Category Archives: No. 1

COUNTDOWN TO FRENCH OPEN (6 DAYS): Reverse Chase on. No. 1 Rafael Nadal Trying to Catch No. 2 Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal...again

Novak Djokovic doesn’t just have Rafael Nadal’s number, he also has his address, his email, his Facebook page and his girlfriend’s number, too. Four straight wins over Nadal in the past two months, including Sunday’s 6-4, 6-4 win in the Italian Open.

So the French Open starts this Sunday, and the chase is on now in men’s tennis. But it’s going in reverse order, with No. 1 trying to catch No. 2.

Djokovic has blown right past Nadal. And maybe I’m just in denial or something, but I still think Nadal is going to win the French. If so, it will be a typically goofy moment for tennis’ goofy computer rankings, as Nadal beats Djokovic in the final to re-establish himself. He will have won four of the past five majors, including two final wins over Djokovic.

Next day? Djokovic will climb over Nadal to No. 1. That’s how this is set up.

Whatever. If Djokovic wins, everything makes sense. And at this point, that’s what most people expect. There are no more excuses or reasons for Djokovic beating Nadal. It’s not that Nadal is coming back from injury, or that anything can happen on any given day. In Madrid, the high altitude and speedy clay favored Djokovic.

In Rome Sunday, no altitude issues, healthy Nadal, French Open-like clay and conditions. But I don’t think this was the moment when Djokovic finally made his point to Nadal. That happened a week earlier, in Madrid.

This was the moment the chase started. On Sunday, Nadal was making an unbelievable concession. Instead of waiting to see how he would do against Djokovic with circumstances favoring him, he cut and ran. Nadal was acknowledging that Djokovic is better now, or at least that he’s playing better.

It wasn’t the denial we saw in Roger Federer when Nadal passed him. It wasn’t the stubbornness we saw from Andy Roddick for years after the top of the game passed him.

Nadal wanted to beat Djokovic, but this was about when and where. While they were playing in Italy Sunday, Nadal was trying to beat Djokovic in Paris three weeks from now. Continue reading

Is Novak Djokovic the Best? Not yet, but Rafael Nadal Must Show how far his Greatness can go

This is a thrilling moment to watch Rafael Nadal. It’s when the best player in the world is forced to search for another level. Nadal must raise his game, find something to make himself better. He lost to Novak Djokovic for the third time in a row Sunday, 7-5, 6-4 in the final at Madrid.

Djokovic hasn’t lost all year. He won the year’s only major, the Australian Open, and he has bypassed Roger Federer. Has he passed Nadal, too?

No. Nadal had to beat Federer at Wimbledon to reach the mountaintop, and Djokovic is going to have to beat Nadal at the French Open. Or maybe Wimbledon. Or the U.S. Open. The point is, tennis is decided in the majors, not in Madrid or Miami. In a few weeks, if Djokovic beats Nadal at Roland Garros?

Then the torch has passed.

“The No. 1 ranking is not in danger,’’ Nadal said. “It’s finished. Let’s not lie to ourselves. That’s the reality. I have to see what’s missing, and work with a cool, open mind to decipher things and find the solutions, to try to do a little better next time.’’

I’m not talking about rankings. Nadal is 1, Djokovic 2. But if Djokovic wins the Italian Open and Nadal loses before the semis, then Djokovic will be No. 1. That’s a computer talking. But if Djokovic wants to be seen as the best, he’s going to need to beat Nadal in a major moment. Continue reading

Kim Clijsters Tears Ankle Ligament While Dancing. It’s Caroline Wozniacki’s Tour now. Is She Ready?

Caroline Wozniacki after winning Sunday

We’ve probably seen the end of Kim Clijsters, who tore ligaments and severely sprained her right ankle over the weekend while dancing at a wedding. She had been looking for an out again anyway, just hanging around for next year’s Olympics.

We’ve seen the end of Justine Henin, who retired again in January, blaming an injury.

And I wonder if we’ve gotten all we’ll get from Serena Williams, too. She has been out for almost a year, first with a mysterious foot injury and – in my opinion – lack of interest. Now, she deals with a blood clot in her lungs.

Clijsters was the news of the day, overshadowing another tournament win by Caroline Wozniacki, who continues as No. 1 even though no one thinks she’s the best. She beat Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-3 to win the Family Circle Cup.

But what happened when Clijsters got hurt was this: The deck instantly reshuffled on the women’s tour. The game has lost all willing and able champions.

Now, women’s tennis belongs to Wozniacki. Is she ready?

Continue reading

Kim Clijsters a Band-Aid on Broken Game

My column on AOL Fanhouse

Alec Baldwin is hot for her sweaty body. Todd Woodbridge is focusing on her breasts. Serena Williams‘ mom thinks she has a scary, Medusa eye.

Not only that, but Kim Clijsters also has won the past two major tennis championships. And when she officially reached No. 1 in the rankings Monday, she became the first Mommy to get there.

Clijsters has already done much more than I thought she could during her comeback, not so much on the court, but off, bringing attention to women’s tennis. Her play, and now her ranking, has brought credibility.

Did she just solve women’s tennis No. 1 problem? She is more like a Band-Aid, temporarily covering up the real issues of women’s tennis:

The game is moving backward. And Serena Williams, who had been holding up the sport during majors when most people are watching, suddenly is completely unreliable. Continue reading