© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Nadal close-up 2

Who's hot and who's not


Our weekly guide to who’s hot and who’s not 

Who’s hot

Rafael Nadal. Would this have ended any differently if Novak Djokovic hadn’t messed up so many smashes? They had walked out to the Star Wars theme, but at times it was Space Balls out there. You have to go back a long way to find the last time that the world number one missed so many overheads. Djokovic, last year’s champion at the Foro Italico, is no longer the King of Roman Clay, just the King of Missed Opportunities Against Rafa. Djokovic was making enough chances against Nadal to have won the Monday final; he just didn’t convert enough to take the title. So Nadal won a sixth title in Rome, and returns to the world No 2 ranking, replacing Roger Federer. They were playing for the title; they were also playing for some psychological edge before the French Open, where Djokovic will be looking to reach a first final and then complete a career grand slam.

Maria Sharapova. The smartest thing Sharapova ever said? No, not the time she smiled (with a smile that didn’t quite reach her teenage eyes): “I’m not the new Kournikova.” It was the time she said, and this must be the most repeated quote in the history of the women’s game, that her movement on clay was akin to a cow on ice. Even now, after she has won two clay-court titles this season, in Stuttgart and in Rome, where she came from a set and 0-4 down to defeat Li Na, people scoff at the idea that she can win the French Open. There has been no reinvention from Sharapova, just quiet, steady improvement. If Sharapova was a plain Jane, if she had never compared herself to Daisy the cow, many more observers would now be taking her seriously as one of the favourites for Suzanne Lenglen Cup. That they’re not, that’s to Sharapova’s advantage.

They haven’t always shown great affection for Sharapova at Roland Garros – the feeling is that they don’t like what they perceive to be her Americanised, princessy ways. Maybe only when Sharapova is making the champion’s speech, a list of thank-yous which would signify she had completed the career slam, will some Parisians come around to the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, Sharapova is capable of playing on a clay court.

Robin Soderling. At last, some good news about Soderling, who has been kept off the tour by glandular fever. A “happy and excited” Soderling took to Twitter to announce that he and Jenni are to become parents in September.

Who’s not. 

Andy Murray. The back problem is a worry. It has apparently been bothering him for most of the year.

Men. Serena Williams think all those male players who complained about Madrid’s blue clay are “weenies”. “Women are way tougher than men. That’s why we have the babies, you guys could never handle kids.”

Roman officialdom. Some fans threw popcorn on to the soggy clay on Sunday evening when it was announced that the men’s final to be postponed until Monday lunchtime. Then they asked for their money back.