Monday June 20th, 2011

A quick Mailbag while you watch Day 1:

What does it say about the quality and depth of the women's field when you pick Serena Williams to win at Wimbledon? If Nadal or Federer or Djokovic (anyone!) in the men's game had missed an entire year due to various injuries, they'd be lucky to win a match or two at the All-England Club. As much as we like Serena (and we do) if she is hoisting the trophy in two week's time the rest of the women's tour should hang their heads in shame. --Dominic Ciafardini, Hong Kong

• 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.

YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! (Apologies to J-Mac.) I am incensed. Offended. Incredulous. Not even one of you SI writers picked Federer to win Wimbledon? He's just a mere six-time winner. Yes, he has certain psychological issues vs. Nadal, but if Nadal loses early ... I understand some of you choosing Nadal, as he is a two-time winner and current No. 1 player. But frankly, it's just insulting to Federer fans to see you guys pick either Djokovic or Murray, especially Murray. Neither of them has ever been to a Wimbledon final. Murray is known to choke in Grand Slam finals. And do you honestly think Murray can beat Nadal, and then the winner of the Federer-Djokovic semi? Hardly. --Nancy Ng, Montreal, Canada

• 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.

But suddenly, it's hard to pick against him beating Nadal. Yeah, that's a real logical comment seeing Novak's record this year versus Nadal. I hope the rest of the viewers think the same thing -- as Novak works his way through the draw while Federer and Nadal may well be picked off early on. Surely you saw Nadal lost in the tuneup? --Craig, Baton Rouge/Nashville

• 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.

This is really silly, but I must write re: hypotheticals, Steve Jobs was not conceived by Mr. and Ms. Jobs, he was adopted! --A. Sperger, Sao Paulo

• Thanks. A few of you noted that. I mortified for that unforced error.

You're dead wrong about Kvitova and finesse. Watch here, here, here and here and be edified. She only comes to net when necessary, but notice that she's INSIDE the court on more occasions than anybody else. Mark my word, within 18 months, she'll be at the top. --Ash Messenger, Princeton, N.J.

• 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. --Clark, Dallas, Texas

We figured it out as 2/285.

Why not honor Isner and Mahut by giving them Centre Court? --Sathiya S , Richmond, Va.

• Why not, indeed.

I see that Bartoli beat Kvitova in the Eastbourne final ... do you think Bartoli has any shot at going deep into the second week? She's been there before. --Keith J., Minneapolis

• 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.)

Color me confused. Explain how Djokovic could take over the number 1 ranking by playing (and losing in the semis) at the French Open. Johnny Mac and all the talking TV heads kept repeating this scenario. --Robert Marvin, Hilliard, Ohio

• 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.

This is probably a bit of a silly question, but here it is: Why is it, do you think, that in tennis we are somehow obligated to apologize when we win a point that hits the net for a winner? I mean, I don't know of any other sport where, when luck goes your way, you are expected to apologize for good luck. Yet in tennis, there seems to be the feeling that if you don't apologize, you're being snobby or whatever. It's always bothered me in my 40 years of playing, and I just wonder about your perspective. --Jeff Johnson, Fort Worth, Texas

• 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 don't behave this way on a soccer pitch or basketball diamond. That said, I think if you declined to apologize for a lucky winner, you'd be forgiven.

Nice Q&A with Li Na.

The Wimbledon Final That Never Was is the newly-released memoir of Sidney Wood, the former New York resident and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, detailing his life and times with some of the most famous global personalities, and details the unusual circumstances that lead him to win Wimbledon 80 years ago. David Wood of Queens, N.Y., will be making two appearances over the next two weeks to sign, sell and discuss the book and show off some of his father's tennis memorabilia, including the racquet he used to win the Wimbledon title in 1931. Wood will appear at the private Town Tennis Club (a club founded by Wood at 430 East 56th Street) on Wednesday, June 22 at 6 p.m. and on Wednesday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Opia Restaurant and Lounge at 57th and Lexington. The event at the Town Tennis Club is closed to the general public and media must RSVP directly to New Chapter Press publisher Randy Walker ( to gain entry. The event at Opia Restaurant is open to the public and the media and is a casual get-together.

• Particularly after her debacle at the French Open, nice to see Christina McHale knock off Makarova today.

• New York readers: A reminder about the HSBC event at Rockfeller Center. Jim Courier and Monica Seles were there today.

• Brian of Killingworth, Conn.: "I know there may not be many United States of Tara fans in tennis land but tell me this kid is not a replica of a young blonde-dyed Federer."

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