Daily Bagel: Can Rafael Nadal defend his points won on clay?
The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.
• Video: 70 backhand winners by Stanislas Wawrinka.
• From FiveThirtyEight: Suddenly, Anyone Can Beat Rafael Nadal on Clay.
Twice in his nine-year run of dominance, Nadal lost on clay in consecutive tournaments: in 2009, to [Robin] Soderling and [Roger] Federer; and in 2011, twice to [Novak] Djokovic. Immediately after each pair of losses, Nadal went on big clay-winning streaks: 37 straight matches after his 2009 rut, and 22 straight starting in 2011. He may need another such run to maintain his No. 1 ranking: His lead over Djokovic is fewer than 2,000 points, and Nadal has 4,000 points to defend in his next three tournaments. Djokovic has just 910 points to defend during that span.
• WTA Backspin recaps the week that was and assesses Maria Sharapova's chances in Paris.
And speaking of her present, what is to be made of her chances in Paris now that she has finally lifted herself out of her early season doldrums? Remember, Serena [Williams] hasn't quite been herself in '14, either. The Italians (or most of them) have been slumping. Aga [Radwanska] can't close. While she's a Roland Garros champ, clay isn't Li Na's best surface. Simona Halep still hasn't actually TOTALLY risen, and Ana [Ivanovic], JJ [Jelena Jankovic] and Sam Stosur, while contenders, surely provide a lot of reasons why one wouldn't think they could win the season's second Slam.
But here's Sharapova, proving she still has "it" on the red stuff. Stuttgart might not make her an odds-on favorite to win a second [Roland Garros] title, or even reach a third-straight final... but it surely inserts her back into the opening statement of the conversation, doesn't it?
• Louisa Thomas for Grantland writes that it's not just that Nadal is losing -- it's that he's losing to Spaniards on clay.
• The Swiss team of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka have a huge opportunity over the next few months to charge up the rankings.
• Congratulations to Elena Dementieva and husband Maxim Afinogenov on the birth of their daughter, Veronika.
• Steve Tignor for Tennis.com on this weekend's winners.
• From Sharapova to Claypova: How Sharapova has made the transformation.
• Interesting interview over at The Tennis Space with Nenad Zimonjic on the ATP's pension plan. • Non-tennis: SI's Phil Taylor on The State of Clipper Land in the aftermath of Donald Sterling's shocking comments.