Comparing the Slams, attendance woes in Shanghai, plus more mail
• I'm wary of giving these answers because A) there's some serious pressure and B) if I answer truthfully, it will sound like pablum straight from the PR department. But lean in and I'll tell you the dirty truth: It's hard to go wrong attending a Grand Slam.
Each is different -- character, a history, a rhythm of its own. Each is in a different top-flight city and -- rain and Australian heat waves notwithstanding -- the weather is usually quite nice. Each has its own idiosyncrasies. Yet I can't recall ever talking to someone who said, "You know, we went to the U.S. Open and it was blech." Or, "You know, Wimbledon failed to meet my expectation." Or, "That French Open? Overrated."
At a minimum, the majors live up to the hype. More often than not, they exceed it. Plus -- and this goes for all tennis events -- a midweek ticket to a tennis tournament comprises one of the great values in sports. You get eight or so hours and dozens of matches, both genders, some doubles. The ability to talk around and flit in and out of courts is underrated as well.
Where should you take your husband? Depends what you like. If you're desperate to combine with a city experience, you might think about Wimbledon. But especially with traffic, getting into London can be tough. Australia is great when you get there but there's no sugarcoating the flight from the U.S. or Europe. The U.S. Open is busier than the others, which exhilarates some and exhausts/intimidates others. But overall, you'll have a great time. And your husband will be thrilled.
• I like the idea in theory. (The same way I like the idea of two pro sports teams splitting time between two cities, i.e. the Indiana/Louisville Pacers.) Realistically, you need a permanent site with suites, broadcast facilities, catering, etc. In singles alone, there are 254 matches being played over two weeks. How many other facilities can accommodate that? I do, though, like the idea of a rotating Masters Series event or (biannual) Davis Cup knock-off.
• We discussed this a bit both in the
The tennis conflicted with both the calendar and the national ethic. (
The event was hurt by the absence of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. (
Whatever, this looked terrible on television. You could literally count the fans -- on two hands; with fingers left over -- for some matches. And those who were there sure didn't seem to cheer much. Why the organizers didn't paper the town is a mystery. A few hundred schoolkids would have at least improved the atmosphere.
Like most sports, tennis doesn't necessarily need sold-out crowds to succeed. If the sponsors and the television partners are happy, that counts for a lot. Still, I think the folks in Australia -- concerned that Shanghai is angling to supplant the A.O. as the fourth Slam -- can rest easy.
• Good call. And I hadn't even thought of that regarding Kevin Lynch and the Gophers. I used to love that guy. He gave hope to those of us who could scrap a little and knock down an open shot now and then. He even played a little in the NBA.
• Duly noted. But "other than the French" is a pretty big conditional. Nadal has defended that one in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
• Touché. (Or too shy?)
• I think there's some merit here. How accustomed are we to seeing women in a confrontational context? Reader Michele of New York put it like this: "It's 2011 and we as a society are still not comfortable seeing women get angry anywhere, let alone on a big stage in front of a big audience. Being ladylike is of utmost importance. Heck, isn't it a little nuts that women are wearing dresses and skirts and wearing jewelry and have their nails done while performing such demanding physical tasks? OK, I digress, but still think there's something to be said for the gender bias. Add race into the mix, and you can see why this is endlessly controversial and endlessly fascinating."
I do think it's important to make this point: Were we
• I've shelved the Serena emails for the last few weeks but they keep coming, we'll do a couple this week.
Before it slips my mind, did anyone point out the supreme irony of her telling the umpire, "I hate you" in one breath, and then accusing the umpire of being "a hater" in the next? Anyway, I don't think "hater" necessarily carries racial implications. And we have
Note that Snookie has #H8ers. So does Kim Kardashian. (My friend
• I think you pretty well answered your own question. In retrospect, it's a shame Graf was such a cipher during her heyday. We could debate whether an "absentee" player who merely won relentlessly is really such a crime, but yes, if she'd had a bit more of, say, Andrea Petkovic's extroverted personality and PR instincts, it would have benefited the sport.
But -- largely in conjunction with her husband -- she has certainly compensated in her 30s and 40s. (See an item on Graf below.) Better late than never. She's
• OK, I think that's a fair point. Those are extreme examples, though. A lot of the exhibitions don't require nearly as much travel. Think about the home-and-home swap between Nadal and Federer. Andy Roddick playing in Omaha, Neb., or the Bahamas. Overall, I think this is like comparing a business trip to a vacation.
• Better. She learned to overcome fear and risk aversion and attack the net. There's a great story here, one worth following in 2012. Kirilenko clearly came to an irreducible conclusion. She could either be a second-tier player simply hanging from the baseline, or she could roll the proverbial dice and try -- and I know you'll pardon the pun -- a more aggressive approach.
• Ouch. I know various players have had problems with their Achilles, including Pete Sampras. But a complete tear? That's a new one by me, at least vis-à-vis pro players.
• My gut is that you're right. (Anne Kremer was served a double bagel the other day.) But here's the thing: We need not speculate. Thanks to the upgraded ATP and soon-to-be-upgraded WTA analytics, we'll be able to find out the empirical answer soon.
• Close enough. They speak Spanish in Panama. Better that than
• Glen Janney of Miami: "[Tomas] Berdych's and [Marin] Cilic's results
• Andy Fouche of San Jose, Calif: "I was in Las Vegas this past weekend at the Darling Tennis Center playing in a tournament when none other than Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf took center court and hit against an unknown (to me), albeit good player. Come to find out, the guy paid $20K to take a lesson from the two; the money went to Agassi's foundation. They couldn't have been more gracious, talking to fans, taking pictures, signing every last autograph. We were leaving the facility and saw two black Escalades pulling out (the tinted window, bulletproof, celebrity kind), thinking 'There they go, Andre and Steffi.' But no, the humble pair walked out together (alone) and into their normal car about five minutes later, without an entourage and back to their lives. The Escalades, we found out later, belonged to the guy who paid for the lesson. Ha!"
• Heather Crowe Connor
She also claims that
• We mentioned this the other day but fast-forward to 12:30 and check out
• Speaking of Tennis Channel, a fond farewell to Larry Meyers, one of the good guys. He's taking his talents to a regional network in Los Angeles, centered on Lakers games. But he'll sure be missed in tennis.
• Even more Tennis Channel: Look for a "Tennisography" documentary on Esther Vergeer coming soon.
• So Sampras and Agassi are
• Cam Williams of Burlington, Vt., has long-lost siblings: Shanghai quarterfinalist
Have a great week, everyone!