Celebrating the Bryan brothers, sizing up Blake vs. Fish, more mail
While wondering if the U.S. Open men's final is pushed to Monday for the fourth straight year, will USTA execs lament, "
• The U.S. Open Series is upon us and the next eight weeks or so are good times for North American tennis fans. Cincinnati is a high point and the good folks in the Midwest get a mixed event. As for themes, there are the obvious ones: What's the latest installment in the Novak Djokovic-Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal three-way rivalry? What's the state of Serena Williams' game? (We'll get an early indication at this week's Bank of the West Classic, where she didn't drop a game in her opening victory against Anastasia Rodionova on Tuesday.) Can Petra Kvitova build on -- or, to use the voguish phrase, consolidate -- her Wimbledon success? Where is Kim Clijsters, the defending U.S. Open champ? Where, for that matter, is Andy Roddick, who has, troublingly, lost his last six sets on hard courts? Can Juan Martin del Potro continue his ascent? Can Caroline Wozniacki build some momentum? Lots going on here ...
I'm going to take this opportunity, though, to plug the Bryan brothers, who are, at once, overexposed and the most underrated story in sports. Here is the most successful doubles team in history, fresh from winning Wimbledon, still going strong in their mid-30s. It's almost mesmerizing to watch them play. (If you lament the shortage of net play, you get your fill watching them.) And even at this stage in their careers, they are still prone to sibling fights.
Disclaimer: I got this story from a member of the inner circle and did not see it first hand. But during their semifinal match at the French Open, I gather Mike said something uncharitable to Bob. As they walked to the chair for a changeover, Bob blindsided Mike, punching him in the back of the head and nearly flooring him. They spent the better part of the changeover cursing each other and went on to lose the match. Afterward, they cleared out the locker room and engaged in a full-on battle royal. Then, once they'd "cleared the air," they went out to dinner together.
There's so much going here. The twin dynamic. The ritual excellence. The weird world of doubles. A pair of genuinely good guys who, truly, have not changed with success. The
Someone is missing out on a huge reality show opportunity. Tennis Nation, though, shouldn't miss out on watching these guys while you still can.
• Funny, usually the choice is "Fish or chicken?" (Again, there is a Congressional mandate that at least one piscatorial pun must accompany any mention of Mardy Fish.) Assuming I'm reading this right, Sam's succinct question asks for a comparison between the careers of Fish and James Blake. There are obviously a lot of similarities here -- two Americans, largely cast as wingmen to Andy Roddick, whose careers have had decided highs and lows. That they are close friends only makes the compare-and-contrast game more interesting.
I'll just lay out the stats and let you judge for yourself.
• In Kournikova's case, I think there came a point when she let the "extracurriculars" overwhelm the tennis. In Ivanovic's case, part of what makes her struggles so poignant is her defiant commitment to tennis. It would be one thing if she spent half her time pitching reality shows and dating celebrities and living the TMZ life in Miami Beach or Malibu or Monte Carlo. But that's not what's going on here. She's still out there grinding, experimenting with coaches, entering lots of events. She just loses her way once she gets in a match.
This reads like an awful "Damn Yankees" plot. "Hey, Ana. It's me, Mr. Mephistopheles. You know, the Prince of Darkness? The Beast? Here's the deal. You win a major, become No. 1 and appear for all the world like the future queen of the sport. Companies and men will both prostrate themselves before you. Then, wham! I take your soul, and your game, and your ranking begins to fall at a rate that mocks the force of gravity. Deal Adje!"
• Yeah, a lot of you commented on this. Again, I think it's reasonable. Leaving aside logistics, travel plans and family time, it's still understandable that a top player would lose interest in a tournament once he was eliminated.
• You didn't mention that Ferrer then comes
• I wouldn't say "nuts," but I think you can do better. Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez both seem to come up a lot. I'd add Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina and Helena Sukova. I'm sure there are others who elude me. But, honestly, there's no time like the present! Caroline Wozniacki has spent dozens of weeks ranked No. 1. By comparison, McNeil's career-high ranking was No. 9.
• If it were Rafael Nadal, it would be one thing. But if a journeyman player happens to wear an RF T-shirt, to me that's like a college basketball player (circa 1998) wearing Air Jordans.
• Shame on all you agents! You're supposed to look for revenue streams and income opportunities. Hey, as long as the WTA is willing to sit silently, why not take advantage? And why limit to one sponsor? You could fill entire categories. Forehands could be "EEEEEEEEE-surance!!!!" Backhands could be "Emirrrrrrrrates Aiiiiiiir!" Serves could be "betttt-at-home-dottttt.com!"
• I don't know. But I like it.
• You never know when the thousands fans in the stands are stealing signs and conveying them to the opposition, a la Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca. You're right that it's silly. Actually, these extended summits between points are silly regardless of whether players cover their mouths. You're either going to serve wide, into the body or up the T. The netman is either going to poach or not. Wouldn't simple hand signals suffice?
• Easy there, Suresh. No disrespect to Djokovic, but he has a long way to go before the Federer comparisons, both in terms of on-court achievements and diplomatic carriage.
• I think part of what enrages so many of you, including Martina Navratilova, is that the grunting appears to be situational. Some of the most vocal players are silent during practice. Players who split eardrums at 4-4 are much quieter in the first game of the set.
• You're already up to $14. You might need a cash advance. Nagging injuries play into
But at age 30, and with a correspondingly banged-up body, it's hard to imagine Davydenko's returning to the top 10. Hard to believe that in 2010 he beat both Federer and Nadal. But if you really want to see a losing streak, check this out ...
• Thanks, Eric. It's unclear that a round robin World Team Championships event should count. But that's great sleuthing. Check out
• Sometimes in our quest to write a column that is both entertaining and unapologetically partial to tennis, we err on the side of casual. Last week's question-and-answer regarding Tennis Channel's dispute with Comcast could have (should have?) been more rigorous. First, just to clarify: It was the FCC Enforcement Bureau, not the ALJ, that weighed in. Also, in the interest of fairness and balance, here's a concise summation of Comcast's position, from a company statement last year:
"Our contract with Tennis Channel, which the network freely negotiated and signed in 2005, specifically permits us to carry Tennis Channel as part of our Sports Entertainment Package, where we -- like many other distributors -- currently offer it to our customers. Far from discriminating against Tennis Channel, we are fully honoring the terms of our agreement with Tennis Channel and plan to continue carrying the network for our customers and tennis fans."
• I gather that the
• This week's anti-grunting rant: John Manthei of Potomac, Md.: "Please add me to the long list of folks who passionately love and watch tennis but have now tuned out of the women's game because of the shrieking. I tried turning the sound off, but stopped enjoying it. I can't take it. I happened to see Sharapova and [Gisela] Dulko play in the Bahamas earlier this year in an exhibition match -- Sharapova never once grunted. The WTA has to stop this -- it's killing the game."
• Treece Goodwin of Takoma Park, Md. passes on this
• Andrew of New York: "Check out
• Tennis enthusiast and loyal Mailbag reader Stelio Savante is producing the play
• Ashish Malhotra of New York noticed: "By winning a challenger tournament in Sopot, Poland, last week, Eric Prodon of France just broke into the top 100 (as of July 18) for the first time at the age of 30, just slightly less than 13 years after he first appeared on the ATP computer. Does this make him the oldest person to enter the top 100 for the first time? Might he also hold the distinguished honor of spending the most weeks ranked on the ATP computer before cracking the top 100? A bit of research on the guy shows that he had a decent junior career in which he even once beat Federer. Obviously, the transition to the men's game wasn't as easy for him, but hats off to him for perseverance!"
• Congrats to the USTA for
• Kevin Moss of Berkeley, Calif.: "As a quick follow-up to your
• Long Lost Siblings: Shlomo Kreitman of Passaic, N.J.: "I just saw the trailer for the new Spiderman movie, and I never knew Andy Murray had a brother by the name of
Have a good week, everyone!