Let's do a few questions while eagerly anticipating the return of Nicole Vaidisova:
This seems to be a perfect year for Roger Federer to fill one of the voids in his resume -- the Davis Cup. Swiss ousted Serbia (without Novak Djokovic playing) and Spain is also out. From the remaining teams I don't think any other team have two top players to take the Swiss team out. So as long as Stanislas Wawrinka and Federer can stay healthy, and Federer includes the Davis Cup in his schedule, they should be able to win it. What do you think?
-- Gopal Ramakrishnan, Houston
• I chortle at the notion of Federer having a "resume." Along with that Wilson rucksack, he also carries a leather-bound binder filled with thick pieces of paper on which he lists his awards, achievements, experience, objectives and the like. But I digress: The short answer to your question is, "yes." The stars are maligned, as Yogi Berra might say. With so many top players taking a pass, this is the opportune time for Federer to win the Davis Cup.
Here's the larger question: has the achievement of winning the Davis Cup not been drained of significant status? So many top players decline to compete. As reader Mike Wretzel put it: "What's the point of a competition between countries when almost all the countries are playing their reserves to the reserve team? It's like a Super Bowl featuring the benchwarmer's benchwarmers. Why should anyone care?" Spain lost without Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. The U.S. lost without John Isner.
Here's what should drive us crazy: it's not simply that the ITF fiddles while this event diminishes in prestige each year. It's that in this era of globalization and technology -- when we can stream live sports from anywhere in the world; when the labor pool is truly global -- an international competition should be a bonanza. Baseball trips over itself to put on the World Baseball Classic. The NBA is trying to oversee a World Cup for basketball, before FIBA beats them to it. The World Cup will be the sports story of 2014. Here, tennis has entrenched internationalization, and the sport is blowing it with a ridiculous schedule, an intransigent unwillingness to change and an exercise in fiefdom-preservation that enriches a few fat cats but hardly furthers the good of the game. The ITF can wave dismissively at the carping media and griping fans. But when so many top players say "Thanks, but no thanks," you might think that it provides enough motivation to change the format.
Can you explain why the United States chose clay as its Davis Cup surface? Hindsight being 20/20, should it have been hardcourt or grass -- anything but clay?
-- BB, D.C.
• You figure the Bryans are going to win on any surface. And what gives John Isner the best shot of beating Andy Murray? If we're being honest, this was not a high-water mark for American men's tennis. You might even contend that this was the nadir, but I'm not sure the surface is to blame. Sam Querrey has won seven titles, more than $5 million for his career and spent time in the top 20. He should be beating James Ward (career high ranking: No. 137) regardless of what's underfoot -- Jello, smurf turf, Sochi ice...
Are there any American men who might break into the top 10 within the next three years? Five years? Do you expect it to happen and when?
-- Jeff Stone III, Santa Monica, Calif.
• Well...The reflexive answer is "no." The other answer is who knows? "There's the lefty kid on a Spanish island with an eccentric uncle coaching him. He's 13 now but by his 19th birthday he'll win a Grand Slam." "There are these sisters from Compton who will both win Majors as teenagers." "There's this middle class kid in Basel -- no remarkable genes, dad is about 5-8 -- who has unholy amounts of talent." For all the time and resources devoted to finding, evaluating and cultivating talent, it's amazing how many pros are sui generis.
Specific to U.S. men in the top ten, here's a dirty secret: the American men have cleaned up at the American events. John Isner has won eight career titles. Six came at domestic events. Of Andy Roddick's 32 titles, 21 came on U.S. soil. Mardy Fish? Five out of six. When tournament after tournament heads overseas, it really inhibits the ability of American players to sustain a top ranking.
Which is the bigger upset: Juan Martin del Potro d. Federer or Wawrinka d. Rafael Nadal?
-- Will, San Diego, Calif.
• Let's put aside the issue of "injury." No man had beaten Federer at the U.S. Open between 2002 and 2008. Then comes this young kid from Argentina who had never before been to a Grand Slam final? On the other hand, Nadal hadn't won the Australian Open in five years. And Wawrinka, while playing in his first Major final, was a 10-year veteran who'd long lived in the game's upper echelon. Damn the oddsmakers. Delpo d. Federer was the biggest upset.
Take out clay courts and it's 10-8 Nadal/Federer. Federer is an old man in the tennis world, Nadal is still in his prime.
-- Donny, Ottawa
• Not sure I agree with the subjective part of this question. But this does give us an opportunity to address this point that's come up several times. The notion that the head-to-head is unfavorable to Federer because of his age cuts both ways. Yes, right now, Federer is 32 is Nadal is 27, squarely in the meaty years of his prime. However the first time they met was in 2004. Federer was 22 and the defending Wimbledon champion; Nadal was 17. Nadal won that match. In fact, Nadal's record against Federer as a teenager was 6-1.
Regarding the GOAT discussion, I found this article fascinating.
-- Ahmed Mahmoud, Cairo
• I feel like we did an insufficient job drawing attention to this excellent work last month.
• The ITF as announced that Adecco signed a three-year extension as an international sponsor of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup. The agreement runs through 2016.
• San QUerrey and Kei Nishikor have committed to play the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men's Clay Court Championship at River Oaks Country Club, where they'll join 2013 champion John Isner, 2013 runner-up Nicolas Almagro and 2012 semifinalist Feliciano Lopez.
• Andy Murray discussed his upcoming match against Novak Djokovic in the BNP Paribas Showdown as part of World Tennis Day, and was also asked this question:
Q: Andy, there is another big event happening here in New York -- do you have any predictions on the Superbowl?
Andy Murray: I don't follow American football hugely, but if I get the chance to I will try and watch the game. I think I read on Twitter that Floyd Mayweather had bet $10 million dollars on the Denver Broncos to win, which is quite amazing. I'll go with them as maybe he knows something we all don't.
• Azhar of Toronto: "For all the innovations ITF and ATP and other interests have introduced to tennis in last 10-15 years (I'll wait while you finish laughing), one 'innovation' I've yet to see that is obvious is the camera angle used to broadcast tennis, namely the view that's lower down to the court, behind the baseline and just above players' heads. Every now & then, I see this angle during a match as a player prepares to return serve, and sometimes the show director forgets (I think) to switch back to the conventional angle. Viewers end up getting a far more realistic view of just how fast the ball i smoving and how much action some of these players get on their first serve. Conventional camera views do not reveal this. We must rely on commentator telling us that Fed is catching Rafa's ad-court serve above his shoulders. Given the majority of the world live in cities where we do NOT get to see top-level tennis, television is our only other option."
• Tennis Hall of Famer Louise Brough Clapp, a former world No. 1 player and the winner of 35 major titles, has died. Brough Clapp, who was 90 years old, passed away at home with her family in Vista, Calif. on February 3, following a brief illness.
• For the fourth week in a row, the Virginia Cavaliers claim the top spot in the ITA Division I Men's team rankings. For the first time this season, there was movement in the Top 5, as USC moves up to No. 3, having shut out both Georgia and Florida over the weekend at the Pac-12/SEC Showdown. On the women's side, the rankings remain the same for another week, as a new poll will not be published this week with the 2014 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship set to begin Friday morning, hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.
• For the first time in league history, Las Vegas will be home to a Mylan World TeamTennis professional team. The Sacramento Capitals announced they are moving the franchise to Las Vegas where they will compete at the Amanda and Stacy Darling Memorial Tennis Center.
• The Strangest Press Release of the Week Award: "The success of Stanislas Wawrinka in winning the Australian Open in such a courageous and humbling way has excited the entire world of tennis and in turn transformed him from being just an extremely good tennis player into an highly marketable property for numerous global companies. In the few days following Stan's success at Melbourne Park it reached my attention that a number of concerns are currently stating they have agreements in place to act on his behalf. Therefore it is pertinent to state categorically that StarWing Sports is the sole and exclusive agency that is legally contracted to manage Stanislas Wawrinka business in all its' entirety. As anyone in tennis will know, Stan is a very charming approachable and charismatic man who I think appeals to many brands and with his unique 'Swissness' will be a very interesting commodity to be associated with. He, through StarWing Sports, is open to any ideas but these should be conducted through the proper channels. Therefore, could I just reiterate all enquiries regarding marketing and commercial endorsement deals, or in fact any business involving Stan should be made to: starwingsports.com."