Welcome to the first installment of "This Week in Tennis," a weekly series recapping the goings-on in the world of tennis. The first week of the 2016 season delivered it all: familiar champions, new faces, retirements, withdrawals, drama, marquee match-ups, and young guns on the come-up. If this week is any indication of what's to come in 2016, we're in for quite a ride.
Week 1 winners:
Tennis fans were treated to the 47th edition of Djokovic vs. Nadal right off the bat in Doha. Those hoping for a reversal of fortune for Rafael Nadal were made to suffer through yet another convincing win by Djokovic; he has now won 11 consecutive sets versus Nadal spanning their last five matches, and 9 of 10 matches overall since Nadal beat him to win the 2013 U.S. Open. The 6-1 6-2 scoreline in a mere 73 minutes -- with Djokovic winning two-thirds of the total points -- underscores just how good the world number one has been over the last 12 months. For Nadal, a final to start his 2016 campaign is something he can continue to build on as he looks to ensure a more successful season this year than last. Incredibly, Djokovic actually increases his lead at #1 as his Doha title comes after losing in the quarterfinals to Ivo Karlovic last year. Spanning the last calendar year, Djokovic has not lost before reaching the final of any tournament he's entered.
Q. I believe this was the first match that you have had Carlos Bernardes in the chair since Rio. I was just wondering, did you guys have a conversation before the season or anything? Chris Kermode had mentioned that you needed to clear the air before the new season.
RAFAEL NADAL: No.
If you were not paying attention to the tennis in Doha this week, you may have missed that Carlos Bernardes resumed officiating Rafael Nadal's matches. When this story broke last year, there was confusion as to whether it was even legal for Nadal to make such a request. It tuned out to be not as unusual as one might think. I asked Bernardes about this in Cincinnati and he reiterated that it was not unusual for players and umpires to request a break from each other. Bernardes said that it only got as much press as it did because of how high profile a player Nadal is. In sum, tennis fans and media made a bigger deal out of this issue than needed. Still, this will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses to see if the two have any further run-ins.
On the Web:
"Tennis bad boys play good boys: Tomic, Kygrios now older, wiser"
Jon Werthem has a few choice words for Brad Gilbert in his latest mailbag.
Kyrgios/Gavrilova lead Australia to Hopman Cup title.
"Milos Raonic Defeats Roger Federer in Brisbane Final"
Week 1 winners:
Genie Bouchard made her return to the WTA Tour in Shenzhen. Save for an aborted first round effort in Beijing, Bouchard was absent from the WTA schedule after her fall at the U.S. Open last year. She’s subsequently filed suit against the USTA claiming damages for lost earnings. Given the uncertainty surrounding her health for much of the past four months, her two wins in Shenzhen bode well for a full recovery. Moreover, there's the not-so-small matter of Bouchard trying to put her dreadful 2015 season on court behind her as well. Entering last week, Bouchard held the #49 ranking and faces the prospect of slipping even further if she is unable to defend her quarterfinal ranking points this year at the Australian Open. With so much negativity hovering over Bouchard in recent times, her two wins prove a welcomed breath of fresh air.
Azarenka: It was a constant battle with pain, with my own fear. Like is it going to hurt again? I don't want to go through that. So it was a lot of that. But it took me to a point where I decided, Okay, I got to stop and try to figure out and actually change my life around the tennis court.
I had a lot of changes last year, so it took a little bit of time to regroup, reorganize, mature a little bit, understand how to organize yourself. I'm like a freak right now. Like I'm super organized. Like my bag has to be a certain way. This has to be a certain way. I've never been like this. I was a little bit messy. I just didn't care. I would throw things around. My mom was getting so pissed off with me.
Now I found what works for me, what makes me feel comfortable, calm, at peace. So it's good.
Serena Williams' withdrawal from the Hopman Cup due to knee inflammation raised questions about her readiness to defend her Australian Open title in Melbourne. Given that the world #1 decided to forego the fall season after the U.S. Open in an effort to attend to her numerous ailments, it is disconcerting to see her withdraw from her first event back on the circuit. Perhaps her withdrawal in Perth was due more to Williams exercising caution than indicative of any serious, lingering issues. But, the sight of her struggling with a knee issue does not inspire confidence as she gears up for a run at a 22nd Grand Slam title. Days after her curtailed appearance at the Hopman Cup, Williams was seen practising in Melbourne, site of the Australian Open starting January 18. Of all the withdrawals and retirements in week one, Williams' is the one that looms largest over the WTA season. Its biggest star and best player, Williams has thousands of points to defend in 2016; after a banner year in 2015, when she finished two matches shy of completing the Calendar Slam, all eyes will be on Williams (and her knee) in the lead-up to the Australian Open.
On The Web:
WTA Insider profile of Kasatkina from September, 2015.
The Broady-Ostapenko Affair
On the state of the Australian Open women's draw with spate of withdrawals/retirements
Roberta Vinci on her life post-US Open upset of Serena Williams
"Get To Know Samantha Crawford"
Thinking about getting into tennis podcasts? Check this section every week for a list of tennis podcast episodes released during the week. Of course, be sure to also check out The Body Serve, hosted by yours truly.
Tennis.com: "Hello, Friends: Week One Woes."
No Challenges Remaining: "Wobbly Stars & Fierce Pearce"
Beyond the Baseline: Hosted by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated. This week features former ATP top 10 player, Mario Ancic.
Realz Tenis Fanz: "Happy New Year - Realz Tenis Fanz Questions of 2016"