Monday June 22nd, 2009

While struggling to digest James Blake's loss on the first day of Wimbledon ...

Doesn't it sound like a cowardly act for Rafael Nadal to pull out of Wimbledon just because he's "not 100 percent"? If you're No. 1 in the world and known for your never-say-die, never-give-up attitude on the court, wouldn't you at least try to defend your title even at "only 70 or 80 percent capacity"?Most top players take a month-long break after Wimbledon anyway, so there's a lot of time to recover then. -- Roger Dulay, Manila, Philippines

• Several of you wrote in making the same point and I think it bears addressing. Yes, claiming you are withdrawing because you are "not 100 percent" rang odd. What athlete is fully healthy, especially midway through a season? Yet I would encourage you to cut Nadal some slack here. For one, there's the lost-in-translation factor. Second, as Roger notes, given what we know about Nadal, he's the last guy who would be cavalier about his commitments. (Spark up the 2009 Australian Open video.) Particularly, as the defending champion, you know he had to be awfully banged up not to even attempt to play. And while Nadal is the last person you'd call mercenary, it's safe to assume his decision came at a steep financial price. The forfeited endorsement bonuses alone surely exceeded seven figures.

If Nadal does come in for some criticism, it's in his scheduling. You play a grinding, violent style of tennis to begin with. Plus, the ATP policy -- a discussion for another time -- compels you to enter five heavy-duty events between mid-March and the French Open. That being the case, did Nadal really need to enter Barcelona? And guess how many doubles matches he played in 2009? Nine. That's a lot of mileage before you've played the second Slam of the season. Yes, easy to carp in hindsight. But I'd be very surprised if Nadal is quite so active in the first half of 2010.

I know the questions about shrieking are getting tired, but the first-round match between Maria Sharapova and Viktoriya Kutuzova was unbearable. Not only was it difficult to tell them apart in their matching white outfits, but the shrieks they were emitting made it impossible to watch and enjoy the match. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for the linespeople or courtside spectators. This issue in conjunction with the 28 ball bounces before each serve makes me wonder why there are umpires at all. If any player, especially a relative unknown like Kutuzova, can flagrantly disregard the rules, doesn't that send a message that other rule-bending actions will be ignored? -- Ruben Graciani, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

• I think you've inadvertently answered the question. When the rules are selectively enforced, the "relative unknowns" emulate this bad behavior. Not only that: So do the juniors. We've seen this with on-court coaching. We've seen this with the excessive time between points. We now see it with grunting. If Justine Henin receives blatant mid-match coaching (or if Sharapova shrieks like a woman in labor) and there is no consequence, lesser players take a cue. The WTA's invertebrate response to coaching: Rather than condemning some of the more marketable stars about their rule-flouting, the organization legalized the bad behavior. Let's hope the response to grunting -- which, in this "perception equals reality" world, is now officially a problem -- is a bit more courageous.

Why are there so few grass-court tournaments? And why is the gap between French Open and Wimbledon so close? Can't it be extended to accommodate more Wimbledon tune-ups? -- Khairi Akbar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

• Cue the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack: TRADITION! But even if the period between the French and Wimbledon is elongated, there is the question of venue. There are a finite number of facilities that are suited to host a pro tournament on grass. I think it was Ted Robinson, however, who floated this suggestion: Why not surface courts with the field turf that has become so popular in the United States and hold a few "artificial grass" tournaments?

In looking at the ATP schedule, do you have a prediction for the Open? Any inside information that would in no way compromise the sport? -- Marc Schulz, Omaha, Neb.

• At the risk of triggering an investigation from the "Tennis Integrity Unit," I predict that the sluggish global economy and the tenuous sponsorship market will cause leagues and organizations to relax ethical standards. Seriously, this is like Major League Baseball accepting sponsorships from mail-order pharmacies.

Why do none of the Grand Slams have pay-to-watch Video on Demand services of old matches? Lots of readers have talked about wanting to get videos of old matches. In the past, the issue of the telecast rights has always been used as an excuse, but all the Grand Slams have had long- term relationships with their host broadcasters (Wimbledon with the BBC, Australia with Channel 7, France with TF1 and the U.S. Open with CBS). A joint partnership would be easy to add to the existing contractual agreements, and since among them they own all the rights, I can't see any objection! For instance, I'd happily pay to watch the 1991 U.S. Open women's semifinals. -- Kevin James, London

• You stumped me. Sure seems like money being left on the table. And I'm with you: I'd happily pay for a DVD of, say, the 1984 French Open final.

Amazing! If Nadal happens to win the U.S. Open, we could have two guys completing a career Slam in the same year. What are the odds of that happening? -- Kelly Gulley, Atlanta

• Yes, and if Federer wins Wimbledon we will have -- after nearly three decades of failure -- two straight "summer double" winners.

• An in-house podcast for your enjoyment. Candid feedback welcome.

• Problem fixed? Just got this: "NBC Sports and the AELTC combine to present Live at Wimbledon, providing live streaming and on-demand access to The Championships, Wimbledon. The Live at Wimbledon video experience, which will be powered by Microsoft Silverlight, marks the first time that coverage of The Championships, Wimbledon will be widely available in the U.S. via free, live online streaming.

"NBC Sports will present more than 38 broadcast hours of coverage over nine days from Wimbledon beginning this Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, and includes live coverage of the Gentleman's and Ladies' Finals. All matches televised by NBC Sports are available online at Live at Wimbledon via and"

• Thanks to Luo Yuanhong of Singapore for this hilarious grunting video.

Les Banas of Las Vegas: "Last year, Federer, a sure candidate to better Bjorn Borg's record of five consecutive Wimbledons, came up short. This year, Nadal, touted the best clay-court player ever, and an odds-on candidate to break Borg's record of four consecutive Roland Garros titles, comes to a shocking stop in the fourth round. Can we call it a 'Borg Curse'?"

• Nice win by Karol (not Andreas) Beck, a lucky loser who, playing in his first major since 2005, upset Feliciano Lopez. Dude was down 1-6, 0-4 and wins in five sets. Now he's into Round 2 against a non-seed. You love stories like this.

Tommy Haas will enter the L.A. event, which begins July 27. Individual session tickets for the tournament went on sale Monday.

• When did "patchy" become such a voguish tennis adjective?

• Bet $1 for Andy Murray to win his first match? The return is $1.01.

• Good long-lost siblings from Amaresh Malipatil of Milpitas, Calif.: Federer and Slavko Juraga.

Enjoy Day 2, everyone!

To order a copy of Jon Wertheim's new book, Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, click here.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.