Passing Shots: Djokovic a smashing success despite overhead issues
Random thoughts, observations, links and other goodies from the tennis world this week …
• Novak Djokovic's overhead smash -- on display this week at the Paris Masters -- has to be the worst shot owned by a top player. He never looks sure of himself, and he tends to slice it as opposed to swinging with conviction. Does it really go back to that botched overhead down match point against Rafael Nadal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics?
• Not that the troublesome overhead is hurting Djokovic's results lately. With Friday's victory over Stanislas Wawrinka in the Paris Masters quarterfinals, Djokovic is 15-0 since losing to Nadal in the U.S. Open final. With Djokovic still gunning for the No. 1 ranking, Nadal trying to hold him off and win his record sixth Masters title of the season, and the final three spots for the ATP World Tour Finals up for grabs at the start of the week, the Paris Masters hasn't lacked for intrigue this year.
• All eight World Tour Finals participants made the Paris quarterfinals: Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet. It's entirely possible that a finalist will be asked to play his first match in London on Monday. Good thing an extra week has been built into the schedule next year to avoid just this situation.
• I'm really looking forward to the partnership between Caroline Wozniacki and Thomas Hogstedt in 2014. The question is, How much patience will Wozniacki have if the results don't come immediately? And by "Wozniacki," I mean "Piotr."
• The ITF announced that it will push back next year's Fed Cup final one week so that it does not conflict with the WTA's Tournament of Champions. Smart and necessary move in light of how the Russian team was effectively gutted by its players' choosing Sofia over Fed Cup. But the Russian federation's problems with its players' commitment runs far deeper than a tournament conflict.
• Grigor Dimitrov had a strong end of the season, winning his first title (Stockholm Open) and pushing Federer and del Potro to three sets in losses. Now to see if coach Roger Rasheed can make him tougher both physically and mentally. He has yet to advance to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament, and I think the best-of-five format really exposes his lack of physicality. That's the next step for him.
• In an interview with The Daily Mail, Dimitrov says his most memorable moment watching a sport was girlfriend Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon triumph as a 17-year-old in 2004. Dimitrov was 13 at the time.
• Marin Cilic returned to the tour this week after receiving a reduced ban for an anti-doping violation. So much of the circumstances surrounding Cilic's positive test are head-scratching. We'll wait for the full decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport before weighing in.
• That said, the ITF tribunals' bans are so inconsistent as to be laughable.
• How about this scoreline: Japan's Ayumi Morita saved seven match points to defeat Petra Martic 6-7 (7), 7-6 (10), 6-4 in nearly three hours at the Nanjing Open.
• The ATP's nominees for Most Improved Player of the Year: Pablo Carreno Busta, Ivan Dodig, Fabio Fognini and Stanislas Wawrinka.
• Simona Halep just keeps on winning. She won her first three matches at the Tournament of Champions this week to increase her season total to 51, tied for third most with Petra Kvitova and trailing only Serena Williams (78) and Agnieszka Radwanska (56). The 14th-ranked Halep has five titles in 2013, but her lack of success at the Slams cost her a potential spot in the top 10. She's like the anti-Sloane Stephens.
• The love-fest between Radwansks and Murray is great. • And finally, a shout-out to Baccanale, a bar/cafe/restaurant in Trastevere, Italy, run by an adorable mother and son who are big tennis fans. During my week in Rome, it was the only place I could find showing the Paris Masters, and their free Wi-Fi was fast and reliable. Grazie mille!