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Clearing out the U.S. Open mail

Post-U.S. Open speed round....

Great to see Serena Williams dominating again, and so quickly after I'd written her off after the French. Now I'm thinking she has a shot at matching (beating→) Roger Federer's Slam count in 2013. Oh, the tennis mood swings. -- Yves, Montreal

? Yes, the tennis mood swings. But Serena is an extreme example. Name me another player who could blow out of the French Open in the first round, crying during changeovers, looking utterly dazed. And then win Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open -- all in remarkably different ways, sometimes by ruthless domination other times by fighting instincts. Remarkable player. Remarkable career.

Folks can argue ad nauseum about Federer and RafaelNadal, their respective GOAT status, and whether or not there is a Big 3 or a Big 4 (the latter gets my vote now for sure), but I think it is time we simply acknowledge that this is the greatest era in the history of men's tennis and perhaps the sport in general. -- Greg Hodges, Ridgeway, Va.

? Right on. Two other points: All four are thoroughly good and decent guys. As much as we like a good feud, the four-way love-fest is really endearing, too. Is there a match among these guys that doesn't end, not with a handshake, but with an all-out bro-hug?

Has Serena "mellowed" down (or at least put on a more gracious, humble face)→ Sure there was that death-glare to the foot-fault-calling linesman but given her outburts in the past, that itself is a victory for her. But notice her smiles and her hugs to her box, her patting Vika's arm when Vika was talking after the match and her applauding Vika's blistering shot down the line. Dear god, please, please let this Serena stay with us. We love her like this. -- Summit, Jersey City

? No response necessary. Somebody make sure she sees this.

Serena the best of all time...→ Defenses are weakening. -- Brandon, Chicago

? I wasn't going to say anything. But since you brought it up...

Is there any more an improbable story at the U.S. Open then Christian Harrison making the R16 in doubles→ That's worth $25,000. Prior to the Open, his All-Time Doubles winnings were $1,330 in 10 tournaments. His doubles rank, 1025. And it is not like his brother Ryan is a super doubles player. Ryan has a 125 ranking. How did the brothers win three matches including two seeds→ -- Jerry White, The Villages, Fla.

? Except that yours truly screwed up. Note that Steve Johnson and Jack Sock defeated Mirnyi and Nestor. But, yes, the kid wasn't even in the top 1,000 in doubles and more than held his own!

Jon, 50 shots and not one word about the toughest opponent on the court: the wind! It was great watching the cat-and-mouse strategy of carefully crafted points with finesse and spin instead of a grinding, blasting power-fest. Kind of reminds me of an earlier time where placement could compete with strength. -- Dramvie Starlucrendio, Austin, Texas

? Most events have their weather and condition challenges. Give me windy but cool over scorchingly hot any day.

Nadal to quit after Rio→ Who did you talk to→ What did they actually say→ Can you confirm→ And why would that make people "happy or sad"→ I'm sure everyone will stick with sad, non-fans included. -- Charith, Bangalore, India

? I trust my source here. But let's be clear: No one is saying he is definitely retiring after Rio. He is targeting that as a time to wrap things up, proceeding on the assumption he has four more years. On the one hand, he still seems young and it's a shame his body won't let him play forever. On the other hand, he will be 30. Who knows, maybe they'll discover some cutting edge knee treatment that enables him to play another decade. I'd encourage you to enjoy the guy while he's around and not count off months like prisoners awaiting their parole date.

Jon, Murray said: "You know, on this surface especially things hurt a lot in the morning. I actually -- normally when I play on hard courts take painkillers most days before matches." This quote makes me sad. Is it true that "Super" Saturday will finally get the death it deserves→ I've been hoping for that to happen for a very long time. -- Natasha, Toronto

? Yeah we need some official and clear statement on Super Saturday. A lot of talk and not much clarity. Painkillers before hard court matches, and you want seven rounds of best-of-five?

Hi Jon, always enjoy reading your mailbag and columns. I think I recall it was you who predicted four different male grand slam winners this year. Congratulations! Looking forward to reading your predictions for 2013... -- Mark D, Munich

? I also picked Serena to win the French Open, Sharapova to win Wimbledon and Petra Martic to shock the world. Again: predictions can be fun and readers seem to like them. But we all regress to the mean.

Hi Jon, Djokovic won the Australian Open ranked World No. 1, Nadal won the French, ranked No. 2, Federer won Wimbledon ranked No. 3 and now Murray has won the U.S. Open ranked No. 4. Has this ever happened before with the top four players winning the Grand Slams in order→-- Karthik Raja, Chicago

? Great observation. Sharko, where art thou?

Hey Jon, am I the only one to defend that Murray didn't choke in his previous slams finals→ To me he had just better players on the other side. Pure and simple. -- Carlos de Toledo, Sao Paulo

? I see your point, but I don't know about that entirely. Did he choke against Federer at Wimbledon? No. Did he come out tight, get discouraged and offer little resistance against Djokovic in Australia in 2011? Yup.

When you wrote after Serena's U.S. Open win that she took "another split step toward the Evert-Navratilova-Graf corridor," did you really mean to write the "Evert-Navratilova-Graf-Court corridor"→ I guess a record 24 Slam singles titles and Grand Slams means little. There are many other records she holds, including most Slams won by a person playing using the non-dominant hand. (Sorry Rafa, Court was a natural southpaw turned righty). Why no respect for this player from Down Under→ -- Ken, Woburn, Mass.

? Margaret won 11 Australian Opens at a time when few top players made the trip and it was a Major in name only. Truth serum hour: I also think she is a homophobic bully, which probably influences my impression of her playing career more than it ought to.

These "best of all time" debates are often myopic, but... David Ferrer: best player in the history of the game to never have made a major final→ -- Mike, Missoula Mont.

→ First let's revisit. With Andy Murray no longer eligible, who's the best active male never to have won a major→ I'll take Tsonga, Berdych and Ferrer in that order with an asterisk for Robin Soderling who might never play again. As for the best never to reach a final, I'm signing onto Ferrer. And how about this: He has never even won a Masters Series title.

With Roddick's departure I think my favorite interview to watch has been Berdych. Wish he had won the semis and made the finals playing the tennis he did against Roger, but at least his post-match interview was fantastic. First instance was him getting all bristled up when his victory over Roger was compared to Rosol's over Nadal's! I loved it. How is someone who is No. 6 beating a No. 1 that big an upset compared to what Rosol did! I found the question a bit stupid and deserved the sarcasm that Tomas gave. Again after the loss against Murray he had a wonderful moment when the journalist's phone rang and he just looked at him and then said 'Done→ OK!' and moved on. Who are your favorite players to interview, especially after Roddick's departure→ -- Subhadeep, Cincinnati

? So much of this is situational All players have a pretty big "interview beta" here. Catch the most loquacious on a bad day and (s)he stinks. Catch the sourest grape on a good day and (s)he can be great.

Great wrap-up column, as always. Quick math check, though: there are 18 seeds "in the 15-32 range," not 17. -- @C.M.

? Busted. I was cherry-picking my sample size for max effect.

As I'm watching the U.S. Open and catching a glimpse of the coaches, I was wondering how much they are paid→ Is it percentage of wins or fixed amount (win or lose)→ Do folks like Lendl inherently get paid more than the "ordinary" coaches→ -- Fritzi, Milpitas, Calif.

? The rule for run-of-the-mill coaches used to be: they get paid commensurate to what they'd earn giving lessons. Plus expenses. So, maybe, what, $1,500 a week? Two grand? For the coaches of higher level players, it's an entirely different pay grade. Figure in bonuses and we're deep into mid-six figures. I recently heard a story of a junior player from a wealthy family, whose coach once worked with an A-list pro. And he's getting the same rate as before. So, in other words, it depends on the situation.

I have to respectfully disagree with your take (and others at SI) that the women's final was a great match. Serena's movement suggested she was wearing footwear designed by the mob, Azarenka continued to sound like she's trying out to be Curly in a female version of The Three Stooges (or else using her warbler bird calls), and when it came time to come up with the big shot they were both hitting into the net or ridiculously long. There were definitely some great shots, but it mostly felt like they were both hoping the other would continue to hit errors rather than believe in their own winners. -- Brett Martin, Indianapolis

? Nice, "...movement suggested she was wearing footwear designed by the mob," is a tremendous line. Take a bow, sir. This is really about taste. I love that match. It might have been patchy on the stat sheet, the errors-to-winners ratio may have been high; serve percentages may have been low. But what a battle.

Before the nickname 'breadstick' takes full hold for 6-1 sets, I would like to push for a very NY alternative, 'shmeer' -- as that's what we put on a bagel in NY. -- Matthew Neiger, Fort Salonga, N.Y.

? Nice. And none of this tofu-ey low-fat cream cheese either.

Hi Jon. Wonderful paragraphs on the clubbiness of the tag-team tennis commentators. PLEASE don't just push this whole thing onto the back burner... Keep that drum beating, please. Thanks. -- Jim McCalla, Washington, D.C.

? Tons of mail on my tennis conflicts rant. I say we give this topic a rest for a while. And I'm wrestling here between keeping a private conversation private on the one hand; and wanting to tell the tennis world about someone's quality and character on the other. So I'll just say this: I had a lengthy conversation with Pat McEnroe today and -- while we certainly didn't agree on every point -- the mere fact we could have a long and substantive back-and-forth that ended civilly...well, you know you where I'm going. Class and menschdom and all that.

Shots, miscellany

? Who's going to replace Kim Clijsters in the popularity contest? Says here Laura Robson is a leader in the clubhouse. Take it away Anthony, of Ridgefield: "Another Laura Robson feel good story. She was practicing on Court 9 -- very few people recognized her, a few fans asked for autographs when she came off court. One guy wanted a photo so she says yes and he takes a self photo using his iPhone. As she walks off she hears him say to himself 'I missed it,' so she turns around and comes back so he can take it again. Then after he takes another with her, she waits until he looks at the picture and approves it before she leaves..."

? J.P., Chicago. "The American women may have flamed out aside from Serena, but how 'bout the hilarious blogging that Irina Falconi has been doing for the NYT? Great reading."

→ We were rightfully scolded for not giving enough credit to the junior winners: Surprise winner Samantha Crawford and Filip Peliwo. The junior tennis doyenne, Colette Lewis, is on the case.

? This email had me on the floor: "I wanted to briefly check in and see if you are interested in sitting in a media conf. call with Andy Roddick tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.? He will be in CT at Mohegan Sun on Friday, September 14th as part of Match For a Cure (details below). You'll be able to ask him questions except for anything related to his recent retirement and the U.S. Open. Please include a mention of Mohegan Sun in any possible coverage."

Um... that leaves.... what exactly? "Peyton Manning will be available and you can ask him about anything but football, his health, his family or his personal life."

? Press releasin': "The USTA today announced that Bob and Mike Bryan have received the first-ever "U.S. Open Sportsmanship Award" presented to the male and female professional tennis players who best demonstrate excellence in sportsmanship throughout the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series and the U.S. Open. The award was presented to the Bryan brothers at the US Open by USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen and Sportsmanship Selection Committee Chairman Todd Martin."

? More press releasin': "World TeamTennis, the coed professional tennis league co-founded by Billie Jean King, announced an agreement to air the WTT Eastern Conference Championship and the WTT Finals on NBC Sports Network, Sept. 15-16."

? Stacy Smallwood of Columbia, S.C.: "Re: your parting shot on the DJ's playing of "Basketball" during one of Sharapova's changeovers... I will do you one better: During one of the changeovers in the Sharapova/Azarenka semifinal, the DJ played Beyonce's "Single Ladies." Clearly the DJ had it out for her.

→ You have to like Victoria Azarenka doing shots with Redfoo after the finals.

→ @funnyordie: Grunting is under attack in women's tennis! Show your support and let your grunt be heard

? Gilbert Benoit of Ottawa, Ontario: "It looks like Rebecca Marino is coming back. She is playing in Redding this week, and is entered in Albuquerque next week."

? Speaking of comebacks, who else noticed that Anna Chakvetadze qualified at the Tashkent event and won a round?

→ Reader Ana Mitric (you remember her from her excellent posts about Serbia) goes all in on equal prize money. Slapdash, she is not.

? Press releasin': "The International Tennis Federation launched an iPhone App for Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, bringing the excitement and drama of the largest annual international team competition in sport to the mobile devices of tennis fans around the world."

→ Mario Ancic at Columbia→ It's official.

? Skip Schwarzman of Philly: "How about a shout out for the infinitely subtle scoring system in tennis, which provides the foundation on which the ebb and flow of tennis' competition is built, so differently than any other major sport? Whatever one's opinion over how to finish deciding sets, the lack of a clock and constant mini-reset-to-zero nature of tennis' scoring is just fab."

→ Tricia Callender of New York has today's LLS: "Has anyone else noticed the alarming resemblance between Sara Errani and Amy Van Dyken, the Olympic swimmer→ Because I sure did.

Have a great week everyone!

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