It’s been an interesting season for Tennis fans so far with controversy over Maria Sharapova’s return & Novak Djokovic sacking his entire team, there have been several shock defeats for Andy Murray and has a Spanish footballer just proposed a potential revamp of the Davis Cup?
Concerns for Murray
Since Murray’s return from injury earlier this season he has suffered shock defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and now Madrid. In his latest defeat (6-3 6-3) on Thursday to Borna Coric who is ranked 59th in the world, the World Number one is said to be ‘concerned’ but denied that he was low on confidence.
The Madrid result will have surely come as a shock to Murray’s system after he reached the semi-final in Barcelona and had been growing in confidence since a disruptive elbow injury kept him out of the early part of the season. The Scot has suffered a tough season on clay, known to be his least favourite surface as he heads to Rome for the next round of the ATP Tour.
We are now just 2 weeks away from the French Open and Murray will be desperate to find some sort of consistent form to make him a genuine contender for the Roland Garros tournament where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final last year.
Djokovic sacks 3 of his backroom team
In an extremely strange move Novak Djokovic has parted company with 3 key members of his coaching staff. The Twelve-time Grand Slam Champion made the shock decision in the first week of May and has dismissed 3 of his team, including Marian Vajda, who has been with him through almost all of his career. In a statement, Djokovic said that this “shock therapy” will help him achieve better results and it seems the world number 2 is happy to go it alone until he finds the correct people to fill the vacant coach, physio and fitness trainer positions.
It was only in December that after three very successful years with Boris Becker, Djokovic announced the two would be parting company. Of course, head coaches tend to come and go but this will have been a very tough decision for one of tennis’s all-time greats. Marian Vajda is regarded by many as the man who has forged the success and dominance of Djokovic so “shock therapy” is certainly an excellent way to describe the Serb’s decision.
Having lost the World Number One spot to Andy Murray in November last year following the Scot’s win in the ATP Tour Finals it ended Djokovic’s spell of 122 weeks at the top of the rankings. He was knocked out in round 2 of the Australia open by world number 117 Denis Istomin and in his last five events he has failed be advance past the Quarter Finals.
With the French Open just around the corner and the grass season only a few weeks away tennis fans will wait with bated breath to see what sort of reaction comes from a coach less Serbian.
Sharapova divides opinion
Wednesday 26th April could not have gone much better from Maria Sharapova’s perspective. In her first match since a 15-month suspension for taking the banned drug Meldonium, the Russian is back in possession of WTA ranking points after beating Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Porsche Grand Prix.
Branded a “cheater, who should never play again” by World Number 59 Eugenie Bouchard, the Russian’s return is certainly causing a stir on the Women’s Tour. Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki are another two players to have questioned why a player returning from a doping ban is being offered so many wildcards. We all, of course, know that Sharapova’s controversy generates publicity which in turn drives interest and tickets sales which is great news for the Women’s Tour and tournament sponsors in a time when the WTA are facing a testing year. Unlike the Men’s game the top players on the WTA Tour remain inconsistent, and with Serena Williams pregnant, Victoria Azarenka on maternity leave and Petra Kvitova still recuperating from December’s stabbing, there is certainly a great opportunity for Sharapova to make a meteoric rise up the rankings.
Sharapova would love to be at Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year, and she says she would be “prepared to play in the juniors” if it helped. Her fate for the French Open will be revealed to great fanfare on the evening of Tuesday 16 May, when wildcards for both qualifying and the main draw will be announced.
Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion and a likely future champion. This may be her 15th year on tour, but she has missed more time than most due to shoulder problems, as well as the ban. And rest did Roger Federer no harm before the Australian Open in Melbourne when he clinched his 18th Grand Slam title after a six-month injury lay-off. She has won Slams on all surfaces and is brimming with motivation on her return from what she considers an unduly harsh ban imposed for an administrative error. And mentally, she is stronger than anyone bar Serena Williams.
But it will probably take time. Stringing together seven wins in a row at a Grand Slam is notoriously difficult when you lack match practice and sharpness, and Sharapova may have to negotiate an extra three matches of qualifying at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Pique’s World Cup of Tennis
Spain and Barcelona’s centre-back Gerard Pique has had his plans backed for a tennis “World Cup” by the leading players in the game, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The footballer has reportedly met with ATP officials already to discuss the proposed 16-team tournament played in one venue over a 10 day period.
Could this competition replace the archaic Davis Cup format? Fellow Spaniard Nadal has never been shy in criticising the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for the Davis Cup schedule. The 14-time major champion said “For many years they have been static. They haven’t moved with the times or looked for new solutions. “Pique is part of a group that wants to create a World Cup that would be a great and very interesting tournament to compete in.”
The Davis Cup schedule currently takes up four weekends throughout the year and whilst Murray, Nadal and Djokovic have all led their nations to Davis Cup glory they have also regularly opted out of playing in the tournament in order to focus on Grand Slam preparations. The ITF will vote in August on the significant changes to the Davis Cup competition’s structure, prize money and format and Pique’s proposal will certainly form part of these discussions. World number one Murray said “If it comes off, I think it would be a very, very good thing for tennis.”
The ITF already have another new tournament on their hands when later this year the first Laver Cup tournament will be contested. In a Ryder Cup-style competition a European team featuring Roger Federer and Nadal will take on a rest of the world team in Prague.
These are exciting times for Tennis and there will be more to come with the French Open coming up in 2 weeks and then the start of the grass season with Wimbledon & Aegon just round the corner. To book your hospitality or tickets for any of these fantastic tournaments please contact us below.