Wednesday September 4th, 2013

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

• Video: Nice job, ball boy.

• The Wall Street Journal looks at the numbers to detail Roger Federer's decline.

• Watching Lleyton Hewitt's run to the fourth round, The New York Times' Christopher Clarey wonders if there will come a day when we might consider a fourth round run for Federer a success.

Hewitt, like Federer, is 32 and was once No. 1 in the world; was once the planet around which the tennis moons orbited. But the intense Australian has moved on from those increasingly distant days and found meaning at a new, lower level.

Public expectations have adjusted with Hewitt’s own, which is not yet the case with Federer. Though it is quite difficult at the moment to imagine a day when the sport might view Federer losing in the fourth round of a major tournament as a solid result, the expectation game can shift quickly.

What is already clear is that Federer, now ranked seventh and in the midst of his least convincing season in a decade, has downshifted into a genuine underdog’s role, with Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray occupying higher ground.

Now it is a question of whether he can or truly wants to adjust to that status. Now it is time to find out truly how much he loves the game when he is not dominating the game.

• What retirement? Marion Bartoli confirms she'll play Hopman Cup with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

• Grantland's Brian Phillips is enduring a nagging case of the sniffles, which is probably how Juan Martin del Potro felt while taking on Lleyton Hewitt.

• Peter Bodo for Tennis.com on Ana Ivanovic's game but ultimately-failing effort against Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round.

But what of all those breaks that would follow after a first set featuring just three? There were 16 breaks (and just 13 holds), and a grand total of 32 break points. But while we’ve witnessed countless matches filled with cringe-worthy serving and handfuls of breaks, this wasn’t one of those.

The striking thing about all those breaks—including seven of 10 games in the third set—was that both women were playing well; it was a prime example of how even good serving sometimes guarantees nothing against a quality opponent. When someone asked Azarenka to account for all those breaks, she replied, “I don’t know, I think we’re great returners.” Unable to keep a straight face, Azarenka began laughing and added, “It’s just as simple as that. We’re just so much better on the return.”

• From The Washington Post, why it's tough for women to be friends in the locker room.

• Nice The New York Times profile on 15-year old junior Sandra Samir of Egypt. • Non-tennis: From Sports on Earth, a fantastic look at Jordan's women's soccer team.

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