On the eve of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne...
• Cherry picking is not as easy as it looks: That's a really good point. Some players need the rhythm and structure that comes with a full slate of events. For them, rationing their events, going weeks (months, even) without match play and then getting back in the winning business, isn't easy. Both Clijsters and Henin looked like regressed between Australia and Indian Wells, and you wonder if they didn't pay the price for playing so sparingly in between. This, of course, has seldom been a problem for Venus and Serena.
More generally, the entire way the Williams sisters have approached their scheduling needs to be reconsidered. When they burst on the scene and played only when they felt like it -- withdrawing often, retiring often, resisting the WTA's pressure to amp up their commitments -- they drew ire. As they began winning consistently, the attitude shifted, grudgingly, to, "It's unfortunate they're so unreliable, but whatever works for them."
Then, as other, younger players retired, unretired, burnt out, injured themselves and came back too soon, the Williams Method (circa 1998) has proven to be
• Just to be clear, we intended to tweak the stubbornness of the organizers, not question the writer.
Neil wrote: "Thanks for making me see the errors of my ways regarding Davis Cup. Once I looked at the evidence like TV ratings (42.0 rating in Albania), the list of sponsors (Earl's Transmission and Lube) and, the ritualistic place on the calendar (oh, sometime between January and December), I realized what an ornary crank I've been. Must be the hangover from winning the hockey gold in the Olympics. Good thing Canada never does anything in Davis Cup or jerks like me would end up in the stands. Cheers"
• Amen. An unabashed A-Rad fan here. She's like the Hingis for this era. She's not going to blast too many opponents off the court. But she does these weird things that are really effective. One is playing strategic tennis, leaving the mindless baseline bashing to the others. The other thing she does: She goes games and games without missing a ball.
• Totally, totally agree. I made the same point to my wife the first time I saw that ad. Love BNP's commitment to tennis. But why on earth -- given both recent and not-so-recent history -- would you make an
I'm baffled here.
• Zvereva is in the de facto doubles corridor. (The same way I'd be willing to bet on the Bryans getting in over Roddick or Safin or even
• You win. Today's players are exceptional athletes, no matter how we define that term. Even a cursory glance ought to confirm that.
• This has gone from a downturn, to an injury-triggered slump, to something entirely more disconcerting. You can only change coaches and tinker with both equipment and motion so many times before you have to ask yourself some hard questions. Remember that before Ivanovic won the French, she'd been firmly embedded in the top 10, she had already reached the final of a major and won plenty of matches. But lately she's lucky to win matches. I think the "babe trope" is wrong. Sharapova had immeasurably more marketing pressure and continued winning majors. The takeaways: 1) The serve is the foundation of a player's game. When that goes, the machinery goes. 2) Confidence perpetuates in both directions. Players with momentum can will themselves to win. Players with doubt lose before they step on the court. 3) Some players win majors and their hunger intensifies. "Now I've broken through, it's time to get greedy." Other players win majors and their hunger is sated.
I'd never encourage you to give up on a player. But (maybe
• The self-proclaimed "biggest event outside the majors" minus Venus and Serena equals depleted.
• Help me out here. Assuming there's an Aussie Rules Football Hall of Fame (like Serena, I'm too lazy to Google ... which, come to think of it, is a very funny phrase ... like being too lowbrow to eat deep-fried Oreos), imagine a player who was a lesser god. Or how about this: Little River Band, Midnight Oil and Crowded House, but not AC/DC.
• Right on! How dare Nadal speak a foreign language? Doesn't he know that
• I bet a dozen of you made the same point. I respectfully disagree. Ferrero and Roddick have won the same number of majors and TMS events, achieved the top ranking (briefly) and helped their country to Davis Cup glory. But there are differences, too. Roddick has won twice (twice!) as many titles. He's reached three Wimbledon finals and four Aussie Open semis. (Only once has Ferrero reached a major final held outside Paris, and ironically he lost to Roddick.) He's spent the majority of the past decade in the top 10, if not the top five. (Ferrero, thanks in part to injuries, has finished the last five season at No. 18, 23, 24, 55 and 23.) Roddick has won roughly 50 percent more prize money, a strong indication of a better career. We'll stop here.
Let me reiterate: I hate that Ferrero is our whipping boy here. He was/is a great, great tennis player. (And I also can't stress enough how pleasant I've found him to be over the years.) But, like grade inflation at Harvard, I think that at some point in time, arbitrary as it might be, you need to reconfigure the standards for Hall of Fame admission.
• You get credit for the Isner line. In terms of tennis, one of you also made a good comparison to a young Lindsay Davenport -- a clean ball striker who will be even better once she gets in better shape. As things stand now, it's hard to see her winning a Slam. But let's revisit in a year.
As baffling as it is when someone becomes a No. 1 tennis player without winning a Grand Slam, isn't it just as baffling (if not more, even) that Caroline Wozniacki is No. 2 without ever winning a Tier I event?
• Again the purpose of the rankings is really two-pronged: 1) to reflect merit/reward achievement and 2) to incent players to enter a lot of events. Wozniacki plays a lot of tennis al over the globe and is rewarded accordingly. She also -- let's not forget -- reached the final of a major (and the final of big-ticket Indian Wells) all at a time when the women's field picture is clouded by injuries, retirements, unretirements and general inconsistency. Wozniacki is not the second-best female in the world. But she could be one day.
• I was joking about Scorsese. But that's a great stat about Walt Disney.
• Thanks to the good folks of South Florida who stopped by and said hello at the Literary Feast Last Weekend. Nice meeting you. What a great event.
• Thanks to
• A hearty congrats to new dad
• This week's
• In addition to having a supercool name,
Have a great week everyone!