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:
Not only is tennis' offseason farcically scant; we don't exactly ease into the campaign. Here it is, the first week of January, and -- apart from being a week away from commencing a Slam -- most name players were in action. We caution reading too much into one week of play, especially the first week back from vacation. Still, there were some curious results.
So they are expanding the off season to seven weeks? It is not as though the top players actually need a long break such as this one. After all, they find time to play lucrative exhibitions in December and come back stronger than ever in January. Am I nuts? --JJ Johnson, Allentown, Pa.
As always, it was a matter of style. Gael Monfils plays to win, naturally, but he also plays to entertain, to dazzle, to perform in the truest sense. As much as Robin Soderling needed a victory to join the list of this year's significant performances, the Paris Masters was mostly about Monfils, who stormed past Fernando Verdasco, Andy Murray and then Roger Federer in his march to the finals.
1. Rockin' Robin: Rafael Nadal may own Paris, But Robin Soderling is undertaking a fine land grab of his own. The hard-hitting Swede has, of course, reached the Roland Garros final in both 2009 and '10. And he added to his Gallic success last weekend, marrying his flat, pace-laced game on the greased lightning courts of Bercy to his first TMS/ATP 1000 series title. Soderling's run included a dramatic semifinal win over Michael Llodra -- in which he salvaged match points -- and a demolition of Gael Monfils in the final. What did Soderling get out of the deal? Nearly $400,000, a snazzy new ranking of No. 4, a ration of momentum heading into the London year-end event ... and the ugliest trophy known to man.
NEW YORK -- Winds from the northwest, as fierce as a Rafael Nadal forehand, registered gusts as high as 31 mph. Napkins soared above the court as if they were butterflies, and so chilly was the air at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night that much of the gentry was forced to pile blue blankets over the latest fashions from Ralph Lauren and Prada Sport.
An interesting intellectual exercise for you and your readers. Transfer the name and results of Rafael Nadal over the past 365 days to Dinara Safina, and then do likewise with Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Who is now your true world No. 1? Safina (Nadal) doesn't even play Wimbledon (the computer doesn't care that its due to injury), doesn't even win a title of any kind, large or small, for an entire year! Then she hits the clay courts of Europe, wins three warm-up tournaments and then the French, and is catapulted to the top of the tennis world. Serena (Federer), her No. 2 challenger meanwhile, is defending Wimbledon AND Australian Open champion, U.S. Open finalist and French Open quarterfinalist, her worst slam result of the past year. Add other major tournament titles like Cincinnati, and she looks to be your true No. 1. Of course, Nadal has quickly produced a resume that has G.O.A.T. potential, while Safina falls far short, but the computer only reflects the results of the
PARIS -- For five years, the world has been waiting for it to come into focus, the face of the man who could break the stranglehold No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 2 Rafael Nadal have on the men's game. It almost looked like Novak Djokovic for a while, then Juan Martin del Potro, then Andy Murray, but always the picture went blurry again.