Monday November 23rd, 2009

A few thoughts as the season comes to an end ...

1. Provided you can make like the top players and summon the enthusiasm for one last tournament, pay attention to the results from the London Masters Cup this week. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will duel for the year-end No. 1 ranking -- which is to say that millions in endorsement bonuses hang in the balance. Andy Murray is trying to win a big-time title in his mother country. Novak Djokovic is looking defend his title and close out a terrific fall. Juan Martin del Potro is seeking to rediscover his form from the U.S. Open.

Lots of storylines. Let's just hope we don't have an orgy of injuries, retirements and withdrawals.

2. The fallout from Open continues to, well, fall out. Andre Agassi met with Adam Helfant, the ATP's CEO, and they reportedly discussed the drug use and the regrettable cover-up. The organization is powerless to take action, however, as Agassi is no longer active. (Also, if the statute of limitations for most felonies doesn't exceed 10 years, it's hard to expect much consequence for illicit drug use in 1997.)

As Ilie Nastase -- long revered as a model of rectitude -- was chastising Agassi, Pete Sampras finally made a statement. He told KTBC-TV/Fox 7 in Austin, Texas, "I didn't even know what to say. I respect him, he's a friend of mine. He was my main rival in the '90s. Would I tell him flat out he made a mistake? Absolutely. I'd say, 'What were you thinking?' and to lie about it. But when I look at Andre in his mid-20s to his late-20s, he was like a different guy." Pretty charitable response for a guy purportedly lacking for inspiration.

3. At a later date, we can discuss where to assign and allocate the credit. But for now, some encouraging news from the USTA and the TIA: There are more than 30 million tennis players in the United States. Lord knows the sport has its issues, but it's encouraging to see that participation has reached its highest level in decades. Coupled with the success of the U.S. Open, those are some promising results for the sport, especially given the economic climate.

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