The sandy grounds of the WTA’s Asian takeover without household name Li Na

A last scramble for the ball? Perhaps. (wsj.net)

The past couple of weeks have been ripe with speculation regarding the career of Li Na, lynchpin of the Asian, mainly Chinese expansion of the WTA. Now new reports emerge that the biggest name in Asian tennis and 2 time Slam Champion might effectively finish her career 2 days in advance of the inaugural Premier 5 in Wuhan, Li’s hometown.

Should Li’s retirement at some point in late 2014 or 2015 come to the surprise of anyone? Probably not – her partnership with coach Carlos Rodriguez, who helped her reshape her game late in her career, finished after Wimbledon and at the age of 32, turning 33 early next year, this was always going to be on the cards. Couple this with the reemergence of her knee issues since the beginning of the clay swing and a lot of it makes sense. If Li does retire tomorrow though, the timing couldn’t be more unfortunate for Li herself and the WTA (under supervision of Stacey Allaster) who have been trying to claim the Chinese tennis market come hell or high water during the past 5 years.

The WTA’s shift towards Asia did not come entirely out of the blue tho – even before Li reached her first Slam finals at the 2011 Australian Open the WTA had already remodelled the roadmap between 2008 and 2009 which almost removed the European Indoor Carpet events for the benefit of an Asian Swing in late September/early October. This shift saw the Beijing tournament ascend to one of the 4 Premier Mandatory events and one of the most important tournaments of the year on the WTA Tour, Slams and YEC aside. Up until then Beijing and the smaller tournament in Guangzhou were the only 2 tournaments on Chinese soil.

Li’s first slam final appearance at the 2011 AO – with the better end for Clijsters. (telegraph.co.uk)

Since Li’s first Slam victory at the 2011 French Open at the age of 29  and her emergence as one of tennis biggest names fans and media alike sensed the sudden urge from the WTA and Allaster to go all in for  Asia, in particular China. This shift became particularly evident with announcement of Singapore as the host of the year end Championships in 2013  and the unveiling of the provisional WTA calendars for 2014 and 2015. 2012 saw China host 2 tournaments, 2015 will see China host a staggering 7 events. These tournaments will be Shenzen, Guangzhou (both International level), Wuhan, Beijing (Premier 5 and Premier Mandatory), Tianjin, Hong Kong (don’t get political with me here please, I’m talking just geographically) and the Tournament of Champions in Zhuhai.

Li’s second slam victory at the 2014 Australian Open (or the slam of Asia-Pacific as it’s been pointed out quite often lately) shortly before she turned 32 and ascent to World #2 fell right into the WTA’s lap and seemed like perfect legitimation of their forceful move into the Chinese market that began in 2008 and gained additional steam since 2011. And it doesn’t exactly hurt that Li has a knack for delivering charming and funny speeches and holding good pressers. However, there is one question that has to be asked – is there a back-up plan in case Li pulls the plug on her career tomorrow?

Li after winning the 2014 Australian Open (heraldsun.com.au)

I have mentioned Li’s age several times in the timeline of Li’s career juxtaposed to the WTAsian push over the past few years – and that is not because there’s an age-ist background to it or because I’m trying to warm up the “30 is the new 20″ narration that’s been going on for a while. Instead it’s rather to highlight how relatively late into Li’s career her biggest sucesses came and how much of a gamble the WTA has been doing by latching onto a player who, whilst being an absolute luminary of the sport for Asia, was never going to be around for another 8 years.

The WTA has put a lot of emphasis on “growing the game” in previously untapped markets such as China and Li has given Allaster and co. the almost-perfect springboard to try and speed up the process. But who is going to pick up the torch once Li is gone? Sure enough, there’s also Peng Shuai, who just achieved a career best result by reaching the US Open Semi-Finals but only time will tell whether she’ll be able to replicate this sort of success throughout the next months. But much like Li, Peng’s first break through slam success has come in her late 20s. Zheng Jie, now 31, was the first Chinese player to reach a Slam Semi-Final (Wimbledon 2008) but since her second Slam SF (Australian Open 2010) she’s only made it beyond the third round of a Slam once and hasn’t done much more than the occasional upset without following it up. And then there’s 25 year old Zhang Shuai, ranked Top40 but 0-12 in Slam matches…

The bigger issue is that the newcomers of the last year or two have been from all sorts of countries. Canada, Ukraine, Switzerland, Spain, France, the USA, Italy, Romania, Kazachstan – but none from China, to be perfectly honest. When you scroll down the WTA ranking, you won’t find a single player under 21 from China ranked within the Top100. The highest ranked Asian player under 21 is Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum at #98.

And that’s when you start to wonder whether the gamble is going to pay off in the next couple of years. The WTA is currently looking at good mixture of a crop of young, interesting and marketable players and well known and established names who look like they’ll be able to take over once Li Na and the Williams sisters have hung up their racquets. The problem is that this younger group is not really coming from areas where the WTA has been investing heavily – contrary to that, there’s a very real possibility that someone like Belinda Bencic will become a permanent fixture in the sport but won’t get to play infront of a home crowd within the next few years because a tournament in Switzerland (Zurich was always pretty well attended) doesn’t fit in with the marketing plan of the WTA.

A relict of the past – the Zurich indoors. (20min.ch)

It’s going to be interesting to see whether the WTA will be able to pull crowds into the big tournaments they’ve conjured up out of a possibly fleeting women’s tennis boom in China or whether we’ll see a slow back-pedalling and dwindling number of events in China. There are two possible outcomes, curiously enough shown by the last two places to hold the WTA Year End Championships. Neither Doha nor Istanbul have a rich tennis history or a big local name in the sport. But for the WTA’s sake one can only hope that the result of this expansion will be more akin to Istanbul. Wuhan, Beijing and the Singapore YEC without Li Na could be the first real indicator for the next few years.

The 2014 US Open drinking game – Put your hands up for ‘MERICA!

IS IT ALREADY THAT TIME OF THE YEAR? The last Slam of 2014 has arrived and it only feels as though the Australian Open finished a few weeks ago.

So here goes nothing. I proudly present the 2014 US OPEN TENNIS AND TUNES DRINKING GAME for the city that never sleeps:

 

  • Someone brings up Cincinatti blood pressure gate during either an Ivanovic or Sharapova match. TAKE A SWIG.

Peak Shadepova (jelena-ristic.tumblr.com)

  • Djokovic’s dire past few results raise questions about whether his wedding has caused his deterioration in form. TAKE A SWIG. JMac once again claims that it’s more difficult for parents to win slams. TAKE ANOTHER SWIG.
  • Milos Raonic’s HAIR or SLEEVE don’t get mentioned at least once a set. TAKE A SWIG.

Bionic Raonic still a horrible nickname (facebook.com/tenniscanada)

  • Halep is called an “up-and-coming largely unknown player” whereas Bouchard gets branded “GLOBAL SUPERSTAR”. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Someone claims Nadal’s withdrawal from the US Open is putting an ASTERISK on the entire event. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Whenever you spot Shino, TAKE A SWIG.
  • You’re watching a woman’s match and think to yourself: “Who thought it was a good idea to let Stella McCartney loose on designing tennis outfits?” TAKE A SWIG.
  • The famed “death of US men’s Tennis” is brought up after no American man remains in the draw after the 3rd Round. TAKE A SWIG. Isner makes it through to the 4th and plays Djokovic, shouts of MERICAAAA echo across Ashe and commentators think “John really has a shot at the title”. CHUG.
  • Eva Asderaki, Mariana Alves or Louise Engzell get involved in an #umplyfeordeath scenario. TAKE A SWIG.

Oh, Louise. Poor Louise. (tenniscircus.com)

  • Dimitrov gets SLAM CHAMPION treatment being put on Ashe or Armstrong every single time and people continue to try and push him as the next “cross-over pop culture figure”. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Someone who said Federer’s last shot at a Slam was Wimbledon now claims the US OPEN are his REAL LAST SHOT AT WINNING A SLAM!!!111 TAKE A SWIG.
  • Fabio Fognini … Fogninis. (this includes asking for the supervisor, racial slurs and insults, tanking a set completely). TAKE A SWIG. Also, for every 1,000$ he gets fined, TAKE A SWIG.

Fognini casually pretending to stab his heart after an overrule against him. As you do.

  • Williams-Townsend gets dubbed a battle of generations, TAKE A SWIG. Williams-Townsend gets dubbed “the single most important match for American tennis all year”. CHUG.
  • Someone mentions Wozniacki’s private life as a reason for her success/non-success in the previous year. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Aunt Pammy manages to irk the crowd or a player. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Your timeline gets flooded with an outrageous match you desperately want to see but it’s on a non-tv court. TAKE A SWIG. Everyone in attendance/participation of Giorgi-Rodionova leaves the court unharmed. TAKE ANOTHER SWIG.
  • Jelena Jankovic has “no challenges remaining”. TAKE A SWIG. Jelena Jankovic has “no challenges remaining” after 4 games of a set. CHUG.

That’s how she rolls (by David Kane aka @ovafanboy from backhandedcompliments.wordpress.com)

  • Venus and Serena both make it to the 3rd round and commentators mention a possible “all-Williams” final. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Svetlana Kuznetsova enthralls, baffles and shocks in equal measure. Applies for both outfit & matches. TAKE A SWIG.

Only God is the Jurge, Svetlana (zimbio.com)

  • Either McEnroe brother suggests introducing a shot clock. TAKE A SWIG. JMac repeats his suggestion of getting rid of all umpires. TAKE ANOTHER SWIG.
  • Cliff Drysdale pronounces an Eastern-European name with enough drama and intensity to make them sound like a Game Of Thrones character. TAKE A SWIG.
  • The Chrissie meme appears on your timeline. TAKE A SWIG. Chrissie fawns over either Roger Federer or Eugenie Bouchard. TAKE ANOTHER SWIG.

The one and only.

  • The crowd supports Monfils more than any American player he’s up against. TAKE A SWIG.
  • Ana Ivanovic calls something a “process”. TAKE A SWIG. Ana Ivanovic calls winning the US Open a “process” in her post-finals presser. CHUG EVERYTHING YOU HAVE IN YOUR BAR.

 

HAVE FUN AND PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.

Flashback Friday: Y U Say Vamos?

Ah, can you believe it? It’s been a year since one of the definiting moments of 2013 which has turned into a complete and utter WTA geek catchphrase. It was just around that time when Alizé Cornet found her footing inside the Top30 again and what I call “Alizémotions2.0″ kicked into proper gear again when Cornet and Errani faced off on 08/08/2013 in Toronto. Errani was close to bagelling Cornet in the second set but Cornet dug deep, levelled the score and then she said the UNFORGIVABLE:

Oh, Alizé, you can say vamos as often as you like. And luckily you have over the past 12 months (amongst other things). Keep of being the French gift that keeps on giving.

2014 WTA predictions – 2/3-term evaluation: on crack or on track?

A good 2/3 of the 2014 ATP and WTA calendar has passed by and I made a couple of more ambitious and several less ambitious predictions for the 2014 tennis season back in December.

Let’s take a look at how they panned out thus far. LADIES FIRST:

tatpe1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- This has gone from on crack to on track to kinda WHACK (thanks, Ajla). Vekic’s matches are still very see-saw but she won her first title in Kuala Lumpur, Tomljanovic is sitting at #56 and has claimed her first big scalp at the French Open, taking out #3 seed Radwanska – but now she’s going to start playing for Australia. Konjuh has really really impressed me though – she started the year in great fashion and despite elbow surgery in January she picked up almost where she left off and reached the 3rd round at SW19 and SFs in Istanbul.

 

tatpe2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- So on track – what happened during the last few months was almost on crack though. Bouchard’s reached 2 slam SFs and then the Wimbledon finals in 2014. More slam matches won than anyone else. Love or loathe her or the PR-machinery behind her, claim her draws busted or claim she busted the draws – the results and #7 ranking speak for themselves. Most consistent over the course of the last few months indeed.

 

tatpe3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-That prediction was on crack to be fair – HOWEVER: Stosur played a total of 2 dire matches on clay. Against Bacsinszky in Oeiras and Li in Rome. In Madrid she played well but ran into Sharapova and in Paris she played really well, ran into Sharapova and played really well for 1 7/8 sets. Or something. I think Stosur got rather unlucky at RG because she easily could’ve come out of the 2nd or the 4th quarter – she played well enough for that. Then came the grass and we all know how that works for her. And now she lost to 16 year old Naomi Osaka in Stanford.

 

tatpe4

 

 

 

- ON CRACK WILDCARDS GON’ BE CRACKING.

 

tntpredic4

 

 

 

- Petkovic and Halep – well on track. Zvonereva – neither really. Still wasn’t completely match-fit but showed signs of getting there at Wimbledon.

 

tntpredic5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Despite Lisicki’s run to the Wimbledon QFs this is well on track.

 

tntpredic6

 

 

 

 

 

 

- This is almost painfully on track. That Azarenka beatdown in the QF of Melbourne and the IW Finals aside, it really feels like a relatively bleak year for Radwanska. And the gap between her and the bottom end of the Top10 has shortened.

 

 

tntpredic7

 

 

 

 

- This was on crack until now. But since that loss to Bouchard in Paris (which she should have won but she didn’t because Carla), she has looked well out of it mentally.

 

tntpredic8

 

 

 

- Both are fairly on track. Particularly Jankovic has some digging to do if she wants to crawl into Singapore now considering she’s only #12 in the race now and has a Cincy SF, USOpen 4th Round and Beijing F to defend.

 

ATP to follow tomorrow.

 

9 1/2 weeks …of tennis in North America (and a bit of clay in Europe)

Wimbledon might’ve wrapped up today but there’s a lot of tennis left in this year’s calendar. After a clay-stint in Europe  (featuring only 4 WTA and ATP Top10 players combined), both tours are going to move on to the US hard courts at the end of July and stay in North America until the final slam of the year will have concluded in 9 1/2 weeks’ time. Here are 9 1/2 questions/storylines on the WTA/ATP tour worth keeping an eye on.

 

- 1: What will Serena do?

This situation better never get a repeat. (sport1.de)

A lot of eyes will rather certainly be on Ms. Serena Williams (and mine will also be on Coach Patrick “Mastermind” Mouratoglou). Even though she won half of the non-slam tournaments she appeared in this year (Brisbane, Miami and Rome), her slam results have been sub-par and her most recent appearance at Wimbledon has raised more question marks surrounding the phenom that is Serena than there have been in a long while. Serena hasn’t looked like the all-conquering champion she was throughout 2013 and has complained about hitting a wall physically and mentally on various occasions but her doubles performance on the second Tuesday at Wimbledon was a real cause for concern not just regarding the tennis player but Serena the human. Several naysayers claim it was all show, officials stated it was a viral illness but most reactions were somewhere inbetween perplexion and worry.

Serena is one of the few Top10 players to have committed to a clay event in July and she’ll look to defend her title in Swedish Båstad in a week. It’s fair to assume that more people will pay attention to the otherwise relatively low-key event than in previous year. And lest we forget – Serena has a whopping 3520 points to defend in North America. Serena doesn’t have anything left to prove to anymore – but unless she stockpiles another title or two and makes a deep run (that is SF or better) media and public alike will brand her 2014 a let-down.

 

- 2: Will Novak Djokovic start rolling?

Fresh off of his first Grand Slam since the 2013 Australian Open and reclaiming the #1 in the rankings, Djokovic will be eager to carry the momentum over to his cherished hard courts. If he has a decent sense of self-awareness, he’ll know he won Wimbledon 2014 without having played his absolute best tennis – and on the surface where has the least footing. Djokovic as well as Nadal and Federer won’t return to competition before August – but he will get married to his fiancé Jelena Ristic this month. Considering how well Djokovic performed in Indian Wells and Miami earlier this year, he’ll have an awful lot going for himself going into US Open Hardcourt swing. No one should be surprised if he ends up with another Masters 1000 title and another Slam in his pocket.

Djokovic with the 2nd Ananas of his career (newindianexpress.com)

 

- 3: To which lengths will the US press and media go to semi-adopt Bouchard and Raonic as their own?

Bouchard has had a breakout year, particularly with her consistency at slams, and Raonic has made it into his first Slam QF at Roland Garros and improved on that by making it to the SFs in Wimbledon. What with no US man or woman having made it beyond the 4th round at a slam this year, e.g. ESPN’s Chris McKendry has already declared that Canada is close enough to the US to adopt Bouchard and to a lesser extent Raonic as one of their own.

It will be interesting to see how the broader US mediascape will react to the 2 young Canadians if the results of their own countrymen and -women remain somewhat underwhelming throughout August (*) and it’ll be equally fascinating to witness how the WTA will continue to try and ride the wave of Geniemania.

(*) as pointed out to me by @jokelley_tennis on twitter I’ve been a little short on words here: I don’t think the US women had a particularly *bad* grass season, in fact Vandeweghe and Keys had a pretty good one, Duval did great at the French and Venus played the match of the tournament against Kvitova last fortnight but the general expectation from public and media alike will be that at least one woman makes a deep run at the US Open – and that hasn’t happened all that often this year.

- 4: Will Azarenka have an encouraging end to a frustrating year?

2014 has been difficult for Azarenka. She already looked out of sorts at the end of 2013, going 1-4 after her loss to Serena in the US Open finals but the man with the hammer truly hit home with a niggling foot injury that basically made her miss the five months between Australia and the grass season. Azarenka has since come back and lost a tight three set match in the 1st round of Eastbourne and the 2nd round of Wimbledon (to Giorgi and Jovanovski respectively) but considering her lengthy absence she competed well in both of those matches. However, her ranking has slipped down to #10 and during the US Open Hard Court swing she’ll have finals in Carlsbad, New York and the title in Cincy to defend (2620 of her 3812 points). We’ve had a similar “Top10-watch” with Sharapova during the clay season and Azarenka faces an even more difficult task. If Azarenka comes out of this inside the Top15 (and if she feels healthy I’m convinced that’s within her reach) she’ll have done well and I wouldn’t put it past her to power her way though #WTAsia and finish the year in the Top10. But this summer – going to be a tough one for the Belarussian.

 

 

- 5: Can the young guys back it up? 

Raonic might’ve lost to Federer in straight sets in the semis but will climb to a career high of #6 in the rankings. (thestar.com)

Kyrgios had a breakthrough performance at Wimbledon and Dimitrov as well as Raonic had career best performances at slams at Wimbledon. The question is – will they be able to back it up and will others such as Vesely (who also had a solid Wimbledon) and Thiem (who looked rather lost on the grass) be able to surge up the rankings further and manage to move in closer on the more established names on tour? Will Jack Sock be able to transfer any of his doubles success into singles? Can Donald *sleeper pick* Young pick up where he left of in Paris rather than where he slowed down in London? Questions over questions but personally think that Raonic and Thiem will have the most convincing results and I expect Thiem to come close to entering the Top40 by August. But it will probably be newest member of the Top10 Dimitrov who’ll receive the most attention from the press and media (outside of Canada) in their quest to transform him into a “pop culture figure” (I see you LZ) *insert eyeroll*.

 

- 6: Kvitova wins Wimbledon again – but will she be able to carry the momentum across the pond unlike in 2011?

Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon 2014. And pretty emphatically at that. Pam Shriver was absolutely on the money that Kvitova’s victory and the manner in which she blazed through the finals was reminiscent of current and former grass court greats such as Serena, Venus, Steffi and Martina. It was a 55 minute masterclass from the Czech. The question is – will she be able to take it in her stride and not consider it a “duty” to win every match and tournament she competes in (2011 Kvitova thoughts) but rather acknowledge it as the confidence boost that she has the weapons to win against anyone if she produces her best tennis?

 

I’m a little bit on the fence but that’s because with Kvitova a solid US Open series with QFs and maybe a SF in all three big events (Montreal, Cincy and the US Open) should be considered as a good result for her – expecting her to romp home multiple titles in the next 2 months would be overly optimistic. The loud and “crowdy” events in North America are at the opposite spectrum from where the Czech feels at home but the quiet yet steely confidence she displayed throughout this fortnight were a good sign that Kvitova won’t be as rattled and overwhelmed by the success as 3 years ago. With her Wimbledon title she has effectively neutralised most of the points she has to defend for the rest of the season and can just give it a good swing (hopefully not into the stands). And should she remain healthy, that’s a dangerous prospect for the rest of the WTA.

 

- 7: Which players deserve the “You in danger, girl!” gifs?

Yep: Serena and Vika have a lot of points to defend and some question marks next to them but let’s focus on some other people.

I’m looking at you, Richard Gasquet, John Isner, Vasek Pospisil and Sorana Cirstea. Until the US Open Isner will be facing a serious crunch-time week in Cincy. He’s currently sitting at #12 with 2690 points. 650 points will come off before Cincy. 600 points will come off IN Cincy. If Isner doesn’t come up with the goods during the next 6 weeks he’ll have a nasty little eye opening moment when he finds himself outside the Top20 for the US Open seedings.

Richard Gasquet has had a rotten year with back issues until he hit the grass in Eastbourne and made his first finals. He then outgasquet himself by failing to convert one of 9 match points against Kyrgios and has semi-finals points to defend in New York. Fortunately for him, he didn’t do a lot between Wimbledon and US Open 2013 and considering he is going to play Bogota/Atlanta/Washington/Montreal on the trot, there’s a chance he might be able to cushion the blow in advance.

Where the wild Richies live. #tenfeetbehindthebaseline

Pospisil has had a similar year to Gasquet with a bad back and has almost half of his points to defend with his Challenger win in Vancouver and SF appearance in Montreal last year (460 in total) – hence it only makes sense that he’s playing the exact same schedule as Gasquet. Maybe his Wimbledon doubles titles will give him a bit of a confidence boost in advance.

Cirstea had a banner week in Canada last year, thumping her way through the draw and it wasn’t until she met Serena in the final that her run came to an end. Unfortunately, other than a good Fed Cup weekend this year hasn’t been a lot to write home about for her. Cirstea’s ranking in the Top30 is currently kept afloat mostly by her 620 points from her finals in Toronto. But boy oh boy, things won’t be pretty if the next few weeks are turning out to be as sour as the rest of the year.

 

- 8: Will the WTA continue its 2014 theme of “The draw will implode – somewhere!”

It has been a slightly weird year on the WTA-Tour since Wimblegeddon 2013 threw the tennis world somewhat off-axis. All of the last four slam winners make perfect sense (Serena in New York, Li Na in Melbourne, Sharapova in Paris and Kvitova this weekend) – all these players won on surfaces/at Slams where they feel at home. And yet… Azarenka’s highest ranked opponents on her way to the finals were (2013)-Ivanovic and Cornet. Kvitova and Li won their slams without having to play a single woman ranked inside the Top10 and haven’t notched up a Top10 win this entire season and Sharapova’s only Top10 opponent was Simona Halep in a spectacular Roland Garros final. It’s certainly true when people say “you only have to beat the player infront of you and if the draw around crumbles, so be it!” – and yet the WTA has felt a little weird at slams lately where the draws *have* always busted. Some of the bigger premier events have help up pretty well (e.g. Miami/Madrid) whereas others have been slightly chaotic:

I was happy for Pennetta (who played a great tournament and defeated the top and 2nd seed!) but Indian Wells, you felt like a wacky one this year. (espn.go.com)

It’s going to be interesting to see how the WTA plays out during the course of the US Open series and whether the current Top10 women will be able to bring back some order or whether we’ll see more of the same in the next few weeks. A fatigued Serena and a hot-and-cold-blowing Li as top seeds might not bode that well for the order-option tho. It says something when the greatest beacon of stability in the Top5 might be recent arrival Simona Halep.

 

- 9: Can the rest of the ATP tour close the gap to the Top2?

Let’s put the Top4 myth at rest for the next few weeks. This isn’t because I’m so disrespectful (…) but rather because the #2 in the rankings (Nadal) has twice as many points next to his name as Federer, who’s number three. Federer had a fantastic fortnight at Wimbledon but his return of serve let him down time and time again against Djokovic, only being allowed 1 breakpoint throughout the first 3 matches. Murray has slipped down to #10 in the rankings after his QF exit in London after a bad day against Dimitov but he doesn’t have many points to defend throughout this summer, much like Federer who won’t do the European clay court swing after the experiment went decidedly awry in 2013. The only *other* two slam champions of the last 9 years being Del Potro who’s still out with his wrist injury and Wawrinka, who has performed reasonably well given how grass is his worst surface but he has still gone big or gone home relatively often this year. I’d be surprised if any of the other guys in the Top10 made a leap big enough to endager Djokovic and Nadal at the top or vice versa if the two of them played bad enough to allow it to happen. Both guys are just the two most consistent performers across the year and I’d be shocked if it was any different over the course of the next two months or so. However, Nadal has a ton of points to defend over the course of the next few months (4000, he won Montreal, Cincy and New York back to back to back in 2013) and there might be a window of opportunity for Federer to close the gap a little if he makes use of being seeded better again. Will Federer overtake either? No – but he can set himself up nicely for the rest of the year at the very least.

 

- 9 1/2: Li Na and Carlos Rodriguez split:

It’ll be interesting to see how Li does without having Rodriguez in her corner who has been asked back to the academy in Beijing (where they’ll still train when she is in China according to Eisenbud). Li has it in her to produce great tennis but Rodriguez has certainly help shape her game over the past 2 years. Eisenbud and Rodriguez are apparently looking into finding a new coach and I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the reasons for one of Ben Rothenberg’s last tweets from Wimbledon today:

 

Hope you all recover well from Wimbledon and enjoy the journey through the clay in Europe, the hard courts in Merica and – of course – the BAKU SLAM.