Mailbag: 6 thoughts on the USTA, quarterfinals and more

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NEW YORK -- On a sloooow day session, some thoughts passing our transom:

• Roger Federer is the belt that is holding up the girth of this tournament. His mere arrival at the facility is greeted with more curiosity and attention than some quarterfinal matches. His resurgence should be celebrated. His Thursday night match against Gael Monfils is already a tough ticket. But it does pose the question: what happens to tennis in his absence?

• If I had a dollar for every rumor floating around about a shakeup at the USTA, I could, well, I could fund the roof construction. This much is sure: change is coming and a willingness to move to Orlando will loom large in upcoming personnel decisions.

Patrick McEnroe out as head of USTA player development

• Props to Ekatarina Makarova, who had made the final four in both doubles and singles. And it's no coincidence. Her defeat of a food-poisoned Victoria Szarenka was like an infomercial for doubles skills.

• Age has been a big theme this tournament. CiciBellis, 15, beat a top 15 player. Belinda Bencic, 17, made week two. So did Dominic Thiem, age 20 -- which is practically prepubescent in today's ATP. But how about Kimiko (Carbon) Date-Krumm? A few weeks from her 44th birthday, she advanced to the semifinals in doubles with partner BarboraZahlavova-Strycova.

• Caroline Wozniacki is, rightfully, a fan favorite in New York. But her semifinal opponent, Peng Shaui, has been largely overlooked. Peng has yet to drop a set, reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at age 28. With so much attention on growing tennis is Asia, it’s worth noting that two 2014 majors have featured Chinese semifinalists.

• Re: the aforementioned sloooow day...the U.S. Open really needs to rethink its scheduling. The weekend sessions are packed. But here it is, the second Wednesday and, for the casual fan (paying top dollar) you’re offering them Victoria Azarenka and Stan Wawrinka as your headliners?


I first made this observation last week (not sure whether anyone else has) and wanted to submit it while it’s still a possibility. I’m (sort of) calling it: Federer d. Wawrinka in the final. That would make a full circle for the four majors this year: Wawrinka d. Nadal, followed by Nadal d. Djokovic, followed by Djokovic d. Federer, and coming back around to Federer over Wawrinka. Has any other year has gone that way?
-- Sean White

Paging Sharko! Paging Dr. Sharko! That’s an interesting pattern. And it is keeping with a common pattern that whoever beats Federer then goes into a tailspin. On the women’s side we already know this: Four Slams, eight different finalists.

Watch: Roger Federer hits a ridiculous sliding lob for a winner

Most of the biggest men's matches over two weeks are held in primetime. Why, then, does the USTA insist on having the men's final begin at 5 p.m. ET when hardly anyone is home to watch? Why not start at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. when they could maximize the viewers? As a tennis lover, I hate to see the sport annually shoot itself in the foot. It's bad enough the final always coincides with the start of the NFL season, but the definition of insanity is....
-- Tory Kaufmann, Quincy, IL

• The notion of the men’s final going up against the first Monday Night Football game is demoralizing. Keep in mind too, that, as more players come from Europe, a broadcast that works in Belgrade, Basel and Barcelona is not an insignificant consideration. (A point to discuss: The USTA’s spectacular failure to develop competitive America players has far-reaching consequences.)

As a cable cord cutter and a huge tennis fan, the live streams are the best part of the entire tennis year for me. What are your thoughts on them?
-- Christopher Gomez, Denver, Colo.

Agree. Agree. A thousand times agree. As a consumer and fan, I love it. If I were a network paying around $80 million in rights fees, I would be ambivalent at best.

When seven of the final eight players (i.e. quarterfinalists in a Grand Slam tournament are not in the Top 10), does that mean that the field is weak (top female players don't deserve their seeding and are showing how fragile they are) or is that a testament to the depth of the field and huge reservoir of talent? When I look up the ranking and results at previous tournaments of players who made all those huge upsets (Krunic, Bencic, Lucic-Baroni, Pliskova etc.), it just seems that Kvitova, Ivanovic, Radwanska and the rest of the fallen top seeds simply didn't live up to their seeding and had a bad tournament rather then the players who made those upsets played exceptionally well. I watched Krunic vs. Kvitova and Pliskova vs. Ivanovic and I think that Kvitova and Ivanovic came out flat, made a bunch of unforced errors and helped a lot to their conquerers. Sure, Wozniacki is former No.1 and has played some great tennis recently, so apart from Sharapova upset, are the rest of surprise loses disturbing? Should we be concerned with the state of women's tennis?
-- Miloš M., Belgrade, Serbia

• Great question. We all know the playbook. The tour --the WTA in this case, but the men would do the same --spin “parity.” The critics cite unreliability of top players. On the other hand, where there are consistent winners, the tours buff and polish the phrase “Golden Era.” The critics cites a lack of competition from the other players and shallow field.

Two points in the WTA’s favor: 1) I love the drama of the competition. Was Azarenka-Krunic, to pick a match, beautiful and clean tennis? No. But it was as compelling a match as I’ve seen this event. (Wozniacki-Sharapova would be up there, too. Same for Venus-Errani.) A lot of us like the drama, unforced error count be damned. 2) There are qualitative judgments we can make, too. When you see players like Krunic and Bencic and appreciate the athleticism and battery of shots, it buttresses the “depth” storyline and counters “the WTA sucks” trolls.

Daily Data Visualization: What country has the most U.S. Open wins?

During the first set of the Federer-Bautista Agut match on Tuesday night, it became obvious that neither John McEnroe nor Chris Fowler knew the centerline foot fault rule. How is this possible? And McEnroe further insinuated that it was more or less "unfair" to make the foot fault call against Bautista Agut when he was having such a tough time against Roger anyway. Isn’t a rule, a rule? It was disappointingly poor commentary in my opinion.
-- Barbara Beck, Rochester, MN

I missed that. But others have remarked that John McEnroe has some real gaps in his tennis knowledge, particularly when it comes to knowing contemporary players. In a weird way I contend that it’s part of the appeal. If this were another broadcaster it would feel unprofessional. In the case of McEnroe, you get the feeling he’s just playing on instinct. Think of him as kid in class who was out late, didn’t do the reading or attend every lecture but can still let it rip on the final and get an “A.”

Dear Partner,
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-- James Francis

• Partner? I get “partner” designation? The Mailbag has been infected with a series of these. (I never knew I had this many friends in Nigeria!) I would love to read an investigative report whereby we see some analytics on how any people actually are conned by these offers.

Long, lost siblings

• Pete of Wisconsin has LLS: Ekatarina Makarova and Cate Blanchett

Ekatarina Makarova and Cate Blanchett

Ekatarina Makarova and Cate Blanchett