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USTA put in tight spot with Mahut wild-card situation, more mail


I'm wondering if anyone else feels that Nicolas Mahut, considering the historic nature and the quality of the match he played against John Isner at Wimbledon, deserved the courtesy of a U.S. Open wild card? (he lost in the last round of the qualies). Whether it is the USTA, the ATP, or any other governing body, something should have been done to acknowledge the appreciation many have developed for this courageous and talented player. John Isner, of course, is admitted directly into the main draw (if he does actually decide to play with torn ankle ligaments). I've written a blog post on this subject on my website, which you may feel free to promote, thank you very much!--Steven Zynszajn, New York

• This was a hot topic today -- a dearth of upsets will do that. The USTA was in a tight spot here. If they gave Mahut a wild card, there'd be hell to pay. "You're supposed to promote American tennis; there are dozens of hungry American kids who need a break; and you give a wild card to a journeyman Frenchman whose great distinction is that he LOST the longest match ever played??!" Of course, the flip side: "This poor guy competed with such honor and courage at Wimbledon, the least the sport could do to honor him is gift a spot in the main draw of the next Major."

Here's my question: As part of a reciprocity agreement, why not give one French player -- as determined by the French Federation -- a U.S. Open wild card? (In exchange, an American gets an "automatic in" in Paris.) Why didn't the French Federation go to bat for Mahut instead of Guillaume Rufin?

Why do tennis authorities regard women's players incapable of playing best of five sets at the slams as their male counterparts are allowed to? Sounds like a backward philosophy that plays into the country-club, old-school image of tennis. After all, even the Olympic Games opened the marathon to the women (back in 1984) so why can't tennis open best-of-five-sets competition to the ladies? It would be great to see women's tennis benefit from the greater emphasis on fitness and endurance. Rather than treating them as fragile, second-class-athletes that they're wrongly assumed to be.--Ishar Bahadur, New York

• Interesting point. I'd be more worked up if the women were agitating to play best-of-five tennis. But I've never heard that. So long as they're fine with best of three, why not let them? Best of five would simply lead to longer matches and more injuries, neither of which the sport needs right now.

Hey Jon, I had a question for you earlier in the summer after SI put Serena on the cover of its magazine and asked you if you thought there was a jinx attached to the cover. What was that you said you'd eat if something happened to Serena after her cover? --Denise, San Antonio

• Um ... a BBQ brisket sandwich at the food court for $10? No? My shoes? My words? Crow?

Hamburgers at the U.S. Open cost $8.50, not $15 as one fan said. And as you noted, prices at the Open are compatible, if not lower, with those at most places in midtown Manhattan. Always has been. And, besides, it's a great big burger.--Bob Greene, U.S. Open press room seat 288

• True that. It is a great burger. Let the record reflect: there's a huge perception-reality gap when it comes to U.S. Open food. It's not that expensive relative to public spaces -- let me tell you about $5 pizza slices they offer at baseball games -- and it's quite good.

Hi, Jon -- Sorry if this is the 3,789th time this has been asked, but what is the necessity of seeding players (other than one and two) if a tournament has a random draw? This has puzzled me for more years than I care to admit. Looking forward to your U.S. Open coverage. WI_Dilettante, Rome

• Close, but who's counting. The Slams depart from conventional draws -- where the "Round of 16," for instance, would pit 1 versus 16, 2 versus 15, 3 versus 14 and so on. But the seed "bunchings" (1-4, 5-8, 9-16, 17-32) are placed strategically. A top seed could play any seed, 17-32, in the third round. But he or she could never play another top-16 seed. Likewise a top-four seed could never play another top-four seed prior to the semis. Does that make sense? The irony: For all the complications (and questions), I think this technique is preferable. It adds variety, cuts down on the odds that the same two players will meet in the same round of Slams.

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Here's hoping that Clijsters loses early--I'm not a huge fan of the cheesy strategy of bringing the infant to the court to score PR points. That was pretty pathetic last year.--Juanita Sanchez, New York

• This came up twice this week. Quick rebuttal. A) If there's one player who does not embrace a "PR strategy," it's Clijsters. B) What's she supposed to do? Send her daughter to Six Flags with the nanny the day of the U.S. Open final? I suspect a major motivation for Clijsters' return was the opportunity to have her daughter watch her success. C) If anyone is to blame, it's the media -- one member in particular -- who beat the "mommy trope" with unrelenting frequency.

• Contest time, non-tennis/self-indulgent variety. As some of you know, I'm finishing up a book that's basically "Freakanomics for sports." My co-author and I had a lot of fun with the material and are happy with how it turned out. But we're having a hell of a time with the title. The leaders in the clubhouse are: "The Tip Off," "I Got It" and "We're Number One." The subtitle: The Real Reasons Your Favorite Team Will Win or Lose. If can you top that and the good folks at Random House agree, a Dunlop Biomimetic racket is yours. And in a crowd-sourcing, data-driven way, if you have a strong preference for one title over another, please vote. Thanks much.

• On this, the 10-year anniversary of his title ... who else misses Marat Safin? (great interview)

• Speaking of former champs, here's Steffi Graf on "Good Morning America."

• Still more former Grand Slam champs you say? Nice to see Gabriela Sabatini and Iva Majolibefriending Jennifer Capriati.

• Kim Clijsters, nice arm.

• Interesting Rafael Nadalinterview here.

• Discover Financial Services has been named the new title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, the first new sponsor to the BCS since 2003.

• Check out Tea Leoni, er, Maria Sharapova here.

Kathleen of NYC: I usually make an effort to attend the opening rounds of the U.S. Open with a grounds pass since it's such a great value to be able to walk around and see an abundance of talent up close. However, this year I've run into a few obligations at work and will not be able to take the days off. So I decided to take your advice and check out the qualifying matches on Friday, and I had the most fantastic time! The grounds are already bustling, most courts are at least two-thirds full of cheering fans, and I was able to see a Federer v. Monfils practice match on Armstrong as well as Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Ferrero, Blake and the Bryan brothers hit a bit on the practice courts ... all for free! I highly suggest all local fans to check out the qualies next year!

• If you're in New York Thursday and need an alternative to the night session, check out Varsity Letters.