After a furious two weeks of tennis coverage during the Australian Open, things were understandably more subdued in the tennis world last week. With no WTA events on the docket, the women dispersed all over the globe to play Fed Cup. Meanwhile, ATP players took their talents to Montpellier, Quito, and Sofia. Week five of the 2016 season also brought some eye-opening announcements: the welcomed returns of Juan Martin Del Potro, Ashleigh Barty, and Juan Monaco; and the not-so-small matter of Roger Federer's knee surgery.
Venus Williams and Martina Hingis played key roles in victories by the United States and Switzerland teams in Fed Cup last week. Both players excelled as they aimed to fulfill Olympic eligibility requirements for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Who would have thought they'd both still be competing for gold medals 19 years after playing in the 1997 U.S. Open final? Yet, Williams is still a force in singles, and Hingis is in the midst of one of the all-time great runs of success on the doubles circuit, ranked #1 alongside Sania Mirza. What Williams and Hingis have achieved in the past 12 months is nothing short of remarkable.
Learn more about the format and rules used in Fed Cup.
MY 2 CENTS
Ashleigh Barty announced her return to the WTA Tour last week. You might recall that Barty stepped away from the game at 17 to try her hand at cricket in the local leagues of Australia. Still only 19, the 3-time Grand Slam doubles finalist has decided to give tennis a go again. Barty tells WTA Insider, Courtney Nguyen, that her success in tennis came too quickly for her. Maybe she'll find even more success this time around. Maybe her tennis career will never truly develop. Maybe Barty will return to cricket at some point, or do both. Whatever comes her way, Barty seems determined to decide things on her own terms this time around. Her announcement is a wonderful bit of news to cap a great week of women's tennis.
For more Fed Cup press quotes and interviews, click HERE.
ON THE WEB
"Renaissance Woman" - Steve Tignor on Martina Hingis
"Australian Open Miracle is Story of Both Sporting and Financial Success"
"WTA 101: Olympic Eligibility"
ITF Official PDF document regarding Olympic qualification for the Rio Games
"Britain's Fed Cup Captain Judy Murray Feeling 'Fed Up'"
Fed Cup World Group Recap: Czech Republic, France, Switzerland.
Full Fed Cup results
Profile on Judy Murray from The Daily Mail
Ashleigh Barty returns to tennis
"Venus Shows No Post-Aussie Letdown in Fed Cup Performance"
Week five was a banner week for the three titlists on the ATP Tour. Richard Gasquet and Victor Estrella Burgos both defended titles from a year ago, while Roberto Bautista Agut continued his outstanding form to begin 2016 with a second trophy on the year. In fact, 2016 has been the year of title defences thus far: Wawrinka, Troicki, Gasquet, Estrella Burgos, and Djokovic. Gasquet, playing in his first tournament of the year (withdrew from the Australian Open due to injury), burst out of the gate to claim his third Open Sud de France, and 13th title overall of his career.
Estrella Burgos, 35, now owns two career ATP titles and is 10-0 in Quito. An early loss would have seen him struggling to remain in the top 100. Instead, Estrella Burgos holds steady at #56 and make the rest of his year considerably easier. As for Bautista Agut, he simply cannot stop winning in 2016. He's now 13-2 (Berdych, Coric), and his list of victims include: Sock, Troicki, Cilic, Tsonga, and Isner. Having never advanced past the fourth round of a Slam, his form thus far suggests 2016 might be his year.
MY 2 CENTS
Ashleigh Barty's return to tennis wasn't the only good news in tennis last week. Juan Martin Del Potro announced that he was ready to mount another comeback after recovering from his third wrist surgery. The Argentine has reached the semifinals of all four Slams,won the 2009 U.S. Open, and holds a career high ranking of #4. When healthy, Del Potro is easily a top 10 talent, and has shown an ability to beat the game's best players in big moments. But, one needs only look at his (lack of) appearances at Slams over the last few seasons to get a full grasp of the toll injuries have taken on his career: if he is able to play Roland Garros, it will be his first Slam since the 2014 Australian Open.
Simply put, it's wonderful to have Del Potro back, and I wish him an extended period of good health.
Full ATP singles rankings HERE.
ON THE WEB
Jon Wertheim's post-Australian Open mailbag
Relive the Australian Open with Wertheim's 50 Parting Thoughts
"Federer Hurt Knee Walking With Daughters"
"Anticipation Mounting for Alberta Tennis Centre"
"Monaco to Make Comeback in Buenos Aires"
Head of French tennis federation on the verge of being fired?
Juan Martin Del Potro to Return for Delray Beach
"Estrella Burgos Rallies to Retain Quito Crown"
Eric Butorac: What it's Like to Practice with Novak Djokovic
Beyond the Baseline: "Australian Open Wrap-up"
No Challenges Remaining:"Novak Sends us Home"
Tennis.com: "Australian Open Recap"
Tennis Connected: "Reviewing Djokovic & Kerber's Dominance Down Under"
MTO: "Australian Open 2016"
WTA Insider: "Ker-Pow! Angelique Kerber Wins the Australian Open"
Catch up on previous editions of #ThisWeekInTennis