I want to start by saying that I received an overwhelming haul of mail from readers commenting on the
As for the less weighty topic of tennis:
• Nadal's "admission" was a hot topic in Bagland this week, triggered mostly, I assume, by Ubaldo Scanagatta's blog post. Still, I feel as though I'm missing something here. As Betty suggests, this isn't a new development. As recently a Wimbledon, Nadal's camp was fined for coaching. ("Sometimes in the past, maybe
But some of your responses were way out of proportion. Nadal's U.S. Open title is tainted because his uncle may or may not have encouraged him "keep fighting," "stay focused" or even "serve to the body"? Come on. Even calling it "cheating" is a bit harsh by my reckoning. Cheating is taking banned drugs that enhance performance. Cheating is a college team paying its athletes. Cheating is using banned equipment. What Nadal does is akin to a soccer player diving, an NBA player flopping or a baseball player celebrating a catch on a ball he knows he trapped. It's gamesmanship, morally shaky to be sure, but a misdemeanor rather than a felony. In a perfect world, Nadal doesn't look for coaching and his uncle doesn't provide it. But I'm hard-pressed to conjure much more outrage than that.
• I've never heard of an instance of male reporters having access to a women's locker room. Now that the stature of limitations has lapsed ... a few years ago a male reporter challenged this and attempted to enter the women's locker room at the U.S. Open, reckoning that if women were allowed in the men's chamber, fair was fair. As I understand it, this is one reason that all locker rooms are now closed to the media (to the detriment of the event, I would add.)
Before the double-standard police issues an APB, I would submit that -- not unlike
• Good question. Ironically, Federer has lost in the finals of all four majors. Before her breakthrough, Clijsters had lost in the finals of three majors and semis of the fourth (Wimbledon).
• Despite the inducement, there were few submissions regarding a design to Arthur Ashe that could accommodate a roof. (Haikus, you guys can do. Plans to retrofit a massive sports complex, not so much.) The most common response was shearing the top deck in exchange for a roof. I'm not sure how practical that is. Again, since we're only talking about rain (and only talking about one weekend), I'm not sure why a cheap bubble-type surface is being overlooked. Someone
• No, you're not missing anything. The only ones missing something (namely: the boat) are the ITF high priests, who are either too blind or stubborn to admit that, mostly on account of the illogical schedule, their gem of event is slinking into irrelevance. ("But it's big in Bulgaria!") The players -- from Federer on down -- have essentially thrown up their hands. Suggestions for change are summarily dismissed. ("They love it in Belgrade!") The shame of it is that, at a time when the sport has never been global, a strong and sensible Davis Cup could be a huge boon to tennis.
• Let me first say that "Hickory" is a quintessential Nashville name. I love that. Yes, you're right. The whole trophy presentation ceremony, excruciating to begin with, is made all the more awkward when it's cut short for product plugs and TV agendas. You know how when Jon Stewart runs out of time, he continues the interview on comedycentral.com? Maybe the USTA should run a dignified trophy presentation on its excellent website without the interruptions and time constraints of TV.
• We all know WHY Clijsters slid in the rankings after winning a major. But it doesn't make it less counterintuitive. What about a points bonus for a title defense?
Others of you suggest delegating even more weight to the Slams. This would reward the champions while making it more difficult for Caroline Wozniacki et al., to ascend to the top without breaking through on the biggest stages. The problem of course: it will take away incentive to enter the other events, the Tokyos and Charlestons and Madrids. Again: the rankings exist to reflect merit. But they also exist as a mechanism to get players to enter many events.
• Incredibly annoying? Ouch. I try to have that effect only on my kids. But glad you reminded me of the story. (But you'll see that this is so tangential it didn't really fit into a U.S. Open wrap piece.) Anyway a few months ago I was in Nebraska doing a football piece. I was speaking with an esteemed member of the athletic department (I probably shouldn't name him since we were just chatting casually). I mentioned that I sometimes covered tennis and he perked up.
"How good is that guy from Nebraska?"
I assumed he meant Roddick, as Nebraska is not exactly a tennis hotbed.
"Oh, he's good. He's not Federer but he's a top 10 player."
"Um, Yeah." I'm starting to get confused. Do I think he's top 10? Just check the rankings.
"Yeah. Sure," I said, not wanting belabor the point and explain that Roddick -- now married and closing in on 30 -- isn't really a kid.
"Good athlete, I hear."
"Yeah, definitely. Works at it too."
"Backhand's as good as his forehand."
Now I'm totally confused. "Andy?"
"Andy! Heck, not Andy! I know Andy! I mean Jack Sock!"
A) This was the Nebraska tennis answer to "Who's on first? B) I figured that if Jack Sock was already a known commodity among Huskers football personnel, he must be worth following more closely.
• I've said before that you guys form a great global tennis focus group. I was struck by your vast range of opinions about the Chris and Martina documentary. Some of you panned it in the harshest terms possible. (A interesting criticism that came up multiple times: the "chick flick" -- your term, not mine -- aspect had the unintended effect of trivializing women sports and undercutting just how fierce this rivalry truly was.) Others, like Ken, enjoyed it immensely. Personally, I thought it was quite good, though
• A) Don't shortchange Krumm. What a remarkable story. When a 40-year-old who's been away from tennis for 15 years announces a return, it's a cute item. When she wins a few matches, it's noteworthy. When she wins some matches cracks the Top 100, it's impressive. But when she plays an entire season and by September is still going strong, beating top teenagers and former No. 1s (
• Yeah, good question. There was a big, splashy (one might say, Texas-sized) announcement when this exhibition was first heralded. Then there was only a small, wimpy announcement (you know, like, Delaware) when it was cancelled. I suspect that ticket sales were something other than brisk. But if anyone has more details you know where to find me. (Dallas? Conspiracy theory? I know. Crazy.)
• Is this causal? Or is this correlation? I think that's how the economist would put it. In other words, did the daughter (or daughters) cause the decline? Or is it simply: athletes tend to decline in their late 20s and that's the same age they happen to have kids?
• More from
• Thanks to
• Roger Federer,
• Speaking of Roger:
• Aris of Washington, D.C.: "I agree that one should be able to root for the Williams sisters without being unpatriotic or racist. But that is under the assumption that other AMERICANS are not being supported simply because they are American. That has certainly been the case for Oudin and others who have been given massive U.S. media attention after winning a couple of rounds at a Grand Slam. This is because they are AMERICAN. Being American in nearly every case gets you a tremendous level of support at the U.S. Open. That is, unless something else gets in the way. Now we can guess that it might be that the Williams sisters win too much or that they are too aloof, but we have to certainly agree that part of it is race."
• In the interest of equal time here's an anonymous writer comparing Kimiko Date to Serena Williams: "You have a just-turned 40-year-old who is fighting like hell on court and beating players many years younger than her knowing that it is a long road for her to win a WTA title, forget about the top tier events. And then you have a just-turned 29-year-old who has the skill and power and what not to win every event she chooses to play, but is running around attending fashion shows and showing off her 'nail' skills, and you wonder why a regular tennis fan has hard time rooting for the one of the greatest ever to play and think it might be due to race? I am a racist then, racist in supporting the hard-working and less talented player over the super-talented, hard-to-find-on-tennis-court player."
• This week's unsolicited book recommendation:
• The America Society of Magazines nominated