Febtember is what happens to September after the U.S. Open ends and before the Asian swing begins and so tennis talk becomes fixated on what’s going to happen in February. Febtember. From the Greek, “Febtember.” Part of speech? Noun. Alternate pronunciations? FEBtember. FebTEMber. FEBTEMBER. (my personal favorite). Sentence? “Sometimes in Febtember I wonder what happened to September.”
Febtember topic #1 was yesterday, when Rafa signed up for the Rio Open. This led to some people making fun of Rafa for signing up for too many tournaments or playing too much and then getting injured and/or complaining about the length season, etc. But, this didn’t make any sense because Rio is a 500 event and top-30 ATP players are required to play four 500 events each year, including at least one after the U.S. Open. Monte Carlo counts as a 500 event, since it is a non-mandatory 1000 event, so if Rafa plays Rio, MC, Barcelona, and then one 500 event after the U.S. Open (Beijing or Basel, for example; and yes, at this point, Rafa is scheduled to play an extra 500 event this year, but it’s not for sure until he actually plays, plus, of course Rafa is going to want to “take advantage” of some “opportunities” he has afforded himself this year by having such a marvelous comeback (i.e. collect gigantic appearance fees)–that’s just good business), then he will simply be fulfilling his mandatory commitments. If he were to play Acapulco, as he did this year, then yes, that would likely be “extra” (unless he didn’t play Barcelona, which he did skip in ’10), but it already looks like he is indeed nixing the newly-hard court Acapulco and in fact replacing it rather than adding to it with the slightly more Rafa-friendly clay of Rio. There’s still a small possibility Rafa could return to the 250 tournaments in Viña del Mar or Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo is actually the same week as Acapulco next year), but I think that’s unlikely. He only played those tournaments this year because they were low-stress places to start his comeback. I can’t see them becoming mainstays on his calendar, especially as he probably is looking to play Miami next year, having withdrawn from it two years running now (once mid-tournament), and part of the reason he was unable to play this year is because he played four tournaments just prior to it. Next year, if he plays only two, he should be in better shape.
Febtember topic #2 is Davis Cup, which is divided into two Febtember subtopics, Febtember subtopic 2a (the draw) and Febtember subtopic 2b (the captain). Regarding Febtember subtopic 2a, the draw: Spain will play Germany, in Germany, in the first round of World Group competition next year. That means Pphhiilliipp (I give up) “always takes a set off Rafa on non-clay surfaces” Kohlschreiber, Daniel “terrifying silent shaking fist pump/was 3 points from being up 2 sets to love on Rafa in the 1st round of Roland Garros” Bronze-y, and, AND Tommy Haas will be Spain’s adversaries. Nevermind! Tommy Haas doesn’t usually play Davis Cup. So instead it probably will be Florian “made Rafa really sad that one time in Shanghai” Mayer.
The point is, it’s definitely a tricky match-up, particularly as Germany most certainly won’t choose clay and might even choose grass given Rafa’s recent struggles on the green stuff, as well as it generally being Spaniards’ worst surface, as well as the Germans generally being pretty good on it. Of course, there’s no guarantee Rafa will even play the tie (the Australian Open final, which I have Rafa penciled in as playing/winning (CAN’T CHANGE PENCIL) is on 1/26; the tie starts on 1/31; might need to alter post title to Febjantember), plus, even if he does, he’s still a two-time Wimbledon champion and five-time finalist, plus, Fer just made the Wimbledon quarters himself, plus, Feli isn’t so bad on grass, either (he’s made the Wimbledon quarters and he won Eastbourne this year). So it might backfire, if they do in fact try to trip Spain up with grass. We shall see.
Regarding Febtember topic 2b, the captain. Apparently Alex Corretja is out, and probably will be replaced by Carlos Moya. The rumors of Corretja’s ousting actually started all the way back in last February, when Spain lost to Canada in the first round, as did the rumors he would be replaced by Moya or Ferrero. There are now rumors that there is quite a bit of tension between Corretja and the players (including Rafa), coaches, and RFET officials (including Albert Costa). It’s hard to know what’s true and not true, but since these rumors started months ago when Rafa wasn’t even on the team, I don’t think it has much to do with him personally. In fact, Corretja’s relatively short tenure (and actually, it’s not even that short–2 years, which doesn’t seem atypical for a Spanish Davis Cup captain) as captain likely is mostly attributable to the results–i.e. losing the final vs. Czech Republic in 2012, and losing to Canada this year. Obviously this wasn’t all Corretja’s fault–he only had the players he had (although, there were some questionable decisions, i.e. playing Almagro instead of Feli on a fast hard court)–but as captain, he does have to take responsibility for the results, good and bad; that’s kind of the deal for captains. Of course, many are speculating Moya has been/will be chosen over Ferrero for the captain position because he is close friends with Rafa and Rafa is more likely to play Davis Cup with Charly at the helm, which is perhaps true to a point, but, Moya would be a good and likely candidate regardless of his connection with Rafa (at age 37, Moya’s also older and more experienced than Ferrero; at 33 and just retired from the tour last year, Ferrero would be a very young Davis Cup coach.)
I am adding one additional Febtember 2 subtopic at the last minute, 2c: USA vs. GB, namely, Andy Murray’s self-confidence issues and his amusing joining-in of making fun of British journalists on Twitter:
@piersnewbery do we go into the tie with a 2 zero head start? Or are you just assuming beating 6ft 10 guy with rocket serve is a given?—
Andy Murray (@andy_murray) September 18, 2013
Finally, Febtember topic 3 is Valentine’s Day. Anybody have any fun plans?