Five For Friday is an end-of-the-week roundup of interesting tidbits from my notebook.
1. Jennifer Capriati, Hall of Famer: People may remember Capriati’s career as an unfortunate cautionary tale of teenage burnout and wonder what would have happened had she not fallen on hard times, which robbed her of much of her tennis prime. But that’s not what I took away from the newly elected Hall of Famer’s run, which began when she was a bubbly phenom making history as a 13-year-old in 1990, ended nearly 15 years later and included so many ups and downs in between.
I’ll remember her as someone who overcame the quintessential earmarks of Generation X, where talent, pressure and expectation led to apathy, rebellion and tragedy. She was a rare talent who was able to overcome her demons to re-emerge and rebuild a career in ashes. Three Grand Slam titles, 17 weeks at No. 1 and an Olympic gold medal — all during one of the strongest eras in the women’s game. If there was ever a player who had to fight her way into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, it was J-Cap. Well deserved and congratulations.
We’re a week away from the latest round of Fed Cup, and the announcement of team nominations generated some drama. In the next three items, we’ll look at some teams that caused a stir:
2. Team Russia: Captain Shamil Tarpischev, who is without Russian No. 1 Maria Sharapova, did not nominate Russia’s No. 2, Vera Zvonareva, for the semifinal against Serbia in Moscow. Zvonareva has had subpar form this season and is struggling with a shoulder injury. But the bigger news is that Tarpischev said that unless Zvonareva’s results improve, she could be left off the Olympic team, too.
Tough talk from Tarpischev, who has the final say on who gets those spots in London. Zvonareva, incidentally, was a bronze medalist four years ago in Beijing.
3. Team Australia: Anastasia Rodionova took to Twitter to express her disappointment at not being selected by captain David Taylor for a World Group playoff tie with Germany, noting that she’s Australia’s No. 3 singles player and No. 1 doubles player. Rodionova may be right, but it’s hard to question Taylor’s decision. If you look a the Race Rankings, which measure a player’s success in 2012, Rodionova is actually No. 6 in singles — four of the players ahead of her, Samanta Stosur, Olivia Rogowska, Casey Dellacqua and Jarmila Gajdosova, were selected — and No. 2 in doubles. Also, in her last tie, against the Ukraine last year, Rodionova went 0-2 in singles and was part of the team that lost doubles.
4. Team Spain: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario is having a shaky start to her captaincy. She declined to nominate Spain’s No. 1, Anabel Medina Garrigues, for a World Group playoff tie against Slovakia, saying her inclusion would disrupt team chemistry.
“I have not chosen Anabel because she is not at her best, which can be seen in her results, and because it is quite problematic when a player does not get along with other players,” Sanchez-Vicario said. “In Fed Cup, you must have good atmosphere, fellowship, and she is not together with the rest of the players on this.”
On, Arantxa. You should have stopped after “results.” Medina Garrigues didn’t hesitate to fire back.
“I understand that a captain is free to choose the team she considers,” she told the Spanish newspaper El Pais, according to Tennis.com. “But to personally attack me and smear my image I think is out of line. I always tried to help Spain in the 10 years I’ve been representing it. I get along with some people better than others; that is the law of life. But that does not mean I want to stop playing for Spain. Let my mother come out and say that I am troubled, OK, because she’s known me for 30 years. But Arantxa does not understand.”
Sanchez-Vicario subsequently backtracked from her criticism, saying she excluded Medina Garrigues “for pure technical issues.” That wasn’t the captain’s only decision that raised eyebrows. Sanchez-Vicario also might regret not picking Fed Cup veteran Carla Suarez Navarro, who has struggled with injury this year but is into the semifinals of Barcelona this week.
5. Crazy scheduling: We’ve talked a lot about the tours’ compact schedules because of the Olympics, but it’s even more stark when you see it laid out before you in black and white. Here’s the schedule for the men and women from Wimbledon through the U.S. Open:
June 25 – Wimbledon
July 9 – ATP: Stuttgart, Newport, Bastad, Umag; WTA: Stanford, Palermo.
July 16 – ATP: Atlanta, Hamburg, Gstaad; WTA: Carlsbad, Bastad.
July 23 – ATP: Los Angeles, Kitzbuhel; WTA: Baku
July 28 – Olympics
July 29 – Washington, D.C. (same week as Olympics)
Aug. 7 – Rogers Cup (ATP, WTA)
Aug. 13 – Cincinnati (ATP, WTA)
Aug. 19 – Winston-Salem (ATP), New Haven (WTA), Dallas (WTA)
Aug. 27 – U.S. Open
As for the men, there’s one more wrinkle: The Davis Cup semifinals are the weekend immediately following the U.S. Open.
Keep an eye on how the players manage this part of the schedule and how they balance their need to avoid burnout and the need to support those tournaments that are caught in the crossfire — like the entire U.S. Open Series.