Best of Three: ATP's Old Guard steps up, Dubai's double Djokovic
Elder players David Ferrer (29) and Jurgen Melzer (30) won ATP events
With her clever tennis, Agnieszka Radwanska has broken into the top five
Two Djokovics take the field in Dubai, Novak and younger brother Marko
1. Elder statesmen: It was Veteran's Week on the ATP Tour. As eager as we are to mint the Next Big Thing, to prognosticate which prospect is destined for greatness, it's too easy to forget how many of the older generation can still hold their own. We got ample examples last week.
In Buenos Aires, David Ferrer (turns 30 on April 2nd) won his 13th career title, beating countryman and defending champ Nicolas Almagro in the final, a day after beating David Nalbandian (30) in the semis. In Memphis, Jurgen Melzer (30) pulled a mild upset, beating the ascending American* Milos Raonic in the final. Playing with a broken toe, Melzer beat Radek Stepanek (33) in the semis.
Barely middle-aged, Juan Martin del Potro (23) won the Marseille, France, event. But he had to go through 31-year-old Michael Llodra in the final, a serve-and-volleyer, no less.
As the sport has become so preposterously physical, it's changed the demographics of the field. Yes, it's made the teenage phenom all but extinct. It's almost beyond comprehension that a teenager, still lacking full maturity, (say Boris Becker in 1985 or Michael Chang in 1989 or even Pete Sampras in 1990) could contend for a major. It also means that while players invariably endure injury, they can sometimes get those years back at the tail end of their careers.
* OK, technically Raonic is North American. Canadian, if you want to get specific. But given the state of the domestic product, we take liberties where we can.
2. A-Rad's ascent: Agnieszka Radwanska is one of those players who was born a decade or two too late. The informal Pole took one of the bigger titles of her career, winning Dubai after beating Germany's Julia Goerges in the final. While A-Rad won't blast anyone off the court, she will carve up opponents with her steady and clever tennis. Finally cracking the top five for the first time in her career, Radwanska is 15-3 this season, with all three of her defeats coming at the hands of Victoria Azarenka.
3. Seeing double?: Savvy fans took a look at the draw at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and noticed not one, but two players named Djokovic. Novak, the top seed and dominating force in the men's game over the past 15 months, returns to the field as a three-time defending champion.
But there was also Marko Djokovic, ranked No. 867, who "earned" a wild card -- a wild card, one safely assumes, that came as a condition of his brother's commitment. We can have a healthy debate here. Is Novak using his leverage in a creative way, helping to catalyze the career of his younger brother? Or does this fly in the face of fair play, depriving a far more deserving player of a spot?
• Doubles winners from last week: In a rematch of their controversial Australian Open match, Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond beat Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-1 in Dubai. In Marseille: Nicolas Mahut and Ed Roger-Vasselin beat Devin Brown and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 6-3, 10-6. In Buenos Aires, David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco beat Michal Mertinak and Andre Sa 6-4, 6-4. In Memphis, the trophy went to Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, who beat Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo.
• Here's the most recent SI Tennis Podcast. Goof stuff from John Isner.
• Think it's only women who grunt? Think again. A shout out (and then some) to Jerzy Janowicz!