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Beyond the Baseline

Daily Bagel: Serena's 'smart' joke

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

• Video: Wimbledon under construction.

• Serena Williams, she has a sense of humor. Haters to the left. (In case you're curious, here is the full story.)

https://twitter.com/serenawilliams/status/413879939461836801

• Boris Becker says Novak Djokovic's team approached him during the China Open in September. Why the interest in Becker?

"He had a couple of bad losses this year in the finals of the Grand Slams. He's such a winner and wants to win so badly and wants to go into the history books of tennis," said Becker.

"The fact [Rafael] Nadal has taken over and [Andy] Murray has moved up a gear, he was left behind a little bit - I'm talking on a really high level, the last five or 10% that maybe has been missing for whatever reason.

"He decided he needed somebody in his corner that had been there and done it, and that's why I'm coming in."

• Here's what Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Kirilenko will be wearing at the Australian Open.

• The USTA Australian Open wild-card playoffs are underway and you can stream some of it here.

• The Apia International Sydney has an extensive Q&A with Petra Kvitova.

• Think Progress on why Williams is the most influential woman in sports this year. It isn't just because she dominated on the court; it's also because she makes us confront our own issues of idolization, race and gender.

With her, we’ve always had to take the great with the less-than, the woman who refused to conform with the person who, at times, needed to change. We’ve had to balance the intensely-focused competitor with the athlete who can seem aloof and disconnected. And we’ve had to ask ourselves whether we’re judging all of those qualities the same way we would if she looked like the tennis stars who came before her or was the same gender as the only tennis stars on her level now, while at the same time asking ourselves if we’re judging her the way we would were she not such an icon. It’s never simple with Serena, and perhaps that more than anything makes her more influential both on the court and off than any woman in sports.

• Todd Spiker of WTA Backspin has an extensive 2014 preview, in which he explains why Serena gets her own top category on his Grand Slam Master List.

But after having this top tier of the list consist of a handful of worthy slam contenders in the past, I'm going with only Serena -- topping the ML for a third straight year -- this time around because, quite simply, it's nearly impossible to imagine that she won't win at least one major title in '14, while it's no certainty that any other specific woman will win any, or even reach a final, in a very competitive field. Am I predicting a four-for-four slam season for Williams, a true Grand Slam? Well, that wouldn't come until a few weeks from now in the "Prediction Blowout," but I am throwing it out there as a possibility.

• Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic salute Esther Vergeer.

• Non-tennis: The quietest place on earth is a lab in Minnesota. No one has lasted more than 45 minutes inside.
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