Programming note: I'll be on vacation next week. Our oxymoronic "guest host" will be
Vaguely. If we're talking about the same guy, he turned 20 last week. Recently lost at the Aptos Challenger, the same event he won two years ago. Hasn't played an ATP main draw in many months. Played some schmoozy Hollywood "shotgun" exhibition on Sunday afternoon, the day before playing in the last round of the L.A. qualifiers -- and then, apparently exhausted, lost the qualifying match, 6-3, 6-0. That guy?
Look up Young's Wikipedia entry and the first line under "career" reads: "Young is coached by his father,
Still, at some point you have to recognize your limitations, accept the reality, and cut the proverbial cord. And if you're Donald Young, you need to mass the courage to say, "Mom and Pop: this doesn't diminish my love for you at all. I appreciate all the sacrifices you made. I'll always be your son. But I need some space here. I'm stagnating, if not regressing, and it's time to make a change."
Young, sadly, is now well outside the top 100. Players with far less innate talent have passed him by. He's worked with some top-level coaches but -- often because of the parental propinquity issue -- none have stuck around. And from USTA funding to rafts of wild cards to practice sessions with
The good news? He's still "only" 20, still left handed, and still full of talent. Plenty of Grand Slam winners -- see,
A few of you floated similar suggestions. I don't think it's realistic. So if Safina had won a Major in 2006, you'd be okay with her 2009 ranking? That seems unfair to me. And again, front-loading all the Slams with the rankings points has the unfortunate consequence (intended or unintended) of diminishing the value of regular WTA events. If 90 percent of your grade were based on the midterm, would you bother coming to class after that?
The WTA is taking a lot of heat for the "counterintuitive" rankings, but I suspect there are folks who feel the rankings are working perfectly. Your support of the tour is shaky? You skip Indian Wells and don't do well in Rome and Madrid? Guess what? Even if you rock the Majors, you still won't be No. 1. In some ways, maybe Serena's No. 2 ranking isn't an indictment at all. As someone put it to me recently: "The ranking system should be evaluated objectively, not through the lens of Serena Williams's career. I realize that it looks odd for Serena not to be ranked No. 1, but she's a close second, and all that can be expected for someone who is basically a world-class player on a part-time basis."
Rules are rules. If the players aren't violating the time allotment, they can do as they please. Also, some players -- including Federer -- waste little time between points. My pet peeve is the time spent between serves. Towel off after a rally? Okay. But why the lengthy routines between first and second serves?
Amen. Moratorium granted after today. But two points 1) I think there is a perfectly healthy debate to be had about the ranking system, the virtue of consistency versus the merits of excellence at the biggest moments. 2) Probably because no one picks on a woman holding three Majors, the discussion has mostly impugned Safina. But consider this note from a source close to the situation, wishing to remain anonymous: "Between Miami and Roland Garros, Serena played three matches (spanning four tournaments if you include Charleston that she withdrew from) earning seven ranking points compared to Safina, who played 15 matches, reaching the finals at Stuttgart and winning back-to-back titles at Rome and Madrid -- and earned 2120 ranking points."
I don't disagree and I should have done a better job distinguishing the material differences. But my point is that -- no matter how poignant the circumstances -- I have a hard time crediting athletes for achievements they didn't attain. Was Seles on pace to become the best ever? Absolutely. But how do we put her in that Graf-Evert-Navratilova division when -- though caused by a horrible act and through no fault of her own -- she won fewer than half as many Slams? And, conversely, it's hard for me to completely diminish the achievements if someone else -- in this case, Graf -- on the grounds that they didn't beat their rival or fortune played a role in their success.
I'm not sure I agree with that. True, rankings are not always the best predictors. But there are plenty of practical effects of having a high ranking. For one, there's qualification for the year-end events. Many players have contracts that come with huge rankings bonuses. (No. 5 is worth more than No. 6. ) Seeding matters, especially at the smaller events, when a top seed can get a bye. Beyond that, I think there's basic value to having a system -- imperfect as it may be -- that identifies the top performers.
I don't agree that Safina's problem stems from on-court coaching. But this letter is still another example of why this "experiment" is so awful. It creates the perception that the players are helpless damsels in distress. On-court coaching not only runs counter to tennis fundamental values, but also is completely at odds with the feminist message the WTA tries to convey.
And as long as you brought it up, this is still another point in the Williams' sisters favor. They are self-sufficient, rarely if ever turning to their aides-de-camp during matches. They'll figure out the situation for themselves, thank you.
I like your thinking -- and I suspect most fans do as well. Athletes are afforded opportunities that don't come to most of us. They are often wealthy to the point of abstraction. They get to pursue their passion for a living. I sense that most fans don't begrudge them that livelihood or their salary. (Personally, so long as the market is creating enormous opportunity for wealth, I'll side with labor over management nine times out of 10. Id rather the players make the cash than rich ownership group.)
By the same token, I think we like it when a) athletes show a realization that they are lucky. b) the fans/consumers are paying their salaries. c) their status hasn't corrupted their sense of self.
Not sure I have a top ten list, but I would contest that tennis fares very (under-ratedly) well in this respect. From
• What's a country club?
• Overlooking the error that Djokovic and Ivo are "countrymen,"
• Let the record reflect that
• Our friend
• Several of you noted the new photos on atptennis.com. Does this look like
• The USTA announced that it is partnering with T&S Events to host its 2010 Australian Open wild card playoffs during the 2009 Infinite Energy Atlanta Challenge held at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga., Dec. 4-7. The event will feature an exhibition match on Dec. 4, with the wild card playoffs commencing the next day.
Have a good week everyone!