October 2, 2008

Maybe Next Year...

The 2008 season may be over for two former champions -- and I'm not talking about the Yankees or the Mets. (Sigh.)

On Tuesday Maria Sharapova said a shoulder injury which has been plaguing her since Wimbledon would prevent her from playing the rest of the year. A day later Roger Federer withdrew from next week's Stockholm Open and said he may be sit out the rest of the season due to fatigue. (Yes, that's the same pesky rationale James Blake gave for withdrawing from the Davis Cup semifinals last month.)

Both players had been ranked at #1 earlier this year -- Maria taking over after Justine Henin retired in May and Roger just falling recently, a month after his defeat in the U.K.

Initially when each lost their spot they still posed a very real threat of reclaiming it quickly. Maria had just won her third Grand Slam in Australia and Roger, well he made a very strong argument for himself at the U.S. Open.

But now it looks like more prolonged absences for both will throw the doors wide open for their chief competitors. Rafael Nadal can put miles between him and Federer in the few remaining months of 2008, and Novak Djokovic even has the chance to rise to #2. On the women's side Maria, who has already fallen to sixth, could soon drop out of the top ten for the first time since 2003.

Hopefully, though, the break is exactly what Maria and Roger need. Of course you have to take time to recover from injury, and, as a former banker, I know something about the toll exhaustion can take on a person. When they return I hope they do so stronger and better than ever. Both have unparalleled presences on the tennis court -- Roger one of intimidation and awe, Maria of power and beauty -- and they'll definitely be missed over the next few months.

So here's to 2009! I can't wait to see you both next year.

And 'til then, serve well & play hard!

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