Thursday January 28th, 2010

Today's baguette in lightning round mode:

Serena Williams versus Justine Henin is the dream final. Who do you like? --Carl, Chicago

• Total toss-up. Serena is the defending champ; Justine looks fresher. Serena hits harder; Justine moves better. I think a key will be how well Serena recovers physically in the next 48 hours. This is deep and textured rivalry. Nice to see another installment.

Since Rafael Nadal has been playing very high level tennis since he was 18, is it really accurate to say he's "only" 23? Yes, six years is a short time, but elite tennis careers in the past have had similar lengths. --Joel Haywood, Macon, Ga.

• Fair point. But I resent the attitude that, "Hey, he plays physical tennis." Or "injuries are part of sports." Something is systemically wrong when so many players can't stay off the IR.

Wow. It's hard to overstate how disappointing Djokovic's performance was tonight. I know he was sick, but not sick enough to claim a two-sets-to-one lead against a top 10 player. He constantly does this. It's beyond bush league at this point and I'm sure he's a running joke in the locker room now. Do you think Federer would have blamed a loss on "stomach cramps"? Of course not! That's the difference between Roger and everyone else. You don't see him laying down due to nagging injuries. I mean the guy made it to the 2008 Aussie Open semis with mono! Just another reason to heap praise on the Maestro and keep mocking the pretenders (Djokovic) who can't get it up at the majors. --Josh, Richmond, Va.

• Kept thinking of Andy Roddick and his "bird flu" monologue from a few years ago. Here's the first exchange from the postmatch interview with Tsonga:

Q: Novak talked about his problems. He had some problems during the match. When did you first notice that he was having problems?

JO WILFRIED TSONGA: Five years ago. (Smiling.) Touche.

Jon, After Nadal's performance at this year's Australian Open, I fail to see how there can any longer be a Federer-Nadal debate (actually I have failed to ever see the debate). If Federer wins this Australian Open he will have 14 Grand Slam Titles in the last 23 Grand Slam events. In those same 23 events, Nadal has made the QUARTERS ONLY 14 times. In other words, Federer has WON as many times as Nadal has reached the Final 8. Some rivalry. --Patrick, Chicago

• If the question is who's better, Federer or Nadal, we can have a debate. If the question is who's had a more accomplished career, it's obviously Federer. Case closed.

A Facebook etiquette issue for you: During the Australian Open, my FB (tennis) friends became divided on the issue of whether or not it was OK to discuss match results. Due to the time difference, some wanted to watch the matches on DVR without knowing the outcome. Others felt that FB postings should not be restricted, and those wanting to see the matches "outcome-uninformed" should either avoid FB or make tennis watching a higher priority. Your thoughts? --Scott Steinberg, Cumberland, Maine

• Some of my Twitter followers were hammering me for this, too. But I think that withholding scores or tape-delaying coverage is Flat Earth Society stuff. Given technology/globalization, the burden should be on the "outcome-uninformed" to insulate themselves, not on "outcome-informed" to censor themselves. But that's just me.

As I'm typing this, the Karlovic/Vemic vs. Nester/Zimonjic semi is being played. However, Tennis Channel is not covering that match but instead replaying the Djokovic vs. Tsonga quarter from last night! What gives? --Jennifer, Boston

• Realistically, I think most fans would rather a five-set quarterfinal on delay than a doubles live.

Sorry, but Evert's 6-0, 6-0 drubbing of Navratilova on clay in the early '80s trumps Davenport over Sharapova -- by 36 singles Grand Slam titles to six, specifically. --Glen Janney, Miami

• Believe there were extenuating circumstances that day. Better leave it there.

Is there anything more awe-inspiring in tennis than Serena in FU mode? Sam Stosur seems like a good player. She didn't play badly. She just didn't belong on the same court or in the same sport as Serena. And Victoria Azarenka? What on earth can she do except laugh in shock and try to juggle tennis balls with her feet when Serena hits that switch? --Rowan, Oakland

• What about Federer in the same mode?

How can you continue to pick Djokovic when he can never seem to come together to pay tough 5-set matches. The guy never seems healthy... --Anita, St. Louis

• Djokovic has already pulled a career Slam ... withdrawing from matches in each of the four Majors. Last night, he is up two sets to one and then falters. It's always risky business to question an athlete's health, but there are definite some conditioning/neurological/guts issues that need addressing.

I noticed after a winner, or a good point, Li Na waves her hand in front of her face and seems to be looking at her coaching box. Any idea if this is a secret message/superstition? --Al, New York

• Just asking for a towel.

So Serena has beaten the most former Slam champs in one event? What about the men? I can't find anyone who beat more than three former champs. --Kevin, Los Angeles

• Someone noted that Gustavo Kuerten took out three former French Open champs (Muster, Kafelnikov, Bruguera) en route to his French Open title in 1997. And Allen Fox beat 4 GS Champs in a row to win Pacific SW in 1967.

After one day, I was willing to let it go. But after two straight mailbags containing the mind-melting phrase "Try and...", rather than the appropriate "Try to...", I can't help but fight for prescriptivism. And yes, I am a member of the Facebook group "I judge you when you use poor grammar." --Matt Woods, Scottsdale, Ariz.

• But here's the real question: When does a decade officially start?

Hi Jon. I have no objections to the heaping of praise on Fed for all his records, but object to one aspect of the recounting of the various records and comparisons; They invariably fail to take into account that Borg's career stats reflect that he, like other players of his time, did not typically play in the Australian Open. For example, in one stretch Borg made 13 out of 14 Grand Slam finals he entered, but in this is NEVER mentioned in Grand Slam streak discussions or discussion of concentrated successes (e.g., only Lendl's 10 consecutive semis was mentioned by ESPN during the Fed/Davydenko semi). This is absurd. Borg's legacy should be considered in light of practices of his playing time and should be mentioned in these contexts. --David, Wayne, Pa.

• That's valid. Long as we're picking nits, a colleague was trying to convince me that when discussing Federer's semifinal streak, it bears mention that because of the 32 seeds, he's often in the fourth round before he has to play a top-30 opponent, a luxury his predecessors didn't have.

Didn't Nadal's downhill slide begin soon after Nike made him give up his intimidating, sleeveless look? Hasn't been the same player since his "guns" were holstered, seems to me. --Kurt, Madison, Wisc.

• Well played on "holstered guns."

• Emirates has become a premier sponsor and the official airline of the BNP Paribas Open.

Donald Young won his first match at the Honolulu Challenger.

Julie of Austin sends this Agassi link.

• North Carolina readers: check out the tennis benefit here.

• It's not just Brangelina.

• New York readers: Watch the Australian Open here.

Rachael Wong of Honolulu passes along these pronunciation guides.

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