• I was with you at first. And I agree coincidence is a big factor. As a rule, we hate randomness and luck. "S--- happens" may play to the Zen crowd, but the rational humanists want explanations that make sense. Yet maybe champion tennis just ... happens.
One look at Federer's parents and you don't peg them to spawn a one-in-a-billion sports prodigy. "Nurture" hardly solves the riddle. His parents encouraged him to play
Several years later, another prodigy -- equally unlikely -- comes of age in Mallorca, an island that is truly insular. Genetics favor him a bit more. He has a hard-charging, ambitious, eccentric uncle. But, again, who could have seen this coming? As far as a blueprint for developing a champion goes, the warning label would read: Don't try this at home. A well-heeled tennis nation could invest unlimited funds in unlimited prospects -- and not replicate these two results.
But I still say we ought to examine why the four wealthiest tennis countries are having such a hard time minting champions. It's not simply that they have immense financial advantage that other countries (not fortunate to host a Slam) cannot access. There's the attention and focus that comes with hosting an international event for two weeks every year. That these countries haven't been able to alchemize that (while smaller countries such as Serbia have been so successful) is worth exploring. That's all.
• Wow. Thanks. I don't believe I'd ever heard that. I suppose we could say he put together a 20-match winning streak at Wimbledon. (He won in 2008, didn't play in 2009, won in 2010 and reached the final in 2011.)
• I agree that it was exceedingly dark; the darkest conditions I've ever seen for a professional match. But I don't think there was much of an alternative. What were they going to do, suspend play at 7-7, with tension (and television viewership) at its highest, and tell everyone -- the players, the fans, the parking lot attendants -- to return the following day for what could be 15 minutes of play?
Before Nadal served at 8-7, both players were told that it would be the final game. For symbolic (and literary) purposes, there was something fitting about the greatest match ever ending as the last flecks of light left the sky. But, more important, I think an inconvenience that affects both players simultaneously can be distinguished from an inconvenience (say, a slick spot on end of the court) that affects the players by turns.
• Do we have a tax law expert in Britain who could help us? Love to hear a policy defense. I know that, ironically, it was Andre Agassi who fought this battle several years ago and lost. Check out the
And if you're interested,
• Several of you have asked about PHM (new rule, thanks to Dominique Strauss Kahn, every three-named Frenchmen now faces initializing). The Mighty Greg Sharko (MGS, as it were)
• More fodder for completely unscientific theory that the rash of ailments is attributable, yes, to an unprecedented level of on-court "grueling" but also to unprecedented travel requirements that weaken immune systems.
• A warning that this contains some adult language. (Another warning: I didn't find this particularly funny.) And, sorry, I think the "any publicity is good publicity" mentality is flawed. Sometimes you choose dignity over popularity.
I'm glad Zech sent this but it illustrates precisely what I find so maddening about Serena. By all rights, she should be revered as a towering figure, someone of historical significance, an athlete beyond reproach. Instead, too often, on account of her conduct, she is reduced to a punchline. I can't tell you how often I'm asked about her and the questions pertain to her temper or her viral videos or her attitude -- not her dozens of titles or decade-long reign.
I watch that YouTube clip and I'm thinking, "How dare you mock one of the great players our sport has ever produced." Then you watch Serena's tirade (and, worse, her disingenuous response) and you think, "Yeah, I could see how 'casual viewers' don't take her seriously."
Murray is trying to break through during one of the best generations ever, behind a triumvirate that has won all but one major since February 2005. In Wozniacki's case, she is Slam-less in a much softer era, yet still holds the top ranking. Much different dynamic.
• Thanks. Larry Larson of Alexandria, Va. wrote, "Not a ruptured Achilles, but any question like that has to make you think of Thomas Muster." This is as good a time as any to toast Muster,
• That would be the epitome of Luck.
• The Lynx just won the WNBA title, no?
• Zolbol of Durban, South Africa: "Please share
• Luke of Fort Worth, Texas: "I found an interesting book at my club's mini-library,
"I think the biggest takeaway for me was that Laver was essentially way down the list in the GOAT debate at that time, but today ... Gonzalez and Kramer are not even in the mix! It will be interesting to see where Federer is in the debate 30-plus years from now. And by the way, if you want to know how several of history's players played the game, this is a pretty fun book to read."
• Christopher M. Jones of West Chester, Pa.: "Did you see this ridiculous pickup by Gael Monfils? I've never
• Reader Kendra Baisinger
• The WTA Board of Directors
• Ubaldo Scangatta with the
• Regarding our
"I saw your comments on the turnout in Shanghai and, based on the fact that I've been going since 2005 (first as the Tennis Masters Cup and the last three years as the Masters 1000 event), I thought I'd give you a little more info. You mentioned that the venue is an hour from the center of the city with no traffic, but it's worse than that. Most people don't drive; they take a combination of subway, shuttle buses and taxis -- each with its own issues. The subway system shuts down incredibly early for a major city (the official reason is for maintenance -- but the locals say it is to give the taxi drivers a captive audience). The published last train leaves at 10:30 p.m., and on more than one occasion we fans have been stuck when for one reason or another it shuts down even earlier. And that's assuming you get to the station -- the shuttle buses are filled beyond capacity and move really slowly (and on Saturday night I almost missed the last train because the bus was involved in a minor fender bender with a taxi and the drivers stood yelling at each other for 45 minutes).
"The taxi option isn't much better. While a taxi to the venue isn't too bad, at night the drivers refuse to turn on their meters and are asking for two or three times the normal amount for the trip back to the city. I would have loved to watch the Fish-Tomic match and other late matches but had to bail to make sure I didn't get stranded. The Chinese sports TV station doesn't help by forcing the last match to start at 8 p.m.
"The Chinese people are very status-driven, so when you have both Federer and Djokovic absent, it's no surprise that the fans don't show up or stay for the last match. Apologies to Andy Murray, but until he wins a major, he's not going to be a draw. And on that point, I think you'd agree we've seen poor turnouts at Roland Garros in the lower section when Fed and Rafa aren't playing. I also went to Barcelona this year. The first semifinal was Almagro-Ferrer, and barely 50 percent of the seats were filled; they only filled up for the second semi with Rafa.
"I also think the Chinese people are beginning to realize that players dropping out -- Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Robin Soderling weren't there either -- are going to be a reality. They aren't suckers and realize they aren't getting the same product as Indian Wells, Miami and the earlier 1000 Series events. You should come next year to see for yourself. Even with all the craziness and frustrations, I plan on going for my eighth straight year next October. Bring your racket -- my hotel has 11 courts."
• Ivan H. of New York with double long-lost siblings:
Have a good week, everyone!