Wednesday June 25th, 2008

Not to take anything away from Safin, but all that smack Djokovic said about Federer seems quite anti-climatic when he loses in the second round. You think he's blushing in embarrassment right now? -- Jeff K, Foster City, Calif.

• Blushing or not, one suspects he's embarrassed. Unquestionably, the story of Day Three was Djokovic's loss to Marat Safin. You just can't call out the five-time defending champ and then go out in straight sets on the third day of the tournament.

I thought Djokovic played a lazy -- dare we even say cowardly? -- match. Bad body language, little tactical adjustments, a symbolic double-fault on match point. But how about some credit for Safin. It was like rewind-the-clock night. Beautiful ball-striking. Imaginative angles. Big serving. And no mental meltdown. Safin will break your heart, but look at his draw and you have to like his odds of reaching Week 2.

Ferrer wins a grass tune up, and cruises in his opener. Nalbandian crashes out in straights at a Slam where he was a finalist only a few years ago. WTHIGOW the Daveeds? -- Karl Miller, Phoenixville, Pa.

• Here's the easy answer: one cares and the other doesn't. Nalbandian beats Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in the past year and then loses to Dancevic? In straight sets? That's just not acceptable, made all the more abysmal by Dancevic's loss to Bobby Reynolds today. Ferrer, on the other hand, is one of those guys who wrings all he can from a fairly limited game.

Why are the ESPN announcer folks so down on Jelena Jankovic? It seems more than just the fact that she hasn't made the next step to winning grand slam finals. -- Rita Thompson, Mobile, Ala.

• If there's frustration with Hammerin' Jank (Amazing, how that nickname isn't catching on) I suspect it's because patience is wearing a bit thin. She's clearly a top-notch player, but enough already: either win a big title or dial back the drama! Much as I like J.J., I share in this exasperation lately.

Do you agree with the TV commentators' suggestion that you forfeit the prize money if you don't finish the match? That seems fair to me, and might ultimately give more opportunities to the players who gutted it out through qualifying.

P.S., I thought Dominik Hrbaty was CHARMING. Looked like a guy who fully appreciated how lucky he is to play tennis for a living, and getting paid $20K to play Roger Federer on Centre Court on a beautiful summer day. What's not to smile about? Plus -- he finished the match. -- Helen, Seattle

• I think that's tough. Much like the Davydenko "best efforts" allegations, we get into a situation of playing mind-reader. Is player X retiring from a legitimate injury? Or did he have no business going out there in the first place? And at a time when both tours are pleading for stars to play more often, how do they turn around and say, "Don't bother going out there if you might not finish the match." This reminds me of the U.S. health care system. Instead of quibbling about HMO's and reimbursement, wouldn't the time be better spent addressing WHY so many players are retiring and what can be done to reverse this unfortunate trend?

Jon, does the use/overuse of the term "fortnight" during the Majors, especially Wimbledon, annoy you as much as it annoys me? -- Lindsay Wungam, Davis, Calif.

• Only "The Championships," as if there are no others, is more annoying.

Which Grand Slam performance this year do you consider to be the more dominant? Sharapova's at the Australian or Nadal's at Roland Garros? -- Michael Livingston, Trenton, N.J.

• No disrespect to Sharapova, but I vote Nadal. For the first five rounds, he surrendered an average of less than two games a set. Then he beats Djokovic and Federer in straights to ice the title.

Hey Jon, where's your ad-in from last week? I was really hoping Tamarine Tanasugarn would get a much deserved praise for beating Safina and taking her first grasscourt title. And looks to me that she has a good chance of reaching the 4th round of Wimbledon for the 7th time in her career. -- Albert, Singapore

• Tamarine, Tamarine;

Living REFLECTIONS from a dream;

I was her love, she was my queen,

And now a thousand years between.

It made little sense to me to do an "Ad-in" the first day of a major. But, yes, props to Tanasugarn. She Thais us over until Paradorn Srichaphan returns.

Jon, can we redefine the term "doubles specialist" again? Jonas Bjorkman announces he is going to retire and is referred to as a "doubles specialist" in headlines and articles. This is a guy who won more than 400 singles matches in his career, reached number 4 in the world, won six singles titles, and was a semifinalist at both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Granted, he won more doubles titles and was more successful at the slams in doubles, but he always played singles. I prefer to think of him as one of the best all-around tennis players of the past 15 years. -- Rob S., Boston

• Amen. And bonus points for longevity. The "doubles specialist" was a top five player in 1997 and reached the Wimbledon semis nine years later.

Click below to hear my take on the day's big matches.

• From the boxscore-doesn't-tell-the-whole-story department: sat courtside and watched Sam Stosur take on Vaidisova. Stosur loses the first set. Then Vaidisova "goes walkabout" and Stosur wins the second set 6-0, and has a point for 4-0 in the third. She misses an easy ball, the wheels come off and suddenly Vaidisova wins five straight games and closes out the match 6-2, 0-6, 6-4. The tides go in as fast as they go out.

• Remember the Bill Simmons "anti-tennis column" that triggered so much outrage? It originally ran on but was mysteriously removed. Hmm... Here's Kamakshi Tandon with a winning return.

• And, wait, here's another.

• Remember Rosanna De Los Rios' daughter, Ana Paula, who enjoyed some prominence when her mother returned from maternity leave to reach the fourth round of the French Open in 2000? Ana Paula is 10 now and was on hand at Wimbledon. At one point Serena Williams asked her, "Do you want to be a tennis player like your mom?" The girl responded, "No, I want to win all the tournaments like you!"

• Surely I am not alone in saying this: Lleyton Hewitt has really grown on me.

• Natasha of Toronto notes that Andy Roddick also won a tiebreaker by the unlikely score of 7-0 yesterday.

• Kicking a guy while he's down, Peter of L.A. notes: Djokovic is a dead ringer for the character Screech (actor Dustin Diamond in his youth) from the old show 'Saved by the Bell'.

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