Work to do for Roddick and the Americans
February, 16, 2011
By Ravi Ubha, ESPN.com | ESPN.com
Players do a fair bit of reflecting after Grand Slams. While Kim Clijsters and Novak Djokovic were riding high, more than a few others couldn't have been happy with what happened Down Under.
As the first two Masters and Premier Mandatory events loom in Indian Wells and Miami, we look at five of the biggest concerns on the tennis tour.
State of the U.S. men
Here's the good news for the U.S. men -- James Blake is back playing after shoulder issues and says he's still motivated.
Ranked 164th, getting back to the top 100, as a start, is feasible for the 31-year-old. Blake is highly likely to receive wild cards for Indian Wells and Miami, and has virtually no points to defend from April onward.
However, Sam Querrey is a concern. Heading into Memphis this week, he had lost five straight matches and was 1-8 in his past nine. And this for a guy with a monster serve, which should win him a few matches by itself. Querrey finally got a victory Tuesday, edging Denis Istomin.
"Sometimes all it takes is one match to kind of get the ball rolling," Querrey said.
Mardy Fish was hoping to crack the top 10 sooner rather than later in 2011. Unfortunately, he's been derailed by a thyroid problem that messed up his Australian Open and forced his withdrawal from San Jose last week.
Andy Roddick -- aka Mr. Brooklyn Decker -- is healthy, no small feat after an arduous 2010. Yet he lost early at a Slam again and has substantial points to defend in California and Florida.
The Williams sisters' health
There appears to be nothing wrong with Venus Williams' motivation. Knowing that she was far from 100 percent, Williams decided to play at the Australian Open rather than avoid the grueling journey to Oz.
In the end, her body let her down. She failed to overcome a groin injury and subsequently withdrew from this week's Dubai Tennis Championships, where she is the defending champion.
At 30, Williams is unlikely to ever win a non-grass major again, no matter how determined she is, so her priority should be to take as much time as needed to get healthy. If that means missing her beloved Sony Ericsson Open, so be it -- she should get in some match practice to prepare for Wimbledon.
Serena Williams recently said she hoped to return to action in the spring after a pair of foot surgeries, which means bye-bye to Miami. A fit Serena -- who has been keeping busy, as usual, during a long layoff -- gives Clijsters some competition. If the 13-time Grand Slam champion can approach 100 percent around the French Open, job done.
The tour desperately needs her back.
Andy Murray's mindset
Remember what happened to Murray after he lost last year's Australian Open final? He didn't think straight for a while.
Murray changed his mind about playing at a small tournament in France and was also criticized for toying with his game in a loss to Janko Tipsarevic in Dubai. He really only recovered at Wimbledon, where a nice draw helped land him in the semifinals.
Murray vows he's able to cope better this year, although that remains to be seen. The likes of Pete Sampras, Mats Wilander and Boris Becker have weighed in on his crushing defeat to Djokovic in Melbourne, with "Boom Boom" hinting the Scot needs to ditch influential mom, Judy.
Life after the Australian Open didn't start well for Murray in 2011. Bothered by his wrist, he was blitzed by Marcos Baghdatis in his Rotterdam opener. Murray then bailed from Dubai, citing the wrist.
Maria Sharapova's woes
We're less than two months into 2011 and already Sharapova has had enough drama to last an entire season.
She cut ties with trusty coach Michael Joyce on the eve of the Australian Open and needed all of her mental toughness to simply reach the fourth round in Melbourne.
Then, playing the Fed Cup for Russia for the first time in three years -- she needs appearances to qualify for the 2012 Olympics -- an ill Sharapova fell to the unpredictable Virginie Razzano in Moscow.
Sharapova pulled out of Paris last week and Dubai with an ear infection.
"I can't catch a break," the three-time Grand Slam winner lamented on her Facebook page.
Oh, did we mention that her serving woes still abound?
At least Sharapova is content in her private life.
Novak Djokovic's consistency
The guy just won the Australian Open in dominant fashion, and he's a concern?
Well, many -- justifiably -- thought Djokovic would rule 2008 after winning his maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne. Look what happened.
This looks like a different Djokovic. He's more mature and realizes that if he wants to rack up titles like Roger and Rafa, the focus needs to be there at virtually every tournament. In the past, in the wake of claiming big titles, he's dipped.
It's unlikely Djokovic will stutter, but it's certainly worth monitoring.