Best of Five: Courier a solid hire for USTA; WTA will miss Dementieva
USTA made a great decision in hiring Jim Courier as Davis Cup captain
The WTA's 'class quotient' took a big hit when Elena Dementieva retired
Christophe Rochus' doping claims look reckless without hard evidence
1. Courier a great hire for USTA: In another victory for common sense, the USTA made a sound hiring decision, tapping Jim Courier to succeed Pat McEnroe as the Davis Cup captain. First, a clink of the glasses for McEnroe, one of the sport's good guys, who acquitted himself well over the past decade, leading the U.S. to a title and deftly avoiding the many political landmines. In Courier, the team gets a straight shooter with instant credibility -- he has four times as many Grand Slam singles titles as all eligible U.S. players combined -- and good rapport with the players. (That he is already agitating for a Davis Cup format change is a bonus.)
For all the dirges about the state of American tennis, it's worth noting that there are four U.S. players in the top 22 and the Bryans are the top doubles team. Spain (seven hombres in the top 30) may be the favorites, but the Yanks have a real chance.
2. This will not go down as a banner year for the WTA: The best players spent considerable time on the injured list. The circuit's leading light, Serena Williams, played in a grand total of three events outside the Majors. Potential stars didn't take much advantage of this "soft" period. But on the plus side: The season ended in October, giving the injured legions a decent offseason for the first time in years; the tour has a new logo; and the reliable Kim Clijsters lent some dignity and gravitas to the proceedings, winning the U.S. Open and then taking the year-end Championships in Doha, beating Caroline Wozniacki in the final. Bring on 2011.
3. Dementieva retires: Particularly since the final wasn't broadcast live in the U.S, the big news coming out of Doha was the retirement of Elena Dementieva. Dementieva is pushing 30, battling injuries and has a bright future outside tennis. Nevertheless, this was a surprising announcement. Just a few months ago, she was challenging for Slams. And even after missing Wimbledon with an injury, she still finished the year inside the top 10 yet again. As we discussed a few days ago, the WTA will recover from the loss of star power. But the blow to the WTA's "class quotient" will be severe. Good people, that Dementieva. She will be missed.
4. Muster defies conventional wisdom: Thomas Muster's return to the ATP Tour at age 43 was met with skepticism. And when little-known, Austrian countryman Andreas Haider-Maurer dispatched Muster last week, it seemed that was that. But Muster played reasonably well and appeared to be in shape. And when Haider-Maurer went on to reach the finals -- and nearly beat the surging Jurgen Melzer -- Muster's loss was cast in a different light.
Muster vows: "I'll keep training hard and plan to enter 20 to 25 events ... There is no pressure of getting into the top 10. It's about enjoying tennis. In '99, I hated tennis, now I love it."
Hey, why not?
5. Doping claims need substance: Christophe Rochus may not have made much of a name for himself as a tennis player. But he sure will make headlines this week as his remarks to the Belgian newspaper, La Derniere Heure, are parsed. A man is entitled to his opinions. But it seems to me that if you're going to make such severe allegations, you need to go "full Canseco" and come with some hard evidence. Otherwise, it comes across as reckless speculation.