Wednesday March 10th, 2010

While eagerly awaiting the BNP Paribas Open and the second incarnation of Hit for Haiti, viva tennis:

Regarding Wednesday's question about famous parent-child tennis tandems, how could you forget Vera and Helena Sukova? Both Grand Slam singles finalists and Grand Slam doubles champions. --Georgia, Canberra, Australia

• Very good. Also, in addition to having a supercool name, Rangu Ranganathan of Fremont, Calif, notes: "I can think of Ramanathan Krishnan (reached highest ranking of No. 3 in the world in the '60s) and his son Ramesh Krishnan (reached a ranking in the high-20s in the '80s). They both hail from my home town of Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India, and they both are actively involved in the sport, running a tennis academy in Chennai."

Tennis savant Stewbop adds: "May Sutton won two Wimbledons and a U.S. title, and her daughter, Dorothy Bundy, won the 1938 Australian. Bundy, better known later as Dodo Cheney, set all kinds of records for singles titles won in the US in various age groups. The Dents, also including mother Betty-Ann Grubb/Hansen/Stuart/Dent/Jingleheimer/Schmidt. Julia Berbarian was a journeywoman, but her three daughters, Manuela, Katerina, and Maggie, were all top tenners. They basically were Bulgarian tennis. Melanie Molitor wasn't much, but her daughter is a cinch HOF'er. The Sawamatsu sisters were journeywomen in the early '70s, with Kazuko reaching an Aussie semi in singles, but Junko's daughter Naoko became the first Japanese player to crack the top 15 in the computer rankings era (and basically started the Japanese wave of the early '90s). Shirley Bloomer was good, but daughter Kate Brasher wasn't much to speak of. Likewise with fellow Brit Christine Truman, and her daughter Amanda Janes."

Congrats on a nice column. Tendulkar, Ponting and Geb. You do realize that you're destroying the stereotype about American journalists being unaware of non-mainstream sports! --Richard Brady, New York, N.Y.

• They play cricket, right, that weird international baseball thing that can last for days? No seriously, here's another cricket point: When I was in Australia, a number of people explained to me this new Twenty20 format that shortens matches and appeals to television viewers. Inevitably, it was characterized as "cricket on speed." And guess what? The players apparently like it. The fans like it. The sport still exists. Thrives, even. Seems to me this could be instructive for tennis. It's possible to alter the structure -- responding to the market, to consumer demands, to the heightened physical demands -- without corrupting the sport.

Also, back to Tendulkar, Raj Shergill of Ludhiana, India, adds: "Most impressively, Tendulkar's remained scandal-free and down to earth (much like Federer and Nadal). Remember the pressure that Phelps dealt with at Beijing? Well, this guy was a child prodigy who blossomed into a legend. He has coped admirably with insanely unrealistic expectations of a billion Indians since he turned 16 and started playing for his national team at that impressively young age."

Someone else noted: "I can also vouch for Tendulkar's mental toughness. A couple of years ago, India's largest selling newspaper screamed 'Endulkar?' a play of words by some smart-ass reporter, after Sachin had a bad time. If the reporter had any pride, he would dig a really big hole and jump into it after Tendulkar's recent exploits at the age of 37."

I noticed Sam Querrey is wearing K-Swiss now. How long before Dinara Safina wears K-Swiss or Fila? --Dallas, Chicago

• Or is it Chicago, Dallas. Adidas cleared a lot of cap space to sign Murray. In addition to Querrey, notice that the Bryans are K-Swiss, while Djokovic has moved on, too. All well and good. But you wonder how happy Adidas is right now.

If my ever-youthful memory serves me, it was the Brash Basher of Belleville (Jimmy Connors) who inaugurated the fist pump back in the day. At the time, the fist pump was seen as an egregious affront to JC's opponents. These days players use it by rote. If I am correct, how immense is this contribution to the game? --Connie M., Palm Springs, Calif.

• You know tennis is resistant to change when the fist pump is being hailed as a significant contribution to the landscape. Let's give Connors his due here. And let's acknowledge that it's now seen as a reflective gesture, usually perfectly acceptable, and not an affront to the opponent. If someone wanted to devise a new gesture, it would be a welcome addition. But just don't co-opt the Vicht.

Just curious to know what's up with Mal Washington these days. He seems to have disappeared from the face the earth. --Ken, Pittsburgh

• We should all disappear so gracefully. And here's a nice piece from the mighty Joel Drucker.

Two part-question: What records does Roger realistically have left to break? I suppose he could still get most total weeks at No. 1 and, for me, very impressively, the underrated Masters 1000 record. To prove my point of how impressive wins at the 1000s, Federer has won 16 Slams and 16 Masters titles. I wonder if Sharko or someone can calculate how many top 10 players he had to beat in total for each category? I'm willing to bet that you have to beat more top 10 players on average to win a 1000 than a Slam. --Andrew Simon, Hong Kong

• We'll say it again: Greg Sharko is the perhaps the one irreplaceable figure in tennis. What does Federer have left to break? Apart from the bank? Not much. But if you love what you do, you always find motivation.

I'm actually a fan of James Blake, in the "he's a dignified overachiever" camp. But I'm a little puzzled by the big deal made over his moving on from Davis Cup this year, since I never perceived him to be a particularly successful contributor. As such I found an interesting and somewhat sobering stat. Turns out his seemingly impressive 18-11 singles record can be broken down as follows: 11-1 in dead rubbers, 7-10 in matches that count. By contrast, Andy Roddick's 31-11 record only includes 4 dead rubbers. --Noah Baerman, Middletown, Conn.

• I guess I missed the "big deal" over his absence. Seems to me that, if anything, naming him to the team would have been fairly controversial, given that Querrey and Isner are both ranked significantly higher. I think Blake is an interesting case study with respect to expectation. My dime-store analysis: Even deep into teenage years, he saw himself as a good college player, no more. He'd follow his brother to Harvard, a passable university but no tennis powerhouse. While he'd have plenty of options upon graduation, "top 10 tennis player," was not high on the list. Then, he grows physically. His game improves radically. As a likeable, biracial kid, coming of age at a time when the U.S. is looking for a new tennis face, he attracts IMG and gets the wild-card kid glove treatment when he turns pro.

Unencumbered by expectation, Blake can swing freely. "Hey, this is all gravy." His friends, yoked to their desk jobs in banks and law firms, are texting him and expressing envy. Life is good. Blake keeps improving -- top 20, top 10, top five -- and suddenly the accidental nature of his career bites him. While other players compete as though defeat carries a price in blood, Blake is too smart/self-possessed/realistic to get over his unlikely trajectory. He never expected to be on this stage so how upset can he really be by a loss?

And while history is destiny -- as Obama tells us -- future is destiny, too. That is, unlike other players, Blake is not gripped by the desperation that comes with knowing that when your career ends, your options will be limited. In Blake's case, he can finish his degree at Harvard. He can work on Wall Street. He can work for the USTA. This is hardly Allen Iverson, trying to squeeze every last dollar from his sports career, knowing that when retirement comes, it ain't going to be pretty. Blake will be fine in Career 2.0. And armed with that knowledge, how can he get worked up about a bad loss in Cincin ... er, Rome, Madrid, or Shanghai?

I love Fed and do consider him the G.O.A.T., but shouldn't he participate in at least ONE winning Davis Cup campaign for Switzerland? If McEnroe had Fed's attitude toward the Davis Cup, he wouldn't have had been so exhausted and would have possibly entered (and won) the Australian Open (when it was still played on grass) at least a couple of times. I know the Aussie Open was not esteemed the way it is now, but Grand Slam titles are Grand Slam titles... --Omar, El Paso, Texas

• Agree. But the reality is such that players have to make decisions. "You can't kiss all the girls," as they say in Indiana. Federer prioritized and, this year anyway, Davis Cup didn't make the cut. If I'm the ITF, I might find this troubling and I might even be asking myself, "If the driving figure in the sport opts out of this event, but still has time for, say, the Doha tournament, perhaps I should reassess things." Not sure, however, that internal monologue is happening.

Since you've covered both sports -- just wanted to note that tennis's newswire injury demon has moved to the NBA. Top Yahoo! basketball stories right now:

* Cavaliers' James to sit out again

* Spurs G Parker to miss about 6 weeks

* Nuggets' Karl to miss game Wednesday

* Nuggets F Martin should play this season

* Knicks' McGrady sits with soreness

* Grizzlies F Randolph out with stiff back

* Wolves F Jefferson back after suspension Alston's time with Heat may be over

--Mwu, Boston, Mass.

• Could this be right? When I go to and Yahoo! for tennis headlines, all I get -- this is crazy -- are a bunch of match results. Not a single reference to a withdrawal, retirement, pending surgery or gripe. Crazy times, these.

In regard to Serena forgetting how many Grand Slams she's won, I guess maybe because she's been winning in both singles and doubles. As for Roger, I read a few reports saying he remembers everything on court, but even he admitted he "probably even forget a few [Grand Slams] sometimes" last

year. --Joyce Chen-Cohlmeyer, San Leandro, Calif.

• I still think there's a fun column to be written here. @merylstreep: "How many Oscars have I won?? Can't even keep track!"... @billgates: "How many billions am I up to? Can someone look that up for me? Preferably on Bing?"

Remember the time when Nadal was making headlines by winning tennis matches? What happened to that guy? --Alev Elci, North Cyprus

• Rings a bell. He's the guy who Hits for Haiti?

Although winning Grand Slam tournaments in eight consecutive years is truly amazing, you should remind your readers that Chris Evert won at least one Grand Slam tournament for 13 consecutive years between 1974 and 1986. --John, Boston

Consider us reminded. And while we're at it, we'll pause to mention Pete Sampras' six straight years at No. 1. We already know it's not an "apples to apples comparison" -- a phrase that's fast become cliché -- analogizing Evert to today's players. But where was that spell when she had wrist surgery, shoulder surgery, tendonitis, a patellar injury, a torn abductor, bird flu, etc.? That a champion could go so many consecutive years without much interruption from injury helped both with her popularity and tennis' popularity more generally.

I've been asked for the replug and I do as I'm told (especially when a good cause is involved): Next Saturday, I'll be at the Broward County Literary Feast. Click here for more info.

• Dave Seminara writes: "I noticed in the Bud Collins Encyclopedia of Tennis an entry on the oldest (59) and youngest (14) players in Davis Cup history. This is the story behind how those records were set."

• Sid of Sydney: "Give the poor mayor of Cincinnati a break. Check out the bowling (equivalent to pitching in baseball) skills of John Howard, ex-Prime Minister of Australia -- a cricketing nation!"

• Ken Solomon was sworn in as a member of President Obama's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Wednesday in the U. S. Supreme Court. Justice Stephen Breyer administered the oath to committee members, including Mr. Solomon, currently Chairman of Ovation, the only television network dedicated to art and contemporary culture, and Chairman and CEO of Tennis Channel.

Here's a fine piece on Larry Ellison courtesy of Mark Flannery of Fullerton, Calif.

• Glen Janney of Miami Beach: "Dave Clerc of Mexico wonders why there is no hoopla surrounding Davydenko. He should be reminded of Oscar Wilde's line, 'It's only the shallow people who believe that looks aren't everything.'"

The International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Tennis Federation have announced that Heinz Grimm of Switzerland is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Golden Achievement Award, which is given jointly by both bodies. It is presented annually on a worldwide basis to individuals who have made important contributions internationally to tennis in the fields of administration, promotion or education and have devoted long and outstanding service to the sport.

• Helen of Philadelphia has Long Lost Siblings: Mikhail Youzhny and Danish poker star (and, according to him, boyfriend of Caroline Wozniacki) Gus Hansen.

Have a great week, everyone!

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