Tuesday January 25th, 2011

A vegemite sandwich, while pondering what Serena Williams is up to these days ...

I wrote you before the Open started to question your decision to leave Petra Kvitova -- one of my favorite WTA up-and-comers -- off of your women's seed report. Now that she's demolished Stosur, can I get a little credit? --Andy, New York

• Credit to Andy who did indeed tweak me for leaving Kvitova off my sleepers list. Kvitova reached the Wimbledon semis last year. (I took this photo: maybe two hours after the match on Centre Court, she went to the Wimbledon store and went thoroughly unrecognized.) Then, however, she had a rough fall and her stock plummeted. Check out these results. In Australia, though, she's been gangbusters, making another deep run with a blend of heavy hitting and athleticism.

I tweeted this yesterday, but so far this has been a standout event for the women. For as much flack as the WTA has taken recently -- for as many former No. 1's have faltered -- players have really distinguished themselves. Whether it's Caroline Wozniacki offering terrifically witty press conferences, or Andrea Petkovic showing game to match her dance moves, Li Na cracking jokes, a slimmed-down Svetlana Kuznetsova talking candidly about her finances, Francesca Schiavone dazzling with her old-school game, or Kvitova looking like a star on the make, we finally have storylines other than injuries, mental breakdowns and Serena Williams health updates. Brava.

As to your comment that condones Tipsy's quitting. He did not quit at 5-0 in the fifth set. It would have been less of an issue if he did. Go back and watch that match. He quit in the fourth-set tiebreak. It's one thing to choke or play badly -- but fans should never condone quitting when there is a legit chance of winning the match. I thought it was quite horrible and applaud Enberg for calling him out when Mary Joe would not. I bet Carillo would have stood up and said something! --Zack Perry, Larkspur

• I recognize that I am clearly in the minority here. But I still say he was just mentally checked out. It showed weakness, no doubt. But it wasn't as though he was disrespecting the sport or the fans. He was simply fried. We use the word "tanking" but I think of tanking as the player who comes to a lower level event -- often getting a fat appearance fee -- and is indifferent to the outcome. I think that's considerably different from a guy who squanders match points and is then emotionally gutted, drained of fight.

The nickname mafia strikes again: Brad Gilbert actually referred to Alexandr Dolgopolov as "Dougie." Isn't there just something inherently wrong and condescending about a tennis commentator not making any effort to pronounce a player's name? Kinda plays into the ignorant, ugly-American stereotype. --Sharon Bauerman, Oakland, Calif.

• From now on, it's Brad Jeel-Bear. To my point that opinions don't just vary, but the very same traits you find endearing/loathsome, someone else finds loathsome/endearing ...

So you've banned ESPN gripes for a few days (I'm not using the word "moratorium" since you wanted a moratorium on that too). Instead I'll give some ESPN praise --I freaking love Brad Gilbert. I don't care what anyone says. And here's what I love most about him: he clearly just loves tennis. If he wasn't on TV, you get the sense he'd still be watching tennis. Even if no one knew who he was, he'd be in some pub watching tennis. --Paul R., Tampa, Fla.

• If administered truth serum, I'd confess to be closer to this camp. Brad's passion for tennis -- totally genuine -- outstrips the lapses in decorum and occasional assault and battery on the English language.

If you could choose between being able to play like Rafael Nadal and being able to play like Stefan Edberg, which would you choose (without resorting to some smart--- response along the lines of "Who's No. 1 right now? 'Nuff said" or "Who has nine majors and who has six?" or "Who has a career Grand Slam and who doesn't?" or even a non-smart--- response that invokes any of those points)? I'm just talking about whose tennis you wish you could replicate yourself. Pure and simple. --Sean White, Lakeside, Calif.

• Who's No. 1 right now? 'Nuff said! I jest. Shawn and I have had a longrunning back and forth about Edberg. With the exception of Federer, I can hardly think of a male player with a more aesthetically pleasing than Edberg. (The forehand notwithstanding.) Yes, if I could replicate Nadal's game or Edberg's game, I'd take Edberg. Musculature? That's another story. I do, however, like Nadal's take when he's asked about his game. He essentially borrows from Popeye: "I am what I am, no?" I paraphrase here, but not by much: "If I could play prettier I would. But I have to work with what I got!"

Back in '08 when Sharapova made the semis of the French Open, you predicted that she would one day WIN Roland Garros. She can barely win a Tier II hard-court tournament anymore, and hasn't been deep in the second week of a Grand Slam in almost two years. Still feel the same? --Shawn Laurenceau, Queens, N.Y.

• That prediction was made when she had a healthy shoulder!

How did Agassi get the Hall of Fame nod inspite of his infamous failed drug test? Besides I thought that there was a 5-year post-retirement waiting period. --Timothy Hawkins, San Jose, Calif.

• Agassi retired in 2006 so the five-year period was met. As for his drug use, was it his proudest moment? No. Does it nullify his career achievements? Hardly. Rachmones, as they in West Virginia. Besides, if dabbling in recreational drugs precluded enshrinement, the Hall of Fame would be the Room of Fame.

The conflicts of interest continue on ESPN with the Janko-Verdasco match as Darren Cahill is doing the play-by-play even though Darren is on the Adidas payroll occasionally coaching Verdasco. Also they had Gilly Reyes in his Adidas shirt talking about his pupil Fernando plus Gilbert is in the booth and he's tight with Reyes. Please get Mary Carillo a plane ticket to Melbourne. --JT, Manhattan

• Conflicts? Tennis? Now you're talking crazy. If I'm Cahill I just disclose that up front that I have a relationship with Adidas and keep that under advisement when I comment -- or don't comment -- about Murray, Wozniacki, Verdasco, et al. Otherwise, it leads to the kind of skepticism that you and others share. On the other extreme, Pat McEnroe may have been the Davis Cup captain and may be a USTA executive. But that didn't stop him from calling Andy Roddick "bush league" when Roddick head-hunted Robin Haase. It's an awkward position either way, but the viewer is better served by this honesty than by slurpee-dom.

Another comment on Fernando Verdasco's hair for this year's Australian Open. After letting his hair grow out for most of the year last year, and then seeing it abruptly cut short for the first Slam of this year, I thought that maybe he's being superstitious since this is the same hair cut he sported back in 2009 when he had his semifinal run and played the marathon match against Nadal. Since he's actually made money off of his hair by doing shampoo commercials recently, why else would he so quickly cut it off? I think that has more to do with it than copying Nate Robinson. --Kobi Sonoyama , Sacramento, Calif.

• No, I'm pretty sure he was copying Nate Robinson.

• The Sony Ericsson Open, one of the largest and most glamorous tennis tournaments in the world, is looking for volunteers to work at the 2011 event, March 21-April 3, at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Miami.

• We posed this question on Twitter but, but what do make of this: Andy Murray is the last player left from a Slam-hosting nation? A disguised blessing not to have bloated federation?

• Amy Chua: tennis mom?

Would the U.S. Open leave N.Y.? Almost certainly not, but remodeling challenges ahead. (Someone tell every NFL owner threatening to relocate to L.A. unless the city fronts the bill for a new facility, that USTA has stolen their rhetoric.)

• If you've been following the career of Aravane Rezai this sad report will strike you as something less than shocking.

• Doug Laidlaw of North Plainfield, N.J.: "Just wondering what unique auto-corrected words iPhone users have encountered. Every time I send texts about Nadal, my iPhone loves to change it the word "nasal." If I try to type "Monfils" I get the lovely conversion of "Mongols."

• Robert of Washington, D.C.: "Schiavone's win over Kuznetsova reminded me that she also won what was probably the longest Grand Slam match ever in terms of overall elapsed time: her rain-delayed defeat of Ai Sugiyama at the 2003 U.S. Open that took four days."

• Stefan Kozlov, a 12-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Fla., defeated fellow American Henrik Wiersholm, a 13-year-old from Kirkland, Wash., 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, in the singles final today at the AEGON Junior International in Bolton, England, the first of two premier international junior tournaments for players ages 14 and under being held in Europe this month. Kozlov and Wiersholm were both competing as part of a USTA contingent that is in England this week and will travel to France next week for Les Petits As.

• Jay of New York: "I know the Tennis Channel 'crawl' has been a hot topic lately. But the ESPN crawl deserves a bigger raspberry Displaying the result of the Roddick-Wawrinka match ("Roddick falls") WHILE the match is being broadcast on tape delay is a great way to ruin a perfectly good Sunday afternoon."

• Anita of St. Louis: "Anyone who doubts the power of Tennis in Belgium -- take a look at this National Belgium costume at 2010 Ms. Universe. Somehow I can't picture Henin or Clijsters in this outfit."

• Zeke Yusof of Chicago: "To add to your debate on the GOAT, here's a complex network analysis of the "best" tennis player of all time. Would you believe that this study produces Jimmy Connors as that tennis player?"

• A reader whose info I've, lamentably, deleted: "Latest tennis lookalikes: Tommy Haas and actor Hans Matheson (Sherlock Holmes and Clash of the Titans)."

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