• Thanks, Michael, for the Question of the Week, a new feature here at the Mailbag. Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly genuine dislike each other, and thus it stands to reason that their respective supporters argue and feud and cut each to shreds on blogs, Twitter and in comments sections. Tottenham hates Arsenal and vice versa. And thus, it's not surprising, their respective hooligans bloody each other and sing lewd cheers back and forth.
But one the truly special components of the Federer-Nadal rivalry is the genuine affection that passes between the two. The Credit Suisse video is just one example of many. When "Fedofiles" (KADs as Pete Bodo calls them) skewer Nadal and "Rafaelites" are pronouncing Federer dead, it's wildly at odds with spirit of the rivalry. I get rooting for over the other. But when the two principals are so fond of each other, isn't it hard to generate deep hatred for the other guy?
Do you get the impression that the grace and humility of Nadal and Federer are rubbing off on the up-and-coming generation? I worry my four-year-old son is missing his only opportunity to have an athlete-role model that's actually worthy of the title.--Darrell, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
• I'm not sure I get the last part of your question, but your point is a good one When the two dominant players are gracious and humble -- in a word, mensches -- it rubs off on the rest of the field. If fecal matter flows downstream, so does goodness. When the two kings are so agreeable you look doubly bad when you're ranked 17th and behave like a jerk. In terms of sportsmanship and gentlemanliness it's easy to argue this is a high-water mark for the men's game. I think it's no coincidence that the two guys at the top so seldom make a false move.
Isn't it overstated in the extreme to say that in her second career that Clijsters has "totally rewritten" her tennis legacy? She's certainly playing well at the USO, but her performance at the other majors has been lukewarm to say the least don't you think?--Geellis, Berlin, Germany
• She'd won one career major (and lost in four finals) prior to retirement. She's won two (and lost in zero finals) of the four Grand Slams she's entered since coming back. That's pretty good, no?
Any more scoop on the Bryans not going to Colombia? There has to be more to that story than what we are hearing.--Rob D., Toronto
• Patched together from various sources: Given the conditions, the surface and the injury situation, Pat McEnroe wanted to have three singles players on the roster: John Isner, Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish, all of whom, incidentally, play a good game of doubles. That left only one other spot for either Bob or Mike. They declined, but may have been a bit vague on the reason. In one breath they claimed they were a "package deal" and in another they claimed they were simply too tired. This rubbed a few people the wrong way: everyone's tired. And there have been plenty of occasions (see Fish at the 2007 finals) when a team member made the trip and sat on the bench just so he could be there to encourage the others. Members of the Bryans camp got involved. There were meetings and phone calls and nobody budged. The Bryans took the high road and tweeted a good luck message but there is -- or at least was -- definitely some tension.
Here's the problem: This wasn't Watergate but, as far tennis goes, it was certainly news. The most accomplished doubles team of all time -- who have long supported Davis Cup -- mysteriously sitting out a tie? Common sense would tell you that something was up. And, sure enough, soon word spread the Republic of Tennis that there was more to this story. Yet another case of the networks getting burned by their conflicts of interest, Pat McEnroe, understandably, didn't elucidate much or give the full story on the air. (The same way Darren Cahill, an excellent announcer, but an "Adidas team" coach probably isn't the guy to give, unfiltered, unconflicted thoughts on Fernando Verdasco, Caroline Wozniacki, Andy Murray, etc.). So the viewers and fans, again, were the losers.
What's the deal with Pam, Mary Jo, Brad and Cliff calling each other Pammy, B.G. and Cliffy? Really? It's annoying and unprofessional! The nicknames for everyone should stop!--Maria, Mount Vernon, NY
• You tell 'em, M-Love.
It is disappointing that SI chose to put Tom Brady and the first week of NFL on the cover instead of Rafael Nadal's career Grand Slam. Ignoring such a major sports accomplishment is terrible.--Beth, New York, N.Y.
• Never mind the first week of the NFL, which is becoming to sports what Wal-Mart is becoming to big box retail. SI's deadline is Monday and the match didn't end until 10 p.m. I'm just amazed Scott Price conjured a story of this quality.
So I am attending the Venus/Kim semifinal in Brussels. Strange thing though, I went from vendor to vendor and could not find any waffles. Finally, one vendor with a puzzled look on his face said, "This is New York." Then I thought, "Wow!, what does an American with seven Grand Slams playing at her country's championship have to do to be appreciated?" Answer: Move to Mexico. Memo to the Italian Fed Cup captain: Have the venue for the championship changed to New York or bus/fly in that NYC crowd and you will feel right at home. Ciao!--Thomas, Charlotte N.C.
• So I'm sitting with a friend at that match and have the same thought. (For what it's worth, he's African-American.) I asked him whether he, too, finds the support for Clijsters a bit creepy. His response surprised me. To paraphrase: "Kim does everything in her power to be likable. Really, how can you not like her? Venus sends the message she doesn't care."
I have the same (admittedly unsatisfying) take as always. You should be able to root against the Williams sisters without automatically being branded racist and/or unpatriotic. (This is especially so in the case of Clijsters who, apart from being unimpeachably peachy, married an American and has a house in friggin' Belmar, New Jersey. GTL, baby.) Conversely, if you don't think, for at least some fans, their opinions are shaped in part by race, you live in a land of rainbows and unicorns.
Djokovic-Federer for match of the year? Nah. It's Isner vs. Mahut, and there'll simply be no other candidate this year.--David Wills, London, U.K.
• As with most of our debates, a lot of it hinges on semantics. What do we mean by greatest match? Certainly Isner-Mahut is the "match of the year" in terms of length, historical significance and drama. But when the second and third ranked players are locked at 5-5 in the fifth set of a Grand Slam semifinal ...
How about this as solution to no roof on U.S. Open stadium: The issue is not the temperature, not snowing. The issue is only rain. Inflate a balloon with gas that sits on top of the stadium. Deflate and re-use in future.--Carl, Los Angeles, Calif.
• Yeah, I don't get this. When it rained and snowed in the winter, they inflated this giant Michelin Man type bubble over the place. Worked fine.
What is it with American Express to advertise Sam Q., Melanie O. and John I. as the "next contenders"? Come on. Shouldn't there be truth in advertising? Lindsay Davenport said it right, "Melanie Oudin will have a good career in the top 20 but her game doesn't equate to winning slams."--Carlo Quidlat, California
• Dirty secret time: What do the aforementioned players have in common? They all share an agent/management team. My strong suspicion: Federer/Nadal/Serena were unavailable. The client went to the agent and said, "Here's X dollars, divvy it up as you see fit."
I agree with you on the bonus money. It's so tacky and the players always look so embarrassed when some corporate sponsor takes the mike and spells out the amount of money they're receiving. These guys aren't New Jersey lotto winners, they're not in it for the cash. I think it's very symbolic that Nadal spent about three seconds holding his million-dollar check before handing it off to Djoker so he could receive his trophy.--R.S., New York, N.Y.
• Not only that. Did you see what Nadal did with the check? (This was part of the trophy ceremony that wasn't amputated in favor of mediocre football.) He absently shoved it in his pocket like it was a candy wrapper. You're absolutely right about motivations and incentives. The former USTA executive who designed that "series bonus," who would let his salary appear on public filings, who always made a point of flogging the "record prize money" (which was still, by the way, a sliver of gross revenues), that guy is clearly motivated by paydays. These athletes are less mercenary than many believe.
Though I waited with bated breath, I was ultimately saddened that you chose to not use my "Johan Kriek-anomics" suggestion for the book. I had fun trying to conjure up some ridiculous titles that might make you laugh, knowing that they had no chance of being understood by a broad audience or being selected by your publisher. For fun, can you share some of the other witty or serious titles that people submitted but didn't make the cut in your next mailbag in the Shots, Miscellany section.--Brian U. New York, N.Y.
• A smattering from you guys: Hot Streakonomics. Jimmy the Greek-o-nomics. Why They Win. It's not About the Money. Dedrawing the Lines. We're Number One. Upset! The Best of the Best. Power Play. Snap Decisions. For the Love of the Stats. Math-letes. What Makes the Best the Best? Gross-net? Who's on top? A Game of Numbers. Blame the Ref. Don't Bet on it. Bet on it. Our team sucks. Give up Hope. This is the Year. Lie to Me. Crowd Noise. Advantage, You! By a shoestring. What Curse? Impure Luck. The Playing Field is not Level. #$% My Regression. The Sportsthink Epidemic. The Fix isn't in. Running the (Actuarial) Tables. You guessed it, Frank Stallone. Untold riches. Keeping Pace. Numbers Game. Suckers game. Are you game? Reality football. Beyond Chance. Data Points. Break Points. Crucial Points. When 2 Plus 2 is Five. Game Curve. Bank Shots. Magic Numbers. Under Agassi's Wig.
Again, we ended up going with "Scorecasting." But thanks to everyone who helped. I had an easier time deciding on a name for my kids.
Instead of giving Clijsters $500,000 for the US Open series, why not give her an extra 1,000 points for defending a title?--Matt, Toronto
• This is tennis' congential screwed-up-ness in a nutshell. Clijsters defends her U.S. Open title. She gets $500,000 for nothing. But she drops two spots in the rankings. Open eye. Insert fork.
Apropos of the mailbag report that Azarenka berated a U.S. Open ball kid because all the balls for here serve were not coming from the same side, this article (from onthebaseline.com) about Bank of the West Classic indicates it's not the first time.
Then things started to get interesting. "I'm not giving my name," said a 17-year-old who apparently had a story to tell." She had just come off a long shift, and while she was very happy with her job, she did have one complaint. "Azarenka is very particular," she said.
"How so," I asked.
"She wants all the balls on one side, and if you don't she yells at you."
--Eric, New York
• Probably not the month to be piling on Azarenka. But, boy, if you want a fast way to lose fans and trash your reputation, you could scarcely do worse than belittling ballkids. We've gotten multiple emails lately fingering Azarenka as a particularly grievous offender. If I'm in her camp, I'm pulling her aside and gently suggesting she improve her conduct here. Not cool.
• Eric of Los Angeles: "Regarding your point about Nadal owing Federer some Omaha steaks for tiring out Djokovic prior to the final, I'd say the two can just about call it even considering Federer wouldn't own a French Open title or a career Grand Slam if Nadal hadn't done Fed a solid by getting bounced by Soderling in Roland Garros in '09. In that roundabout way, the two greatest champions of this era enabled the other to do what only 5 men had done before."
• Zubba from Santa Clara: "Check out this video of a 12-year-old Nadal. He still has the same mannerisms."
• Get happy with Andy Murray (love this video).
• Speaking of Murray: Alan Billings, Durham, N.C.: "Having just read your 'Fifty thoughts from the U.S. Open,' I have a take on the ball people handling towels. As a ball person at the Open (I'm 44, so ball kid doesn't apply) during the Murray/Warwrinka match, after punching his strings in frustration, Andy Murray sufficienly bloodied his knuckles enough to make his towel untouchable to me. I didn't notice this right away and waited until the end of his service game to politely inform him myself that his towel was covered in blood and I wasn't going to be allowed to handle it any more. Usually we are to inform the chair judge of the situation and he informs the player not to ask us to bring him the towel. But since this wasn't on a changeover I decided to take the initiative and deal with it. Andy was, suprisingly, very apologetic, and once I had retreived him a fresh towel, he stated to me that he wouldn't use the affected hand to hold the towel while wiping his face, etc. Given that Andy is known to be a little testy at times, this was a great relief to see that the players have frustration levels that can be turned on and off depending on the type of situation presented to them. And it was an experience I will long remember. I actually have a picture taken by a friend showing me standing at the back wall with both of the towels on the 'Citizen' clock."
• This week's unsolicited book recommendation: Play Their Hearts Out by George Dohrmann.
• The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced the appointment of John Embree, who most recently served as the President of the Americas for Prince Sports until June 2010 and will now be taking on the consulting role of Director of ITA Endowment Fund Campaign.
• Michael H. of Atlanta notes: "Christo -- forget the Arkansas river. Cover Arthur Ashe Stadium in fabric. You pay for the installation. We'll agree to call it "art." Win-win."
• Paul Haskins of Wilmington, N.C.: "As someone who sat on a sold-out flight from N.C. to New York over Labor Day weekend I can tell you that N.C. residents love the Open regardless of the number of Americans playing. I'd put the tennis knowledge of my southern tennis friends up against Andrew's New Yorkers any day."
• A special mailbag "Get Well Soon/Hang in There" to Erin Holzman.
• New Yorkers, check out the new Vince Lombardi play, not least because one of the show's associate producers is Joe Favorito, a former WTA and USTA (and IFL) executive.
• Jason of Toronto has long lost brothers David Nalbandian and Harold and Kumar's Freakshow; Chris H. of New York has LLS: Stan Wawrinka and Ron Eldard.
Have a great week, everyone!