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Beyond the Baseline

Daily Bagel: Tennis' love affair with 'Come on!'

http://youtu.be/j8mDw7wNRaA

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

• Video: Bob and Mike Bryan failed in their quest to complete the calendar Grand Slam, but they still took time after the loss to talk to ESPN. Class stuff, fellas.

• Fantastic piece by Deadspin's John Koblin on the evolution of "Come on!" in tennis. Seriously, no other sport does it as we do.

Did people scream come on in the '70s, '80s, or '90s?

"No," said [Tracy] Austin.

"There was no talking!" [Mary] Carillo said.

"There was no talking," Austin agreed. "You were not demonstrative like that. It was something that for me, I must say, because I'm kind of a traditionalist, it's been something for me to get used to. Now it's so prevalent—Allez!Come on! Everything else. No, I never said anything. I didn't say a word."

"We had a bunch of old tiebreaks that we were showing during the delay," Carillo said. (She was talking about old tennis matches CBS showed during a rain delay during Monday's telecast.) "Nobody did it. Pete [Sampras] didn't say anything. Even [Jimmy] Connors. He didn't emote to himself --he played to the crowd. He didn't have to tell himself to come on."

• Mikhail Youzhny wrote a PhD thesis on how to beat Novak Djokovic and The Wall Street Journal translated it. Youzhny lost to Djokovic 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 on Thursday.

• Grantland's Louisa Thomas on Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet, the two surprise men's finalists who have traveled a long and circuitous road to get here.

• Slate's Lowen Liu weighs in on Roger Federer.

What we are missing, then, is a satisfying way to think about the twilight of Federer’s career, left instead with the sadness of watching as all the rungs he climbed, and all the records he accrued on his way up, get snapped on his slide down. Is this really how it’s going to end, in a flameout? Or should we still hold out hope that the Federer of old will return, if only for a moment?

Between these two possibilities lies a third, the most likely. This past year was neither a shuddering implosion nor a setup to a final blaze of glory, but merely a blip during what has been a slow and steady drop-off since 2007. And for all the suggestions to improve his game technologically, strategically, and psychologically, nothing can be done. Monday’s outlier loss was just another milestone (growing closer together, as they tend to) linked to 2008’s famed Wimbledon defeat to Rafael Nadal, and to the 2009 Australian final, a five-set loss, again to Nadal, that presented us with one of the most moving moments in tennis—Federer’s tears, his choked speech, all of which is tempting to read now as a dawning awareness of the end. A combination of the nagging back, the lost step, the jangled nerves, of nothing in particular and everything at once, is leading him down the path that every great champion inevitably takes.

• With Federer fading, all eyes turn to Rafael Nadal, as Harvey Araton of The New York Times writes.

But if Federer, 32, does not soon get his game together and his confidence back, and if Nadal’s 27-year-old body can hold up until he is 30, the basis of the rivalry will probably shift from head-to-head matchups to Grand Slam titles.

That is the one measure that is concrete, unlike the unwinnable greatest-of-all-time debate. It is Federer’s stronghold, his indisputable claim to being the best.

But if Nadal can close the gap, which stands at 17-12, and get within striking distance as he approaches the end of his peak years, the rivalry will thrive no matter what Federer does from here on. It will in certain respects be bigger than ever. It will have a very good case as the greatest in the history of men’s tennis

• Peter Bodo on the man of the hour, Wawrinka.

Aficionados are enamored of Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand (it’s the doomed romantic in them), and with good reason. But today his forehand was even more lethal. He tagged more than twice as many winners with it (15 to seven). Far more compact and waspish than that roundhouse backhand, it may hold the key to his immediate future in New York, especially if he meets top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Djokovic isn’t known for his kindness to guys who like to take great big cuts on fast surfaces.

These matches are never about just forehands and backhands; if they were, Wawrinka might have been a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist ages ago. Until this year, he’s had a tendency to shrink away when he found himself in the spotlight in a big match. When I asked him what he was most proud of in his performance today, Wawrinka replied with conviction: “How I was dealing with the pressure. Normally I can be a little bit nervous and I can lose few games because of that, but today I was just focus on my game.”

• From Ben Rothenberg for Slate: Based on Maria Sharapova's listed measurements, she's closer to anorexic than athlete. We all know tennis players lie about their weight. So why even include it as a statistic?

While Sharapova's measurements are the most outlandish on paper—she is the only one of the 110 players in the 2013 WTA Media Guide with a BMI less than 17.5—she's hardly the only player whose listed weight fails the eye test. When compared against one another, or simply against logic, many of the players’ weights seem very, very wrong, all somehow erring on the low side. The 6-foot Kristina Mladenovic, the only other player in the media guide with a BMI under 18, is listed at an incredible 132 pounds. Caroline Wozniacki, who is 5-foot-10, supposedly weighs a paper-thin 128.

• Slate put together a Longform guide to the classic tennis reads for the U.S. Open.

• Andy Murray's quarterfinal loss put an almost unfixable dent in his quest for No. 1.

• Non-tennis: Sports On Earth's Chuck Culpepper writes about Allianz Arena, the home of Bayern Munich.

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