Our weekly guide to who’s hot and who’s not.
While others moaned and groaned their way out of Madrid, blue clay stuck in their minds if not their socks, Federer shrugged off the concerns and the rust of a five-week break from competitive tennis to win his 20th Masters 1000 title. The win lifted Federer above Rafael Nadal into the No 2 spot and if things go his way over the next two months – he will probably need a grand slam title to do it – the No 1 ranking could yet be his once more. “It’s been a great spell and I couldn’t be more happy right now coming off a break winning right away,” he said. “It’s always an ideal scenario for what’s to come.” What’s to come, of course, is Rome this week and then the French Open, where he reached the final last year.
“From what the players have been saying to me here, it was the best decision to make.” That was Murray in Rome on Sunday about how missing Madrid (he cited a back injury) was, in hindsight, a cracking choice. “Everyone’s been applauding me for not playing, saying ‘you’re much smarter than me’. Having begun practising in Rome five days before the tournament even began, Murray could not be better prepared, or more content, as he tries to go at least one better than last year, when he pushed Novak Djokovic to the limit in the semi-finals.
“I could play on ice”. Serena’s own, ever unique take on the situation in Madrid, where she butchered her way through the field to take another title. With every passing week, the former world No 1 looks every inch the real No 1 and if she keeps on at this rate, then it is going to take something special to stop her in Paris. Maria Sharapova, torn apart in the semi-finals, has now lost to her seven time in a row, and the Russian is still one of her biggest rivals. That says a lot.
Ivan Ljubicic (and Mardy Fish)
The recently retired Croat wondered aloud, via Twitter, what the leading American men’s attitude to European clay said about commitment to the tour. He certainly has a point – getting the top singles players over to Europe for the three main events has always been tough – but he must have been surprised at the solidarity coming back from over the water as Andy Roddick and John Isner informed him that Mardy Fish was suffering from health issues. Ljubicic had not mentioned Fish by name but the American snapped back: “Some of us aren’t skipping the tournaments because we want to. Do your homework before you make dumb generalised comments.” Fish then deleted it, but of course it had been retweeted by then.
The once rock solid Russian is really struggling right now, his defeat in the first round in Rome on Sunday taking his record for 2012 to nine won, 10 lost. Whether he has lost half a step of speed or whether with the end of his career perhaps in sight, his motivation is dipping, times are tough. It’s a long way back.