Monday January 18th, 2010

Isn't it surprising, Jon? Roger Federer only came up with the "Hit for Haiti" idea on Saturday morning. Television only advertised it on Saturday afternoon and evening, and the papers the next morning. I was there and we had a great time. It is quite astounding that they were able to organize it in one day -- and good on people for coming. Laver was full capacity and it still surprises me, even with the realization that Down Under is a sports-mad society. Props for Tennis Australia, players and fans. A chunk of change was donated, too. -- Deepak, Melbourne

Before we can get caught up in match results and general tennis theater from Melbourne, let's take a moment to reflect on Hit for Haiti, an exhibition held at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday. Thanks to tennis' modest stature, the time difference, the NFL playoffs, Gilbert Arenas, etc. this didn't get nearly enough attention, at least in the U.S. But here we are, only two weeks into the season, and already, this is on my short list for Sports Story of the Year.

The CliffsNotes version: Federer sees the Haiti disaster on the news. "Let's do something." He fires off texts to players from Rafael Nadal to Andy Roddick to Novak Djokovic to Serena Williams. Tennis Australia makes the court available for an impromptu benefit on Sunday -- the day before a Grand Slam begins. Jim Courier agrees to be chair umpire. Through a quick publicity blast -- thanks, technology! -- a capacity crowd pays $10 to watch. There is no corporate sponsor or tie-in. This is not the "foundation benefit," whereby you pay your buddies an appearance, hold a lavish party and give the "proceeds" to charity. This was not some slickly packaged event run by a management agency. The alphabet soup of agencies didn't get involved and make sure no one logos were bigger than the other and their name came first on the self-congratulatory press release. Mary Carillo used the word "organic."

Also note the cause here: There are no Haitian players on tour, no event in Haiti, no Haitian sponsor, no ulterior motive. This is simply: Something horrible happened on the other side of the world, we recognize that and we want to use our platform to help. And note which players showed. Next time you rip "ill-tempered Serena" or "selfish Djokovic," keep this event in mind.

Just a great day for the sport, a great showing from the top players starting with Federer, a great indication of what can happens when tennis cuts through the in-fighting and everyone works for a greater cause. At the risk of getting carried away, events like this ought to convince the players that, when they work together, they have the power, the leverage and capacity to cut through the tennis clutter and take charge.

It's bad enough that Yanina Wickmayer has to qualify for the Australian Open, but shouldn't she at least be playing every qualifying match on Show Court 3? There's only one Aussie left playing Friday and he's on Court 6. What's going on? -- Glenn Stein, Nashville, Tenn.

Why, it's almost as though the tournament organizers are doing a Lane Kiffin job on her! (A Nashville reference for our Glenn.) One of you, referring to Wickmayer, joked that women's tennis is so deep that a U.S. Open semifinalist had to qualify! Say this: Wickmayer deserved a week at Canyon Ranch given how the last 120 days have played out. In keeping with her roller-coaster ride, she won her last match of qualifying 6-0, 6-0. One of the first players called on the court Monday, she squeaked out a win, 10-8 in the third.

Could you remind me of the column that had the link about the longest point ever played? I can't seem to find it. -- Jon Walker, Shelby, N.C.

Here you go. I was actually thinking about this during the first round. Maria Sharapova and Maria Kirilenko had a game that exceeded 10 minutes, so long that ESPN put a timer on the screen. Couldn't help thinking the entire game still paled in comparison to this.

Would the ITF consider "firing" line judges who were proven wrong by Hawk-Eye? Example, if a line judge has been overruled three times in a match, then there must be something wrong with him (bias, poor vision, wrong side of the bed, whatever) and should be forcefully inhibited for the rest of the match. What do you think? -- Anton Aguirre, Boracay Island, Philippines

You're articulating the great fear a lot of officials had when Hawk-eye was first brought to bear. But doesn't that happen already? Watches closely and you'll notice that, from time to time, judges are subtly removed or relocated by the chair when they're having an off day.

"Sometimes the winning decathlete didn't take first in any of the events but simply had the highest overall score." When I read this [about Federer's case for Sportsman of the Decade], I just had to laugh! Of course, I do agree with the statement. However, you have always been right up there with all the mathematically challenged who have been grumbling about various WTA players not named Williams being ranked No. 1 ... You will argue, as you usually do, that the cases are not comparable, but... -- Gilbert Benoit, Ottawa, Ontario

The cases are not comparable.

Was that Terrell Owens watching Roddick's first-round match? -- Don G., Chicago

It was. I gather ESPN interviewed him. But the story I heard was that he made an impetuous decision to fly to Australia and when he realized it coincided with the Aussie Open, he detoured to Melbourne. Other athletes have done likewise in the past: Phil Jackson and Ricky Williams come immediately to mind.

Your comments favoring Andy Roddick over Lleyton Hewitt for third-best player of the past decade has stirred up an old debate that I periodically have with a friend of mine. For years we have argued over whose career would you rather have, Roddick's or Hewitt's? While Roddick has longevity and consistency in his favor, I always lean towards Hewitt as he simply has more Slam singles titles (Wimby and the U.S. Open), a Slam doubles title (U.S. Open), has been to three slam finals on three different surfaces (Wimby, U.S. and Australia) and made the quarters of the remaining slam (French), spent more weeks at No. 1, has higher career earnings and more Davis Cup titles (and finals). Tallying it up, I'd take Hewitt's career over Roddick's, injuries and annoying previous parental presence notwithstanding. -- Louise Kanary, Toronto

It's certainly a valid debate. Slams are the great measuring stick in tennis, Hewitt has Roddick beat there. But there are other factors and I still say, all in, Roddick's stack of chips is higher. Especially considering how brutal the sport has become, I'd urge you not to overlook consistency/longevity. Discussion for another time: when we assess players, what -- if any -- value do we assigned "non analytics," those abstract virtues such as professionalism, character, disposition?

Pete Sampras said he has no intention of reading Andre Agassi's book. Shouldn't he actually read what Andre wrote in the book before he says he wants to talk about it? Shouldn't he try to get the full context of what Andre was saying before freaking out? I found all the passages about Pete that might seem critical were really Andre wishing he had some of Pete's "dullness." It seemed to me like Andre saw in Pete a certain contentment which Andre lacked for himself. Also I thought Andre paid Pete the highest compliment by admitting how bothered he was by losing to Pete. -- Brandon, Chicago

Agree. If Sampras wants to confront Agassi about some of the remarks, he's well within his rights to do so. But, dude, read the book first.

• Credit/blame Michael White of Fort Worth, Texas, for suggesting that if Nikolay Davydenko wins in Melbourne, we alter the spelling of his first name to NiKOALAy.

• The unretired Fabrice (Junior Seau) Santoro has now played in majors in four decades.

• As for last week's discussion regarding Federer and Nadal practicing together, Judy of Forest Hills, N.Y., writes: As recently as the World Tour Finals in London -- an awesome sight -- their super friendly rivalry is an excellent example for tennis fans and fans of any sport!

Kathye Tanner of Viera, Fla.: Had to comment on something amusing watching the Sydney final between Richard Gasquet and Marcos Baghdatis. You know how they have the scores in the corner with the first 3 letters of each player's names? Did you catch "Gas" "Bag"? I know it's juvenile but...

Enjoy Day 2, everyone!

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