Monday February 22nd, 2010

1. Ring in the old: It was a good week for players in need in strong results. Some of you wondered why Maria Sharapova would take a pass on the well-paying Dubai event to enter Memphis. Perhaps the answer: to bolster her confidence and get in some matches and pick up some appearance-fee bounty in the process. She did all three at the Regions Morgan Keegan event, winning her first title of 2010. Other highlights from the bank of the Mississippi: Ernests Gulbis, a top 10 prospect not long ago, put together some nice wins and reached the semis. Nicole Vaidisova, whose career has been in the abyss, won a main draw match for the first time in a long time. In Dubai, Venus Williams, perhaps still stung by a disappointing loss in the Aussie Open quarters, won her 42nd career title, beating Victoria Azarenka in the finals. Don't count her out yet. Michael Llodra won both the singles and doubles in Marseille. David Nalbandian returned in Buenos Aires. Juan Carlos Ferrero, suddenly resurgent, won his second title in two weeks taking the BA title.

2. Ring in the new: For the first time in a decade, neither Andy Roddick nor James Blake will be suiting up for the U.S. Davis Cup campaign when this year's first round gets under way next month. The new singles line-up: Sam Querrey and John Isner -- all 13-plus feet of them -- will carry the flag against the Serbs during the first weekend in March. Tennis being heavy in irony, the new teammates met for the first time last weekend in the Memphis final -- the tallest match-up in tennis history -- just days after the selection was announced. Querrey prevailed in three sets. The two also paired to reach the doubles final. The arrival of two new young, hard-serving top-20 caliber players is a welcome sight to those who root for American tennis. Let this double as an occasion to acknowledge the contributions of Roddick and Blake.

3. Medic!: Last Tuesday, the WTA issued an email with scores from Dubai. Here were the first five entries:

(1) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) d. Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) 62 76(2)

(2) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) d. Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) w/o (low back injury)

(3) Venus Williams (USA) d. Sabine Lisicki (GER) 62 63

(4) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) 41 ret. (left knee sprain)

Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) d. (5) Elena Dementieva (RUS) 64 11 ret. (right shoulder injury)

Oh, and by the way, Juan Martin del Potro is still hurt, Serena Williams pulled out of an exhibition (!) with a leg injury, and Roger Federer is out of Dubai with a lung infection.

We'll say it again: in tennis, the emperors and empresses are wearing new clothes -- and the emsemble consists of an ice pack, a sling and an ace bandage. For all the ambitious talk of "road maps" and "rebranding" and "Brave New Worlds" and Davis Cup alternatives and All-Star games, it's all worthless if you have no product. The rate of injury is just unacceptable -- and the response from the decisonmakers is unacceptable silence. Is it the length of the season? The ultra-light rackets and the polystester strings that beg for overhitting? Are matches too long? Do players overtrain? I don't know. But I do know that if I were in charge, I would be devoting millions to figuring it out.

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