Saturday June 25th, 2011

I emailed you back in May about Andy Roddick but Nole was more the popular subject back then. With Roddick not performing well in Australia, a no show for the French (which doesn't matter anyway) and now out so early in Wimbledon; if he doesn't do well in New York do you think he should throw in the towel? -- Brian Brown, Brooklyn, N.Y.

• Roddick's loss was the big story this afternoon, and a lot of questions along these lines came in. Right now, optimism is hard to come by. When Roddick goes deep in the fifth set of a Wimbledon final before losing to Roger Federer, he ought to be both brokenhearted and encouraged. When he loses in straight sets to Feliciano Lopez -- a famously erratic player to whom Roddick had never before lost -- well, we got issues. In today's match, Roddick, frankly, looked like a player who has regressed. His return was nonexistent. He took such pains to run around his backhand that he left the line open, which is never good, particularly not against a lefty. He did nothing to make Lopez uncomfortable. He failed to raise his game during tiebreakers. A pretty dismal day at the office.

Roddick, quite reasonably, prepares his year around three events. So far he's 0-2. If Roddick flames out at the Open should he pack it in? Just as you're treading on shaky ground when you question an athlete's injury, you're in dangerous territory when you encourage retirement. There are a lot reasons and inducements for Roddick to stick around, from financial to the chance to compete in the London Olympics to the fact that -- while he may be a long way from the top three -- he STILL is among the top 15 practitioners of his trade in the world. Nevertheless, as Roddick heads home, I suspect he is asking himself some tough questions right about now.

WERTHEIM: Day 5 Podcast

Why do the Wimbledon organizers insist on disrespecting the Williams sisters -- Serena especially -- year after year by putting them on Court 2? -- Joe, Montclair, N.J.

• I think scheduling complaints are often baseless. There are all sorts of considerations: fan appeal, television agendas and time zone issues. (Why do so few Europeans play the night sessions at the U.S. Open? Because a 9 p.m. match airs in Basel or Belgrade during the infomercial hours.) In this case, though, Serena was 100 percent correct. You can't possibly tell me that a four-time male winner, and the defending champ, would ever play anywhere other than Centre Court or Court One. The club's response -- that 4,000 commoners were thrilled -- was weak. If they were so thrilled with that, imagine how they'd feel if Andy Murray or Federer or Rafael Nadal were out there. Was this a rebuke to Serena for her sparse schedule? Was it sloppiness? Sexism? Something still more sinister? Whatever, it was indefensible. And she was well within her rights to complain.

Novak Djokovic looks great. Is he on a diet or something? Why haven't I heard anything about it from ESPN or anything? -- Dan, Toronto

• And wait, did a lot of people watch Li Na's matches in Paris or something?

Since there is always a lot of "buy, sell, hold" discussion in your column I'm hoping you can tell me how I can convert my entire 401(k) into Grigor Dimitrov stock. Between the forehand and the personality, he reminds me of Novak Djokovic. One exception though -- Dimitrov won't have to play the prime years of his career alongside two extraordinary players battling it out for the GOAT title. If the serve (and shot selection) improves, he's headed for greatness. And a tip of the hat to Jo-Willie for his classy end-of-the-match gesture. He kept Dimitrov from lying there in crushing defeat and probably helped ensure that the loss won't do any permanent damage to his psyche. -- P Squared, San Diego, Calif.

• I'd still encourage you to diversify your 401(k). But I agree Dimitrov was impressive in defeat. There's a lot to like here, a versatile, all-court game and style to burn. He just needs to put it together and construct points a little better. But he's come a long way from where he was a year ago. And reassure me you guys have seen this.

Give Rod Laver back the five years he lost for being -- que horror--- a pro, and his major totals are at Martina Navratilova/Steffi Graf levels and we never have this discussion ... and he never gets credit from anyone for being the pioneer he was in bringing above-board professionalism to tennis, and the huge price he paid for so doing. To me, old phart that I am, the others will always be playing for second place alltime, and it's not even close. --Jon R., Waite Park, Minn.

• Fair enough. If the Nadal-Federer comparisons aren't hard/pointless enough, it's really hard/pointless to compare among eras. I was speaking to a friend today who likened this to debating who was better, Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth. "Babe Ruth didn't compete against black players; how can you possibly compare those eras?" Similar here.

A quick proposal. Perhaps as a reward for being seeded at a slam, an unseeded male player must win three of five sets to defeat a seeded male player. However, if the seeded player wins two of the first three sets the match ends. They could run this through the first two rounds at least and leave matches between unseeded men as two-out-of-three affairs. -- Dan Martin, Burlington, Ky.

• Too confusing. Let's keep at it, though. What about this: players grunting have to win in straight sets, or they're out.

Why hasn't Dick Enberg written a book? The man is a walking living encyclopedia. -- Rosalinda Reyes, Freeport

• Dick Enberg has written a book. Oh, my!

Watching Sabine Lisicki defeat Li Na in Round 3, I was struck by her awesome and powerful serve. I read that she has the record for the fastest serve of all time in the women's game and was wondering where you would rank it overall based on all of its qualities? Does the fastest serve make the best serve of all time? Why is Serena's "slower" serve often referred to as the Greatest Serve Ever in women's tennis? -- Devaughn, Port of Spain, Trinidad

• The gun is only one metric. Is there spin or "action" on the ball? Is it well-placed? Does the server bring the proverbial goods at the match's crucial juncture? What about the second serve? Serena might be slower by a few mph (or kph if you prefer), but I think most players would rather have her serve than anyone else's.

Has Wimbledon changed the rules for men's doubles in other years? Going to best-of-three instead of best-of-five in the first week ... due to rain? I know you're an advocate of this approach in general, but switching to it in this case seems very random. I can't imagine the PGA saying, hey, this year we're going to play the first two rounds of the Masters from the ladies' tees, just to speed things up. -- Helen, Philadelphia

• Just to be clear, this was done for the sake of accelerating the schedule after the rain. Later in the tournament, we'll go back to best-of-five. Random? I suppose. But, if the schedule is constipated, the schedule is constipated. Something has to give. If it's a choice between truncating the Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau first-round match, or making Nadal, Federer and Serena play on back-to-back days, well, you know where I stand.

The grunting has been a huge issue in the women's game, but as I sit here and watch Serena yell "Come On" at the top of her lungs, I am fired up. Maybe it is the effort or the passion, but it does not bother me. Do you think it is the consistency of the grunt that irritates the masses? -- Jeffery Nielsen, Surprise, AZ

• Upset as you guys might be about grunting, it doesn't seem to affect the competitors. Check out this q/a from today:

Q. What do you feel about Sharapova's grunting? We had a gruntometer in the court.

LAURA ROBSON: Is that a thing?

Q. It is if you work for The Sun. She was the loudest she's ever been. Does it put you off your game? Do you find it distracting?

LAURA ROBSON: Absolutely not. You know, you hear it sort of for the first game or two, but then after, you're just really focused on the point. I didn't even notice, to be honest.

• So much for the theory that it was Victoria Azarenka's noise factor that caused her banishment to the back courts. She was on Centre Court on Friday, where she beat Daniela Hantuchova.

Steffi Graf is impressed with Sa Li's effort.

Spend 30 seconds checking this out.

• The USTA will donate $100,000 to Joplin, Mo., to assist with disaster-relief efforts in the tornado-stricken community. The USTA is committed to helping rebuild Joplin High School and its tennis courts, which were demolished in the storm. In addition, the USTA will bring SmashZone, the interactive fan attraction featured annually at the U.S. Open, to Missouri Southern State University on Thursday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. CT in an effort to help boost the spirits of the children and families affected by the disaster. The event is free to the public.

• Chris of Austin: I see being annoyed by the screaming if you're at the match. But if you're at home you can always turn the sound down and listen to some sweet Ronnie Wood albums ... or even New Kids on the Block if you're into the whole nostalgia thing.

• Nitin of Hyderabad, India: This is why we love Frank Deford -- Hell, forget about a guest column when you're away -- can we do a tennis Q&A with Mr. Deford please? Please?

• In partnership with Fila, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, R.I., unveiled an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the brand that has been worn by many champions of tennis, including Hall of Famers Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and Monica Seles. The museum exhibit at the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a part of a multitiered celebration of the brand, which includes an interactive microsite on, the opening of the Fila Museum in Biella, Italy and two celebratory clothing lines.

• LLS goes to Doyle Srader of Eugene, Ore.: Andy Roddick and Allan Hyde of HBO's True Blood.

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