By Chris Oddo / Monday, November 4, 2013
Before you jump into the World Tour Finals, join us for a look back at the studs and duds of the week that was.
Photo Source: AP
Before we get fully immersed in the ATP World Tour Finals—okay, too late for that, but please, read on anyway—let's take a look back at the heroes and zeros from Paris, Sofia and beyond.
World Tour Finals: Who Will Claim Top Honors in London?
Hero: Novak Djokovic
After his devastating loss in the U.S. Open to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic jumped on a plane to propel the Serbian Davis Cup squad past Canada in Belgrade, and since then all he has done is win 15 more matches (taking his current streak to 17) without losing, gobbling up three titles (Beijing, Shanghai and Paris) and making it positively clear that what does not kill Djokovic will only make him stronger.
Honestly, after the heartbreaking manner in which he fell in the last three Grand Slams of the season, Djokovic would have been given a pass for throwing in the towel on what has obviously been Nadal's season. Instead he has launched an offensive on his rival, taking him down in straight sets in the Beijing final and leaving the door open, albeit ever so slightly, for a last-ditch run for the year-end No. 1 ranking.
Last week in Paris, it was more of the same from the world No. 2. He may not have been at his pitch-perfect best (save for his dismantling of Stan Wawrinka in the quarters) but he didn't need to be. Djokovic is finding ways to win and battling as hard as anybody else on tour right now, match in and match out. It's a credit to his fitness and to his determination that 76 matches into a long and at times extremely disappointing 2013 (based on the high standards that have been set for him), he is still bringing the fight every time he takes the court.
Zero: Russian Fed Cup Team
No offense to Italy, and major props go to Alisa Kleybanova (God bless her for the inspiring effort that she is making as a human and as a tennis player) for all she's overcome to return to relevance. Handing the Russian Fed Cup team a zero has nothing to do with who played against Italy in Cagliari, rather, it has everything to do with who DIDN'T PLAY. Who's to blame for the fact that Russia fielded a team with an average ranking of 217 to the finals of what is supposed to be the most prestigious team competition in women's tennis?
The WTA for scheduling its Tournament of Champions on the same week? Yes.
Russian infighting, defeatism and selfishness, which has plagued Shamil Tarpischev's squad on more than one occasion in the past? Yes.
Tarpishev's defeatist and short-sighted attitude about the competition attitude certainly contributed. “We are not football or ice hockey players,” Tarpischev told the Russian publication Sport-Express (quote via this piece by Chris Clarey in the New York Times). “Even if we win in Cagliari, no one will pay much attention to our victory.”
Really? Well, there are many in the tennis community who would vehemently disagree.
But Tarpischev isn't the only one to blame. The failure is collective and rests on the shoulders of both Team Russia and the WTA.
Again, take nothing away from Italy's victory, or the efforts of the Russian players who did make the trip. But the Fed Cup final could have—and should have—been so much better.
Hero: Team Italy
In contrast, the solidarity, nationality and spirit of the Italian team (I won't even mention a name, because you all know who they are, and, more important, because it really felt like a victory for Italy and not for any one individual) did not go unnoticed in Cagliari. They set the perfect example for how team tennis should be approached. Italian women's tennis, since the team won its first of what is now four Fed Cup titles in 2006, has been one of the shining beacons of all of women's tennis. Crafty games, bubbly personalities, dogged pursuit of their better selves on the court, and a sweetheart in Corrado Barazzutti at the helm. What's not to love and admire?
Zero: Paris Thief
Dear Paris thief, not only is Juan Martin del Potro angry with you, the Pope is angry with you, too. Be warned: You have messed with the wrong gentle giant. Instant Karma will surely be getting you, my friend.
Hero: Richard Gasquet
Gasquet notched his first 50-win season and qualified for London for the first time since 2007. He's had a fantastic season, and if Rafael Nadal wasn't the comeback player of the year, why couldn't it be Gasquet?
Hero: Simona Halep
Halep capped off an amazing 2013 by winning the title in Sofia, taking out Sam Stosur in the final for her sixth title. The Romanian goes 6-0 in finals in 2013, after losing her first three career finals in previous years, and introduces herself as the WTA player to watch in 2014.
Hero: David Ferrer
Ferrer defeated Nadal to reach the Paris final. Though he wasn't able to defend his title, his effort in nearly doing so, and his long overdue victory against Nadal (he ended a nine-match drag of a losing streak against his venerable compatriot) will be one of many high points of his 2013 campaign.