• Like it or not, the four majors are the tent-pole events of the sport. When the top-ranked player has yet to win one of these titles, it comes across as counterintuitive. Many fans are, understandably, uneasy that the top-ranked player has never won a top prize.
Dan does raise a good point that Safina deserves more respect: It's not as though she achieved her top ranking by lottery. Playing by the existing rules, she amassed more ranking points than anyone else. That she committed herself to fitness and elevated her game after five years as a No. 10-15 ranked player makes her all the more admirable. Good for her. But I think it's perfectly reasonable to call into a question a system that rewards a player yet to break through on the biggest stage. In a perfect world, she wins a major and adds some gravitas to her ranking. Or in a perfect world, Williams gets her act together in smaller events and sees to it that her results in Toronto or Rome keep pace with her results in Melbourne or Wimbledon. Until then, I think there's a healthy discussion about the ranking system and the ongoing debate between rewarding the players for the biggest titles and imbuing the "garden variety" tour events with enough points to make them feel meaningful.
• From the source via e-mail: "No plans as yet ... just wanted to test my wares. ... if i got in a bit better shape I might be entertained by a try at it. ... haha. ... good to hear from you. ... p.s. these guys are good on this ATP WORLD TOUR thing!!!"
Speaking of comebacks,
• Before we get to Elad's question, just a quick demographic FYI for our friends at the ATP and WTA before it slips my mind: For what it's worth, I would guess that a full 10 percent of my mail comes from the Philippines. Lots of rabid and under-served tennis fans. If you're looking for another beach-head market in Asia, I suspect you could do worse than Manila.
If I understand your question right ... if we include
• I would say the odds of this are roughly the same as the odds of Switzerland's going to war in the near future. She hasn't played for most of this decade and, of course, is a few weeks away from birthing a child. I suppose an enterprising tournament director might offer her a wild card but, again, you'd be better off offering it to
A few if you have asked, "How good was Mirka?" I asked some Swiss journalists as well as a former WTA player and the consensus was that "her ranking was accurate." She was a fine 50-100 player, respectable but not likely to win majors. She is, however, the greatest tennis muse of all time.
• This is the old push-pull between diluting the product and providing opportunities. I agree with you that, at first blush, it seems odd that after Wimbledon and before the hard-court junket, there are these random clay events in Europe. On the other hand, if a promoter is willing to pony up the fees, sponsors are available and fans are buying tickets, why not give the Juan Monacos of the world a chance to earn some cash?
• We like the tidiness of a season. And this goes for sports in addition to tennis. A baseball pitcher who wins 15 games from mid-July until October and then wins another 15 between 2010 Opening Day and the All-Star break won't be hailed as 30-game winner. But your point is a good one. There's really only an artificial distinction between a 12-month Slam and a "true Slam."
• "Nadia, that pressure you feel is a leaf. It's off the tree, wafting in the air and falling, falling ... the leaf falls into a cool river and now it's drifting downstream, away, away, until it's out of sight."
• Um ...
• That's an interesting designation. Someone once proposed to me that an activity can't be a "sport" if you and the opposition don't have to compete simultaneously. It's similar to your point about "defense." But don't we all agree that most races (sprints, marathons, the Tour de France), though objectively measured, still entail a measure of strategy/defense? As long as you brought up golf, what do we make of
• Valid question. Though I was hoping more of you would ask this question: How can Davis Cup expect to remain a relevant event when the quarterfinal rounds are held a few days after Wimbledon? (In the case of the U.S. team: on the indoor clay!) Unquestionably, the U.S. team would benefit from a reliable second singles player. The captain's own brother expressed surprise that the struggling Blake got the call last week. (Fish was obviously summoned when Roddick withdrew.) Particularly if
• Yes. But here's what I don't get: The tribunal went to great lengths to exonerate Gasquet. In the kind of florid language usually reserved for college letters of recommendation, the panel practically gushed, "We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character. ... He is neither a cheat nor a user of drugs for recreational purposes." The implicit message: The testing system is flawed. Yet Gasquet faces a lifetime ban should he test positive a second time?
• I love this line one of you wrote to me lately: "The world's longest book is the
• For the record, we had five readers noting that L.A. also stands for lower Alabama. And our friend
• Go out and buy a can of Chunky. Campbell's has renewed as Newport event sponsor. And IBM has renewed as a U.S. Open sponsor.
• Another ATP
• Last week's was weak so here's a make-up (thanks to
Have a great week, everyone!