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Manic Monday at Wimbledon says a lot about state of women's game

What does it say about the quality of the women's game right now that the Williams sisters, off long injury layoffs, can make it all the way to the fourth round of a major? I mean, before being summarily drummed out. A sad statement, really. -- Adam Kamp, Sturgeon Lake, Minn.

• Women' tennis is in a state of relative disarray right now. The top-ranked player doesn't win majors. The No. 2 player goes out in Week One -- and scarcely anyone notices. The two French Open finalists didn't survive the first week at Wimbledon. Three recent No. 1 players -- in their chronological primes -- are now outside the top 20. As we are issued press releases about success of the "WTA Roadmap," the biggest draws are chronically injured.

But today there was a bit of order amid the chaos. The takeaway from the Williams sisters at this tournament: they are exceptional players, capable of winning a few matches with a minimum of preparation. But even they can't steamroll through an entire major without doing some prep work. Marion Bartoli rose to the challenge and took down Serena.

Venus simply got a beatdown from Bulgaria's Szvetana Pironkova. This was a validation for the rank-and-file. And a message to the sisters that they are still in the proverbial conversation, but they can no longer helicopter in after extended absences and expect to carve up a draw the way they once did.

Caroline Wozniacki certainly looked sharp today, losing in the fourth round to a very milquetoast opponent. Your continued blind allegiance to these incredibly overrated women's players (Caroline W. being only the latest example) who have never accomplished anything baffles me. Isn't it obvious that Wozniacki is simply a product of the women's tour's bizarre point system and is not a credible threat to win a Grand Slam, even when the Williams sisters are sitting out or eliminated? -- Jeremy S., Arlington, Va.

• My blind allegiance? When I simply floated the idea that the WTA rankings might want to include a pre-requisite that the top player have a major to her name within the past year, it got an earful. I feel for Wozniacki. She is a fine player. She didn't create the system. She plays a lot and supports many events. (As an aside, no one has anything but nice things to say about her personally.) But the longer she is seen as a counterfeit champ, the worse it is for everyone.

I saw your tweet: "women's quarters: ova, ova, icki, oli, enka, ova, ova." What do you attribute this to? -- Karl, Las Vegas

• First, I left out Austria's Tamira Paszek -- which doesn't exactly undercut the thesis. This is the discussion we've been having for years. As American tennis swirls in the commode, it's thriving elsewhere. Eastern European players continue popping up like Starbucks franchises. Some of it is the effect of globalization. Some of it is tennis' status compared to other sports. (If all the American WNBA players and women soccer players had gravitated instead to tennis as young girls, the WTA rankings would surely look different.) Some of it is just random chance. Whatever, it's the new reality.

Since ACW couldn't change your mind about a "shot clock" in tennis, let me give it a go. When readers try to compare team sports with tennis, you remind them that there is a big difference. Tennis players are out there on the court all alone, and that's what we love about tennis. I agree! Several times during Wimbledon, Darren Cahill has made this comment: "This is an important point. Player X is taking extra time -- good for them." I agree! For all the teeth gnashing about Nadal, ESPN reported that his average time between end of point and serve was 27 seconds during the French Open. Now golf -- that needs to be sped up! Let's require the players to sprint from tee to green and then put a shot clock on them as they putt. Just kidding! OK. Have I convinced you to, at least, rethink your position on this? -- Carolyn Brown, Conway, Ark.

• Good effort. You make a lot of sense. But I'm holding out here. I still think it's a slippery slope when the rules are selectively enforced. Without putting words in Cahill's mouth, I suspect he means that he applauds players who calm down and are not hasty. I doubt he's advocating that players take more time than the rules allow for. A shot clock -- not unlike Hawkeye -- would be fun for fans but, more important, would ensure that rules are followed. (And if the speed of play is, well, sped up, all the better.)

They still have not finished some doubles first-round matches at Wimbledon. Why not play on middle Sunday and make it a doubles-only day and let fans in for discount prices??? Singles-only players still get rest. Those playing doubles get to play real matches on their off day as a practice, and fans get to enjoy a day at "the Wimbledon." Sounds like a win-win situation. -- Abhijeet, Los Angeles

• The purpose of the "dead" Sunday tradition is to respect the neighbors and give them some quiet on a day of rest. I wonder if that isn't compromised by "doubles only" Sunday. But I do really like that idea. It would elevate the profile of doubles. It would give the TV partners an extra session. It would benefit real fans. I think I will forward it to the club. Stay tuned.

In your rush to defend Serena's egocentric outburst regarding her court assignment, you made a glaring error when you stated that Wimbledon would never put a four-time champion on an outside court. Pete Sampras, a seven-time champion and a far bigger draw that Serena, played George Bastl on an outside court in his last Wimbledon match. -- Bob Dumbacher, Atlanta

• A fair point, one that others made. But Sampras was not the defending champ nor the player to beat. I just think when four men only play the big courts, and the two-time defending champ is ushered to Court Two, you're asking for trouble. To me, this smacked of a move from the Augusta playbook. "We do what we want, because we can."

You give Milos Raonic a C because he twists his ankle on wet grass, that is clearly beyond his control? Do you even realize how absurd a comment this is? Craig, Baton Rouge/Nashville

• It was no fault of his own -- and we said as much. But it was a profoundly disappointing tournament. Many of us were eagerly awaiting this third-rounder against Nadal. Instead, he ends up in the hospital. Doesn't mean he's blameworthy. But I suspect Raonic himself would agree that is was a forgettable event.

Just wondering, how many times do we have to be told (the commentators shall remain nameless) that Rafa Nadal is naturally right-handed but plays left? WE KNOW!!! Yes, it's an interesting factoid, but he is hardly the only player who does this (Maria Sharapova, for example). Is this something that infrequent tennis watchers seriously don't know about Nadal by now? -- Dawn, Chicago

• Nadal's a converted lefty? No way! Did you also hear a few players were from a war-torn country? Note to the broadcasters: if folks are watching tennis at 10 a.m .on a Monday, they don't need to generalist treatment. They know that Kim Clijsters is a mom, that Mardy Fish has lost weight, that Andy Murray is saddled with pressure in England. It's a tough balance, but why talk down to 95 percent of the viewers so you can edify the other five percent?

• The WTA announced that the Tournament of Champions, the annual season-ending event, will be in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The tournament will be staged at the Arena Sofia, to be unveiled in July 2011, with $750,000 in prize money. The USTA Pro Circuit women's event in Vancouver, Canada, the Odlum Brown VanOpen presented by Invesco, will increase its prize money from $75,000 to $100,000 this year. The prize money increase now reflects equal prize money for men and women, as the Odlum Brown VanOpen hosts a concurrent $100,000 men's event. Vancouver now becomes the second $100,000 event on the women's USTA Pro Circuit Calendar, joining Midland, Mich. The 2011 Odlum Brown VanOpen presented by Invesco will be held the week of August 1. For full details, visit the Odlum Brown VanOpen web site or www.procircuit.usta.com.

• The "awful and yet still funny pun award" goes to the reader who noted that he was surprised that "Lisicki" was an actual player. Before this event, he thought it was the 2011 French Open champion when she wasn't feeling well.

• Christopher M. Jones of West Chester, PA: ( For those asking about online streaming of Wimbledon: not only does ESPN3.com have the live ESPN2 feed, it also carries numerous other courts, live. You can also go back and watch previous days' matches (again, several courts' worth, per day).

• Michael Mewshaw's "Short Circuit" is now available as an ebook.

• The Farmers Classic will host "An Evening with Betty White" on July 22 at UCLA's Royce Hall. The event will be hosted by actress Wendie Malick and will allow fans to hear the comedy of White along with her thoughts on her eight-decade career. This unique opportunity will happen just days before the Farmers Classic begins July 25 at the LA Tennis Center on UCLA's campus featuring Juan Martin del Potro, Mardy Fish, Fernando Gonzalez, Marcos Baghdatis, James Blake and Lleyton Hewitt, among others.

• Lauren of, Bedford, N.Y., has Lookalikes: Juan Martin Del Potro and Hugh Laurie.

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