While mourning Mathieu Montcourt and thinking how downright creepy it is that two players penalized recently by the ATP for petty gambling infractions --Federico Luzzi is the other -- have died ...
Fed's great. We get it. But come on -- sporting a new jacket with "15" on it minutes after surviving a match he probably should not have won? Why won't the media call him on this?-- Stephen Thomas, Greensboro, N.C.
• I'll call him on that. Anyone who breaks the all-time record for majors, winning the Wimbledon final 16-14 in the fifth set, deserves a day of unconditional love. But now that it's Wednesday -- and 72 hours have elapsed -- I'll join the many of you who wrote in critiquing Federer's ridiculous attire.
As we said a few weeks back, the guy's tennis might be incomparable but his accessorizing leaves a lot to be desired. First, there was the gold man purse, the kind of accoutrement that begs for ridicule. Next, there was the Sergeant Pepper jacket. A friend asked me if it were "an inside joke kind of thing," and sadly I had to report that it wasn't. The jacket was, of course, covering a gold-striped shirt and shorts. Plus, there were the gold shoes, embroidered with Federer's initials. For a sport that still needs to shed its country club perception, it doesn't help when the top player looks like he was dressed by Brüno.
The pièce de résistance, however, was that "15" jacket Federer donned immediately after winning Sunday's final, an article of clothing that simultaneously managed to be presumptuous, self-aggrandizing and sensationally tacky. A penny for Andy Roddick's thoughts, knowing that someone considered him such an unworthy opponent that the celebratory outfit had already been embroidered and carried onto the court. That it was followed, at least on American television, by a Federer NetJets ad was somehow fitting. (Good thing we're not in a recession and concerned about, you know, environmental impact.)
Beyond the fashion police ridicule, I think there's a bigger issue here. Who exactly is tasked with Federer's image these days? Why does this person have a job? And why is Federer allowing Nike's agenda to undercut an image that, much like his old attire, needed no further ornamentation? Here was a guy once lauded -- very rightfully -- as a populist champ, an unparalleled player who still projected modesty and quintessentially Swiss stoicism. This Rick Reillycolumn (which compares Federer's plain folk appeal to the gaudy opulence and crass consumption of Tiger Woods) nails it. That column was from 2007, and reading it now, it seems mighty dated.
Whose bright idea was it to transform that thoroughly likable guy into King Bling? Did the Nike marketing data really indicate that kids would warm to all those elitist touches? Is the gold man purse making a surprise comeback? This is the personification of "gilding the lilly." It does not say "elegance" any more than a fleur-de-lis back tattoo says "French." Here's hoping it's a phase and Federer takes back some ownership of his portrayal. I've gotten a ton of mail on this and I know I'm not alone when I say this: Roger, we'd rather look at your titles.
How come no love for mixed doubles champions Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in your parting shots from Wimbledon?-- Brandon, Mason, Mich.
• Maybe next time they'll have the courtesy to finish before my deadline. But props to the aforementioned pair, doubly so for Groenefeld, who's back after descending to a pretty dark place a few years ago.
I'm not sure if you have answered this before: The entourage of both players are seated in the same box at Wimbledon. Why? Who decides which group sits in front of the other? I think this could always present an awkward situation for both sides.-- Ramil Medina, Singapore
• As a rule, the higher seed gets to pick, hence the Federer posse gets the front row. I know that at the U.S. Open, American players get the choice box, a policy that, shall we say, displeased Jelena Jankovic's mom last year.
Regarding the following from your 50 thoughts on Wimbledon: "And keep an eye on this: Martina Hingis' ban lapses in October, a day or so after her 29th birthday." Don't tease. Really? Might we see some much needed star-power and crafty play return in the form of Ms. Hingis?-- Jay, Phoenix
• No tease intended. Just saying that the ban lapses and, at a minimum, at least she'll be allowed back in the Grand Slam venues. Will Hingis come back? After all, 29 isn't ancient. This is total speculation, but I wouldn't hold my breath. While Hingis might be tempted (and she stayed in shape in her absence), there's a difference between winning a match here and there, and being competitive week in and week out.
Do you think Serena should be fined for mocking the WTA rankings? If she is confused about her ranking, perhaps Federer could explain to her that he also holds three Slams but shows up at other events and actually plays. Serena shows up and does just enough to avoid hefty fines. She has the correct ranking. I could do my best work, too, if I only acted like I cared for eight weeks a year.-- B. Rogers, Zurich, Switzerland
• Yes, the WTA should fine her. Big bucks. How dare she voice an independent opinion, one that might run counter to the corporate agenda? Look, I think we all agree it would be ideal if Serena could summon her best every event. But, again, give me a Grand Slam champ who might not go all out in Madrid or Montreal over the Tier 1 queens who gag at majors.
Interesting how some coaches seem to quietly bring out the best in their players. I, for one, am hoping that Larry Stefanki and Roddick will develop a long, solid relationship. Stefanki has done what no one else has: help Roddick put all the pieces together. Agree?-- Jennifer J Christoffersen, Marietta, Ga.
• Big credit to Stefanki. He might not have Jimmy Connors' pedigree as a player, but under his tutelage, Roddick has made demonstrable gains.
You are Andy Roddick. You are thinking to yourself which of the following? A) My serve isn't so bad after all and I came within a game of toppling the mighty Roger Federer at Wimbledon. B) I played about as well as I can play and I still couldn't topple the mighty Roger Federer at Wimbledon.-- Ayaz Abdulla, Karachi, Pakistan
Kind of curious: The main sponsor of the upcoming Hamburg tournament is bet-at-home. Did this fall under the ATP radar screen? Seems like they would want to distance themselves from anything to do with that sort of stuff.-- Nick, Hamden, Conn.
• And in other news, creatine is sponsoring MLB's home run derby. Morality and economic conditions can move in lockstep. It's a lot harder to take principled stances when the coffers are running low. (How about those Washington Postsalons?) By the way, Hamburg may need to find a different sponsor.
So would we rather have a final set end 16-14 in games or 16-14 in a fifth-set tiebreaker?-- Dominic Ciafardini, Hong Kong
• The lack of a tiebreaker in the fifth doesn't bother me. But I will use this opportunity to lobby for best of three the first week of majors, best of five the second week.
• Back to the Federer/Brüno discussion, if you thought fashion was irrelevant, check out this e-mail from an anonymous source: "All this dabbling in fashion is not a complete waste of time. America's lone hope for a future Slam winner, Madison Keys, was drawn to the sport by the dress Venus Williams was wearing. Her parents said she could only have it if she played tennis, and here we are. Keys sat out the Euro Slams with literal growing pains, so she should be even better once she settles. She's only 14, but she's already 5-foot-10, and Chris Evert says she's as physically strong as Jennifer Capriati was at that age, with a bigger serve (already 115 mph) and bigger forehand than Jen at 14."
• Michael Lewis of Ormond Beach, Fla.: "Do you realize that this was Roddick's second 80-plus game match of his career? The 2003 Australian Open match against Younes El Aynaoui lasted 83 games. Think, at that time, he thought he'd ever play a longer one?"
• As mentioned above, sad news from the tennis world.
• Very good point by my colleague Selena Roberts.
• A plug for Jacqui Robbins' kids book Two of a Kind.
• This week's unsolicited book recommendation: Grant Wahl's The Beckham Experiment.
• Big fan of Jason Whitlock's (he actually started out covering my high school for my hometown newspaper in Indiana) but this column ... well, here's a brief excerpt: "I'm only knocking Serena's back pack because it's preventing her from reaching her full potential as an athletic icon. I am not fundamentally opposed to junk in the trunk, although my preference is a stuffed onion over an oozing pumpkin. (A stuffed onion is a booty so round and tight that it brings tears to your eyes)."
• World Team Tennis co-founder Billie Jean Kingis presenting an award at a WTT event Wednesday in Philadelphia.
• Stephen Males of Devonshire, Bermuda: "The last three [Wimbledon] women's finals have combined for 60 games (over six sets) and lasted a total of four hours and 48 minutes. The last three men's finals have combined for 191 games (over 15 sets) and lasted a total of 12 hours 49 minutes. Are ticket prices for the men's and women's finals the same?"
• Relieved to hear that John Feinstein is not only doing better after heart bypass surgery but is already back to writing to columns. Just wish they weren't about the quasi-sport of golf.
• Gary of Chicago: "About thought No. 31 from Wimbledon -- the slow motion wave isn't new. It has, for example, been done at Michigan Stadium for years now, along with the fast wave and the split wave. Bad quality footage of the slow wave here."
• Tara of Columbia, Md., has long-lost siblings: Drew Barrymore and Aggie Radawanska.
Have a great week, everyone!
To order a copy of Jon Wertheim's new book, Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, click here.