Wednesday December 9th, 2009

Preliminary programming note for our off-season 'Bag this week. We'll hold our annual Baggies Awards ceremony for 2009 next week. And 60 Minutes will be shown immediately following the game, except on the West Coast where it will air at its regularly scheduled time.

After Tiger's unexpected transgression, does your respect for Roger Federer increase or decrease? You admire him more for his decency or you question him? --Sarah M., Sari

• Lots of questions about Tiger this week. (Note to Federer: You might want to have a prepared response for the inevitable Tiger questions that will surface in your first press conference of 2010.) "Can you explain the fascination?" a reader from Sweden, of all places, asked. I think some of it is the hot button topics of sex, sports, infidelity, money and the currents of race. But I think some of it stems from the incongruity. Here was a guy whose whole image was based on professionalism and modesty, shaped for high-end corporate clients. Seeing him pursued by TMZ trucks and linked to porn stars, "Bimbo tallies," and "harem payoffs," is staggering.

A lot of you have used this as an opportunity to extol Federer all the more. Federer's great sin of 2010? He used foul language during a match! I'm not sure this has anything to do with anyone other than Woods. But if you want to use this as another reason to cherish Federer (and Nadal), go right ahead.

What's your best tennis memory from 2009? --Kate C., New York

• I guess the predictable candidates come to mind. Federer -- a few months removed from sobbing in defeat, his character and toughness questioned -- winning the French Open and then Wimbledon, securing his claims to the GOAT. Kim Clijsters' comeback was a sight for sore eyes. I still contend that Williams-Williams is among the most underrated stories and seeing Serena and Venus in still another major final never gets old for me. Nadal ending a shaky summer and fall by leading Spain to another Davis Cup was a nice coda to the (excessively long) season.

Here's a less obvious one. I'm watching Andy Roddick play John Isner during the middle weekend of the U.S. Open. I turn around and see a vaguely familiar face. Eventually I realize that it's Jerry Roddick. He's sitting in the stands, far from the players' box, where television cameras are unlikely to find him. Some context here: In his previous Grand Slam, Andy Roddick reached the Wimbledon final and, of course, lost heartbreakingly to Federer in the fifth set. As the match progresses, Jerry Roddick is a statue. His facial expression doesn't change. There's no outward emotion. No cheering and scowls over unforced errors or bad line calls. The match goes to a fifth set. Then a tiebreaker. Isner dials in his serves and -- just like that -- Roddick is eliminated from another Grand Slam in a five-setter, a few points making all the difference. You can only imagine what it must be like watching your son lose like this yet again. But, as thousands of fans go nuts, Jerry Roddick grimaces a tiny bit, shakes his head as if to say, win-some, lose-some, and leaves his seat and walks onto the concourse unnoticed, his head buried in a baseball cap but held high. In a sport (culture at large?) that doesn't always do restraint and dignity real well, I was struck by this.

"Anyone curious how Thanksgiving played out at the Agassi household?" I'll bet it went better than the Turkey Dinner at the Woods'. --Marlene Sherlock, Glen Allen, Va.

• Well played. Actually, a friend of mine was privy to Andre discussing Mike Agassi's reaction to the book. With the disclaimer that this is hearsay, Andre allegedly said: He wears it like a badge of honor. The other day I asked him if he'd change anything in the way he raised me and he said, 'Nothing. No, this: I'd make you a baseball player, because there's more money in it than in tennis.'"

Did you hear that Alec Baldwin is leaving 30 Rock in 2012?! We can only hope that "retirement" means the same in the world of acting as it does in tennis! --Carolyn Brown, Conway

• We all know how this will play out. He and Carlos Rodriguez will open an acting academy. He'll profess to be "very happy" out of the spotlight. He'll enter a Dancing With the Stars-type competition. ("It's nice to compete and not care about winning!") He'll discover, eventually, that sleeping in, clubbing, taking on-line courses and riding his pony get old fast. As much as he hated being a recognized celebrity, it beats the feeling of going unrecognized. The competitive juices will kick in. He'll see colleagues enjoying great success and fanfare in their returns. He'll get a wild card at a dinner theater to confirm that his acting chops are still up to snuff. Next thing you know, he's negotiating with Devon Banks for a new contract.

Can I disagree with you that Serena's penalty is seen as "just and reasonable"? Maybe it is regarded like that in America but here in Australia there have been scathingly sarcastic articles in the media about the weakness and corruption in tennis when it hands down such powder puff penalties. It's definitely done damage to the wider image and reputation of tennis. --Elizabeth, Melbourne

• Again, you could contend it was lenient. But I hardly think this rises to the level of "powder puff" or worthy of "scathingly sarcastic" treatment. Serena snapped in the heat competition, she was unequivocally in the wrong, she got fined nearly $100,000 and she's on warning. Suspending her would have achieved...what exactly? The fans, the event, the television partners and the sport would have suffered most. Serena would likely have appealed -- and had a decent case that similar bad deeds were punished dissimilarly. It would be naïve to ignore the echoes of race and the way this would have played out with the general public.

What happens if Serena doesn't pay the fine? --Liz Nicholas, Stuart, Fla.

• If I'm reading my ITF handbook right, someone will cram a $%#& ball down her &*%#!$ throat.

I love your touches on non-tennis issues. But with all the TV shows and pool games, how much tennis do you have time to watch and write about, or play, weekly? As we all wish for a shorter season, do you wish tennis doesn't start until the season finales? --Juju, San Francisco, Calif.

• Thanks. I catch up on other pursuits during tennis' off-season.

Do you think Amelie Mauresmo deserves a Hall of Fame slot? She has won two Grand Slams, the WTA Championships, two Fed Cups, an Olympic medal and reached the No. 1 ranking twice, holding on to it for about six months in 2006. A lot of players have entered Newport with a lot less baggage. --Eduardo Gigante, Sao Paulo, Brazil

• Given precedent, her two majors and top ranking more than meet the criteria. And, inasmuch as there's a "credit to the sport" component, Mauresmo more than fulfills that as well. No brainer as far as I'm concerned.

Is there any reason the 1974 Davis Cup final can't be played now? I think most of the players are still around, so let's give it a go. --Mark Flannery, Fullerton, Calif.

• Mark's question is in response to this piece. I love this idea. Ray Moore, you're a promoter. And a good one at that. Make this happen!

Thanks for the heart-warming note about Knoxville. For a community its size, Knoxville is an outstanding tennis town. It has also produced some noteworthy junior tennis players -- Ben Testerman, Chris Woodruff, Bobby Cameron, Chris Groer, Billy Williams, Matt Brewer, Rhyne Williams, Nick Wood, and others -- all top 20 nationally ranked juniors. --Peter Brewer, Knoxville, Tenn.

• OK, all's forgiven. We will no longer mock you for putting an orange checkerboard on a football field.

Correction, not a question: Nader was not a spoiler. Don't blame someone else when the Democrats wouldn't vote for their own candidate. Very petty and weak remark from you, Jon, as well as dated and discredited years ago. --E.A., Q-Town

• Watch this and then let's talk

• Here's how your 2010 Hall of Fame voting went: Mark Woodforde/Todd Woodbridge -- in. Natasha Zverva/Gigi Fernandez -- in. Anders Jarryd -- not in.

• Charleston tennis fans, here's a nice fundraiser.

• From the unsolicited book recommendation, non-tennis division. Check out Andrew Friedman's Knives at Dawn.

• Seattle readers: Torben Ulrich -- surely the only man ever to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals, publish poetry and steal scenes in a Metallica documentary -- will be performing with his band Instead Of this Saturday at Collins Pub at 8 p.m. "Instead of attempts to present a primarily contingent and spontaneous field of sounds -- hopefully music -- bringing together players from very diverse backgrounds and experiences, with an aspiration to dwell on sound itself as it unfolds in a fragile balance of line and pulse, readily open and receding into a silence (which is never quite silent)."

• Grace of Texas sends this link.

• The USTA $50,000 Savannah Challenger is pleased to announce that a portion of the proceeds raised during the 2010 tournament at The Landings on Skidaway Island will benefit the Savannah Community Foundation. The tournament will take place May 1-9 at the Franklin Creek Tennis Center.

• Tennis champ Serena Williams was recently honored in the Carribbean with a ICC WT20 West Indies 2010 commemorative cricket bat. (Linespeople beware!) The bat presentation is part of the promotional kick-off of ICC WT20 West Indies 2010 -- the third edition of the ICC's Twenty20 championship -- taking place in four Caribbean countries (Barbados, Guyana, St. Kitts and Saint Lucia) from April 30 to May 16, 2010. Here's a download link of event photos.

• This week's lookalike: Elena Dementieva and White House crasher Michaele Salahi.

Have a great week, everyone!

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