Some questions as we get into the later rounds of the BNP Paribas Open ...
? Note that I'm writing this on Tuesday night, but I would have to say Federer. Nadal can say that he's still rusty, that this is his first hard-court event in nearly a year, that the pillows in Larry Ellison's guestroom are lumpy. For Federer, a loss would (likely) mark another disappointment in 2013. As the defending champion, he'd obviously lose points from 2012. And he'll arm the Chicken Littles.
Larger point: It's abundantly clear that, thanks largely to Ellison's munificence, Indian Wells has distinguished itself as an event and is, unmistakably, the fifth major. But I feel as though its heft gets a bit undercut by the calendar. There's another *big-time event (in Miami) the following week. So it's not as though the winners bask in glory, the losers enter the thrall of depression or there are many conclusions that linger. As long as Ellison is calling the shots, maybe he should lobby to have his event go second.
*A reader raised this excellent point. Can the WTA marketing minds kindly replace "mandatory" with a more upbeat phrase when characterizing its big-ticket events? When my kids eat dinner, vegetables are mandatory before dessert. It's mandatory to go through airport security screening, serve jail time after felony arrests and take organic chemistry before applying to med school. Competing in an event that confers a seven-figure payday on the winner? That's something more benevolent than mandatory.
? First, thanks to Glenn. This is terrific. It's also still another indication that we are desperate for more advanced statistics in tennis. This is precisely why it is important take a deeper dive sometimes. Next week, we'll get resolution on that squandered match points statistic ...
? Doug Robson? Saw him a mile away. Laura Robson? I think it's safe to say that the tennis salon saw her in advance, too. (Incidentally: Robson defeated Petra Kvitova in the 2013 Australian Open.) Robson obviously has a lot to recommend: heavy lefty strokes; an advanced tennis cortex; a nice set of hands; and a fondness for competing and deceptive intensity, at odds with her genial off-court disposition.
But for the truth serum part of today's show: Robson makes it easy to get noticed. She has the marketing muscle of both the LTA and Octagon. She's had the British media telling her story since she was barely a teenager. She tweets. She makes amateur videos. She speaks English.
Too often we conflate talent with access. The players from, say, Eastern Europe -- with the hard-to-pronounce names, who speak in a foreign tongue and don't retweet Fatboy Slim -- tend to sneak up on us. What would we be saying about, say, Croatia's Donna Vekic (age 16, already in the top 100) if she were from Brighton or Berlin or Beaumont? Just something to consider.
? It shouldn't change your opinion. But, yes,
? Who knew NFL ownership was this strict, no matter how minuscule the stake? Very interesting, thanks. It's a little different in this case. In theory, if you're the venture capitalist, you can set deal terms. I still think this has big potential. How many of us spot a talented player, believe his or her value will increase and would be willing to invest?
? This has
? Or, conversely, a tip of the cap to the USTA for seeking sponsorship globally.
? From the great Miki Singh: My new 'Tennis Social 2' app for iPhone & iPad just went live yesterday in the iTunes store. The app blends both Twitter and Facebook timeline feeds of nearly all of the tennis players currently using social media. New players will be added automatically. You can also flip through their recent player Twitter pictures, check their real-time followers/likes totals, browse the latest tour news and more.
? Last week, I asked you to come up with your best audio imagery for grunting. John Lyden of San Diego offered this to describe the shrieking sound of some female players: "A dog with its leg caught in barbed wire."
Patrick Kramer of Oslo, Norway: "As a dermatologist, I am often forced to remove warts and moles from the foot sole. A typical Victoria Azarenka scream is just about the sound one of my patients makes when I inject Xylocaine in the skin on a toe. For anyone who has had the displeasure of experiencing this, the sound 'AAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUCCCCCHHHHH' comes to mind!"
Those were honorable (such as it is) mentions. The winner is Jay Clark of Columbus, Ohio: "An aspiring-thespian seagull giving it her orgasmic best all while trying out for the role of Sally in
? Mario Ancic warmed up Azarenka before her New York exhibition match against Serena. Then he
? A volunteer at that NYC exhibition who wishes to remain nameless writes: "First time working with Rafa -- has to be the nicest elite athlete in the world."
? John Dugan of Memphis, Tenn: "Like many of your readers, I watch a fair amount of tennis via online streaming, many of those matches off the show courts. You've mentioned this before, but it's striking how much less bothersome player vocalizations are from a basic courtside microphone versus what we hear through the television feed. Which makes me wonder: Have the networks ever considered (or tried) applying noise-cancellation techniques to the audio stream coming from the court? This seems like the most systematic, immediate and cost-effective way of mitigating the problem. (Full disclosure: I own a software company.)"
? Alisa Kleybanova was among the players
? Matt Van Tuinen of Chicago has lookalikes: NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson's youngest son, Notre Dame football recruit