• One of the great misconceptions of tennis is that experienced players are more mentally fit. That may be true in other sports. But in this corner, it's often the opposite. The young bucks, with "nothing to lose," with no real context, with no conflicting thoughts taking up residence in the catacombs of their brains, can swing away. It's the veterans -- fully cognizant of what's at stake -- who often stumble.
In Federer's case, it's certainly jarring seeing such a decorated athlete fail to make like Brian Wilson and close the deal. Yet, in some ways, it stands to reason. Even at the height of his powers, I would argue that Federer was known more for his physical gifts than for mental impregnability. (I've often said that for all the imagery he conjures, "assassin" or "rock" or "killer" or "sniper" or "cold-blooded" have never been in the lexicon.) Especially as he might feel his grip sliding a little, it stands to reason that he would experience some difficulty when matches become freighted with maximum pressure.
As usual, the extremists have attempted to hijack the issue.
• A few of you noted that. I assumed we were limiting this to fatalities, but obviously there have been several injuries. James Blake almost eviscerating himself on the Rome net post would make the list. Victoria Azarenka at this year's U.S. Open, too. If you're in a depressed mood already, skip the next question.
• For those who don't know Joe, he's an expert in the field of sports fatalities. He knows his stuff, morbid as it may be.
• With "shock," it's like the Milgram Experiment comes to tennis. With "stun," it's like head injuries come to tennis.
• This exchange is sponsored by Excedrin. Seriously, thanks. You're right that the variable is the element of surprise. If my opponent knew that every serve I hit would be a "first serve," surely he would adjust tactics accordingly. (Imagine a basketball team that shot better from three-point range than from two-point range. If they played a game taking only three-point attempts, the defense would doubtless change tactics.) Still, I'm surprised that no player has said: "I'm grooving my first serves; I'm getting crushed on my second serves. To heck with convention, I'm going for aces on every ball, come of it what may."
• I disagree but I don't think Tina's point is totally without merit. It's similar to my defense of Serena Williams. Objectionable as her behavior might sometimes be, as disingenuously as she can sometimes act, ultimately, she wins, which is the objective of sports. Some clarifications are, however, in order here: Dementieva may never have won a Big Prize, but she did win plenty of matches and titles. And Dementieva didn't "focus" on niceness, much less P.R. It was more organic than that. Which, I suspect, is a big reason her retirement has moved so many.
• From the ATP's Greg Sharko: Melzer-Petzschner qualified since they were the highest-ranked team in the top 20 to win a Grand Slam during the season. Since the other Slam winners (Bob/Mike Bryan and Daniel Nestor/Nenad Zimonjic) were among the top eight already, Melzer-Petzschner qualified in the eighth spot.
• If I'm in the Nadal camp, I'm crafting a P.R. strategy here. (And strongly encouraging my player to change his ways.) So many of you are still deeply upset by this. Again: a plea for perspective. The same way double parking is not armed robbery, there are different levels of tennis "crimes." Receiving mid-match coaching is a violation of the rules and is nothing to condone. But it's not exactly bribing officials of genetic doping either. Is it a mark against Nadal's "Sportsman" status? Yes. Should it disqualify him from consideration? No. Let's agree to disagree and move on, shall we?
• I have half a mind to coordinate this myself. Contact the Memphis or Atlanta or Houston tournament directors and tell them I sent you. Part of the problem is standardization. If you run a certain set of stats in, say, Memphis, it's only really valid if the data is available for other events. The tours may not be flush with cash these days, but they are in dire need of a CIO. Both Greg Sharko (ATP) and Kevin Fischer (WTA) do great work here. But they need some support!
One more example, as long as you brought it up. In what I thought were pretty shabby doping allegations*, Christophe Rochus recently alleged: "I remember a match against a guy whose name I will not say. I won the first set 6-1, very easily. He went to the bathroom and came back metamorphosised. He led 5-3 in the second set and when I came back to 5-5 ... his nose began bleeding. I told myself it was all very strange." Those who were curious -- myself included -- tried to reverse-engineer these clues and finger the suspect. We can find all the matches Rochus played in which he won the first set 6-1. But can you believe that there is no available data whereby we can figure out sets in which he led 5-3? Again, compare this to the analytics available in other sports.
Let's save a
But, man, they must have curious libel/defamation laws in Belgium. (Otherwise, if I'm Justine Henin, I'm lawyering up.) The last thing you want to do is chill workplace whistle-blowing. But I take issue with Rochus' approach. Either name names and come with concrete evidence, or keep quiet. But turning these serious allegations into a "guessing game" -- one that necessarily implicates innocent players, is really poor form, reckless even. Leaving aside the absurd logic of the above statement (a player's nose is bleeding; ergo he's doping?), if we follow his "clues," we're left with 11 different suspects. Ten -- if not all 11 -- are being unfairly tarnished.
• I think it's in your head. My understanding is that the top doubles players welcome the singles stars. It gives the draw more credibility and heft when the likes of Nadal are entered. It also gives them a chance to match skills with the real stars.
• Grigor Dmitrov vs. Thomas Muster.
• A tip of the cap to Carlos Moya, who will officially call it a career.
• She may lack Justin Gimelstob's talent for promotion, but
• Karin of Hampton, Va.: "
• Timothy Ryun of New York: "I read George W. Bush's book,
• J. Diersing, San Diego: "How could anyone NOT be a Frachesca Schiavone fan after seeing
• Kris of San Francisco.: "
• Steve of Hamilton, Ontario: "Since you often post examples of the convergence of tennis and popular culture, I thought you might be interested in hearing that the sport of tennis -- in particular, Federer's defeat of [Robon] Soderling in the 2009 French Open final -- plays a central role in the newest John le Carre novel. (If you don't want to read the whole novel, just skip ahead to chapter 12.) Check out 'Tennis For The Win,' an
• Who needs a
• Noah Baerman, Middletown, Conn.: "I suspect I'm not the only one who will make this point, but with regards to the mainstream popularity of 'our sport,' you were perhaps even more on-target than you realized with the analogy of the under-the-radar band. In both music and tennis, the all-stars will make their money pretty much regardless of the broader climate, but the incredibly skilled practitioners who are a tier or two below (the 'successful indie' band or the tennis player ranked 65 in doubles) are the ones who feel the sting if the overall health of their 'business' is suffering.
"You have written before about the often tricky financial circumstances surrounding tennis players ranked just outside of the top 100 and the same is true for musicians -- it's likely that the indie band I'm into is having to get very creative in order to bankroll the dream and continue making the music I love to hear. I don't know the solution, but I do know that while being one of relatively few fans of something has its benefits, there are big-picture financial consequences."
• Never mind Sampras. Agassi's real rival is
• Saqib Ali of Lowell, Mass.: "This week's LLS: