Tuesday January 26th, 2010

I was watching Verdasco vs. Davydenko yesterday, and was just in awe on how complete of a player Nico is. Mentally, he's shown he isn't afraid of anyone. I mean, losing a two-set lead to take it in the fifth is impressive on any scale. What dawned on me while I watched the game was, where's all the Davydenko hoopla, fanfare, flashy endorsements, etc.? I almost know nothing of the man, but he can sure play a mean game of tennis, evidence by his recent wins over top tenners. It's a crying shame that a normal dude like himself doesn't get the attention (positive, that is) he deserves. --Dave Clerc, Mexico (land of tasty baby goat)

• Taking a two-set lead and then closing in the fifth is all the rage these days. (See Marin Cilic and Jo Tsonga.) But I like your question. First, let's talk tennis. Davydenko is playing as well as anyone and, like you, I came away a believer yesterday in what was, ironically, his worst match of the week. He moves well, he can go game after game without missing a ball, his tactics are excellent, and his serve is a real weapon. Either I hadn't noticed this or he's added wattage. But for a guy who might be 5-10 and 150 pounds, he can drill the ball. I was talking with a former player today who thought that if Davydenko gets by Roger Federer, he wins the tournament. And if Federer gets by Davydenko, Federer wins. "That match is your final."

If we're being honest, coming into this tournament, Davydenko was known principally for two things: his anonymity and having his name dragged through a match-fixing scandal. This tournament has given Davydenko a chance to express himself and his personality. He's been funny and outgoing and quirky. (Try and YouTube his postmatch interview with Jim Courier.) You feel like his attitude is: enough of "the least known man in tennis" bit. I'm finally ready to announce myself.

What is the more exciting prospect: a Nadal/Federer Grand Slam final or a first ever Henin/Serena Grand Slam final? --JJ Johnson, Allentown, Pa.

• There will be no Nadal-Federer match after Murray beat Nadal. (Hear my rant on injuries on the audio portion.) We'll happily settle for Henin-Serena.

Where in the world is John McEnroe? Not in the ESPN booth. --Connie M., Palm Springs, Calif.

• As he did in his playing days, McEnroe tends to take this event off. Surely he'd prefer to remain in balmy New York and avoid the harsh conditions in Melbourne.

If Nadia Petrova beat Henin, she would have beaten three GS champs in a row, or four if she'd beaten Venus/Serena in the final. Which player has beat the most former GS champs in route to the final? --Lynnson, Shreveport, La.

• Good question. A prize to the first correct answerer (respond via Twitter, please). Same question, different circumstances: If you're Petrova, do you leave here disappointed that you could have knocked off Henin to play Zheng Jie for a spot in the final? Or are you happy your game is back on track and you beat two former two Grand Slam champs?

So if there's presumably a Williams-Williams semifinal, who's your pick? Serena or Venus (at least the Venus during the last two sets in her match versus Schiavone)? And is the winner of this match pretty much going to win the whole shebang? --Joe, Cambridge

• At this stage in their careers, Serena is going to be the favorite against Venus just about every time. But the psychodynamics are so exceptional, who knows? I give Henin a real chance against either. She gives them a look that other players don't. She has such a full toolbox. And she's a masteress at finding escape routes. Still, I'm sticking with my pick of Serena.

Do players get appearance fees for Grand Slam events? --Doug, Miami

• This question came up twice today. The answer is no. And, barring exceptional circumstances, they don't get paid to show up to the Tier I events or Masters Series events either. It's the little guys, the Rotterdams and the Bangkoks that have to cut the checks. It's an age-old tennis discussion but if the players were to threaten the Slams for more revenue -- or the top players demanded an appearance fee -- would they be able to effect change?

How is the shape of the draw in Melbourne decided? We now get 1v6, 4v7, 2v5, 3v8 in the men's quarters. This is pretty harsh on Murray for being seeded 5. The women's draw has a different structure again. --Chris, Ashtead, UK

• Again, the seeds 1-4 are in four quadrants, but then 5-8 are sprinkled randomly. So Murray (5) plays Nadal (2) in the quarters. Ironically had the tournament followed typical seeding, four plays five, meaning Murray would have played Juan Martin Del Potro's spot.

Jamie of Bloomington, Indiana: Thought you might enjoy this: My son has a blog called "Calvin's Tip of the Day." Every day he shares a nugget of wisdom from his 8-year-old perspective. (To be clear, I help him clean up grammar and spelling.) Yesterday's tip was about tennis. Given a couple of the positive traits he identifies, it won't surprise you to learn that we were watching the latter stages of Venus's match against Schiavone!

• Tennis gets shafted by TV, Aussie style.

• Welcome, Bruce Jenkins.

• Trivia: Lagardere Unlimited represents both Henin and Petrova

Vera Zvonareva is the latest player to enter Charleston.

• When does a decade start, anyway? Dane of Brookline, Mass.: If Rob and any other would-be semantic prescriptivists insist on getting technical, a "decade" is merely a period of ten years. It can start or end at any point in the calendar. Perhaps Rob would have a point if someone incorrectly used the term "the 201st decade since the birth of Christ." However, in unqualified contexts, the word "decade" refers to periods of time that begin as the year turns a multiple of ten. This is not an arbitrary distinction, but rather a reflection of how humans overwhelmingly conceive of the timeline (as evidenced by the meanings of terms like "the 1980s" or "The Roaring Twenties"). Appealing to mathematical argument is to miss the point of language. A word means whatever the consensus of its utterers intend it to mean. Definitions are not derivable a priori from first principles. Vive le Santoro.

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