Federer still floundering, Wimbledon travel tips, more mail
Just a housekeeping note: We'll post Wimbledon seed reports shortly after the draw comes out on later this week.
• Let's look at this rationally. Federer's record post-Australia is pedestrian and there's no sense arguing otherwise. Likewise, his record in non-Slams over the past few years is underwhelming as well. Overlooking his cheap shot, Harold's rejection of the "the guy's set the standard so high..." defense is valid. These are not losses to Nadal in the finals of clay-court events we're talking; they're defeats at the hands of inferior players on fast courts in matches he was in a position to win. Compounding matters, Federer is consistently among the oldest players in the draws he enters. He's a married father twice over. (Married once; two kids.) He's won everything in sight so forgive the guy if his hunger isn't exactly at Donner Party levels.
So, as I see it, here's where we are: Federer's career is, undeniably, winding down. That doesn't mean he's retiring soon, but we're closer to the end than the beginning. ATP events have become like preseason games to him; he'd rather win than lose but he's not overly concerned. The days of him winning three majors a year are gone. Same for lapping the field in ranking points and going months and months without defeat. On the other side of the net: He's still Federer, a player not just of unrivalled skill, but one who's won four of the past seven majors. A player of his talent will be a threat to win every Slam he enters until he's ... what? 33 or so? And just because he might have entered a new stage doesn't mean he's through winning. Who out there really thinks he's won his last Slam? Tennis players are not publically traded companies. If they hit their peak and then decline, we don't bail let alone be "disgusted." We can revisit this in three weeks, but sit tight for now.
• Thanks. Though minimizing expectation is usually a sound strategy -- especially when it comes to parenting -- it's hard to be nonchalant about Wimbledon. All the clichés about it being "a slice of heaven," an Elysian Field, etc., tend to ring true. This isn't Graceland or Stonehenge or some other well-marketed "shrine" that has the capacity to leave you disappointed. Which is to say you'll have a great time, with or without tips. Here are some scattered thoughts:
~ Walk around. Half the fun is exploring the complex, and discovering the touches as you go. The porched court, the Aorangi terrace, the Crows Nest.
~ Take public transportation from London. It's a healthy -- though pleasant -- walk from the various Underground stops, but it sure beats driving.
~ Tune into Radio Wimbledon on your smartphone.
~ Be careful with the secondary ticket market. Quick cautionary tale: A friend of mine tried to impress a new girlfriend and paid in excess of $1,000 for two tickets to the 2007 men's final. Unfortunately, he made the purchase over eBay. While the tickets weren't outright fraudulent, the seller somehow lacked the right to resell them. The bar code on the ticket confirmed this. My friend was questioned at the gate and kindly asked to leave, no refund forthcoming. He's a banker so your sympathy should be limited, but be careful about scalpers.
~ On the other hand, check out the
~ Get the damn strawberries and cream. It's a gimmick. It's overpriced. The strawberries tend to be the size of marbles. Still. Do it, pose for the photo. Then cross it off your bucket list and don't do it twice.
~ Otherwise, try and smuggle your own food. Some of the concessions are almost comical in their awfulness. The meat pies filled with beef and gelatin, come immediately to mind. They go great with Robinson's barley water.
~ Don't forget your vuvuzela!
~ Don't forget your sunblock. Not kidding. For all the jokes about the rain, it's also possible you'll go on a blazing hot day.
~ Arrive early. Once the gates open there's this Foghat-concert-circa-1977 festival seating stampede -- very much at odds with the overall quaintness of the place. The early bird gets the prime seats.
I'm sure we'll have some more thoughts in the coming days.
• Close enough. A lot of you have made your position clear: Nadal is driving the bus now and he's not giving up the steering so quickly. Given the way the tennis narrative has played out over the past two years, I'm not sure how anyone can dismiss another lead change. This "race" has been like
• Yes and no. Stylistically, Nadal, like most of the great ones, has that
• Stefan Edberg was a lot of things. I'm not sure "bad-ass" ever was one of them. (Aside: Is it me, or has "bad -ass" made a nice mid-career transition from a mild profanity to socially acceptable term? Sort of like the
• Nice. Once the tournament begins, I think we might need to commence a contest to see if we can outdo the official poet.
• And here you thought Dudi Sela was another name for a fertilizer salesman! The best-of-five format is a bit of a mitigating factor, but last week's results (Federer, Nadal, Murray, Roddick and Djokovic all lose) are reminders yes, of the depth of the men's field, but also of the uniqueness of grass. Thanks to Federer and Nadal, it's been easy to forget this over the past six or so years.
• One certainly hopes so. And not just for crass commercial reasons. But when you consider the motion on her serve and her forehand and combine it with a shoulder injury, you cringe.
• Wimbledon suicide pool, enter
• We're still marveling at the post-tennis maneuverings of Larry Scott. Here's a guy -- and let's stress: this is a reflection of tennis' entrenched screwed-upness, not Scott's competence -- who couldn't move the date of the Indianapolis event without triggering a bitter legal dispute. Yet a few months into the job as Pac-10 commissioner, he's playing a starring role in the outright overhaul of American college sports.
• Tennis on Broadway: T. Schreiber Studio (
• I believe this was pre-Paris, but thanks to
• Okay, maybe Robin Soderling's
• Stunning stat of the week award goes to Josh of lovely Portland who notes: "Safina spent 26 weeks at world number 1, which is more than twice as long as Venus Williams, who has managed only 11 weeks."
• The Trinity men's and Vanderbilt women's tennis teams have been honored as May's recipients of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Team Sportsmanship Award
[Ed: Battle of the Sexes, the
• This week's unsolicited book recommendation:
• Helen of Philadelphia: "
Have a great week everyone!