Tuesday February 22nd, 2005

CLICK HERE FOR PART I OF WERTHEIM'S MAILBAG

• In what must be a record, four of the six first-round matches played at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and The Cellular South Cup in Memphis last Monday were decided in a third-set tiebreaker:

Mardy Fish beat James Blake, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6; Mirnyi took out wild-card Brian Baker, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6; Carlsen outlasted Greg Carraz, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6; Kevin Kim snuck past Scoville Jenkins, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6.

• Congrats to John Korff, tennis' answer to Bill Veeck, who was married last weekend.

• Loved this exchange between Martina Navratilova and a writer from India Today:

Q. In your press conference, you said you were familiar with Indian history. Who and what had you heard of, outside tennis?

Navratilova: Indira Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi himself. Indira was very popular in Czechoslovakia. I know about the division of India and Pakistan, the history, about the Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and the Buddhists. You have such a combination of cultures, and they got along fine until the British came and messed things up. But you are getting yourself together economically. Indian people are so bright. ... It is funny, every time I call AOL for technical support, I end up talking to someone in India.

I saw this ridiculous headline this week: "Federer sets sights on a return to No. 1-ranking." The ATP and WTA both have dual ranking systems, rolling 52-week and calendar year. So why is it that almost every sports publication and Website, including SI, insists on inconsistently posting different systems for each tour? -- James Coates, Silver Spring, Md.

Like you, I cringed when I saw the same headline on an unnamed Website. I clicked the next morning, and it had been changed to "Federer eyes top spot in Champions Race." Yeah, right. Federer is sweating his points race status in mid-February.

This is Exhibit 23,453 in the case to eliminate the pointless Points Race. It's been five years and it hasn't caught on. The players have no use for it, the tournaments have no use for it and the tennis junkies have no use for it. Worse, it only serves to confound casual fans and media outlets -- precisely the folks tennis needs to be courting. I can't tell you how many sports-talk radio interviews I've done where the host has said, "Tell me about this Radek Stepanek cat. He is No. 3 in the world, but I've never heard of him!"

The reverse is true too: If you were a casual fan reading the aforementioned headline, you'd think Federer had lost his dominance. (Leave it to tennis to promulgate information that undersells its biggest asset.) In the course of a 20-second sound bite or a 500-word article, you simply don't have time to explain that the race started on Jan. 1 and doesn't reflect anything significant this early in the year.

The race served a purpose when it was spawned in conjunction with the ISL deal and the packaging of the TMS events. Now it is only of use in October and November when there is some interest about qualifying for the Masters Cup. Maybe introduce the race after the U.S. Open, making it clear it's in conjunction with the year-end clambake. Otherwise, the Points Race ought to go by way of New Coke.

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