It's always struck me as shabby when a commentator or columnist ignites controversy and then slips away like Laura Dern in the last scene of Citizen Ruth. Last week, I took issue with Roger Federer's Wimbledon attire -- and, more specifically, the Nike taste-makers who determined Federer's dignity and humility required more edge. The responses, pro and con, were as intense as they were numerous.
So here's what we'll do. For those who have had their fill of the fashion/image discussion and -- quite reasonably -- would rather get back to tennis, keep reading. For those wishing to continue discussing Federer's fashion and image, click here.
I realize that tradition means Wimbledon will never move away from grass courts, but could they possibly find a way to keep Centre Court from looking so shabby by the second week of the tournament?-- Chris, Rockford, Minn.
• A little rain might have helped. And so might some -- wait, what's it called? -- oh, right ... serve-and-volleying. (Notice next year the pristine and untrammeled state of the grass inside the service line.) Consider this: In 2012, the grass will look like a sandlot after two weeks of Wimbledon. And then everyone will come back for the Olympics!
Can you imagine how very different the narrative would have been over the last four weeks if Federer had hired a coach, say Darren Cahill, back in the spring? He hires a coach, and suddenly he bags two more Slams, including the elusive one at Roland Garros, and reclaims No. 1. We wouldn't be talking about the greatness of Federer, but the brilliance of his coach. It would have felt cheap. Hindsight is 20/20, but this narrative is so much sweeter.-- Dale Stafford, Atlanta
• And we would have been deprived Cahill's presence on the ESPN set. A lot of credit to Federer here. Just two months ago -- hard to believe -- everyone and their cousin had a recommendation. He needed a bigger racket. He needed a new coach. He needed a sports psychologist. John McEnroe went so far as to volunteer his services. Federer stayed the course, didn't panic, didn't make any radical changes or hires, caught a few breaks and presto! A lesson for all the portfolio managers out there?
In the last year, we witnessed two epic gentlemen's finals at Wimbledon. Sixty-two games were played in the 2008 final that lasted 288 minutes. Seventy-seven games were played in the 2009 final that lasted 256 minutes. I contend more balls were hit in the 2008 final and it was, therefore, more grueling. Is this true?-- Joe Phoenix, Pearland, Texas
• I didn't count balls, but I wouldn't be so sure. Yes, Federer and Andy Roddick combined for 77 aces (Federer, amazingly, had 50) but there were also many long rallies. While it's true the 2008 final spanned a longer period of time (4:48 vs. 4:12) despite fewer games, I suspect much of that time was caused by Rafael Nadal's leisurely pacing. Anyone at IBM want to give us an exact ball count?
It seems like there are two kinds of players at the top of the women's tour: players who live for the majors -- Serena and Venus -- and players who live for playing great in every tournament except the Grand Slams -- Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. One player who embodied both was Justine Henin. Why can't more players be like that?-- F. Harrison, San Diego
• The cynic might be inclined to say, "Yeah, and look where that got her!" Apart from that, I'm not sure I buy the thesis. Henin didn't exactly play at a Jankovic-ian pace. She rarely played both Indian Wells and Miami; she rarely played between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It's almost become an either/or. Traipse around the globe playing 15-20 WTA events. (Your ranking will benefit but your body will betray you.) Or ration your events, which will benefit you in the long run but hurt your ranking.
How about this for a charity doubles event: the Bryans, Williamses, McEnroes, Blakes, Radwanskas, Bondarenkos and Murrays? And Safin and Safina?-- Erin, Sudbury, Mass.
• With the Jonas brothers emceeing. You could add the Blacks (Cara, Wayne and Byron), Medvedev and Medvedeva, and the Everts. Chalk it up to another virtue of tennis: I suspect you'd be hard-pressed to find a more sibling-friendly sport.
I took your advice and saw Fabrice Santoro play at the Hall of Fame Championships. It was positively amazing to watch the spin he was able to create and his ability to blunt the power of Taylor Dent, given his size. I'm now on the "see Santoro while you can" train. Which other players should I check out before their swan songs?-- Kimberly Rogers, Boston
• Santoro is truly in a class of his own. (Read Andrew Friedman's Santoro feature in the new Tennis.) Dent, coincidentally, would be up there. The U.S. Open will mark Marat Safin's final Grand slam. You might also enjoy Olivier Rochus. But instead of touting individual players, consider this an invitation to watch doubles. Variety, touch, reflexes, angles. Good drama. (I remember thinking the Williams-Williams doubles final at Wimbledon was far more entertaining than the Williams-Williams singles final.) Plenty of prime seats still available.
Enjoyed the thrill list, but no Monica Seles? At her peak, she had unbelievable power, unique strokes, unrivaled determination and very few errors. She was the most exciting woman to watch. The majority of points lost by the Williams sisters are unforced errors. That's not thrilling tennis -- it's frustrating.-- Joel, New York
• One Seles bouquet per week is my limit. Other readers advocated for Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase and Steffi Graf. Here's the list.
A question regarding doubles. Are the doubles teams not required to do press after matches like the singles players are? I would really like to get James Blake's and Mardy Fish's perspectives on their doubles matches but can't seem to find transcripts anywhere. -- Sarah, Milwaukee
• I believe doubles players are only required to "do press" if requested. In the case of Blake-Fish, if memory serves, they finished their Thursday semifinal match at Wimbledon around 9 p.m., long after the singles matches were complete. The print/digital journalists and TV folks had already packed it up. So this was less about a lack of interest than it was simply about bad timing.
I've read lately about Grigor Dimitrov having more talent than Roger Federer at the age of 18. I realize that it's an absurd comparison now, but does this kid have serious game? -- Tim Davis, Indianapolis
• Wish I had more for you here. I saw him in the Wimbledon juniors last year and was impressed. But obviously plenty of junior stars never make the transition to the pros. (The Wimbledon winner the year before Dimitrov: Donald Young.) At a minimum, he has the body. With so many level-headed people -- with no vested interest -- drooling over the guy, you have to believe it's not all hype. Definitely a name to highlight the rest of the year.
Was it my imagination or did I really see former New York mayor David Dinkins at the men's Wimbledon final?-- Joe Potter, Jamaica, N.Y.
• Right you are. Dinkins is a USTA board member and hence makes an appearance at many events. In fact, he and Guillermo Vilas have an ongoing contest to see who can amass more guest passes.
I see you found yourself unable to consider the fact that Roger Federer has probably won more majors than any other player without meeting a worthy opponent, right? Besides, I remember Roger as a racket- throwing tennis brat, but I guess you forget. So tell me: Who was the top-20-ranked player Roger defeated at the French?-- Dale Stavroff, Robert's Creek, B.C.
• We have to stop this "logic" right now. Way too many of you have complained about Federer's "lucky" draws, or the fact that he didn't beat Nadal. Sure, if we were scripting this for Hollywood, Federer would have beaten his rival, and exacted revenge on last summer, to achieve that French Open/15th major Holy Grail. But it didn't work out that way. Federer simply beat every man put before him. Can't ask for much more than that.
So, is Andy Roddick the best player not to Wimbledon?-- Ramkumar Subbaraman, Cupertino, Calif.
• Nah. Ivan Lendl, Henin and Seles are three names that jump quickly to mind.
Are tennis players elitist wimps? I was hitting with a ball machine and was the only player on the courts. Someone from the maintenance crew came over and asked if it was OK to cut the grass adjacent to the courts while I was playing.-- Jerry White, Mineral, Va.
• Elitist? Tennis players?
• Congrats to Stacey Allaster, your new WTA Tour CEO. May she fare better than Carolyn Bivens.
• Joel Haywood of Macon, Ga., writes: "Good on Federer for winning Wimbledon and retaking the No. 1 ranking from Nadal, who could have remained No. 1 if he had entered and made the semifinals. Can you imagine the controversy if Federer were ranked No. 2 while holding three Grand Slam trophies? Wait a minute ..."
• Frank Mannino of Philadelphia notes: "As spoiled as we have been with five-set Wimbledon finals, I realized that the women have not gone to three sets in any Grand Slam since the 2006 Wimbledon final. What does this say about the entertainment level in women's tennis? Also, the U.S. Open women's finals has not gone to a third set since Graf beat Seles in 1995!"
• Belated props to Indiana's own Rajeev Ram, who won four matches in one day en route to taking both the singles and doubles in Newport, R.I., last week. Buy that man a tenderloin sandwich.
• Speaking of the great Midwest, check out the field for the Cincy event.
• Roshan Revankar of Los Angeles has long-lost siblings: actor Lenn Kudrjawizki and Federer.