Wednesday January 20th, 2010

Were you surprised at the Elena Dementieva-Justine Henin result? Henin has dominated Dementieva in past meetings (nine wins in 11 matches), but they last played in 2007 and Dementieva has been performing pretty well of late. What does this say about Henin's chances moving forward? --Stephen Males, Devonshire, Bermuda

• The short is answer is: not at all. I don't want to take away from this whole comeback trope. It's a nifty storyline: players decide to quit, reassess the decision, get back into training and return to their winning ways. I get that. But to hear some of the discussion, you'd think that Henin had been spending the last 30 years playing shuffleboard in Boca ("Allez!"). She suddenly puts down her cane, get an artificial hip, LASIK and botox, starts ordering the cottage cheese and not the Reuben sandwich at the early bird special and works her way back. Let's be realistic: We're talking about an elite athlete (always in peak condition) and peerless competitor who took an 18-month hiatus and now, at age 27, has returned. I would almost go so far as to submit that if Henin weren't in top 20 form, it would be surprising.

Again, this is not to diminish Henin. Her game looks as sharp as ever we welcome her back with open arms. But her beating Dementieva -- a top-five player, but never accused of being a ferocious competitor, especially in majors -- will not challenge Jets over Chargers for "Upset of the Week."

Henin's chances of moving forward? I still think Clijsters and Serena are the favorites. But I'd take her over the rest of the remaining field.

Agreed, the Hit for Haiti was terrific. However, why do they have to raise $10 from each fan for a half-hearted hit when a Grand Slam tournament was to begin on the same court the very next day? All of the top-flight players that attended could simply write big cheques to the Red Cross or another charity that would total way more than what they could raise in a hastily arranged event. Again, props for Fed and for the players that day -- and it does call attention to the horrific situation -- but money is money. And if I can send $100 to Haiti, what's a few million bucks from these players without raising it from the general public? --Dominic Ciafardini, Hong Kong

• Part of the motivation was fundraising. But part of it was publicity. If each of the players had simply written a $10,000 check, would we be discussing this? I suspect not. Holding an impromptu event was a win-win-win. The cause received funds. The players did something worthwhile. Fans were able to enjoy watching their players for less than the cost of a movie. Overall, a banner day for tennis.

While I agree in principle with you that "male" is an implied qualifier when referring to tennis player superlatives (e.g. Fabrice Santoro's four decades -- something I'd dispute only because I'm one of those uptight nerds who insist that decades begin in years ending with 1 and not 0), I still think it's worth noting that this seems to apply only to male players. Sure, in an article dealing ONLY with women they may be referred to as "players." But it seems to me that Steffi Graf is far more likely to be referred to as having won more "majors than any other woman" than Federer is to be referred to as having won more "majors than any other man." This is especially frustrating because Graf actually has won more than any man, while Federer finishing only sixth (!) on the gender-neutral list! (Not to mention the fact that, with men and women alike, "Open era", is so often implied as well -- Margaret Court is actually the all-time major winner in singles.) --Joshua, Portland, Ore.

• Surprised how many of you are requesting that we be gender-specific. I still say it's implied. If it's "top-seeded Serena Williams," do we really need to clarify that it's for the women's draw and there's also a top seed for the men? If Rafael Nadal has the longest clay-court winning streak, so we really need to add that it's for men only? I'll try and be mindful, but I think it's understood most of the time.

Just curious: How does Robin Haase, ranked No. 390 in the world, get right into the Aussie main draw? He's lost already to Berdych, but the question lingers. --Andy, New York

• From Sharko: He had a protected ranking that was high enough to get him in.

You never posted this trivia question that I proposed at the time of last year's U.S. Open, and I think it's a really fun one: How many women have exceeded Federer's record of 15 major titles? By the way, I don't think gender is implied when you talk about "all-time Grand Slam champion!" --Jon Duoos, Minneapolis

• First right answer gets a prize. Respond via Twitter please.

Has a player ever lost in every round of a major?

Steve of Kirksville, Mo.: John McEnroe has lost in every round at both the French and the U.S. Open. Hang tight. I'm looking for more. Don't feel like doing homework just yet.

Jacob of Houston: OK, I spent way too long on this, but including male players and assuming that we are limiting this to players who won the Grand Slam in question, Jimmy Connors managed the feat of winning Wimbledon in 1974 and 1982 while also losing in each round at least once: 1R ('71, '86, '92); 2R ('89); 3R ('91); 4R ('83, '88); QF ('72, '73, '76); SF ('79, '80, '81, '85, '87); F ('75, '77, '78, '84). Talk about longevity!

Sriram of Chennai: Agassi has done everything at Wimbledon: lost in each round and also won it. Here is a partial list of his losses (by each round): 1R ('87); 2R ('98, '02); 3R ('06); 4R ('94); QF ('91, '93); SF ('95, '00, '01); F ('99), Champion ('92).

Jason Gould of Chicago: Venus Williams in Australia: 1R ('06); 2R ('09); 3R ('04); 4R ('05); QF ('98, '99, '02, '08); SF ('01); F ('03).

Alex Ketaineck, Cheshire, Conn.: Rosemary Casals at the U.S. Open, Lindsay Davenport at the U.S. Open, Mary Joe Fernandez at the French Open, Zina Garrison at Wimbledon, Anke Huber at the Australian Open, Conchita Martinez at the Australian and French Opens, Jana Novotna at Wimbledon, Nancy Richey at the U.S. Open, Virginia Ruzici at the French Open, Pam Shriver at the U.S. Open, Helena Sukova at the Australian and U.S. Opens and Wendy Trumbull at the Australian and U.S. Opens.

Alonso of San Diego, Calif.: Conchita Martinez, Wendy Turnbull, Helena Sukova and Anke Huber also lost in every round of the Aussie Open. In addition, Mary Joe Fernandez and Virginia Ruzici did it at the French; Zina Garrison at Wimbledon; and Pam Shriver, Rosise Casals, Nancy Richey, Wendy Turnbull (again) and Helena Sukova (also again) did it at the U.S. Open. That's a lot more than I would have guessed! Hope this helps.

Jay of Boston, Mass.: A minor, nitpicky comment, but my ex was a Croat who was always irritated by these things: "Cilic" is really not a palindrome. The first letter looks like a C with a French accent circumflexe over it), and the final letter is like a c with a French accent aigu over it). These are two different letters in the Croatian alphabet. Both are pronounced roughly like "ch" in "chair" although there is a slight difference in pronunciation (indistinguishable to my American ears).

Kei Nishikori is making his comeback on the ATP Circuit at the Challenger in Hawaii next week

John Bayalis of Atlanta, Ga. compares Tiger and Agassi.

Justin Gimelstob on Facebook: "So the latest is, TIGER is a SEX ADDICT?! Let's not overly complicate this, ACCESS+ARROGANCE+SELFISHNESS-MORALS=LOTS AND LOTS OF SEX!!"

Jan Michael Gambill adds: "It's just the media's way of making some [expletive] excuse and putting a name on everything."

Karen FJ, who lives in NYC but sleeps in New Jersey: Separated at birth: Nico Davydenko and Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

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