Rafa Nadal and the G Word
The GOAT debate rages, with lots of you continuing to make compelling cases for and against
I'm glad this provoked so much discussion about tennis, especially during a soft spot in the schedule. But with the U.S. Open Series starting up, I think we should table it with the option of revisiting in the fall.
Onward we go...
• I was surprised at how many of you took issue with that question from the
And since when do any of us "stick to the tennis"? Part of the appeal of tennis specifically and sports more generally lies in the depth and dimension and personalities of the athletes. Their images are about so much more than forehand and backhands (or excellence while on the court for the Cleveland Cavaliers or Real Madrid or the back nine at Augusta). Rafael Nadal makes millions in endorsements, yes, because he wins tennis matches but also because of his narrative. Again, he is well within his rights to decline to talk about his faith. But I think it's a fair line of inquiry.
On the subject of religion, I once asked Uncle Toni about what role of faith plays in life. His response: "I don't believe. I studied history in university. Religion comes from ignorance in people. Tribal societies, when they see a flash of lightning or something unusual, they say it come from the Magician. But when society move forward, and technology discover more, religion goes in the back. For me, is very important to be moral -- to be good person. But not religion."
• This was a weird one. Rodionova, a Russian playing out of Australia, is a notorious hothead who is not on the short list of the WTA Miss Congeniality nominees. And Kuznetsova is famously laid-back and accommodating. But I'm told by a neutral observer that Rodionova did little to deserve such a diss. (If you think about it, even sworn enemies tend to shake hands after the match.) There was apparently a dubious injury timeout by Rodionova. But that neutral observer -- I wasn't at the match -- told me that it was nothing that serious. Apparently the following day Rodionova's boyfriend, a Melbourne deejay, called her and asked about her getting left hanging.
"Come to think of it, she didn't shake my hand," said Rodionova. "How'd you know?"
"It's all over the Internet!"
• It's not quite as big a no-no as telling players that they should retire. But it's hard for me to go too hard on a player for equipment. It's a deeply personal choice. The same way I might prefer my trusty Blackberry to an iPhone -- despite all conventional wisdom telling to me to do otherwise -- players have to use the tools with which they're most comfortable. Two other points: a) Federer is deeply involved with his equipment, so I strongly suspect he's made an informed choice and voluntarily gives up some of the power for some of the control you get with smaller stick, and b) given how many careers have stalled on account of players making hasty racket switches -- see: Blake, James -- we should be particularly cautious here.
• Mixed on this, though I see your point. In the case of Venus and Serena, I think it's done mostly to distinguish one Williams from the other. I also think it's the nature of the names to some extent. Mention "Andy" and it could be "Roddick," "Murray," "Ram" -- or for that matter "Dick," "Gibb," or "Warhol." Mention "Andre" or "Rafa" or even "Roger" and it lends itself to first name appellation. Likewise "Arantxa" or "Steffi" or "Dinara," or "Venus," or "Monica" works. If it were Sue, Jennifer, Mary and Svetlana, it might be different. What's more, the WTA tends to stress this. One of
• Television calls the shots. And the suiteholders are a close second. Where else but Wimbledon -- a tournament that passes up untold millions in fees by declining to broadcast during the middle Sunday -- could you get away with putting a marquee player on a back court? I suspect the players' agents would fight it, too. One reason they land endorsements is for sponsor exposure.
• This issue came up a few times. Again, I think having a losing record against your rival undercuts your candidacy, but does not disqualify you from consideration. And Seles' is a sad case, but I think it's hard to do this as a counterfactual exercise. If Seles had never been savagely assaulted, might she have won 24 majors? Sure. Unfortunately, we have to use the facts in evidence.
• Who can help our friend Parth?
• Let's hope not. Schiavone -- like Gaston Gaudio in 2004 -- clearly had a career tournament, a lighting-in-a-bottle two weeks she's unlikely ever to replicate. Fine. The real concern would be Stosur. Around Memorial Day, she looked like a candidate to become the world's No. 1 player, an athletic, complete product with a cracking serve and a newfound confidence. Obviously that doesn't describe her today. You hope she's done some mental rehab work after her Wimbledon defeat and is back to playing top five tennis this summer on the hard courts.
• From his agent, Ugo Colombini:
• A million? Try 400 times that! We could (and do) joke about the roof that gets no use. But if you're into karma and all that, you might be inclined to note that it's warded away the bad weather spirits and enabled unfettered play. Which was ultimately the objective in the first place!
• If one of my friends in the analytics/behavioral economist community cares to investigate, I'll happily publish the results (and throw in some swag). I agree that, anecdotally, the cover jinx can seem uncanny. But I suspect that if you calculated the athletes on the cover and controlled for the potential for loss/injury/death/dogfighting arrest you'd find nothing disproportional. When Lebron James blows out his knee in the preseason I will retract that statement.
• Oh, man. You missed it? Classics, I tell ya. There was this amazing story about Mark Woodforde, a tank filled with whipped cream, a Scandinavian supermodel, a chainsaw, and this...
• From the London
• Note to the LTA: When you let someone as exceedingly capable and well-regarded walk out the door, it speaks volumes to the depths of your screwed-up-ness.
• Helen of Philly: "OMG, Jon you missed the real reason that Serena is absolutely, undeniably THE GOAT -- because she plays with
• The Evert-Norman saga is
• Nelly of Tucson: "FYI. Rafa
• Speaking of World TeamTennis, I attended the New York Sportimes-New York Buzz throwdown. You hate to pressure the kid but I will be shocked if
• Skip, Philly: Following in the footsteps of the
• Pay tribute to
• Martina Navratilova will be recognized with the Eugene L. Scott Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, at the 30th annual Legends Ball on Friday, September 10, 2010 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.
• Serena Williams does
• Romana C. of Washington, D.C., with Long Lost Siblings: "Not sure if anyone has sent it in, but found an