Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Hard Out There For A Tennis Player - The Mikhail Youzhny Edition

Mikhail Youzhny salutes the Dubai crowd after beating Melzer in the semis

Former top 10 player, Mikhail Youzhny, just made it to his second straight final with a tight 7-5, 7-6 win over Jurgen Melzer in the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The talented Russian who has managed to crawl his way back into the world's top 20 (currently at 15) after slipping miserably down the rankings last year, is steadily approaching his top form as he makes it to a fifth final out of his last 8 tournaments (dating back to Tokyo October 2009).

Although Dubai has relatively been good to Youzhny in the past, this same time last year, the Russian was ranked as low as 61 and lost in the first round to Jan Hernych.

Youzhny's first half of 2009 saw his ranking dip to as low as 76 and just like that, the Russian went from enjoying a career-high of #8 in 2008, to needing to play qualies at Masters Series events like Monte Carlo, Rome and Cincinnati a year later.

A very strong finish to 2009 though (made finals in Tokyo and Valencia, won Moscow) and his good run this last month, helped Youzhny reinstate himself in the world's top 20 and now he awaits Novak Djokovic or the other comeback kid, Marcos Baghdatis, in the final in Dubai.

I am not sure why Youzhny was playing so bad early last year, and I don't really remember reading about a certain injury that hampered his performance but what I do know is that in tennis, no matter how talented you are - which I believe Youzhny really is - the rankings can be cruel to you and consistency is extremely hard. I also know that it's way easier to slip down the rankings than it is to make your way back up and that's how it is for everybody in the circuit. It is just sad sometimes when you look in retrospect and realize the one point, when it all started tumbling down for a certain player you follow.

Youzhny's main big mistake last year, was his failure to defend his quarterfinal points at the Australian Open from the year before. Losing in the 1st round at the 2009 Oz Open cost Youzhny 22 rankings spots, which he followed by a dismal clay season and a first round loss at Wimbledon (another 25 ranking spots gone).

So what's the point am trying to make here? Am not really sure... I guess am just speculating on how tough it is to remain consistent on the tour and how quickly everything can be reversed even without a serious injury that forces you out of tournaments. Looking at Youzhny's case in particular, it also seems that if you manage to kick ass at the same Grand Slam every year, then your ranking is a lot safer than if you have solid streaks but in different parts of the season every year. Otherwise, you'll just spend your career at the top for one year, then you'll suffer the whole following year if you don't defend your best Grand Slam appearance. Then you'll spend months crawling back to where you were... and so on...

Which then brings me to point out that what Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Davydenko and Roddick have sustained over the past few years is just unbelievable and puts them in a totally different class than everybody else. Because each one of them, in his own way, has managed to stay amongst the very best, year in, year out.

The other players in the top 10 at the moment, Del Potro, Soderling, Verdasco and Cilic will experience the real test this year and am wondering if each one of them will be able to hang on to their top 10 status, considering they have to replicate some incredible performances if they want to avoid getting squeezed out by vengeful comeback players, or 2010 breakthrough players.

It's a tough world out there for everyone, aint it??

Friday, February 19, 2010

UPDATED: OFF-COURT - Nadal features in Shakira's new music video "Gypsy"

World number 3, Rafael Nadal, took some time off from his recovery training to shoot Shakira's latest music video of her song Gypsy, in Barcelona last weekend.

Check it out and tell me what you think?? Is Rafa pulling this off?

The complete video is out. Enjoy...

UPDATE: The videos were removed for copyright reasons. You can watch the complete video on Shakira's official YouTube channel here...