First congratulations to Rafael Nadal and his legion of supporters. The Spaniard has waited a long, very long time to get the top of tennis and he’s finally done it. By winning Friday night over Nicolas Lapentti in Cincinnati, Nadal guaranteed himself of the No. 1 position come August 18 along with the top seeding at the US Open which begins later this month. It’s well deserved.
The celebration, though, didn’t last long for Camp Nadal, which included Rafael’s girlfriend Maria Francesca. Yesterday evening, Djokovic ended Rafa’s 32-match win streak with a convincing 6-1, 7-5 win in the semifinals. But given the circumstances it’s hard to really draw heads or tails from result from Rafa’s side, at least for me it is.
Obviously Novak’s found the form that he had at the start of the year. He played some incredible tennis the first set, really ripping Rafa, and I felt he did just enough to get through the second for the win. Full credit to him.
For Rafa, though, perhaps everything did catch up to him: The matches, the schedule, maybe he was fatigued and maybe he let up on the gas a little after finally securing No. 1 a day earlier. So I’d still lean to Rafa in a US Open rematch.
That could change should Novak duplicate his win over Nadal at the Olympics next week, but as I wrote week ago I really thought Rafa would take a breather this week. He got his No. 1., then he got out of there. I can’t blame him.
Awaiting Djokovic in the final today is Andy Murray who has enjoyed a relatively cushy road en route to the biggest final of his career. The Scot thumped Ivo Karlovic Saturday afternoon to advance to his first career Masters final. Can Murray now get a second win over Novak in as many weeks (he beat the Serb in the quarterfinals last week in Toronto)? I don’t think so, I’ll take Novak today.
And while Novak and Andy battle for the Cincinnati title, and Rafa recovers from his No. 1 celebration party, it’s hard not to wonder what Roger Federer really thinks of all this. After his loss to Karlovic Thursday Federer pretty much brushed the tournament and the No. 1 ranking aside saying he was more focused on the upcoming Olympics and the US Open.
Well, Roger, in that case it’s almost time to walk the walk. The pressure really is back on. Roger has to know that this Olympics is probably his last shot to win the gold. In 2012 he’ll be 31 and I don’t see how he can be a better player four years from now than he is today. So in my mind if he doesn’t win gold now he never will.
And if Roger still harbors any hopes of ending this year No. 1 and close within one of Pete Sampras’s record six straight No. 1 finishes, he has to win the US Open. That simple. I know he makes it sound like he doesn’t care about the top ranking, but that’s garbage. He cares and he cares a lot.
Speaking of ranking changes, I’ve read that we’ll have a new No. 1 on the women’s side on August 11 when Jelena Jankovic officially takes over from countrywoman Ana Ivanovic atop the standings. Now I admit, I’m not at all familiar with the WTA system, nor do I really care enough to even read-up on it or get into the math, but what makes this interesting is that Jelena has never ever reached a Slam final and yet she’s going to be No. 1. Ha!
So fair or foul? A little bit of both. First, it’s not Jelena’s fault. In fact, she’s been doing her best lately NOT to get No. 1! To avoid it! But the system right now is set up in her favor because she’s really the only top girl that plays week-in, week-out whereas the other girls like Serena, Venus and Maria only seem to show up at the Slams. So credit to Jelena for at least playing and committing to the circuit.
If you’re the WTA you can tweak the system all you want, but if you have three different Slam champions through three events who really is the No. 1? I have no idea, but in a way I like it and now I’m rooting for her to stay No. 1.
So in a perfect storm I guess I’d like to see Dinara Safina win the US Open, Jelena reach the semifinals again and Ana lose early. With Maria Sharapova already sidelined for a few months and the Williams sisters likely shutting things down after NY, that would really put Jelena in the driver’s seat to finish the year No. 1, and do so without having reached even a Slam final. Ha. What a disaster that would be. I don’t watch much WTA tennis, but hell, I’ll tune in to see that mess.
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