Tenaciously Tennis

Federer Wins 64th Career Title; Azarenka Makes Doha

Roger Federer has tied Pete Sampras’ record of 64 career titles with his win in Sweden over Florian Mayer of Germany. Federer beat the 47th-ranked player with a smooth 6-4, 6-3 score in the tournamant during which he also claimed his 50th match of the season. This distinction, reports an Associated Press article, makes Federer “only the fifth man, and the first since Sampras, to win 50 matches in at least nine straight years in the Open era.”

The article continues, “Since 1968, only Jimmy Connors (109), Ivan Lendl (94) and John McEnroe (77) have won more singles tournaments than Federer and Sampras,” highlighting the extent of Federer’s impressive career thus far.

Can Federer keep going to match Connors’ 109 titles? I wouldn’t count him out by any means, although 45 more title would certainly be a stretch. The win in Sweden marked his 3rd of the year. If he continues on this path, he’d need to play over 15 years. And that, we all know, isn’t happening.

Regardless, it’ll be great to see just where the next few years takes Federer. Can he get to 20 major titles? Can he overtake McEnroes’ record 77 titles? This will all come with time.

In other news, Victoria Azarenka is back winning. This time, in the Kremlin Cup against Maria Kirilenko. The title marks the fifth of her career in a season hampered with injury, including the frightening end to her US Open run in August due to a collapse. She looked strong in her 6-3, 6-4 victory.

In other news, her win qualifies her for the year-ending tournament in Doha. In fact, Azarenka only needed to make the quarterfinals of the event. She’ll be confident and ready to make some noise at the event in which both Serena and Venus Williams pulled-out due to injury.

“It’s a big boost to win ahead of Doha. The win gave me confidence and perfect fitness. I feel my rhythm and I’m ready to go and play there,” said Azarenka. That sounds good coming at a time where many of the other top women are struggling.


Azarenka’s Collapse – What It Means for Tennis

With a fiery personality, a big game, and a desire to win, Victoria Azarenka looked poised to make a deep run at the US Open, if not win it all together. The 10th-seeded Azarenka, however, fell to an opponent other than Gisela Dulko in the major’s second round. She, instead, succumbed to a phantom culprit: the combination of energy-sapping heat, humidity, and — quite probably– a physically debilitating tennis schedule.

Now, the debate about tennis’ long season — from January to November — has been raging for a while now. More recently, John McEnroe expressed some controversial concerns that the women in particular “should be required to be in less events,” garnering criticism from many.

While I believe the comments were demeaning, there’s truth to what he’s saying. I think, however, that it isn’t just the women John McEnroe should have targeted. The men, too, — think (last year’s) Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to name a few — are suffering. Injury shouldn’t be so prevalent on tour, and it certainly shouldn’t get to the point where promising young players collapse on court.

Instead, the season’s schedule needs some trimming. Cut down the required number of events, allow professional play to end sooner, and do what it takes for health and player safety — not fan enjoyment and corporate satisfaction — to reign the WTA and ATP tours. By consolidating the schedule, creating higher energy men and women combined events, and weeding out tournaments that aren’t garnering fan support, everyone benefits.

A lot is being done in the tennis world to solve these problems, I’m not saying there aren’t steps being taken. In fact, in January, Novak Djokovic, Nadal, and Roger Federer stated the desire to curb the Davis Cup, cutting down some weeks from the schedule in the process. Maybe this isn’t the best solution — Davis Cup is a heavily grounded tradition in tennis. The problem is: Since then the topic has been somewhat of an elephant in the room. It shouldn’t take such an extreme case, such as Azarenka’s dramatic retirement, to get the conversation really going with purpose.

Let’s hope the remainder of the US Open — and the rest of the season — survives without this scary manifestation of a harsh (and physically daunting) reality that professional tennis players of both sexes sadly face.

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