On tennis players and drugs, thin line between gullible and wrong
• A variation of this question has been posed at least a dozen times since the U.S. Open. This is an issue that vexes journalists and media types all the time. We make a lot of the same observations that you do. We share some of the skepticism. We receive tips -- often vague and anonymous, but tips nonetheless -- about suspicious behavior. The question, however, becomes "then what?" It's easy to speculate or to traffic in rumor. It's hard to accumulate the proof that meets any sort of journalistic threshold. Testing is usually confidential. Few with knowledge have a motivation to speak. If you're willing to cheat by doping, you're willing to lie when asked directly. (Especially when there's no subpoena power.)
I recently watched
None of this is to give the media a pass, nor to suggest that there aren't creative ways to investigate and advance the story. But the difference between suspicion and a provable, printable allegation isn't a gap; it's a canyon.
As for tennis, I stand by the standby. Is the sport 100 percent clean? No way. Just this week an Iranian player was
But neither do I think "tennis has a steroid problem" as one seditious site suggests. Again, it's tough: we've burned my
• I'm giving Sharko his Columbus Day off and stating my belief that only
• Given Nadal's play at the previous hardcourt event -- the 2010 U.S. Open -- it's hard, if not insane, to pick against him in Australia. The guy lost one set in seven matches! He's won in Melbourne before. He's among the players least likely to be bothered by extreme heat, a factor that makes it hard to back Djokovic. Anything obviously can happen -- one of the core reasons we love sports -- but Nadal's looking like a heavy favorite to win, and thus pull off the "Serena Slam." Who, this side of
You mention Del Potro and, sadly, you're right: it doesn't look like he'll "pull a Clijsters." Given his results since returning last month, he has his work cut out for him.
• I suspect that Uncle Toni is the
• That's an interesting component I hadn't much thought of. But you really think this undercuts his GOAT credentials? This "controversy" is minor in the grand scheme of things. Nadal's brain trust would really do some effective coaching if they simply said, "Don't look at us during the match."
• Interesting question. It's a bit of apples and oranges. Radwanska (who's hurt right now and not beating anyone in the immediate future) is slighter in physical stature and doesn't hit quite as big a ball as Wozniacki does. But your point is well-taken: If a glorified counterpuncher (and we mean that in the most flattering sense) can ascend to the top ranking, it ought to imbue a good many similar players -- starting with A-Rad -- with some confidence.
• A rapist? Dude, come on. That's almost as bad as
I like reasoning by analogy as much as anyone. But you're really likening the receiving of illegal coaching to perhaps the most vile, heinous felony on the books? How about this: You're speeding on the highway. The officer pulls you over and runs your plates. He sees that you have an otherwise impeccable record, you're not driving drunk, you're not an Amber Alert, you're not fugitive of justice. It's just a regrettable brain cramp. So he scolds you but lets you off with a warning. (Speaking of which, thank you Officer [redacted] of the Princeton Police Force. I have since stopped using my phone while I drive in your town.)
• You're preaching to the choir, Raul. I agree wholeheartedly. This is why "on-court coaching" is such a blight on the sport. Subtle as it may be, one of the sport's real charms entails watching a player make mid-match tactical adjustments, solving the riddle on their own.
• Okay, now I'm waiting for this. Player A hits a serve (or standard shot) he thinks is out. Player B makes an earnest attempt at the ball and misses. No call is forthcoming. Dissatisfied by having won a point he feels he didn't rightfully earn, Player A challenges against his best interest, preferring to replay the point rather than take his ill-gotten gain. (I know, I know. A snowy day in hell and Serena Williams playing 18 events in a season will follow shortly thereafter.)
• I'm surprised by how many of you weren't satisfied with that documentary. It was no
Anyway, for aspiring documentarians out there, tennis is incredibly fertile ground. The Indo-Pak Express. Choking.
• Kevin Fischer, bring the noise. Please.
• Wozniacki and Nadal. Blame me for choosing to reprint the grammar questions, not the folks who wrote in. For variety's sake as much as anything, I figure sometimes we can take a break from rankings, and forehands and Uncle Tonis -- even in the singular version.
[The only reason not to print a letter like this is space constraints. Which don't much exist in Digital Land.]
• The great
• Nice piece by
• Want proof the WTA Roadmap isn't quite the smashing success the WTA would have you believe? ("The Roadmap, featuring the most sweeping reforms in Tour history, has delivered to fans and sponsors a more fan-friendly and healthier structure that to date has more consistently delivered stars to top events and significantly reduced player withdrawals.") The players who have competed in the fewest events this year? Justine Henin, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, and Venus Williams: all in the WTA Top 20. If this is a roadmap, maybe we need GPS.
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