Thursday July 2nd, 2009

This is our last "crumpet" for Wimbledon 2009. Time to do magazine work (though I'll continue periodic tweeting and podcasting). If you'd like, you could read this tomorrow; think of it as tape-delay. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. We'll be back Sunday with a Wimbledon wrap-up!

What did you make of Elena Dementieva's performance in the semifinals? She gave Serena Williams a real fight, but lost in the end. Does this help her or does it crush her? -- Don, Chicago

• Let's start this discussion by acknowledging a sensational effort from Serena Williams. Still another courageous performance on a large stage, this time saving a match point -- with a volley, no less! -- to win a semifinal. Add it the pile. It's easy to trespass into cliché -- refuse to lose, heart of a champion, never say die -- but is there a better way to put it? There's a cardiologist somewhere who should be studying Serena.

As I wrote to some of you, that's as gripping a women's match as I've seen in a long time. (And it was somehow poetic that Venus Williams followed it up with a comprehensive destruction of Dinara Safina, as if to remind the world that the rest of the field might not be closing in after all.)

As for Dementieva, she deserves immense credit for playing so well on a big stage and coming so close. She served the match of her life. She returned well, especially that crosscourt forehand in the deuce court. After losing a close second set, she went up a break in the third. Still, she failed to close. Dementieva spoke of being pleased with her performance and leaving with confidence that she came so close. But realistically: You're a longtime veteran, a top five player, and you've never won a Slam. You're having the serving day of your life. You're a passing shot from the Wimbledon final. And you lose. How does that not haunt you for years? Cruel sport, this tennis.

Reports of the demise of U.S. tennis seem a little premature. At the time of this writing, there are two American players in the women's semis, one in the men's semis, two teams of men in the doubles semis, one team and another woman in the women's doubles semis, and Americans are holding their own in the mixed doubles. Plus, the talk of the tournament (besides Andy Murray) is 17-year-old Melanie Oudin. Maybe American depth is not as great as it was in the Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi-Jim Courier-Michael Chang era, but in 2009, on the second Thursday of Wimbledon, there will be eight Americans with shots at championships. Alas, I, however, am not alive in the TAT suicide pool. I picked James Blake and died really early on the men's side. -- John Gibney, Richmond, Va.

• If it makes you feel better, I picked Tammy Tanasugarn in the women's draw. To your more important point, I agree. And I would add that both Devin Britton and Alex Domijan impressed in the boys' draw. Clearly we need to adjust our standards. Times are changing. Five American men will inhabit the top 10 around the same time the hottest bands sell 20 million CDs. That era has passed. What we're left with is a lot of global variety and an era in which eight quarterfinalists will represent eight countries. And the U.S. is doing OK, given the circumstances.

Do you think Roger Federer's streak of 21 Grand Slam semifinals will ever be broken? -- Tanvir Mazumder

• Yeah, when hits 22 at the U.S. Open!

Please clarify: You wrote that Novak Djokovic hasn't made a semifinal this year. He hasn't made a Grand Slam semifinal, but he played two very memorable matches against Rafael Nadal this year (one a semi and one a final). -- M.J. Murray, Uxbridge, Mass.

• Right. I should have clarified. My point was the after reaching the semis of all four majors as a matter of course, Djokovic hasn't made a final four appearance so far in 2009. Don't blame the racket, either. Astute reader Asher Gilani of Karachi, Pakistan, noted: "Djokovic used a certain HEAD racket until he was 18, when he signed a contract for Wilson, which then had to customize a racket that was similar to his old one. Djokovic is now back using his old HEAD rackets, albeit with a different paint job. Therefore, theoretically it shouldn't be that hard to adjust back to a racket you've been playing with most of your life."

I love your stuff, but just thought you should know that every eligible 300-game winner is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. -- Michael Lipka, Chicago

• Yeah, I can't I believe I whiffed on that one in the last mailbag. Bert Blyleven, with 287 wins, is the player I had in mind.

The top four women's singles seeds all make the semis, and the top four women's doubles seeds make the semis. The rankings work. -- Alan Gnani, Atlanta

• On grass, no less.

I think you'll find that Juan Martin del Potro will have a much better appearance at Wimbledon this year. This guy is the real deal, the next big thing on the tour. Andy Roddick? I lost my faith in that guy years ago. -- Mike, Los Angeles

• I reprint this not to humiliate Mike of Los Angeles, but to underscore this point: Predictions are inherently uncertain. Sometimes you nail them; sometimes they nail you. My feeling is that they're fun to read and (occasionally) instructive, but they often make us look silly in retrospect.

Tied 4-4 in a no-tiebreak deciding set, would most players prefer to serve or receive the next game? -- Ronny, Haifa, Israel

• Definitely to serve. Consider the Wimbledon final last year. From 4-5 on, Rafael Nadal was serving to stay in the match. (Which made his win all the more remarkable.) At least when your serve first, even if you're broken, you still have a chance.

TV commentators keep bringing up how hot it is this year, but is all that overblown? Sure, it's hot by London standards, but temps in the 80s are a breeze by U.S. and Australian Open standards. Seems like the players aren't bothered by it (except Jelena Jankovic, who staged all the usual drama on the way out) -- Brendan, Jasper, Ind.

• Your suspicions are correct. It's been thoroughly pleasant, hot by British standards (with an absence of rain as well) but nothing oppressive. Here are Roddick's thoughts during a press conference:

Q. We're unused to this kind of weather in this country. Is it fair to say you kind of grew up in this kind of stuff, your tennis education anyway?

ANDY RODDICK: No, this is cold from where I come from.

Q. So this really is nothing to you?

ANDY RODDICK: No. I mean, I grew up in Florida and Texas. It gets offensively hot in both places. You know, I'm not too concerned about the heat, to be honest.

• Today's long-lost siblings: Andy Murray and G.K. Willington (also known as Groundskeeper Willie). -- Zach Bishop, Denver

• Think it's more of a sound-alike than a look-alike. "Arrrghhh, get your haggis, right here! Chopped heart and lungs boiled in a wee sheep's stomach! Tastes as good as it sounds."

Happy July 4, American readers!

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