Kudos to Federer, Murray, but don't forget about No. 1; more mail
→ Housekeeping: Again this year, I'll let you guys determine my Hall of Fame vote. The three candidates are Martina Hingis, Michael Stich and Helena Sukova. Vote for any, all or none. Just do it via twitter @jon_wertheim. Now on to this week's mail ...
→ Had you followed the unfortunately abbreviated World Tour Finals via Twitter, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Federer had won, so gushing was the praise. You could also be forgiven for thinking that Rafael Nadal's absence had rendered this a secondary event. Or that Juan Martin del Potro had emerged as the new, dominant force. I have some blood on my hands too, so to speak, having written effusively about Andy Murray.
Let's pause for a second and give credit where it is due, which is squarely at the Uniqlos of Novak Djokovic. The No. 1-ranked player was up to the task last week, alternately dominating and grinding out a series of wins. His takedown of Roger Federer in the final was the Djoker at his best, transitioning from defense to offense, serving authoritatively and coming up with shots like this -- on match point, no less.
Let's dilate: Djokovic started the year at No. 1. He won, consecutively, two of the great matches of the year in Australia, his fourth major in 12 months. He didn't win another major and didn't replicate his 2011 -- which is a bit like saying JK Rowling wasn't able to replicate the success of the Harry Potter series. Djokovic, hardly disappeared, though. He won Masters Series events. He reached the French Open final. U.S. Open, too. He locked up the year-end No. 1 ranking. And then he beat the best during a terrific week of indoor tennis in London.
Federer has his vast and mobilized army of fans. So does Nadal. There are the sentimentalists who watched the Andy Murray narrative unspool, romanticized the dimensions of his breakthrough and are too stubborn to back off the assertion that he is ATP's Most Valuable Player for 2012. (What's that→ Nothing to see here. Please disperse.)
In the Land of Objectivity and Reason, though, you have to hand it to Djokovic. He won early. He won often. He won late. He started No. 1 and finished No. 1. He fought through emotional exhaustion. He fought through a fraught family situation, never using it as an excuse. As we've said before, he plays with a national pressure that no other player -- not even Murray -- will ever know. Did he go 70-6? No. But, given the context, you could argue that what he did in 2012 was no less impressive.
? I'm mixed here. I do think at some point, you diminish the product. Abridge the format too much and you send the message: "This isn't worthy of the full Big Boy treatment." On the other hand, the quick matches mean that: A) the schedule moves along and B) we have predictability built in. One of the big gripes of TV types is that there's no predictability. A match could be an hour or four hours, so how do you plan coverage? With doubles, you can safely estimate. C) The top players might be more inclined to enter the draw. D) The careers of players -- i.e., Bob and Mike Bryan -- are prolonged because there's less wear and tear. Look at the men's doubles rankings and their ages rival a partners meeting at Cravath. There's no coincidence that the matches have been shorter than ever.
? Good question. You could make a credible case. A stirring comeback, both macro (the embolism) and micro (two potentially crushing Slam losses, in Australia and Paris). There was Olympic success. There were more Slams for the trophy case. There was characteristic refusal to lose. Key stat: She finished 8-0 against the players ranked above her. She's certainly on the short list.
? Calling all PhD candidates in behavioral psychology seeking a research idea. I think there are interesting experiments you could devise for line judges and chair umpires with respect to Hawk-Eye. Clearly, having decisive technology as a backup has affected how these folks do their job. When the players have the capacity (onus?) to appeal to technology, why would the human beings risk embarrassment, either by making an "out" call or by overruling?
I would think that, to Glenn's point, you could also make some interesting findings with respect to television cameras. If you knew you were or weren't going to be shown on TV after botching a call -- public shaming, as it were -- might that change how you called a match? I do agree with Glenn, though. The officials aren't in this to be famous. The perception of neutrality is key. In fact, there are strict rules against fraternizing with players and giving interviews. It therefore seems unfair to publicize these folks for their errors.
→ Where to begin→ World TeamTennis is a "mix maker," as they say, a fun and quirky diversion, very much created in the image of its inimitable founder, King. (Here's what I wrote on WTT in 2005.)
I think the keys for the WTT are A) finding real space on the calendar and B) deciding what it is. Is it a bona fide league (in which case there's little use in having a highly paid star play just one or two matches)? Or is it a series of exhibitions (in which case we shouldn't really care about records and titles)?
My (unsolicited) suggestion: Turn this into a real team competition involving dedicated players. It's great when Andy Roddick or Andre Agassi or whomever plays. But it doesn't feel like he's part of a team -- it's just a one-night exo wearing a uniform. If my local team had dedicated players, I would feel more connection as a fan.
Nevertheless, WTT is great fun. The players love it. The fans walk away satisfied. There are a number of innovations and fan-friendly twists that the tours would do well to emulate. Plus, there is the real potential to set up Europe and Australia (and China and India ...) equivalents.
→ What kind of a name is Pune→ Comanche Indian→ (A prize to the first person to name the reference.) Anyway, give it up for the oldies. Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Tamarine Tanasugarn. That's 42 versus 35. Long may they continue.
? I'm telling you, if I'm the judge, Steve Miller doesn't get out of the qualifying rounds of the Altoona Battle of the Bands tournament.
? We'll say it once, we'll say it again: Marconi plays the Mamba, listen to the radio.
→ This was a cult classic:
? James Blake, who currently resides (and grew up) in Connecticut, is helping raise money to benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy. He's auctioning off three of his match jerseys featuring his autograph along with those of Roddick, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey. All of the proceeds will go to the Red Cross.
"Seeing the devastation in areas I grew up around is difficult," Blake said. "The people of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are surely resilient, but there's still room for us all to help. I've selected the Red Cross because it does an amazing job on multiple levels; it provides everything from food and blankets to mental health support for those affected."
For more details, visit Blake's official site or head over to eBay to place a bid.
? Clark from Melbourne writes: "While I absolutely agree more should be done in terms of stats in tennis, please bear in mind both tours have U.S. offices in Florida where they still don't have any idea who actually has won the state's electoral college votes almost 20 hours after polls closed!"
? Ivan H. of New York: "To highlight the agreed-upon trend that even the most elite, competitive players are ridiculously good guys: After shaking hands with Federer following the World Tour Finals championship match, Djokovic stopped at [retiring umpire] Lars Graf's feet and gave him (what appeared to me to be) a thorough, personal, much-deserved congratulation. I've never seen that before! Well done, Nole. A big plus in my tally."
? The ATP has extended its partnership with HEAD for another five years. HEAD will continue to be the tour's official tennis ball through 2017.
→ Sharapova never met Steffi→
→ Helen of Philadelphia sends this photo of what appears to be a tennis '50s doo-wop group.
→ Harley Brito Silva of Seattle: "Jon, check this out. Part is in Portuguese and part in English, with Federer being interviewed by the Brazilian fake news comic program CQC. Politically incorrect sometimes but still funny. Actually, I was also impressed with Federer's soccer knowledge." (Note: The Federer interview picks up around the 4:18 mark.)
→ The lovely, the talented Paul Hawkins. He's sort of like the Nate Silver of artificial intelligence.
→ Press releasing: "Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, Pakistan's greatest tennis champion and highly regarded world humanitarian, announced today that his book
→ Memphis folks: Tickets to the 2013 Memphis Indoor are now on sale.
→ More press releasin': "2011 ITA National Women's Co-Rookie of the Year Robin Anderson from UCLA and 2011 ITA National Men's Player to Watch Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine added to their college honors Saturday when they were named the 2012 USTA/ITA Sportsmanship Award winners following their respective semifinal matches at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships."
? Jacksonville folks: Tickets for the 2013 Davis Cup World Group between the U.S. and Brazil will go on sale to the general public on Friday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. ET. USTA members can get first dibs on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m. ET. The series will be played at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Feb. 1-3.