We are just days away now, tennis fans! The United Cup will start on December 29 and Rafael Nadal will return in less than a week. Nadal will be making his comeback from hip surgery at the Brisbane International next week.
No one really knows what to expect from Nadal, of course. He could even win the tournament. Though that might be a bit of a surprise after not playing competitively in almost a year and then playing on a hard court instead of clay. Still, who would put anything past Nadal?
At the United Cup we will get to see Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek play. There will be no ATP or WTA points awarded, but players will participate for home and country. Plus, there are a number of high-level players involved so those should make for some good warmup matches to the Australian Open. The Aussie Open begins in less than three weeks. But here is some other news for Wednesday.
One former player says Jannik Sinner has closed the gap on Carlos Alcaraz
Tim Henman, former top-five player on the ATP tour, knows quite a bit about tennis, of course. He was a very good player and he keeps a keen eye on the current state of the game. During a recent interview with Eurosport, Henman got pretty candid about what he thinks of Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner as well.
Henman still believes Alcaraz is a special talent with his ability to hit all manner of shots and to bang away with the best or when using potentially the best drop shot in men's tennis. But even with all that skill, Henman thinks Italian Jannik Sinner has closed the gap between him and Alcaraz. And why not? By the end of 2023, no one, not even Novak Djokovic, was playing as well as Sinner and Sinner even beat Djokovic twice in the span of two weeks in November.
According to Henman, "I think Alcaraz has got a little bit more versatility but in terms of ball striking and power from the back of the court, Sinner is phenomenal...I felt that Alcaraz was definitely a good step ahead of Sinner but the way Sinner played at the end of last year, I think Sinner has absolutely closed the gap."
Emma Raducanu might not have to play in Australian Open qualifying
Raducanu is waiting and hoping and playing the weirdness of the WTA rules. The former US Open champion is currently ranked nowhere near the top ten (she is 298), but because of a WTA rule that protects a ranking for a player that has suffered an injury and missed tournaments or been out on maternity leave for at least six months, Raducanu has a Special Ranking of 103. This was the ranking she had in the last tournament she played which was Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in April of 2023.
To not have to play in qualifying for the Australian Open, Raducanu needed four players ranked higher than Raducanu to withdraw from the first Grand Slam of 2024. This week, Caty McNally announced she would not play in Melbourne and this helped Raducanu. Now the Brit needs three other players to withdraw and there is a good chance at least that many will with injury concerns. By the time the Australian Open begins on January 14, Raducanu will likely be in the main draw while not having to have played in qualifying.
Andrey Rublev can't quit
Andrey Rublev clearly loves playing tennis. This is proven by the number of tournaments he participates in each year. He almost always has a heavy schedule and he remains healthy enough to make most of his scheduled events. One does wonder, however, if only for his mental health if he might need to take a bit more time off.
In a recent interview with Tennis Majors, Rublev's coach, Fernando Vicente, said the Russian taking a break isn't going to happen any time soon. Vincente said, "After Monte-Carlo, (Rublev) won Monte Carlo. I said: ‘Better to not play.’ He said: ‘No, they’re going to start on Wednesday and they make an effort, they trust in me, that’s why they signed me to go.’ He wants to go full."