There isn’t an off-season in tennis like there is in other sports. Tennis’s off-season is more like a Christmas break, lasting from mid-November to the beginning of January. The tennis season really gets going on January 15, with the start of the Australian Open.
- 2005 ended at the Master’s Cup in Shanghai where 12th ranked David Nalbandian refused to be intimidated by Federer in the final, and managed to eek out a win, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (11), 6-2, 61, 7-6 (3). The match was a classic, with Nalbandian playing well above his normal level. You pretty much have to play above your normal level to beat Federer right now. (Unless you’re Nadal and you’re on clay.) It was an amazing performance for Federer as well, since he was nursing a sprain, and his legs went down-hill around the fourth set.
- Federer, in a letter on his website, said:
My goals for the coming year certainly are to win Wimbledon for a fourth time – which would be amazing – and to stay number one. Everything else is a bonus on top of that. I will try to win every match I play; and I am not expecting the same dominance as this past year.
He’s very likely to be just as dominant, though, and he knows it.
- Paradorn Srichaphan became a monk. It is traditional in Thailand for all men to serve as a monk at some period in their lives.
- The Williams sisters spent their off-season in a messy law-suit. Pro Tennis Fan has a compendium of articles. Evidently their father claimed that he had the power to negotiate a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match for Venus and Serena, and then it didn’t happen, so now they’re being sued for breach of contract. There’ve been one or two mistrials, and it’s not going to be over until after the end of the tennis season.
- Mariano Puerta received an 8-year ban for doping. He avoided a life-time ban by claiming that he took the drug inadvertently, but his career is nevertheless over. I don’t buy his story.
- Martina Hingis, the former world number one, is making a come-back, and has been having some success. She’s been promised a wild-card in the Australian Open. It’s already obvious that this come-back will not be humiliating, like her previous attempt, so she should enjoy it. Hingis will be one to watch at the Open.
- Safin and Nadal just announced that they are both withdrawing from the Australian Open, joining Agassi, who was out well before Christmas. The way Nadal is going currently, he can expect to have a fairly short career. Nadal plays so much tennis, and plays such a high impact, high effort game that I can’t imagine him holding up as long Agassi, who can often dictate play while moving very little. Nadal should play fewer tournaments. Both Safin and Nadal plan to return for Marseilles.
- There’s a bit of a question mark over Federer at the moment, because he lost to Tommy Haas in a warm-up match at Kooyong. AP reports that he “mis-hit forehands and backhands and didn’t look in the sort of supreme form Wednesday that earned him and 81-4 record and 11 titles last season.” Federer is still a heavy favorite though, and my pick to win. Federer performs better when it matters, and he looked good at Doha.
Those are some stories of interest from tennis’s off-season. My next article will be sometime during the Australian Open, which begins in five days, on January 15.