A mailbag after Caroline Wozniacki finally returned to the winner's circle. Also, note an open letter to Mardy Fish at the bottom.
Hi Jon, I'm an American working in Denmark. I've been following Wozniacki for several years. It was fun watching her climb the rankings, but not so much watching her getting beat up for being No. 1. Your evaluation (50 U.S. Open parting shots) was a pleasure to read, addressing the issue rather than the hype. I hope that Caroline will answer your question. It's a good one.
-- Robert, Overseas
? In the case of most of the WTA's DTPs (Dubious Top Players), it was a question of overachievement rather than underachievement. Wozniacki is to be commended for taking her defensive, movement based game and reaching the top; not condemned for not winning a major. So that softens the blow.
But I think Wozniacki must be reeling, in the throes of a case of "elephantiasis of self-doubt." She wasn't just failing to hold on to her top ranking; she was struggling to win matches. Once you've been the queen and are deposed, it seems to me you have three options:
1) Reclaim your regency.
2) Settle into a courtier role, a la Ana Ivanovic, who has been in the 11-20 range for years now.
3) Become a member of the peasant class.
Wozniacki did win the Korea Open last weekend, her first title in more than a year, in a dominant 6-1, 6-0 display over Kaia Kanepi. On Wednesday, she dispatched the higher ranked Li Na at the Premier-level event in Tokyo in straight sets. A title and a big win in back-to-back weeks can do a lot for a player's confidence.
She also seems content in her personal life. (Aside: does anyone -- I mean anyone -- have less than gushing praise for what a good guy Rory McIlroy is?) So that softens the blow, too. But 2013 will tell us a lot about where her career is headed.
What a crock with this statement in your 50 U.S. Open thoughts: "As a bonus, [Andy] Murray wins de facto Player of the Year honors, having won both a Grand Slam title and Olympic gold." The Olympics are NOWHERE on par with a major. It's a five-match tournament with four of the matches being best-of-three sets. If anything, it's on par with a 1000-level event which Murray has won before. Big deal. Murray is No. 3 and where he belongs. What a stupid statement.
-- Ida Anna, Texas
? Bonus: Anyone whose name comes within a few letters of being a palindrome get their question published. Even when aforementioned letter is filled with a disproportionate quotient of bile.
A few of you made this point but I stick by my guns here. Murray reaches the Wimbledon final, wins a gold medal in front of a passionate home crowd at the All England Club, wins the U.S. Open, and makes the quarters and semis in Paris and Melbourne, respectively? That does it for me.
As for the Olympics, the points allotment is misleading. In order to appease the tours and protect players who missed the draw cutoff only because their countries are stacked with fine players or absent players (remember our discussion of Feliciano Lopez of Spain and Cara Black of Zimbabwe), the Olympics can't offer beaucoup points. But every other metric -- quality of draw, prestige, player motivation, sponsor bonus -- puts this as a fifth major.
I'm with you about asterisking any win. You can only play who is in front of you. But there's no denying the impact of a good/bad draw. I mean, Sharapova got a career slam by winning the French Open, but she played only one top 20 player in all her matches (No. 4 Petra Kvitova in the semis). That's a huge gift, but not Sharapova's fault. In the end, her FO title counts just the same. There are a million examples of this and it always bugs the crap out of me when people want to discount a title because of it.
-- Colleen, Texas
? Exactly. No one is saying all draws are equal. Look at any player. (Look at the guys Andre Agassi beat in his Grand Slams.) Sometimes you have to beat the best; sometimes the deities and fates help you. But an asterisk implies something less than legitimate.
Remember the "New Balls Please" campaign of the early 2000s→ Who would make it on that list if we were to do one for this 2010 and beyond→
-- Rohit Sudarshan, Columbus, Ohio
? First can we discuss: Everyone mocked that campaign when it came it out. But a decade later, we still discuss it and recall the principal figures. For 2012, I would say... I would say the ATP needs some growth hormones here. Not exactly a bumper crop of prospects we can peg for success. I guess the leaders would be Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, the too-often-apathetic Bernard Tomic, Grigor Dimitrov, Slick Rick Berankis, Ryan Harrison, maybe Jack Sock. But overall, the life cycle of a male tennis player has really changed. When I was growing up, Andre Agassi was allegedly washed up at 20. Now 20 years old is barely a rookie.
Jon! Thanks for passing on my email, but "Tennis Hands" isn't hyperlinked! Did I neglect to link it myself→ Here it is in case I missed it. Would you mind re-posting→ Thanks a mil. Keep em coming!
-- Ivan H., New York
→ Done. Ranjit Gupte, New York adds: "Absolutely loved the "tennis hands" compilation by Ivan H.! I think "tennis face", featuring different players' facial expressions at the instant they strike the ball, would also be pretty entertaining, although I'm far too lazy to compile it myself."
I know New York tennis fans can be a tough, unforgiving bunch. But still, don't you think it was more than a little classless for them to boo Novak Djokovic as he was taking his injury timeout→ The guy was playing for five hours! You know that if it were Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, or Rafael Nadal taking that timeout the reaction would be totally different.
-- Andrew, New York
→ You're probably right. Filip Bondy suggested this was a function of an anti-Eastern European bias. I don't know about that. I think Djokovic's history played into this with the hard-core tennis fans. (Remember: This isn't the first time he was booed at the Open.) And I think just basic New York-ness ("Kwit-yer-belly-akin" as my son's Little League's coach says) is part of this, too.
Petra Kvitova, Hall of Famer→ Hey, don't laugh. She won Wimbledon after all.
-- Charles, Conn.
? I do think that Petra Kvitova will ultimately be in the Hall of Fame. But not if she quit today. Came across a great quote. Howard Cosell on why he didn't rise faster in television: "I was insufficiently mediocre." I think of this sometimes when we ponder tennis Hall of Fame.
→ Richard Hinds takes the whipping stick -- the pixilated version -- to Bernie Tomic.
→ Paul of Sydney and New York: "Jon, G'day. I'm originally from Sydney but live in New York. I wonder if you could help spread the word about this 'impossible' tennis journey/documentary→ It's buried among the mass of projects on the site where I set it up. I need to reach all (or at least a good few of) the like-minded, tennis-obsessed players, fans, and fanatics it would be on behalf of--and who'd want to go along for the ride, in spades, whether it works or not. The site the project's on, Kickstarter, has become high-profile as a funding platform, including being used by Hollywood notables to set up independent films. The way it functions, no pledges are processed unless the entire amount is raised. If this one's not raised by the deadline, 15 days from now, then none of the pledges go through. It would be a great help if you could let people know about it...it's something different for tennis aficionados if nothing else→"
→ Press Releasin': "Three of the United States' top young tennis talents have been added to the all-star field of Mylan WTT Smash Hits presented by GEICO, the all-star charity event co-hosted by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King. Top 30 player Christina McHale, No. 1 ranked junior Taylor Townsend and 2012 US Open junior girls singles champion Samantha Crawford join a field that includes tennis greats Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Stefanie Graf, on October 16 at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pa Tickets are currently available for Mylan WTT Smash Hits."
? And another: "The USTA today announced the top juniors who will compete on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams in the World Finals of the 16-and-under versions of Davis Cup and Fed Cup, September 25-30, in Barcelona, Spain. Taylor Townsend (Stockbridge, Ga.), Louisa Chirico (Harrison, N.Y.) and Gabrielle Andrews (Pomona, Calif.) will represent the United States in Junior Fed Cup, while Noah Rubin (Rockville Centre, N.Y.), Stefan Kozlov (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and Jared Donaldson (Cumberland, R.I.) will play for the U.S. in Junior Davis Cup. USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi will captain the Junior Fed Cup Team, and USTA National Coach Nicolas Todero will captain the Junior Davis Cup Team."
? Another: "The ITA, NCAA and USTA announced plans to honor the late "Big Jim" Russell, a longtime volunteer and tennis referee who passed away in June, with commemorative pins and patches to be worn by officials at collegiate tennis events throughout the 2012-13 school year. Russell, known to all by his nickname "Big Jim," had been a certified USTA official for 36 years, working hundreds of events and serving numerous key roles at every level of tennis before his passing at the age of 67.":
→ Rosie Casals likes Serena Williams, but still wants a pension.
? In the interest of accuracy, Jack Sock's mother gives us some facts:
"Updated, accurate facts/stats about Jack Sock to avoid any misinformation:"
- Jack is 6 foot 2 inches tall, and weighs 192 lbs.
- Jack underwent surgery on March 15, 2012 to repair a 75 percent torn rectus abdominis muscle and smaller tears of the pelvic floor (two incisions) - as a result of overuse....sliding on clay, doing crunches & plyometrics, jumping hurdles, lifting weights, practicing (135mph) serves, and doing even more sit-ups after all that....while playing in both the singles and doubles events of three January tourneys, without rest. (After collapsing in a full-body cramp during the AUSO wc playoff in December due to dehydration, Jack had hired a fitness trainer on Dec. 26, who implemented and aggressive daily training regime that continued during competition all of January and it proved to be just too much for his body).Two days before the Dallas Challenger, Jack felt his ab muscle tear while hyper-extending on a serve. Jack tried to play Dallas, San Jose, Memphis, Delray, and Indian Wells with the painful injury before finally going to Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia for the procedure.
- Jack won 20 USTA national championship gold balls in the juniors.
- Jack won four USTA national championship gold balls in the Men's division.
- Jack was presented with one USTA national championship gold ball for a U.S. open slam (in addition to the silver bowl from Tiffany's) for the mixed doubles title.
- Jack's dad was never a "professional" golfer - Larry is a well-accomplished AMATEUR golfer who attended Oklahoma State University for four years, then transferred to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln for his 5th year...playing on the golf teams at both schools. Larry moved to Tucson after college graduation for work and won the Arizona State Amateur Medal play championships both years he lived there. He moved back to Lincoln to work for Merrill Lynch for the next 27 years or so, before transferring to UBS Financial in '09. He has won the Nebraska state amateur golf medal play tournament three times and the Nebraska state amateur golf match play tournament three times - for a total of eight state amateur golf tourneys between Arizona and Nebraska. Larry recently won the Nebraska state amateur golf match play championship in the summer of 2012.
→ I'm reluctant to fan flames but this video on a certain player's leisurely pace (via Coleen of Texas) is funny.
→ What's Steffi Graf seeking→
? Karunya of Chennai, India: I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this before but,
A) David Goffin looks a lot like a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
B) Jarmila Gajdosova looks like the Duchess of Cambridge.
Bonus: Open letter to Mardy Fish
By veteran tennis writer Mike Mewshaw, originally written for "Inside Tennis".
You don't know me, but we have a few important things in common. We both play tennis. We've had the same heart procedure, i.e. a catheter ablation, and we continue to have similar symptoms. Of course there are differences. I'm 69 years old and had my catheter ablation almost 10 years ago for what I'm told was atrial fibrillation. For months after the procedure I took a blood thinner, Warfarin, and have continued a daily dose of beta blockers to regularize my heartbeat. Recently, a new medication has come on the market, Pradaxa, which is said to be an improvement on previous blood thinners, but it also said to have serious side effects. I've decided not to take that, but I understand that this leaves me at a much higher risk for stroke.
As usual, I covered the French Open this year and was surprised to hear of your withdrawal. During Wimbledon I was even more surprised to read that you had had a catheter ablation in late May, but were already playing competitive tennis by the end of June. According to all reports, you felt fine, even if a little anxious. There was some discussion that your whole problem may have been a question of panic attacks.
Frankly this didn't make much sense to me. I can't imagine that a doctor would subject you to a catheter ablation unless there was serious coronary evidence that you needed one. It also puzzled me that you were back to playing competitive tennis after such a short period of time. None of the articles I read -- and I discussed these with the journalists who had written them after interviewing you -- mentioned whether you were on beta blockers, blood thinners or other medications. Everyone, including you, seemed to believe the situation wasn't very serious, even after you skipped one of our press conferences at Wimbledon with the excuse that you weren't feeling well. While I realize that you're younger and in much better shape than I, it's conceivable that the intensity of the competition at your level of the game, combined with the pressure and constant travel, put you at risk far greater than my own.
Now I've learned long distance -- I'm living for a month in a tiny village in France -- that you've withdrawn from your fourth-round match against Roger Federer because you suffered heart palpitations after your match against Gilles Simon. I've tried reaching out to journalists at the U.S. Open, but none seems to know much about your condition and none seems to take it very seriously. So I'm reduced to writing this letter hoping to provoke a discussion about this matter, if not with you personally then at least with fellow members of the tennis press. My motivation is quite simple; I'm concerned about your health. While I understand that professional athletes have to play through injuries, I worry that you may be either ignoring medical advice or not seeking it diligently enough. So let me ask a few questions which I believe you should have been asked months ago.
Are you on beta blockers or some other medication? Are you taking a blood thinner? Have doctors advised you about the risk of a stroke? Have your doctors discussed with you the implications of this recent episode of heart palpitations? To me this would suggest that the original procedure in May was unsuccessful and that you might have to seek alternate treatment. Have you informed the ATP trainers of the full extent of your problem, and have they arranged to have a defibrillator nearby during your matches?
Believe me, Mardy, nobody sympathizes with you more than I do. I know what it's like to lie in bed listening to your heart beat, wondering whether it's regular, and when it's definitely not regular wondering if you'll wake up in the morning. I know what it's like to go on court acutely conscious that the palpitations or arrhythmia may start out at any point. They start up at any point. If I'm jumping to conclusions and making erroneous assumptions based on my own experience, please understand that my heart -- there we go again -- is in the right place. But don't be a hero. Don't ignore the obvious. Seek prompt and thorough medical attention. And don't compete again until you're convinced that you're well. I realize a lot's on the line. You're at a high point in your career. You're still young enough to look forward to future achievements in tennis. But don't let that blind you, as it appears to have blinded the press, to the importance of asking questions and getting answers.
All the best,