CRISSIE'S VIEW - A CHALLENGED SYSTEM
A CHALLENGED SYSTEM
The only certainty of the 2021 tennis calendar is that it’s filled with uncertainty. Concerns over the lingering pandemic have forced early-season tournaments, including the Australian Open, to juggle various staging scenarios. Positive news of a potential vaccine points to greater optimism for the summer months, which could mean avoiding the gut-wrenching possibility of a second consecutive lost Wimbledon. But for the time-being, we’ll just have to cross our fingers that some semblance of the schedule returns, and special moments await in the year ahead.
One of the biggest storylines will be whether either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal can break their tie atop the all-time men’s Grand Slam singles titles leaderboard. Nadal drew even with Federer at 20 majors with an incomprehensible 13th Roland Garros crown. Of all the champions I’ve encountered, Nadal’s consistency of performance and character are unequaled. He competes at his utmost every match, never takes credit away from his opponents when he loses and is the epitome of sportsmanship.
Yet after all he has accomplished, Nadal’s passion and willingness to refine and augment his game astounds. Relentlessness, footspeed and otherworldly topspin have always been front and center, but his ability to analyze and adapt to any situation is second to none. Whether upping the velocity on his serve, moving further inside the court to rob an opponent of time or attacking the net more frequently, Nadal is a master at problem-solving any match. Even in the twilight of his career, he seems more relaxed and focused on playing his best tennis.
But Nadal’s greatness and prowess in Paris was hardly a surprise. Iga Swiatek, on the other hand, was a revelation.
The 19 year-old from Poland was a former junior Wimbledon champion and an obvious up-and-comer. But the way she dismantled her competition on her way to her first Grand Slam and WTA title—dropping just 28 total games in seven matches—was jaw-dropping. Now comes the hard part: the encore. Backing up such a statement can often be a more challenging proposition.
Jennifer Brady will face a similar situation after her exhilarating run to the US Open semifinals. Indulge me, as I discuss this longtime Evert Academy alum—but I was particularly thrilled for Jennifer’s success. I remember
running drills with her as a junior where she was not permitted to attempt a winner until she put at least four balls in the court. It could take 10 rallies before she got it right. With her live arm and bold style she just loved to pull the trigger, often prematurely.
It wasn’t until Jennifer got to UCLA, and under the tutelage of coach Stella Sampras, that she matured and started hitting her stride. Then, when she reached the tour a few years ago, her patience, fitness and strategy went up another level. Now, at 25, comfortable with her talent and her position in the game, I believe she’s just scratching the surface of her pro career. All she needs is opportunity.
Here’s hoping that 2021 presents her, and all those involved in tennis, numerous chances to thrive and share in the sport we love.
Partner, TENNIS Magazine
TENNIS.COM JAN/FEB 2021