He's 32 years old now, and it's been nearly two years since he won a major, but Roger Federer still has a powerful hold on those of us who care about tennis.
His 2014 results have defied what we all supposedly knew. Coming off a shoddy season a year ago, one with losses piling up against garden-variety players, Federer has produced performances reminiscent of his dominant days. Of course, they’re not quite as frequent or consistent, but he’s fully entrenched himself back into the game’s inner circle of champions.
Apparently, we just didn't listen to Federer when he spoke of his resolve, that this season would engender bigger and better things. Our bad. Federer’s stellar play has continued this week in the first clay Masters Series event of the year. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that after he was done knocking off the hottest player in the game Saturday, Federer wasn't the central focus in the postmatch shenanigans.
After Novak Djokovic's 7-5, 6-2 loss to Federer in the Monte Carlo semifinals, the Serb announced he was going to take time off from tennis to heal his ailing right wrist. This is by all accounts a pretty big blow to Djokovic, given he is coming off back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami. More so, Djokovic is one a steadfast mission to win the French Open, the only missing chunk in his Grand Slam memoir.
“This injury that has been present for last 10 days,” Djokovic told reporters, “and I tried not to think or talk about it; I did everything I could, really; I was on the medications every day; I was doing different therapies, injections, so forth.
“But in the end of the day, the end of the tournament, semifinals is a good result. But I'm disappointed that I could not play as well as I could have. From the end of the first and the whole second, every shot was pain, especially with the serve.”
This setback could go one of two ways for Djokovic: Perhaps the break will give him a breather, one he could use after playing as much tennis as he has. The downside to success is the amount of time spent on the tennis court, running, laboring and taking violent swings at tennis balls day after day. Djokovic played 10 matches between Indian Wells and Miami and, including his loss to Federer on Saturday, another four in Monte Carlo. Clay courts, more than any other surface, demand fresh legs and a fresh state of mind. Djokovic is one of the fittest players on tour, so his laborious schedule could be a moot point. But if we're breaking the season down into four parts, the clay schedule is clearly the most taxing of them all.
On the flip side, you can’t Google wrist injury and tennis without the plight of Juan Martin del Potro monopolizing your screen. The Argentine has been plagued by recurring wrist ailments since winning the US Open in 2009. That’s nearly five years ago, which speaks to the grave nature these injuries can have on players.
“Well, the good thing is I don't need to have a surgery,” Djokovic said. “I don't have any rupture or something like that. I'm going to go see doctors tonight and then tomorrow again have another MRI, see if anything changed in this seven days since I had the last one.
“I just rest now. I cannot play tennis for some time. How long, I don't know. It's really not in my hands anymore. I'm going to rest and see when it can heal 100 percent, then I will be back on the court.”
On Friday, Djokovic needed more than two hours to finish off Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, which at the time seemed like nothing more than a rare bad match from the Serb. But, obviously, something more severe was going on.
During his presser, Djokovic said the transition from hard courts to clay could have played a role in his injury. He also mentioned he “started too strong,” meaning he didn't give himself a chance to properly adjust to the strenuous nature of dirt.
“Listen, I don't regret anything I've done in my life,” Djokovic said. “I thought that at the certain moment it was the right thing to do. Last year, I played with an injured ankle, but I won the tournament. This is the only time I won this tournament that is one of my favorites.”
He went on to say that these injuries just happen, that there is no way to predict something like this popping up. Sadly, he’s right.
But the concern now isn’t exactly how Djokovic contracted his injury, but whether he’ll be healed in time for Paris.