Berdych, Kyrgios end their seasons

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It became a trend some time ago.

On Thursday, the latest to join the “end your season early” gang were Tomas Berdych and, later in the day, Nick Kyrgios.

Kyrgios had appeared hobbled by a number of issues in recent months – his shoulder and his knees. But mostly, a hip issue he has carried since Queen’s Club, just before Wimbledon.

He said awhile back that he would probably need surgery on it some day.

But he doesn’t want that day to be now.

“I have played a huge amount of tennis since coming back from my hip injury in Washington and unless I want this to escalate to an injury that requires surgery, I need to listen to my body and my team,” Kyrgios said in a statement released on Twitter.

“This year hasn’t been as successful as I would have liked, especially at the Slams although it has been positive in some other areas. It’s been no secret that I have had some sad moments to deal with away from the court which have added to my disappointments throughout the year.”

Berdych

Berdych’s back woes

Berdych, who began the season in the top 10, is currently down at No. 18 and announced  he’s skipping the final two weeks of the season because of persistent back pain.

It had been fairly evident in recent months that he was a mere shadow of his former self.

“I have been playing matches with back pain since Wimbledon and in my last match in Beijing I felt like it was not getting better,” Berdych wrote on Twitter.

“And I was advised by my medical team to give it a few weeks of rest, and to have treatment, in order to be completely (healthy) and pain free and to be ready to compete at the start of 2018.”

Early-birds club membership full

The two players join an ever-larger group of top-20 players on the men’s side who have called an early end to their season.

Berdych

Novak Djokovic: Retired after the first set of his quarterfinal match against Berdych at Wimbledon, announced July 26 he was shutting it down for 2017.

Stan Wawrinka: After reaching the French Open final, lost first round at both Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. Announced Aug. 4 he was having a procedure on his knee and would be out for the remainder of 2017.

Kei Nishikori: Lost his first match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, then felt a “pop” in the wrist while practicing in Cincinnati. Announced Aug. 16 he was out for the season with a wrist issue, but was opting not to have surgery.

Andy Murray: Lost to Sam Querrey in five sets – the last two went 6-1, 6-1 – in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Pulled out of Beijing and Shanghai Sept. 6, and out of the Paris Masters Oct. 13, which basically ended his season.

Milos Raonic: Lost his first match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, pulled out of Cincinnati and the US Open. Underwent a procedure on his wrist, then returned for the ATP Tour event in Tokyo. Won his first match with a one-handed backhand, then withdrew before his second match with a calf issue. Raonic  withdrew from the final two events of the season earlier this week.

Season over for Milos Raonic

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Canadian Milos Raonic was the No. 3 player in the world as the 2017 season began.

He had just turned 26. And given no one knew at the time that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would have renaissance seasons, there was every hope that finally, in 2017, the Canadian might do something big.

But as with so many of the top players in 2017, it didn’t turn out that way.

And after withdrawing from Vienna next week and the Paris Masters the week after that, Raonic’s 2017 season is officially over.

He’s currently ranked No. 12.

With the 760 points he now cannot defend in Paris and at the ATP Tour Finals, Raonic could well drop out of the top 20 by season’s end.

As always, injuries played a large role in the Canadian’s struggles. His health situation was even worse than in 2016. A year ago, he managed his issues well enough that when he did play, he performed well.

Great results amid the injuries

Raonic began 2016 with a win over Roger Federer and a title in Brisbane. Only an adductor injury that worsened in the Australian Open semifinals against Andy Murray got in the way of an even bigger run there.

He returned only at Indian Wells and reached the final, as then the quarters in Miami. Raonic battled to the Queen’s Club final and the Wimbledon final and lost in a third-set tiebreak in the semis of the ATP Tour finals to close out the season at a career-high ranking.

But 2017 was different.

He began the season with a thigh injury – it’s always the same problematic area. And then he missed the Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in early February. Missing Davis Cup has been a consistent feature of the past few years.

Raonic returned a few weeks later at a small tournament in Delray Beach, Fla. and reached the final. But then withdrew before facing American Jack Sock. He missed Indian Wells and tried in Miami, but withdrew before his second match. 

The clay-court season featured consistent attendance – five tournaments, including small ones in Istanbul and Lyon – and a fourth round against Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain that he dropped 8-6 in the fifth set.

weekend
Raonic reached the final in Istanbul in his first tournament since withdrawing from Miami about six weeks prior.

But by then, a left wrist issue was proving problematic. 

North American summer scuttled

Raonic played the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. in large part because the ATP Tour ranking rules penalized him if he didn’t add a 500 event to his schedule. He reached the quarters, but lost his first match in Montreal, pulled out of Cincinnati and had a procedure on the wrist as he missed the US Open as well.

He returned for Tokyo, and was pretty happy about it even if he basically defeated Viktor Troicki with one arm in the first round. 

 

A post shared by Milos Raonic (@mraonic) on

Then? A calf issue.

Raonic lasted just one game in the second round of Tokyo before retiring against Yuichi Sugita. He pulled out of Shanghai.

And now, he has pulled the plug on the season.

Top five in 2016 on the sidelines

Raonic is in top-flight company.

Here are the top five players at the start of 2017.

Raonic

The Canadian was the last one left standing, as the other four haven’t played in months.

Well, perhaps “standing” isn’t the right word.

More like hobbling.

More wrist issues for delPo after freak fall

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Here’s one sight no one who loves tennis wants to see.

Juan Martin del Potro lying on the court, grimacing in pain, grabbing his wrist. 

Either wrist.

A veteran of four wrist surgeries and two frustrating, long comebacks, the Argentine found himself in that position in the third set of his quarterfinal in Shanghai against Viktor Troicki Friday.

He got up and resumed the match after about a five-minute pause – and won it. But he’s uncertain for Saturday’s semifinal matchup against Roger Federer.

It was an innocuous-looking moment as del Potro backed up to hit a forehand – a move he makes 100 times in a match – and stumbled as his left ankle rolled slightly.

He fell – gently, it seemed, considering his height and size.

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Del Potro used his left hand to break his fall, instinctively. But he injured his surgically repaired left wrist in the process. (TennisTV.com)

But he landed on his left hand and wrist. And he immediately grabbed it. He indicated later to the physio that it was the inside of the wrist that had taken the brunt.

“I don’t know how is my wrist after I fell down. I feel something wrong in that moment. But I continued to play, just playing slices, just to try to finish the match. But now it’s time to see what the MRI and what the doctor says. I’m a little worried, but I know (how) to deal with all these things,” del Potro said immediately after the 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.  “I’ve been through in the past. I will see what the doctor says … Of course, I would like to play, I would like to be 100 per cent. But he will see in the moment what happens.”

Later, del Potro’s media-relations rep Jorge Viale said that del Potro left the hospital with the wrist in a splint. On the positive side, Viale indicated that anything more serious than a bruise had been ruled out. 

Del Potro will decide Saturday morning whether he can make the date with Federer, scheduled for 8 p.m., Shanghai time.

Three surgeries on the left wrist

The first surgery del Potro underwent came on March, 2010, on the right wrist. That was a tough-enough comeback. But he had three more between March, 2014 and June 2015. 

wrist

This time, they were all on the left wrist, which was the one he injured Friday. The comeback featured del Potro hitting mostly slice backhands. But still, he had been able to win a lot of matches. And as things progressed, his two-handed backhand was slowly getting closer to what it had been before all the surgeries.

The 29-year-old has been rounding into form at this late stage of the season. In fact, with his effort in Shanghai thus far, del Potro will return to the top 20 in the ATP Tour rankings for the first time in almost exactly three years when the new rankings come out next Monday.

(All screenshots from TennisTV)

Serena in Oz – will she, or won’t she?

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As part of the launching of the 2018 Australian Open Tuesday, tournament director Craig Tiley announced that the top 100 men and women will be in Melbourne for next year’s event.

It sounds good. But of course there’s no way he can guarantee that.

Certainly all of the top male players Tiley mentioned – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori – have announced that they expect to be back and raring to go in 2018. All of them have cutt short their 2017 seasons due to injury.

But there’s no way to know.

 

Nevertheless, so many of the headlines Tuesday  “confirmed” Serena Williams’ return after maternity leave at the first Grand Slam of the 2018 season.

Serena

(That’s the Independent, which may think Williams will give birth only in mid-October, given the Australian Open starts Jan. 15)

Serena

That’s the Melbourne Age, which quotes Tiley thusly: 

“Her baby’s initials are AO (Alexis Ohanian) and she’s suggested she should also have her name on the 2017 trophy, so the AO is well and truly top of mind for her at the moment,” Tiley said.

Well, Williams didn’t actually do that. The Australian Open tournament Twitter did that.

“If anyone can do it, she can and I’m certainly not counting her out of a return come January,” Tiley added.

That sounds more reasonable.

Sort of, kind of, hope so, maybe!

Tiley never specifically confirmed Williams would play. But he didn’t unsay it, either.

“I’ve been in contact with all the top players and am pleased to announce we’ll have the full top 100 men and women returning to the Australian Open in January,” Tiley said. “It’s exciting to think Serena could return to defend her title after motherhood, and it’s also exciting to speculate on who can break through the pack to win.”

“Serena, the competitor that she is, she wants to win more than the 23 Grand Slam titles that she has. She was eight weeks pregnant when she played the Australian Open and very few people knew that,” he also said. “We have a special relationship with Serena, the Williams family, both her and Venus. She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there is several months to go and it will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness.”

Still, that didn’t stop the headlines. They’re everywhere.

The tournament’s Twitter stated it emphatically.

Here’s Channel 9 in Australia:

Serena

And the Daily Mail:

Serena

And The Guardian:

Serena

Baby changes everything

Before she gave birth, Serena Williams said – and coach Patrick Mouratoglou confirmed – that her intention was to return in Australia, just 4 1/2 months after giving birth.

Since then, as she enjoys the first months of Alexis Olympia Ohanian’s life, Williams hasn’t said anything one way or the other. Certainly Williams hasn’t posted anything on social media indicating she has returned to training.

But she did say that she spent six days in the hospital after the birth, which was probably unexpected.

The latest word from Serena to her fans doesn’t mention the Australian Open.

You’d think, if she had already decided, that she’d have considered the Hopman Cup. It’s a relaxed, non-tournament, low-key way to ease back into the game – much like Roger Federer used it last January to return after a six-month absence.

So we’ll just have to wait until Williams is spotted somewhere Down Under in January to be certain.

Or, at least, wait for the lady herself to weigh in. She may also change her mind a few times between now and then – mother’s prerogative, you know.

Serena

Pliskova suffers on-court injury

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Kristyna Pliskova, the lefty twin of world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, is enjoying a rise of her own this season.

But a freak accident Thursday in Nanching, China has left her on the sidelines.

Pliskova was up 3-0 (two breaks) against Nao Hibino of Japan in their second-round match when she appeared to try to fix a big fan blowing on court.

She jammed up her left thumb in the process, and was forced to retire.

The Czech already has withdrawn from next week’s WTA event in Stanford.