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Tennis News • Federer and Nadal Win • Serena Goes Out Sick • Chris Kermode ATP CEO Update

An overview of the match between Rafael Nadal of Spain against Jared Donaldson of the US during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 10 March 2019. The men’s and women’s final will be played, 17 March 2019. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO



By Alix Ramsay


There is something going around at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden – and it is not just the venom, bile and malicious gossip following the players’ coup to get rid of Chris Kermode, the soon-to-be ex-President of the ATP. Or, to be more precise, the carefully engineered coup by one or two high-ranking people on the Player Council and the Player Board to remove Kermode.


The “something” in question seems to be a very nasty, wee bug that has already caused Sascha Zverev all sorts of problems – the poor lad looks as if he has been run over by a truck – and on Sunday, it felled Serena Williams.


Just a couple of days ago, Serena had looked like the Serena of old as she set about Vika Azarenka. She was fierce, she was brutal and she was not to be beaten, no matter what Vika tried to do. And Vika tried. Oh, how she tried. But this was Serena in title winning mode: “That trophy is mine and heaven help anyone who stands between me and it.”


But then she took on Garbine Muguruza, a woman she had beaten in three of five previous meetings and a woman she always beats on a hard court. And it all went horribly wrong.


For a few games, all appeared well – Serena was playing as everyone expected her to – but it did not last. She began to fade as the set wore on and Muguruza gladly mopped up that opener 6-3. That was when Serena called for the trainer and the doctor. She was feeling lousy.


It took a good seven minutes for anyone with a modicum of medical knowledge to arrive and even when they got there, they did not know what to do. Serena had a pain in her side but she also felt seriously grotty. Should they take her blood pressure? No, not really…. this was not a heat issue (it was an unseasonably chilly desert day). Could they do anything? No, not really… this was a vicious little virus and it just had to take its course. With that, Serena hoisted herself out of her chair and headed for the baseline.


One game later, it was all over. Serena headed back to her chair and sat down looking decidedly green around the gills. That was that. With a large Kleenex maintained in a holding pattern around her mouth (best to be on the safe side), she waved to the crowd and headed for her sick bed.


As for Muguruza, she was through to the fourth round where she will play Kiki Bertens, the 7-6, 6-4 winner over Johanna Konta and she was pretty happy with that.


“She is playing better and better,” Muguruza said of her next opponent. “I look forward for all the matches. Right now, the more the time goes by, the more that anybody can beat anybody. Doesn’t matter about the ranking. That’s it.”


No, it matters not one jot that the world No.20 has beaten the world No.10 because the world No.10 was feeling like death warmed over. Whether that same world No.20 can now beat the world No.7 when the world No.7 is feeling rather chipper remains to be seen. But it should be worth watching.


The Mighty Rodge, aka the old GOAT (or Mr. Federer to us plebs), was also worth more than a casual glance on Sunday. He put away Peter Gojowczyk 6-1, 7-5 to reach the third round and set up base camp for his assault on his 101st career title.


Rodge was very, very good (and Peter wasn’t) in the first set and then Peter relaxed a little, played a good deal better and made a fight of it in the second set. But, to the cheers of the stadium court, Rodge got the job done. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, everyone loves Rodge.


“I think I played well in the first set and he didn’t, and then things go very quickly,” our hero said. “The second set I think he saved some crucial break points with good serving. I think his serve really picked up.


“I think I struggled a little bit with my serving in that second set and that gave him chances. I think because he was serving better, I think he started to swing more freely, and, you know, then it was tough.


“I’m really happy I found a way in that second set, actually. It’s normal to not quite find your zones sometimes on the serve, or whatever it may be, because the ball flies differently here in Indian Wells than it did in Dubai. Again, the conditions today are different than they were the last few days. The ball doesn’t always exactly drop where you want it to be.


“For the first round I actually felt really good. If I maybe would have served a little bit better, I think things would have gone faster. But at the end it was a tough second set, and it’s maybe also exactly what I needed.”


That Fed felt he needed a work out on the court was understandable. That he is going through the same travails away from the court is slightly more concerning.


All week, the talk has been of tennis politics and the decision to remove Chris Kermode, the man who has overseen the increase in prize money on the ATP Tour, the expansion of the tour and the creation of the ATP Cup (a money spinner for many a player) during his six-year tenure as ATP President. Generally regarded as an all-round good egg, Kermode has worked wonders in the past six years.


Federer has made it clear that he backed Kermode. Rafael Nadal – the 6-1, 6-1 winner over Jared Donaldson on Sunday – is also firmly in Kermode’s camp. But neither of them are on the Player Council anymore so they are lone voices in the current maelstrom.


Officially, in the press conference, Rodge was very diplomatic. What would he like from a new ATP president?


“We need a good leader, clearly,” he said carefully. “We need, I guess, in my opinion somebody who knows the game. Otherwise, we will lose a year just that person meeting all the people. We have had that in the past. It takes a lot of time. Yeah, a lot of work ahead of us, to say the least.”


But then the Swiss press talked to him in Swiss-German. That was when he explained that he has been trying to talk to Novak Djokovic about all of this for the past few days.


Oddly (and we wonder why, in that cynical way that we do), Djokovic, the president of the Player Council that ousted Kermode, couldn’t quite find the time to talk to Rodge. That’d be the same Rodge who was showering in the same showers, changing in the same locker room and eating in the same player restaurant as his player president for the past seven days. But the same Rodge – the greatest player of all time, let us not forget – was clearly not worthy of a few minutes of Djoko’s time. Go figure (and try to be a cynical as you can….it works for us journos).


No matter, Rodge has spoken to Rafa and they have both come to the conclusion that they are both singing from the same hymn sheet. Whether they can flex their muscles to influence the future of the men’s tour is debatable. But the story of Kermode’s departure from the ATP Tour is far from over yet.

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