Next year’s Australian Open, as of this October 21st date, still seems a long time away.

The March tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami are also far off and not events that people are really thinking about yet.

And the French Open, which ends on June 7th next year, well it’s somewhere in the distant future and not on anyone’s radar right now.

But guess what? The National Hockey League started 13 days ago on October 8th and the two teams that play in the Stanley Cup final will play on and on and on until June – after the 2015 Roland Garros is finished!

That’s almost too crazy to imagine and it certainly puts into perspective complaints about the tennis schedule being too long. While NHL teams have at least two games a week, and usually three or four, at least tennis players are able to take a week or weeks off at various times in the year to rest, rehab, re-charge and relax.

The latter is what seven of the eight women in the picture at the top here will be doing after the final match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals finishes on Sunday.

Only Petra Kvitova, who will represent Czech Republic against Germany in Prague in the Fed Cup final November 8-9, is not on vacation after the last ball is struck this weekend in Singapore. (Germany’s Angelique Kerber is also there, but just as the first alternate in case one of the top eight is unable to play.)

Discussion of a longer off-season in tennis mainly relates to the very top women and men because they’re the ones that generally hang around through the final rounds week after week. Those in the lower echelons, who play an average of one, two or three matches at most tournaments, don’t need as much time off – and many would actually be happy to play more tournaments to be able to make more money.

The best women being finished on October 26 gives them an even longer break this year with the 2015 Australian Open starting the latest it has in years – on January 19th. That means the first week of tournaments don’t begin until the 4th or 5th of January next year.

But thoughts of 2015 are hardly foremost in the minds of the eight women in Singapore, ending the year on a high note is. For Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova it’s partly about the money – almost $2.2 million (US) to the eventual winner who goes through round-robin action undefeated – as well as about the contest for year-end No. 1. There are many permutations – but essentially Sharapova has to win the event and Williams has to go no further than the semifinals.

Credit to Sharapova for showing a sense of humour on Twitter with the above picture of each of the competitors in her own world – except for Kvitova talking to Simona Halep at the far end. Sharapova’s caption: “And the pic of the night…:)”

As for Genie Bouchard, her WTA Finals got off to a decidedly disappointing start on Monday with a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Halep. Bouchard was way off her game – making 16 unforced errors to just two for Halep in the first set. The second set was a little better – 14 UEs to nine for the Romanian. And Bouchard ended both the first and second sets with double faults. She just couldn’t find her range at all.

HERE is what she said afterward.

The wrap she wore on her left thigh was not a good sign. She had an upper leg injury that forced her to pull out after one match in Linz, Austria, two weeks ago. It apparently affected how much she was able to prepare before Singapore and helps explain her post-match comment, “I didn’t feel match sharp.”

There’s no question her return, after the Wimbledon final, to Montreal for Rogers Cup in August – a traumatic experience in tennis terms – and lingering injuries have slowed her progress. The only real bright spot since Wimbledon was a solid week in Wuhan, China, in late September when she beat four players, including No. 7-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, before losing to her bête noire, Kvitova, 6-3, 6-4 in the final.


On Wednesday, Bouchard will try to get back on track when she plays Ana Ivanovic, also beaten in her first match. The loser is pretty well guaranteed to miss the semifinal stage. Off their form in the opening round – Ivanovic lost 6-4, 6-4 to Williams – the Serb would have to be favoured over Bouchard, despite the 20-year-old Montrealer’s 2-0 record against her.

But it hasn’t been a year when it’s wise to underestimate Bouchard, who can at least content herself with her current No. 5 ranking, the highest ever attained by a Canadian female or male in singles.



Mauricio Paiz

The virus that forced Raonic to retire in the first set of his opening round against Juan Monaco in Shanghai, and which limited his preparation to two days before a first match loss to No. 116-ranked qualifier Ricardas Berankis in Moscow, is hopefully gone now that he has won his first match in Basel this week – 7-6(4), 6-4 over Steve Johnson on Tuesday.

He has a friendly draw with Donald Young in round two and the possibility of No. 7 seed David Goffin the quarter-finals. Then it might be No. 2 seed, the walking appendix Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

Raonic would get 300 points if he reaches the final and 500 points if he wins the ATP 500 event.

Here’s the nitty-gritty of the Race for the last three of the eight spots in the ATP World Tour Finals in London from November 9-16, after Marin Cilic qualified under a rule that a Grand Slam champion gets in as long as his ranking is inside the Top 20. Note that Nadal remains a serious question mark depending on his inclination to risk peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue that lines the stomach) by not having his appendix removed. If he opts for surgery and misses the 02 Arena event, finishing ninth would be good enough for a player to be included among the elite eight.

5. Kei Nishikori     4,265

6. Marin Cilic         4,150 (Q)

7. Tomas Berdych  4,105

8. Andy Murray      3,883

9. David Ferrer        3,775

10. Milos Raonic     3,750

11. Grigor Dimitrov 3,555

Raonic talks about the Race to London HERE.

Anything short of winning the event (500 points) in Basel will mean Raonic remains in a dogfight going into the final tournament of the regular season – the Masters 1000 BNP Paribas Masters in Paris next week.

You have to think back to the month of February, which Raonic missed because of a ligament tear just above his left ankle, and all the points he potentially missed that would have come in handy at this time of year. 



While it was hardly late breaking news when Marc Gicquel of France retired two weeks ago, the 37-year-old Frenchman has an interesting back story.

He studied physical education until he was 24 and was a tennis late bloomer – not playing his first Grand Slam main draw until he was 27 and not breaking into the Top 100 until he was 29.

Though he never won an ATP title, he was in three finals and ranked as high as No. 37 in 2008. His best Grand Slam result was a round-of-16 (Andy Roddick) at the 2006 US Open and his only Top 10 wins were over Tommy Robredo and Richard Gasquet.

He earned just over $2.5 million (US) in career prize money.

Gicquel has a Wimbledon connection to Canada’s two top players. In his 24th and final Grand Slam main draw, he was beaten, as a qualifier, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) in the first round by Vasek Pospisil on Court 8 in 2013.

The picture at the top here is right after that match and is of him, his wife Aude and their then 6-year-old son Noah.

The Frenchman’s other Canadian connection is with Milos Raonic. In 2011 in Raonic’s first Wimbledon, he beat Gicquel 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the opening round. Afterward, Gicquel marveled how difficult it was to return the Raonic serve. Unfortunately, in Raonic’s next match with Gilles Muller, he had to retire after five games with a right hip injury, which later required surgery. 

In a recent retrospective interview with Christine Thomas of the French sporting daily L’Equipe, Gicquel said, “players that I won’t miss? Last year I played (Radek) Stepanek twice and I didn’t really appreciate his attitude – and he’s not a guy that’s really appreciated on the tour.”

About his own feisty temperament, Gicquel conceded, “even if I know umpires can sometimes be wrong, there were times when I went too far because I just lost it. I could be pretty virulent, which I regretted afterward.”     



During the Shanghai Rolex Masters event two weeks ago, there was something new with the usual display images of the Hawk-Eye electronic line-calling system – a linear trail leading to the ball mark.

Instead of just showing the mark (above) and its position vis a vis the line, the Hawk-Eye people added the trajectory of the ball before it landed.

That’s a neat innovation because it shows exactly how the ball traveled to the spot.

Theoretically in the past, without the trail, Hawk-Eye technicians could have just punched in any old ball mark from an inventory of images.

Word has it that the expanded imaging, showing the whole ball trajectory, will be used again during the ATP World Tour Finals in London in three weeks.    



Many people have already seen these two incredible shots by Grigor Dimitrov, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be checked out again.

In a match against Jack Sock last week in Stockholm, the 23-year-old Bulgarian may have hit the two most spectacular back-to-back ground strokes in the history of tennis. Kudos to Sock for being a good sport about Dimitrov’s amazing shotmaking. Dimitrov won their quarter-final match 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.