Roger Federer couldn’t do it.
Rafael Nadal couldn’t either.
But Novak Djokovic has.
The Serb claimed his first French Open title—his 12th Slam—on his 12th attempt to round off a superb year beginning with Wimbledon 2015, thus holding all four titles at the same time.
It’s a supreme achievement from a supreme athlete.
Andy Murray surpassed himself this year making his first French Open final.
But nothing could stop the incorrigible Nole from getting what he richly deserves—a seat at the pantheon of greats.
Federer has 17, Nadal has 14 and now the Djoker has 12.
Is this the best generation of tennis greats ever?
It sure seems like it.
Is it the beginning of the end for Serena Williams?
Three shots at glory—a 22nd Slam—all gone a-begging.
The US Open last year would have made it a genuine Grand Slam—all four big guns in a calendar year.
It was not to be.
And the next two Slam finals have only seen Serena fall by the wayside to her younger opponents—German Angelique Kerber and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.
American tennis is on the wane and Serena—their last bastion—is losing her glitter too.
Yes, Serena is not getting any younger. She’s 34—and she’s treading the path that Roger Federer has over the last four years—still competitive but not a real contender.
At least, Federer had the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka to reckon with.
Williams has no such excuse. She’s still No.1 and she’s expected to dominate her younger opponents.
Is it a mental thing? Is there some fragility , some frailty, not apparent earlier?
It would appear so—every opponent now has the belief that on their day, they can bring the 21-time champion to ground level from her previous stratospheric heights.
Are we being too harsh, too critical already?
Most top 10 women players would give an arm and a limb to have the same kind of results Serena has achieved in the past three Slams.
Yes, Serena’s vulnerable but there’s also a possibility that she can snatch a bigger slice of history once Wimbledon begins in another three weeks.
Lush green grass will tell.
In 2014, it was Shamil Tarpsichev, the President of the Russian Tennis Federation , who set the blogosphere afire with his ill-advised comments about the Williams’ gender on national television.
This time, it’s Raymond Moore, the Indian Wells tournament director who put his foot into his mouth when he remarked thus:
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coat tails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
The South African is a former tennis player and helped establish the joint ATP-WTA tourney.
Moore compounded his folly further by speculating on the future of women’s tennis without Maria Sharapova.
He named Garbine Muguraza and Genie Bouchard as being both “physically attractive and competitively attractive” and that they “can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop.”
Moore later apologised but not before a flurry of rejoinders and calls for his resignation from players, commentators and fans alike.
While these are the sort of comments that one can expect from arm-chair fans and critics of the game in the comfort of their homes , or even spectators in sports bars after the influence of a few drinks in rowdy company, it’s not becoming from the CEO of the tournament. He risks alienating women players and their fans.
Serena Williams responded:
“I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. I think Venus, myself, a number of players — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister — I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.
I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways.
There’s only one way to interpret that. ‘Get on your knees,’ which is offensive enough, and ‘thank a man’? We, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
Patrick McEnroe was among those calling for Moore’s sacking.
Novak Djokovic, however, was his incorrigible self.
“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the, you know, reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.
Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. I think as long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available and information, upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.
Knowing what they have to go through with their bodies — and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies — they have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff — we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about. Really, great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.”
Moore may have apologised and the brouhaha over his remarks will probably die down in a week or so. The average fan’s memory is short-lived.
The gender divide persists.
There exists parity in earnings between men and women at the Grand Slams and other joint tournaments like Indian Wells. Scoffers and skeptics may enquire whether women shouldn’t play five sets as well at the Slams.
Also, shouldn’t, as Djokovic points out, there be attempts to make the women’s game more interesting to the spectators? How many fans can testify to finding women’s matches as evenly matched as men’s?
Also, at the risk of sounding sexist, why shouldn’t the attractiveness of women players be a reason for drawing fans in? The modern men’s game has no real personalities.
Without one of the Big Four—Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray, it’s relatively difficult to market a tourney to fans.
Is there no shred of truth in Moore’s remarks , misogynistic as they seem?
What he said:
“It’s much easier for the wolf that is going uphill and running up the mountain—not easier, but he was hungrier than the wolf standing on the hill.”
Novak Djokovic savoured his 11th major and sixth Australian Open overall with a meaty metaphor.
Comparing himself to a wild canine on top of the mountain, he said that he could not relax as his competitors were wolves too and hungrier.
“You can observe it from different sides, but, I believe that all the guys that are out there fighting each week to get to No. 1 are very hungry to get to No. 1, and I know that. I can’t allow myself to relax and enjoy. Of course I want to enjoy, and I will, but it’s not going to go more than few days. After that I’m already thinking about how can I continue on playing well throughout the rest of the season each tournament.
Kind of a mindset that one needs to have if one wants to stay up there. Because I think you need to work double as hard when you’re up there.
I believe that I can win every match I play (and) I’m playing the tennis of my life in the last 15 months. The results are showing that.
But you can get a very big slap from karma. I don’t want that.”
The Djoker rounded off his reverie by assuring his listeners that he was ravenous to clinch his first French Open.
“Very hungry. But the wolf needs to eat a lot of different meals to get to Paris. Paris is a dessert.”
What he really meant:
“It takes more to stay at the top than to get there.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“What a wolf-pack we male tennis players are. Woo-hoo, Woo-hoo! Ready or not, here we come! Call me Wolverine!”
Are tennis players cheats?
An expose by BuzzFeed and the BBC would have us believe so.
An investigation into a match allegedly tanked by Nikolay Davydenko in 2007 against a lower-ranked Argentine opponent, Martin Vassallo Arguello,
uncovered a series of anomalies in games lost by top-ranked players in both men and women’s tennis.
Eight of the top-50 men’s players at the Australian Open are under the scanner.
In the past, match-fixing was felt to be restricted to the lower echelons of the tennis hierarchy where journeymen lost games in exchange for cash which they could hardly hope to see in their journeymen careers.
But now, the scourge of cheating appears to have spread its tentacles all over the pristine sport.
Novak Djokovic—amongst other players—disclosed that he was approached in 2007 but he refused. Roger Federer and Serena Williams have called for names to be revealed.
The investigating team indicts gambling chains across countries such as Russia and Spain. But they have no real luck pinpointing guilty players as they had neither the authority nor permission to access players’ phone and bank records.
There exists no definitive proof of collusion with punters and guilty players can continue to bluster their way through this crisis.
It is up to the tennis authorities to ensure more transparency in the way the game is played.
Perhaps, it would help if more lower-ranked players were able to earn a living from the game. This view is opposed by Federer again who feels that cheats exist at every level and increasing prize money at lower rungs is not the solution.
Whatever the outcome of these new revelations, it is certain that upsets will be looked upon with suspicion in the future and not simply considered a glorious uncertainty of sport.
It’s a pity, really, because everyone loves an underdog.
Players have been calling for a reduction in the number of tournaments they participate in a season. They claim that the unrelenting touring takes a toll on mind, body and spirit and they are unable to be consistent and motivated enough throughout the arduous season.
The authorities would do well to look into these complaints but the players do themselves no favours by opting to partake of the bounties of exhibition games in their off-season.
Greed certainly greases the wheels, one way or the other.
Marin Cilic is in the semis of the US Open once more.
Last year, he won his maiden Slam knocking out Asian hope Kei Nishikori in the process under the watchful eye and tutelage of his countryman Goran Ivanisevic.
Tennis fans all remember Goran not just for his histrionics on court, his big booming serves but also for the fairy-tale ending to his career where he won his first and only Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2001 after succumbing at his earlier two final appearances at the sport’s Mecca.
Cilic has been plagued with a shoulder injury this season. He missed out on the Australian Open and has had indifferent results—by his newly exalted standards—losing in the fourth round and quarter-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively.
The Croat has flown under the radar at his Grand Slam homecoming in New York.
It’s always difficult returning from an injury.
No one knows that better than Cilic’s coach, Ivanisevic, who was unseeded at his maiden Grand Slam triumph, only playing with the benefit of a wild card.
But it’s Del Potro, another US Open winner, that similarities can be drawn with.
The 2009 US Open champion first suffered a left wrist injury in 2010.
He returned only after a nine-month break.
He was back to his best only in 2012 ending the year ranked No.7. He returned to the top 5 in 2013.
The recurrence of his wrist injury saw him missing out most of the 2014 season.
He returned briefly in 2015 but withdrew from the Australian Open with the injury flaring up again.
He has been operated since and is now rehabilitating.
Can Marin Cilic break the hoodoo?
Since 2003, except for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, no US Open champion has returned to claim the title.
The title has not been defended successfully since 2008 when Federer won the last of his US Open titles.
The singletons in the club—in terms of US Open titles in the modern era—include the likes of Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith,Ilie Năstase,Manuel Orantes, Guillermo Vilas,Mats Wilander,Boris Becker,Marat Safin,Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Cilic takes on a formidable foe in Novak in the semis. It could be either Federer or Wawrinka in the final. Interestingly, all the semi-finalists have at least one Slam to their credit. Wawrinka is the only one without a US Open title.
A trivial bit of trivia about Cilic is that he is yet to clinch an ATP 500 or Masters title.
It’s going to be a slug-fest. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Is Stan Wawrinka on the verge of yet another Grand Slam title?
The Swiss No. 2 just gets luckier and luckier.
This time, it’s Andy Murray, his prospective quarter-final opponent, who lost his legs against a fitter, smoother South African Kevin Anderson.
Wawrinka faces a much easier adversary in him.
Roger Federer is expected to be his antagonist in the semis should he get past the latest version of Richard Gasquet as the 17-time-champion quizzically put it.
This semi-final could be anyone’s. I give the edge to the younger man.
Novak Djokovic takes on on last year’s winner Marin Cilic in the other semi-final.
Should Djokovic win, he should be odds-on favourite to clinch another Grand Slam and repeat the kind of success he had in 2011.
Should Cilic win , Wawrinka would have a much better chance of winning the third Slam of his charmed, revived career.
Can he? Will he? The tennis Gods will let us know—very soon indeed.
Nick Kyrgios is young and stupid.
He’s an ass.
A sorry ass but nevertheless an ass.
A sledge went awry and suddenly the bad boy of Australian tennis is the scourge of the gallant game.
Australian cricketers, perhaps, could teach the young man the intricacies of gamesmanship.
“Nick, don’t indulge in sledging with your front to the camera specifically with your voice audible to the on-court microphone. We could have easily told you that, mate!”
The insult was grave; it also needlessly involved a third party and a fourth, both of whom had very little to do with the battle in the center.
Kyrgios dragged Wawrinka’s current girlfriend Croatian Donna Vekic and Nick’s compatriot and doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis into a sordid war of words.
Wawrinka recently separated from his wife and is now dating Vekic.
Vekic is a younger, blonder version of Maria Sharapova or Caroline Wozniacki or both or so the marketing geniuses at the WTA would have us believe.
She’s currently ranked 127th in the world.
Stan, the Man, was quick to respond to the hothead’s slurs taking to Twitter calling for swift action from the ATP.
The Swiss star revealed that he later confronted the Aussie in the locker room.
“He tried to avoid me, but I confronted him. I just hope that the ATP will take big measures against him because he’s young maybe, but there’s no excuse. Every match he has problems. Every match he behaves very badly. On top of that the problem is that he doesn’t just behave badly towards himself he behaves very badly towards the people around: the other players, the ball kids, the umpires. I really hope the ATP will take major action against him this time.”
Kokkinakkis was linked to Vekic in 2013 but has laughed off any such rumours of them being a pair except on court.
Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) April 28, 2013
Kyrgios was fined $10,000 for his remark by the ATP.
This is the highest fine allowed for an offense for bad behaviour while playing.
Novak Djokovic reacted:
“I think it is very important to keep the fairness in the sport. There is no excuse for what he has said.”
Kyrgios posted an apology on Facebook for his fans:
Members of the Kyrgios family have not made it easy for their starling.
Nill Kyrgios, Nick’s mother, speaking to Fairfax Media, said:
“It’s not a nice thing to say, it’s not, but you can’t always cop it on the chin from other people without retaliating. If you give people lip then you’ve got to receive some back. You know that Stan did say that Nick was faking an injury last time they played and Nick was actually very sick (with asthma). So there was no love lost there to start with. We let it go, we didn’t comment on Stan’s comment. That’s still in Nick’s head, so the minute that Stan starts giving Nick cheek, what do you think will happen? He’ll say whatever comes to his mind that will upset the guy.”
The Greek-Australian’s elder brother Christos was dumped from an interview with Sydney radio station Triple M.
Christos continued to make derogatory remarks about Wawrinka’s love interest Vekic.
The sibling appears to have said that Vekic “loved the ‘kokk’”.
Christos then went onto Facebook to update his online pals.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
“‘So just did a media interview for nick. Said Donna obviously loved the ‘kokk’ they cut my interview and said its the worst thing they have ever heard on air. Ah cheers.”
Friends posted messages laughing at his comment, before Christos responded:
‘Hahahah f**k me who cares if the women likes a root – good on her, jump on the Kokk then on the stanimal IDC!! All I know it Nicholas Hilmy Kyrgios the king fried his ass.’”
In other reports, it is discovered that Kygrios delivered another barb at Wawrinka during the Rogers Cup match that he won.
He added another innuendo saying:
“He’s banging a nineteen-year-old.”
Much as we would all like to believe that these Kyrgios reprehensible actions are aberrations and there will be no such repetition of such obnoxious behaviour or attitude on-court or off, it is hard to believe that the young Australian can be reined in without an older, calming influence on him.
It is also clear that such a service can hardly be expected from his emotional family members who clamber on the train wreck that is Nick Kyrgios at full throttle.
It’s true that family is expected to stand together. But there has to be a line drawn at atrocious behaviour. While the Kygrios contingent is right to point out the history behind the provocation, Nick had no right to embroil Vekic or Thanasi in the drama. His mother and brother may be emotionally and financially invested in Nick’s success or failure in the sport but that does not allow them to dictate terms to the ATP or tennis fans.
Kyrgios was right to issue an apology and pay his fine. No further defense or excuses are needed. Social media fury is short-lived. The Australian has a glittering future awaiting him if he grabs his chances.
Lleyton Hewitt is believed to be mentoring the excitable talent. But is he the best person for the job? Hewitt himself was and is an atypical Aussie believed to be too intense and too much of a scrapper on court.
The question then is:
Who’ll bell the cat?
Every time he makes a Grand Slam final nowadays, his fans go wild with delirium believing that an 18th Grand Slam is inevitable. Yet, the man comes up short. In 2014, it was Djokovic in five sets at Wimbledon.
This year, it was the Serbian again in four sets.
The Swiss last won a Grand Slam in 2012, beating Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in succession to clinch the title. It was also the year he was last ranked No. 1.
It is this ability to clinch Slams that has eroded over the years. The 17-time-champion no longer can produce the tennis required to beat the rest of the Big Four when it matters, where it matters, in successive best-of-five encounters.
This is unlikely to change as age catches up with one the modern greats of the game.
That is the bad news.
The good news is that he is not the only one suffering a loss in invincibility.
Nadal ceded his domination over the French Open this year losing to Djokovic who in turn surrendered his chance at a Career Slam by losing to Fedex’s fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.
That is the other piece of good news. Novak, if Roger can’t beat you, Wawrinka surely must.
Murray is not quite among the invincibles. Yet, he is a potent force on the comeback trail.
For Roger to win another Slam, the draw must be favorable enough to have him encounter just one of the above three at any stage in the tournament and preferably not the Djoker.
This is the blueprint for (immediately) imminent Grand Slam success for the Original Man.
I thought I was going to be writing an article on whether Career Grand Slams have become de rigueur in the current age of tennis or we are blessed to have three to four outstanding players converge on the sport in the same era.
It was not to be.
Stanislas Wawrinka (va-vreeng-kah) had other thoughts.
The Swiss No. 2 (he’ll probably be No. 1 this week) defeated the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets on a Sunday afternoon in Paris.
He is no longer a one-Slam wonder.
Aficionados might have cribbed that his first Slam, the Australian Open in 2014, was handed him on a platter. A favourable draw and an injured Nadal were the variables that worked to his advantage.
But very few can begrudge him his second Slam. Djokovic may not have had enough time to recover from a grueling semi-final. But the Swiss had to fight hard to get to the finals, ousting his idol Federer on the way.
Wawrinka recently ended his marriage to Swiss TV presenter Ilham Vuilloud.
“We have enjoyed ten fulfilling years, with all the ups and downs that every couple experiences, but sometimes life is more challenging than one would hope.
Ilham and I were both blessed to create a family when our wonderful daughter Alexia was born in 2010. We have always tried to live our lives as a team and as a family, despite the challenges we have faced due to the demands of my career. To my great regret this isn’t possible anymore.
Ilham will always be the mother of my daughter and a person that I have a lot of love and respect for. We will always remain as a family. Now my priority is to do everything to protect Alexia during these challenging times.
I hope that the fans and the media will understand that I’ve always been very protective of my private life and wish to continue to do so not giving any further information about the situation.”
Nice guys do not have to always finish last.