Nadal is on a forced break, Federer is taking it easy, Djokovic is training in Monaco, Murray is preparing Rotterdam: varying success for the Big 4 in this quiet time on the ATP calendar, where the winners are called Monfils, Cilic and Fognini. When the stars are away, the underdogs will dance.
The Big Four corner
Montpellier, Zagreb, Viña Del Mar: these three ATP 250 tournaments have been snubbed by the Fantastic Four Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray. The first had the best excuse; he's on a forced break because of his persistent back problems. Since his lost final in Melbourne, Nadal has not been able to resume training and finally had to announce his forfeit for the Open Copa Claro in Buenos Aires, where he was due to make his return. David Ferrer replaced his compatriot as top seed in Argentina, while Andy Murray will be at Rotterdam to compete for the title against Juan Martin Del Potro. As expected in their program, Federer and Djokovic won't be attending.
Status quo in the top 10 of the ATP rankings this week, with a leading trio still composed of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka. Fabio Fognini benefits from his victory at Viña Del Mar to grab a place and climb to 14th. Gilles Simon leaves the top 20 in favour of the Polish Jerzy Janowicz. Gaël Monfils wins 7 places and he's now 23rd.
The tourist corner
Back from a successful trip to San Diego for the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Andy Murray enjoyed the location of the match against the U.S. team: the local baseball stadium. So he decided to change his usual tennis player outfit for the San Diego Padres tunic. If he can play the bat as well as the racquet there’s a real potential for a brand new career for the winner of Wimbledon!
The controversy of the week
The sports news of the moment is, of course, the Winter Olympics in Sochi and its many controversies: the astronomic additional cost (over $50 billion...), the damages to the local environment, the Russian laws against gays and freedoms in general... On this last point, Barack Obama had taken a highly symbolic decision to send the former tennis champion Billie Jean King, an activist for the homosexual cause, among the American delegation at the opening ceremony. The winner of 12 Grand Slam tournaments nevertheless had to give up the journey to stay at the bedside of her mother, who died on the 7th of February, the day of the ceremony. A current tennis champion was however present and in good place: Maria Sharapova, the first to carry the flame, very moved by the idea of attending the Olympics in Sochi, where she spent part of her childhood. Born in that city in 1974 and Olympic champion in Sydney in 2000, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was however conspicuously absent...
The stat: 550
Indestructible Tommy Haas! At 35 years old, the ATP veteran succeeded in the semi-finals of the Zagreb tournament the 550th win of his career against the Briton Daniel Evans. For the 551st, he will have to wait a little longer, since he lost in final against the local Marin Čilić (6/3, 6/4). The German has won 15 titles during a career that began in 1996. A time when men rankings were dominated by Sampras, Chang, Backer, Krajicek, Ivanišević or Agassi. Call him Highlander.
Top 5: They made the headlines this week
- Gaël Monfils: "I would like to thank the medical staff who did a great job to get me back on track. Basically, I thought that I couldn't even participate in this tournament so it's weird to actually win it." Everything has been said by the "Monf '" in this speech following his victory in Montpellier against his compatriot Richard Gasquet. Arrived poorly at the tournament, he won all his matches and is having, casually, a very interesting start to the season with only two losses in Doha and Melbourne in January, defeated each time by Rafael Nadal.
- Leonardo Mayer: first final on the ATP Tour for the Argentine, on Viña Del Mar’s clay. And it doesn’t really matter if he finally lost during the final match against Fabio Fognini (6/2, 6/4), the performance was already beautiful for this quiet tennis player turned pro in 2003.
- Belinda Bencic: Careful, great talent! Not 17 years old yet (she will celebrate her birthday in March), the Swiss shook France's Fed Cup by BNP Paribas team by prevailing over Alize Cornet (7/5, 6/4) before atomizing Virginia Razzano (6/1, 6/1). Associated with Timea Bacsinszky, she however lost in the doubles against the fantastic pair Cornet-Mladenovic (7/5, 6/4). She seems to have the potential to succeed her prestigious compatriot Martina Hingis.
- Ivo Karlovic: At his home in Zagreb, the giant Ivo Karlovic took the opportunity to equal a record held by Mark Philippoussis alone since 1995: the record of successful aces during a match in 3 sets. With 44 successful aces against Daniel Brands (6/7, 7/5, 7/6), he therefore did as well as the Australian playboy and better than Mardy Fish, who had successfully performed 43 aces against Olivier Rochus at the Lyon tournament in 2007.
- Karin Knapp: Despite the forfeits of Pennetta, Vinci, Errani and Schiavone, the Italian Fed Cup by BNP Paribas team, defending champion, passed the first round without too much trouble against the United States, thanks to two singles won by the solid Karin Knapp facing Christina McHale (6/3, 3/6, 6/1) and Alison Riske (6/3, 7/5).
They said it
"Retirement for Federer, it's mainly a question of whether he thinks he can still win or not. If one day he says "I don't think that I'm able to win a Grand Slam anymore", he will stop. I think that his mentality is very similar to Pete Sampras'." Michael Chang is trying to make comparisons.
"Five sets for a woman? We've already played so many games throughout the year it's already very hard. Physically speaking, a woman can't do it. We don't have the same physical abilities than men. It's not humanly possible. That's it. You can't ask a woman to play for six hours." Mario Bartoli is not really interested by gender equality...
"I won the third set thanks to Wawrinka's mistakes. I think he realized that he could win the final and it made him nervous. But from the moment he focused, there was no match. It was the worst hour and a half I've ever spent on a tennis court. » Rafael Nadal didn’t hide: washed away by back problems and with blisters all over his hands, he went through hell in the final of the Australian Open.
The indiscretion of the week
Recently invited of a famous Serbian talk show, Novak Djokovic has indulged in some indiscretions concerning his private life by saying to his girlfriend Jelena Ristic: "Jelena in a few months your name will change to become Djokovic". The paparazzi stand ready, a glamorous wedding is on the cards!
The birthday of the week
9th of February 1900 in New York: the American tennis player Dwight Filley Davis, a Harvard graduate, created from a block of 18 kg of sterling silver a bowl shaped trophy. He challenged a British selection to seize it. The match between the United States and Great Britain took place from the 8th to the 10th of August 1900 on the lawn of Boston with a 3-0 victory for the locals. The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas was born.
Section sponsored by... Gillette
To celebrate the World Cup in Brazil, Gillette has launched a new range of razors, special edition, in the colours of different countries. To present them, the famous brand called to their faithful Roger Federer, associated with a new kid, Lionel Messi. The two men are staged in this pretty funny commercial, where you can see the Swiss try sumo, rugby, F1 and football. Morality, he looks much more comfortable on a tennis court!
VIP Area: Azarenka and Redfoo
A Sideshow Bob hairstyle, XXL glasses and flashy outfits: Redfoo, Victoria Azarenka's boyfriend can't really go unnoticed when he decides to encourage his darling from the stands. According to the Belarusian champion, the leader of the group LMFAO would like to .. participate in the upcoming U.S. Open. "He hopes to have a wildcard, she said very seriously to TennisEarth magazine. I don't know if he will, but he is working hard on his game". We can’t wait…
The fashion corner
The beautiful Eugenie Bouchard is taking full advantage of her growing popularity by multiplying the promotional activities and photo-shoots. She features this month in the magazine Flare Canada, in a retro style that suits her angelic face perfectly.