Wednesday May 19th, 2010

Hey everyone, I'm on vacation this week. I'll be back Day One of the French. Maybe we'll try to do a live Twitter chat during the event. I'm here.

First, full disclosure: I used to work for Tennis Canada. I am frustrated that when Canadian tennis players do not perform well on tour, the organization sugarcoats the losses or puts a positive spin on them ("Player A battled hard in his 6-2, 6-1 first round loss") instead of simply stating the truth: Canadian tennis players are not playing up to their full potential on either tour. I appreciate that as the national governing body of tennis, Tennis Canada wants to promote the sport, so it makes sense that it would want to view the play in positive terms. But I think the organization does a disservice to fans when it does not admit that players are not meeting their goals. When Wozniak rose up to No. 21 on the WTA tour, Tennis Canada lavished huge praise on her (there was no neutrality) and wrote many articles discussing why her play had improved; yet in the last few months, as she has been losing more and more often, Tennis Canada has failed to offer an explanation or comment about her disappointing play. I commend the organization for using the term "rocked" to describe the match, as that is what happened: She WAS rocked. This was no run-of-the-mill loss. I also hope that this represents a turning point for Tennis Canada when writing about not only Canadian players, but all tennis players: Celebrate successes, but also accurately report failures. -- Anonymous, Toronto

Fair enough. We've discussed this before. When the WTA recaps Monica Seles' career and neglects any mention of the stabbing, it insults the readers. Same for when the ATP write-up of Wayne Odesnik makes no mention his recent legal issues. As I wrote last week, there was something admirable about the withering candor. And yet I'm surprised the national association would characterize its top player's losses so harshly.

I have to disagree with you about the source/inspiration of Roger's and Rafa's plaid pants craze. There is no better trendsetter in that arena than tennis' own Bud Collins! -- Talia Schank, New York, NY

Bud Collins wouldn't be caught dead in Nadal's plaids.

I don't understand this "Roger Federer, what a jerk" stuff. How can you call someone a jerk just because he spares half an hour of his time to give some kids a moment of happiness? When the Masters Cup was held here in Portugal back in 2000, Pete Sampras did exactly the same thing. -- Filipe, Lisbon, Portugal

Here's a link that might help clarify.

Seriously, quite apart from Federer's playing a non-mandatory event in Estoril and still making time to attend a kids' clinic, note his level of interest and engagement. (There's a great story about Marcelo Rios grudgingly attending a clinic, but refusing to end his cell conversation while he hit balls with the kids.) We've talked about this before, but as Filipe notes, Federer spends half an hour and gives a group of kids an experience I suspect they'll never forget. Man, he will be missed when he's gone.

Every year when someone asks what to do at Roland Garros, you trot out the "check out the bullring!" comment. But ya gotta have a ticket to get in there! And this year, for the first time, after YEARS of trying, I FINALLY have a ticket on Court 1. In fact I finally scored my personal trifecta of getting tickets on all three show courts on the same day. I LOVE viagogo!! -- Helen, Philadelphia

If anyone quotes me on this, I'll deny it. But you can sneak into the Bullring pretty easily. Just act like you know what you're doing.

Is it just me or is there a gigantic new breed of ball kids and lines people threatening to dominate the sport by humbling the players? -- Marc, Youngstown, Ohio

Yes, for all that ails tennis -- tragic television coverage, the never-ending quest for sponsorship, injuries galore -- gigantic ballkids looms largest. And is it me, or is "ballkids" the biggest misnomer this side of "Comfort Inn"? At some of these events the on-court attendants are sufficiently old enough to require their food cut into small bite-sized pieces lest their dentures become clogged.

Speaking of Money for Nothing (4/26/10) what about volunteers at the majors? Shouldn't events like Wimbledon that make "in the neighborhood of 100 million pounds" have to pay everyone that works at the tournament, instead of continuing to have volunteers? -- Allen Chan, Newark, Calif.

Oddly, that question came up a few months ago. The corporate response: If we had to pay volunteers, we would no longer be making nine-figure revenues. But I think the better answer is that everyone wins. Just about every volunteer I've ever spoken with is thrilled to be part of the show. They get to peer backstage and see tennis "up close and personal." They usually get some swag as well as some free tickets. The gig is a fun diversion from their day jobs. There are often more volunteers than there are positions. And, as you imply, the events benefit because they get free labor. If the volunteers get all Norma Rae (or DeMaurice Smith), maybe the tournament could vow to make a donation to junior local programs on behalf of each worker. Paying them, however, seems out of whack with what the market bears.

Generalizing re: Nadal's $525K watch: The sport still suffers from its effete, country club heritage. With tennis perpetually trying to boost the athletic status of its top players, I simply do not understand why any pro player would wear a watch while playing. Not to mention the fact that any weight or encumbrance, however small, is a potential hindrance to performance. Uncompromising athletes shouldn't wear watches -- or any other jewelry -- while competing. -- Larry Larson, Alexandria, Va.

Totally. I would add that it's especially so in this case. Nadal is one of the few players with the street cred to correct the all-too-popular misconception that tennis is a sport of entitled. Here's a handsome, cool, colorful, ripped athlete that the kids love. (Check out Babolat's sales figures if you don't believe me.) Why on earth would you want to undermine that image by plying him with a half-million dollar watch and the kind of outfit you'd expect to see at a Harvard 40th reunion? Can we start some sort of "Bring back the sleeveless shirt and clamdiggers" Facebook group?

Jon, Why is it an accomplishment to beat both Serena and Venus in the same tournament? The only thing they share in common is their parents. Their game is not similar. It would be more of an accomplishment if a player beats both the No. 1 and No. 2 players to win a tournament or if they beat four or five players in the top ten and win the tournament. The emphasis and focus on beating the sisters in the same tournament is just odd, and a little disturbing. -- Demetri, Chicago

Why would that be odd, much less disturbing? They're two sisters; they're terrific players; they've won roughly half the Majors played over the last decade. Why wouldn't it be interesting to know which opponents pulled off the formidable feat of beating them each in one tournament? What am I missing here?

Serena is No. 1 and Venus is No. 2! I don't know how Classy Kim C. and J. Henin did it but I'd like to thank them for "saving tennis" and putting the tennis world back in its proper order. -- Joe Somerville, Hillsborough, NJ

We'll say it once, we'll say it every week: The tennis narrative is like the weather in Texas. Don't like it? Wait ten minutes and it will change. Even with Clijsters out of the French, compare where we were a year ago versus now.

Higis-Kournikova. Legends Doubles. Wimbledon. OMG! Any thoughts? -- Peter Vincent Quetulio, Dagupan City, Philippines

I keep hearing that Hingis is planning a bona fide comeback, so think of this as a dry run. Stay tuned.

Karen must choose. It's either NY or NJ. Never both! -- Brian Thomas, Poughkeepsie, NY

Agree. Take a stand, Karen!

Hi Jon, I was watching some video of the 1989 U.S. Open match between Paul Haarhuis and John McEnroe and thought to myself, Paul must be related to the character Kenneth from 30 Rock. What do you think? -- Pete Chan, Benicia, Calif.

"Well, gosh golly, Mr. McEnroe. In Stone Mountain, foul language like that would get you kicked out of the church taffy pull!"

Zach Bishop of Denver: "Great result from the Sarasota Challenger this week when Nick Monroe was beaten by Matt Reid in the qualis, gained entry into the main draw via Chris Guccione's withdrawal, and then was beaten soundly by Matt Reid again."

David Nieves of NYC: "One of the best tennis books I've read is The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century by Steve Flink. It is slightly dated but definitely a great read. It can be found online for about 10 bucks a copy. Definitely worth the money!

• In case you missed it, here's the Steffi Graf Q&A.

• Speaking of: CNN is doing an interview with Steffi and Andre on May 19th.

• Tennis history was made this past weekend in Georgia, where the Walton High girls tennis team in Marietta (another Atlanta suburb which produced Melanie Oudin/Robby Ginepri/Donald Young) just won its seventh consecutive state title. And, oh yeah, the girls have gone undefeated in those years. Their win streak is 133-0 and now the all-time longest high school record in Georgia history (and fifth nationally).

• New York area readers take note:

The New York Sportimes announced a surprise inter-generational match-up of U.S. tennis greats, along with a host of significant fan-friendly promotions for their seven July 2010 WTT home match dates at the new, $18 million state-of-the-art SPORTIME at Randall's Island Tennis Center, featuring the 2,000 seat Sportimes Stadium. Just included in the Sportimes' 2010 schedule will be an added treat for NYC tennis fans, as tennis legend and Sportimes' captain, John McEnroe, faces current American #1 and 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick for the first time ever in New York City, as part of the Sportimes' July 14 matchup with the Philadelphia Freedoms.

The Sportimes will provide free shuttle bus service from several stops on the East Side of Manhattan, starting two hours prior to each match and returning to the same locations following the conclusion of each night's events. For the matches on July 5th, 11th and 12th, the team will also reimburse Sportimes ticket holders who drive to Randall's Island for these Sportimes matches for their RFK bridge toll. Ticket holders who submit a paid toll receipt, or who show an EZ-Pass badge, will have the cost of the toll subtracted from their ticket price and those who purchase tickets in advance will have the cost of the toll reimbursed on site.

• Babolat will sponsor a tennis T-shirt design contest on Sports Illustrated Group's Babolat encourages children to get in the spirit with an art contest to kick off the 2010 French Open. The Babolat tennis T-shirt contest invites readers of SI Kids to draw their favorite Team Babolat player -- Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Gonzalez, Caroline Wozniacki or Kim Clijsters -- or any tennis inspired art for a chance to win weekly prizes including autographed Babolat tennis racquets and gear. Fans may submit their original works on Visitors to the site will be able to vote on a design. The artist of the design that receives the most votes at the end of each week will win T-shirts, hats, backpacks and more from Babolat. Winners will be announced on every week through the French Open, concluding June 6, 2010. To enter, draw your favorite Babolat player on the template provided at, then upload the drawing on the T-shirt contest page.

Justin Gimelstob on Pete and Andre.

• Enter the French Open suicide pool here.

Emily of Dayton: Long lost siblings Tathiana Garbin and Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. Thanks to my friend, Parker, for the photos.

Have a great week, everyone!

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