We'll start with some good news and raise a glass of Corona Extra to the ATP in honor of their new sponsor.
• I think you have to distinguish between team sports and individual sport athletes. A baseball player might be known as a clutch hitter or a cold-blooded closer. But they're still dependent on others.
That Heiden -- a speedskater during the Carter administration -- is the first name you generate, says plenty about Serena's stature here.
• This week the pendulum oscillated in the other direction, and Court's defenders came full force with allegations of "political correctness," and "thought police," and "love the sinner, hate the sin." To Jesse's point: It is indeed a slippery slope. Which is why I was initially inclined to tread lightly. Anyone with strong beliefs and a willingness to share them --
But again, I urge you reread some of Court's statements. To my mind, calling an entire group of people an "abomination" (Webster: something causing extreme disgust and hatred) is really beyond the pale. Court and her defenders may contend that her intentions are good and pure -- and let's concede this to be the case. That doesn't change the fact that it has the effect of hurting and demeaning a great many people, from some of her former colleagues to fans she's never met. Shouldn't there be consequences for that?
Again, search and replace "gay" with another discreet minority group. There's no way the person holding the view that blacks or Catholics or Asians are an "abomination," would be welcome in the President's Box. Margaret Court is, of course, free to hold views and express them as she sees fit. The tennis community is similarly free to find someone more tolerant to pass out trophies.
• Nice reference. But is Blake really in a slump? I think it's easier to make the case that he was/is a late-blooming overachiever than a talent-squandering underachiever. He's 30. He's losing close matches. He'll win some matches here and there, especially on faster courts. He'll need to fall out of the top 100 to require a wild card at the U.S. Open, which I don't see happening. On the other hand, clearly the torch has been passed and "Quiznner" (they toast the bread!), the
• This still comes up every few weeks. No asterisk. He beat the seven guys they put in front of him. Can't ask for more than that. (Plus at least he beat the guy who beat Nadal.)
• In this case, I attributed it to the BBQ chicken nachos at Corky's. It's like the food equivalent of UFC: simultaneously indefensible and irresistible. But I digress. Shaun raises an interesting point: we sometimes see players turn in consistently strong results at particular events, with little rhyme or reason. We could talk about surface (in this case, a Scandinavian playing well at an indoor event iS probably not surprising) and we could talk about comfort levels and we could talk about confidence. But I throw this out there: maybe it's pure chance. You have hundreds of players and dozens of events. The same way you could flip a coin 100 times and 10 straight "tails," statistically speaking these "blips" really aren't so aberrant.
• I have no opinion on Sharapova's "Russian-ness." For all I know, in her heart of hearts, she considers herself an Uraguayian. And she is certainly entitled to whichever loyalties she wants. My point is simply this: tennis has become so global and the players are so itinerant* that an international competition pitting nation versus nation loses some of its gravitas. There was a time when the Davis Cup -- and Olympics for that matter -- had these classical elements: how do our warriors stack up against their warriors? It became a sort of referendum on the country, the culture, the national character. That loses something when a player is born in Country A, emigrates to Country B for her formative years, travels the globe for her job and has a base in Country C, often prompted by its taxation policy.
• Generally speaking, I think you're onto something. We hear this narrative countless times in sports: athletes who come from hardship or endemic poverty are imbued with toughness and motivation that expresses itself when they perform. Growing up with a single parent taught self-sufficience and independence. A lot of siblings and little food bred survival instincts. Witnessing guns and drugs and violence raised the threshold for awe. As recently as the Australian Open,
But, like Bill, I suspect there is a less allegorical flip side: When you come from humble beginnings and suddenly have wealth and comfort and security, it's easy see how motivation can be hard to come by. "Hey, I've already won, here. How can I get worked up over my results in Cincinnati and my declining scoring average?" I'm not saying this is the case for the Serbs, all three of whom come from quite different circumstances. But it's easy to see how it could be.
• Consider this another plea for the Federer-Federer (née Vavrinec) pairing. Both keep have mentioned that they are excited by the prospect of their daughters watching their father play in person. Well, here's the chance for double duty. (Babysitting joke here.) We'd settle for Federer-Hingis as a consolation prize. Long as you brought up Schnyder, her brother was once a junior rival and friend and Federer before giving up tennis for hockey.
• South Florida readers: I'll be appearing at the Broward Public Library Foundation's Literary Feast, Saturday, Mar. 20. Feel free to stop by and say hi. All for a good cause. Click
• The USTA announced that Birmingham, Ala., has been selected as the site for the 2010 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal tie between the United States and Russia, April 24-25. The matches will be played at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena, which will be hosting a Fed Cup event for the first time. The venue also was the site for the 2009 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie between the United States and Switzerland.
• New York readers: a shout-out to the good folks at
• The All England Club, home of the Wimbledon Championships, announced today the appointment of
Have a great week everyone!