Roddick's Olympic hopes, Federer's tennis fandom, more Mailbag
While wondering what the Tennis Integrity Unit thinks of the ATP's bet-a-home Open held in Germany this week ...
• There has been a lot of concern about Roddick lately, both among you guys, the USTA suits and the American tennis establishment more generally. After a solid decade in the top 10, Roddick isn't the player he once was. His body is betraying him. His confidence level isn't where it needs to be. His shots don't penetrate the court the way they once did. Losing to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is one thing; failing to win sets on fast surfaces is something else. I have no doubt that Roddick, almost 29, is asking himself a lot of the same difficult questions as everyone else.
Deciding when to retire is obviously a deeply personal decision. I've heard it likened to knowing when to sell a stock -- do you have another run-up in you or is this thing going to continue trending downward? But it goes so much deeper than that. Some players can adjust their goals accordingly and find motivation in smaller victories. (See: Juan Carlos Ferrero, age 31, who
In a team sport, Roddick comes off the bench for the contender, hits a few jumpers and infuses the locker room with his veteran presence. He becomes a designated hitter. It doesn't work that way in tennis. You eat what you kill.
• A few of you asked about that. I think that it's a slippery slope when we're asking players to be less than truthful. If Federer doesn't intend to watch, why would we he say otherwise? I suppose there's some arrogance to it, but so what? He's not a fan; he's the third leg of the Nadal-Djokovic three-way rivalry and it must sting like hell that he's not at the party.
• Thanks, Keith. I've heard opinions on both sides of the ... huh? ... what's that? No, wait. Here comes, "Ranjit Gupte, of New York: "I was a bit surprised by your positive comments on Chris Evert's performance as an announcer at Wimbledon. She started so many sentences with 'In my day ...' that I found myself distracted from the action and just counting the number of times she steered any commentary to herself."
Again, there's a scoreboard that tells us, unequivocally, that Djokovic beat Nadal, that Petra Kvitova beat Maria Sharapova. There is no scoreboard in the broadcast booth. Some of you love Brad Gilbert's Joe Sports Fan sensibilities; some of you want him to spend a mandatory year abroad. Some of you resent Fernandez's blandness; others admire a commentator who doesn't make herself the focus of attention. Unless commentators are factually inaccurate or eating soup with their hands while announcing, the judgments are subjective.
• I come in for some blame here, as I pick the questions. We could fill the space with love letters to the sport and upbeat discussion about the virtues of tennis, Justine Henin's backhand, Justin Gimelstob's taste in clothes, Pat Rafter's looks and personality, Wimbledon's charm and other unobjectionable topics. It's often more fun -- and, frankly, productive -- to talk about the controversial topics and issues that threaten or polarize. How's the saying go? No one wants to read about the planes that land safely.
What is sometimes dispiriting: the level of bile. You may prefer Nadal to Federer or vice versa, but their rivalry does not reduce to good versus evil. You may take issue with Serena Williams' level of professionalism, but she should not be banned. You may dislike Victoria Azarenka's sounds effects, but do you really want to see her shred her knee and never play again? What a nice place the interweb would be if some people would dial down the intensity level. Or if there were accountability.
• It's probably better if I yield the floor to Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon, or the lawyers at Covington and Burling. But here's my greatly dummied-down version. This bore a lot of similarity to the Comcast dispute with the NFL Network (since settled) several years ago. Comcast ghettoized Tennis Channel to the boonies of the sports tier. Tennis Channel resented this placement. Comcast said, "Hey, it's our prerogative to put networks where we see fit and you don't have the numbers to justify better placement." Tennis Channel, understandably, contested this: "This is anti-competitive. If you didn't relegate us to cable Siberia, we'd have the numbers."
It seems to me that a critical element in this dispute was the highly comparable (and Comcast-owned) Golf Channel, also a network devoted to an individual sport. As any Comcast subscriber knows, Golf Channel is treated much better. The ALJ weighed in
The question is: Now what? What will be the remedy? Simply a fine and a strongly worded decision? Will Tennis Channel now move up the "cable org chart," leading to better distribution and more revenue? Might Comcast simply buy Tennis Channel outright? Stay tuned.
• I suspect Sergio Tacchini would just as soon avoid the Hingis reference. It
But your point is interesting. A few years ago, adidas had a "Lady or the Tiger" choice: Andy Murray or Djokovic. Suffice it to say, in hindsight, it'd probably play that hand differently. It will be interesting to see whether Nike will back up the Money Truck -- particularly with Federer getting on in years and Serena so unreliable -- and try to lure in Djokovic. On the plus side, Djokovic is a charismatic, good-looking guy who figures to do a lot more winning. On the other side of the ledger, Nike is already locked in with Nadal and -- especially given the modest size and purchasing power of the Serbian market -- is there really a need for another multimillion-dollar endorser?
Meanwhile, for as big a debacle as LeBron James'
• Here's the Davis Cup captain:
"Data I am interested in: first- and second-serve location on pressure points (30-all and above). Return-of-serve targeting on pressure points (where the receiver hits returns, and second-serve info is more useful as a player has a choice vs. first-serve info when a player reacts and is typically forced into a response). Passing shot locations. Volley locations. Rally combinations and patterns (how someone tries to maneuver into an advantageous position). Aggression response locations (where Rafa hits his backhand if you go big inside-in, as an example). There's plenty to see here in this area if you have access to the info. Tennis Australia has been doing good work on this front and the USTA is hard-charging with it as well."
• Dudette!!!! The main reason to extend the grass-court season is to space out the Roland Garros-Wimbledon stretch and give players more than two weeks to get acclimated to those green blades underfoot. Otherwise, we're just adding events to an already-overcrowded schedule. (Helen suggested that two Philadelphia-area clubs would be able to accommodate a grass-court tournament.)
Speaking of, last month I had the good fortune of hitting some balls at Queen's Club, the site of the Wimbledon tuneup AEGON event. I was really impressed with the place. It's quaint without being stuffy, dignified without being pretentious. But the notion that they hold a top-flight ATP event on the grounds is hard to conceive.
• I'm not sure we can divide that by gender. Plenty of men stare at their entourages as well. I hate the message that projects, though. If I'm playing an opponent who's constantly riveting her gaze at her "team," I'm thinking,
• Add this: Here's her
The problem is that tennis is as much a mental/emotional/neurological pursuit as it is a physical pursuit. Mauresmo was never a mental giant, even in her prime. She had trouble closing matches and was prone to burnout. Could she come back for an event? Yes. Could she do the job day-in, day-out, traveling the circuit, grinding out practices and sparring sessions? Less likely.
• This week's anti-grunting screed comes from Jeff, of Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
"In my younger days, when I was serious about physical fitness, I had a few sessions with a personal trainer. I suppose I was trying to impress him by emitting a King Kong roar on each rep. When I finished the set, he asked, 'What's with the noise?' He pointed out that grunting/shrieking requires physical energy. Rather than waste energy wailing like a banshee, I should be using that energy on the exercise itself. With that in mind, how much energy do the WTA shriekers waste in the course of a match on the pointless, ridiculous vocalizations? Has a shrieker ever won a major? (I think Maria Sharapova's caterwauling has gotten steadily worse over the years.) Not only is it horrendous to listen to and ruining the image of the sport, it's bad form from a purely physical standpoint. Someone needs to tell the shriekers that they need to concentrate more on tennis and less on assaulting the ears of the fans."
• Here comes
• Buffalo Sabres fans might know him by another name, but
• Suresh of Someone Inadvertently Deleted Hometown: "For all those who think [Roger Federer] should retire. Here is a quick
• Tara B. of Bethesda, Md.: "Here's a short profile on the winner of Andy Roddick's Fourth of July hot dog eating contest -- Davis Cup practice partner and NCAA champ
• Anonymous of Richmond, Va.: "I guess it takes someone with a chronic disease to point out how insulting the coverage of Nadal's injury was. Commentators claimed it helped him remove the pressure of competing, that he was overly sensitive to pain, and that he used his injury to engage in gamesmanship. But Nadal's problems are not the sort of so-called niggling injuries that players carry around; rather, they are well-documented chronic conditions that could be a problem for him long after tennis. Many people with chronic diseases are accused (even by well-meaning people) of somehow using the disease as a crutch. But on the contrary, we have to work twice as hard as anyone else when we're healthy, because we never know when the hammer might fall. Nadal's sensitivity to pain is not something he needs to 'get over.' It's a well-honed survival mechanism that helps him be alert to when his condition is changing or worsening."
• Matt Scherer of Wilmington, Del.: "Don't know if this video has been linked here before, but maybe Alex Bogomolov wouldn't have had to give up a tenth of his winnings
• Mike Reed of New Kensington, Pa.: "Jon, it's nice to know that the Steelers' Brett Keisel has a compadre in George Bastl!"
• Brad Uy of Honolulu: "Has anyone seen
Have a good week, everyone!