Flying under the cultural radar plays to Kvitova's favor, more mail
• After going into tennis' answer to the witness protection program during the U.S. hardcourt swing, Kvitova emerged as the WTA Alpha Female this fall. She was not only the star of the Istanbul year-ender but she also led the Czech Republic to Fed Cup glory (inasmuch as such a thing exists) last weekend. She is No. 2 in the rankings but is the new unofficial front-runner -- the Herman Cain of the WTA, as it were -- and she may well take over the points lead by the end of January.
I don't disagree with the "modest, small-town girl still somewhat in awe of her status" characterization. But this could be a disguised blessing. Yes, she might lack a certain marketing savvy and cultural currency. (She is not leaving guest passes for Anna Wintour. She was not at the Kardashian wedding. She does not date an NBA player or a PGA star. She is not killing it on Twitter.)
But neither is she burdened with expectation or apportioning her time between the practice court, the photo shoot and the sponsor event. She can simply play tennis, continue improving and keeping it simple. The WTA, the tennis tastemakers and the media (I don't exclude myself) might wish for a more dynamic, quotable, transcendent celebrity figure. But, finally, it's Kvitova's job to win tennis matches, not be glamorous.
I also don't buy the implied (and sometimes expressed) notion that coming from a small town blunts motivation and infuses a player with a just-happy-to-be-here complacency. Every athlete is wired differently. There are big-city sophisticates who are content to win now and then, make their money, penetrate the velvet ropes and live well -- and if they don't max out their potential, so be it. Then there are types like Rafael Nadal and Steffi Graf who come from modest towns, but are as driven as anyone.
• Good question. Biographies ought to have a third act, which is why Nadal's book -- much like Andy Murray's -- wasn't altogether satisfying. It's hard to read a biography while the script is unfolding in real time. The flip side is that you can't wait too long. As a reader, you want the subject to have relevance. I was recently talking to a former Grand Slam champion who's interested in writing a tell-all. (Or, at least, a tell-some.) The problem is that he is many years removed from his glory days as a player. I told him that he may have a good book in him, but he'll have to do more than rehash details of long-forgotten matches.
Which brings us to the main point. Ultimately, the proverbial proof is in the proverbial pudding. People want to read interesting and authentic and substantive books. And, ultimately, it's up the subject how much he or she wants to reveal. Agassi's
To your question, I would love to read Roger Federer's inevitable book. (I hear he has been dutifully taking notes for years now.) But that's working on the assumption that it will be filled with insight and candor and introspection and emotion and arc.
A dry, antiseptic career retrospective would be a disappointment. ("I was fortunate to survive, but in the next round I was to face Karlovic, whose serve is powerful and ..." Fuihnuhir3gbijp1mao -- sorry, my head just hit the keyboard just thinking about how boring this would be.) But, really, virtually ever player has an interesting story and, potentially, interesting observations and stories. It's a question of whether they feel comfortable revealing it all.
• Context: A few weeks ago
As for your question, I think there's a push-pull between wanting to emulate the great ones and wanting immediate success. Junior players -- risk averse to start with -- take to the easier and more conservative two-hander. It is the rare "tween" (or the rare coach) who is willing to invest in a one-hander, which pays dividends later on but may cause some losses in the short term.
• I pity the fool who makes that claim. Sorry, had to get in
• This recalls the old line (I want to credit Churchill but Goggle fails me), "He is a leader of men; and a follower of women." Seriously, I don't know much about his platform but Safin has always been a bright and curious and charismatic figure. And bravo to him for seeking out a challenging Career 2.0 and not simply coasting along on his good looks, his wealth and what he achieved in his 20s. The more interesting story to me, though, is Anna Chakvetadze, a tragic tennis figure, who is running for a similar position. (More on her in a future column.)
• Beauty is in the eye of the title holder. My vote goes to the old Diamond Proximus Trophy, basically a diamond-studded racket valued at something near $1.5 million. Amelie Mauresmo won it in 2007, so it was replaced in 2008 with a gold racket and ball adorned with 2,008 diamonds. Value: $2 million.
Also, check out
• Yeah, we're obviously talking about degrees here. I wouldn't say the WTF is a non-factor. But clearly it doesn't carry as much heft as a Slam. I think you're right that it gets the short shrift. You're talking about a week of matches against the absolute best players.
I also think the placement in the season is relevant, coming as it does in late November. If you're still hitting the high notes and nailing it on your stringed instrument, 10 months into the worldwide concert tour, it says a lot about your stamina/professionalism/dedication. This is thinly veiled Federer praise. He makes a real statement when it's Thanksgiving weekend and he's still on his game.
The points against importing too much weight on the WTF: A round-robin event is so structurally different from a conventional tournament, much less a 128-player draw, best-of-five major. The indoor surface -- one that accommodates no majors -- resists serious treatment. You could say that the season is intolerably long, thus there's little gravitas winning so late in the year when the field is so physically beaten up and emotionally fatigued.
• Yes, indeed. Scoop sent me a preview and I laughed out loud at the back-cover blurbs:
Michael Chang: "Why are you writing a book about Marcelo Rios?"
Ilie Nastase: "He's the worst pr--k I ever met."
Roger Federer: "I was a big admirer of Marcelo."
I look forward to reading it.
• Are you kidding me? That's friggin' hilarious. Almost as funny as when a pigeon flies near the court. Or when a player scrambles to retrieve an overhead and sends up a defensive lob that goes a mile in the air and -- wait for it -- lands in the court!
• The Tennis Hall of Fame voting is underway. As we've done in the past, you guys make your picks, I'll take them under advisement and cast my vote accordingly. This year's nominees: Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Gustavo Kuerten. Send picks via Twitter:
• Our intrepid unofficial Basel correspondent, Sally Duncan, writes: "There were important federal elections last week in Switzerland. It is possible for voters to enter names of anyone they want to elect onto their voting slip. Roger Federer's name appeared on Wollerau's voting slips 132 times. He knew nothing about this until a christening he attended last week. Apparently someone had suggested adding his name on Facebook and the suggestion was taken up 131 times."
• Andre Agassi
• Paul of London was the first to note: "The extra money for Wozniacki will be from the WTA Bonus list given out if they meet their tournament commitments. Wozniacki is entitled to the most as world No. 1 but others will get extra money as well."
• Thanks to reader Carolyn Nichols of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., for alerting us that the USA Super Senior teams (age 60-80+) won gold medals (on red clay, no less) in 7 out of 10 Cups played in Antalya, Turkey, on Oct 15 and 16 and that Americans won individual gold medals the following weeks: two singles and 11 in doubles. Here's a
• Vitaly of New York: "Not sure if you've already seen/posted this, but here's
• University of Virginia freshman Mitchell Frank won the
• Anastasia Myskina was honored with
• The USTA
• Daron VonZotto of Santa Monica, Calif., with this week's long-lost siblings:
Have a good week, everyone!