This week, the clay-court season took up residence in Rome, with both the ATP Tour and the WTA rolling into town. Despite the elements, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova came out victorious on this Italian week-end.
Nadal: like a boss
Has Rafael Nadal finally regained the psychological edge over Novak Djokovic? Beaten by the Serb in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year, the Spaniard has just swatted aside the world number 1 twice in a month, both times in finals. After Monte Carlo, it's on Rome’s clay that the Spaniard imposes his will once again upon Djokovic. The left-hander won after a very beautiful final (7-5, 6-3) and to be crowned champion for a sixth time in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. Chasing down all of Djokovic's shots, Rafa cracked the Serb from the baseline. Djokovic was completely overwhelmed by the passion of the leftie and more nervous than ever before (Nole even smashed a racket during a changeover). A nice Italian sojourn then for Rafa who consequently, reclaims second spot in the ATP rankings at Roger Federer's expense. A second place that has its importance, especially for Roland Garros since it sends Federer into Djokovic's side of the draw and leaves the way clear for Rafael Nadal in the bottom half. Everybody hopes for a vibrant reunion between the two best players on the circuit in the final in Paris. Everyone but Djokovic maybe...
Maria Sharapova’s weekend in Rome
The beautiful Maria Sharapova, defending champion in Rome, was playing her fifth final of the year in the Eternal City and had to brave the elements to retain her title in a crazy, hard-fought contest against the Chinese Li Na (4-6, 6-4, 7-6 ). Blame it on the rain, which interrupted the game on numerous occasions, notably during the third set (two hours of downtime). Overall, the Russian managed to keep her nerves under control and thwart the Chinese, when the latter was leading 6-4, 4-0. Sharapova even saved a match point. This shows the mental strength and the power in the stressful screams of the tall blonde who claimed here her 26th title.
"Let's be clear, today, there is no chance that a Frenchman can win this year at Roland Garros. It will be enough for me to say that for it to be denied right away (Laughter) but there is no fatalism in my comments. It's just an observation. We are not even capable of winning a Masters Series event on clay or even on hard-courts, so a Grand Slam..."
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the highest-ranked Frenchman in the ATP standings and member of the world top 10 does not beat around the bush. He is even rather adamant. In theory, this analysis also applies to him…
The famous Forbes magazine has revealed the names of the 100 most powerful people in the world. In this exclusive club, five of them have slipped in thanks to their rackets. The first of them is Roger Federer (31st) who can brag of earnings over 23 million euros per year from his sponsors (Nike, Rolex, Wilson…etc.). At this game, Rafael Nadal is outpaced (47th). As for the WTA girls, they are not far away with three beauties in the top 100: Maria Sharapova (71st) Serena Williams (77th) and Li Na (87th). It’s good to be rich.
Who has heard from Robin Söderling? It was the question that was leaking in the various tournaments for almost a year. The former world number four had given no sign of life since July 2011. So it’s been quite a while… Victim of the glandular fever - the famous kissing disease - the Swede has been quiet for months. Between rumours of come back constantly postponed and travels to the U.S. to treat his disease, the twice finalist of Roland Garros was keeping the mystery intact. Midweek, he finally decided to break his silence: "I get ten interview requests a day, so I have decided to do a press conference soon to review the progress
." A return is not expected before at least next autumn. Fourteen months after his last outing. Next time, Robin will think twice before making a frenzied kiss.
The number: 1
Rafael Nadal has never been so close to having the entire tennis world bow at his feet. After his victory against Florian Mayer in Rome (6-1, 7-5), there is only one active player who remains with a positive win-loss record against the Spaniard. The lucky survivor is Russian, lean and bald, and his name is Nikolay Davydenko (6-5).
Novak Djokovic is still a child at heart. At the Italian Open in Rome, Nolé crossed paths with Alberto Tomba, the three-time Olympic skiing gold-medallist. A chance encounter that the Serb immortalized in a picture and chirping on Twitter: « I was waking up for this guy at 4am to watch him ski! Tomba la Bomba-my childhood idol. Next stop - Roma finals :)
We found Novak Djokovic! Forget the pale imitation of the world N°1 that was overwhelmed in the final of Monte Carlo last month. Check out instead the highlights of his semi final against Roger Federer, where the Serb treated the Swiss as a training ground exercise (6-2, 7-6).
The ranking: 66
That of Timea Babos, the youngest player in the WTA Top 100. The Hungarian let out her first cries on the 10th of May 1993. Today the beautiful brunette holds the 66th place worldwide, making her the youngest by two months ahead of her junior doubles partner, the American Sloane Stevens (born on the 20th of March 1993 and 92nd worldwide).