Five for Friday: Olympic decisions; Sam Querrey, Melanie Oudin on the rise
BIRMINGHAM, England -- On a day when rain of biblical proportions has washed out play at the AEGON Classic, here are a few thoughts on the events of this week:
1. Sweden leaves Sofia Arvidsson in the cold. For months, players have done everything they could to satisfy the ITF's Olympic qualification requirements, which generally meant making themselves available for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup and getting their ranking into the top 56 for singles. Now they wait anxiously to see what the official nominations are from their national federations. For most countries, meeting the ITF's requirements is generally sufficient. But some federations have imposed even stricter requirements, dashing a number of Olympic dreams.
One of those players is Arvidsson of Sweden. Arvidsson, ranked No. 48, a devoted Fed Cup team member and winner of the Fed Cup Heart award (she almost single-handedly propelled Sweden over Great Britain in April), has been left off her country's Olympic team. Sweden insists that it won't send players to London unless they are "capable of a top-eight finish" -- a highly subjective and, well, let's just say it, unfair metric.
Arvidsson took to Twitter to vent her displeasure:
Unfortunately, Arvidsson will likely have some company on the sidelines. Germany requires its players to be ranked within the top 24, meaning that Julia Goerges, ranked No. 25 at the cut-off, and Mona Barthel, ranked No. 32, need to beg the German federation for an exemption. Austria, Belgium and New Zealand also impose additional hurdles that could keep players like 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Tamira Paszek, David Goffin and Marina Erakovic out of the competition.
Every national federation undeniably has the right to send the team it wants to the Olympics, but it's curious that cash-rich countries like Germany and Sweden that can afford to send large Olympic teams are choosing instead to shrink them. Does the ITF have enough clout to push back on the federations and make them reconsider their nominations? We'll have to wait and see. Official team nominations will be announced by June 28.
2. Bollywood couldn't make this up. Adding to the Olympics drama is the ridiculous amount of politicking involved in the selection of India's doubles team in London. Leander Paes is the only man who's qualified directly for doubles by ranking, which means, of course, that he needs a partner. The two obvious candidates, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, explicitly told the Indian federation that they refused to play with Paes, noting that they want to play as a separate team (India could opt to send two teams).
But it looks like the power play didn't work. The All Indian Tennis Association has chosen to break up the duo, effectively forcing Bhupathi to play with Paes instead of simply sending two teams. The Bhupathi-Paes team has failed to medal at three Olympics, and their up-and-down, acrimonious relationship hasn't helped. Bhupathi and Bopanna released a joint statement blasting the decision and asking the AITA to reconsider:
To not send one of the best tennis teams in the world to the Olympics - and to, instead, choose to nominate one that has had four previous unsuccessful attempts - fails to put the interests of the nation first. Moreover, choosing to send only one team when India was entitled to two denies two highly accomplished players of the privilege and opportunity to represent the country at the Olympics. This is a sad day for Indian tennis from all perspectives.
We'll see if the AITA revisits its decision. How could it possibly think a forced pairing is the way to go here?
3. Melanie Oudin and Sam Querrey roll on grass. Two comeback stories are flourishing on the English grass this week. It's hard to believe that Querrey won the title in Queens a mere two years ago. It's also easy to forget how promising his career was before a freak accident (yes, falling through a glass table counts) knocked him off tour. To the 24-year-old American's credit, he's slowly making his way back and his results have improved week-to-week. His return to Queens has been a memorable one so far, as he's into the semifinals with some quality wins over Denis Istomin and Julien Benneteau.
And if you want to talk about someone building momentum, Oudin has played some solid tennis in Birmingham. She made it through qualifying, rallied to upset No. 10 seed Sorana Cirstea in the first round and rolled in her last two matches to reach the quarterfinals, where she'll face fellow American Irina Falconi.
All in all, it's great to see these two on the upswing. They're two of the nice ones.
4. Halle. If I'm the LTA right now, I am tugging at my collar for some air as I watch all the British tournaments struggle through rain and player complaints about court conditions -- Lisa Raymond likened the courts in Birmingham to green clay -- while the tournament in Halle, Germany, brags about its roof and of possibly adding a women's event in 2014. The British tournaments already struggle with getting big names given the quick turnaround between the French Open and Wimbledon, and now Germany is offering what sounds like a more reliable (and tax-friendly) alternative for both the men and women. Gotta leave it to those Germans. They just know how to get things done right these days. 5. Music for rainy days. What does a tennis writer do on a Friday in Birmingham with no tennis to cover because of the rain? Play around with iTunes and make a "Rain Delay" play list. My five songs of choice: The Beatles, Rain; Bishop Allen, Rain; The Carpenters, Rainy Days and Mondays; Missy Elliot, The Rain; Quasi, It's Raining. Got some suggestions for me? Drop them in the comments.