By Maud Watson
Cut the Bull
Rafael Nadal’s fans had plenty to celebrate last weekend (and rightfully so) as their man won the prestigious Indian Wells title. But count me among the number of fans that were left feeling a little frustrated at how things unfolded. It wasn’t that Nadal won. He thoroughly deserved it. He played phenomenal tennis, chasing down balls that would have been winners against most players, and he moved around that backhand beautifully to bully his opponents with his legendary forehand. The problem is, we were constantly told he couldn’t do that yet. Leading up to and throughout Indian Wells, Nadal and his camp harped on the knee and his layoff, insisting that he wasn’t capable of producing such a high level of tennis even as match after match proved quite the opposite. It was particularly annoying to hear him essentially use the knee as a preemptive excuse should he lose to Federer in their quarterfinal clash, even though it was obvious Federer was the more hobbled of the two. This brings us to Toni Nadal’s most recent controversial comments. Nadal’s uncle and coach felt the need to insist that his nephew has been in more pain in losses he’s suffered to Federer than Federer was in his loss to Nadal last week. (How would Toni know?) Then there was his ludicrous notion that Ferrer was not only more of a favorite to win Roland Garros than Federer, but a favorite at all. (Ferrer himself doesn’t believe he can win a major.) One can only assume Toni’s comments are meant to make Rafa’s most recent victories over these opponents seem bigger than they were, but none of this is necessary. Nadal is one of the greatest to have played the game. Deflecting the pressure by bringing up injuries is nothing but a copout. It’s a disservice to the fans that can clearly see how he’s playing, and judging by the comments of some of his fellow peers, they’re also getting a little tired of the injury talk. That’s why just once, it would be nice if Nadal and his team would cut the bull and let Nadal’s tennis do the talking. They’d find it more than sufficient.
Knocking at the Door
Lost in the hullabaloo of Nadal’s title run was the respectable tournament that Juan Martin del Potro put together at the year’s first Masters. The Argentine defeated Murray and Djokovic back-to-back to reach the final and very nearly did the same to Nadal in the championship match. Del Potro showed signs of returning to his 2009 form at the end of last season, but it’s looking more and more like he’s ready to make another move with his play at Indian Wells. He still isn’t able to go after the backhand as much as he’d like thanks to a suspect wrist, but it’s getting better. He’s also using more variety, as he recognizes that it will take more than just brute force if he’s to break up the Big 4. If Del Potro can continue is upward trend, men’s tennis is about to get even more interesting with the Argentine’s game a tough matchup for any of the guys ranked ahead of him.
Progress at Last
It’s taken a lot of grumbling, patience, and “spirited discussions”, but it seems that the USTA is ready to listen to the demands of the players. The USTA has finally come to accept that the “Super Saturday” format is no longer compatible with the modern game, and beginning in 2015, the US Open’s scheduling will fall more in line with that of the other three majors. In order to make this possible, the USTA has also agreed to stage the opening rounds of the men’s event over the course of just two days, instead of three. Equally important to the scheduling is the welcomed news that the USTA plans to increase their prize money to $50 million by 2017. This should go a long way towards appeasing the players’ complaints that they don’t currently receive a satisfactory share of the profits. Now, if only we could get a roof over Ashe Stadium – something unlikely to happen any time soon due to cost, but something the USTA is starting to realize may be a possibility down the road. One can dream!
Shortly after the announcement pertaining to the US Open’s prize money increase, Roland Garros also came out with the welcomed news that they, too, intend to increase their prize purse. Though not as much as the $50 million put forth by the USTA, Roland Garros Tournament Director Gilbert Ysern assured everyone that they will increase prize money “spectacularly” between 2013 and 2016. It’s unclear if players are happy with the extent of the change. Justin Gimelstob, an ATP Board Member, stated the players would review the increase along with the French Open’s expansion plans, as they may feel that some of the money being directed towards expansion should instead be going into players’ pockets. Of course, money may not need to be directed towards expansion any time soon, with a Paris judge putting the current plans on hold over concerns that they don’t meet environmental regulations. So, this isn’t over, but at least as far as the prize money is concerned, it’s a step in the right direction.
It’s no secret that Jennifer Capriati had a troubled childhood, and now it seems those problems have carried well into adulthood. On Wednesday in Florida, the 2012 Hall of Fame Inductee was charged with stalking and battery. She allegedly punched her ex-boyfriend, Ivan Brannan, on Valentine’s Day while he was working out at a gym. In addition to punching him, Brannan is claiming that she has stalked him since they broke up in 2012. If the charges prove to be true, they will mark another sad chapter in the American’s life. Depending on how it all shakes out, it may also be interesting to chart whether or not there are calls to revoke her place in the Tennis Hall of Fame.