Planning out Nadal's future, final thoughts on Henin, more mail
• Sadly, Steve raises a valid question. If we've learned anything about Nadal, it's this:
A) He is an exceptional tennis player.
B) His style of play -- and medical history -- is not exactly consonant with physical health and thus, a long career. The pros of following the Agassi-Williams-Clijsters blueprint and slashing his schedule are, in theory, immense. It's really all about the Majors at this point. If he can arrive healthy and rested four times a year, giving himself an optimal chance to win the big prizes, that's a small price to pay for missing Doha, Rome, et al.
The drawbacks, though, are manifold. It's hard for most players (not named Serena Williams) to helicopter into big events and arrive in match shape. Note than on the occasions Nadal has come in cold, he hasn't always done so well. Related to that (and, again, invoking Serena) a player's fitness level drops with sparse match play. Especially since he's always competed so consistently, Nadal's legacy will take a bit of a hit if he takes a long hiatus and gives his playing schedule a dramatic haircut. There are commercial consequences as well. While he's not particularly motivated by money, I can't imagine his management team would lustily embrace a decision to cut those exhibitions, those appearance fee events and risk losing bonuses tied to endorsements. The ATP, of course, would be devastated if Nadal adopted the Serena Williams schedule.
If it were another player, I would be more enthusiastic. But Nadal is, at his core, a jock. He'll play if he can. I don't think it's in his nature to tinker and manipulate his schedule. I think we just need to gird ourselves accordingly. Nadal will treat us to spectacular tennis. And once or twice a year, he will scare us when he contracts an injury.
• Agree on the best match. And note that she returned the next day and won the final, beating Kim Clijsters. That, kids, is heart. Here's an obit I wrote the first time she retired, I think it still holds pretty well:
The inimitable Bud Collins once christened Justine Henin the Little Backhand That Could. As nicknames go, it was perfect. Standing 5-foot-5, Henin often spotted opponents six or eight inches in height. But zinging a gorgeous backhand, deploying a diversified portfolio of shots and, most important, possessing unmatched reserves of determination, the Belgian came to rule women's tennis. In this decade, no player has won more major titles than Henin (
• We'll say it once, and we'll say it again: you overlook Cecilie Lundgaard Melsted at your own peril. You know what really disturbs me about the Danish team? None of the players have that ø in their name. It gives me such pleasure typing that character, testing the outer bounds of the option key. And I'm officially coining the nickname for Karen Barbat -- "Mitzvah." Where were we? Oh, right. Wozniacki. Look, she is damned either way. She sits it out and her patriotism is called into question. Or she commits to this event and risks overplaying.
• This isn't meant to denigrate Djokovic. But Nadal is a huge favorite in Paris. No man other than Federer or Nadal has won Wimbledon since -- get this -- 2002. Djokovic is a real threat in New York. Again you hate to douse the fire, but Djokovic has a long way to go before his takedown is complete. After the Australian Open, the inevitable question becomes: can the winner pull off the Grand Slam? Trivia: when was the last time the Aussie Open winner even got halfway, taking the French?
• I should do a Scorecasting Mailbag. Thanks for note -- and to everyone who's written in. Seems like people are having fun with the book, which, I suppose, was ultimately the goal. As to Judd's question, first, we controlled for quality of opponent. Second, the smallest crowds occur when bad teams play bad teams -- i.e. there's much differential. Yes, the good teams tend to have the biggest crowds. But when good teams play bad teams (when, say, the Lakers visit Minnesota or the Yankees go to Arizona), the crowds swell.
• Hey, thanks. This is exactly what tennis needs. I still say that if you can't get Federer-Nadal to commit, go down a tier. You could still have fun with another player. Roll tape (or the digital equivalent) on Alex Dolgopolov -- everything from his hydration routine to his strategy sessions with a coach to his Skyping with his girlfriend. Spending last week in Dallas -- seeing the NFL's marketing machine in high gear -- was a chilling reminder of just how much work tennis has to do on this front.
• Yes, another APB from the double-standard police. With the "reverse racism" charge thrown in for good measure. I do like the flies on elephant dung imagery. We did note this sentiment from
• I hereby crown you grammar champion. Good catch.
• I'm thinking there are better metrics. Age being one of them. Just to be clear I DO think Federer has another Slam in him.
• A few of you noted that. I thought it was obvious that Eric was talking about doubles. Indeed he and Jamie Murray
• Makes sense to me. Better idea still: why not add the equivalent of a "shot clock" which would a) enable fans to watch the countdown and b) enable the player to keep an eye on time. I fear that otherwise, it's too arbitrary.
• Funny you should ask. John may have the answer ...
• Absolutely. Tennis publicity types have this conversion chart. If one player dominates (a la Federer or Steffi Graf) you trump the singularly accomplishments and rush to declare this star the greatest player ever to draw breath. If you have two clear-cut stars, you play up the rivalry. If you have the WTA's current situation, you sell the parity and the wonderful suspense that comes when any of a dozen players can win. If players are concentrated from one country you talk up the "Russian Revolution" or ask "What did they put in that Serbian drinking water?" If the players come from all over, cite this an earmark of globalization and the sport's international appeal.
So, yes, put out that "10 for 10" news release. Just as long as no one asks you pointed questions about Serena's injury status.
• We have some swag piling up, including gear from Fetch Sport. Let's do a haiku contest
• Nice to see the ATP rename its headquarters after Jim McManus. I've lost count of how many people have spoken fondly of him since his passing last month.
• Gil Reyes needs to get
• Ro'ee Orland of Israel: Regarding the Sergi Bruguera-Thierry Champion triple-bagel match, during one point Bruguera broke a string, stayed on the baseline and won an extended rally.
• Mark Parry, Sydney: A little tribute to the great Goran Ivanisevic -- impossible to dislike as a person and even more impossible to pronounce as a name.
• Betty Blake, Fairfield, Conn.: This is not a question just a thank you for
• Hardcover Business Best Sellers New York Times No. 1: "The Investment Answer," by Daniel C. Goldie and Gordon S. Murray. (Business Plus, $18.) Five questions every investor should ask.
• Cam Bennett, Geelong, Australia: So who are the best 50 players of the past decade? How about
• Rodrigo Sanchez of New York has an entry for the separated at birth/look-alike department ... Chris Fowler and Patrick McEnroe =