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032 Ė TUESDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2010
Tennis at the Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games which begin this Sunday in Delhi have been overshadowed by many concerns, but letís forget about these worries for now.
Tennis makes its debut at this yearís games and a whole host of Brits will be competing for their respective nations. It may come with no ranking points but a number of players have decided that donning the colours of their country is enough reward to compete.
Understandably, some of the Commonwealthís star players including Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Stosur and Marcos Baghdatis will not be taking part. With ATP and WTA events taking place at the same time next week, no one can argue with their decision.
But for others, particularly the lower ranked players, itís a chance to do your country proud. For the Brits in particular, itís a rare chance in tennis to compete for your own individual nation with Scotland, England and Wales sending separate teams.
Even the British crown dependency of Guernsey is sending their own team with Heather Watson being the star pick of their tennis competitors.
Scotlandís tennis team consists of Colin Fleming, Jamie Murray, Mhairi Brown and Jocelyn Rae. Elena Baltacha was also included but pulled out due to health concerns over a chronic liver condition.
Itís a shame Baltacha has been forced to withdraw as she is in good form and was looking forward to representing her country. However, with her career on the up at present, itís the right decision looking at the long-term picture.
Fleming will be Scotlandís only entrant in the Menís singles. Although he doesnít currently hold a singles ranking and has only played one singles match in the past three and a half months, he is still a decent player and just 12 months ago, sat at a career high ranking of No.359.
The reason Flemingís recent singles record is almost non-existent is because he focuses on doubles and in this event in Delhi, he will reunite with Jamie Murray who he last played with back in 2006.
Before Fleming took a break from the game, he and Murray were a regular pairing at Challenger and Futures level and often reached the latter stages of these events. It will be interesting to see how the pair do next week.
Indeed, it would be intriguing if Fleming & Murray were to come up against Ross Hutchins and Ken Skupski who are competing for England. You would have to put the English pair as slight favourites, but the Scots in general always seem to up their game when itís a sporting contest with their neighbours from down south.
In the womenís event, 19-year-old Jocelyn Rae, who bases herself in Nottingham, will compete in the singles, and she will team up with Edinburgh coach Mhairi Brown in the doubles.
28-year-old Brown has been aiming towards the Commonwealth Games all year and has taken part in a number of $10k events both in singles and doubles. She impressively won the doubles in Gausdal, Norway with Denmarkís Karen Barbat at the start of July.
Other notable entrants for other countries include Englandís James Ward and Josh Goodall, Australiaís Peter Luczak and Anastasia Rodionova and Walesí Josh Milton, who goes into the event having shown good form at Futures level in recent weeks.
Understandably, India will field a strong team for their home event with Somdev Devvarman, Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza all competing. It would no doubt be a major career highlight for any of them if they were to win gold at the games which are a landmark moment in Indiaís history.
Winning a medal on home soil is something however that the Scottish tennis stars will be denied the chance to do when the games are held in Glasgow in 2014 as tennis is unfortunately not included in the list of sports. More on this in the next few weeks.
For now, I am not sure what sort of television coverage the tennis event in Delhi will receive next week, but I will certainly attempt to keep up-to-date with tennisí first appearance at the Commonwealth Games.
It may not rank high in the list of importance when it comes to tennis events around the world, but it affords a rare opportunity for people like myself to cheer on our tennis players under the banner of Scotland.
Del Potro returns at last
Great to see Juan Martin Del Potro returning from wrist surgery at the Thailand Open in Bangkok this week.
It was a short-lived comeback for the Argentine however, as he lost in straight sets to Belgiumís Olivier Rochus. Perhaps not surprising considering that Del Potro hasnít played since Januaryís Australian Open.
It will no doubt take a bit of time for the 22-year-old to return to the sort of form we seen him display last year when he won his first grand slam title at the US Open, beating Roger Federer in the final.
He currently sits at No.36 in the rankings, but when he starts building up the momentum again, he will be back in the top ten in no time as he can hit through any opponent on his day.
Although Del Potro lost, the good news is that he felt no problems with his wrist and will now move on to Japan where he will play the ATP 500 tournament in Tokyo next week.
Itís an impressive tournament in Bangkok this year with Rafael Nadal headlining the field. Itís the Spaniardís first tournament since clinching the career grand slam in New York, and he is seeded to meet Fernando Verdasco in the final, although an interesting semi-final against Ernests Gulbis potentially awaits.
Marc Lopez no doubt has his good friend Nadal to thank for coming along to Bangkok this year, as he found himself the recipient of a wild card for the singles main draw at a time when he finds himself at No.729 in the world rankings.
A few strings pulled by the world No.1 there I think. You know what they say. Itís all about who you know.
Mahut struggles after marathon match
Seen Nicolas Mahutís name come up as a lucky loser in the draw in Metz last week and decided to check out his form since losing the longest tennis match of all time to John Isner at Wimbledon this year.
Mahut had already been struggling for form before that infamous match, and it appears that being a part of such an occasion has done nothing for his results since.
His best performance is a quarter-final showing in a challenger in Spain at the start of August, having failed to make it past the second round in the other four events he has played since Wimbledon.
Itís a shame to see the World No.157 continue to struggle on tour as the mental strength he showed that day against Isner was immense. Whilst many players would have become tight at some point after serving to stay in the match so many times in that final set, it wasnít an issue for the Frenchman.
Letís hope he can find a spark from somewhere to get back on form again. After his unbelievable performance in the summer, he deserves it.
Junior Brits in Davis Cup action
Finally, good luck to Great Britainí Junior Davis Cup team who take part in the event for players aged 16 and under in Mexico this week.
Captained by Martin Weston, Luke Bambridge, Kyle Edmund and Evan Hoyt will hope to go one step better than their compatriots last year who finished runners-up to Australia.
A great opportunity for our young players to provide a boost to the LTA in a week in which it was revealed that the governing body of British tennis have missed a number of the ranking goals they set back in 2008.