The Hottest Storylines in Men's Tennis for the Week of October 7
The hottest storylines in men's tennis this week are as disparate as the players they involve.
Even as the Barclays World Tour Finals looms closely on the horizon, world No. 4 David Ferrer is the only player actively moving into his London spot.
Juan Martin Del Potro did gain some traction in his bid to get there as well, but the highlight of his week was over in Japan, where he claimed a title over Milos Raonic.
Wimbledon finds its way into the news, and it's not even due to rain.
David Nalbandian has been fading from view for quite some time, and now he is finally gone for good. Fans will only be able to see him one more time, and it will only be an exhibition against Rafael Nadal in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
That's not the only news about Nadal this week. It seems he has become No. 1 again. Only the way he did it provokes any surprise at all.
Here's the week's news.
David Ferrer Qualifies for Barclays
For some reason, it seems special and unexpected that David Ferrer qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals this week.
After all, the Spaniard belongs there. The event is open to the top eight players in the world each campaign, based on their calendar-year performance. Ferrer has been ranked in this group consistently since November 10, 2010. Why is it so difficult to convince his critics that he is a premier professional?
As late as the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, reporters like Will Ralston of London's The Mirror Online described Ferrer as "...not considered to be one of the 'top four.'"
Judy Battista of The New York Times echoed that claim with her June 9, 2013 article "Ranked No. 4, but Outside Big Four."
As a result, it is news this week that he is going to be around for the Barclays in London. It would be a safe guess that the other seven contestants will not be surprised when they encounter him in the round-robin portion of the event.
It will be interesting to see how the press treats Ferrer as the year winds to a close. Will he get the respect he deserves?
Juan Martin Del Potro Joyous in Japan Open
That's the kind of professional and role model he is.
Milos Raonic, who has now lost in two consecutive Japan Open finals, fell in a tense match, 6-7 (5), 5-7. The clash was marked by only one break of serve, which Del Potro claimed in the next-to-last game of the match.
It is Del Potro's third title of the year, adding to his successes in Washington and Rotterdam. More importantly, it moved him up from No. 7 to No. 5 in the world rankings. What could be better than that?
Moving up one spot to No. 5 in the race to London's Barclays World Tour Finals.
He is looking forward to avenging a semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic in last year's edition. This year, Del Potro has split the hard court head-to-head.
Perhaps the tiebreaker will take place at the Barclays.
Wimbledon Grows...and Grows
Wimbledon's growth has taken on the form of the one-two punch.
At the same time that the prize money is set to grow, so is the venue itself. It is really no surprise. After all, the roof over Centre Court was a big hit among players, fans and the media, though there will always be a bit of fickleness over any change, as Mike Dawes reported in London's the Mail Online.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray is excited about the grounds improvements. His Twitter account came to life when the plans were first announced in April, via Stuart Fraser of Mail Online:
If it wasn't official before, it is now...Wimbledon is officially the biggest and best tournament bar none. Always looking out for the best interests of our sport...future plans for the club look incredible. As has always been the case Wimbledon continue to lead our sport in the right direction...right from the front.
Looks like he likes it.
The rest of the players should, too. Prize money for the 2014 tournament will reach a record high in the history of tennis, according to Lucy Osborne of the Mail Online. Both the men's and women's champions will receive $2.37 million. This is a 39 percent increase from 2012.
Only the fans don't like this part.
Although All England Club chairman Philip Brook has claimed that costs will not be passed along to patrons, Osborne does quote a few of those in her article who doubt that assertion.
Crowd attendance in 2014 will prove one side right.
David Nalbandian Retires
Goodbye, David Nalbandian.
The Argentinian, who reached the semifinal of every Grand Slam event, retired with simple, tired words, via CNN:
It's a sad day. But the shoulder is not responding well. As a result I can no longer compete at ATP level.
Nalbandian has been experiencing a free-fall since his becoming the No. 3 player in the world back in 2006. He finds himself ranked No. 231 currently. According to ATPWorldTour.com, his ranking has hovered in the triple digits since March of this year, and his last title victory came in 2010 at Washington, D.C.
His legacy will include one high and one low, for certain.
The nadir of his career came in June 2012, when he was disqualified at the Queen's Club event in London for kicking a sign which then hit a linesman. He did himself a favor by returning very shortly afterward to apologize publicly, however. Perhaps this convinced Scotland Yard to eventually clear Nalbandian of assault.
The highlight for Nalbandian and his fans, though, was much longer lasting and important to his home country. He played Davis Cup for Argentina every chance he could and was key to their finishing runner-up three times, in 2006, 2008 and 2011.
For that loyalty alone, he will be missed and fondly remembered.
Rafa's Reign Returns
Rafael Nadal is the No. 1 player in the world.
In and of itself, that is not surprising at all. He is 29-1 in ATP Masters 1000 events this year. He has also won 10 tournaments. Perhaps the only thing that is unusual here is that he achieved the top ranking by losing.
Though Novak Djokovic stopped Nadal's 22-match winning streak in Shanghai's China Open, 6-3, 6-4, his reign as No. 1 ended. Rafa's incessant collection of ATP points finally paid off.
Said Nadal, quoted on the official ATP tour website:
I am [at the top] and it's something special for me. I'm enjoying the situation. I'm playing one of the best seasons of my career and probably one of the more emotional ones, too. I'm just so happy for everything.
Undoubtedly, Nadal fans are just as happy. Opponents will hear vamos Rafa many times over as the Mallorcan prepares to cap off his record season with a Barclays title at the end of the year.
It would be the perfect ending for his new beginning.