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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: March 25, 2009

3/25/2009 12:55:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

March 25, 2009

In tennis as is in life, you either evolve or you die. That means taking chances. Some pay off big while others lead to extinction. The following are the top 7 BIGGEST RISKS players took so far this season, and their positively Darwinian consequences.

7. FEDERER TORPEDOES CAHILL: Sometimes inaction is an action, and a risky one at that. Whether Darren Cahill was the right man for the coaching job (and he was almost unilaterally heralded as such by the tennis community), Fed needs someone to shake the rust. I wrote a whole piece mere weeks ago saying new coaching wouldn't necessarily be a fix-all for Roger, but his match against Andy Murray flipped me like a flapjack. He looked, shockingly, simply, lost. Why aren't these kids bending to him like they used to? Someone moved Fed's cheese, and all the overly confident pre-match statements to the press can't change that. Ultimately, only Roger can decide what's best for him. But as evidenced by the bold move in the top spot of this list, no guts no glory. And Fed is way too close to glory to risk doing nothing now. Come on now Roger, history is waiting.

6. SAM THROWS LISA OVER FOR RENNAE: Or maybe Kveta threw Rennae over for Lisa. Or maybe they all threw their keys in a bowl. However it happened, Raymond & Stosur and Stubbs & Peschke are no more, swapping partners and going on their merry way. Where to? Well, so far anyway, they're spinning their wheels in the mud, for doubles stars of their stature anyway. At best, their results post-swap are no match for where they were in '08. Raymond & Stosur are the defending finalists (is that a term?) of Wimbledon, Tokyo and the US Open while Peschke & Stubbs won Doha and were finalists at Eastbourne, Stuttgart and the YEC. Okay, that's a lot of runner-up trophies, and maybe they're just doing what they've got to do to try to overtake the seemingly invincible Black & Huber (and the Williams sisters, but hey, rub a lamp on that one). And the be fair, it takes time for teams to gel. But with Raymond and Stubbs both close to retirement, time isn't on their side...

5. VENUS AND SERENA SKIP INDIAN WELLS: Forget the politics or whose side you're on. Venus wants to be #1 this year (and as the reigning Wimbledon and YEC champ, not to mention proud mama of titles in Zurich, Acapulco and Dubai, it's fairly shocking she's not even in the top 5), and Serena wants to maintain her grasp on pole position (and the fact that she's the title holder of the last two Slams and a finalist in the one before doesn't have her as more of a lock is even more shocking). But by skipping the desert, Dinara Safina has an almost sure lock on the top spot even if Serena can defend Miami. That's got to hurt.

Novak and his new racquet take an exit from Indian Wells.
4. NOVAK CHANGES RACQUETS: You win your first Slam, take Indian Wells, Rome and nab an Olympic medal to transform a top 2 into a top 3. You make the semis of the French and the US Open, win the Tennis Masters Cup and gear up to defend said Slam. Novak, what are you going to next? "I'm changing my racquet!" Oh sure, you can say he's just been folding under the pressure in '09, going from hunter to hunted. But a racquet change has felled many a player, and to swap it out at such a critical juncture, whatever the rea$on, was like making him play with a frying pan. Frankly, even if he's regained his feel, he's lost his traction. The top 3 is now a top 4. And his membership in that isn't even guaranteed, because...

3. RODDICK SLIMS DOWN: Andy Roddick knew he had to do something fast. So he did something to make him faster. Trimming down has improved his movement dramatically, and the ability to stay in a rally longer has made him more willing to try. As a result, he's having one of his best starts to the year. Little Andy just may get to join the big boy's table after all. 

2. JELENA BUFFS UP: Jelena Jankovic, whose biggest weapon is her movement, spent the entirety of her off season eating her spinach and adding pounds onto her lean frame. The result, she feels "heavy." Huh. Imagine that. She ended '08 as the #1 player with insane upward momentum. Now she's fatigued, underperforming and unarmed. #1 is looking further and further away in the rear view mirror. Think of all that time she could've spent working on her serve!

1. RAFA FLATTENS HIS FOREHAND: You're the #1 player in the world. Why change anything? Because you want more, more, more. By adapting his game for the Australian hard courts, Rafael Nadal not only scored his first hard court major, he strengthened his chokehold on Roger Federer and, over the weekend, stomped on Andy Murray's sterling recent run against the top three by thrashing the Scot and winning Indian Wells. Anyone else with designs on the US Open, look out. There's a new GOAT candidate in town. And lord only knows what how he'll evolve next.

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The next great risk? Kim Clijsters is holding a press conference Thursday where she's formally announcing her return to the tour. She's already asked for a wild card for the U.S. Open, which would be the first time she's played the event since winning it in '05. Something tells me Kim 2.0 is one bold move that just may pay off.