Rafael Nadal’s long awaited return to action at Queen’s may have ended far too soon with another shockingly early exit, but his very short stint in London builds some excitement ahead of Wimbledon – just weeks away.
Tennis is at something of a crossroads now, who will be the top dog at SW19? Perhaps Novak Djokovic will show his loss in the final of the French Open was blip and return to his unstoppable form? Perhaps Stan Wawrinka is finally ready to join the big four with consistent brilliance? What about Andy Murray, Roger Federer and even Nadal?
Queens should be the perfect opportunity for some of the storylines to take shape before the main event. Wimbledon’s warm-up event is just not being utilised enough at the moment.
The Major in London, besides its equivalent in Australia, is the only big tournament that doesn’t have a Masters 1000 event acting as the warm-up. It would be great to see the best players congregate in one place.
Just look at the prelude to Roland Garros, Djokovic all dominating and Nadal all the over the place, it made for fascinating background to the fortnight in Paris.
Currently Queens is in competition for the best players with Halle in Germany. You have the likes of Nadal and Murray in England, while Federer struts his stuff on the continent. Djokovic and Wawrinka don’t feature at either; it’s all a bit disjointed and fans aren’t allowed the opportunity to build excitement for Wimbledon.
Some great names have used Queens to fantastic effect before. Murray has won it on three occasions to show British fans he could finally win Wimbledon. Nadal did it before being involved in some of the greatest-ever tennis matches.
Maybe Andy Roddick might not have pushed Federer so hard for so many years on Centre Court if it wasn’t for his success in the build-up. Lleyton Hewit, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl are other famous past winners.
The tournament has a great heritage, clearly, so why is it suffering at the moment? Money perhaps? Nadal has eluded to the fact this week that top stars get taxed highly in this country and perhaps the prize money just isn’t worth it?
You have to look at how well Wimbledon is received and how well the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena are received to see that tennis in this country makes money. There needs to be more funding to make Queens on the level of the other pre-Slam Masters events.
For this year, Murray will have to make the most of a lack of top ten competition to add a fourth trophy to his cabinet – his main rival has already fallen. You have to think that he would rather be beating the very best players in the world to earn the silverware though.