Monday October 18th, 2010

Best of five during an unexpectedly big week for tennis:

1. Roger rumors: It was a curious week for Roger Federer all-around. He came within a match of winning his record 18th Masters event, losing in the Shanghai final to Andy Murray after dumping Novak Djokovic in the semis. But in the final he put up strikingly little resistance. Then there was also an ugly report of his being named in a gambling lawsuit. Federer could not have more vigorous in his denial. And I was told my multiple sources -- sources without a dog in this fight -- that the allegations lack credibility. As we eagerly await an official statement/exoneration from tennis' anti-corruption cops, here's a point to consider: There mere plausibility of the allegation is precisely why you'd be a fool to bet on tennis. There are always going to be folks privy to superior information. You're better off betting on derivatives. FanHouse's Greg Couch has an interesting take. I disagree that, even in a worst-case scenario, this is doomsday for tennis. (Play this out: Federer is not alleged to have done any wagering. And he's permitted to share his physical status with his managers without thinking their next call is to a bookie.) Yet, Greg is right that this is still another case of tennis being compromised by its conflicts of interest.

2. Master Murray: What a strange year it's been for Murray. He plays sensational tennis for six rounds to reach the Australian Open final. He loses to Federer and then goes into the tank for the spring. He doesn't do much at the m majors, yet he wins in Toronto, beating both Rafael Nadal and Federer. Then Sunday in Shanghai, the Scot wins his sixth Masters title, absolutely romping Federer in the final, 6-3. 6-2, upping his edge in the head-to-head record to 8-5. It's become one of the mantra's of men's tennis: "Andy Murray's winning a major is a question of when, not if." After another stellar week in a Masters event, we can wonder anew why it's yet to happen.

3. Ana alive again: That sound you heard was a sigh of relief emanating from the WTA headquarters. Ana Ivanovic took a wild card into the Linz event -- ironically, filling the spot that Serena Williams vacated -- and waltzed to the title. This was her first tournament win in two years. There are obviously "extra-tennis" reasons why so many are pulling for Ivanovic to get back to winning matches. (She is, let the record reflect, 16-5 since August.) But having nothing to do with beauty or marketing, it's no fun to watch any athlete achieve heights and then crash so spectacularly. With any luck, some firm proof that her nasty slump is finally over.

4. Date-ing herself: In what the WTA press release diplomatically called an "All-Veteran Affair," Tammy Tanasugarn, a stripling at 33, beat 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm to take the Osaka title. Appropriately, the match spanned 187 minutes. While Date failed to overtake Billie Jean King as the WTA's oldest title winner, her inspiring story continued as she beat Sam Stosur among others. Sure, the cynics will say her level of play mocks the quality of the WTA. A more charitable spin: 9t ought to inspire a legion of other players (Jennifer Capriati? Mary Pierce? Maggie Maleeva?) to think long and hard about a return.

5: Ryan's hope: We know what Ryan Harrison did last summer. But since then? Well, last week he reached the final of the Tiburon Chlallenger, beating Donald Young in straight sets and tuning of Carsten Ball (no slouch of a player) before running out of fuel against Tobias Kamke. He'll be Top 200 now and the future still smells sweet.

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