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Why there is more to tennis in February than meets the eye

Andy Murray on Centre Court
by Mark Hodgkinson
Thursday 13 February 2014

February is a funny month in the tennis calendar. Wimbledon.com explains that it has a lot more going for it than you might think...

This Valentine's Day, spare a thought and a helium balloon for February, the most unloved month in tennis. You don't often hear people in tennis speaking highly of February. Instead they'll be saying that February is the slowest month on the tennis calendar, dead time after the Australian Open, and before the two big-ticket hard-court tournaments in California and Florida in March. 

But don't accept all those criticisms; February has plenty going for it, not least that this year the men's Wimbledon champion Andy Murray (pictured above) took a late wild card into this week's tournament in Rotterdam, a decision that demonstrated that his back wasn't in any discomfort after the Australian Open. Accepting an invitation from a former Wimbledon champion, Richard Krajicek, who is now the director of the tournament in the Dutch port city, Murray travelled to Rotterdam hoping to 'challenge' his body before playing in Acapulco later in February. He "quite fancied" a tournament. Clearly, Murray wants to make the most of his February, getting matches into his body, as well as ranking points into his racket-bag. 

All those who malign February should also consider how the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, will be wild-card entries into the women's tournament in Dubai later in the month, or that the women's Australian Open champion, Li Na, is already back on the tennis trail, competing in Qatar this week. And though Rafa Nadal withdrew from this week's event in Buenos Aires, because of a stomach virus, he is still scheduled to compete at the inaugural tournament in Rio de Janeiro, while Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are on the entry-list for the men's tournament in Dubai. 

And already this month, we have seen Murray competing in the Davis Cup, leading Great Britain to  victory over the United States, while the Swiss team that beat Serbia included a couple of grand slam winners in Federer and the new men's Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka. Will February 2014 turn out to be the month when Federer launched a successful attempt to win the Davis Cup for the first time? Win the Davis Cup, and the only significant title missing from his collection will be an Olympic gold medal for singles - since he has already won the four grand slams, the season-ending tournament and an Olympic gold medal for doubles. And February has already seen female tennis players such as Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova representing their countries, in the Fed Cup

It's not as if the WTA and the ATP have any gaps in their diaries in February. This week on the women's circuit, it's Doha, next week there are a couple of tournaments, one in Dubai and another in Rio de Janeiro, and the week after there are events in Florianopolis and Acapulco. There are ATP tournaments on three continents both this week and next. This week, players are split between Rotterdam, Memphis and Buenos Aires, while next week the tour rolls on to Marseille, Delray Beach and Rio de Janeiro. And then the following week, there are tournaments in Dubai, Acapulco and Sao Paulo. So, tennis is hardly taking the month off. 

There's plenty to watch and to discuss in February. No one's claiming that February is something it isn't - this plainly isn't the month that the elite players build their seasons around, and hope to peak for - but February deserves a little more love. 

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