Early Rumblings From Madrid
The calendar has flipped to May. In the tennis world, that means the French Open is in sight. However, before all eyes shift to Paris at the end of the month, Madrid and Rome will play host to the most prestigious lead up events.
Madrid features an odd weekend start to the event. A handful of matches have already been completed. Here is the latest buzz from the Spanish capital.
Djokovic shakes things up
Apart from the opening week in Doha, 2017 has been a year of struggle on the court for World No. 2 Novak Djokovic. We are used to always seeing the 12-time Grand Slam winner in otherworldly form, but he has been flat out ordinary this year.
Upon arrival in Madrid, Djokovic announced that he had split with several long-time members of his support team. The most notable among these names was Marián Vajda, his primary coach of over a decade.
The Serb is clearly desperate to jumpstart a year that has had no tournament victories to this point, but the news still comes as a bit of a shock. All-time great players tend to be fiercely loyal to their coaches.
The good news is that Djokovic appears physically healthy and in the Madrid draw. Even so, it is anyone’s guess as to how he will play this week. He will open against a Spanish wildcard following a first-round bye.
If you want proof that the sporting gods occasionally have a warped sense of humor, look no further than the ladies singles draw in Madrid. Slumping Canadian endorsement magnet Eugenie Bouchard and wildcard Maria Sharapova are slotted for a possible second-round meeting.
Bouchard has been the most vocal critic of the Russian’s return following her doping suspension. Among other things, Bouchard called for Sharapova to be banned for life in the interview below with a Turkish news station less than two weeks ago.
Sharapova has not publicly responded to any criticism from her fellow players, but she is no fool and no doubt aware of Bouchard’s remarks. The 23-year-old has never beaten Sharapova in four meetings. Despite that, context will provide a fascinating subplot should they meet this week.
Half of the equation is already complete. Bouchard defeated Alize Cornet in her opener for her first tour level win since January. Sharapova will have to get through a tough opener against Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Men’s main draw play has not started in Madrid. In addition to Bouchard’s win, American Alison Riske and Italian veteran Roberta Vinci also advanced. The first seeds out are big-hitting American Madison Keys and Russian stalwart Elena Vesnina.
The men’s event in Madrid will be covered almost wall to wall by Tennis Channel starting Sunday in America. If you are fortunate enough to have access to beIn Sports network, enjoy the ladies event and invite me over so I can watch too. There are also several YouTube streams available.
Video by NateDogg YouTube Channel
Featured Image by womenstennisblog.com
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