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Berdych's classless handshake snub overshadows a big win


A quick mailbag while pondering a day of upsets...

Three words for Mr. Berdych: "Man up, dude!" Maybe he should take up golf.-- Duane Wright, Washington D.C.

• I was talking to a former player -- only recently retired -- who thought Tomas Berdych's conduct -- refusing to shake Nicolas Almagro's hand after his victory -- was "one the most classless things I've ever seen." His rationale seemed to break down into four parts:

A) It's not uncommon for players to hit their opponent, especially on mid-court balls. "Part of the game. I've had practice partners hit me harder than that."

B) Berdych won the match. It would have been shabby enough, had he lost and dissed his opponent. But winning without class is worse than losing without class.

C) Almagro isn't some kid breaking rank. He's a veteran who's earned some respect. "You just don't do that."

D) This isn't a backcourt match in Barnyardistan. It's a fourth-rounder in a Grand Slam, played in a big arena. If you have a beef, confront the guy in the locker room. Don't show him up in front of 10,000 fans.

Sadly for Berdych, his postmatch petulance overshadowed what should have been a signature win. (When have you ever heard an on-court interviewer yell over a chorus of boos?) He comports himself with some class and the discussion is about his hard-fought win over a difficult opponent. Instead it is, to quote Yahoo -- "Boos after handshake snub."

Say this: it adds a bit of spice to his next round match against Rafael Nadal.

Serena Williams was American last I checked, so how can you say under "American Prospects" that "None are left at the dance"?-- Bruce, St. Louis, Mo.

• This was obviously submitted before Serena Williams lost to Ekaterina Makarova. Regardless, she is not a "prospect." Neither is Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish or John Isner. I'm talking about the 21-and-under crowd here. Ryan Harrison took a set off of Andy Murray and showed, again, that he has the game and constitution to be a real player. Christina McHale beat a seed (Lucie Safarova) and prevailed in a second-round battle before falling (surprisingly meekly) to Jelena Jankovic. Sloane Stephens won a round and perhaps should have beaten Svetlana Kuznetsova. Donald Young won a match. Madison Keys did not. Not a smashing event. Not a Milos Raonic or Bernard Tomic in the mix. But some sources of optimism. Which -- perhaps sadly -- is about all you can ask for these days.

Is there any player with a wider delta between beating anyone and losing to anyone than Svetlana Kuznetsova? Aside from Marat Safin?-- Tina Davis, Boston

• Bonus points for busting out the Greek letter. Very nice. I would put Gael Monfils on my alpha list, too. But, yes, Kuznetsova is like the girl with the curl. When she's good, she's very, very good. And when she's bad, she's horrid.

From Patrick McEnroe, Darren Cahill, and Brad Gilbert's reaction -- not to mention the crowd's -- you would think Berdych [harmed] a baby instead of just refusing to shake hands after a tennis match! Geez! It's funny that Patrick McEnroe never condemns his brother's abhorrent behavior as vehemently. We've seen MUCH worse over the years.-- Patrick Preston, Chicago

• What's up with all the Pat McEnroe hating? Don't visit the sins of one brother on the other brother. Inasmuch as ESPN ripped Berdych, I say good.

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While we're here, can we debunk the myth that the tennis establishment gave McEnroe a free pass? He was fined. He was condemned. He was booted from this event. He cost himself millions in endorsements because of his outbursts. I credit McEnroe with rehabilitating his image. But the notion that everyone turned a blind eye to his antics -- while whacking around today's tantrum throwers -- is revisionist history.

Dear Mr. W: I am still harping on Olivier Rochus. You praised Vania King for being small yet competitive, but never ever mention Rochus, who also plays much bigger and taller players and sometimes with success. Is it a gender thing?-- M Ng, Vancouver, Canada

• We stop at nothing to praise Olivier Rochus -- former doubles partner of Roger Federer in the juniors -- who is 5-foot-6 on a good day and has been holding his own for more than a decade now. I wrote this piece for SI in (gulp) 2002.

"One wonders: where would those two [Raonic and Tomic] be if Nadal's two-year ranking was adopted?" I can answer that question, having worked it out (note that this system affords equal value to the 2010 points as the 2011 points, which admittedly might not be the case were it to be adopted, and discounts points from this week because I haven't worked that out yet). Tomic would be outside Top 50, and Raonic would be around No. 50. Other points of interest -- Del Potro would be No. 29 (I thought they said this thing would help people with injuries?), Verdasco would be No. 11, and Soderling who hasn't played in so long would be No. 6. So yeah, I like Rafa but it's not his greatest idea.-- Emma, London

• Thanks. With all due respect to Nadal, it's a lousy idea for a lot of reasons -- not least the chilling effect it has on rising stars. You know who would benefit from a two-year ranking? Federer. Yet he realizes that it's impractical and unfair.

The big issues for the players ought to be A) the physical breakdown factor/length of the season and B) the relatively paltry pay of the Slams. Everything else is an eye-off-the-ball distraction.

Five random observations from today:

• From Sara Errani's bio: "Mother, Fulvia, is a pharmacist; father, Giorgio, sells fruit and vegetables." Don't you hate those pampered, elitist tennis players?

• Mikhail Kukushin lists his coach as ... his wife. Surely that's a first.

• Had a chance to sit down with Petra Kvitova today. She is unrecognizable from the figure at Wimbledon who appeared rather overwhelmed by attention.

• Kei Nishikori is an ascending talent with a drop-dead-gorgeous backhand. But he needs to work on his timing. Next time he knocks off a contender, he shouldn't coordinate it with a Serena upset loss.

• Best out-of-office email response I've seen in a while: "Thanks for the message. I am currently in Australia. I am checking email but it can be a little sporadic at times due to the fact that koalas and emus eat wireless internet signals. Please be patient with me."

• Today's random encounter:

Darlene A. Hebert, Toronto: "I seem to have a habit of bumping into tennis pros -- literally!! Back in the 70's, as a kid playing tennis in Windsor, I was lucky enough to be a ball girl for the then "Virginia Slims" women's tour stop in Detroit. I arrived late and was rushing down the corridor to collect my official T-shirt (no training for ballkids in those days!). I ran smack into Virginia Wade! Physically! Embarrassing enough, but worse when I discovered I was scheduled to work her match! Later in the 80's in Toronto, (before the modern Rexall Centre was built and the tennis facility consisted of a few courts, bleachers and a lot of mud when it rained), I was once again late, this time to watch a match. Running across an open field, head down, when I ran smack into -- Ivan Lendl! Physically!! Yikes! Last summer at the Rogers Cup, I was walking the grounds with a friend and musing on not yet seeing Kim Clijsters, when sure enough (no, I didn't run smack into her!), she went whizzing by on a golf cart, heading for practice and I said, "There's Kim!", just as she made eye contact, smiled, then stifled a yawn! Must have been up late with Jada."

• Diane of Portland, Ore.: "For the person who asked about watching the Australian Open without ESPN. If you do not have cable you can watch on your computer on ESPN3."

• Debbie of Ottawa: "For those readers in the U.S. who have been unable to get TV coverage of the Australian Open, here's the link to watch ESPN on-line via a link on the Australian Open web site. Frustratingly for Canadians, this is not accessible outside the U.S. However, I found a way to watch in Canada on-line at, here's the link.

• Jim, Wilmette, Ill., With all due respect, Paulette Moreno was not the best player ever to emerge from Hong Kong. It was Patricia Hy-Boulais. She cracked the top 30, and got to the 4th round or better at the French, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Even more impressively, she once pasted me in the juniors in a tournament in Hong Kong. A really tough blow only slightly softened by all of Patricia's achievements after using me as a launching pad!