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Thursday, July 21, 2011
Here's who's enjoying their downtime

By Kamakshi Tandon
Special to ESPN.com

The slow period between the end of Wimbledon and the start of the big U.S. Open Series events gives top players the opportunity for a little vacation time, and they've been taking advantage. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have kept photographers busy by hitting the beaches with girlfriends and friends in tow. Nadal has been hanging at home in Mallorca and the nearby Spanish island of Formentera and also played a charity golf event. He has confirmed he plans to try to return at the Masters event in Montreal in August, having missed Davis Cup with a foot injury he picked up at Wimbledon. Djokovic went a little down the coast from his Monaco residence over to St. Tropez, which also got a visit from Djokovic's Monaco neighbor and fellow No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, last week.

Roger Federer has successfully avoided the cameras so far, though he might be floating around somewhere near his Grand Slam rivals on the southern European coast. One sighting placed him on the Italian island of Sardinia, where he did his summer training last year. But work is out for the moment. "Right now I hope he's working on his tan," said coach Paul Annacone in an interview with the Sag Harbor Express last week.

Not for long, however. Federer will resume practicing in a few days' time as he attempts to avoid going Slam-less in a season for the first time since 2002.

By his own account, Andy Murray seems to be spending a lot of his vacation in front of the TV. Watching the British Open, the Scot wrote on Twitter, "Enjoying listening to the golf commentary, calm, positive, entertaining, insightful and no big egos. Refreshing." Was that a sideways dig at one or two tennis commentators, perhaps? There have also been a few references to his big sporting passion, boxing ("Great nights boxing on sky sports tonight at 9"), but it hasn't all been sports. "Just watched [the UK] apprentice final! Glad tom won he seems like a great guy," he commented last week, before hastily apologizing for giving away the result.

He also chimed in during Rupert Murdoch's televised appearance before a British parliamentary committee on Tuesday. When an intruder attempted to hit Murdoch with a foam pie, Murray wrote, "I mean what is that! How do you let someone do that in such a high-profile case! He dealt with it well though didn't he?"

Serena Williams, meanwhile, has been on TV, appearing at the ESPYs and plugging her products on the Home Shopping Network in between playing World Team Tennis and going the beach in Miami. She begins what is expected to be a formidable hard-court campaign at Stanford next week. Many Russian players headed to Moscow this weekend for the wedding of Elena Dementieva to longtime boyfriend Maxim Afinogenov. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Dinara Safina, Maria Kirilenko, Igor Andreev, Vera Dushevina, Alla Kudryavtseva and Elena Vesnina were all reported to be in attendance, and video messages from Federer, Kim Clijsters and Wozniacki were played. Gisela Dulko is next in line, expected to marry her boyfriend, a Real Madrid footballer, this weekend.

Wonziacki's No. 1 ranking may be constantly in question, but she's cementing her status as the game's top socialite. The latest buzz began when a tennis blog posted photos of Wozniacki and golfer Rory McIlroy eating together and looking affectionate at a restaurant in London on Sunday.

It's all just another day for Wozniacki, who complained at Wimbledon that "last three weeks I've been in the spotlight, supposedly dating every single guy I eat dinner with." Wozniacki reported meeting McIlroy at the Heavyweight Championship on July 2 -- the day of the Wimbledon women's final -- and the Belfast Telegraph says people close to MclIroy say the two are now close friends. If only she manages to generate the same pique on the court this summer.

Summer school

Not everyone has opted for fun and frolic during the past couple of weeks. The Spanish Davis Cup players have been workhorses, with David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers all helping to capture a quarterfinal victory against the United States and then heading back to tournament play the following week. Lopez won the Bogota challenger, while Ferrer reached the final of Bastad, losing to hometown favorite Robin Soderling.

David Ferrer
Although a bulk of the players take a much-needed respite, David Ferrer and his Spanish cohorts were busy playing Davis Cup.

Bastad isn't all work and no play. Tomas Berdych, who reached the semifinals and has been a finalist at the event in the past, said he, unlike some of his fellow pros, has never visited the city's Pepes Bodega nightclub. "Probably no one will believe me, but I have done quite well here and maybe that is the explanation," he quipped.

The title match at the other tournament last week, Stuttgart, also featured Spaniards. Juan Carlos Ferrero, playing just his third tournament of the year because of injuries and recovery from surgery, defeated Pablo Andujar. The quietly profound former French Open champ Ferrero, 31, said he had battled to return because he wants to stop on his own terms and is giving himself a couple more years to play on the circuit.

Retiring

A few players have decided to make the summer break permanent. Sybille Bammer played her farewell event last week at Bad Gastien in Austria, and Belgian Kristof Vliegen, 29, also called it quits. Doubles player Simon Aspelin retired at his home event in Bastad, while Dick Norman indicates that doubles partner Wesley Moodie has decided to stop as well.

Recovering

Clijsters, who barely made it to the French Open because of an ankle injury and missed Wimbledon after reinjuring it, has spent her time rehabbing. She says she's ready and eager to get back, but it wasn't a sure thing. "It was obviously very frustrating. When I got injured just before Wimbledon, it gave me a real negative experience about tennis," she told reporters in a conference call to confirm her participation at the WTA even in Toronto in August. "I've kind of regained that motivation and now I look forward to improving every day."

Sam Querrey, who missed Wimbledon after elbow surgery, is also scheduled to return in August.

Giving Back

The Roger Federer Foundation is partnering with a local organization to launch a $3.3 million project to provide schooling and meals for 54,000 kindergarten-age children in Malawi. Soderling has launched his own foundation to help ill and underprivileged children, holding its inaugural event at a children's hospital at Bastad last week. Soderling's girlfriend, Jenni Mostrom, will run the foundation.

The ATP has also given $10,000 grants to 12 tennis-linked charitable endeavors. Player initiatives awarded were the Rafael Nadal Foundation, the Bryan Brothers Foundation, the David Nalbandian Foundation, the Haq Foundation (Aisam Ul Haq Qureshi), the Tommy Robredo Foundation, Attrape La Balle (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) and Special Olympics Monaco (Ivan Ljubicic). Tournaments in Washington, Memphis, Tokyo, Bucharest and Beijing also received grants for their charitable projects.

Getting Back

The on-court action heats up again this week -- literally -- as the U.S. Open Series gets underway in sweltering Atlanta, with Mardy Fish, local favorite John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt headlining. Two results of note already this week -- Michael Russell overwhelmed Donald Young, and James Blake overcame the slumping Ernests Gulbis in three sets

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.