Wu Yibing has arrived. If you didn’t know about the 23-year-old from China before this past week, now you know. He’s a legitimate talent who took home the Dallas Open singles title for his first ATP level championship. Wu has been on a major roll the last two weeks with a runner up finish indoors at the Cleveland Challenger followed by his upset-fueled title in Dallas. All Wu did was beat four seeds, including his first top ten win over #1 seed Taylor Fritz en route to a thrilling 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-6(12) win over John Isner in the title match. The win pushes him up to a career high ranking at #58. The title marks the first ever for a male player from China during the Open Era.
Denis Shapovalov hasn’t really figured it out at this point has he? He was victim #2 in the Wu Yibing run, but he played poorly in his first match since Australia. Eight double faults. Twenty-five unforced errors. He was in the only mode he seems to know – full throttle, hit big or go home tennis. When it’s on and in tune, it can be exquisite. When it’s off as it was in Dallas, things go off the rails just enough in key moments to find yourself in the loser’s column. Coaching hasn’t seemed to really influence his style at this point. The coach who seemed to coax him into a better head space overall was Mikhail Youzhny, but they wound up splitting a bit surprisingly. Work with Jamie Delgado didn’t last long and now he’s on with Peter Polansky. That partnership seems longed for another break-up based on results. Shapovalov has floundered at Slams since teaming with Polansky. He lost in round one at the French Open in their first collaborative effort, round two at Wimbledon and round three at the US and Australian Opens. He did make a couple of finals last Fall, but for me there doesn’t seem to be progress in his game. I don’t really have a problem with the hit big or go home style, but mentally it seems to wear on him quickly when it’s not working. That’s the balance someone needs to unleash for him. Get him to keep that more positive mindset when things go against you – it’s what separates Shapovalov from being a true top tier star and relegates him into more of the interchangeable rankings shifters outside of the top ten. You can see it in his rankings over the last 12 months – anywhere from 12 to his current rank of 27.
Tennis still has a doubles problem. Yes, another part of the Pig Six dedicated to doubles! I know, I know. Listen, I get it that doubles doesn’t have the sex appeal of singles. That in itself is also a tennis problem for not promoting the product and it’s regular players like they do for EVERYTHING singles players do on tour. Doubles can still be very entertaining and in many cases, more entertaining than a good deal of singles matches. But what happens every week, every tournament – doubles is buried on the side courts, relegated to opposing the bigger singles matches at a tournament where they’re never going to get much notice. Why is that? Why can’t tournaments do a better job with their scheduling for doubles? You hear a lot of whining and tweeting about who gets night sessions at Grand Slam events, male versus female, but why is there no outcry for doubles getting shafted? Why can’t a doubles final play before the singles final as an appetizer? The crowd obviously comes for singles, but when is the last time you’ve seen more than half that crowd stick around for a doubles final scheduled after the singles? You may not get a full house having doubles first, but it can help grow the audience I believe by having them first in some cases leading into the singles final.
Tennis needs to do better. Tennis NEEDS to have more variety in everything they do. They might be the worst sport at making meaningful change in a timely manner. This is something easy. It doesn’t have to be every week, every tournament, but it would be refreshing to see doubles as more of a companion piece to singles by having more main court doubles matches mixed in during the week. It shouldn’t be an adversarial relationship where the two are working against each other to draw fans.
In a week of 250s, it wasn’t really buried, but in case you missed it – Novak Djokovic has applied for entry into the United States that would allow him to play Indian Wells and Miami in March. Due to his vaccination status, he is not currently allowed to enter into the country. However, the United States is set to lift that restriction in May, so Djokovic is hoping he might get an early gift from the government to allow him to play. Whether you love him, hate him or something in between (not that this seems to exist) it is rather silly that the U.S. still has that restriction in place at this point in the continually evolving COVID-19 landscape. A ruling could come as soon as this week, so all eyes will be glued on this development.
Carlos Alcaraz is back. It’s been about 100 days since he last played due to injury at last year’s Paris Masters. He’s playing the Argetina Open in Buenos Aires this week. The 19-year-old is currently ranked #2 after Novak Djokovic recaptured the top spot after his Australian Open victory. It will be compelling to watch how the teen handles a comeback after a long injury layoff. That is a new experience for him and it’s not an easy task to get rolling again after missing so much time. It’s also that adaptation from being out to finding your rhythm quickly upon return than separates the GOATs from the rest. If Alcaraz is going to be in that GOAT conversation as his career progresses, these are the moments will will help define that or not. I think this was smart scheduling by his team as he comes back at a tournament on clay with a decent field, but nothing like what’s taking place in Rotterdam where the entire seeded field is ranked inside the top 18 and 20 of the 32 are ranked inside the top 50. Buenos Aires had just six of 28 players overall ranked inside the top 50. I don’t know that Alcaraz comes in and wins the tournament, but it’s certainly one where he should have the opportunity if he’s healthy and finds his game relatively early on.
My father has been in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Texas for more than one week. Number one, I am glad to report that he’s still here with us. Number two, it’s been a scary reminder of the fragility of life. Thankfully both Mom and him were alert to symptoms of a possible heart attack and headed straight to the emergency room when things first started. That came a day after he had a procedure done to drain some cysts that had formed in his pancreas. Unfortunately during that procedure, they nicked him somewhere internally that started internal bleeding. He’s had some transfusions due to blood loss, but is improving every day and alert and talkative with my mom and sister who have been visiting every day.
Might I say that my sister is a fucking rock star for rushing to be there for my mom as she lives about three hours away. She’s been texting me updates every day and there have been small victories each day. Today he is having a procedure done to stop the internal bleeding which had slowed greatly, but not self healed as they were hoping. So if you’re into putting out positive vibes and prayers for people you don’t know, I’m sure my Dad would appreciate any well wishes you put out there as well as continued strength for my mom and sister. They’re amazing humans, all three of them and I am one lucky pig to be in this family. I’ll be going to visit sometime in person in the coming weeks as we see where things go. We’re hoping he will be moved into a regular room this week and perhaps be able to go back home before the end of the month. Getting to talk to him on the phone a few times has been amazing and very good for my own sanity.
GOOD KIT/BAD KIT OF THE WEEK
I really like the simplicity of Marcos Giron’s kit in Dallas. It’s from Leorever which is definitely different from the usual brands you see. The BAD – you guessed it, the grossness that is Nike. That’s Tseng Chun-hsin in that atrocious Nike kit that I hope is done and over with after this past week. It has a high gag factor for me.
DOG PIC OF THE WEEK
LOKI gets the nod again this past week with this gem while sitting on his Mom’s lap. Basically just giving me that mug for the camera and it’s perfect.
See you next week after Rotterdam for another Pig Six!