Need for speed at U.S. Open; one Sampras record Federer won't get

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What do you make of Roger Federer's comments about the court being slower this year? Why did they make it so? Given how much controversy was generated by the switch to Babolat balls at the French Open, I am surprised that this apparent slowing down of the surface has not generated much, if any, discussion. Roger lamented that the difference between grand slam surfaces has become smaller and smaller. Why the desire to slow down the courts?-- Mahsh Kalyana, Cary, N.C.

• The courts are slower, Ashe in particular. But it's not intentional. The mixture was laid down a few weeks ago. Because of the weather, the courts didn't get as much play as they usually do. And attendants weren't able to wash the courts each night, which strips off the sand and grit and speeds up the surface. Quick points: a) some courts are playing faster than others. Court 17, for instances, is playing fine, says Donald Young. B) By this weekend, I suspect the courts will speed up, given the match play and pleasant weather.

Let's talk Istanbul (and the WTA Championships). If Serena wins the U.S. Open, does she qualify? If not, should she?-- Russell Totten, Carson City

• I'd love to talk Istanbul, my new favorite city. But I would bet you a tankard full of Raki that Serena Williams ain't showing up, even if she does qualify. (As a rule, I have no problem with a policy that states that all reigning Slam winners get an automatic bid to the year-end soiree.)

I respect Caroline Wozniacki's decision to milk the non-slams for appearance fees, prize money and ranking points. It's a very rational decision -- the top guns like Kim Clijsters and Serena are too injury prone or not focused enough to compete all year so their absences open the door for Wozniacki to win the lesser events and to command higher appearance fees as well. Also, bear in mind that an elite tennis player's earning power has three to five peak years with rare exceptions like Maria Sharapova (who just needs to stay in the top 20 to remain the highest-earning player until the next women's star displaces her). Of course, their underlying premise/gamble being that they have decided that they don't have the weapons to win a slam so they don't want to leave money on the table by blowing off the non-slams.-- Kristin Orloff, New York City

• I vowed to ignore this "issue" and now here we go again. But I like your points. I don't begrudge Wozniacki anything. Career shelf lives are short. Injuries are abundant. Salaries aren't guaranteed. Get what you can while you can. I do, though, agree with the critics -- including Chris Evert -- that Wozniacki's nasty habit of racking up at the smaller events and cracking up at the Slams is unbecoming of a top-ranked player. It would be best for everyone if she either won a major (or at least reached deep into week two) or abdicated the throne.

Why are you falling for Andy Roddick's nonsense? Listen, when Rafa gets mad at an umpire, you know that he is not going to patronize or insult him or swear. So, this makes for cool wrestling-like theater, so it is not a problem, but Roddick does the opposite when he gets mad. He acts like a jerk. He has no class. He has the brains of a sumo wrestler (of course, there are good-brained and bad-brained sumo wrestlers.)-- Joe Johnson Allentown, Pa.

• Just FYI, I say your mail is running 60-40 against Roddick. I don't think anyone is "falling" for anything. Roddick made some points that were valid. He made some points that are either disingenuous or illogical. But I give him credit for having opinions and giving voice to them.

Simple question: Will Sharapova ever win another slam?-- Tom, Los Angeles

• Not until she improves her serve.

Do you think Roger Federer will ever surpass Pete Sampras' alltime weeks at No. 1 spot?-- Steve, Seattle

• That's one record Sampras is likely to keep. I have a hard time seeing Federer leapfrogging both Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Do you think John Isner has was it takes to become a top-10 player? I'm having a hard timing seeing it. His height, other than helping with his serve and wingspan, seems like a detriment. I don't see him ever gaining the foot speed and agility he needs to challenge the top guys. Or am I not giving him enough credit?-- Kris, Norwalk, Conn.

• Top 10 is probably pushing it. He's still a strange player for me. He's easygoing and affable but a deceptively good fighter. He's credited for his groundstrokes and mocked for his movement. I think he gets around pretty well, especially for his size, but can be inconsistent in rallies. The "linchpin in the hole" is the serve. If he's dialing it in, he's an exceedingly dangerous player. When not, not.

I agree with your point about overemphasizing the past in tennis. But when Americans are champions on both the men's and women's side again, I think you'll see more coverage of the present moment.-- Jon Rappoport, San Diego

• Nationality shouldn't make be the decisive issue. Or we're in a world of trouble.

• David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero recently visited the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico to train for the U.S. Open.

• For the fourth straight year Andy Murray has qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

• Tennis Channel announced John McEnroe will lend his analysis and commentary to the network's U.S. Open prime-time broadcast this weekend.

• Here's a grunting quiz.

• From our friend at the Hall of Fame.

• Martina O'Boyle of Viborg, Denmark has long-lost twins: Andrea Petkovic and Cobie Smulders of "How I Met Your Mother."