Monday January 25th, 2010

Now that the Aussie Open is reaching the halfway point, time to revise your picks. Of those left standing, who's going to reach the semis and the finals? --Scott Freeman, Atlanta, Ga.

• Thanks for the opportunity. But I'll stick with the picks: Serena and Djokovic.

A few observations: Can't recall a men's field being this open in a while. Even with Del Potro out, it wouldn't be remotely surprising if any of six players won. (Love the Nadal-Murray quarterfinal.) While Henin and to a lesser extent Nadia Petrova have been the stories on the women's draw, how about a nod to Venus Williams? After an unremarkable 2009, she looks like she's back in Slam contending form. (Several of you already reminded me that I violated my own rule and picked against her at my peril, predicting she might lose to Lucie Safarova in round one. Look what happened.)

Wasn't there a ranked doubles player, Robert Angerer (sp?), from Haiti who was active on the ATP tour for a while? --Jere Diersing, San Diego, Calif.

Ronald Agenor was ahead of his time and unretired maybe a decade ago. You can learn more here.

Has Novak Djokovic ever faced Donald Young? Djokovic could learn a thing or two about how to shorten up his serving "ritual." --Ken, New York, N.Y.

• Djokovic won their only head-to-head. I was thinking Kim Clijsters could teach everyone something about pace of play. "Give me the balls and let's get going."

The Grand Slams are great advertisements for their respective countries. Has there ever been any talk of a moving Grand Slam that, say, changes continents every year, so that Asia, South America and Africa get a little love on occasion? --Valarie, Portland, Ore.

• From your keyboard to the Chinese government's ears. Unlike the World Cup, it's really hard for the Slams to rotate. Apart from history and his companion tradition, there are logistical issues, financial issues and infrastructure issues. Before we even talk about boring topics likes sponsorships, consider whether there is even a facility in South American or Africa that could accommodate a Grand Slam. Every year there seems to be a story about the Australia Open being vulnerable to a hostile takeover bid, with China being the most aggressive pursuer. But I suspect that in 10 and 20 years we'll be having the same conversation without much changing.

Serena Williams said in her presser that Sam Stosur was "a very good friend." Everyone's always talked about the Williamses being an island unto themselves. Has that changed over the years? Are they fraternizing more with the WTA sorority? --Ian Rashid, London

• I think there's a difference between cordiality and fraternizing. The backstory here: Stosur won their previous match before Monday -- at Stanford last summer -- and Serena was, surprisingly enough, not paticularly charitable in defeat. I suspect that Serena's stressing her friendly relationship with Stosur was a way to deflect any controversy with the Australian media.

Has Gasquet peaked? And if he has, when was it? --Brian, Canada

• You hope not. But I feel like he is what he is: a wildly talented player who simply doesn't have the competitive chops/fire/stomach/whatever to be a real winner. It's nice to see him back and he'll always be sporadically dangerous. But I sense his window of opportunity has really closed. Pity.

• Could this be right? American Mitchell Frank won his first junior match without committing an unforced error?

• Eric Kao of New Jersey: I hear that Andy Roddick has accepted Chad Ochocinco's challenge to a set. Andy has even given him odds by giving him two months to prepare and Andy will play left-handed. Perhaps, Chad needs to speak with Sam Branson first. Sam only lost $150, but Ochocinco has bet a new car of the winner's choosing.

• The second-highest-ranked American John Isner will return to River Oaks for the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship on April 5-11. Isner, who is ranked No. 28 on the ATP World Tour, is the fourth Top 30 player to commit to the event, joining No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez, No. 17 Tommy Haas and No. 29 Sam Querrey. On Friday in Melbourne, Isner defeated No. 12 Gael Monfils to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open. Isner, who defeated Andy Roddick to reach the Round of 16 at the 2009 U.S. Open, will try to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal when he plays No. 4 Andy Murray on Sunday.

• One of the top Yahoo! trending topics was ... Nadia Petrova. Wow.

• The Armageddon is nigh: Pat Rafter and Henri Leconte are playing each other in Wii Tennis.

• The Armageddon is nigh: Tila Tequila's world tour is coming to Melbourne next month.

Amy Pflughaupt writes: "When you're a tennis fan, you tend to remember where you were when some of the most memorable matches of your life took place. That is the case for the Sampras-Courier Aussie quarterfinal that took place fifteen years ago today on Jan. 24, 1995. There have been some amazing matches, and even some far greater ones that have taken place in the decade-and-a-half-since, but that is the one that I remember most clearly. I was an eighth-grader and it was also the day that I found out I had won a writing contest for which I'd written a letter to Jeanne Ashe, telling her how much I had learned from and been moved by Days of Grace. In any case, I was barely a teenager and Sampras was my hero, so to watch that match, to see him get down, get overcome by the sadness he was feeling, and then come back and persevere inspired me that day. Some tennis matches can be more than just tennis matches and that particular one has inspired me every day since."

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