Monday February 8th, 2010

1. The Fed Cup didn't exactly threaten the Super Bowl -- or, for that matter, UFC 109 -- as the weekend's biggest sporting event. But the competition served up some spirited tennis and intriguing results. In Lievin, France, the U.S. team pulled an upset grande. Melanie Oudin played the best tennis since her U.S. Open breakthrough, winning both her matches. And Bethanie Mattek-Sands won in singles and in doubles alongside Liezel Huber. The Williams sisters didn't play and can't really be blamed; the competition isn't exactly a top priority, even within the sport. But the U.S. B-team earned a solid "A." Well done.

2. In the most compelling match-up, Russia beat Serbia, 3-2, in Belgrade. The good news for the Serbs: Struggling Jelena Jankovic won both her matches. The less good news for the Serbs: Struggling Ana Ivanovic had a rough time of it, losing both her singles matches. In a three-set defeat to Alisa Kleybanova, Ivanovic committed 51 unforced errors. "I tried to play more aggressively," she conceded tearfully afterwards. "But I'm struggling psychologically."

3. What a difference a major makes. Three weeks ago, the talk around men's tennis was the opening of the field. As many as eight players appeared to have a legitimate chance of winning the Australian and the hottest player in the men's game was not Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal but ... Nikolay Davydenko. Federer runs the table to win Grand Slam No. 16 and -- just like that -- talk has gone back to: "Can anyone step up and beat Roger?" "Will Federer win all four Slams?" "Does the Federer-Nadal rivalry still exist?" Suddenly, it's 2006 all over again.

4. Croatian sensation Marin Cilic followed up his Australian Open semifinal appearance (and Chennai title before that) by successfully defending his title in Zagreb. "It was not easy to meet people's expectations, but I'm proud with what I've done," he said. Particularly with so many colleagues banged up -- Nadal, Andy Roddick, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to name three -- Cilic has real chance to make a big move here.

5. We're so accustomed the global nature of tennis that results like this go unremarked upon: Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK) def. K Beck (SVK) / H Levy (ISR) 26 63 10-5 in the South African Tennis Open final. So many other sports devote great time and resources to expanding their footprint; in tennis, an Indian and his Pakistani partner beat an Israeli and Slovak in the final of an event held in Johannesburg. Isn't there some real equity here?

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