Wednesday December 8th, 2010

We were prepared to offer our annual Baggie Awards. But several of you suggested we wait a week in order to give Serbia's Davis Cup a little love. We do as we're told. A quick 'Bag and we'll hand out awards next week.

WOW, what a year. Nadal plays brilliantly to reclaim No. 1 and complete the career Slam. Federer drops to No. 2 but finishes the year by vanquishing all three of his younger tormenters in one week of brilliant tennis. And No. 3 Djokovic leads his country to a career-defining Davis Cup win. What a game, what a sport! --Tim, New York, N.Y.

• Right on. No question, this was the Year of Nadal, who, of course, is going for his fourth straight major next month. And Federer did himself proud winning a Slam and taking down Nadal in the final ATP match of the year, a nice rejoinder to the aspiring career undertakers.

But this was also a standout year for Djokovic. For a player who's been accused of lacking heart, he had a cardio-rific fall, staving off a match point to beat Federer at the U.S. Open. Then last week, under pressure that's hard to fathom, he played some of the best tennis of his life, dominating his two matches and leading Serbia to Davis Cup glory. I'm still hung up on the assertion that this was the biggest moment in the country's history. Not its tennis history; it's HISTORY history. Djokovic may not have won a major and may not have improved his ranking, but I suspect he's thrilled with his 2010. As he should be.

Guy Forget's comments were on the money. Serbian crowd was great but a handful of morons were out of control. Couldn't the authorities/chair umpire get those clowns booted? Also, Serbia is fast getting a bad reputation as a place with unruly fans (soccer also). Such a shame, because the competition was great. --Tina Gozdeck, Tuckahoe, N.Y.

• There were a few comments that took this approach, asserting that patriotism bled into nationalism, invoking Milosevic, etc. Could authorities get these clowns booted? I suppose. But wouldn't another clown fill the void? I agree that the crowds last week didn't exactly recall patrons at the opera house. But a few morons don't represent an entire country.

A decidedly off-season question: Wouldn't it make the pro game more fun and interesting if the head size for all was limited to 90? I don't think it would hurt the sales of the racquets, most of us already understand that we need to play with the more user-friendly versions of what the pros use, similarly as in golf. I guarantee you though, it would have an effect on the unlimited slug fests from the baseline and would allow much more variety into the game. --Bob S., Redwood City, Calif.

• This would require tennis administrators to take a stand against manufacturers and technology, which they have shown no interest in doing. The 90 frame would be interesting. (Everyone not named Roger Federer would have a significant adjustment.) But if we're talking about improving the game by curtailing technology, I think the real concentration should be on the strings. I'm waiting for a tournament to distinguish itself as the "all-natural-gut" Open.

I disagree with your anti-five-set rants. I watch men's tennis at the Grand Slams and I think the most awesome part of tennis is a competitive five-setter. Not sure why you keep raining on the parade. Its high-quality tennis and far superior to the dull 40-minute matches churned out by the women's game. --Timothy Dahlberg, Miami, Fla.

• I don't know if this topic hit a message board or what because I must have gotten 25 emails echoing Tim's point. There's nothing I hate more than going to a baseball game and having to pay extra when it goes to extra innings. But I do like it when there's a quick knockout in boxing and I get that partial refund check. When I go to a concert and have to pay a surcharge for the encores, it's annoying. But when the art exhibit only has a few pieces to go through, I appreciate the low price of admission. (My point is this: length doesn't equate with value/enjoyment.)

You're free to enjoy best-of-five tennis. (I think it's like 15-round fights in boxing, an outdated duration that should be curtailed.) I'm just saying that I find it to be an artificial reason to pay women less. Why not use "length of rally" for your metric? In that case, women's tennis would fare better.

I am sad to hear Elena Dementieva retired suddenly. I am curious why I have never heard ANYONE bring up her coach. I have long thought that if she would have hired another and a better coach she would definitely have won a major years ago. --Gina Bottoms, Oklahoma City

• The players deciding to retain family members as coaches -- especially family members -- leave themselves open to "if only they'd had a real coach" second-guessing. In Dementieva's case, she worked with a "real" coach several times. But ultimately she decided that whatever her mother lacked in tennis know-how, she made up for with comfort.

Watching Davis Cup off the DVR ... and there it is, "Eye of the Tiger," again ... --Helen, Philadelphia

• What can I say? They did their time, they took their chances. (Helen is the reader who complained about the outdated music played at the WTF event in London.)

During several of those low-angle camera POV shots on Tennis Channel's World Tour Finals coverage, it appeared that the net was made out of ... what? I couldn't tell, but it wasn't the nylon netting that we have at our local park's tennis courts. It looked like plastic -- and it looked really thick. What is this material, do other tournaments/venues use it and does the thickness obscure the players vision any? --Shayne, Louisville

• It was made of gingerbread.

The press (and Rafa) talked about Rafa being fatigued going into the third sets against Murray and Federer. I'm confused. Why do the players view a three-set win in a best-of-five-set format at a Slam a relief because they have conserved energy, and it's viewed as a relatively easy match, but in a best-of-three-set tournament, a three-set match is bad news? --Scott, Jacksonville, Fla.

• Because in a Slam, the players get a day off between matches.

• Chaz of Akron: "Hearts and prayers for Chase Curry (the No. 36-ranked American junior) in intensive care at a Fort Worth hospital after car accident going to his grandmother's with his brother and sister for Thanksgiving."

• I know that wasn't Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf at The Ultimate Fighter finale enjoying Demian Maia, Leonard Garcia, et al.

• A WTA photo gallery.

• Melanie Oudin has committed to the Charleston event.

Love this video of Federer and Nadal's folks. Reminds me of the 2008 Wimbledon final when one of the people to greet Nadal in the players' box was ... Robert Federer. (Thank to Sushil of Bethlehem, Pa.)

• Bernie Nissen of Hong Kong: "I read your column with interest as tennis fan in HK. In HK we can see a lot of live tennis, amongst others the current London extravaganza. The quality of the current play is good, and shows how very competitive the men's game is at this moment."

• Bob Peterson of San Francisco is training for the men's pro tour at 49.

• The oldest U.S. professional tennis tournament still played in its original city has been renamed the Western & Southern Open and will be contested August 13-21, 2011 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

• Interested in tennis in Taiwan? Check this site.

• Unsolicited book recommendation: The Business of Sports by Scott Rosner and Ken Shropshire.

• Nestor Cotiyam, Quezon City, Philippines: "Hi Jon! May I suggest for next week's long-lost siblings: Andy Murray and Penn Badgley of the Gossip Girl series and Easy A (hilarious movie, watch it). As a treat, can I greet through your mailbag my tennis friends: Ryan, Mark, Jojo, Carlo, Jacs, Raymond and Rommel? Would be so cool. Thanks!"

Have a great week, everyone!

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