Tuesday August 28th, 2007

A baguette from U.S. Open Day One:

Yet again we see a disgustingly easy draw for "Golden Girl" Maria Sharapova. What really makes me mad is the fact that you so-called journalists never comment on it. Go see what real people and tennis fans are saying and try opening both eyes. -- Greg Reed, Gothenburg, Sweden

Lots of questions this week about the lopsided draw, featuring both [Venus and Serena] Williams sisters, both Serbs, and Justine Henin in one half; and Maria Sharapova and ... few other notables in the other half. We all love a good conspiracy theory, but this was pure coincidence. The names are pulled out of a hat in a public forum. You can't really ask for more transparency.

There is plenty of shady dealing in tennis. (Broadcasters with huge undisclosed conflicts of interests; inequities -- and iniquities -- in wild-card distribution, etc.) But rigged draws? Sorry, no story here. Just Sharapova's good fortune, much the same way it's Andy Roddick's ill-fortune that he landed in Roger Federer's quarter.

What do you make of Lindsay Davenport's decision to return to tennis? Personally, I don't understand why someone who retires stays retired? Every time I hear a retirement announcement, I just roll my eyes and wonder how long before they come back. -- Carl, Hartford, Conn.

This was a head-scratcher for a lot of people, but I'm inclined to resist judging Davenport -- and athletes in general -- here. You have a one-in-a-billion gift. Why not lick the bottom of the glass? My sense is that Davenport felt that a) she could still contend for big prizes and b) she wanted to play in another Olympics. I suspect she also missed tennis and competition more than she anticipated she would. If she wants to continue playing, more power to her. Speaking of which...

So it seems "our Tim" is to retire ... I get the impression that here in the U.K. he's generally seen as a bit of a failure, whereas the rest of the world -- if it thinks of him at all -- sees him as an average player who squeezed the absolute maximum out of his limited abilities. Which would you say was right? -- Anthony Weight, Richmond, Surrey, England

I have mixed feelings here. No question the British sporting public lacked perspective on Tim Henman's career. He was a top-five player who reached the semis at three majors. He played artistic tennis. He conducted himself like a professional. Yet, because he never fulfilled a nation's unrealistic hopes and won Wimbledon, he was generally considered a failure. I'm not sure a player who never reached the finals of a major "squeezed the absolute maximum" out of his abilities. By the same token, a lot of players endowed with much greater gifts have achieved much less. My sympathy for Henman, though, is limited. Thanks largely to hype conferred on him, he probably made 10 times as much money as his on-court achievements warranted.

Baguettes? Jon, you're in New York. Send us real bagels. -- David Sims, Istanbul, Turkey

Justine Henin will take care of the bagels today.

A number of you have to written me this week, saying that you're in New York for the tennis and do I have any restaurant recommendations? Always happy to talk food, but here's my blanket response: You can fancy an upscale, overpriced meal -- seared ahi with swiss chard foam, blah, blah, blah -- anywhere these days. You're much better off going ethnic. Hit the Indian joints on "Curry Hill" (Lexington Avenue in the high 30s), probably a $5 cab ride from your Midtown hotel. Go for dum sum in Chinatown.

• The Hall of Fame's Legends Ball will be held on Sept. 7 at Cipriani 42nd Street. All proceeds from the auction will support the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In addition, everyone has the ability to bid online at tennisfame.com. The online auction, which opened on Aug. 15, also includes a "Buy it Now" option to lock in a price immediately.

• Nice piece in the New York Observer about the surging Serbs.

• The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will present a special exhibit at the U.S. Open entitled, Breaking The Barriers: The ATA and Black Tennis Pioneers. The exhibit will be on view in Louis Armstrong Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center starting Aug. 25 and run through Sept. 9.

• This has nothing to do with tennis, but this YouTube clip is worth your while during a changeover.

• Ettore Rossetti of Shelton, Conn., sends this link about a tennis record.

• Favid of Los Angeles notes that Aretha Franklin -- a guest Monday night for the Althea Gibson tribute -- is not only the first African-American but the first artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

• Calvin Cheung, Sterling Heights, Mich., writes: "Is it just me, or does Rafa Nadal always look like he's off to do a Geico commercial?"

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