Who will win a men's major title in 2011 besides Nadal and Federer?
• Now that Federer's streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances has been snapped, here's the most ridiculous tennis record going: Since February 2005, only two of the 23 majors have been won by players other than Federer and Nadal. So, basically, anyone ranked third and lower is a dark horse. But I have a sneaking feeling we're due for a new winner: Djokovic, Soderling, Murray, a rejuvenated Del Potro who has both his wrist and his head in working order. Stay tuned.
As for five consecutive wins at two different events, sure. At two different Slams? No. That's an amazing record -- thanks, Marina, for bring it up -- that, like so many of Federer's achievements, never got the publicity it deserved. He won the U.S. Open from 2004-08 and Wimbledon from 2003-07. All tennis tournaments are "win or go home." One twisted ankle, one bad seafood dish the night before, one lapse in focus, one day catching a hot server who dials in 40 aces ... and the streak is over. Apart from the sheer volume of Federer's titles, I'd add that the concentration makes them more impressive still.
• What about this: the trophies are simply "things" and he was motivated by something deeper. Hence he didn't feel the need to turn his den into a shrine to himself. There's a lot here we don't know. Drawing a natural inference that his trophies were stolen because he of his "cheap habit" -- as a surprising number of you have done -- is absurd. I'd add, too, that a time when athletes are selling their trophies to pay debts (see: Allen Iverson) there's something perversely refreshing about an athlete who simply finds an ancillary location for his hardware.
• The lovely Mrs. Partea could not be reached for comment. I'm surprised: usually neon beer signs are essential elements in feng shui.
• Queen Vee, indeed. I've been debating whether to retell this story because doing so sort of the corrupts the effect. But here goes. As some of you know, I'm teaching a non-fiction writing course at a nearby college. I wanted the students to experience interviewing a "celebrity" and put out some feelers. One the fastest and most enthusiastic responses came from Venus Williams. This was a mild surprise. I think we've always had a respectful relationship, but there are certainly subjects I'm closer to just as I'm sure there are media members with whom she has firmer ties. Also, it's not as though her free time is abundant. Regardless, she was not only happy to do it, but there were no conditions. No request for payment. No questions declared off limits. No expectation that I'd do what I'm doing now and write about it.
We did this via Skype and at the appointed time -- literally to the minute -- Venus pops up on my screen. She's at home in Florida, no handlers and moderators in sight. And she killed. She was thoughtful, she was charming, she answered every question thrown her way. Barring a short interval when her dog caused a commotion, she was totally present. Imagine being 19 years old, summoning the courage to ask a question to someone you've only seen on TV -- and having her validate your questions with a considered, eloquent response. By the end, I felt that I needed to tell the students, "Fair warning: sadly not every interview will quite this well." We've said this before, but it's easy to be endearing when there's a pre-arranged press conference and the bright lights are on. Doing so in a spontaneous way, when you have little to gain from the situation, is something else entirely.
• First, some context: in 2002, Jennifer Capriati ploughed through a field that included the Williams sisters, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova and defended her Australian Open crown. The first three male Grand Slam winners were: Thomas Johansson, Albert Costa and Lleyton Hewitt. Then, the deluge, a golden age for the men's game. Who's to say that Australia 2011 won't usher in the Victoria Azarenka era? Or an epic Clijsters-Henin final? Or the return of Ana Ivanovic? These things go in cycles. Right now we can relish a prospect of four potential Rafa-Roger finals; and remember this fondly when Dimitrov plays Cilic in the 2014 U.S. Open final. The women's game looks shaky now. That, too, will change.
• You got me. We love Petkovic a/k/a Petkorazzi. She is not simply different but embraces her eccentricity. (Where does she find time to practice what with all those YouTube uploads?) But anyone else wondering how Petkovic is being perceived in the locker room these days? If I lose a match and my opponent then begins a smoking gun routine while doing the Cabbage Patch dance, I'm not sure how cool that is.
• Linda's the greatest. Bookmark her as the Aussie Open kicks off.
• I can no longer see the letters "DIY" without thinking: man cave. Okay, fair enough. I've never done one of these, but I suspect part of the appeal is traveling with a bunch of other tennis fans. Come to think of it, maybe we'll do a Mailbag Tennis Tour one day.
• In the context of explaining why I thought the length of a sporting event does not, de facto, equate with quality I wrote the following: "There are short stories we love and 1,000-page epics that thrill us less. There are classic nine-inning baseball games; and 18-inning yawners. Torrid May-September affairs and decades-long loveless marriages. There are thrilling sprints and boring marathons." It doesn't mean that there AREN'T thrilling marathons, or endurance-based endeavors lack merit; it just means that duration is not dispositive.
This is probably a topic for another time, but I'm often impressed/depressed by quickly how quickly discussion degenerates into nastiness. Feel free to disagree, Rhea Sutherland. But here's a plea for civility.
• OK, uncle. I don't want to get in an endurance battle with a bunch of marathoners. Again, no one disparaging marathons. They're great. One of my goals in life is to complete one. On foot. The point: in my opinion endurance does not, in itself, equal quality, whether it's five-set matches or long movie. That's all. Maybe we should agree to disagree and move along, pacing ourselves accordingly.
• Amen. I think you have a few things going on here: for better or worse, Slams are the benchmarks. It's great to win tour events and even Masters events. But until you win a major there's a glass ceiling on your legacy. Second, personality/looks matters. Davydenko is much more accomplished than, say, James Blake or Fernando Verdasco. The true tennis fans -- see: Jesse of Portland -- make their own determinations based on the data. But to the casual fan, legacy is shaped in part by image. Third, right or wrong there is still some residual taint from the alleged match fixing that probably prevents Davydenko from getting his full due. But your larger point is a good one: focus on tennis and tennis only and Davydenko has achieved a great deal.
• Nice. I think they opened for The Dodo Cheneys.
• From the shameless self-promotion department: My new book should hit stores/Amazon this week or next. Fair warning: there's not a ton of tennis in there. It's basically "Freakonomics for sports fans." I wrote it with a childhood friend -- and doubles partner in the Indiana junior circuit -- who's now an economist at the University of Chicago; if nothing else it was a lot of fun to work on.
• One of tennis' finer moments in recent came last year before the Australian Open when the top stars collaborated on "Hit for Haiti," an impromptu, no-ulterior-motive exhibition to raise funds for folks in needs. How about a reprise to benefit
• Everyone in the
• And to think, just a few years ago,
• The new USTA Board of Directors takes office and nothing says "business" quite like
• Therese Haberle of Hampton, N.H.: "Hi Jon: Just wanted to give you the Christmas Saddlebrook update: Azarenka was there for 5-6 weeks, and busted her butt almost every day. She worked her tail off, and looks very good. Blake was in and out of the Brook, he looked like a man trying hard to get back, I've watched him close up over several years, this year he wasn't doing much of 2-on-1's, but his backhand was looking very good ... Alex Domijian, UVA standout, is coming back from a foot injury, he looked great, has gained a lot of weight and more height (6-foot-8), and was busting his butt. Needs to work on his forward movement more."
• Andrew of New York, N.Y.: "I highly recommend that those of your U.S. readers who have access to The Tennis Channel seek out
• In keeping with our ecumenical mission here, you guys know about
• Who knew that Federer
• Remember those videos of
• Jesse of Portland, Ore.: "Look-alike nominees: