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Beyond the Baseline

Daily Bagel: Venus says Serena is best

http://youtu.be/i3api0R0Vig

• Video: Maria Kirilenko was relaxed, charming and hilarious during this Tennis Channel interview, which was done after she made the quarterfinals.

In an interview with the YES Network, Venus Williams was asked to name the greatest player she's seen or faced. "Clearly Serena," Venus said of her younger sister. "No doubt. I've played most of the greats, and she's definitely the best."

• Sports On Earth's Chuck Culpepper embraces the hype surrounding Friday's French Open semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

So in the name of hype and anticipation everywhere, let's savor these last hours in which everything remains possible. Let's get in our last mental pictures of the two big personas, two big presences, two big near-cartoon characters, in clash. Let's remember that so much of the exhilaration of sports comes in the buildup.

• Brad Gilbert breaks down the Nadal-Djokovic match, via this piece from ESPN.com's Greg Garber.

Brad Gilbert, the ESPN analyst who coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, say there are two critical factors for this clay-court matchup. The eye test and the weather.

"Based on the eye test over the first 10 days," Gilbert said, "Djokovic is winning the tournament. He has looked really good to me, and Rafa has struggled to find his forehand. He played great in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, but not as well since. Maybe he's getting his mojo back after that fourth-round win against Kei Nishikori.

"If the cold weather continued, I'd favor Djokovic, but Friday's supposed to be around 77 [degrees Fahrenheit]. That's perfect for Rafa, gives him the conditions to hit the ball through the court.

"If that's how it goes down, I'd say it's a push."

• Djokovic was unable to attend the funeral of his first coach, Jelena Gencic, but he sent a heartfelt letter to be read.

I am immensely sad to be saying goodbye to you today. You prepared me for many situations in life—for wins, for triumphs, for our trophies—but I am completely unprepared for our parting. Not being able to see you off makes me endlessly sad. Still, I know that you’d be mad if I gave up or decreased my chance to fulfill this final wish of ours, winning Roland Garros.

• Last year, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said there was no way a Frenchman could win the French Open. This year, he's out to prove himself wrong.

Tomas Berdych has joined Twitter.

• The ATP website previews Djokovic-Nadal by looking at the stats.

• The WTA tournament in Carlsbad, Calif., looks to be on the move. It's a shame that the tournament couldn't recapture its glory days when it was the Acura Classic.

• The ITF has rejected Pakistan's appeal, confirming New Zealand's Davis Cup victory from earlier this year. Pakistan was defaulted for failing to provide suitable playing conditions.

• Non-tennis: The 2015 Women's World Cup is set to be played on turf instead of grass. I'm annoyed, as is anyone who actually enjoys watching or playing soccer.

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