Our weekly look at who’s hot and who’s not in tennis.
Just to “bring some attention in a silly way”, she has taken to wearing slogan T-shirts. During her time in the Californian desert, she wore one which announced, ‘Best is best’ and another which declared, ‘I got this’, and after the final at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden she was telling the world, ‘Unstoppable skills’.
Azarenka is getting away with it. In part, because they’re just a bit of fun – just like the top which Serena Williams wore after winning Wimbledon one year, which asked, ‘Are you looking at my titles?’ – but mostly because she just keeps on winning. By beating Maria Sharapova in the final (the same opponent she defeated to win the Australian Open, her first slam, in January), she extended her undefeated start to the year to 23 victories. Azarenka is doing what Novak Djokovic did in the men’s game, slashing her way through the rest of the field. And the calendar.
Yes, Federer has not won a slam for more than two years, an empty stretch which got longer after he lost in the semi-finals of the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal. But, over the past six months, the Swiss has consistently looked like the best player in the world. Since losing in the semi-finals of last year’s US Open, he has won 39 of his 41 matches. Federer has won the last three tournaments he has played – Rottedam, Dubai and Indian Wells. (Last autumn, he won titles in Basle, the Paris Masters and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals). If he keeps this up, and that’s still a sizeable if, Federer could find himself back as a grand slam champion, and/or back as the world number one. One more week, remember, and he will equal Pete Sampras’s record of 286 weeks at the top.
“People keep talking about my age. Some don’t understand how you can play tennis at 30 years old, which is shocking to me, because normally that’s still when you’re young enough to play some of your best tennis. I think I’m showing that since I turned 30 in August last year. That’s basically where my run began.”
No one is going to suggest that Isner came from nowhere to reach his first Masters-level final. Anyone who is 6ft 9in tall is going to struggle to keep under the radar (and door frames). Especially someone who won the longest ever grand slam match at Wimbledon. But this was hopefully the tournament when Isner became known for something other than being the freakishly tall American who won a freakishly long match one summer. There was nothing freaky about his victory against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals; it was just a classy performance, and he deserves to be inside the roped-off VIP area of men’s tennis, inside the top 10.
Perhaps this a little harsh, judging the Serbian against what he achieved last year, especially as he was never going to replicate last year’s form. But, that’s the reality of being the world number one. For him, he has had a thin time at his last two tournaments, going out in the semi-finals in both Dubai and Indian Wells.
Has the Major of London ducked out of a singles match with David Cameron? Johnson’s biographer wrote in The Sunday Times at the weekend that the Prime Minsister challenged Johnson to a match. Andrew Gimson disclosed: “They held a tennis match in Trafalgar Square as part of the International Paralympics Day celebrations. Each had a partner in a wheelchair, and they played only one game. Boris and his partner won, thanks in part to a merciless smash by Boris, who was the epitome of ferocity, while Cameron kept his gentlemanly cool. An hour after his victory, Boris got a text message from Cameron that went something like this: ‘As you’re up for re-election before I am, I thought I’d better let you win on this occasion. But if you’re up for a proper match, come to Chequers any time.'”
Johnson doesn’t appear to have taken the PM up on the offer.
It is getting trickier and trickier for anyone under six feet tall to compete on the men’s tour.