The grass season has begun and this marks the beginning of Roger Federer’s good time. The world knows, Federer knows that his best chance of winning a Grand Slam is at Wimbledon. He has won the tournament a record seven times and has finished runner up for the past two years. This season, Federer chose to opt out of the French Open (ending a 65 Grand Slam appearance streak), to prepare for the grass season.
2016 has been the first season when Roger Federer has had to pull out of tournaments due to injuries. Federer, known for his injury-free career has so far struggled to defend points and win trophies. The last time Federer had not won a tournament so far into the season was in 2013 and that year the only tournament he won was at Halle. Federer would be playing two tournaments (Stuttgart and Halle) before Wimbledon. In the ongoing tournament at Stuttgart, Federer will face Thiem in the semi finals, against whom he has a 1-1 Head to Head record. Thiem has had a dream run this year, reaching a career high of No. 7 in the world rankings. Federer would play Thiem for the third time this year, third time overall. They have played on a different surface each time. Federer beat Thiem at the Brisbane Open (Hard) and lost to him at Rome (Outdoor Clay). Thiem is second on the list of matches won this year, behind only Novak Djokovic. Playing the second semi final at Stuttgart is Juan Martin DelPotro, making a comeback on the tour. The former world No. 4 is ranked 223 today, but whatever he does, he ll be moving in just one direction.
Federer now has the second most match wins in the Open era with 1072 victories. Amongst active players, the next player on list is a far stretching Nadal with 796 victories. Federer is pushing 35 years old and is still breaking records. This could be the light at the end of a gloomy 2016 tunnel and I wish things start looking up for Roger. Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon, not that he was considered a serious threat. Wimbledon has never been Nadal’s favourite tournament nor has grass been his favourite surface. He has had a sorry record for the past couple of years and he would want to be in better shape for the Olympics and for the hard court season.
Amongst all the small talk within the tennis world, one issue that has been lingering around for the last couple of months has been Sharapova’s verdict. Well, she has been banned from playing professional tennis for the next two years. Though, she would be challenging the verdict, the decision has received consent from most of the players on tour. Sharapova’s ban will cost her dearly in terms on endorsements and on-court wins. We had seen a similar situation in the case of Tiger Woods when major brands had distanced themselves when he was in the midst of a public meltdown. Over the years, Sharapova has been the face of many leading brands and has been the highest paid female athlete in terms of endorsements for the past two years. It has been estimated that if Sharapova’s ban sticks, she is going to miss out on $18 million at the very least. The ITF’s Tribunal said that Sharapova is the sole author of her misfortune, and the ITF has taken a no-tolerance stand on this one. Sharapova had been taking the drug (meldonium) since 2006 for health issues and the drug was banned only in 2016. She could appeal the Tribunal’s decision but this reminds me of a legal maxim, Ignorantia juris non excusat, which means ignorance of law excuses no one. One needs to be careful of what goes into one’s body!