Davis Cup fallout, Nadal's French Open seed and more
Programming note: I was planning to discuss
? What's going on with the Davis Cup team? It's 2013, not 1983. That's what's going on. There is one American in the top 20 (Sam Querrey), and he's ranked No. 20. There are a lot of forces and factors at play here. But blaming the captain for the lagging results is like blaming Jay Leno for the declining ratings of late-night TV in the age of the DVR. OK, bad example. But you get my drift.
I think Courier is a real asset. He brings a certain dignity to the affair. The players respect him (as they should, given their relative success levels). There is an element of
No, the problem here is that tennis is fully global and, without a wellspring of talent, the U.S. is no more likely to rule the Davis Cup than the Carthaginians are to rule Rome.
? Thanks, Winnie. Great write-up on Canada. Great win for King Nestor, Milos and Vasek. All jokes aside, I should have written more about our neighbours (go away, spell check, eh?) to the north.
But you also highlight one of the ... I don't want to say "flaws," but "problematic aspects" of Davis Cup in the year 2013 A.D. Tennis is a sport of ethnic mutts. In keeping with the global economy, players move and switch countries and come from mixed stock. The Canadian team exemplifies this. They are born in Country X, reside in country Y and work in country Z. This is ultimately a virtue. But does it not undercut the significance of an international competition?
? Sure. But right now, well into her 30s, she is dominating her potential rivals. And though her record against top players from other eras (Henin, Jennifer Capriati) is more modest, Williams should be given credit for longevity here. Serena is No. 1 today. Henin, Clijsters and Martina Hingis have retired six times among them.
? Fair point. I think most people commend Nadal -- any player, for that matter -- for taking on the establishment. As I wrote last year, I think he may have undercut himself a bit with some positions -- the two-year ranking system, the advocacy of Richard Krajicek for ATP CEO -- that were less than practical and rooted more in self-interest than social justice.
? It's the same answer to both questions. You have to follow the rankings, especially after you've sped up your surface so it's become less of an outlier. Otherwise, it's a Pandora's box.
Yes, this is an extreme example. Not just because Nadal dominates at Roland Garros, where he's 52-1, but also because he is playing so well since his return. But overall, I think you have to respect the rankings and work on the assumption you might get a Big Four match a round earlier than anticipated. Not a big deal in the grand scheme.
? Right. The rule is to play at the server's "reasonable" pace. But the unwritten rule is that both players should be ready. The server shouldn't quick-serve. The returner shouldn't stall. The server often waits that split second before beginning her motion to make sure the returner is ready.
? First, your question gives me occasion to say that Bruce Jenkins nails it on on-court coaching (and I didn't need to consult with an older male to make that determination).
I feel this way about tennis in general, but this matchup in particular: It's so mental, so much more about self-belief and confidence than X's and O's. Sure, Sharapova could stand to dirty up the matches a bit more -- to hit deep and to the middle of the court, Lindsay Davenport's strategy against the sisters (use pace but don't let Serena bring her superior foot speed to bear), and to go for broke on second serves. But just as Federer/Nadal is more about disposition than high-bouncing forehands to one-handed backhands, this is really a mental battle more than a tactical battle.
? Sorry, for a second there, I thought you used the word "systematic" in the context of tennis. They have that sliding scale for Davis Cup. But, yes, a bit more standardization would be helpful. And not just from event to event. How often have we heard that certain courts at the same events play at appreciably different speeds?
? She got all those WTA bonus-style points for that Henin-esque backhand, the WTA's stealth attempt to combat homogeneity? No? They don't do that?
You can see her activity for yourself here. There's a third-round showing in Australia. A run to the finals in Acapulco. She has points from the Estoril final in 2012, a few other decent runs here and there. But the moral: If you can get to the tour level and win just half your matches, you can do quite well for yourself.
? Dude: You. Are. Unstoppable.
? For the late-arriving crowd, here's my podcast with Tommy Haas. All credit to the guest, but this is a good listen.
? The USTA might be open to replacing parkland it would use for its planned expansion.
? Pete Thomason of Glasgow, UK: "Just a quick observation brought about by your piece on the recent Davis Cup matches. Ilija Bozoljac, he of the Serbian doubles pair, gave Federer a tough match in the second round of Wimbledon in 2010 (admittedly Federer was not at his best in that tournament). Bozoljac seemed then to have so much talent. His inability to break through must be just one example -- out of thousands -- of the difference between talent and achievement. Also helps put in perspective those top 10, top 50, top 100 players even who do achieve so consistently."
? Stephanie of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has a dispatch from Davis Cup: "I attended the Davis Cup in Boise and had a great time. The atmosphere in the arena, especially during the fifth set of Saturday's doubles match, was electric. I am glad I got a chance to experience this type of event. Many of my friends and relatives from Boise would have loved to have gone, but the tickets, even the cheapest ones, were too expensive. I think that the USTA should look at the demographics of the area and price the tickets accordingly so that locals can afford to attend with their families. They should also offer a discount to USTA members for some of the seats, like is done for Indian Wells. This would help sell out every Davis Cup and Fed Cup event and promote the growth of tennis in the U.S.."
? Should Shahar Peer have played on Holocaust Remembrance Day? Interesting column.
? Tip of the cap to Haresh Ramchandani for this piece on tennis' subcutaneous level. Who knew that Arantxa Rus -- who once beat Kim Clijsters at the French Open -- was on a 13-match losing streak? Or that Spain's Pablo Carreno-Busta had won 38 consecutive matches?
? Mardy Fish received a wild card for the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger, which begins April 27.
? Woody of Calgary, Alberta: "I learned at Indian Wells how the players sign the camera. There is a slide of glass inserted over the actual lens. The glass is removed and used for various charity auctions."
? To our trivia question about the overlapping Venn diagrams between tennis and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, Elizabeth of Buffalo writes:
"1) Terry Pegula is the new owner of the team -- his daughter is an up-and-coming WTA player.
"2) Maxim Afinogenov (who was on the team for about a decade) recently married Elena Dementieva.
"3) The previous owner of the team, Tom Golisano, is dating Monica Seles (though he is decades older than she is!!)."
? Richard Wolf has another connection: "Olga Khmylev of the Boston College women's tennis team is the daughter of Yuri Khmylev, who played for the Sabres."
? Work on the assumption that you'll be hearing a lot more from Jessica Pegula, a promising American who looks increasingly like the real deal. Therefore, work on the assumption you'll be hearing more about her father. Fascinating guy. Here's the Wikipedia primer.
? John Burke of Stilwell, Kan., has long-lost siblings: "I'm not sure anyone has sent this in before, but on the chance they haven't: Sporting Kansas City and U.S. national team midfielder Graham Zusi and Roger Federer."