Late February Tennis Tidbits
In pro tennis, February is mostly about breaking down January’s Australian Open and gearing up for two big American hardcourt events in Indian Wells and Miami. Even so, there are a few stories out there. Here is a brief spin around the tennis world.
Federer Keeps Defying Father Time:
Australian Open champion Roger Federer returns to the tour next week in Dubai. Not only did he win his 18th Grand Slam immediately after a five month layoff, but the 35 year old announced that he has signed a deal play his hometown event in Basel, Switzerland through October 2019.
Even though the game has slanted towards older players in recent years, winning a Grand Slam at 35 is still quite remarkable. One of few things that tops it is Federer making his intentions known to play at least two more full years. He had been very coy about retirement until now.
Playing until you are staring down your 40th birthday is virtually unheard of. Despite that, Federer is competitive and healthy. As long as that remains the case, he will honor his commitment to do just that. The longer players like Federer stick around, the better off the sport is.
Kerber is Searching for Answers:
2016 was a banner year for Angelique Kerber. She finished the year with the number one ranking, won two Grand Slams and grabbed an Olympic silver medal. Given that she started 2016 barely ranked inside the top ten, her rise is one of the most surprising in recent memory.
However, it is not 2016 anymore. Kerber failed to reach the quarterfinals in her Australian Open title defense and has lost the top ranking to Serena Williams.
Her general lack of power and service variety have always made her vulnerable to big hitters that are on their game. In 2017, Kerber’s insane defensive skills have not been enough for her to get by on.
She has posted a record of just 6-4 this year, but has reached the quarterfinals this week in Dubai and is still alive there after avenging her Olympic loss to gold medalist Monica Puig. She must build on this event and do well in Indian Wells and Miami. Given her struggles on the clay courts that dominate the circuit from April-early June, if she cannot right the ship while still on the hardcourts, her time at the top may be over as quick as it started.
Del Potro is Back… Again:
For the second straight year, 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro is making a return from a long injury layoff at the Delray Beach Open in Florida. Ever since 2010, the big hitting Argentine has been plagued by injuries to both wrists, resulting in three surgeries.
Since his first full time comeback last year, Del Potro has been forced to hit most of his backhands with slice. Fortunately for him, his serve and forehand are plenty good enough to make up for it. His wrist issues also do not allow him to train as hard or play as often as other players.
Del Potro returned to prominence last summer. He defeated Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in route to an Olympic silver medal. He also led the Argentinean national team to a Davis Cup title. After this glorious flurry to close out the year, he was quick to announce he would not start 2017 on time due to general fitness concerns.
Known as “Delpo” to fans everywhere, his return got off to a solid start with a win over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson. He is still alive in his comeback event.
Even after all these years, there are a precious few guys who scare Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray. With 17 career wins over the “Big 4”, Del Potro is certainly one of those precious few. Thus, having someone like him still committed to the sport and capable of playing ata high level when managed properly is fantastic for the game.