A quick Mailbag while you watch Day 1:
• True, no player on the men's tour -- or athlete in most other sports -- could return from a year-long absence and win a championship. True, women's tennis is not at a high point. True, the rest of the WTA field doesn't also put up much collective resistance when Serena, in particular, is rolling. But let's reserve judgment here. First, we're a long way from the finals. But let's also take quality into consideration. If players wilt and fail to close out matches and make egregious mistakes, sure, they should hang their heads in shame. But if, say, Serena plays like she did last year, we ought to be dwelling on her remarkable powers and not about the rest of the field.
This discussion -- which has already been percolating in Tennis Land -- reminds me a lot of the discussion before Nadal and Federer. Sure, it would have been nice if the field had been hungrier, less inclined to clap their rackets and do the we're-not-worthy-bow, and more inclined to mount a real challenge. At the same, the naked eye told us that Federer was a one-in-a-generation player and the emphasis should be about him, not the rest of the field. In other, let's just see how this plays out.
• See this is the problem with predictions. There's so little payoff and the picks arouse so much anger. And that's before you even get them wrong. Pick Pablo Andujar over Federer and I can see where folks will get upset. But I don't think picking Nadal -- or even Murray -- is so terrible. If Federer were to win it would surprise no one. But, limited to one pick, I think it's reasonable to look elsewhere.
• Again, the fallout from predictions. Nadal hasn't lost at Wimbledon since 2007 (and that was in a competitive final) where Djokovic has never even made the Wimbledon final. I pick Nadal. Wait, Nadal lost in the tune-ups and has lost his last four matches to Djokovic. Plus, Djokovic has lost only one match all year. I pick Djokovic. Both are reasonable. Just depends on how you want to frame your position.
• Thanks. A few of you noted that. I mortified for that unforced error.
• A few of you grilled me for this. When I've seen Kvitova, I've seen a lot of baseline bashing. I remember once likening her to a lefty Mary Pierce. Last year at Wimbledon, even her coach said that she needed to add more dimensions to her game and leaven her power with variety. But (I'm thrilled to admit) your video suggests otherwise. Thanks for assembling those. The more backhand stab volleys we have in tennis, the better! Here's hoping those clips were an accurate representation. We'll watch for it these next few weeks.
Mathematically what are the odds that Isner-Mahut meet again in the first round? Seems odd to me.
• Why not, indeed.
• Yeah, definitely put Bartoli on the short list. She's coming off a French Open semifinal showing. She's a former Wimbledon finalist. She won a tune-up. Go for it.
In the high school corridor that is sometimes the WTA, Bartoli is unquestionably not in the cool crowd. She is quirky. Even in her mid-20s, she travels with her dad. She has a number of curious mannerisms, including the practice swings while her opponent scores. She is outspoken, happy to share her IQ score (read: SAT scores) with the crowd. Lost in all this: doing things her way, she has been a mainstay in the top 10; she's won more than 400 matches and $6 million. And she's still going strong. (It's like the French answer to the Williams sisters.)
• Remember that the rankings are rolling over 52 weeks. Since Nadal won the 2010 French Open, in a best-case scenario, he would merely defend his cache of points by winning in 2011. Since Djokovic reached the quarters in 2010, he made net gain when he reached the semis in 2011.
• I think there's a broader discussion here. Yes, it seems silly to apologize for good fortune. Baseball players don't raise an apologetic hand for broken bat singles; football player are unabashed by punts that take lucky bounces. But comparing one sport to another only gets us so far. Part of what we like about tennis is its uniqueness, its quirks and rituals (silly as they often are) that fact that they
• Particularly after her debacle at the French Open, nice to see Christina McHale knock off Makarova today.
• New York readers: A reminder about the
• Brian of Killingworth, Conn.: "I know there may not be many