First Ball In, 7/23: Ranking File
It was a quiet Wednesday in the tennis world, at least on the courts. None of the top seeds at the three men’s events, in Atlanta (John Isner), Gstaad (Mikhail Youzhny), and Umag (Fabio Fognini), will play their opening matches until Thusday, and neither of the top two seeds at the women’s event in Baku (Sorana Cirstea and Elina Svitolina) were in action today. I guess that’s one way to maintain ticket buyers' interest in your tournament: Keep the big names from losing by keeping them off the court for as long as possible.
To me, the one developing story of interest is Jack Sock’s in Atlanta. He won his second straight-setter, over New Zealander Michael Venus, today, and might face Denis Istomin in the next round. I’m curious to see whether Sock’s Wimbledon doubles victory with Vasek Pospisil, which he said was the best two weeks of his life, has any residual effect on singles game, and his attitude in general. Sock showed more enthusiasm for the sport than I’ve ever seen from him at Wimbledon. Now: How long can those good vibes last, how much can they help, how much does confidence translate from doubles to singles? We’ll find out more from the American this week.
Without much new to ponder today, it may be a good moment to take a step back and see what has happened to the rankings after Wimbledon. This is something of an odd, and possibly transitional, moment on both tours. Here are a few things that come to mind looking down both Top 10 lists.
—Novak Djokovic is back at No. 1; Rafael Nadal at No. 2. This isn’t a surprise, considering how hot Djokovic was at the end of 2013, and how many points Nadal had to defend this spring. That goes double when you think about Rafa’s history at No. 1—he’s never held the spot for back-to-back seasons—and the history of the Nadal/Djokovic rivalry. You can usually bet that the one in second place will eventually be back in first. Still, with the number of points Nadal has to defend through the U.S. Open, it looks like Djokovic will have a decent run at No. 1 before it’s Rafa’s turn again.
—Roger Federer is No. 3; Stan Wawrinka is No. 4. “I’ll always feel like I’m behind Roger,” said Wawrinka soon after he had won the Aussie Open and passed Federer in the rankings. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. With Federer just behind Djokovic and Nadal, the Big 3 is back together again.
—But what about the Big 4? The fourth, Andy Murray, is currently ranked No. 10. That’s partly due to the back surgery that kept him out at the end of 2013, and partly due to a title-less 2014 so far. Murray announced today that he’ll keep working with Amelie Mauresmo. His post-Lendl career will begin in earnest in a couple of weeks.
—Milos Raonic is No. 7; Grigor Dimitrov is No. 9. Two 23-year-olds have joined the adults. This is what revolution looks like on the ATP tour today.
—Simona Halep is No. 3. It didn't take long for this not to feel like a shock.
—Petra Kvitova is No. 4. Kvitova, who can beat anyone, also belongs closer to the top than she has been; the WTA could use her in the mix there.
—Maria Sharapova is No. 6. Like Murray, her ranking dropped after a late-season injury in 2013; unlike Murray, she has begun the climb back upward.
—Genie Bouchard is No. 7. The 20-year-old is behind Serena, Li Na, Halep, Kvitova, Radwanska, and Sharapova. I’m not sure I see her climbing much higher for a while.
—Victoria Azarenka is No. 10. Thinking she has another run at No. 1 in her.
John Isner vs. Robbie Ginepri: A native Georgian takes on a former Georgia Bulldog. It doesn’t get any bigger in Atlanta.
Vasek Pospisil/Jack Sock vs. Benjamin Becker/Frank Moser: Can the Wimbledon champs be a consistent force in doubles?
Viktor Troicki vs. Andrey Golubev: Troicki will play the second match of his comeback.
Borna Coric vs. Horacio Zeballos: The 17-year-old Croatian goes for career win No. 2.
Fabio Fognini vs. Albert Montanes: Montanes knocked off another 17-year-old, Alexander Zverev, in his opener. Fognini? What can he do for his next atrocious act?
Donna Vekic vs. Kristina Mladenovic: They’ve both had some good wins in the last few months.
For Further Reading
It was a day for off-court, rather than on-court news. The happenings ranged from:
Not surprising: Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo agreed to keep working together, while Sloane Stephens and Paul Annacone agreed not to keep working together. Even in their glory week, at Indian Wells this spring, their chatter felt forced. He specializes in the seasoned pro, and she isn’t exactly that yet.
Semi-surprising: Nicole Vaidisova, former Top Tenner and former wife of Radek Stepanek, is talking comeback at age 25, after four years away. Who knows, another ex of Stepanek's just won Wimbledon.
Surprising: Neil Harman, tennis correspondent for the Times of London, resigned from the International Tennis Writers’ Association after admitting to plagiarism in his work on the Wimbledon Annual, a tournament yearbook that he has written for a decade. I’ve always liked Neil as a person and a writer, and considered his pieces in the Times essential reading, so this comes as a shock. Just as shocking is that Wimbledon knew about it last year and continued to sell the book. Ben Rothenberg has a thorough examination here.