Wednesday May 26th, 2010

What is your opinion on Nadal's English? After so many years at the top of such an international sport you'd think he would improve in that area ... it was cute at first but now this is becoming a bit annoying trying to read through his interviews. I realize that mastering the English language is not a priority for him, but it's not like studying it for a couple hours a week for a few months would come in the way of his tennis schedule. I would think that this would improve his image overseas more than wearing an expensive watch. --Mike, Boston

• I'm surprised how often this comes up. Nadal's English is still vastly better than my Spanish (does Rosetta Stone have a money-back guarantee?) so I'm in no position to criticize. I mean, look, we should all be trying to learn Mandarin. But at some point we make a decision about optimizing our time. In this case, Nadal has made a decision that those "couple hours a week" are better spent practicing. So be it.

I might feel a bit different if he were playing in the U.S. -- I remember once talking to Dirk Nowitzki about this -- but given how international tennis is, I think it's unnecessary/unrealistic/unbecoming that we ask him to learn a language other than his own.

Nadal is a better tennis player than Federer, but Federer is the best tennis player ever. Nadal "could" become the best tennis player ever, but is unlikely to be so because of the nature of his game (think about that wrist of his snapping away and those knee joints being pounded on for 10 more Slams ... at least). Your thoughts? --Alvin Tan, Singapore

• Nadal is a better clay-court tennis player than Federer, but Federer is the best player ever. Nadal "could" become the best tennis player ever, but is unlikely to be so because of the nature of his knees. They are both pretty darn unique in both their prodigious talents and prodigious good-guyness, and we should be thankful for their existence.

A proposition to resolve the Federer vs. Nadal debate -- how about we agree that Federer is the greatest player of all time who happens to be playing in the same era as the greatest clay-court player of all time. Does any other active player have more than two wins against Nadal on clay, let alone both in Masters Series event finals? --Andrew McLaren, Winnipeg, Manitoba

• Very good.

What's with the scheduling at this year's French? I was shocked that Murray-Gasquet (a mouth-watering match even without the added factor that a home player was involved) was put on Lenglen, and now I see that Nadal's first round isn't on Chatrier, presumably because Bartoli or Roddick, need to play there. Your thoughts? --G.Z., London

• Lots of you complaining about this. Scheduling is always going to be subject to complaint. And while, yes, it was weird to see Nadal on Lenglen a) it's not exactly the hinterlands and b) imagine how psyched those fans must have been. There are seven rounds of the friggin' tournament. I don't think it's a tragedy if the top guys plays a few matches outside the Big House.

Is it wrong that I want Monfils and baby Monfils (a/k/a Gianni Mina) to play doubles for entertainment sake? Can you imagine? He looks more like Gael than Gael's own brother does. --Call, Durham, N.C.

• I feel like we all need to be a little careful here. But, yes, it would be fun to see Monfils and Mina play together.

The ATP and WTA should make it a rule that no tournament should be staged a week before the Slams to ensure that participants are well-rested. The burnouts that some of the guys suffer from is not surprising at all. Then again, I guess there's no use trying to talk sense into them! --Khairi Akbar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

• This will never happen. Notice, though, who enters these events. They're basically the province of the second-tier players, eager for the points and prize money.

What? No men's nor women's seed reports? Or did I somehow miss the link? --Cenna Sutjipto, Jakarta, Indonesia

• You missed it? I had Ginepri upsetting Querrey and Safina going down to Date-Krumm. I'm doing awesome.

I'm a big fan of Andy Roddick's, but I wish his new wife would buy him some new underpants. This isn't baseball and nobody needs to see that. --Nicolas, Paris

• I'm not sure what you're referring to. But this pertains to married men as a rule: All of our spouses should buy us underwear.

Help me. Please! What kind of outfit do you expect to see at a Harvard 40th reunion? Just wondering, so I can be properly outfitted for mine in three years. (Can it really be? Graduation seems like just yesterday.) By the way, the 30th, 40th, and 45th reunioners are shoved into the following fall, since there's not enough room for everyone during commencement week. The 25th, 35th, and 50th are the super-big ones, with space made available in Harvard housing for those who want it and lots of activities planned. (We took the dorm space 12 years ago and it worked out well -- my wife, our 10-year-old son, me. Two years ago, it wasn't so great. We had to walk five flights up to our room and sweltered in 95-degree heat the last two days, with the windows open and people yelling all night from the street below.) And the 25th and 50th get special treatment on commencement day. The in-between reunions are smaller in scale. --Ron Irving, Seattle

• There's this can-can dress that's all the rage in Paris ... I'm taking a break from fashion critique. But your note gives me an opportunity to link this gem. Seriously, enjoy yourself. These reunions are just surreal experiences, no? Amazing how we look exactly the same yet everyone else ages, loses hair and packs on the pounds.

Toni Nadal's pick as the best clay-court player is someone other than his nephew. Yes, this is precisely why we love this clan. (Next installment, Gloria James says, "My son is pretty good, but he's no Elgin Baylor.")

• The USTA sent out a release noting it is awarding "more than $315,000 in Recreational Tennis Grants to 38 non-profit organizations across the country as part of a community building initiative." OK, this is cheap shot, but surely I wasn't the only person who did the math and noted this was less than two weeks of Arlen Kantarian's reported $9.15 million compensation in 2008.

• Recall our recent discussion about the dearth of players wearing sunglasses. Here's Sam Stosur via Oakley: "The 7th-ranked WTA pro tennis player ... is an ambassador for the Oakley Perform Beautifully campaign."

"I've worn Oakley sunglasses since I was 14 years old," Stosur said. "I probably begged my mom and dad to go out and buy me a pair, and I remember they were yellow M Frames. I treated them very, very well."

Stosur spoke of the elements that challenge vision in tennis, and how Oakley sunglasses help her perform at her best.

"On the court, there's the sun, the glare and the heat, and anything else you can think of. If you can minimize the things that make it difficult to see, you're going to be in a lot better position to play well. With Oakley sunglasses, I am able to relax and see the ball when I toss it up to serve, even if the sun is in the way. I can't imagine not playing without my Oakleys. Sometimes you go out there and don't have them, and you realize how much they do help you."

• When you see those prime seats behind the baseline going unoccupied this week in Paris, spare a thought for the good folks at the ATP Houston event. Earlier this month, representatives of the US Men's Clay Court Championship at River Oaks Country Club delivered a $10,120 check to the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital. The money was raised through the tournament's annual Texas Children's "Ticket Turnback" program.

"When the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute opens this fall, it will bring scientists from a variety of disciplines together under one roof to gain a better understanding of how the human brain develops and functions and apply that knowledge to truly accelerate the search for new treatments for neurological disorders," said John Scales, senior vice president at Texas Children's Hospital. "We are grateful that the River Oaks US Men's Clay Court Championship continues to support our efforts and has partnered with us to change the lives of people worldwide who suffer from diseases like autism, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. And we look forward to growing that partnership in the future."

The Texas Children's "Ticket Turnback" program allows fans to donate tickets to sessions they cannot attend back to the tournament. The River Oaks box office then resells the tickets at face value, and the full resale amount is donated to Texas Children's.

"It was a great pleasure to visit the hospital and personally present this check on behalf of our fans who helped make this donation possible," tournament chairman David Modesett said. "We are very excited to be partners with Texas Children's and we look forward to expanding our relationship in the coming years."

Tournament director Van Barry was pleased with the success of the program in 2010.

"Our historic stadium at River Oaks fills up quickly," he said. "This 'Ticket Turnback' program allows us to benefit a wonderful program at Texas Children's while also making our tennis tournament accessible to more people, especially on the finals weekend which consistently sells out in advance."

Ben Loo of Kuala Lumpur notes: Candidate for long lost siblings: Ernests Gulbis and Christian Bale.

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