The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Damien’s Spin: Veteran players rejuvenating on the grass

June 27, 2019

Having been unable (like everyone else) to stop the Rafael Nadal clay express in Paris, Roger Federer has his sights set on being king of the grass again.

Federer, 37, has won Wimbledon eight times, most recently in 2017, and showed his usual strong form on the green stuff by winning his 10th title at Halle this month. That triumph over David Goffin was crucial, as it vaulted Federer into the second seed position at Wimbledon, meaning he won’t have to play No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic before the final.

That raised some eyebrows, as Nadal is ranked higher than Federer on the ATP tour right now. But rankings controversies at the All-England Club, where officials decide their own rankings for the world’s most important tournament, are nothing unusual.

“It is surprising,” said Djokovic of Federer’s seeding. “That’s their rules and we have to respect it.”

Nadal was more blunt. “I don’t think it’s a good thing that Wimbledon is the only (tournament) with its own seeding formula.

“It’s their choice. Either way, being second or third seed, I have to play at the best level to aspire to the things I aspire to. It is better to be second than third, but if they consider that I have to be third, I will accept.”

Federer, meanwhile led an extraordinary weekend for 37-year-old men in what was a remarkable series of wins. Feliciano Lopez, also 37, won the singles and doubles events at Queen’s Club, combining with Andy Murray in the doubles.

At another level, former top 10 player Tommy Robredo, now also 37, also emerged as a champion that same weekend at a Challenger tournament in Parma, Italy, winning a marathon final in three hours and 15 minutes.

The Murray-Lopez doubles win, just six months after Murray’s hip surgery, caught the imagination of the tennis world and even surprised the Scot.

The Murray-Lopez doubles win, just six months after Murray’s hip surgery, caught the imagination of the tennis world and even surprised the Scot.

“I just won the doubles with Feli, with a metal hip. It’s mental, really,” said Murray.

Now we’ll see where Murray goes from here. He teamed up with Marcelo Melo and lost in first round at Eastbourne, and will play doubles with Pierre-Hugues Hebert at Wimbledon. He asked Kiki Mladenovic to play mixed at Wimbledon, and she turned him down. Maria Sharapova appeared to offer to play with Murray via Twitter, but Murray deemed that unlikely.

“I think we played once together before. . . and I don’t remember us playing particularly well together,” said Murray.

There’s also the issue of Murray being critical of Sharapova when she returned to the tour after her doping ban.

“I haven’t chatted with her,” he said.

As far as singles, meanwhile, the 32-year-old Murray seemed buoyed by his success with Lopez at Queen’s Club and hinted at a possible return for the U.S. Open.

“I really just happy that my body is fine,” he said. “I’m going to take my time. I’m not going to rush this.”

At his prime, there were few in the sport more entertaining to watch than Marcos Baghdatis. Few able to communicate such a pure love for the sport.

The Cypriot veteran will be exiting professional tennis after Wimbledon, having reached as high as No. 8 in the world but leaving behind an appreciation for the personality he delivered on court.

Baghdatis, 34, hasn’t played since February, but Wimbledon granted him a place in the main draw, just another one of those idiosyncratic decisions the All-England Club likes to make.

“I am extremely grateful to the All-England Club for granting me a main draw wild card,” said Baghdatis in a statement on social media. “This decision was not an easy one. It has proven tough for me, especially physically, to come back to where I feel like I belong.”

Baghdatis joins Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer as former top male players who have chosen to retire this year. Baghdatis is married to former WTA player Karolina Sprem, and the couple is expecting their third child.

“Although I am sad to say goodbye to the sport as an active player, I am very excited for the next chapter of my life,” he said.

The highlight of Baghdatis’s career was making it to the 2006 Australian Open final where he lost to Federer. He lost to Nadal in the Wimbledon semifinals later that year.

A long time coming. Richmond, Virginia, after twice voting down a proposal to have a street named after one of its most famous sons, Arthur Ashe, finally relented and unveiled Arthur Ashe Boulevard this month.

Richmond has honoured the three-time African-American Grand Slam champion in other ways, including naming an athletic centre after him and commissioning a bronze statue. The name change for the street, simply called Boulevard, was blocked by residents until city council finally voted to make the change.

“Anytime we can acknowledge our ancestors, people who have done things greater than us and their works are still helping us and are pertinent to today’s times, it’s a great opportunity,” said David Harris, Ashe’s nephew.

For Richmond, these are difficult times as it sorts out a complicated past. Arthur Ashe Boulevard intersects with another Richmond street that holds the large statues of several Confederate military figures. Richmond was the capital of the Confederary during the U.S. Civil War.

Ashe was the first black man ever named to the U.S. Davis Cup team. He died in 1993.