Examining Kendrick's tricky doping suspension, WTA depth, more mail
While tipping a cap to
• For those who missed it, American veteran Kendrick was suspended for a doping violation last week. The banned substance in question, methylhexaneamine, a stimulant, was contained in an anti-jetlag capsule. Kendrick denied any intent to enhance his performance as a result of taking this substance. And, not insignificantly, the ITF does not dispute this. Nevertheless, he was suspended for a year and is currently appealing. (
To Steven's point, I am not "defending" Kendrick. There is a strict liability standard here. If the banned substance is in your system, you're on the hook. Those are the rules, however draconian they may be. At a minimum, Kendrick was incredibly careless. Given the harshness of the code, why even gamble with a capsule? If I'm told that running a red light will result in a 90-day jail sentence, I may think it's a ludicrous punishment, grossly unfair, way out of proportion with the severity of the infraction. But until the rule is changed, I'm going to be damn sure not to cross the intersection when the light is yellow.
But here's where I defend -- or at least sympathize strongly -- with Kendrick. The whole purpose of anti-doping is to ensure a level playing field and punish the cheaters. Not only does Kendrick assert that he was not trying to enhance performance; that doesn't even appear to be in dispute. (Nor was it for Martina Hingis, Graydon Oliver, Richard Gasquet and many others who, as Hingis memorably put it, were caught in the anti-doping "machinery.") Yet there is no real distinction here. Wayne Odesnik gets caught with multiple vials of human growth hormone -- the epitome of performance enhancement -- and is suspended for one year. Kendrick sloppily takes a jetlag capsule and gets the same punishment. (Which at his age of 31, is the equivalent of forced retirement.) That, simply, flies in the face of both reason and fairness.
This anti-doping is a tricky business. A policy filled with loopholes and exceptions (and therapeutic use exemptions, which have become farcical by the way) lacks credibility. But a policy that can't/won't distinguish between the cheating and sloppiness, essentially treating all failed tests the same, lacks credibility, too. Kendrick will now take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, for an expedited appeal, seeking some mercy. We'll follow this closely.
• I like "Serena Serenade." I defy you to watch Serena's matches at Stanford and then tell me the storyline is the weakness of the WTA field, not the strength of one player competing at an unmatched level. Serena served well, returned well, moved pretty well, competed well. Her winners-to-errors ratio was as high as 8:1 in some sets. Give her some credit.
Sri wasn't the only one sounding this theme. Some of you went so far as to suggest that's Serena's play last week was, perversely, an indictment, because it shows how much she would have achieved if she had been committed.
I get the objections to Serena. You might take issue with her level of professionalism. You might question whether she has surrounded herself with the best people, particularly on the PR side. You might wish she hadn't threatened to choke an official with tennis balls in the most obscene terms possible. You might wish she reported injuries more transparently, that she didn't take big money to play World TeamTennis and then -- as several of you reported -- spend most of the time on the bench, staring at her phone. But the bottom line is that she is an athlete and her job is to win. That being the case, I'll gladly take her results and competitive will over the shaky play and nerves of more decorous colleagues.
• Here's another point. I was speaking with a golf writer recently about Tiger Woods' physical breakdown. The writer asked, "How did Federer deal with his injuries?"
Me: "What injuries?"
Writer: "I just assumed, being a top athlete for so long, there was a point when his body let him down and he had to miss a chunk of the season."
Me: "That holds true for just about every player, male or female. Save one. Federer."
We don't talk about this much, but here's another big point in Federer's favor, as if he needs more. Name an elite athlete who's been so reliably healthy. OK, some of this is good genes. Some of this is a low-impact style that comes from playing -- like
• Nice question. Both are slowly perishing. A few years ago it seemed like the trend had reversed a bit. Led by Lleyton Hewitt -- but also including Juan Carlos Ferrero, Sebastien Grosjean, Guillermo Coria and Arnaud Clement -- the little guys had a nice surge earlier in this millennium. But now we're back to what Mary Carillo might call Big Dude Tennis. Milos Raonic, Bernard Tomic, Ernests Gulbis, Grigor Dimitrov (who's played like the contents of the Hudson River since Wimbledon) all have height.
Meanwhile, as long as Federer was atop the charts, the one-handed backhand seemed to be doing just fine. But now that, too, has come under fire. Martina Navratilova recently predicted that if Federer had used a two-hander, he would have multiple French Open titles by now.
• We would sooner mix a metaphor than sugarcoat an elephant in the room! I think Robert nailed it. Federer is not a fan eager to see who will win. He is not even a player ranked No. 50 who may have a passing curiosity. He's the odd man out of this three-man rivalry that includes Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. It would almost be weird if he DID watch. I also don't think this is unique to Federer. I'm guessing Serena did not pull up a chair and watch the Maria Sharapova-Petra Kvitova Wimbledon final either. For that matter, I doubt Kobe Bryant watched the 2011 NBA Finals, nor did Tiger Woods watch the last round of the British Open.
• In all candor, I don't have a big issue with online sport gambling. (I'm still trying to figure out why the U.S. won't just regulate and legalize sports gambling and tap into this huge revenue stream.) My issue with the ATP is taking an exceptionally harsh stance against gamblers, Internet gamblers in particular -- going so far as to suspend players for making $5 bets on the grounds that the integrity of the sport could be eroded -- and then turning around and accepting a sponsorship from a gambling site. Go ahead and take a stand against obesity. But it's a smidge hypocritical when banners for Popeye's Fried Chicken then coat the back walls of your venues.
• Boy, it would be nice if Wozniacki could win a Slam and we could put this to rest. Here's this week's analogy: Remember in school there were a few kids who were plenty bright but whose class rank seemed to be artificially enhanced because they took easy classes? Wozniacki is in the running for valedictorian but there's a nagging sense it's more because she rocks home ec and woodworking and less because she's setting the curve in calculus. Then, when it's gently hinted she should bulk up her schedule with an AP class (i.e. win a Slam), she enrolls in keyboarding (Stockholm) and food preparation (New Haven) instead.
• Yeah, in a few weeks. I need to update them, anyway. Note to self:
1) Look into the water taxi situation.
2) Encourage fans staying in Midtown to eat at the street trucks, which are comparable to most restaurants. If you see Taim or Mexicue, in particular, load up.
3) Especially if you're in Midtown East, take the Long Island Railroad over the No. 7 train. Never drive.
4) Cheer on the players most in need of a boost such as Anna Chakvetadze. Especially on the outer courts. It makes a difference.
5) Wear sunscreen.
• I think that's absolutely a possibility. But that's not "strategy." That IS an epidemic of poor sportsmanship.
• We'll have the oxymoronic guest host for the Mailbag here in a few weeks, Andrea Petkovic. Send your questions.
• This week's anti-grunting rant: Marlene Sherlock of Glen Allen, Va., come on down! "Like so many of your commentators, I'm completely turned off by the grunting of the WTA. Don't watch it at all anymore. What's beginning to disturb me even more, though, is the grunting on the men's side. Last night, I watched a replay of the Marcel Granollers/Mikhail Youzhny match and the contrast was, well, striking. Granollers made some kind of obnoxious sound with darn near every strike of the ball. Youzhny was silent. Despite the split sets, I just couldn't stand to watch -- no, listen -- to another set and turned the TV off. Tennis powers that be: Wake up and get them to shut up!"
• Thanks to twitter follower VanOberst for
• Michael Chang
• This is a repeat but consider this another chance to spare a thought for Alisa Kleybanova, who has Stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma and
• Dan B. of Baltimore: "In response to the quote referenced by fellow reader Mark S. of Los Angeles, 'Federer plays the game we wish we could play; Rafa plays the game we should try to play,' I've heard a similar anecdote. I don't remember it exactly, but it's something along the lines of 'If Federer makes an art of shot-making, then Nadal makes an art of winning matches.' "
• Heading to the Cincinnati tournament, mixed for the first time, this year? James Gold of Orlando, Fla.,
• Roger Jones of Waterbury Center, Vt.: "I'm looking forward to my annual trip to Montreal for the Rogers tournament. I usually go up on the opening weekend when main draw play hasn't begun yet but there are qualifying matches and practice sessions to watch. It's a great venue with a couple of very nice show courts and practice courts where you can get close to the players (once I actually had Amelie Mauresmo, then ranked No. 1, turn to me and ask in French, "
• A Kimiko Date Krumm
• Chris of Prince Frederick, Md.: "Put a pair of black rimmed glasses on Rafa and you have the '4th' Hanson brother."
Have a great week, everyone!