By Maud Watson
Not So Happy Feet
Between kicking a box that injured a linesman and suffering a case of “foot-in-mouth” disease after, David Nalbandian’s feet have gotten him into a lot of hot water this past week. The Argentine will be able to play Wimbledon thanks to the slow bureaucratic machinery of the ATP, but count me among the camp that believes Nalbandian should be suspended for his behavior. Many were quick to equate Nalbandian’s actions with Djokovic’s smashing of the Perrier sign at Roland Garros (for which Djokovic was fined). But they are not the same thing. If two drunks get behind the wheel of a car, the guy who gets picked up merely for drunk driving gets off easier than the guy who gets picked up after his drunken driving causes an accident. They’re both guilty of the same offense, but the severity of the punishment does and should take into account the consequences of their actions. If anything Nalbandian’s actions were more akin to Tim Henman’s disqualification from Wimbledon for hitting a ball girl. Unlike Nalbandian, however, Henman took his lumps and issued a public apology. By contrast, Nalbandian has looked to blame the ATP for his actions. He also has a track record of problems with fellow players, officials, and administrators, which should be taken into account. So, while recognizing that a suspension in tennis, unlike in other sports, does mean more than just missing tournaments – it’s also a loss of potential prize money and ranking points – the ATP needs to put its foot down, suspend him, and show that it will not stand for this type of careless and deplorable behavior.
Lurking in the Shadows
There’s always a buzz when a Grand Slam gets underway, but there’s been some extra chatter this year with a few big names going in unseeded. The biggest star to be doing so is 5-time Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams. Williams has struggled to find consistency this year, but throughout her career, no matter what her form was heading into Wimbledon, she’s always managed to flip the switch on the lawns of the All England Club. Kim Clijsters, a four-time major champion, also enters into the third major of the year unseeded. The Belgian has struggled with injury, and Wimbledon has been her worst Slam of the four. After a strong showing this past week in The Netherlands, however, she’s a decent bet at SW 19. In short, who knows what to expect? Either of them could just as easily lose early as waltz away with the title. They may also cause more than a few early problems for some of the pre-tournament favorites. Either way, the scenario makes Wimbledon just a little more interesting.
We all thought the U.S. Olympic selection process would be ugly, but it may not hold a candle to what has unfolded with the Indian selection process. The AITA originally planned to nominate Paes and Bhupathi as their number one team, but Bhupathi refused and insisted he be paired with his current partner Bopanna instead. Bopanna also refused to participate in the Olympics unless teamed with Bhupathi. The AITA tried to wait it out, insisting that it wouldn’t be fair to Paes to be paired with a more inexperienced and lower ranked junior player given that of the three, Paes has the highest ranking. But in the end, the AITA decided the chance to earn a medal for India was too enticing and ultimately caved to the demands of Bhupathi and Bopanna (though they have threatened to potentially punish the pair after the London Olympics have concluded). That may be too little, too late for Paes, however, with reports circulating that he has opted to withdraw from the Olympics. The rift between Paes and Bhupathi has been well publicized, with Paes being assigned the bulk of the blame for the rift. Maybe this is just karma’s way of paying him back. As for Bhupathi and Bopanna, they may be feeling extra pressure to deliver a medal. After all, a medal could go a long way towards softening any disciplinary action the AITA may levy against them later this year.
Out of Nowhere
At age 34, Tommy Haas is arguably playing on borrowed time as far as the career of a tennis professional is concerned. The oft-injured German came into Halle without too many expectations, and thanks to his countryman Kohlshreiber’s defeat of Nadal in the quarterfinals, his run to the final remained mostly low key. In the final he faced Federer, the guy who has practically owned the event to the point a street was named in his honor. But Haas, who has a game that translates to grass better than most, was firing on all cylinders, completely shocking the Swiss as he stole the first set and never looked back to win it in two. It’s a phenomenal win for Haas, and as he heads into Wimbledon, unseeded and brimming with confidence, he has the potential to cause some players a lot of headaches.
The sport of tennis lost two greats this past week – Barry MacKay and The Honorable Judge Robert Kelleher. After a successful career, Barry MacKay served as one of the early pros on Jack Kramer’s tour before going on to be a tournament director and world-class broadcaster. Kelleher also enjoyed success as a player, but his greater contributions came as a winning U.S. Davis Cup captain, and more importantly, the role he played in the U.S. to help make Open Tennis a reality. They touched the sport in a variety of ways, and both will be greatly missed.