Why do some people think Serena Williams career is over after the year she’s had?

20160320_133631

Watching the ESPN talk shows and many were ready to declare Serena Williams’ career over, or she might not win another major, etc.

It always seems to happen to all the great players when they suffer an upset loss and they are over 30-something.

Williams lost her semifinal match to Karolina Pliskova, who is No. 11 in the world and might have the biggest weapons on the WTA Tour, outside the Williams sisters.

But the overanalyzing of Williams began soon after the match.

So here’s my take on a few of the issues.

  1. HER DAYS OF DOMINATION ARE OVER: When the new rankings come out Monday, Williams will be No. 2 behind Angelique Kerber. This year, Williams reached the finals of the Australian, French and Wimbledon and the semifinals of the US Open. She won Wimbledon. And ask yourself, is there a player on the WTA Tour you would make a favorite over Williams? Kerber will be No. 1, but I still don’t think I would favor her over Williams just yet.
  2. WILLIAMS’ BEST DAYS ARE BEHIND HER: I felt this last year, when she completed the Serena Slam for the second time. Williams is not the same player she has been, but to her credit, she has evolved her game. She’s gone from intimidating power player to more of a cerebral assassin. What hasn’t changed is Williams’ fierce competitive nature. On the WTA Tour, no player really has elevated to Williams level, and the ones who have haven’t maintained it until Kerber. But it remains to see how long Kerber can keep up this level, and if some other players can rise.
  3. AGE HAS TO CATCH UP WITH HER: Williams turns 35 later this month, which is old for tennis players. Her shoulder hurt was an issue in the Rio Olympics and now her knee was giving her problems. This could be the most legitimate threat to her career. But for right now, we don’t know the extent of these injuries. But Williams says she plays for the majors, so we could easily see her take the rest of the year and relinquish the year-end No. 1 ranking to Kerber, rather than chase her. Williams has proven she doesn’t need a good seed to win a tournament, so she could lighten her schedule and still contend for majors.

In tennis, there is this desire to declare someone’s career over prematurely. When Pete Sampras went on a two-year slump, they thought he was done until he won the US Open. People thought Roger Federer was through last year because he hadn’t won a major since the 2012 Wimbledon, but he was No. 2 in the world and reached the finals of the US Open and Wimbledon.

We don’t always know when it’s over for a great player. But there should be real evidence. Although there will be a change at the top, Williams is still at the top of the tour.

Unless there’s something more, I anticipate Williams will be back next year contending for major titles and the No. 1 ranking.

 

 

 

Could Novak Djokovic lose out on Player of the Year honors in a year he completes the Grand Slam?

 

In a year where Novak Djokovic became the first player to win all four Grand Slam titles, there is a possibility that he could lose out on Player of the Year honors.

It’s unlikely, but plausible.

What makes is plausible is the way Andy Murray is playing of late. If Murray captures the US Open, then he will have a stronger case.

Currently Murray has a Wimbledon title and reached the finals of the Australian and French Opens, both of which Djokovic won. Then you throw in the Olympic gold medal, that’s an incredibly strong year.

What might give Murray an edge is how Djokovic had done at Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Djokovic lost in the third round at the All England Club to No. 41 Sam Querrey and the first round in Rio, although he did lose to the eventual silver medalist in Juan Martin Del Potro, who is currently No. 141 in the rankings.

It’s been a draining year for Djokovic, who has played at a superior level for an incredibly long time. But since the award is for accomplishments since January, he could be leaving the door open for Murray.

It won’t be easy for Murray. He would have to win the US Open, and he has never won two majors in the same season (depending on how you rank an Olympic gold medal). And the US Open is the most grueling Slam.

Now if Murray does win the US Open, that might still not be enough to surpass Djokovic.

In Masters 1000 events, Djokovic has won four of six events. Murray has won just one, but did reach two finals.

How much the Masters 1000 events count into Player of the Year honors, I’m not sure, but these are significant tournaments.

And there is also the ATP finals in November. If Murray can win that, then people will have to look closely.

So US Open and ATP Finals titles, and with Djokovic still playing high-level tennis, is a huge mountain for Murray to climb.

But it is also possible.

 

Andy Roddick will have his New York moment in World Team Tennis

D04_6596-X2

By Leighton Ginn

 

When Andy Roddick makes his return to World Team Tennis for the 2016 season, it will be in a place he never played but in a state where he had his biggest moments.

Roddick will play for the New York Empire at Forrest Hills, the longtime home of the US Open, on Aug. 9. The next day, the Empire will travel to take on the Philadelphia Freedom which will complete the season for Roddick, who is also part of the WTT ownership group.

Playing in New York is the highlight for Roddick, given his history in the Empire State.

“I feel like I’ve grown up in front of New York,” Roddick said. “I played doubles there for the first time in a pro tournament when I was 15 to retiring there and playing my last match in 2012. I had the highest of highs, and lowest of lows.

“But I just love New York. The fans are so fair all the time. If you give them everything you have, they’re going to give you everything they have. Conversely, if you play like a schmuck, they’re going to let you know about it. I’ve always kind of appreciated the honesty of the New York sports fan.”

Roddick said he has always been a fan of the unique style of WTT, and is always happy to participate. He believes the pacing is what makes it so exciting for the fans.

“Everything is quicker, faster, more in-your-face,” Roddick said. “The one-set matches keep your attention, or demand your attention during the 2-3 hours. I always liked it. It feels like the players are more interactive based on the format. It’s something I enjoyed when playing.”

Roddick also attributes World Team Tennis to his progression as a professional, while the format also provides something exciting for the fans. So when he was approached about investing in the league, Roddick said it was a no brainer.

“Anytime you’re approached by someone on the iconic level of Billie Jean King, especially in the role she’s played and how important she’s been in the game of tennis, you always want to listen,” Roddick said. “We’ve had a great relationship for a long time. Her presence in this league and my memory of this league and the opportunity it gave me.

“I was 17 and had no ranking, kind of just trying to break through in the pro ranks when they let me play for the team in Boise, Idaho at the time. That experience of playing professionals day in and day out in a three-week sequence during the summer was a huge part of my development. It felt like something that was good to be apart of.”

 

Andy Roddick impressed with how far Novak Djokovic has come, but too early to rank him as GOAT

DSCN8890

 

By Leighton Ginn

Andy Roddick said when Novak Djokovic first burst into the consciousness of the ATP Tour, he wasn’t an obvious talent like he saw when contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal debuted.

Yet if Djokovic can continue on the trend he is, he might go down as the greatest ever, surpassing both Federer and Nadal.

“I think with Novak, it’s a realistic conversation to have,” Roddick said on July 13 over the course of two conference calls to promote appearances at the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 17 and World Team Tennis on Aug. 9-10. “And it’s a realistic question to ask, where you think he’ll fall in that line. It’s a complement to him that he’s forced his way into that conversation.”

For over a decade, Federer has been talked about as the greatest ever, and holds the record with 17 major singles title. Nadal is tied with Pete Sampras for second with 14. Djokovic is tied with Roy Emerson for fourth with 12.

Djokovic is 29 and playing the best tennis of his career. He had won all four majors consecutively until his upset loss to Sam Querrey in the third round of Wimbledon.

If Djokovic continues dominating the tour, five more majors is within the realm of possibility.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

In comparison, Federer did reach the semifinals of Wimbledon, but has not won a major title since the 2012 Wimbledon. Nadal has struggled with injuries and hasn’t won a major title since the 2014 French Open.

But Roddick said it’s really hard to judge until Djokovic, Federer and Nadal complete their careers.

“It’s like comparing movies having not watched the last 20 percent of the great movies,” Roddick said. “Right now, if you look at the numbers, Roger is there and five slams (lead) is significant, but Novak is obviously trending. He’s the greatest right now.”

2013 Mylan World Team Tennis

July 13, 2013;Mylan World Team Tennis Springfield Lasers @ Orange County Breakers Andy Roddick (USA). Photo courtesy of CameraworkUSA.

 

Roddick is a contemporary with Federer, as they both won their first major titles in 2003, with Federer taking Wimbledon and Roddick the US Open, which would be his only major title. And Roddick, a mainstay in the top-10 throughout his career, also has a long history against Nadal and Djokovic.

Two years later, Nadal would come onto the scene and had an instant impact as a teenager in 2005.

Roddick said it was obvious from the start of both Federer and Nadal’s careers would be special.

“You look at Rafa and he’s a physical specimen, the weight of shot is amazing,” Roddick said. “You look at Roger  and the talent is instant to your eye. What he can do on a tennis court, and with the flare and the options he had on a tennis court, it created a little bit of jealousy.”

The first impression Roddick had of Djokovic was very different. While Djokovic was a promising young talent, Roddick saw enough weaknesses he could take advantage of.

“With Djokovic, I don’t think it was as obvious to the eye when he first came out, but he’s improved the most after the first four or five years of his career,” Roddick said. “To take something like his physical fitness, something I viewed as a weakness when I played him in 2008 and 09, he’s turned it into a bonafide strength for him now, which is a testament not only to his work ethic, but also to his ability to see what his weaknesses were.”

Roddick also points to Djokovic’s forehand, a shot that could be prone to errors in pressure situations earlier in his career. That’s not the case anymore, Roddick said.

“Early on, I knew I could go to that side and maybe get a couple of tight errors,” Roddick said. “With just little technical adjustments, now it’s a strength under pressure.

“I think his progress as a player is maybe the most obvious of those three guys. It’s really impressive what he’s become.”

Roddick said he got a chance to know Djokovic a little more during a trip to South Korea for an exhibition they were playing.

Djokovic approached Roddick to see if he would like to go early to hit and work off the jet lag.

Roddick agreed and showed up 30 minutes early. He didn’t see Djokovic in the locker room and was wondering if he would be late.

When Roddick walked to the court, he found Djokovic, who had arrived 30 minutes before Roddick and was in the middle of his stretching routine.

“I think it gives you a peak into why he is where he is right now,” Roddick said.

 

 

 

 

Andy Roddick returns to grass for first time since 2012 Olympics as he plays in Hall of Fame exhibition

D04_6248-X3

Andy Roddick shakes hands with former US Davis Cup teammate James Blake following a PowerShares match. Roddick and Blake will compete in the PowerShares event on July 17 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame prior to the men’s final.  Photo courtesy of PowerShares Series.

 

By Leighton Ginn

Andy Roddick said one of the appeals of playing in the International Tennis Hall of Fame exhibition on July 17 is the opportunity to return to his favorite surface, grass.

Roddick was a three-time finalist at the most storied grass-court tournament, Wimbledon. But Roddick has not played on the surface since the 2012 Olympics, which was held at the All England Club, the home of Wimbledon. A few weeks later, Roddick would retire from the tour, but continues playing on the seniors’ PowerShares Legends Series, which is part of the July 17 event in Newport, R.I.

PowerShares Series

“There’s not a lot of grass court tennis available for retired players,” Roddick joked during one of two conference calls on July 13. “Grass was my favorite surface to play on, so any excuse to get back on that court and play on grass is a win all the way around for me. I’m excited about it.”

Roddick will join James Blake, Mark Philippoussis and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Marat Safin in the exhibition. Joining Safin as an inductee will be Justine Henin. Two other honorees, Yvon Petra and Margaret Scriven, will be inducted posthumously.

It will be the first time Roddick will play in Newport, R.I., as he missed the ATP event during his career.

Although he never made it to Newport, Roddick is knowledgable of the history, which makes it appealing for him this weekend.

And grass is the perfect surface, as much of the history of tennis was played on grass.

It also helps that grass was one of the surfaces that suited Roddick’s game, featuring a rocket serve and power forehands.

“On some other surfaces, the slower surfaces, I had to make more adjustments than I did on grass,” Roddick said. “What I did well as a player translated well on grass, and it just made sense to me.”

Roddick’s shoes from his 2003 US Open title are on display in the museum. In the future, Roddick hopes more than his shoes will be displayed in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to his US Open title, Roddick was a former No. 1 and led the US to a Davis Cup title.

“That’s the goal of any tennis player because it’s the pinnacle achievement for what can happen to you post-career,” Roddick said. “I almost feel weird talking about it, because you feel undeserving when you look at the people who have been inducted. But it’s natural to think about. I certainly hope to be considered.”

 

 

 

If Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon, there’s no good reason for him to play the Olympics

DSCN8890

 

By Leighton Ginn

There’s no question that Novak Djokovic is a very patriotic person and cherishes representing his beloved Serbia whenever he can.

So the Olympics will be a huge goal for him.

But if I was advising him, I’d tell him to ditch Rio, especially if he wins Wimbledon.

More history on hand for Novak Djokovic as he heads into Wimbledon

The obvious reason is Djokovic will be one victory away from achieving the calendar-year Grand Slam, which has only been accomplished by two male players. He would be the first since Rod Laver in 1969.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

There’s no question that Djokovic’s heart is to compete in Rio and represent his country. In Djokovic’s previous two Olympics, he’s won a bronze in Beijing and didn’t medal in England, having lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze medal match.

I’m sure he’s driven to win the gold, and he will be the overwhelming favorite. If Djokovic doesn’t play this year, he’ll be 33 by the time the next Olympics roll around, so the consequence could very well be never winning a gold medal.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

At the French Open, Djokovic said it would be “unthinkable” to cancel the Olympics. But Djokovic was answering the question about the Zika virus, which is a good reason to avoid Rio.

This was before Djokovic won the French, to put him halfway to the Grand Slam. If Djokovic wins Wimbledon, then he should pull out of Rio immediately. I’m sure when he made his “unthinkable” comments, he wasn’t taking into consideration he would have a shot at the Grand Slam.

Naturally, Djokovic is a competitor. As well as he’s playing, he could do something only Steffi Graf has done, which is complete the Golden Slam if he could win the gold medal.

Keep this in mind with Graf. The Olympics came after the US Open, so there were no scheduling conflicts. And the Olympics was more an afterthought anyways.

Djokovic would have two weeks following the end of the Olympics and the start of the US Open.

It’s doable.

But you also have to consider that Djokovic will have the physical mileage of reaching the finals in just about every tournament he plays. Then you throw in the mental toll from the pressure he will face at each tournament.

The US Open is the toughest Grand Slam on the calendar and it comes at the end of a season, and the whole season is a grind already.

I’d have Djokovic look at the Golden State Warriors. They went after the regular-season record and set it at 73-9. A great accomplishment and a feather in their caps.

But they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal of winning the NBA title.

Kind of makes that 73-9 record an afterthought. And assistant coach Luke Walton admitted that going after the record took a toll on the players as they ran out of gas. And many of the pundits were speculating about it anyways.

Only time will tell if Garbine Muguruza will be the next great thing or next flameout

Now let’s get back to the Zika issue.

This is a major health risk. Djokovic has a chance to become the greatest ever.

You heard me, the greatest ever.

Zika is no joke and many athletes are struggling about going.

These are athletes who have spent their whole life training for the Olympics, which is the defining moment of various sports.

For tennis, it’s really just another tournament.

So Nole, just say no to the Olympics if you win Wimbledon.

 

 

 

 

More history on hand for Novak Djokovic as he heads into Wimbledon

 

By Leighton Ginn

As Novak Djokovic returns to the All England Lawn Tennis club, the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player will have another historic opportunity.

By winning the French Open, Djokovic became the first player to win four consecutive majors since Rod Laver completed the Grand Slam in 1969.

If Djokovic wins a third-consecutive Wimbledon title, he will have won five consecutive major titles. That’s something that has never been done by a man in the open era.

The only man to win five consecutive major titles was Don Budge from 1937-38 when he won six consecutive titles, including becoming the first man to complete the Grand Slam.

If Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon, there’s no good reason for him to play the Olympics

However, Wimbledon won’t be easy.

You can never count out Roger Federer, who has won seven titles at Wimbledon, tying him with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for most titles.

And Andy Murray will be tough to beat. When it comes to tennis, Murray is the United Kingdom’s favorite son and would have a huge home-court advantage.

Murray’s only two major titles have come against Djokovic, and both were historic. Murray’s 2012 US Open title was the first by a British man since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray then won the Wimbledon title in 2013, the first win by a male Brit in the country’s greatest tournament since Perry in ’36.

Murray comes into Wimbledon reunited with Ivan Lendl, the man who led him to the US Open and Wimbledon titles.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

While Djokovic is the greatest returner in the game, all the big servers have a puncher’s chance on the grass of Wimbledon.

And Djokovic will also have to deal with the mounting pressure that comes with his historic achievement of winning four consecutive majors.

Only time will tell if Garbine Muguruza will be the next great thing or next flameout

How someone deals with mounting pressure can be hard to gauge. Serena Williams will likely go down as the grestest women’s player of all time, yet despite her dominating play this year, she’s struggled in the final of the Australian and French opens.

And she’s admitted it’s been nerves.

Could that happen with Djokovic? Hasn’t bothered him yet.

And if Djokovic has shown us anything, it’s that he’s up for any challenge.

 

Only time will tell if Garbine Muguruza will be the next great thing or next flameout

20160309_143007

By Leighton Ginn

If your name is not Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka, odds are you are not a player built to last.

There’s a long list of one-Slam wonders who do nothing to follow-up on their success. And there are others who are flash in the pans who can’t muster up any more than 15 minutes of fame.

That brings us to the case of Garbine Muguruza, the powerful Spanish star who captured the French Open title by beating Williams in the finals. She avenged a loss to Williams in the Wimbledon finals in 2015.

It sounds like the makings of a possible rivalry for Williams, who at times looks light years ahead of the rest of the players on the WTA Tour, even though she hasn’t won either of the first two majors.

Muguruza is only 22 and has shown to be incredibly streaky. She’s lost her opening matches in four tournaments this year, Mallorca in her first match since winning the French. It was her home country and on grass, where she was in the Wimbledon final a year ago.

This is becoming a familiar trend.

Much like Muguruza, Kerber upset Williams in the Australian Open final to start the year. After that victory, Kerber would lose five opening round matches.

Going into Wimbledon, Muguruza is No. 2 and Kerber is No. 4.

And there were other players who were getting hot, but didn’t win a major, such as Caroline Wozniacki and Genie Bouchard.

There are a few two-time Slam winners like Samantha Stosur and Petra Kvitova.

What gives?

There’s a few theories.

  1. The women’s field lacks elite players. Serena is in a class by herself. Azarenka has lacked the consistency in her comeback. Kvitova can’t match her Wimbledon success.
  2. Too much too soon. Once a player wins a major, the demands come quick. Kerber didn’t say no too much and found herself stretched thin and now is trying to regain her form. Muguruza, who many want to be the next It Girl, probably is facing the same kind of suffocating demand.
  3. Girls can’t adjust to having a target on their backs. One you have a Grand Slam title to your credit, no one will ever sleep on you, so the gimme’s become fewer.

So why should we care? Well, Serena Williams is closer to the end of her career. She’s still dominant, but how much longer can she go?

When Williams retires, who will carry the baton?

Unless she wins her appeal, Sharapova won’t be back for a while.

Azarenka has shown signs of getting back on top, but hasn’t done it yet.

Who else can carry the tour?

Hopefully at Wimbledon, someone will emerge to start the next era.

And for right now, Muguruza is the latest, greatest hope.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

By Leighton Ginn

After winning the French Open, it’s time to put Novak Djokovic into the conversation of the greatest players ever in tennis whether you want to or not.

His resume at this point in his career is just stellar.

  • Third man to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles in one year, joining Rod Laver, who did it twice in 1962 and ’69, and Don Budge in ’38
  • One of eight men to have the career Grand Slam, which was also accomplished by Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Roy Emerson and Fred Perry.
  • Djokovic’s 12 major titles ties him with Roy Emerson. He only trails Federer (17), Nadal (14) and Pete Sampras (14).

There are some other intangibles to consider with Djokovic.

Only Djokovic and Laver won their Grand Slams in the open era, which began in 1968.

Am I the only one surprised at the lack of hype over Novak Djokovic’s possible Nole Slam?

Djokovic came of age during the Golden Age of tennis with Federer and Nadal, the two winningest players in tennis when it comes to major titles. And they’re still playing … well, when healthy.

It’s funny how underplayed Djokovic is. He isn’t embraced as Federer and Nadal. It seems like Djokovic’s four straight majors snuck up on people, where there was a lot of hoopla with Serena Williams with the same accomplishment last year.

But his results are hard to overlook.

Many of his major titles have come by having to beat Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray — all certain Hall of Famers.

It has become a much deeper debate on who is the greatest of all time.

But if Djokovic continues to play at this high level, he could put an end to the debate.

French Open men’s preview: History will be made, but by who?

Achieving the Nole Slam gives Djokovic an argument point over Federer and Nadal since they never won four in a row. And neither has all-time greats like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, etc.

If Djokovic completes the classic Grand Slam, it would be an epic achievement. He would only be No. 2 in terms of total major wins, but a Grand Slam in the Open era would give him a huge edge.

Right now, Djokovic has won five of the past six major titles. If Djokovic wins the next two, he would tie Don Budge for most consecutive Grand Slam titles with six. Remember, Budge’s came in the amateur era of 1937-38.

Djokovic would have to be the favorite to win Wimbledon and the US Open as of now. And there’s also the Olympics, which could give him a Golden Slam.

That’s not to say Djokovic doesn’t have some tough oppositions. Andy Murray has been challenging Djokovic in several finals and is one of the best on clay. Stan Wawrinka can be dangerous at the US Open, and Federer and Nadal will always be dangerous even if they are both coming off injuries.

But accept it. Djokovic is an all-time great who has a chance to become the greatest in a short amount of time.

 

 

 

Will drug allegations dog Rafael Nadal at the French Open?

image

 

By Leighton Ginn

Every time Rafael Nadal steps onto the red clay of the French Open, he’s always the man to beat.

Having a target on his back hasn’t been a big deal. Nadal has an astonishing 70-2 record at Roland Garros with nine titles.

Nadal might not be the favorite this year, not with the way Novak Djokovic is playing, and with Andy Murray starting to find his groove on the dirt.

But Nadal will likely have a difficult obstacle this year, which are drug allegations.

Back in March, after Maria Sharapova revealed she tested positive for meldonium, the former French minister of health and sports, Roselyne Bachelot, accused Nadal of failing a drug test, but covered up his suspension with a bogus injury.

Through the early parts of the BNP Paribas Open, Nadal had to deal with questions about the accusations. It got to the point that on March 13, Nadal said he had enough following his second-round victory over Gilles Muller.

” There is a couple of times I heard comments like this, and this gonna be the last one, because I gonna sue her,” Nadal said. “I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. No more. I know how tough I worked to be here. To hear those comments from a person that should be serious, because (she) was minister of a big country and a great country like France.

“So I gonna sue her, and I gonna sue everyone who gonna comment something similar in the future, because I am tired of that.”

It should be noted that Nadal has not failed a drug test in his careers. Bachelot had not offered any evidence to support her claim.

In April, Nadal filed the lawsuit against Bachelot.

This will be Nadal’s time back in France since the comments. While Nadal threatens to sue anyone who makes similar allegations without evidence, it probably won’t apply to reporters who will ask questions.

And Nadal probably did open the door for questions with the lawsuit.

We’ll see how the French media handles the situation, and how the rest of the tennis media approaches the story.

They cycle of the story may have passed and maybe reporters will pursue other angles. But that seems unlike.

Sharapova will have her hearing to see how long of a suspension she will serve, and it will likely feed into the Nadal story.

If Nadal is dogged by questions throughout his time at Roland Garros, will it be a distraction? Could he lose focus?

Or could the adversity spur Nadal to his 10th title.

Roland Garros will be a tough proposition for Nadal anyways. Although he’s showing signs of getting close to his dominant form, he’s not there. Djokovic is playing the best of anyone, and he just got beat in Italy by Murray. And David Goffin is rising quickly up the rankings and will be a dangerous force.

A lot of adversity awaits Nadal.