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November 19, 2010
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by Ray Bowers
PART ONE: PLAYER OF THE YEAR, FEMALE NOMINEE
As the pro-tennis year approaches conclusion, we begin our selection of Player of the Year -- the star whose achievement and example seem highest and best in representing the sport in 2010. Always among the candidates are the year's top-ranked male and female champions -- winners of the ATP and WTA points races. But there are usually also other contenders who bring high credentials -- players whose extraordinary achievement in just a single event, for example, may have been surpassing. Intangible considerations sometimes enter. Thus last year, in 2009, the wondrous capture of U.S. Open 09 by Kim Clijsters soon after her return from retirement and childbirth led to her selection.
The women's season of 2010 has been completed, so now is the time to select our female nominee. Then in December, after the men's season is completed, we will choose our male nominee and then decide between our male and female choices. Tennis Server's 2010 Player of the Year will emerge.
THE FEMALE CANDIDATES PRIOR TO DOHA
Back in October the picture on the women's side was decidedly cloudy. Five individuals offered appealing credentials. Serena Williams had won both Australian Open and Wimbledon, the latter in comanding manner. Caroline Wozniacki dominated the year's second half, winning multiple non-Slam tournaments, her success aided by the injury-related absences of Serena Williams, Justine Henin, and Dinara Safina. Two other stars had won Slams -- Francesca Schiavone at Garros in dramatic manner, Clijsters repeating at U.S. Open. Meanwhile Vera Zvonareva had claimed notice throughout the year, contending well in the Slams and, at #2 in the year's points race, still hopeful of overtaking Wozniacki for the year-end #1 ranking. Here, then, were our five prime candidates, as of mid-October:
- Serena Williams
- Caroline Wozniacki
- Francesca Schiavone
- Kim Clijsters
- Vera Zvonareva
Since then, the WTA championships in Doha have unfolded, reshuffling the above candidacies somewhat. Then the annual Fed Cup crown was settled, bringing yet another candidate into our prime group.
REPORT CARDS: DOHA
To Doha they came -- that central city of the monarchy of Qatar, situated on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Favored in its modernizing by oil and gas revenues, Qatar has regularly hosted ATP and WTA main-tour events, including the season-ending WTA final in both 2008 and 2009.
The entry field at Doha consisted of the year's eight highest-ranked women, except that because of injuries the Williams sisters -- last year's winner and runner-up, respectively -- were replaced by the #9 and #10 players. Conditions were favorable for good tennis for the entire six-day period, 26-31 October, where all singles play was at night amid temperatures in the low 80's and mild winds. The intermediate-speed hard courts favored the attacking, heavier-hitting players. In the galleries were lively contingents supporting players of the several nations represented in the field.
Four of our five prime candidates were on hand, of whom only one failed to advance beyond the round-robin phase. That was Francesca Schiavone, who lost two of her three round-robin matches, falling to heavier-stroking Samantha Stosur in two close sets and to Wozniacki in three. Her competive play in both losses along with her win over Dementieva earns Francesca our letter-grade evaluation for the tournament of "B-Plus."
Three other players were also eliminated in the round-robins. Jelena Jankovic, who looked wan at the outset perhaps from a recent illness, receives our courtesy grade of "C-Minus." Victoria Azarenka displayed her blistering backhand throughout, took a set from the event's eventual champion, and receives our "B-Minus." Elena Dementieva became the sentimental heroine when she announced her retirement from competitive tennis. Tennis writers will miss analyzing Elena's troublesome serve, which underwent many evolutions over the years but never matched up to her superb court movement and stroking. Her first serve was strong in her win over Stosur, however, and that victory justifies Elena's Doha grade of "B."
The second of our primes to depart was Vera Zvonareva, who won all three of her round-robin matches, though the last had been tainted. (Vera was the more determined player in a Friday match-up against Clijsters where both players, having won their first two round-robin matches, had already qualified for the semi-finals.)
Vera now played Caroline Wozniacki in a Saturday semi-final. It was the fifth meeting of the two in 2010, where each had won twice. Now, their see-saw first set reached climax as Vera attained two set points, serving. But matters swung once again, as Caroline, having shelved her softish game but still playing with good avoidance of error, produced the relentlessly controlled pressure reminiscent of her many past triumphs. Caroline thus closed out the first set, score 75. Very disappointed after nearly winning the first set, Zvonareva then surrendered the second in short order amid countless errors. For her otherwise strong week, Vera gets our "A-Minus."
The same letter-grade goes to Aussie Samantha Stosur. Sam finished first in her round-robin group at W-L 2-1 and the best sets-won ratio in the group. Enroute she had beaten Schiavone and then Wozniacki, mainly owing to Sam's superior serve and forehand. Against Caroline, Sam faced six adverse break points and won all of them, generally as a direct result of strong serves, whose excellent pace and overspin produced high bounces.
But the heavier firepower in their semi-final on Saturday belonged not to Sam but to her opponent, Kim Clijsters, who before Doha had been sidelined since U.S. Open. Kim's rust seen earlier in the week was now absent. In their many exchanges of artillery from back court, Kim's unrelenting weight of shot and known counter-punching ability discouraged any inclination by Sam for sustained net attack. Both players weathered adverse set points late in the first set, but it was Kim who won the final four points of the set-ending tiebreaker with a run of error-free hitting. The momentum having swung to Kim, who -- always a strong front-runner -- now became relentless in harvesting the second set.
Thus the championship match on Sunday pitted two prime candidates for our award. From the start, Caroline Wozniacki produced a stinging, forceful game, aware that her more-comfortable softish stroking would only provide happy target practice for Clijsters. But the flow of the match largely depended on Kim, whose weight of shot exceeded Caroline's and whose determination to maximize that advantage seldom wavered. Kim's power hitting came with many unforced errors by Kim, especially in stretches when her mistakes came in bunches. But when it mattered most -- i.e., in closing out the first and the third sets -- Kim produced confident and often brilliant tennis, now without error in long, aggressive exchanges, turning the scoreboard in her favor.
Caroline fought well throughout her defeat, including in her own selective attacking, which produced much success even as Kim resisted with defensive and counter-punching play just as spectacular as Caroline's. The Danish star showed a surprising edge in aces, and, probably correctly, Caroline moved to net behind attacking shots more often than typically. But Caroline's overhead work, usually excellent, and also her volleying fell badly short, so that quite a few hard-won opportunities were wasted.
Our report card shows letter-grade "A" for Caroline, whose wins in the round-robin phase assured that she would finish the year as WTA #1. For the champion, Kim Clijsters, the grade was "A-Plus." Kim's only loss at Doha came in the dead match on Friday.
THE VIEW AFTER DOHA
Our picture was now almost complete. Two of our five principals -- especially Clijsters but also Wozniacki -- had enhanced their resumes at Doha, while Zvonareva and Schiavone had performed roughly up to expectations. One last event lay ahead -- the Fed Cup final at San Diego, where Francesca Schiavone had opportunity for enhancing her already large contribution in Italy's quest for Cup glory. There, in San Diego, our story line would take an unexpected turn.
FLAVIA PENNETTA AND FED CUP 2010
Throughout the current year, the Italian team had been a spirited and cohesive group, led by the primary singles artists, Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta. Last year both stars had been mainstays in Italy's capture of Fed Cup 2009, and both had finished that year in the WTA top twenty. Pennetta at 26 was a fast and agile performer whose smooth and classic stroking and calm demeanor contrasted to the more violent, sometimes acrobatic style and emotional court manner of Schiavone.
Fed Cup year 2010 began badly for the Italians in February on a hard-indoor court in Kharkov, Ukraine, when Schiavone lost her opening singles match to Alona Bondarenko. It was only a momentary setback for the team, however, as Pennetta in turn defeated both Bondarenko sisters in the second and third matches of the meeting. Then Schiavone beat sister Kateryna in three sets, wrapping up a 3-1 victory over Ukraine for the Italians. Then in April, on the red clay of Foro Italico in Rome, Italy swept the first three matches against Czech Republic . Pennetta contributed two wins, Schiavone one.
The Italians were favored to defeat the Americans in the final round, 6-7 November, as both Pennetta and Schiavone were ranked higher than any of the available U.S. singles artists. (The Williams sisters had agreed to participate but were still injured.) The Americans had the host-nation advantage, which enabled them to choose a moderately fast playing surface.
Once again Schiavone and Pennetta carved out the triumph, between them winning the necessary three singles. The first match went to Schiavone when her athleticism easily broke down the heavy serving and stroking of teen-aged American Coco Vandeweghe. Next, Pennetta faced Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who at 25 was a Fed Cup veteran but whose record otherwise was unimpressive. A determined Bethanie found her best tennis on this day and indeed held a set point to win the first set against Pennetta, but the opportunity passed amid a run of air-tight tennis by Flavia and two bad volley misses by Bethanie late in the set-ending tiebreaker. Early in set two Bethanie pulled up with leg cramping, and the match ended ended quickly thereafter amid Bethanie's many high-risk attempts that became unforced errors.
The predominantly American gallery took heart in the third match when America's Melanie Oudin, 19, astonished everyone by staging a wholly convincing victory over Schiavone. But after that, again it was Pennetta who sealed the Italian team victory, shutting down the miscast Coco amid Flavia's superb all-court tennis featuring superb footwork and artful courtcraft. It added up to a 3-1 triumph for the Italian team.
Although the Cup contributions during the year of both Schiavone and Pennetta had been necessary, there was no doubt that those of Flavia had been the greater and the more critical. Flavia had played in six singles matches, all of them meaningful (i.e., contributing to the team outcome). She had won all six, including two where a loss would have equalized the team score at two wins each, leaving matters to be decided in the doubles. Seldom is an individual contribution so complete in the winning of Fed Cup.
A SIXTH CANDIDATE
Twice before, we have chosen our male nominee for Player of the Year solely on the basis of his Davis Cup contribution -- Escude in 2001 and Roddick in 2007. But since we began our award in 1998 we have never selected a female nominee owing to her Fed Cup role. This has happened in spite of our belief that Fed Cup has a huge potential role within the vast contributions of women's tennis in changing people's attitudes toward women in many countries.
We also note that besides her critical role in the winning of Fed Cup 2010, Flavia Pennetta also accomplished a second major achievement during the year. With partner Gisela Dulko of Argentina, Flavia not only won the season-ending doubles crown at Doha but also became the WTA's #1-ranked doubles pair for the full year 2010.
We therefore add Flavia to our earlier group of five prime candidates for our award.
FOUR "A-MINUS" RESUMES
I do not recall a more difficult choice among so many candidates, all bringing recommendations almost equally strong. The margins are narrow and cannot be measured numerically. In our final scrutiny of the six candidates and their resumes, for convenience we again employ a letter-grade motif. Our final examination produces the letter-grade of "A-Minus" in four of our six cases. Here are the four recipients of our "A-Minus:"
Caroline Wozniacki. Caroline's late-year run was a wondrous achievement, made the more magical by the contrast between her youthfulness in chronological age and the maturity of her court composure and tactics. Almost surely she will be among the top contenders for many years ahead. Her 2010 playing record shows six tournament crowns, including three at the Premier Mandatory or Premier Five level. But there is a disturbing omission -- the absence of any wins over the heavy hitters that compose the sport's high royalty, i.e., Henin, Clijsters, and the Williams sisters. During the year Caroline lost her only match with Henin and her only one with Clijsters. (She did not meet Serena or Venus in 2010, but Caroline's W-L record against the sisters prior to this year was 0-6.) Wozniacki's ability to defeat the established members of the game's elite remains unproven.
Vera Zvonareva. Vera is not far behind Wozniacki -- just one step lower in the year's final rankings and with a head-to-head W-L record during the year of 2-3 where Vera won the most important meeting, at U.S. Open. Vera produced just one unimportant tournament win, though she reached the finals at both Wimbledon and U.S. Open. The drama of her career surge at age 26, including her display of newfound emotional strength, is indeed appealing. But it seems clear that in making our selection, she cannot be placed ahead of Wozniacki, the player whose slightly superior resume Vera's most resembles.
Francesca Schiavone. Francesca's candidacy rests almost entirely on her triumph at Roland Garros. Seeded outside the first sixteen, she lost only one set enroute to the trophy table behind a varied, attacking style of play along with a wealth of determination and courage. Seemingly in the twilight of her career at age 29, Francesca at Garros brought to the tennis world perhaps the year's highest drama. But there was mostly mediocrity otherwise for Francesca, as her only other tournament victory came on clay in the non-Premium event at Barcelona. She competed reasonably well throughout the year on both clay and nonclay, and she finished #7 in the standings.
Flavia Pennetta. Flavia's Fed Cup run was brilliant, but it is inescapable that none of her six Cup wins came against a player ranked in the year's top 25. Indeed the Italian team was comfortably favored in all three of its Cup meetings. Meanwhile Dulko and Pennetta reached the doubles quarter-finals of all four Slams and the semis at Wimbledon. But these high achievements along with those noted earlier were overshadowed by those of two other doubles pairs, each of whom won two Slam crowns.
AN "A" RESUME
Kim Clijsters. Kim's year of 2010 brought many successes -- enough to place her at #3 in the final rankings, an eyelash behind Zvonareva. She won five tournaments during the year, including her third U.S. Open, Doha, and the Premier Mandatory or Premier Five events at Miami and Cincinnati. She missed Garros with a left-foot injury and was sidelined between U.S. Open and Doha with right-foot trouble. Throughout, she maintained her reputation for good nature and integrity. The sense of high drama that came with her U.S. Open triumph last year and her selection as our 2009 Player of the Year probably lessened our thrill in her 2010 doings. Her achievements and her continuing superb representation before the public merit a resume grade of "A" -- i.e., slightly ahead of the four "A-Minuses."
THE "A-PLUS" RESUME
Serena Williams. It was a short tennis year for Serena, consisting of January in Australia and two months of play starting in May in Europe. Dividing these two intervals came inactivity forced by her troublesome left knee. Then just after Wimbledon ocurred a restaurant accident that forced Serena to the sidelines for the rest of the year.
But with Serena's frustrations came what was the salient triumph of the world's tennis year -- Serena's winning of Wimbledon, historically the sport's premier event. The victory, achieved without loss of a set, was Serena's 13th Slam crown, her fourth Wimbledon, and it returned her to first place in the year-to-date WTA points race. Seen in her Wimbledon run were Serena's superb stroking power and court mobility, but what was most decisive in her seven match victories was her magnificent serving ability, without doubt unmatched in women's tennis.
But if Serena's Wimbledon was the year's surpassing single achievement, Serena added other remarkable feats. She was champion of Australian Open 2010, where after advancing despite a troublesome left knee she defeated Justine Henin in an epic split-set final. She played in four other tournaments where her success was mixed, so that Serena's overall W-L match record for the year came to 25-4 -- a higher winning percentage than that of any of our other candidates. Serena was a two-Slam winner also in doubles, capturing Australian Open and Garros as partner for sister Venus, and the sisters also won the Premier Mandatory tournament in Madrid.
Serena did not compete in America during the year. But her name and presence were seldom far from public attention. There was wide discussion of her injuries and her possible return, her changing situation in the rankings, and her other public activities including her charitable role in Africa. Throughout, it was important to erase the negative picture that lingered from her outburst over a foot-fault call at U.S. Open 2009.
Serena yielded the top place in the year-to-date rankings when Wozniacki reached the semis at U.S. Open, and her lead in the rolling-12-month rankings ended the following month. She would finish the year at #4 in both rankings, which were of course identical at year's end. But the weight of her continuing massive role in representing women's tennis, the high level of her playing achievements during her short tennis year, and her exemplary personal conduct after her 2009 low, together require her resume's letter-grade of "A-Plus."
Coming in the year's first half, Serena's triumphs are less vivid in memory than those that came later by others. But our journey has reached a satisfying ending. Serena Williams has become our Player of the Year -- Female Nominee.
PLAYER OF THE DECADE 2001-2010
It would be expected that our Player of the Decade candidates would have ranked highly in our annual Player of the Year deliberations during the period. Three different superstars -- Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and Serena Williams -- were each chosen in two years of the decade as our female nominee for Player of the Year. (One-time winners were Capriati, Hingis, Sharapova, and Venus Williams.) Of the two-time winners, each was chosen Player of the Year over our male nominee in one of the years -- the only three occasions where our final top honoree was a woman. Thus our current seeking of female nominee for Player of the Decade begins with, and quickly becomes limited to, the two-time honorees -- Henin, Clijsters, and Serena.
Serena is the strong leader in the widest-used measurement of achievement -- the winning of Slams. Serena's thirteen singles Slams place her sixth on the all-time Slam-winning tally, having equaled and passed Billie Jean King during 2010. Twelve of Serena's thirteen Slam triumphs came in the current decade. She is the only active player having triumphed at least once at all four Slams. Here are the leaders in Slams won during the decade:
- Serena Williams, 12 (also won one Slam in decade 1991-2000)
- Justine Henin, 7
- Venus Williams, 5 (also won two Slams in decade 1991-2000)
- Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati, each 3
Henin's resume gains on Serena's in Justine's winning of Olympics gold in 2004. Justine also finished tops in the year-end rankings three times during the decade, Serena twice. (Lindsay Davenport also finished with the #1 ranking three times in the decade, though her several Slam triumphs all came earlier.) Both Justine and Serena won the year-ending WTA event (held in Doha, Madrid, Los Angeles, and Munich during the period) two times. Clijsters won it three times.
Thus if we add the Olympics and WTA year-end event crowns to Slam victories, Serena's margin over Justine remains significant -- fourteen such triumphs vs. ten. Justine also achieved the longest consective run atop the WTA rolling-12-month rankings during the decade at 61 weeks (2007-2008). But Serena's longest was almost as long, at 57 weeks (2002-2003). Balancing these matters, we credit Serena with a small but distinct edge over Justine in decade-long achievement.
Serena was an active player throughout the decade. Both Henin and Clijsters, although a year or two younger than Serena, played in all four Slams in the decade's first year, 2001. But both Belgian stars voluntarily missed two or more years of competition at mid-career age, returning late in the decade. Their absence weakens slightly their validity as representatives of the sport's decade, even as their sum of achievements also probably suffered in proportion. For example, Kim missed three U.S. Opens even though she won the event in the year just preceding and the two years immediately following her retirement.
It was an era of power tennis among the women, beginning when Davenport, Capriati, and the Williams sisters overtook the superb Hingis, queen of tennis late in the old decade. Without question Justine Henin performed brilliantly in her career, herself producing considerable power, her greatness magnified by her slight physical stature. But Serena stands uniquely as archetype representative of the decade's athletic and powerful new generation of women superstars.
That Henin is second in our search is clear. But Serena's strong lead in the winning of Slams, along with the place in tennis history that these triumphs have already defined, make difficult her being superseded by any contemporary. Serena Williams accordingly becomes our female nominee not only for 2010's Player of the Year but also for Player of the Decade 2001-2010.
PART TWO: WHO WILL WIN IN LONDON?
The year-end finale of men's pro tennis was moved to the O2 indoor arena in London last year after four years in Shanghai. This year's rendition of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will again be at the O2, 21-28 November, bringing together the top eight players in the ATP rankings. Although the current #1, Rafa Nadal, is too far ahead in the rankings to be overtaken as 2010's leader and champion, the event promises financial and ATP-point rewards second only to the Slams.
Last year's winner and runner-up at London -- Davydenko and del Potro -- will both be absent. But five others who played in the event last year will be on hand. These Five Primes also happen to be the top five in the 2010-to-date rankings, and all appear to be clearly ahead of the three other London entrants in their chances for current glory.
In sorting out the contenders, we begin by consulting three sets of data, each measuring a different, albeit overlapping, sampling of data. Each of the measurements produces a different favorite, but in all of them, Prime Five members monopolize the upper level.
1. OVERALL PERFORMANCE
Here are the leaders in the official ATP rankings (November 15), representing overall performance on all surfaces during year 2010 to date. Soderling only lately displaced Andy Murray at #4.
- Rafael Nadal, 11,450 ranking points
- Roger Federer, 7,645
- Novak Djokovic, 5,635
- Robin Soderling, 5,380
2. PERFORMANCE INDOORS
Here are the leaders in ATP points won in indoor events since July 2009, unofficially tallied here.
- Robin Soderling, 2,575 ranking points
- Novak Djokovic, 2,470
- Roger Federer, 1,820
- Andy Murray, 1,215
Soderling is at his best indoors, where there is no wind to disturb his high toss in serving and his sweeping groundstrokes. Djokovic's toss is also high and benefits indoors. Nadal's strengths are generally least effective in indoor play, but his score is especially low in this measurement because Rafa missed Paris Indoors 2010 and was weakened by injury at Paris Indoors and London 2009, the most important indoor events.
3. HARD-COURT PERFORMANCE (WEIGHTED FOR RECENCY)
Here are the rankings in ATP points earned on hard courts, both indoor and outdoor. Points acquired in each event are weighted according to recency, declining linearly such that events before August 2009 have zero weight.
- Roger Federer, 4,719 (points weighted for recency)
- Novak Djokovic, 3,785
- Rafael Nadal, 3,528
- Andy Murray, 3,300
Nadal is only third in this measure, where Rafa's superb clay and grass results of 2010 are not included.
The other three entrants at London -- Andy Roddick, David Ferrer, and Tomas Berdych -- can be expected to provide furious opposition in the coming match-ups. But their absence from the above lists confirms that our predicted ultimate winner must come from our Prime Five.
We now look at the head-to-head results among the Five, quantifying each head-to-head match outcome of the last two years according to (1) margin of victory, (2) recency, and (3) commonality of surface with London's. There is also a relatively small correction for age to reflect that the younger player should slightly improve relative to the older in the time elapsing from a predictor match to the target (London 2010).
Both Nadal and Murray show an edge in head-to-head play against three other members of the Five. Meanwhile Federer has the highest overall score when all head-to-head play among group members is integrated. Thus a small advantage emerges for Nadal, Murray, and Federer.
Head-to-head results among the just-mentioned three were closely divided. Nadal and Murray each won three of their six head-to-head meetings, where Murray comes out ahead in our calculation because his wins were more recent and came on surfaces closer to London's. (Murray won two of three in 2010, Nadal two of three in 2009. Murray's three wins were on hard courts including one indoors, against only one of Nadal's.) Andy also scores ahead of Federer, having won four of their seven head-to-heads in the period including in the two most recent meetings, at Shanghai and Canada 2010. Meanwhile Nadal outscored Federer, having won two of three including their only meeting of 2010, on clay at Madrid.
Not surprisingly, the evidence from the head-to-heads is mixed, where perhaps Murray merits a slight nod, somewhat balancing Andy's place somewhat below the others in our earlier indicators. One further marker remains for our consideration.
THE MESSAGE OF PARIS INDOORS
Logically the BNP Paribas championships, sometimes called the Paris Indoors, should be a good predictor for the finale in London. The two events are separated by only one week, and their surfaces and playing conditions are similar.
The late rounds at the Paris Indoors, 7-14 November 2010, produced almost non-stop spectacular tennis. On hand were all members of the world's first eight except for Nadal, who cited injury. Blistering attacking, dazzling defense, and furious, evenly-matched competition seldom waned. The galleries were energized throughout, especially by the successes of home-nation stars Michael Llodra, 30, and Gael Monfils, 24. Llodra advanced to the semis behind net-attacking of persistence and brilliance almost never seen today, while Monfils reached the final behind superb athleticism in movement and severe power in serving and stroking, like Llodra feeding off the crowd support.
As the week unfolded, one after another our Prime Five met defeat at the hands one of the French stars. Last year's Paris champion Novak Djokovic lost in his second match to Llodra, who next defeated last year's London champion Davydenko. Andy Murray was beaten in three sets by Monfils, who then, in a third-set tiebreaker, defeated Roger Federer. (Gael also in three sets defeated Verdasco, who as #9 in the rankings will be the first alternate in London.)
But surpassing the achievements of the new musketeers in Paris was that of the surviving member of our Five. The week's crown went to Robin Soderling, 26, whose final run to win the tournament included victories over both French stars. Soderling on Saturday defeated Llodra in a gripping affair settled in a third-set tiebreaker. Then in the Sunday final, the tall Swedish star defeated Monfils in straight sets, displaying brillliant accuracy in his heavyweight serving and stroking. It ended in little over one hour, completing the most prestigious tournament triumph of Robin's career, the culmination of a revival in his fortunes that began in the first half of 2009.
Does Robin's Paris triumph lift him above the other members of the Five in our estimation of his chances in London? There is always a danger of weighting the most recent result inordinately. But Soderling's readiness to challenge for the top has been on the horizon for some time. Indeed last year in the London semis he only narrowly lost to eventual runner-up del Potro in a third-set tiebreaker.
Soderling joins Federer, Murray, and Ferrer in the more difficult round-robin group in London. But my prediction is that the rocketman from Sweden, now at the peak of his career and playing in a setting ideal for his strengths, will become the event's new champion.
--Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.
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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.
Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular
competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75
singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four
years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where
the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington
Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history
of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A
tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award
from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.
Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.