her best at the big North American events (though she did manage a title in Montreal last summer), but with her victory last week, she should be feeling confident about her game irrespective of where she’s competing. The game needs her back at the top, and perhaps her run in Dubai will propel her to bigger and better things this coming spring.
On the heels of the news that the ATP Board of Directors approved the 2013 prize money distribution at Indian Wells comes word that BNP Paribas has extended its sponsorship of the prestigious event through 2018. At a time when a number of other tournaments are struggling to find title sponsors, this is welcomed news but by no means a surprise either. BNP Paribas began its sponsorship of Indian Wells in 2009, and in that time, it has seen the tournament blossom into an event that in various aspects, rivals the majors. Hopefully, with the continued support from BNP Paribas, we’re likely to continue to see the year’s first masters evolve and encourage other tournaments to follow suit.