Monday May 23rd, 2011

Some "second screen" viewing: a Monday French Open Baguette ...

On Roger Federer's comments on tennis' new rivalry: "You should not forget that Rafa had lost in Miami and Indian Wells against Novak, too. So this is why it is interesting to follow what is going to happen, whether Novak will overcome Rafa or not. That's why I'm following this." My question to RF is this ... Um, Roger, are you suggesting that at your current rank of a distant third, you are now dismissing yourself from any chance of winning the French Open (or any other Grand Slam final)? --David S., Boston, Mass.

• Federer is really damned answering this question. He is either delusional and ungracious and stingy for failing to acknowledge that there are two younger players above him. Or he is conceding the "high ground," so to speak, and appears to be shrinking from a challenge. I think Federer has, typically, been pretty savvy answering this (inevitable) line of inquiry.

What's more, I think that the battle at the top and the surge of Djokovic has taken some of the attention away from Federer's (not unrelated) fade. His defeat against Gasquet -- big news, had it occurred a few years ago -- scarcely rated a mention. Why? In part, because everyone was fixated on Nole's undefeated streak and the upcoming final against Nadal.

My strong suspicion is that Federer doesn't altogether mind this. He's enough of a realist to know that -- in his late 20s, with family obligations, with blunting incentives -- the train might be slowing down. He's enough of a competitor to think that he's not that far from knocking off Nadal or Djokoivc, certainly not as far as the others. So while the tennis lens is focused on Djokovic and this new rival, he can play with less pressure and attention than he's faced since, say, 2002.

I don't get it. What is the difference between playing on a Sunday and on a Monday? --Anand Sivanandan, Scranton, Pa.

• The French Open, of course, started on a Sunday. The cynics will say it's another way to wring some extra television and ticket revenue. The more charitable will say it's a way to expose tennis and the Grand Slam experience to fans who have this crazy thing -- a "job," they call it -- and are not free to hang out during the week.

I don't think it's a huge deal either. The French Open doesn't have night sessions so squeezing in an extra day is a reasonable ask. The schedule and rhythms get changed a bit; but not nearly as much as in a rain delay. One concern: this was imposed more or less unilaterally on the players. Think about the NFL potentially moving to an 18-game season and the debate and proposed tradeoffs that has triggered. A tennis Grand Slam simply says: "We want another day of revenue, guy. Deal with it." And the players do.

LOL at your tennis mailbag. Djokovic has a weakness. He can't handle the tweener. Never won a point when it has been hit by the opposing player. (Plenty of videos on you tube of Djokovic standing at the net dumbfounded at the tweener). --Stewart, Oakland

• As they say in Belgrade: touché.

I really do not understand why Hopman Cup matches are not included in Novak's run. Whatever (and whoever) feels those were not competitive, that is rubbish, for him it was competitive. It was ... So, that is unfair. But not the first time happening. Big journalists, you have chance to change world view. Here is the chance. --Aleksandar Stojanovic, Belgrade, Serbia

• The Hopman Cup is basically an exhibition, and thus doesn't count toward a players' ranking. You really want your man getting points for this?

Regarding the Petko-dance, it is surprising (unless I'ver missed it) that no one has compared Rafael Nadal's fist-pumping and dancing all over the court following so many of his victories as comparable to Andrea's dancing. If Rafa is known as a great sportsman, how can she be criticized for doing something much less aggressive and more fun than Rafa's celebrating? --Kevin, Atlanta

• I think we give athletes a much wider berth for antics/outburst that occur during competition -- the cringe-inducing "heat of battle"' -- as opposed to before and after. Again, I like the Petko-dance. But a self-congratulatory shimmy after a match is different from a fist pump between points. Plus, different Djokes for different folks. No sooner did we start answering than we got his from Tim Johnson of New York: "As much as I'm enjoying the intrigue and quality of the Nadal-Djokovic matches, what I am really loving is the reactions of Djokovic. With all due respect to Nadal and Federer, it's great to see someone go ABSOLUTELY NUTS when he wins a big match."

You're going to give poor Almagro a body image problem! This isn't the first time you've characterized his build as that of a middle reliever. I think one time you even called him a snowman! I could understand if we were talking about a Baghdatis or Nalbandian type of situation here, but your (consistent) characterization seems totally off-base to me. Evidence. --Dustin Chad Alligood, Perry, Ga.

• We need to update our abdominal scouting report. The Spanish players have (had?) an entire catalog of nicknames for the guy, most mocking his midsection. Hombre is clearly laying off the manchego. Or the gluten.

Surprised you (or your source) missed the obvious answer to the guy's question about who won a career Grand Slam in their first four Grand Slam titles. I believe Agassi's first four Grand Slam titles were '92 Wimbledon, '94 U.S. Open, '95 Australian Open and '99 French. --Sean Rousey, Johns Creek, Ga.

• Yes, of course. That wasn't just an unforced error; it was a frame job shank.

I'm catching up on your recent columns and I'm surprised that you'd refer to Obama as a Hawaiian-American. Surely, you mean Kenyan-American or African-American? Did you pick up the lingo from watching Jersey Shore or the Kardashians or is that how you lefties roll? Let's just agree that Hawaii is part of America, shall we? --Subra Bhavaraju, Hoboken, N.J.

• Joke. A dig at the birthers.

So I guess now Djokovic is the GOAT ... --Mauricio Betti, Sao Paulo, Brazil

• No. But he's the GOTT. (Greatest of this time.) Our German readers may get a kick out of the anagram.

• Daniel of Switzerland gets in the mood for the French with this shot by Mary Pierce.

• Getting nice feedback on the Roland Garros app.

• An early candidate for favorite exchange:

Q. Biggest one of your career, yes?


Q. No?

VARVARA LEPCHENKO: I beat Patty Schnyder a few years ago.

Um, just beat a former top 10 player in three tight sets on the first day of a major. You're in a room with media members on deadline. Work with us, dear. Must you really ruin a leading question by referencing a long-forgotten match against Patty Schnyder?

• A few of you noticed that Jarmila Groth is now Jarmila Gajdosova.

Two new titles from New Chapter Press: The Wimbledon Final that Never Was and A Player's Guide to USTA League Tennis.

• Who does Martina Hingis pick to win Roland Garros?

• The USTA announced it will host its annual open casting call on Tuesday, June 21 at the Apollo Theater in New York City to select children to perform at the 2011 U.S. Open. Winners will perform live at Arthur Ashe Stadium during night sessions of this year's U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The auditions are free of charge and will be held from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. ET. Children 12 years of age and younger as of September 11, 2011, will be asked to sing "America the Beautiful" a cappella in front of a panel of celebrity judges from the music and entertainment industries. Judges for this year's talent search will be announced in the near future.

• Phil of Long Island, N.Y.: "Here's one for your lookalikes series. Watching a recent video of Michael McDonald (formerly of the Doobie Brothers) singing "What A Fool Believes", I was unexpectedly reminded of Juan Martin del Potro -- or, rather, what he might look like 30-40 years from now. (P.S. Here's the original video.)"

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