Clearing out Olympic tennis mail
• Do tell. Surely one career Olympic loss (singles, 2008, vs. Elena Dementieva) against four medals has to be a record. And what about dropping only 17 games in six rounds? As one of you noted, Roger Federer dropped that many games in one set. And he won it!
• Love "Swappy Sunday." And that's an interesting question. Would Federer rather have won his first Olympic gold over a seventh Wimbledon? Probably. This was clearly a goal of his and he came up one match short. Would Murray rather have won Wimbledon? I would say yes, but only by the smallest margin. A Brit winning Wimbledon, ending the Fred Perry drought, overcoming the pressure? That's the ultimate. But there's always a "next year" to win Wimbledon. Taking gold at an Olympics held in London? That's a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
• The ITF, known for flexibility and innovation. I'm telling you, the Olympics were perfect. Best of three and then a best-of-five final. Not a single retirement. Sufficiently short matches that players could enter doubles and mixed doubles. Preferable for television. Not a single fan or player left those matches saying, "I feel shortchanged. I wish we they could've played two more hours."
• I get a sense that many of his fans are panicking. But look at this objectively: Has he replicated his historic 2011? Not even close. But he's still squarely in the conversation, playing until the business rounds of events. Clearly, he could use a break to recover physically and, more important, mentally. The past 18 months have been a whirlwind. But he'll be back.
• I don't think anyone, anywhere has anointed Murray the new alpha male. Instead, I think we've seen him spend years in the top five, win Masters Series events by the handful and reach the finals in three of the four majors. Now we'll see if the Olympics was the catalyst -- think Ivan Lendl at the 1984 French Open -- that will "translate to Slams."
• It followed Saturday and preceded Monday. The tennis? First, let's give Murray his due. "Rising to the occasion" is a cringe-worthy cliché. But that's pretty much what Murray did. As for Federer, I recalled the 2008 French Open final. Go back 50 months: Federer reaches the last match in Paris. Winning would cement the career Slam. And enable him to make a statement against Rafael Nadal. And reclaim primacy in the sport (remember he had lost in Australia to Djokovic). It was the kind of occasion that some athletes love. "I'm going to play the match of my life and shock the world!" What did Federer do? He laid an egg, never getting into the match and losing to his rival Nadal 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
• Sadly, a year after his breakthrough U.S. Open, Young is currently challenging the record for most consecutive losses. Once the points from last summer and fall come off his ranking -- that's what is enabling him to enter main draws -- he'll be relegated to qualies and smaller events again. Sad story. Say what you will about his parents, his chilly relationship with the USTA, his mental lapses on-court. How do you not root for him to win one match?
• Murray is the hot pick. But keep an eye on Juan Martin del Potro. As for the women, it sure seems like that American veteran, Serena Williams, is in fine form.
• Hewitt beat Marin Cilic and took a set off of Djokovic! I think it's bad form to encourage athletes to retire or suggest they should cut bait. But wondering how much longer they'll choose to endure is another matter entirely. Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers stopped by our NBC studio during Wimbledon. Naturally, the conversation veered toward how many more years Kevin Garnett will continue. (Incidentally, former New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was at the tennis, too. Who else recalls the speculation about his retirement last year?) It's just the nature of sport. As a sports radio host, Roddick, I suspect, knows this as well as anyone does.
• Graying of the field. Fifteen years ago, Martina Hingis challenged for the Grand Slam at age 17 and won three of the four majors. Today, you won't find a teenager near the top of the game.
• Great question. I could see any of those three. Even if Federer never won again, 17 is a big number. Serena is close behind with 14 and currently is obliterating everyone in the field. But she is almost 31 and history tells us she has a way of coming and going. Nadal is out with an injury now and has won only a single major over the past year. But sitting now with 11 total, let's say five more French Opens and one other random major and he's there. Fun to see how this plays out.
• I totally disagree. Initially, yes. Absolutely. There were even icky phrases like "the two-headed monster." But one of the many pleasant components to this story is that as the sisters have matured, they are no longer conflated as a single entity. Even the most casual fans know them as two different people.
Also, note how often the Williams sisters combine themselves. I can't tell you how many times Venus is asked a question and her response starts with, "Well, Serena and I always do XYZ." And vice versa. Apart from playing doubles together, endorsing products together and generally existing as a united front, the sisters conflate themselves. Nothing wrong with that. But it seems like tacit approval to yoke them together when appropriate.
• To me, there's nothing boring about watching an athlete at the absolute peak of her powers. And, without turning this into another G.O.A.T. discussion, give me the top five today against the top five in 1991. Maria Sharapova against Sabatini? Victoria Azarenka against Conchita Martinez? Come on.
• I don't disagree that Federer might well have preferred to play Djokovic. The fans would have supported him. He wouldn't have the attendant subplot of a Brit playing for gold. On grass, he matches up well against Djokovic. But did Federer hold back against Murray because of subconscious empathy? I would estimate the chances of that at about 0.00 percent.
• In tennis, you pick your battles. By departing from the rankings when you do the seeding you A) undercut the WTA's ranking system and B) invariably upset players with your subjectivity. But, yes, it is absurd that the Williams-Williams duo -- clearly the best partnership going, as well as the defending Wimbledon champs -- wasn't seeded at all.
• True, that. He has been the runner-up at each major and the Olympics.
• I hate that this even an (non)issue. A) I firmly believe it was spontaneous show of joy. In no universe was this preconceived by Serena to show up the "crusty [profanity] at Wimbledon,"
For the record, there was considerable outrage about some of the criticism she endured. One example among many, from Lilas Pratt of Marietta, Ga.: "Look, I'm not the biggest Serena Williams fan, but please explain to me why people are criticizing her gold-medal-victory dance? Really, regardless of where the moves originated from, if that is her spontaneous, joyous reaction to winning the gold (as it clearly and apparently was), how is this a bad thing?"
More generally, when it comes to anything mildly critical of Serena, I've seen firsthand how quickly the "race card" and "double standard card" are dealt. But this "controversy" isn't just wrong-headed and hypocritical; it verges on something more pernicious.
Can we all
• Have to go with Federer. Seeing him lose a high-stakes match on Centre Court? In straight sets? To a player he'd just defeated on the same court four weeks earlier? Beaten in virtually every dimension? Losing serve four straight times? So flat on such a big occasion? That's a surprise. DelPo unleashing those flat and heavy strokes to beat Djokovic on grass? Not as much. As an aside, seeing Del Potro's absolutely delirious joy after winning a bronze was one of the more awesome sights I witnessed during the Games.
• Fair point. "Prodding" suggests that Harrison needed to be pushed to apologize. Which was not the case. Watch the interview, though, and it's clear that Justin -- and this is not necessarily a criticism -- was less a journalist than an advocate/mentor for Harrison.
• Love it. Judy Murray? LTA? WTA? Neil Harman? An agent? Somebody forward this to Laura Robson. Players ought to know that these random acts of decency don't go unappreciated by fans.