By Maud Watson
Earlier this week at the Valencia Open 500, tennis lost one of its classiest competitors as Juan Carlos Ferrero’s singles career came to a close at the hands of his good friend and compatriot, Nicolas Almagro. It was a rewarding 14-year run for the Spaniard, who garnered 16 career singles titles. He was named ATP Newcomer of the Year in 1999, and he quickly delivered on the hype. At the age of 20, he defeated both Hewitt and Rafter in the Davis Cup final to lead Spain to its first championship title in the historic team competition. He then went on to prove that his game was transferrable to all surfaces and enjoyed success on many of the sport’s biggest stages. He reached the quarters or better at all four majors and won such prestigious titles as Monte Carlo, Rome, and Madrid. His crowning achievement came in 2003 when he became Roland Garros champion. That same year at the US Open, he earned the No. 1 ranking by defeating Hewitt and Agassi in succession before bowing out to Roddick in the final. Unfortunately for Ferrero, an ill-timed bout of chicken pox in 2004 and a litany of injuries thereafter prevented him from ever playing at the top of his game again, though he continued to enjoy some thrilling title runs in his twilight years as a professional thanks to his fighting spirit and competitive drive. But more important than his tennis results has been the way Ferrero has conducted himself and what he has done with his success. His quiet and dignified demeanor harks back to the days of a by-gone era, and he’s already given back so much to the game. In addition to his award-winning luxury hotel, Ferrero, along with his longtime coach Antonio Martinez, have helped turn the Valencia Open 500 into a world-class event. Furthermore, his academy, JC Ferrero-Equelite, looks certain to produce future champions. Suffice it to say, he won’t have trouble filling his days, and thankfully, it sounds like we’ll still be seeing plenty of him as he looks to do a bit of coaching with Almagro next season. Congrats on a phenomenal career, Juan Carlos Ferrero, good luck in the future, and thanks for the memories!
Serena Williams may not have played a match since winning the US Open, but she certainly hasn’t shown much rust as play got underway this week in Istanbul. She easily dismissed Angelique Kerber in her opening match and overcame a spirited challenge by Li Na to secure her second win. In the contest everyone was looking forward to, her showdown with current No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, she kept her emotions in check to overcome a surge by the Belarusian early in the second to earn a straight-sets victory and remain perfect at the WTA Championships. While the American hasn’t always been at the top of her game, Serena has shown that she still has the most dominant serve in the history of women’s tennis. So long as that weapon is finding its mark more often than not, it’s going to take something special to derail her from claiming her seventh title of 2012.
The WTA regular season came to a close last weekend, and it was a couple of familiar faces that scored much-needed wins as they look to put themselves in a position to climb back up the rankings in 2013. American Venus Williams secured her first title in two years with her win Luxembourg. Her tennis wasn’t always the prettiest at times, but sometimes grinding out a win means a lot more than steamrolling the competition. That same sentiment holds true for Caroline Wozniacki, who earned her second title of the year with her victory over Sam Stosur in Moscow. The good news for Wozniacki is that she still has the opportunity to play one more time in 2012 in the WTA’s (pointless) Tournament of Champions. With a good showing there, the Dane could find herself back in the Top 10 and in an even better position to plan an assault back up the rankings next season.
After showing so much promise in 2011, Petra Kvitova’s 2012 campaign is going out with a whimper as she was forced to withdraw from Istanbul. After losing her opening match to Radwanska on a poor performance she initially chalked up to nerves, Kvitova later learned it was an illness that has since put her on bed rest, though she’s still hoping to salvage her 2012 by leading her nation to a second consecutive Fed Cup title. But bottom line whether she competes in the Fed Cup final or not, Kvitova needs to get in better shape. Things like asthma may not totally be in her control, but better managing her fitness would help her avoid some of the injuries and likely some of the illnesses that have plagued her in 2012. Putting in the physical work is also apt to help the mental side of her game. As shown in 2011, she has the tools and power to take her to the top, but as in 2012, she’s proven that doesn’t amount to much when there are deficiencies in the physical and mental departments. She needs to right the ship or she may be headed the wrong way in the rankings.
Call it a Season
It wasn’t shocking when it was announced just yesterday that Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the two remaining events of the ATP season. But it is a little puzzling that he hasn’t yet ruled himself out of the Davis Cup final. It’s understandable that Nadal would like the opportunity to contribute to what may be a potentially winning effort by Spain against the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final next month, but it would likely be best for everyone involved if he would just call it a season and look to 2013. By not doing so, he’s putting Captain Alex Corretja in a potentially difficult position of possibly having to make an unpopular decision if he feels Nadal isn’t ready to go and opts to leave him off the team, even if Nadal declares himself fit. Additionally, Nadal himself has admitted you could argue it wouldn’t be right to drop one of the other guys in favor of Nadal when that player put in the work to get Spain to the final. Then there’s Nadal’s health. He’s already stressed that he’s targeting the Australian Open and hopes to be fit and ready to go for the first major of next season. If he’s still working his way back, why return to the hard courts in the Davis Cup final when he could continue to rest those knees for nearly another month and a half? Tennis would love to have Nadal back and ready to go, so hopefully he won’t risk it by jumping the gun. Besides, with the depth of talent Spain possesses, Nadal is likely to have other opportunities to play for yet another Davis Cup championship.