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Clijsters' return well-timed for tour

Let me be the 12,764th person to ask you: Does Kim Clijsters' win over 13th-ranked Marion Bartoli show how weak the women's game is today, or is Clijsters really that good a player to come back after a two-year absence and knock off a player who just beat Venus Williams in the Stanford final?-- Curious Fan, New York

Oh, behave. Let's give Clijsters some credit here and leave it at that. No need to impugn all of women's tennis because a former No. 1 player who's still only 26 returned after a two-year absence and, playing on her surface of choice, beat a tired Bartoli.

Given the state of the women's game -- I again cite the Freudian slip in the Larry Scott transcript noting the "parody" at the top of the rankings -- Clijsters' return has come not a moment too soon. Here is precisely what the WTA needs: a consistent player with an engaging personality, some name recognition and a pleasant backstory. Too bad Justine Henin isn't following suit.

On the basis of one match, already the Clijsters bandwagon is festival seating only. "She will win the U.S. Open," one of you insisted. I think that's a bit much. For one, beating Bartoli on a Monday in Cincy isn't the same as beating Serena Williams at a Grand Slam. Also, time and again we have seen players make splashy comebacks -- see Martina Hingis at the 2006 Aussie Open, where she reached the second week before losing to, wait for it, Clijsters -- only to falter after a few months. There's a big difference between posting a strong first tournament and posting consistent results. The body breaks down, the rigors of travel manifest themselves, mental fatigue sets in. Right now, I say Clijsters is among the world's top 10. Whether she can improve on that will be interesting. Regardless, what a blessing for the women's game.

And as long as we're leading with Clijsters, loyal reader Stewbop has suggested some reasons for her return:

1. She's Looking for a Hero.2. Diapers are so expensive.3. With Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles canceled, no reason to stay home anymore.4. She was impressed by Serena's titles.5. Missed the cut for Belgian Idol.6. Got tired of being asked, "Didn't you used to be Kim Clijsters?"7. Clothing sponsor made her a fancy new jacket with a gold "2" on the back.8. "What? Justine retired? Why didn't anyone tell me?!?"

I came across Roger Federer's explanation on "jacketgate." I think it's only fair that you publish it in your mailbag.-- Sharon, Camarillo, Calif.

• Right on.

While Roger and Mirka Federer are no Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I just find it curious (and in a way, admirable) that they share the first public photos of their babies for free on Facebook unlike most celebrities who demand millions just to show the same photos of their own kids so that they can "donate" it to charity.-- Roger Dulay, Manila, Philippines

• Agree. Thought that was very cool.

You are an astute and insightful chronicler of the game. Through your mailbags you have become the arbiter of all of the sport's fundamental questions. I ask you to opine on this: Which will be a higher number, Federer's career total of major wins or the annual allotment of dirty diapers he changes?!?-- BJD, Santa Monica, Calif.

• I knew after that flattery there had to be a punch line coming. I think it's a trick question, as Federer calls them "nappies" and not diapers. Actually, after he changes his 14th diaper, I have an idea for what he can use for the 15th ... oh, never mind.

Why don't professional tennis players wear sunglasses? Modern technology can create glasses that would make seeing the ball clearer while reducing glare. -- Michael Turner, Sunnyvale, Calif.

• A few do: Sam Stosur, Arnaud Clement, lots of doubles players. (I've seen Ivo Karlovic wear shades too, but, you know, would you expect less from MC Ivo?) I still hear players complain they don't see the ball quite right and prefer a baseball cap.

What's your take on this "un-retiring" to play some doubles? A few weeks ago, Michael Stich awarded himself a wild card to play alongside Mischa Zverev. Last week at the Segovia challenger, Francisco Clavet teamed up with his new pupil, Feliciano Lopez, six years after he retired at that same tournament. And this week we see that Rafael Nadal has dusted off temp coach Francisco Roig for some doubles action!-- Tineke van Buul, Amstelveen, Netherlands

• As one of you noted several weeks ago, Stich's awarding himself a wild card is a laughable conflict of interest, even by tennis' limbo-bar standards. Still, I can't generate much outrage here. If this serves to boost some interest in doubles, I'm for it.

Here is what I read in the Flavia Pennetta-Maria Sharapova match report: "On the changeover between the first and second sets, Sharapova's coach, Michael Joyce, came on court and told her she had to be more aggressive because Pennetta was keeping a lot of balls in play. Later in the match, Joyce told Sharapova that "this girl can fall apart" only to see Pennetta break serve in the next game." Actually, Sharapova went on to drop her last three service games. In retrospect, it doesn't look any better or worse than the economic advice of yesteryear. Coaches coming on to try to "bail out" their player, do you think it is a sign of the times?-- D.P., London

• I realize that that we're flogging a deceased equine here. But I feel like this point needs to be made as well and, I hope, forwarded to the WTA. Collectively, you guys form a terrific barometer, a vox populi for Tennis Nation, a Harris poll of sorts for our sport. Some of you agree with Serena, some of you support Dinara Safina. You like Hawkeye but are growing skeptical. You tend to disagree with me that the first four rounds of Slams should be best-of-three sets. You're pretty evenly split on equal prize money, Federer's 15 jacket and your affinity for Andy Roddick. You lament Davis Cup in its current state but struggle to come up with a better alternative. But never, in the thousands of e-mails you've sent, has one of you expressed anything but criticism/derision regarding on-court coaching.

I think Elena Dementieva will win a Slam and her results suggest she's coming closer and closer. And there are worse head cases in the game than her now -- she seems to have gotten over her nerves and her serve is good now for the most part. I honestly think she will win one. I think you're being too pessimistic about her.-- Charles, Austin, Texas

• I came away impressed with her performance in the Wimbledon semis (while wondering where the heck that reserve of poise was hidden in, say, the 2004 French Open final). But the, well, pessimist might point out that even when Dementieva plays the match of her life and comes within match point, she STILL can't close the door! Long as we're sipping truth serum here, Dementieva is one of those players who's very easy to like personally and tougher to warm to professionally.

Are your articles like rankings points? They are archived for a year or so and then ... do they just disappear? I'd like to maybe read some from, say, the LAST battle for No. 1.-- Ivan H., New York

• Notice I'm defending a lot of points in Cincy next week. A mailed-in Mailbag and I'll fall in the rankings. Seriously, they're archived for about a year but with some creative research -- thanks, Old Man Google -- you can retrieve from much further back.

Tennis has a "tiebreak." There is no "tiebreaker." Enjoyed Strokes of Genius minus this error that you share with John McEnroe. Are you two trying to add this new term to the tennis lexicon?-- David M Toepel, Sun City West, Ariz.

• Like calling a major a "Grand Slam," I think it's one of those technical errors that's hardened into acceptable parlance.

During the European swing, much was made about Melanie Oudin and Alexa Glatch, yet neither has received a single main-draw wild card from a U.S. tourney this summer. What gives?-- Nick, Irvine, Calif.

• True that. Oudin used up her wild cards earlier in the season and will be a qualifier the rest of the way. She's already in the U.S. Open field, though.

Are there any plans to have a long-awaited celebratory night for Andre Agassi at the opening-night ceremonies of the U.S. Open this year?-- Elyse Greenspan, New York, N.Y.

• As a matter of fact, yes.

Here's what you can call your Australian Open Mailbag updates -- a "vegebite." So, you've got your vegebites, baguettes, crumpets and slices. What do you think?-- Art Wong, Torrance, Calif.

• Top that and a prize is yours.

• First, thanks to Querrey for filling in last week. (And he won the Los Angeles Open to boot.)

• Check out Ben Rotherberg's new tennis site.

• Another reminder: The exceptional tennis documentary Unstrung is out on DVD. Particularly fun to look back and assess the various divergent paths of the protagonists.

Jim of New York City: "As a reminder for Montreal/New York, this clip's first point showcases Nadal's movement when he is 100 percent healthy. If Nadal doesn't move this well, he has little chance of winning, and none if he ever plays Federer."

• Thanks to Shawn Frost: "Here's a quick blurb on players training at the University of Miami (I went to grad school at UM and never realized so many of the tour players worked out there). It was sent to me by a friend who approached Andy Murray this week for an autograph during one of his practice sessions. Apparently, he was accommodating and friendly ... cheers!"

• Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the lovely, the talented Vania King.

Robert B. Melbourne, Fla: "Despite his talent in tennis, Roy Emerson apparently lacks the gift of foresight."

Corey Huber of Regina, Saskatchewan: "Remember back in January when a lot of talk was about Nadal's new outfits? A certain sports journalist predicted that if there was ever a shakeup in Nadal's confidence, he wouldn't be surprised to see the sleeveless shirts reappear and thus, allow the 'guns' to be back on full display. Guess what has shown up in Montreal?"

• The Bryan Brothers Band featuring David Baron will perform three songs on Arthur Ashe Kids' Day at the U.S. Open. The songs are from their debut album, Let It Rip, which will be released Sept. 1.

Terry House of West Hollywood: "Now see what you've started."

Omess Guichard of London, Canada, submits a Federer fan song.

• Alex Ketaineck of Madison, N.J., sends long-lost siblings: Juan Carlos Ferrero and Sean Penn.

• A second one to make up for last week: Tati of Chicago offers Noah Lennox of the band Animal Collective and Ernests Gulbis.

Have a great week, everyone!