Czech Tomas Berdych is just one win away from securing his place in the ATP World Tour Finals in London later this month after beating Spain's Fernando Verdasco in straight sets in the second round of the Paris Masters.
The women's tour may be in a chaotic stage just now, with so many top players either injured or off-form, but the men's draw in this week's Madrid event has the look of a major. It's easy to project a Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic final, and that's definitely what everyone wants to see, but consider the other storylines:
1. Just go with it: What a week in Memphis at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championship. Andy Roddick won his first tournament of year -- and third career Memphis title -- beating Milos Raonic in a three-set thriller, wrapping the match up with the most ridiculous winner you will ever see. But for the second week in a row, a tournament was essentially hijacked by Raonic, the hard-serving Canadian who, in the span of barely a month, has gone from an Australian Open qualifier to the highest-ranked singles player in Canadian history (up to No. 37 in this week's rankings). Between his talent and his poise -- his four wins in Memphis were three-setters -- there's a lot of reason for optimism here.
The Milos Raonic story -- which gained serious momentum Sunday when the 20-year-old Canadian defeated ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco in San Jose, Calif., for his first ATP title, and could pick up even more steam Wednesday if he beats the Spaniard again in the first round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, Tenn. -- seems straight out of a CBC production meeting, doesn't it? You imagine the straight-to-TV movie pitch going something like this:
The men's tour stopped by my neighborhood last week. It also stopped by Brazil and the Netherlands in its never-ending quest for global outreach, but San Jose's SAP Open drew an excellent field and made some headlines. Among them:
As I write this there are 24 players left in the draw and there have been zero huge upsets. Which makes for a promising final seven days. Herewith, our 2011 Australian Open midterm grades All marks given on the "Gentleman's C" curve...
Lleyton Hewitt ended the Australian Open with surgery and was on crutches afterward, but he is back in action this week at Houston. Serena Williams won the Australian Open, but hasn't played a match since then, claiming she is injured. Maybe it is just me, but something does not seem right about this. --Aaron, Illinois
1. Cup chatter: The Fed Cup is not just what Roger wears when he plays hockey. It suffers the same scheduling issues as its brother, the Davis Cup, yet lacks the history and sponsorship. It's had a hard time attracting the top players and squeezing itself into a crowded calendar. But like a dogged counterpuncher, the Fed Cup keeps fighting. And it's done well for itself recently. The events last weekend -- occurring during a dead spot on the WTA schedule -- drew familiar names and generated some compelling matches. Despite the sudden absence of Justine Henin on account of a broken finger, the Belgium-Estonia throwdown (note the pains we go to, avoiding use the confusing phrase "tie") drew a capacity crowd in Hasselt. Thanks to the heroics of Daniela Hantuchova, the Slovak Republic upset Jelena Jankovic and Serbia. Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber joined forces to stage a gripping comeback/upset of a Russian side led by Elena Dementieva. Tracy Austin was in my
Nearly a year had passed between storms, and the drought was severe. Tennis so badly missed the tempest that is Rafael Nadal's game, a singular whirlwind of passion, form and aesthetics. How fitting that it struck Monte Carlo, province of tennis royalty since the late 19th century, for the Spaniard's name fits comfortably on the pages of history.
We have a week left and only one defending champion still standing. Like the weather, Serena Williams is unusually hot. The American men have given a terrific accounting of themselves. Herewith, our midterm grades from the year's first major: