Sunday November 15th, 2009

Best of three from the tennis world:

• Take another victory lap, Novak Djokovic. After a slumplet that lasted a good 18 months or so, the Serb has resumed playing top-shelf tennis and challenging the Federer/Nadal-ocracy. A week after beating Federer in Basel, Djokovic won the Paris Indoor Masters Series event, performing vivisection on Nadal in the semis and then outlasting Gael Monfils in the final. (That's the equivalent of two straight Sunday road wins.) For a player whose fitness has been called into question in the past, Djokovic is to be commended for sustaining a high level of play 94 (!) matches into the season. If he has enough petrol in the tank to defend his Masters Cup title next week, it will be still more impressive.

• The Agassi Book Tour rolls on. Two weeks ago, Andre Agassi was a married father enjoying a life of repose. Suddenly he's back in the media/publicity maw, shuttling from interview to interview, answering the same questions again and again ("What made you want to write this book?"), and defending himself from criticism that's been unexpectedly fierce. In short, it's 1991 all over again. By this point, he's well within his rights to wonder what exactly it is, the public wants. We ask for honesty and authenticity from our public figures. "Down to earth," is among the highest compliments a star can receive. We hate spin and clichés and expressions of superiority. Yet when Agassi shares the intimate details and is relentlessly candid, he takes a public beating. Tough crowd.

• Sa-finis? An "unretirement" notwithstanding -- a necessary disclaimer these days -- Marat Safin played his final match last week. Before doing so, he engendered some controversy when he suggested Agassi return prize money he won in 1997, hereafter known as the Year of the Meth. In a rich bit of irony, Safin chastised Agassi for his mistreatment of the ATP, the same organization the Russian has spent the better of his career impugning. A monstrously talented player and irrepressible personality, Safin will be missed. His two Grand Slam titles ensures Hall of Fame enshrinement. And still: one is left thinking about the unfulfilled potential, what his career might have been has he been a bit more focused.

Best of three marginalia:

Taylor Dent is back -- no pun intended -- in the top 100 after winning the Knoxville Challenger. Take a bow. Or a similar gesture that might not be as taxing on your spine.

• Thanks to Colette Lewis for informing us that Sekou Bangoura Jr. is headed to the University of Florida.

Yanina Wickmayer began her damage control campaign for her suspension. Here's a transcript of her defense.

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