Wednesday January 2nd, 2008

Hear the one about the tennis off-season? It fell on a Tuesday this year.

Off-season? There's a longer interval of time between Novak Djokovic's first and second serves. I mean, Jan Kristian Silva takes naps lasting longer than that. Baseball has a hot stove league. Tennis barely has a microwave. Last time we came across such a quick emergence, we were reading On Chesil Beach.

Yes, here it is less than four weeks after the 2007 Davis Cup finale and already tennis is back on the sonar screen. Next week, we'll return with a regular mailbag, but to kick off a new season, a quiz of divinations for 2008:

1. Two short of Pete Sampras' career record, Roger Federer will win this many Grand Slam singles titles this year:

a. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d. 4

2. This holy grail will be achieved:

a. Federer winning the French Open b. Federer winning the Grand Slam c. Justine Henin winning Wimbledon d. Rafael Nadal winning a major other than the French

3. This player will win his first Slam:

a. Novak Djokovic b. David Nalbandian c. Andy Murray d. None of the above

4. This player will win her first Slam:

a. Ana Ivanovic b. Jelena Jankovic c. Nicole Vaidisova d. None of the above

5. This upstart will finish the year in the WTA's top 10:

a. Agnes Szavay b. Viktoria Azarenka c. Alona Bondarenko d. Agnieszka Radwanksa

6. To the WTA's delight, this player will announce a comeback:

a. Monica Seles b. Jennifer Capriati c. Anna Kournikova d. Kim Clijsters

7. In continuing fallout from the ATP match-fixing scandal:

a. The first tennis official to utter the talking point "We do not believe there is a corruption problem" for the hundredth time wins a lifetime supply of Fierce Melon flavored Gatorade.

b. More ATP matches -- some as old as five years ago involving retired players -- will come under scrutiny for irregular betting patterns.

c. Every player ranked No. 2 and lower will reluctantly concede to tanking matches against Federer.

d. Tennis will legalize match-fixing, making results so suspect that no gambler would ever want to go near the sport, thus obviating the problem.

8. This country will win the Davis Cup:

a. United States b. Argentina c. Russia d. France

9. Striving to meet the high standards set by Tommy-Haas-and-the-poisoned-latte caper, the outré tennis story of the year will be:

a. WTA 'wicka coven' accused of elaborate blood drinking ritual

b. Documents reveal that Sharapova born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1968.

c. James Blake admits to secret life as drummer for Judas Priest cover band

d. Nadal upset by Karlovic at French: asserts rackets were stolen and strung with guitar string."

10. This will rank among tennis' feel-good stories:

a. Federer will take some of the windfall from his forthcoming Nike deal and singlehandedly fund the ATP bonus pool.

b. Lindsay Davenport will become the first mother since Yvonne Goolagong to win a Grand Slam.

c. Donald Young will continue his ascent, riding his lefty, funkadelic game into the top 40.

d. Sampras will return to play Wimbledon and reach the second week, before falling to resurgent Marat Safin.

My answers:

1. b 2. c 3. a 4. d 5. b 6. b 7. b 8. c 9. d 10. c

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