OLD MAN FEDERER: Hobbled by a hip, Andy Murray didn’t even play the AO. Stan Wawrinka was a shell of himself and lost early to Tennys Sandgren. Novak Djokovic’s elbow let him down in the fourth round and he’s had surgery. Rafa Nadal’s knees gave out a round later. But Old Man River – Roger Federer – just keeps rolling along. His longevity is as impressive as his technique. And his love of the game and his flawless user-friendly form are key reasons for his longevity. Just over a year ago he was coming off a six-month break, was ranked No. 17, had won “only” 17 Slams and hadn’t prevailed in a major since 2012. Now he has 20 Slams, including three of the last five and soon may be the oldest man to be No. 1. He and Rafa have won the last five Slams.
BROTHERLY BLUES: Mischa and Sascha Zverev, the ATP’s foremost brothers east of the Bryans, had a tough AO. Older brother Mischa was fined around $40,000 for supposedly failing to perform at a professional standard while losing to Hyeon Chung. Younger brother Sascha also lost to Chung in the fourth round. None other than Roger Federer comforted Sascha after the devastating loss, saying the highly-hyped young German should lower his expectations. Federer said, “It’s important to sometimes take a step back and actually see the good things…Give yourself time…Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Learn from the mistakes.” For his part, Zverev said, “I have some figuring out to do. What happens to me at deciding moments in Grand Slams – it happened at Wimbledon, it happened in New York, it happened here. I’m still young, so I’ve got time.”
JUST WONDERING: If women’s tennis doesn’t have much appeal, how come tickets for the Fed Cup were going for $1,000?…Are we allowed to call a really long matchbetween two diminutive players a mini-marathon?…Will Simona Halep ever win a Slam?
ELDER FACTS: Incredibly, Federer has won three Slams while over 35 years old. Ken Rosewall won the Aussie Open when he was 37. Here are the ages when the great stars of the Open Era won their last Slams: Agassi – 32; Connors, Nadal, Sampras – 31; Djokovic – 29; Becker – 28; Edberg – 26; Borg and John McEnroe – 25.
VENUS 1000: Fourteen years and 136 days after Venus Williams emerged at the Oakland Coliseum as a 14-year old phenom, she played her 1,000th match, winning a Fed Cup match in Asheville, North Carolina. Along the way she’s won 776 matches, played 77 Slams and won 49 singles titles. Our fave Venus match: her 2005 Wimbledon win over Lindsay Davenport.
DON’T WAFFLE – BRING ON THE BELGIANS: All four Americans who played the Davis Cup opening round in Serbia contributed to a US win. Never mind that the home team was without the injured Novak Djokovic or its other top players, Sam Querrey, John Isner and the doubles team of Steve Johnson and Ryan Harrison all prevailed. Beginning on April 6-8, the US will host Belgium, who are led by David Goffin and who last year reached the finals. One question looms: Will the US go with the same lineup as in the opener, or insert our top-ranked player, Jack Sock?
OF PECS, PANTS AND PIRATES: After ten years Rafa again played with a sleeveless shirt. All of which begs the question, will he again sport those extraordinary capri pants he wore early in his career? BTW: Federer confided that when he was young, Nike had him briefly test drive those pirate pants Nadal wore for many years.
THE HOTTEST PRIESTS ON EARTH: German Andrea Petkovic’s tweets are inventive creations crowded with whimsy. Here are some:
• “I’m in a cab in NYC and the Polish driver is listening to old Julio Iglesias songs and I think we’re headed to City Hall now to get married.”
• “I am already beating everyone’s Christmas presents. I GOT A CALENDAR WITH THE HOTTEST PRIESTS ON EARTH. My friends know me well. BLESS”
• “I spent New Year’s Eve with a piece of pricey dark chocolate and a glass of cheap red wine. I then took a long shower trying to wash 2017 out my system…”
• “I’ve been reading this book on the Russian October Revolution for 10 hours straight alternating it only with food and Wonder Woman and I think I’m very confused about WWI now.”
• “If you‘re not taking cute selfies with heart filters on Instagram, are you even glutenfree.”
WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Billie Jean King, who was named the AO Woman of the Year, said that athletes need to have three things: “Your shots, your heart, your guts. And champions do it better – you have to do it day after day. It takes a tremendous amount of strength – emotionally, mentally, physically.”
CHINATOWN: In what is said to be about a $1 billion deal, the Chinese city of Shenzhen, population ten million, will be paying $14 million a year for the WTA’s year-end championships from 2019 to 2028. In contrast, the payout at the ATP’s year-end championship in London is about $8 million. A WTA tourney is already held in Shenzhen, which is just north of Hong Kong. A new 12,000-seat arena will be built.
WE DON’T WANT TO GET ALL SARCASTIC-Y, BUT HERE’S THE BEST NEW WORD OF THE YEAR: When IT asked Naomi Osaka to explain her quirky and oh-so-inventive sense of humor, she explained, “You have to use your brain to get it. But it’s also, like, sarcastic-y, like out of nowhere, like: ‘Boom’…in front of you. You have to be [in a certain mindset] like, ‘Did she really just say that?'” Okay.
WHAT DJOKOVIC LOSES THROUGH MEDITATION: Novak Djokovic told IT he meditates every day. So we asked, “Does it give you calm and insight?” He replied, “I don’t want to tell you what I gain…but I’ll tell you what I lose. I lose fear. I lose anxiety. I lose stress. At the end of the day…that’s what you’re looking for.”
HALL OF FAMERS: The International Tennis Hall of Fame will induct Czech Helena Sukova, who won 14 Slam doubles championships and German Michael Stich, the former No. 2 player who won Wimbledon.