Blake's French flameout, opposing views on Serena and more mail
• Where to begin? I don't disagree with your premise. At least relative to other players, Blake doesn't field much criticism for his shortcomings, particularly in majors. I can only speak for myself, but I can confirm Steven's suspicion: You see that someone is a fundamentally decent guy, an accessible subject who makes your job easier, takes his off-court obligations seriously ... and you're not particularly inclined to criticize him. You know, of course, that personal sentiment shouldn't cloud objective commentary. But you're human. Someone treats you with respect and you resist "crucifying" him.
What is up with Blake? For one, his tactics are unworthy of someone who is otherwise thoughtful and bright. Too much go-for-broke whacking, too much impatience. I also think he psyches himself out. His postmatch remarks about clay suggest that he never believed in himself on the surface. He is known to be thrown off by the slightest dissatisfaction with his equipment. A confidant says he's immensely sensitive -- to subpar conditions, to perceived slights, to media criticism. Blake turns 30 this winter and surely knows the engine won't purr forever. Be nice to see him make one more run. Be nice to see a good guy do well.
• Isn't this a great validation for tennis? It isn't power uber alles. Dudes can set records for aces and still lose matches! Let's be clear that we're talking very extreme cases here. I think of Karlovic as a solid college player with a world-class serve. When the gun is firing, he can beat
In the case of Agassi, we're talking about arguably the greatest returner ever, especially when it comes to hard servers. (Agassi could return Thor's thunderbolts as if they were propped on a tee, but was less effective a returner when pushed out wide a la
• Um, that's a good question, no? I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy -- jingoist journalists clean up the syntax of Americans but leave the Spanish hanging out to dry! But my strong suspicion is that the transcribers (who are amazing) record every word but not every guttural utterance.
• I say cut her some slack. True, hers was not the most graceful of exits and she probably made one too many comments about her leaving the Dickensian conditions of the WTA Tour. But particularly given her family situation, the desire for a break was understandable. And you always had a sense this was less a retirement than an extended break. The WTA could use her back in the cast and I'm not so sure she isn't a Slam contender.
• Long as we're dressing up as the grammar/syntax/word choice police, could someone explain the concept of "literal" to certain TV commentators? Unless there's smoke coming out of his ears, Nadal is not "literally on fire." Nor is
Speaking of Serena, here are two vastly different perspectives on her:
In the red corner,
And in the opposing corner, here's
"Serena wins when it matters, and if majors are all history remembers -- and they are -- then she has it exactly right in her approach, and exactly right that she is, in the tournaments that truly matter, overwhelmingly No. 1 indeed."
• I'm not sure whose interests are served when all racket sports are conflated. When Tennis Channel used to air platform tennis matches, I thought it carried a whiff of amateur hour. (It's like when Comedy Central aired