Can Kvitova handle the spotlight? A new marketing idea, more mail
Check back later this week for an Australian Open preview ...
• I think you pretty much nailed it. On talent alone, she could have her own lane on the WTA highway for many years to come. It's a question of whether she's mentally prepared to handle success and all the attendant pressures.
One of you likened Kvitova to Steffi Graf, a pleasant, introverted European from a small town, who didn't have celebrity ambitions, didn't crave (or even like) publicity, didn't have interest in doing much more than winning tennis matches. Now more than ever, that's not realistic. When you're winning and ranked No. 1 (as Kvitova may well be in a matter of days) you have, ex officio, a level of power, authority and responsibility.
If I'm day-trading, I'm loading up on Kvitova stock right now. After her summer swoon, she now has a better sense of what she needs to do to sustain success. She is gradually getting more comfortable with her public profile. Her game is not only unsurpassed but also still improving. And with Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters far closer to the omega of their career than the alpha, almost by default Kvitova is the leading candidate to take the wheel.
• Thanks, a few of you mentioned that. Let's be clear, Safina is not officially retired. (Though her own brother is among those saying she likely has played her last match.)
For all sorts of reasons, I'd love little more than for Safina to return. She was so conspicuously vulnerable -- so withering in her self-assessment, so brutally honest, so unwilling/unable to suppress emotion and thoughts -- that she left herself exposed. She "let us in," as they say. There was something almost voyeuristic about watching her matches and following the drama that often ensued. Safina is, unfortunately, probably best known a) for being Marat's sister, b) for failing to win a major despite achieving the top ranking and c) her
But let's not forget: She was (and still can be?) a top-tier tennis player. She reached three major finals, won various other events and deployed a game that relied on pace, yes, but also relentless depth.
• I can't tell if you're being serious but I love that idea. For each UFC fight card, fighters are paid a wage (often appallingly low) to show up and then it usually doubles if they win their fight. But they are also eligible for significant bonuses (like, $75,000 significant) for fight of the night, submission of the night, etc.
The financial structure of a tennis event is obviously different, but why not borrow this idea and award a modest cash prize for the best match, best performance and even best shot at events? The cash need not be a lot, $500 or so. But if, say, Memphis or Sydney offered a "shot of the day bonus," you can bet thousands of us would click on the tournament website to see the winner. (And if would create easy good morale with the players.) If the first few rounds offered a "match of the day" prize, you can bet fans would be interested in that, too. Put that on our tab.
As long as we're talking tennis marketing, here's another idea. (If there are any venture capitalists or angels in the studio audience, please see me after the show). There are dozens, if not hundreds, of tennis exhibitions held annually. Andy Roddick and the Bryans recently played in Oklahoma City. Pete Sampras is playing Todd Martin in Indianapolis the week before the Super Bowl. Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Gonzalez just played a match in Chile. Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki barnstormed Belgium last month.
Countless fans would be interested in these unsanctioned matches. They would pay for live streaming. They would pay for merchandise, a T-shirt from the Roger Federer-Novak Djokovic match in Dubai, for instance. They might even build a small vacation around the event. Problem is, unless you're in the relevant market, it's damn near impossible to find out about these exos.
So the idea is simple: You build an aggregator site -- tennisexos.com or whatever -- publicizing these events worldwide and offering a playing schedule. Sell tickets and merchandise through the site and get a cut of the revenue. Presto. Now, who wants to give me start-up money in exchange for equity?
"1) Coffee -- They love the coffee in Melbourne. As a novice coffee drinker, you can't go wrong with a flat white (espresso plus milk), but I recommend you take on a cappuccino or two.
"2) Day Tours -- Phillips Island to see the Blue Penguins, or the 12 Apostles/Great Ocean Road tour to see a great natural site along the Great Ocean Road and you'll probably see koalas and wombats. Or out to any number of vineyards found in Victoria.
"3) Laneways (or what we might call Alleys) -- During the day there's no better place to get stuck than the alleys filled with cafes and coffee shops.
"4) Queen Victoria Markets -- Cool stalls and lively atmosphere.
"5) Federation Square/Flinders Station Area -- So alive, and the square usually has something going on (arts, music, etc.).
"6) Walk along the Yarra River and pop in and out of restaurants, shops and the one casino in town.
"7) Skydeck 88 -- Highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere. Standing on clear glass that high up is a blast!
"8) Asian food -- Thai/Vietnamese/Malaysian, etc. It's everywhere and it's good!
"9) Hidden treasure -- The Melbourne Supper Club. 161 Spring St. Great little spot next to The European. Great view indoors of the Parliament House and a great roof deck."
• If you saw them head-to-head last week, you're in a better position to judge than I am. I still say we need to consider this difference: Gonzalez is Nuke LaLoosh, delivering with overwhelming force. Del Potro is bludgeoning the ball, but looks to be doing so at about 80 percent capacity.
• Fair enough. I still say "the" Grand Slam" versus "a" Grand Slam" solves the problem.
• What was the probability that the Knicks weren't going to get the top pick in the 1985 NBA Draft?
• Don't let the escape key hit you on the way out.
• Oh, Daniel. You must follow tennis in the Southern Hemisphere more closely. When players are injured, they are compelled to retire -- sometimes at the tip of a rifle. Those who try to resist compulsory retirement? Let's just say it's not pretty. (Your point is well-taken. Players choose to retire.)
• On account of your intemperate letter, I wish you the following: May your otherwise cherubic 8-year-old daughter sit in the backseat of your car, enthusiastically singing: "Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack/ Cause when I leave for the night, I ain't coming back."
• You know what would be fun? If Monte Carlo had Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams for residents. On this same issue, Sammy of Toronto has a good point: "Yeah, Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor were not born in Canada, and if their family didn't bring them here (as toddlers), Canadian men's tennis wouldn't have had whatever little bragging rights it currently does. But why stop there? By the same token, If the Sampras and Agassi families didn't immigrate to the USA from Greece and Iran, respectively, the landscape of American men's tennis in the 1990s would've been drastically different and we would've been talking about America's 20-year Slam drought as opposed to the current 10."
As for the best tennis town. ...
• Check back Friday for the debut of the SI.com Tennis Podcast. James Blake joins the show to talk about his knee injury, the Australian Open and more.
• This week's encounters with a pro:
"Anyway, Agassi heads straight to my friend, the beautiful Sarah. He was very much flirting with her and his entourage had to pull him away from her. You'd think I would've been jealous, but instead I was in awe. She always attracted the cutest boys. Later that night, we saw Lendl and Agassi play and were pleased to watch Agassi torment a nasty classmate of mine who was acting as a ball boy. We had the time of our lives. Sarah sadly passed away a few months later but I always smile when I see Agassi and Steffi together. I wonder, 'What would have happened if Andre's entourage hadn't pulled him away from Sarah?' "
"And then there was Evonne Goolagong. The final year, the tournament was moved to the Richfield Coliseum, and Evonne played and every ball boy had a crush on her. The Coliseum was (naturally) colossal, and one afternoon a friend and I were taking an elevator from the main-stage show court up to one of the smaller courts, sharing a big bucket of popcorn. Elevator stops, doors open and Evonne gets on. Immediately she looks over at us and smiles a really amazing smile. As we head upstairs, she says, 'That smells really good.' I hold out the bucket: 'Do you want some?' She digs her hand in, eats a big mouthful of popcorn, smiles again and gets off the elevator to go play her match. I suppose it goes without saying that she went on to win the tournament over Ms. Virginia Wade."
• Another Australian Open tip: Michael Costa, former Illinois tennis player, will be performing at the Comics Lounge in Melbourne from Jan. 16-24.
• New York readers, here's an event to check out, a live broadcast of Slate's "Hang Up and Listen."
• Nice to see Arnaud Clement
• Hey, Djokovic: Venus and Serena will see your gluten free-dom and raise
• More Sacha Jones, from Tracy Collins of Phoenix: "It was with great interest that I read
"Six weeks later, she was sidelined by severe injury and, like so many players, 'can't-miss' was derailed by physical problems. It's hard to blame her, at 21, for trying to use a parent's birthright to try to regain some momentum, especially when the marquee 'Aussie' players are mostly of Eastern European heritage. It's unfortunate that she should take such criticism. She's a delightful young woman who stayed true to New Zealand at her best times. She deserves every break she has a right to in her quest to play on the WTA Tour. Thanks so much for sharing the story from NZ!"
• We've been slacking on our anti-grunting mail lately. John R. Grace of Aberdeen, Md.: "I've come to accept that the women's game is full of grunting and will not change anytime soon. Yes, I've accepted it ... but sadly, I've also stopped watching women's tennis. Regardless of how compelling the matchup may be or, frankly, how attractive one or both of the contestants may be, I can no longer take the shrill shrieking with every swing of the racket. I'm done until the WTA solves the problem."
• Milos Raonic has committed to play the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in July. And, turnabout being fair play, various Hall of Famers -- Agassi, Jim Courier and Martina Navratilova -- will appear at the Rogers Cup in August.
• Australian Open suicide pool.
• Inevitably, we have the
• Kris of Norwalk, Conn., has long-lost siblings:
Have a great week, everyone!