Daily Bagel: Roger Federer's 'deeply impressive fade'
The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.
• Video: Players are asked what they'd give Rafael Nadal for his birthday.
• Chuck Culpepper of Sports On Earth describes Roger Federer's drop-off as "one deeply impressive fade, maybe the best fade ever," as the Swiss still makes the quarterfinals of every Grand Slam tournament and doesn't lose to the "Vast Anonymous" on the biggest stages.
After the 2010 Australian Open, Federer had won 16 of the previous 27 Grand Slam tournaments. Since the 2010 Australian Open, he has won one of 13. (Three guys -- and only three -- have shared those other 12.) You might view those 12 losses as demise, but the word "demise" is too strong. Just look at them.
His 12 non-titles include one loss in a final, six in semifinals and five in quarterfinals. Seven losses came against players ranked in the top three at the time. Ten came against players in the top 10. One came against a player ranked 13th, and one against a player ranked 19th. That's it.
Every player to defeat Federer in a Grand Slam since winter 2010 has spent time in the top five. The absurdly gritty, absurdly talented, week-in-and-week-out, top-notch players have nabbed him. The Vast Anonymous have not.
Do you remember Andrea Gaudenzi, Galo Blanco, George Bastl? They beat Pete Sampras in late-career Slams. Does that reflect negatively on Sampras? No. Hundreds of guys at any given time can play the game phenomenally and derail you on a given day. It happens, just not to Federer -- at all, yet.
Somehow, across these last 13 Grand Slams, with a cherished 2012 Wimbledon title amid, Federer still hasn't had a Bastl day.
• The Wall Street Journal's Tom Perotta observes that this might be the first time a tournament hasn't lamented a relatively early loss by Federer.
But Federer had been the third favorite at this tournament, and a distant third at that, well behind Rafael Nadal, the seven-time champion, and Novak Djokovic, last year's finalist and the world's No. 1 player. If he played Djokovic in the final, Federer would have a chance, the thinking went—Federer did, after all, stun Djokovic in the 2011 semifinals here, a victory that ended Djokovic's 43-match winning streak. Against Nadal, he'd need more than a little luck.
But now that Federer is gone, the possibilities in Paris are much bigger. That's because Jo-Wilfried Tsonga didn't just beat Federer Tuesday. Tsonga won in such a way that the outcome felt less like an upset and more like an awakening by a player whose talent just might turn this tournament inside out.
• It's an all-too-common phenomenon in tennis: Angry bettors berate losing players on Twitter.
Obscure though these players may be, their results have swung untold millions of dollars in wins and losses for bettors, far more than the prize money they play for. [ATP pro Tim] Smyczek says a former Scotland Yard detective now working with the International Tennis Federation's Tennis Integrity Unit once told him that a first-round match he’d played at the Indian Wells ATP tournament generated more than $1.5 million in wagers on one betting site alone, with likely millions more on other sites.
While Indian Wells is one of the biggest tournaments on the tour calendar, Smyczek expressed disbelief that people are betting on his matches at all, especially on Challengers that sometimes have fewer than 10 people in the stands. "I've had to try my best to kind of bite my tongue a couple times, because I've gotten messages after Challenger doubles matches," says Smyczek, laughing. "And what kind of—who bets on that sort of thing?"
• A sit-down meeting between Andre Agassi and Phil Knight led the tennis legend back to Nike.
Andre Agassi, he cried. So did Phil Knight. They have a lot more riding on such a decision than the average consumer, of course. In play are many millions of dollars and a personal relationship that spans more than a quarter-century.
“I get this call from Phil, and he was looking for guidance in a particular area,” is how this story starts as told by Agassi, the tennis legend and Las Vegas native. “I said, ‘On one condition, Phil. That I can come up to Portland, over lunch, look you in the eye, man to man, and say thank you for the life you have given me, and I am sorry for the way it ended.’ ”
Knight, who not only wears Nike but also owns the company, responded, “That would mean a lot to me.”
• Data visualization of tennis ball patterns.
• Laura Robson has brought on Andy Murray's former coach, Miles Maclagan, for the grass-court season.
• In light of ESPN.com's report that Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend 20 players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, for their connection to a Miami clinic linked to performance-enhancing drugs, it's worth re-reading the initial report, from the Miami New Times, about the clinic's operations and ties to various professional athletes, which includes a mention of Wayne Odesnik. • Non-tennis: This ESPN profile of Brittney Griner is fantastic.