Wednesday September 8th, 2010

I must say that I am very happy that Caroline Wozniacki blew your prediction of Sharapova getting to the finals. I detected this anti-Caroline sentiment in your comments ever since that controversy in one of the junior Slams (it might have been the U.S. Open; can't remember now). Hopefully, you will give Caroline credit after she clearly beat Sharapova. --Les Banas, Las Vegas

• Absolutely. I thought Wozniacki's credentials as a top seed were a bit shaky. She had made a deep run at a major only once. She hadn't beaten a lot of the top players. She crashed out of Wimbledon, the previous Slam, winning two games against Petra Kvitova. I wondered how her exalted seeding and the pressure that comes with it, would affect her. This was redolent of Dinara Safina, circa 2009.

While there are still three more rounds to play, she's been tremendous so far. She won her first three matches as though she were double-parked and didn't want a ticket. Against Sharapova, she outfought and outthought a former champ in the most anticipated match of Week One. For a player who's too easily dismissed as a counterpuncher, she showed aggression, she moved well, she won points at the net. Just a command performance. I think I speak for many when I say I have new esteem for her game. Looking forward to seeing if she can sustain it in Week Two.

To clarify: Wozniacki, as Les writes, had an unfortunate incident here in the juniors, cursing under her breath at an official. (If I'm not mistaken, she's the last player to be defaulted from the U.S. Open!) Immediately after the incident someone at the ITF expressed shock, telling me, "She's the sweetest girl!" Before that incident and ever since, I've never heard a bad word about her sportsmanship, conduct or disposition.

I have a nit to pick and I don't know where else to turn. Do the former players-cum-commentators not attend some sort of media training? In that training, do they not discuss how best to interview players who do NOT speak English as a first language? Nobody loves Brad Gilbert's creative use of the English language more than I do. But I've lost count of the number of times he has interviewed Rafael Nadal on national TV immediately before or after a match, and let loose an arcane soliloquy of "Brad-speak." only to have Nadal look at him with that desperate, quizzical look that says, '"Que, gringo? Que?" He's not the only one. Two nights ago, Pam Shriver interviewed poor Mandy Minella before she walked onto center court and asked her a single question: "Mandy, can you reveal some snippets of your strategy?" Snippets? Really? --Dale Stafford, Atlanta

• I was talking to someone about Brad Gilbert's shot at being Davis Cup captain. My friend -- who's asked to go anonymous -- laughed at the notion that the man who Americanizes the names of foreign players and can't go a sentence without an American sports metaphor would be asked to represent the U.S. in a global competition.

"Mister Gilbert, before the competition begins, please try this national dish of Uruguay. How do you like it?"

"You stacked the deck and still drew and ace! You put heavy wood on the ball with the bases jacked. You called the audible and went deep. You doubled down and swung for the fences and stuck the haymaker like Tyson on Tyrell Biggs, broke ankles like Steph Curry driving past J.J. Redick ... like."

"Um, so you like?"

"It's not disheveled!"

"But, um, doesn't disheveled mean untidy or in disarray?"

But we love Brad. Somehow he pulls it off. Here's a gripe I have: Remember the VCchip? There should be a narcissism chip that beeps every time an announcer conducting a Q&A makes excessively self-referential remarks. Former players, male in particular, take note: It's not always about you. You're not the star any more. Let the guy speak -- or let the match unfold -- without making yourself the story. (I feel like I should add this: For as much as some of you complain about the blandness of Mary Joe Fernandez, you don't hear her telling war stories or starting every sentence with "I." Credit her for knowing that she's not the story.)

Is there any active player with a more impressive collection of agonizing losses in slams than Elena Dementieva? Now she seems to have worked out the problems with her serve one would think better results are just around the corner. Is she still not ready to win? Or what's the problem? --D.P., U.K.

• It's a pity, made all the more so by the fact that she's so damn pleasant as a person. (Which, then again, may be part of the problem.) I was thinking: Ten years ago, Dementieva played a three-setter in the semifinals against Lindsay Davenport. Since then it's been a lot of heartbreak.

Why is there no critical mass for Clijsters to repeat as the Open champ? All of the talking heads on CBS, ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel had the winner coming from the victor of the Wozniacki/Sharapova match. Last time I checked, Clijsters is riding an 19-match win streak at the Open, appears over that hip injury, and has yet to be tested. --Gene, Morristown, N.J.

• I picked Clijsters before the tournament and I'm sticking with her. Clijsters hasn't made drama, hasn't had a real test (a la Wozniacki), hasn't worn anything outrageous. She thus flies below the proverbial radar.

Because of the many injuries from a long tennis season, why not have best-of-three sets for the men until the quarterfinals? Then you would have fresher, less injured top players at the major tournaments competing at their best. --Lloyd Kramer, Sarasota, Fla.

• You're singing my song, Lloyd.

Just came back from the Open, awesome experience! What is the history behind naming a tennis stadium after Louis Armstrong? --Deb, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Two points: a) Louis Armstrong as from Queens, b) the tennis media -- TV, print, online -- tend to bunk at the tennis center for two weeks, staying till the infomercial hours and returning the next day, seeing the same faces and eating the same food. As such, reports can be a bit jaded. But for the average fan, the U.S. Open is just an exceptional sporting event.

Does Andy Murray have the worst (read: negative) body language of any player in the Top 100? At least Marat Safin brought a perverse gallows humor to the proceedings, but Murray's outbreaks of miserabilism on court and the Stygian gloom of his press conferences make it very hard to root for him. Never mind tuning his forehand and second serve but is there a coach in the world who can lighten him up? --Woody, London, U.K.

• I love the word miserabilism. At first I misread for nihilism, which works too. It recalls that cartoon for Murray 1-900-GLOOM line. Can one of you find that for us?

I get it that you're a James Blake cheerleader, but even you are allowed to call him out on the arrogant "my house" remark. Did I miss something or did this mighty Grand Slam champ win a few U.S. Open titles on Arthur Ashe stadium? Or was he referring to all the times he's choked at Ashe over the years? --Sophia Lunquest, New York, N.Y.

• Context. This wasn't A breast-beating "not in my house." It was an acknowledgment that, coming as he does from the metro New York area, he feels a particular attachment to Ashe. Let him go.

While Andrea Petkovic may have wowed us with her dancing skills after the third round, I think her popularity will truly explode when the world learns of her burgeoning media aspirations. I think I've found my new favorite player. --Caedyn, Newcastle, Australia

• I posted this on Twitter yesterday. This is wacky stuff, as Ed McMahon used to say. But how refreshing to stumble across a quirky player.

Looking at Mardy Fish, it looks like he lost some weight. I'm wondering if I'm right, since nobody seem to comment on that issue during his matches. But seriously, my suggestion for Comeback Player of the Year: Robin Haase. After being injured for most of last year, the dude won five Challengers this year and three of the last three he played and he will be back in the top 70 next week. --Erwin Karreman, Regina, Saskatchewan

• My temptation would be to given it Federer -- hey, he had a lousy spring, but look at him now! -- just so he could have the full complement of the ATP trophies.

Jai Krishnan, San Francisco, Calif.: "I'm a few days late Jon, but just a reminder that Roger Federer and Francesca Schiavone were predated by a greater magician."

• Juliana of Sao Paulo, Brazil: "Considering the success of the Twilight saga, wouldn't it be cool if they made a movie with Robert Pattinson as Roger Federer and Taylor Lautner as Rafael Nadal? Regardless of the story, with this casting this movie would be a sure-bet blockbuster! What do you think? (If this actually happens, I'd like to be invited to the premiere.)"

Allan Wishart, Prince George, B.C.: "The lineswoman in the Roddick incident should have handled it in a more sensible fashion. When Roddick asked which foot was on the line, all she should have said was, 'Yours.'"

Robert A. Swift, a 1968 graduate of Haverford College, has been named the winner of the 2010 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Achievement Award, hosted by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and presented by Rolex Watch U.S.A.

• The USTA announced today that it has passed new rules governing competition for 10-and-under tennis tournaments. The new rules require that 10-and-under tournaments be played using slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls, on smaller courts and utilizing shorter, lighter racquets. The rule change follows the International Tennis Federation's recent rule change and will take effect on January 1, 2012. It will apply to all USTA-sanctioned events for children 10-and-under.

• Vivek Khandekar of Houston, Texas with Separated at Birth: Janko Tipsarevic and Andrei Arlovski, the MMA heavyweight.

Have a good day everyone. And Happy 5771!

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