With the Australian Open now firmly in the rear view mirror, tennis typically struggles for storylines until a pair of huge hardcourt events in Indian Wells and Miami come around. This year appears to be a welcome exception to that rule.
Serena is officially back
If you guessed Ashville, North Carolina as the place where Serena Williams would officially start her tennis career as a mother, you could have made a lot of money. The 23-time major winner is there along with her older sister, Venus, as the American national team begins its Fed Cup title defense against The Netherlands.
She will play doubles alongside Lauren Davis on Sunday, but could also be substituted in to singles as well. Williams’ return to tournament play will come in Indian Wells next month, where she will be unseeded. Slowly building up to that occasion is probably wise.
For now, all eyes will be on Ashville to see where Serena’s game stands.
Federer chasing history… again
Believe it or not, there are still records out there for Roger Federer to break. The 20-time Grand Slam champion has taken a late Wild Card into next week’s Rotterdam Open. If the reigning Australian Open title holder reaches the semifinals, he will once again become World No. 1.
The historical context here is the eye opener. Not only would Federer extend his own record to 303 weeks at the top ranking spot, he would also become the oldest man ever to be World No.1. The current mark is held by Andre Agassi, who got to the top spot at age 33. Federer is 36.
His road to the semifinals and back to the top spot could include a clash with his compatriot and friend Stan Wawrinka. As those two have grown closer over the years, their meetings have been tricky for both players.
From a tennis perspective, Federer has always been guarded about publicly stating his goals. However, getting back the top ranking is clearly one of them. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be playing next week.
Whether Federer gets the title of World No. 1 back next week or not, the fact that it is even a realistic conversation again given his age, and the fact that he was written off less than two years ago speaks to Federer’s greatness as much as anything ever has.
Can Zverev get going?
World No. 5 Alexander Zverev is still very much ahead of schedule as the youngest player in the top 30. However, the Australian Open was his 11th career major. The 20-year-old German has still not reached a quarterfinal.
Time is still on his side, but at some point he can no longer live on the unlimited potential label. This part of the calendar needs to be the spark that gets his year going. Before coming to the states, Zverev will be among the top seeds in Rotterdam and Acapulco. He has held his own against the living legends of the sport, beating Federer and Novak Djokovic in finals last year.
So, Zverev has all the shots and the game to make an impact at the majors, but until he does, he is just another pretender who can catch lightning in a bottle once in a great while. Even with the French Open a long way off, Zverev’s only chance at a deep run is to have a solid few months leading in. Rotterdam and Acapulco are as good a place as any to start building some much needed confidence.
Women’s top ranking also on the line
The vast majority of the ladies top 20 are in Qatar prepping for a hardcourt event that starts on Monday. Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and runner-up Simona Halep lead another wide open field.
Halep needs to reach at least the last eight to have a chance to retake the top ranking from the Dane. The tennis draw gods clearly have a sense of humor when it comes to next week. Wozniacki could run into Maria Sharapova in round three. Wozniacki and Sharapova have had a hotly contested rivalry over the years. Sharapova holds a 6-4 edge
The Russian is still unseeded and making her first appearance on the Middle Eastern swing since 2013 in an effort to raise her ranking and avoid draws like the one she has at this event. Anytime the top ranking is on the line at an event, a layer of intrigue is added. A five-time major champion like Sharapova being a dangerous floater, who could directly affect the situation, certainly adds another.
Featured image from wlos.com
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