The tennis world has had its fair share of newsworthy events happen over the course of the last week, some of which were expected and some which came out of nowhere. Let’s tackle each development one by one.
Novak Djokovic wins the French Open for the first time.
In a tension-filled final against world number two Andy Murray, world number one Novak Djokovic finally won the trophy that meant the most to him: Rolland Garros, otherwise known as the French Open.
After falling short in the final in 2015, 2014 and 2012, as well as making the semifinals in 2013 and 2011, Djokovic managed to push through the last barrier between him and the Career Grand Slam (or winning all four of tennis’ Grand Slams). As if that wasn’t enough, he also managed to win all four Grand Slams in a row -- he hasn’t lost a Grand Slam match since last year’s French Open final, which makes for 28 straight Grand Slam match victories. That is an incredibly rare feat; it’s only happened two other times in men’s tennis history: Rod Laver and Don Budge accomplished the feat in 1969 and 1938, respectively.
The next question on everybody’s mind is whether Djokovic can win the Calendar Grand Slam -- that is, all four Grand Slams in the same year. He’s halfway there already, and he will unquestionably be the strong favorite at both remaining Grand Slams. Djokovic also has the unique opportunity to win all four Grand Slams and the Olympic gold medal in the same year, an incredible feat that ESPN analyst and former professional player Brad Gilbert says would make Djokovic the greatest player of all time. It would be a herculean effort, to say the least, even by Djokovic’s standards, and he will likely burnout before, or during, the U.S. Open. However, endurance has been Djokovic’s strong suit the last couple of years, so if anyone could pull it off, he could.
Maria Sharapova banned from tennis for two years.
The former world number one and all-time great Maria Sharapova had been taking the largely unknown drug, meldonium (used to treat heart disease), since early in her career, and during most of that time the drug had been legal. However, at the beginning of 2016 the drug was put on the banned list, a decision which apparently went unnoticed by Sharapova and her team; she continued to use the drug during, and well past, the Australian Open (which is held in late January). After testing positive for the drug, Sharapova was taken off of the tennis tour by the International Tennis Federation, which formed a tribunal to determine whether she should be banned and, if so, for how long.
Now the verdict is in, and Sharapova will not be allowed to play tennis until January of 2018. The tribunal found that, although Sharapova did not intentionally violate the anti-drug policy, she was “the sole author of her own misfortune” and “failed to take any steps to check whether continued use of the medicine was permissible.” Already in the late stages of her career, Sharapova was not pleased whatsoever with the tribunal’s decision, saying that it was “unfairly harsh” and would be appealing the ruling. She also took issue with the manner in which the drug was banned, saying that it was buried impossibly deep in a lengthy report and was made extremely difficult to locate.
There are clearly both sides to this issue. On the one hand, it sounds like Sharapova made an innocent mistake; on the other hand, it was ultimately her responsibility, even if the drug was supposedly hard to find on the banned list. Whether she deserves to be banned from the sport for two years is a matter of debate, and it will be very interesting to see how Sharapova’s appeal will play out in the courts in the months to come.
Rafael Nadal pulls out of Wimbledon with wrist injury.
The French Open is Rafael Nadal’s favorite tournament of the year -- he’s won it nine times, a record for the most amount of times a player has won a single Grand Slam title. Yet, this year, a 10th title was not meant to be, as Nadal was forced to withdraw in the middle of the tournament with a wrist injury. Now, two weeks later, Nadal has announced that his wrist is still healing and, therefore, he has been forced to withdraw from this year’s Wimbledon -- which he’s won twice.
“As you can all imagine, it’s a very tough decision, but the injury I suffered at Roland Garros needs time to heal,” Nadal wrote in a Facebook post last Thursday.
He went on to thank his fans for their continued support, but ominously left out any intentions of returning to the courts in the near future. Nadal has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, with critics blaming the harshness of his style of tennis on his body as the primary culprit. Having celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month, Nadal doesn’t have too much time left to win more majors, and the upcoming Olympic Games later this summer, which could easily be his last, must surely be at the forefront of his mind as he sits back and waits for his wrist to heal.
It is a frustrating injury to say the least, but Nadal has produced some spectacular comebacks in the past after being forced to the sidelines for long periods of time. Can he do the same later this year? As a 14-time Grand Slam champion, Olympic gold medalist and undisputed future member of the Tennis Hall of Fame, Nadal has the willpower, heart and game to do some serious damage wherever he plays. Personally, I wouldn’t put it past him.