Tag:Novak Djokovic
Posted on: March 25, 2008 2:25 pm

Indian Wells, War and Racism

Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic claimed the WTA and ATP titles at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California on Sunday. Both of them were born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1987.

Djokovic is the best tennis player in the world today. He won the Australian Open and the first masters series of the season. Enough said

Ivanovic was the No.1 seed in the Coachella Valley – that’s how people who live there like to call Palm Springs where the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is located. She lost in the Australian Open final earlier this year. She is not the best on the women’s side, but she is very close to the top.

Djokovic and Ivanovic were eleven when NATO forces launched a three-month long offensive against their city, destroying downtown buildings, airports and bridges. My Serbian friends still refer to it as the “NATO Aggression.”

NATO forces, at the time, were led by American general Wesley Clark. The same Clark, who may, I am told, become Hillary Clinton’s running mate as vice president, should she win the democratic primaries. Which proves she is not lying after all when she says she is ready to run the USA. She too knows people who can bomb the crap out civilians thousand of miles from Washington.

Even though they grew up through the hardship of war, Djokovic and Ivanovic have become great athletes and seemingly great young people too. The tennis fans around the world are always keen on watching them play, or imitating fellow tennis players (Djokovic’s second job on tour).

They both have left their country. She now resides in Basel, Switzerland, Roger Federer’s hometown. His primary residence is now Monte-Carlo, Monaco, with the rich and famous. And yet, both of them proudly defend the colors of their shrinking country and never complain publicly about the war. They talk about it, when asked (who hasn’t heard Ivanovic’s recall of tennis matches played in a pool?), but I have never heard any of them bring it up on their own.

In the meantime, still in Indian Wells, WTA head Larry Scott said that he strongly disagrees with comments made by Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus, regarding racism on the women's tour.

"Well, I'm black and I'm prejudiced, very prejudiced. People are prejudiced in tennis. I don't think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be."

This is what Mr. Williams told the Deccan Herald, an Indian daily newspaper, while his daughters were playing in Bangalore, India.

Did Mr. Williams go too far? Is he wrong? No one can deny that racism is still vibrant in today’s American society. Otherwise, why would presidential candidate Barack Obama give a lengthy, very lengthy, speech about race? He is definitely a formidable orator, but the “race speech” he delivered on March 18, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was seriously long and I daresay, completely useless if you’re not a pundit on a 24-hour news channel.

I don’t know for a fact whether people are prejudiced in tennis, but I don’t see why the pro tennis tours would be little islands off the real world where everything is rosy and where everybody goes along. That doesn’t make racism acceptable, but Mr. Williams’s words understandable.

The Williams sisters haven't played at Indian Wells since 2001. They were booed after Venus pulled out of a semifinal match against her sister, citing knee tendinitis. Serena went on to win the title, but was booed during and after the championship match.

Now that I have managed to talk about war, Clinton, Obama and racism in an otherwise meaningless blog dedicated to tennis, please forgive one last trick: Matt Drudge is a genius and his site, “Drudge Report,” rules. I guess that if I praise him and his work over and over again, he will, one day, link to this page from his site, which should significantly increase viewership.

Posted on: March 14, 2008 1:41 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2008 1:45 pm

King Roger to keep his Throne through '08

Even though I hate making predictions for the simple reason that, unlike most of the pundits, all the fans and several of my colleagues, I am completely unable to foresee the unraveling of future events and can only study the outcome of past events, I will write here and now, that Roger Federer will remain atop the ATP world rankings until the end of the year.

Players hold their ATP Ranking points for 52 weeks before they drop off the following year.

He’s been at the top of the tennis world since February 2, 2004. I’ll spare you the maths, that’s a record 215 consecutive weeks. Ivan Lendl (168), Jimmy Connors (160)  and Pete Sampras (102) are the only other players with 100+ consecutive weeks as World No. 1.

Rafael Nadal has been No. 2 since July 25, 2005, or 138 straight weeks. No one had ever been No. 2 for so many consecutive weeks before.

You’d believe Nadal hates Federer. Yet, they are reportedly good friends. Would you be friend with the guy that prevents you from being the best in the world for years? Or would you be friend with the dude that prevents you from being recognized as the greatest tennis player ever by making you look like a fool on the Parisian clay every year in June?

If you answer “no” to any of those questions, you really don’t understand what competition is about and should stick to your xbox or to whatever is it that makes you feel like you matter in this world.

Thanks to Greg Sharko, the custodian of the ATP stats vault, we learn that “after Federer's first round exit in Dubai and Nadal's quarterfinal effort, the Swiss No. 1 will hold a 350-point lead over the Spaniard as of Monday. This is the closest margin since May 10, 2004 when Federer led No. 2 Andy Roddick by that same figure.”

Ironically Roddick took Nadal out in Dubai, saving Federer’s No.1 spot. That was last week.

New rankings won’t be published before March 24th, following the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California. I bet you your house, no forget that, your house is worth nothing. I bet you a steak dinner, now that is something of value, that Federer will still be the No.1 player in the world when the new rankings come out. And not only would he still be in charge, he would also have increased his lead over Nadal.

Have you chosen the restaurant yet?

I should have warned you though. That’s not all Sharko said. He went on: "The No. 1 ranking can't change hands at the first ATP Masters Series tournament of the season, the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, since Nadal is defending title points (500) while Federer lost in the opening round (5).”

And finally, Sharko concluded by saying “but depending on the results of both players in Indian Wells, then the No. 1 position could be up for grabs going into Miami. Nadal has quarterfinal points to defend (125) while Federer has fourth round points coming off (75).”

Miami, Florida, plays host to the second Masters Series event of the season, the Sony Ericsson Open.

This is where I start getting ahead of myself. I don’t see Federer, who says he’s completely recovered from the mononucleosis that hampered his early season outings, not fairing better than Nadal, or at least as well as him in California and Florida.

Seriously, did he really reach the semifinals of the Australian Open with mono?? Careful readers will note the use of the double question mark, to indicate particular emphasis, which seems appropriate when you consider that most people can’t even walk with mono.

But I digress. Back to my getting ahead of myself. Federer will leave the United States and head to the European clay season still leading the rankings. And this is where it gets interesting.

Nadal has something like a billion points to defend on clay. He hasn’t lost on the red surface since, I don’t know… has he lost ever? Well yes, he did lose, once, last year, to Federer, in the final of the Hamburg Masters Series, in Germany. However, he won the five other events he entered, including a third consecutive French Open title. While, in the meantime, Federer was losing in the 3rd round of the Italian Open, in Rome to Filippo Volandri and to Nadal again in the Roland-Garros final.

We are now at the end of the clay season and Federer is still in the driver’s seat.

The Championships at Wimbledon are next. Federer hasn’t lost on grass since 2002. Nadal has reached the final in London the past two years. The question you have to ask is: Who is more likely to repeat? My money is still on Federer. It’s US dollars anyway, it won’t be worth much by the time the Swiss player breaks Bjorn Borg’s record with his 6th consecutive win at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

To predict the outcome of the hard court season gets tricky. Federer did very well last year and has loads of points to defend. Throw in the Olympics in Beijing, China, in August and you may see some upsets in early September at the U.S. Open in New York, where Roger hasn’t lost since 2003. But this is where Nadal’s body usually starts breaking down. So once again. Fed remains Numero Uno and rolls through the rest of the season to finish a fifth consecutive year at the top of the rankings.

How about Novak Djokovic? You’re definitely entitled to ask. The Serb is a rising star and honestly the only player able to challenge Federer and Nadal today.

Here is the story. Djokovic is defending runner-up points (350) in Indian Wells and champion's points in Miami (500). He also won the Masters Series in Canada last summer and went on to challenge Federer in the U.S. Open final. That is on top of semifinal appearances at the French Open and Wimbledon. In other words, a huge load of points to defend. Maybe too much, too soon.

Yet, I said it before and I will repeat it to conclude. I wouldn’t be surprised if Djokovic were the next world No. 1.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com