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Thoughts on Capriati, year-end championships, Date-Krumm

Photo: Erick W. Rasco/SI

Jennifer Capriati won three majors and an Olympic gold medal in her career.

I wrestled with whether to address this or ignore, but a few of you referenced this, so here goes:

The other night, I received an unsettling, confusing Twitter message from Jennifer Capriati. After putting together some pieces, it seems that she was upset about an unflattering story that Tennis.com, among other sites, had published. I had retweeted the item without doing any independent reporting -- a peril of this social media era, in which stories circulate with one keystroke. (Capriati disputed the facts, and it was a story of a personal nature, so I'm not going to dignify it with a link. Rev up Google if you must, but consider the source as well as her vigorous denial.)

I think/hope I've made my thoughts on Capriati clear. Here's what I wrote a few months ago about her Hall of Fame candidacy, and I stand by it: "The game -- the institution of tennis -- beat her up. Emotionally on the front end; physically on the back. The least we could do is give her some immortality."

Some other time we can debate where and how intensely to point fingers. But for now maybe we can agree on this: Capriati is a celebrity, a curiosity, an embodiment of precocious talent, burnout, too-much-too-soon, a courageous comeback. So much so that she is a source of curiosity, a full quarter century after her breakthrough. That's just reality. By the same token, she ought to know that her legion of supporters greatly outnumber those who "slaughter and humiliate" her (her words). I suspect there are more people rooting for her now than at any time in her playing career. Like so many, we wish her well, post-tennis. Lord knows, she deserves it.

I saw a quote from Toni Nadal suggesting that the year-end Masters should be rotated among different surfaces, rather than always on hard courts. I think that idea is very interesting, as the year-end captures the best tennis results from multiple surfaces. Has this idea been proposed?--Jim, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

? As recently as several years ago, the ATP rotated the site of the season-ending cotillion each year. I don't like the idea of changing sites every year. But if London or Shanghai (or Brooklyn, for that matter) wanted a multiyear deal, and there was a condition that the host rotated the surface? I'd co-sign that, as the kids say. There does seem to be something democratic about varying the surface.

I know that you like Homeland, as do I. If Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray -- the so-called Big Four -- were all CIA agents, who would be the first to catch Nicholas Brody?-- Thomas, Washington, D.C.

? First, let's get our facts straight. I liked Homeland. Past tense. But more on that in a second. We're always game for fielding offbeat questions, especially during that short interregnum when there are no ATP or WTA events. (Oh, what's that? They're still playing the 2012 season? And in some time zones, the 2013 season is already under way? Scratch that.) Anyway, I would say a combo of the Big Four would take down Brody, no problem -- just combine Federer's diplomatic tact with Nadal's physical presence, Djokovic's tenacity and Murray's ... um, intangibles.

But indulge me a quick riff on Homeland. You know how when marginal tennis players make an unexpected run at a tournament, we love to talk about their adjustments and improvisation? They had to buy new underwear because they ran out! They had to change their flights! They had to stay at a KOA campground because they booked only a few nights at the Marriott and when they went to extend their stay, there were no available rooms! I feel that way about Homeland. They thought this would be a fun show for six episodes. Now the seasons keep getting extended, and the writers are scrambling like crazy. The notion that Brody is still alive -- much less traveling around the metro D.C. area without surveillance -- is about as believable as a cyclist's doping alibi.

In the new WTA rankings (Dec. 3), Kimiko Date-Krumm is back in the top 100. She's 42 now, so I'm wondering whether this is some kind of record for oldest player in the top 100 for women. Is there a Greg Sharko for women's tennis who could enlighten us? (By the way: I'm so proud of Date-Krumm, playing nine tournaments in 10 weeks, finishing runner-up-runner-up-winner in the last three.)-- Oliver, Trier, Germany

? Sport of a lifetime, friend. Great achievement. Remember, for all the comebacks and unretirements, Date-Krumm was out of action for more than a decade. Is this a record? That should be easy to confirm, but well, you know ... tennis and data go together like Bernard Tomic and stop signs.

When asked whether Federer is the best player of all time, Boris Becker said, "It is the ultimate question, but unfortunately it has no answer. Roger Federer has won more tournaments than anybody, but it remains unknown if he would have beaten a (John) McEnroe, a (Bjorn) Borg, a (Rod) Laver or me." I feel Becker's statement doesn't carry any weight. Federer has many distinctions when compared with any past players.-- Gorti Brahma, Cupertino, Calif.

? I don't necessarily disagree that Federer-as-GOAT is ultimately unanswerable. But that doesn't mean we can't speculate.

Just wanted to point out that Tomas Berdych lost to David Ferrer in the Davis Cup finals. I am not sure how a loss on a fast indoor surface will catapult Berdych in the same vein as Djokovic's rise after the 2010 Davis Cup finals.-- Brian Harris, Waco, Texas

? Lot of you pointed that out. This was meant tongue-in-cheek, but clearly was a clunker line. To be clear: Berdych did NOT beat Ferrer in Davis Cup. This was my unforced error.

Mike Montgomery was the basketball coach in 1980 at the University of Montana. (I was a Grizzly tennis player). He was once overheard saying, "A small guy with bad knees is not a horse to place your money on." If Nadal is really injured (I am a doctor, albeit dermatologist), my money is not on him to come back. I say he gives it a college try at Australia, it goes bad, and he calls it a career.-- Patrick Kramer, Oslo, Norway

? First, Mike Montgomery gets special consideration here, as he's been spotted at the Stanford WTA event. As for the analogy, I suspect that if the small guy was 6-foot-2 and had won the basketball equivalent of double-digit majors, the coach would be a bit more charitable.

We have a lot of hypothetical and theoretical and debatable discussions at the Mailbag HQ. Is Federer the GOAT? Would so-and-so have beaten so-and-so? Should there be more events in the U.S.? In the case of Nadal's knees and overall health, we'll get a definitive answer soon. No reason to speculate or try to place (metaphorical) bets. Barely a month from now, well know for sure the extent of his recovery.

When you look at the countries' of the WTA's Top 100 players you get the following result, per continent:

North America: 11Asia: 7Africa: 1Oceania: 3Europe: 78 (including Russia)

But looking at the locations of the top WTA tournaments (Premier Mandatory & Premier 5), you get:

North America: 4Asia: 3Europe: 2

If you then look at the recent cancellation of the WTA's Eurosport TV contract, which will take women's tennis completely off TV or to some obscure pay TV channels pretty much all over Europe, I am asking myself if the WTA is following a reasonable strategy I can't see, or is it just reckless? With almost 80 percent of its best players from Europe, shouldn't you try to utilize that to grow the sport there? -- Julia Mayer, Vienna, Austria

? I totally agree that a) the WTA is in, shall we say, a defensive position right now. Sony Ericsson has taken its considerable sponsorship dollars elsewhere. For reasons that still haven't been adequately explained, the tour championship -- successful in New York for years, less successful in Germany and then Los Angeles and Dubai, then a big hit in Istanbul, the city likely to hold the 2020 Olympics -- will now move to one of four other cities.

Whathappened to your Best of Three Monday column? Much enjoy reading you twice a week!-- Pirka, San Pedro Sula, Honduras

? Hey, thanks. We'll go back to twice a week in 2013.

Shots, miscellany

? Tip of the hat -- made of sawgrass -- to Mike Saia, who did a great job running point at the Charleston Family Circle Cup.

? Good stuff as always from Ana Mitric: "I happened to be re-watching the second set of the World Tour Finals final and noticed something I wouldn't have if not for your Mailbag last week -- specifically, a comment from a reader about how 'low rent' it was of Djokovic's team to drink champagne in the player's box before the trophy presentation. During what turned out to be the final game of the match, there was a tournament staffer waiting in the wings beside the Djokovi? box with a tray of glasses. It didn't take me too long to remember that Moët is one of the event's sponsors. Putting two and two together, I wonder: Isn't it more likely that this was a promotional occasion for Moët, rather than a spontaneous celebration by Marian Vajda, et al? Surely, if I'm correct, they would have offered the same to Federer's camp had he won the year-end championship. Now, one could argue that members of Federer's box might have politely declined the bubbly -- or that doing so would be the proper and 'sporting' thing to do. But that seems much more speculative than what I'm suggesting.

"The point is: There are a lot of assumptions behind some people's responses to the Serb's victory celebrations. One of the things I find frustrating -- and not only as a Djokovic defender -- is how often Federer fans, in particular, make mistaken attributions of intent when interpreting Djokovic's behavior. The 'over-the-top chest thumping,' which this reader mentions, is another good example. Some describe this act as arrogant, distastefully macho or even gorilla-like, as if Djokovic was an animal engaged in a show of aggression. The reality is that he is using one hand (his right) to tap the left side of his chest (his heart), a gesture communicating a very specific, emotional message to those in the arena closest to him -- his girlfriend, his family (when they're present) and members of his team. As a well-known Serbian sports commentator tweeted immediately after the match, 'I do not know about class but I do about heart and brain.'

"Is it too much to ask fans to try -- harder -- to understand before they judge?"

? To repeat: Moet & Chandon's first global brand ambassador was Roger Federer.

? In an effort to grow youth tennis, Todd Martin has acquired a TGA Premier Youth Tennis franchise.

? An anonymous writer has this week's long-lost siblings: Nicolas Almagro and Colin Kaepernick.

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