Andy’s The One

andy murray
Photo: Fred Mullane

He natters, he moans and he bellows – no matter, you gotta love Andrew Barron Murray.

The 29-year-old Scot is as straight an arrow as there is on the men’s tour and he’s widely liked and respected by his playing peers and most people in the tennis business.

Though he hasn’t got the flair of Federer, the muscle of Nadal (though close) or the wiry athleticism of Djokovic, Murray compensates by being a worker and a warrior.

He has done just about everything possible to make himself the best player he can be, and was rewarded over the weekend when he finally became the No. 1 player in the ATP rankings.

Those rankings date back to August, 1973 and Murray is the 26th player to reach the pinnacle since a computer began churning out a (now weekly) list that rates the best players in the sport.

He is full value for his No. 1 spot – having played in the era of Federer-Nadal-Djokovic dominance and having made it into the top four for the first time on September 8, 2008. That’s more than eight years ago. So he’s hung around – except for a period when his ranking dropped as low as No. 12 in September, 2014, following back surgery in 2013 – and has now realized a truly significant career milestone.

It was nice to see Roger Federer:

…and Rafael Nadal:

…offer their congratulations.

Milos quad question


Milos Raonic’s status for next week’s ATP World Tour Finals is in doubt after he withdrew from Saturday’s semifinal versus Andy Murray at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. Raonic has a grade one tear in his right quad and said Saturday that it would take “five to 10 days’ to heal.

Asked about the chances of him being ready for the elite eight event at London’s O2 Arena, he replied, “I’m borderline on that.”

The latest fitness issue comes at the end of a star-crossed year for the 25-year-old world No. 4. Here’s a list of his various physical problems in 2016:

  • January – right adductor bothered him a bit in Brisbane (a title) and then really hit him at two sets to one up against Murray in the Australian Open semifinals.
  • February – pulled out of Delray Beach and Acapulco because of the adductor.
  • March – lost the Indian Wells final 6-0, 6-2 to Djokovic while seemingly still not 100 per cent with the adductor.
  • May – in Rome he had an inflamed left wrist (had been a problem earlier in his career) after beating Marco Cecchinato in the opening round and then faded in the second set of a second-round 7-6(5), 6-3 loss to Nick Kyrgios.
  • May – had his left hip treated on court during a third-round win at the French Open over Andrej Martin, then lost to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the fourth round.
  • August – he suffered debilitating cramps (left wrist, right forearm, both thighs and left hip flexor) starting after the first set of a 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 loss to No. 120-ranked qualifier Ryan Harrison in the second round of the US Open.
  • October – tear in right ankle ligament in a quarter-final win over Pablo Carreno Busta in Beijing and has to withdraw from a semifinal against Grigor Dimitrov.
  • November  – small kinesio tape on back of left knee for first match vs. Carreno Busta in Paris, says tape is for “a muscle that is getting tight.”
  • November  – withdraws from semifinal with Murray in Paris with a grade one tear in his right quadriceps.

Having had the ankle issue and the back of the knee niggle heading into the quarter-final last Friday – he felt the quad during the first set of a 6-2, 7-6(4) win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on that night – there’s the possibility that one thing led to another. Raonic had said before the tournament that he would have to live with the ankle ligament tear until the end of the season but that he had been told he could not make it any worse.

The draw for the groups for the ATP World Tour Finals, which begin next Sunday, has been done and Raonic has been placed in a favourable foursome along with Djokovic and two players who have had an underwhelming last few tournaments – Gael Monfils (oblique injury) and Dominic Thiem (poor form.) The other more formidable group features Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic.

It would be ironic if Raonic, who is scheduled to face Monfils on Sunday – a good draw because Monfils has been out of action but maybe not so favourable because he has one fewer day to recover from the quad injury than if he had a Monday start – is unable to play because of the grade one right quadriceps tear. Two years ago, he withdrew from the World Tour Finals with a grade one quadriceps tear after losing to Federer and Murray (match when he got injured) and before taking on Nishikori. That’s basically the same injury he has again.

Djokovic gets soulful


Novak Djokovic had neither of his coaches – Marian Vajda or Boris Becker – with him when he played the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris last week. Instead prominent courtside was Jose ‘Pepe’ Imaz, a former player who now has a tennis school in Marbella, Spain, and advocates for ‘Amor & Paz’ (love and peace) in the sport.

Imaz first helped Djokovic’s 25-year-old brother Marco out of some hard times in his life and has also been associated with the current world No. 2.

In the picture at the top here, Imaz can be seen on left dressed all in white as Djokovic greets Tomas Berdych before a practice session in Paris last week.

Djokovic has played subpar tennis since his triumph at Roland Garros in June, winning just once – Rogers Cup in Toronto – in his subsequent five events. He has lost to Juan Martin del Potro at the Olympics, Stan Wawrinka at the US Open, Roberto Bautista Agut in Shanghai and, last week, to Marin Cilic in Paris after having beaten the 2014 US Open champion 14 times in a row.

Djokovic has had injuries and has frequently referenced “a personal problem’ during Wimbledon where he lost third round to Sam Querrey.

He made a video with Imaz and his brother Marco sometime after the Wimbledon loss (below) and talks about tennis and sport at about the 122-minute mark translated into Spanish by brother Marko.

It’s sprinkled with the words “love, harmony and happiness” and he spoke about liking to hug his opponents after a match partly as a way to express his enjoyment of and passion for the sport.

Toronto fans will remember that he requested that spectators at Sobeys Stadium turn and hug the person next to them during the presentation ceremonies after he won Rogers Cup in July. Even last week he gave what might be described as an overly long hug to a not entirely prepared Cilic after he lost to the Croat in Paris.

Djokovic was somewhat defensive when asked about Imaz, who dresses in white and seems to have a semi-permanent beatific smile on his face. “I don’t know where you heard that he’s a guru,” Djokovic said when asked about Imaz last week. “Second of all, he’s been part of my team for several years. He worked with my brother, as well, and he was (ranked), I think, 60, 70 (actually No. 146 but he did have wins over Italian players Stefano Pescosolido and Omar Camporese and once lost 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 to quality Frenchman Sébastien Grosjean) in the world himself. He’s been in tennis for all his life. I’m just glad that he came this week, together with my brother, to be with me and work with me.”

When questioned about Imaz’s role, Djokovic answered, “look, you know, I’m not going to go into details, because there is no sense. I know certain media is trying to find a story here in calling him guru and calling our work this and that. In the end of the day, people can say and judge and do whatever they want, so I’m not gonna give any room for speculations anymore. He’s been there, and he’s part of the coaching team and that’s all.” (Note: Vajda and Becker are slated to be back for the World Tour Finals.)


Djokovic has been known to meditate and think outside the box about matters such as diet and training, and he’s definitely one of the most multilingual and naturally inquisitive players on the tour – but ‘peace and love’ on-court in tennis is a 180-degree turn away from the basic competitive essence of the sport.

It pains Tebbutt Tuesday to say this, particularly on this day, but we’re more of a Donald Trump individualist in sporting matters than a Novak Djokovic spiritualist.  

Nestor moves up


Daniel Nestor has pretty well guaranteed himself a top-15 year-end doubles ranking for 2016 by reaching the semifinal of BNP Paribas Masters in Paris alongside Rohan Bopanna of India last week. Following the 6-4, 3-6, [10-6] loss to top seeds Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the final four, Nestor’s 360 ranking points moved him up to No. 13, which is five spots better than his 2015 year-end No. 18.

Looking to the future, his 360 points from Paris should help cushion any slow start he could have at the beginning of 2017 with new partner, 32-year-old Philipp Petzschner of Germany. Then he will be ‘defending’ 1,200 points from a runner-up finish at this year’s Australian Open with Radek Stepanek.


Vasek Pospisil, with Brazil’s Marcelo Melo, also reached the doubles semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters before losing 6-4, 6-4 to eventual winners Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia. Pospisil’s ranking dropped from No. 18 to No. 20 because he was defending runner-up points (with Jack Sock) from last year in Paris.

Pospisil’s final event of the year is this week’s 85,000 Euro Challenger in Bratislava, Slovakia. On Tuesday, he defeated No. 156-ranked Czech Jan Satral 7-6 (9), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2). Currently, No. 137-ranked Pospisil could face the second seed, No. 68-ranked Illya Marchenko of Ukraine, in the second round.

A first For Félix


Felix Auger-Aliassime is the reigning US Open junior boys champion and one of the best young prospects in tennis. The 16-year-old from Montreal won his first professional tournament on Sunday – defeating No. 776-ranked Juan Manuel Benitez Chabarriaga of Colombia 7-5, 7-5 in the final of a $10,000 Futures event in Birmingham, Alabama.

He is entered in another $10,000 Futures tournament this week in Niceville, Florida, as is Ben Sigouin from Vancouver.

Auger-Aliassime, who has been as high as No. 595 (in July), should move his ranking up from No. 714 to about No. 600 with the 18 ATP ranking points that go with the Birmingham victory.

Many observers believe Auger-Aliassime’s triumph in Birmingham is just the first of what will eventually be a very significant career in professional tennis. 

Paris post card

Click to enlarge

The Saint Merry church is located not far from the Pompidou Centre in Paris’ fourth arrondissement. One of the aims of the church is to integrate art into its various functions.

A person walking into “Le Centre Pastoral Saint-Merry” might expect to see some paintings on the walls or sculptures strategically placed, but not what is hanging from the ceiling.

The picture here from last week shows many different articles of clothing suspended high above the nave of the church.

Saint-Merry is basically right next to the well-known “Fontaine Stravinsky,” a sculpture fountain featuring 16 whimsical creations representing the works of Russian composure Igor Stravinsky.

From the vault


Most of us have had a haircut or two that we’ve grown to be embarrassed by – and that’s surely the case with Daniel Nestor and this picture from 1988 when he was 16. That’s Robert Janecek, another promising Canadian junior at the time, on the right. The byline for the story is a ‘nom de plume’ belonging to a writer who happens still to be around writing about tennis to this day.