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Federer's inconvenient truth, tabling GOAT talk and more

We're on vacation this week and next, so the 'bags might be thinner than normal....

In an earlier post, you mentioned that we should get back to you in mid-July to see if we were talking about a Federer slump. Well, it is late July now. So I will ask this again. What is going on with Roger Federer?-- Michael Elias, Tarzana, California

• WTHIGOW Roger Federer was the big question this week. For many of you, the Gilles Simon loss last week in Toronto consecrated this inconvenient truth: we're officially in a Federer recession. Sadly, I tend to agree that the Simon match said a lot. It told me that a) his protestations to the contrary, Federer still hasn't recovered from the aftershock of the Wimbledon final. It told me that he's fatigued. Losing to a lesser player after being up a break in the third, it told me that his confidence isn't where it needs to be.

Again, I encourage realism on both sides. Federer's run of winning 90 percent of his matches as a matter of course lasted for four-plus glorious years. Inevitably, it had to come to an end, the same way the housing market had to cool off eventually. We wish the boom times could last forever but that's not how capitalist markets work and it's not how human nature works either. Inasmuch as you can call a "slump" two Grand Slam finals and a Grand Slam semi, Federer's result are, indisputably, down this year. Whether or not the rankings reflect it this week, next week or after the Open, the torch has been passed to Rafael Nadal.

Having said that, who's to say that Federer can't reclaim his spot. The housing will rebound eventually. Federer can as well. He's barely in his late 20s. He's still immensely talented. His "annus miserabilis" is a dream season for any other player. These rumors of his quitting tennis after Beijing are preposterous. Part of being a champion is responding to defeat and adversity. How Federer bounces back (or doesn't) to the Challenge of Nadal will be a vital chapter in his legacy. Stay tuned.

If Federer wins the U.S. Open and retains the number one ranking by a nose this year, is he truly number one? Two majors don't offset one? I realize that this scenario is unlikely. -- Ben Bittner, Milwaukee, WI

• I made a vow to cut down on these hypotheticals, but like my beloved wasabi-covered peas, they're just so darn irresistible. I might put a U.S. Open title, a Masters Cup title, an Olympic gold (and a French Open final and Wimbledon final) up against two Slams. Which is to say that unless Federer absolutely runs the table from here on out, Nadal is the 2008 MVP.

Think there's any chance the USTA gives two-time NCAA champion and UVa graduate Somdev Devvarman a wildcard to the U.S. Open? He's had a blistering start to a pro career. Somdev has won his first four events with victories over several top-100 guys, including Sam Querrey, Bobby Reynolds, Dudi Sela. Plus he's beaten Robert Kendrick twice, as well as Xavier Malisse (who was down multiple service breaks when he retired). In the past month he's won two futures, a $40,000 check for a N.Y. invitational (which was more than the runner-up at the ATP Newport event received) and his first challenger. Obviously, he's not American, so that's an issue, but he seems to merit consideration.-- John, Greenville, SC

• I must have gotten a dozen e-mails asking the same question, and methinks there's a letter-writing campaign underway. I'll take up the cause here. I don't fault the USTA for declining to give a wild card to the overseas 24-year-old ringer who came to State U (or Princeton for that matter) under dubious circumstances and ran the table. But given Devvarman's career at UVA, his academic record there, and his early success as a pro, I think there's a strong case to be made here. And he CERTAINLY deserves a wild card into qualies.

Just a friendly note that Magnus Norman fended off 10 match points against Guga Kuerten in the final of the French Open in 2000. Which reminds me that, contrary to reports by John McEnroe and others, Bjorn Borg did attend the French Open in 1997 -- he presented the trophy to Guga that year, and Guga bowed down to Borg. Please pass this along to McEnroe if you have a contact with him, as he keeps saying otherwise. -- Kerry Mackin, Ipswich MA

• Thanks, though let the record reflect that Guga ended up winning the match. And Johnny Mac, if you're out there, read above. For more on match points, go to the end ...

How would you rate the chances of Safina at the USO? She certainly seems to have taken a huge step forward insofar as her mental state is concerned.-- Rhys, Singapore

• Intended pun v/v "huge steps"? Safina has made immense strides (ba-dum-bum) in recent months and, having won L.A. last weekend, she's pretty much a de facto U.S. Open contender. I still think there are a few mental questions that need to be addressed, but I put her as a shortlister right now.

Please tell me, what is the story behind all of these pictures showing Nadal biting his trophies? -- Valerie, Lemon Grove, CA

• A few of you have asked this recently. Just a childhood habit that he's continued as a pro. Plus, he gets his RDA of zinc and iron.

WHOA! wait a sec...where's all this "Nadal for GOAT" talk coming from? I know you're arguing against it, but how is it even in the picture in the first place? Are we getting a little too carried away from his Wimbledon win? Let's do a quick refresher of the players that are still in a league above his game, slams and historic presence: Federer, Agassi, Sampras, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Connors, to name a few in just in the modern era. He's having a great year and equaled a long standing record, but, there are too many things to do for him before he even gets in contention for top 10 of all time.-- Vijay Kalpathi, Houston

• Dude is 22 and he's won Wimbledon and four French Opens. Not crazy to speculate: "If he continues on this trajectory where might he end up?" A long way to go, to be sure, but I think it's perfectly reasonable to spin the clock forward and play the "what if" game. Sort of like Tommy Carcetti is only a Baltimore city council member, but he's so promising they already speculate about his becoming Maryland governor.

So if one has to win a Slam on all three surfaces, does that mean that no one is the GOAT?-- Graham, Vancouver

• Good point. Let's table the GOAT discussion for a while.

Jon, I was at the match when Cibulkova retired against Sugiyama down 0-40. While on paper that looks ridiculous, in reality Cibulkova's leg was cramping up so badly that she was given a time violation. The look on her grimaced faced evoked so much pain, that it was obvious she was forced to either 1. retire or 2. lose the point on a time violation penalty.-- Gautam R Mehta, Los Gatos, Calif.

• I'm getting conflicting reports on this, but I wanted to print Gautam's account. Let's give D.C. a pass here.

Hi Jon, not exactly a stellar year for Donald Young so far. I know he's only 19 and it's way too early to say he's never going to be a top 10 or top 20 player, but what do you think he needs to do in order to kick start his career the way Sam Querrey or even Jesse Levine have?-- Blake Redabaugh, Denver, Colo.

• Young did qualify for the Toronto TMS event, so give him credit for that. And let's not forget that he's just turned 19. But, yes, this has not exactly been the breakthrough year many anticipated. I think there are a few things going on here.

The book on Young is that he's long on talent and short on temper. The midmatch meltdown is a question of when, not if. One coach told me that players know they just need to hang with him, because eventually he'll beat himself. He also lacks a real weapon. The funkadelic lefty style makes for fun viewing, but it's ultimately not sustainable without a bread-and-butter shot and a bigger serve.

There are also the (euphemism alert) "coaching issues." I certainly commiserate with any parent who is reluctant to cede control over their kid's life/career. But at some point...well, what was it Sting crooned? "If you love someone ...

What's going on with Shahar Peer? She seems to lose in the first or second round nearly every week. Do you think she's already reached her peak?-- David Bilmes, Southbury, Conn.

• Peer, Chakvetadze, Bartoli. There are a handful of mid-level WTA players who seem to be operating on fumes right now. If we take it as a given that the season is too long, it stands to reason that players -- particularly the ones who enter too many events -- will go through lulls. I think you either have to risk angering the tour and playing selectively, or you play full-time and it's just a given that you won't be close to 100 percent mentally and physically.

I have seen Samantha Stosur playing doubles and she has a powerful game. I think she should be in the top ten. I know she was ill or injured recently. What are her chances?-- Joel Castro, San Juan, P.R.

• I like Sam Stosur's attacking game a lot and give her a lot of credit for her return from a freak case of Lyme's disease (shades of Alicia Molik). Will she be a top five player? Unlikely.

Not trying to rub Football fans in the wrong way, but if the entire Favre fiasco were to happen last year, would Brett Favre be still considered for Sportsman of the Year by SI? If not, would that bump Federer's chance by a lot?-- Jimmy Chen, Auburn, AL

• Let's take this opportunity to comment on the "Favre fiasco." Admittedly, I have no idea what it's like to have an exceptional talent and then walk away knowing that my life will likely savour of anticlimax, as Fitzgerald put it, from here on out. I don't blame these figures one bit (see: Becker, Boris) for slurping every last drop from the glass. That said, you have to keep your dignity. Duplicitous phone calls on a company-owned cell phone? Who does Favre think he is, Kelvin Sampson? You retire as a deified figure and now you resort to this? At once, fascinating and sad.

• From the new book "The Bud Collins History of Tennis," the most match points saved in a match, 1930 United States vs. Italy Davis Cup series, opening match Wilmer Allison of the USA saves 18 match points in beating Giorgio deStefani of Italy 4-6, 7-9, 6-4, 8-6, 10-8.

• World No. 18 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has withdrawn from New Haven.

• In response to the linked Slate article about Michael Chang, here's a response by Mirra Lansboro of Los Angeles. The fairness doctrine mandates we run this:

While I understand Hsu's dislike for Chang in that he reinforced the Chinese-American stereotype (aka being the hard worker but not the flashy All-American star), Hsu should not be personally blaming Chang, but the American commentators who cast him in that light. Why is everyone so concerned that Chang is Chinese and that he's inspiring Chinese-Americans? Why can't he inspire all Americans? He's American.

I remember one interview on ESPN where the commentator asked him about progress in Chinese tennis. Michael responded that he hoped that it would gain more popularity for the sake of sport -- but that he [cared] little about it. He said he was more focused upon American tennis. (And rightly so, he's American.)

Sure Chang played alongside American greats like Courier and Sampras, who won way more slams than he. But still, Chang won the French and he was No. 2 in the world for some time. He may not deserve to be in the GOAT, but he definitely deserves better than all these chats surrounding his race.

• The USTA announced the USTA Tennis & Education Foundation will be re-branded as USTA Serves -- Foundation for Academics. Character. Excellence. (ACE). With the new title, the 14-year-old Foundation will continue its mission of changing lives through tennis and education. The re-brand will heighten awareness of the Foundation's philanthropic initiatives. The ACE acronym, which focuses on life skills that stretch well beyond tennis, will also broaden the public's understanding of the Foundation's mission.

Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer will team up on the same side of the court for the first time as part of a special event on the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Macao, China, Nov. 20. The pair, who have both won five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles in their respective careers, will take on John McEnroe and either Rafael Nadal or James Blake in a doubles match at The Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown 2008.

• On a sad note. Long time tennis supporter Tom Pura passed away last week.

Mike T. Alameda, CA has this week's long lost siblings:

Victor Hanescu (ROU) + Mark Philippoussis (AUS) = long-lost siblings:

HAVE A GOOD WEEK EVERYONE!

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