Philadelphia, PA – This week we're going to take a look at what's going on in and around the world of tennis.
This past weekend, Rafael Nadal got off the schneid against Novak Djokovic, as the former No. 1 crushed the current No. 1 in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, in a one-versus-two final on the famed red clay in Monte Carlo. It not only marked Nadal's remarkable record eighth straight title in Monaco, it also halted his personal seven-final losing streak at the hands of the super Serb, including four of the last five Grand Slams. Djokovic hadn't lost to the mighty Mallorcan since 2010.
You hate to make excuses for the Djoker, but his grandfather died three days before and was buried the day before the final, which weighed heavily on him over the weekend.
"I definitely don't want to take anything away from Rafa's win. He was a better player," Djokovic said. "But it's a fact that I just didn't have any emotional energy left in me."
Note: Djokovic is still a brilliant 13-2 in his last 15 finals over the last two seasons.
Nadal is still No. 2 in the world behind Djokovic, but you have to install the "King of Clay" as the favorite at the upcoming French Open, where the Spaniard is the reigning two-time champ and has won six of the last seven titles, while the reigning Australian Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon ruler Djokovic has yet to even reach a championship match at Stade Roland Garros.
The 10-time major champion Nadal is this week's top seed on the clay in Barcelona, where he's (surprise) the defending champ.
Also last week, Serena Williams played Fed Cup tennis for the 17-time champion United States, which wound up spanking host Ukraine 5-0 to secure a spot in next year's World Group. But I don't think it was the Fed Cup that she was interested in.
Serena cruised past 17-year-old sacrificial lamb Elina Svitolina (who?) on the first day of competition in Kharkiv (where?) and the U.S. squad was on its way with a 2-0 lead of the road.
The inevitable positive American result was never really in doubt last week, as the Ukrainians fielded a team of relative unknowns who didn't have a whole lot of experience on the international stage.
Back to Serena.
According to Olympic tennis qualifying rules, in order to play in the Summer Games for your country you must make yourself available for Fed Cup at least twice in a four-year cycle. Serena last played in a Fed Cup tie back in 2007, and that came during the last cycle.
It seems fairly obvious that Serena is taking advantage of the rules and only makes the minimum number of appearances in Fed Cup in order to help guarantee her spot in the Olympics.
This sort of "tactic" draws even more attention when you're a player of Serena's stature (a former No. 1 superstar and a 13-time Grand Slam singles champ).
It wasn't too long ago when she said she would rather be shopping (than playing tennis) and that she really doesn't like tennis all that much. Not exactly an Olympian-type attitude.
I understand that tennis players love the fame and fortune (especially the fortune), but let's show some tact for cryin' out loud.
Clearly, Serena's commitment to the Red, White & Blue does not come at the Fed Cup level, as evidenced by only a smattering of appearances in the prestigious international team competition since she turned pro back in 1995.
Speaking of Fed Cup, the 2012 final was established last week when the reigning champion Czech Republic, led by Wimbledon queen Petra Kvitova, whipped visiting Italy, 4-1, and Serbia, led by former No. 1s Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, topped host Russia, 3-2, in the semis.
The Czechs and Serbs will clash in the best-of-five championship tie in the Czech Republic in November.
Elsewhere, Andrea Petkovic returned to WTA action this week after being sidelined with a back injury since just before the start of the Australian Open in January. Sidelined for just over three months, "Petko" returned with a win at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, a clay-court French Open tune-up in Stuttgart in her native Germany.
Petkovic opened the year at No. 10 in the world and currently rests at No. 12 due to her recent inactivity. The native of the former Yugoslavia burst onto the scene last season by reaching the quarterfinals at three of the four Grand Slam events and landing in a trio of tour finals (going 1-2).
Note: Petko is the highest-ranked German and one of four Germans ranked inside the Top 20 on the ladies' tour.
In case you missed it, 33-year-old Ivan Ljubicic retired from the ATP World Tour last week. The big-serving Croat played nearly 15 years on the circuit, winning an even 10 titles and finishing as a runner-up on 14 occasions.
The former vice president of the ATP Player Council reached his career-high ranking of No. 3 in May 2006.
His last title came at Indian Wells two years ago and he reached his last final in Metz, France, last season. Ljubicic also led Croatia to its first Davis Cup title back in 2005.
Note: Ljubicic escaped war-torn Bosnia at the age of 13 in 1992 and was one of several tennis players taken to Italy by a club that was reaching out to help children.
Best of luck, Ivan!
This Just In: The ATP's long-time Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C. is now called Citi Open.
You gotta love that musical sponsorship.
And how 'bout Pennsylvania's own Lisa Raymond, who this week became the oldest player ever to hold the No. 1 ranking in doubles (or singles for that matter), alongside her fellow American partner Liezel Huber.
At age 38, Raymond broke the previous record held by Czech Kveta Peschke, who turned the trick as a 36-year-old.
Raymond and the 35-year-old Huber have captured eight titles together, all since last August, and all at very prestigious events -- most notably the U.S. Open and WTA Championships last year.