This week, we discuss our impressions of the 2013 season so far in a Changeover Chat, a quick back-and-forth exchange between the writing staff at The Changeover. For previous Changeover Chats, click here.
Lindsay: With all of us traveling to different tennis tournaments, it’s been a few weeks since we’ve been able to all get together for a Changeover Chat. Since we’re suddenly more than one-third of the way through the tennis year, it’s a good time to take stock of what has happened so far.
Let’s start with the positive. Which players have you guys been the most impressed with in 2013?
Amy: I think the obvious choice for me is Rafael Nadal. Many people, myself included, weren’t sure what to expect from Rafa after such a long injury absence. Aside from getting the big results quickly, which is impressive in itself, it’s also a good sign that Rafa has been able to play a somewhat regular schedule with seemingly no huge concerns about his knees.
Juan José: I agree with that, Amy. The man has not lost before a final, and he won three straight tournaments heading into Monte-Carlo, including a hard court Masters 1000. An amazing comeback.
I have to say, I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that David Ferrer would be about an inch away from winning Miami. That was rather unexpected.
Maria Sharapova has been very impressive, too: she’s only lost three matches this year, two of those against World No. 1 Serena Williams. And in her last loss to her frequent tormentor, Sharapova was up a set and a break, playing some of the best tennis of her life.
Lindsay: I was really impressed with how Victoria Azarenka started out the year, defending her Australian Open title and then beating Serena. Of course, her foot issues have slowed that down, but her January and February were great.
Amy: The top-ranked players Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have been impressive. Beating Rafa in Monte-Carlo is a pretty big feat. And Serena’s just virtually untouchable if she can stay healthy.
Lindsay: Agreed on both counts. It’s been a pretty impressive start of the year for the players at the top of the rankings on both tours, except maybe for Federer, who is ninth in the ATP Race rankings, but that’s mainly due to his scheduling decisions.
Juan José: Roger Federer’s main issue this year has been failing to defend the three titles he won early in 2012 (Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells, for a grand total of 2000 points). Federer didn’t even make the final in any of those three events – in fact, he only made one semi.
Djokovic had a weird trajectory, in which he was wildly impressive (almost 2011-esque) until after Dubai ended. But then, couldn’t make a final during the Indian Wells-Miami double (two events where he’s done very well historically), only to rebound with an astounding win over Nadal in Monte Carlo. Overall, a fantastic start of the year for him, the Miami Tommy Haas trashing notwithstanding.
And completely agreed on Azarenka – she was phenomenal until her body started to give her trouble.
Amy: Richard Gasquet has had a really great start to the year, winning a couple of titles already, and reaching a Masters semi in Miami. Also, he’s up to No. 9 in the rankings, just two spots away from his career-high ranking of No. 7.
Juan José: Gasquet is a great pick. He’s been very consistent, and I like how he is aiming higher than his “top 15 level” quote from last year: he now wants to get into the World Tour Finals!
Lindsay: Absolutely, he’s seemingly ready to embrace his top 10 status. Also, Tommy Haas has shocked and awed, making a final in San Jose and then the semis in Miami. What a show he has put on.
From the younger generation, Tomic impressed to start the year but hasn’t really maintained consistency. Same for Gulbis. And the WTA rising stars, Robson, Keys, Stephens, etc., have all had moments to shine, which has been fun to watch in 2013.
Juan José: In Tomic’s case, he keeps improving at a very incremental rate. Still plays great in Australia – and still looks very much like a work in progress elsewhere. Case in point, he lost today in Barcelona to Juan Monaco 6-0, 6-2.
Lindsay: Errani has been able to successfully stay in the conversation this year, which I thought was impossible, and her friend Vinci has been impressive too. It’s nice to see both of them continuing to gain ground instead of fading after one great year, as we often see.
How about the other end of the spectrum? Who has been the most disappointing so far in 2013?
Amy: I’m going to have to go with Del Potro. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance in Indian Wells, but we’ve also seen some inexcusably bad showings from the Argentinian this year. If he wants to be more than just a streaky player who can beat the Big Four when he gets hot, he needs to grow up and work on that consistency.
Juan José: He’s had exactly two flashes of brilliance (Rotterdam and Indian Wells). Everything else has been pretty disappointing. It seems to me that DelPo is quite happy to bide his time until at least half the Big Four move out of the tour. Which is disappointing, because he can surely do more damage than he thinks he can if he were to compete at a high level week in and week out (especially at Masters 1000s).
Lindsay: I was really disappointed in Angelique Kerber to start the year. I know she had back problems, but she’s been basically a non-factor except for the weird Indian Wells experience. And then she lost to Ivanovic in straight sets in Fed Cup? Bizarre.
Juan José: I think a lot of people (myself included) expected big things from her, but so far, there hasn’t been much to even justify her lofty ranking.
Lindsay: Radwanska’s disappointed me as well. There seems to be no commitment to actually being a top player, with her scheduling, her choices during matches, everything. She really proved last year that talent-wise she was not a fluke in the top 3, but now she seems to be reversing all of that good fortune.
And, of course, my American boys have been a huge disappointment. Harrison, Querrey, Isner. No words. Isner, of course, showed signs of life in Houston. I hope that continues.
Amy: How about a doubles shout-out to the Bryan Brothers? They’re in a bit of a slump at the moment, which is such a rare thing in their case.
Juan José: Three absolutely heartbreaking losses for the Bryans on three consecutive weekends. An amazing streak.
Lindsay: But it’s injury-related, mainly. Mike pulled out of Barcelona with a wrist injury, and I know Bob has been having back problems as well. They seem to be just a little off their game—losing the close matches they usually win—and I think health is a big factor. Not confident in their bodies in big moments. I wish they’d take some time off, but that’s very rare for them. Still, you’re right, if they have match points, they need to convert.
What do we think of Federer’s form in 2013?
Amy: Well, he lost to Julien Benneteau, so that tells you all you need to know. But in all seriousness, it’s hard to say. He’s cut back the schedule quite a bit. I did think he played well in Melbourne.
Juan José: Hasn’t it been an age-appropriate year for Federer? The man has played a gazillion matches in his career, and is going to be 32 in August.
Lindsay: Yes, and he was obviously hobbled in Indian Wells, though that loss to Nadal was still a bit jarring.
Amy: I’d put him in the “wait and see” category.
Juan José: It’ll be interesting to see how Federer deals with the inevitable niggling injuries that guys his age have had to deal with not only in tennis, but in all sports. It’s usually a much tougher adjustment for players who don’t have a history of getting injured and recovering.
Lindsay: And Andy Murray? I feel like had it not been for his stinker in Monte-Carlo we might be talking about him more in the “impressive” category.
Amy: Murray’s had an excellent start to the year.
Juan José: Murray avoided his usual post-Australian Open string of horrible losses, and made it back to No. 2, albeit for a little bit. If Murray gets it together on clay (big If, but still), he’s the only guy who can challenge Djokovic for the year-end No. 1, given how well he does on grass and hard courts.
Lindsay: What’s the one match that sticks out for you from 2013 so far?
Juan José: Djokovic-Wawrinka. Hands down. And Gulbis-Nadal.
Amy: Yeah, I’d say Djokovic-Wawrinka was pretty memorable. Also, Del Potro vs. Djokovic in Indian Wells.
Juan José: On the women’s side, the Miami final was fascinating until 4-3 in the second set.
Lindsay: For me it was Azarenka-Li in the Australian Open final. That match had absolutely EVERYTHING.
Amy: Yes, that Australian Open women’s final was certainly memorable, if for all the wrong reasons.
Juan José: That match was dramatic and very surreal … but far from excellent.
Lindsay: Also, Azarenka-Serena in Doha. I enjoyed that a lot. I just need drama and guts to really enjoy a match. I think quality is often in the eye of the beholder.
Juan José: In terms of quality, Djokovic-Wawrinka stands way above everything else. That match was insane. Also had one of the great match points in recent history, no?
Lindsay: Absolutely. That match wins.
Amy: I also really enjoyed Murray-Federer at the Aussie Open. That was high drama, especially the end of the fourth set.
Lindsay: That was fun. So was Fed-Tsonga, for a while.
How about the worst match of the year so far?
Amy: Kvitova-Robson at the Australian Open. That was very, very bad.
Juan José: That was pretty brutal, yes. AND I LIVEBLOGGED IT. Though I will say the last third of it was interesting.
Amy: Also, Monfils-Simon at the Australian Open.
Juan José: Monfils-Simon in a landslide. That was a crime against the sport.
Lindsay: Yeah, Monfils/Simon. The ultimate proof that long rallies and long hours do not equal quality tennis.
Juan José: I loved that quote that was relayed by someone, where Ivanisevic said that both guys had to be jailed after such a thing. If anything, Monfils-Simon is the ultimate argument for best-of-three matches in the early rounds of slams
Amy: The Miami men’s final was pretty bad.
Juan José: It wasn’t great, but not nearly at the putrid level of the ones discussed above.
Lindsay: And of course, Amy’s favorite match, Dolgo/Delpo in Monte-Carlo.
Amy: Yeah, that was really bad too.
What do you think of the 2013 season so far? Sound off in the comments below.