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Beyond the Baseline

Daily Bagel: Did Bobby Riggs fix Battle of the Sexes match vs. Billie Jean King?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW6vFHI_lqc

The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.

• Video: Novak Djokovic went to the UN on Friday to launch the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, which will be held on April 6, 2014.

• With the 40th anniversary of the Battle of the Sexes looming, ESPN investigates whether Bobby Riggs tanked the match against Billie Jean King to satisfy a mafia debt.

"Did he know mafia guys? Absolutely," Larry Riggs says. "Is it possible these guys were talking some s---? Yes, it is possible. They talked to him about doing it? Possible." However, Riggs says, it was more likely his father purposefully lost with an eye toward setting up a bigger payday rematch -- and a continuation of the national publicity that he so craved -- than throw the match for mob money. Larry Riggs also says he remains baffled by the fact his father did not prepare for the King match -- the only match in Bobby Riggs' life for which he had failed to train. "Never understood it," Larry Riggs says.

• At Sports on Earth, Lindsay Gibbs evaluates the current state of American men's tennis and how the USTA is trying to turn things around.

[USTA director of coaching Jose] Higueras is passionate about the importance of hard work, which is why he enjoys the qualification tournament so much -- players have to earn their spot.

"If it was up to me, there would be no wild cards. Wild cards create entitlement for the kids. I think you should be in the draw if you actually are good enough to get in the draw," he said. "I think one of the things that hurt Donald [Young] when he was young [was that] he got so many wild cards. They don't make you a player."

As Higueras focuses on changing the mindset of our youth and expanding powers of the USTA Player Development Program, he's realistic about the prospects of directly creating the next [Pete] Sampras or [John] McEnroe. "You can put together a system where you have some good players, but the special players are going to come on their own. That's just how it works."

"I don't care. I just want people with an American passport to be good. I can care less if they work with us, or they don't work with us, or how much we help them or not."

• The New Yorker profiles Djokovic.

Laura Robson, now managed by IMG's Max Eisenbud, details the wrist injury she's carrying into the U.S. Open.

USA Today's For The Win has a great look at Juan Martin del Potro's cannon-like running forehand.

• Via Facebook, here's what tennis players have been up to in Manhattan.

• No U.S. Open credential for John Tomic.

The USTA "opted not to credential'' John Tomic after receiving a request from Bernard Tomic's agent, said USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier.

"Our desire is to make it as difficult as possible for him to gain entry to the US Open,'' Widmaier said.

• I was asked recently about my tennis pet peeve and I noted the tendency for people to conflate "lots of breaks of serve" with "crappy match." This New York Times piece looks at the data on why there are more breaks of serve in the women's game.

Because the serve is not quite as venomous on the women’s tour, it makes sense that the return games would flourish. The women’s tour always gets heat because its players can’t hold serve as much, but that holds little weight because they don’t have an Isner or a Raonic fireball to rely on. Imagine giving players on the ATP Tour only one serve, which would automatically drop serve speeds, and you would start to see the men having substantial difficulty holding serve as well.

While the men dominate the serving statistics, it’s the women who outperform in the returning area. Angelique Kerber led the women with 89 percent returns made last year, and 47 women made at least 75 percent of their returns. The men were vastly inferior in this area, with only eight players making at least 75 percent of their returns. The power dictates this result.

• Non-tennis: There was a time when the VMAs weren't a spectacular train wreck.

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