Jon Wertheim discusses longevity in tennis, Andy Roddick's broadcasting career, the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium for the U.S. Open and more in his weekly Mailbag.
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1) A quick mailbag today...
2) Check back Friday for Wimbledon 2015 seed reports and preview videos.
3) We’ll be at Wimbledon. Come to SI.com for daily columns. Go to Tennis Channel for daily videos features. The two need not be mutually exclusive.
4) Here’s the latest SI Tennis Podcast as well as a “Brain on Sports podcast” featuring an economist explaining a tennis handicapping system.
We’ve done four already; but now we’re steady; and then they went…
I have been out of tennis for a while and am clawing my way back. I just have to ask what happened to tennis in my absence? None of the courts in town have backboards any longer and the NBA seems to be dictating tennis fashion. Has the top-spin heavy game doomed backboards? How can a kid groove a stroke without a backboard facilitating time on the court? The other irksome eye opener is tennis togs. Who do I blame for the demise of tennis shorts that do not rely upon a draw string? I would rather wear Rafa’s pirate pants than the bags that pass for tennis shorts. Why don’t you and the ATP fix this problem?
• This is like tennis’ version of Kimmy Schmidt. Hey, glad to have you back on board this cosmic wagon train! Long as you’re clawing your way back…let’s take inventory of what you’ve missed. For one, get a load of this Federer cat while you still can. You mention Nadal. He’s good, too. Same for Djokovic and Andy Murray. (It’s been two years since a Brit won Wimbledon!) Serena Williams is not the daughter of the Serena Williams you might recall from the 90s. She is THE Serena Williams, still going strong at 33. (In the same way Martina Hingis is the same figure.) These tennis players have suddenly resembled Simpson’s characters with their elastic shelf life. That weird thing atop Centre Court? It’s a roof! Crazy, right? Don't be afraid if you hear grunting. It’s the sound of effort—and an annoying affectation the tours are too cowardly to confront—and not a cry of pain.
You might be wondering about the absence of conflict. Where are the macho jerks and the temperamental divas, the players who demean the chair umpires like the customers approaching the O’Hare United counter after delayed flight? Yeah, they don’t really exist. There’s this weird replay thing, that’s diminished conflict. But beyond that, the culture is pleasant to an unprecedented level. And where are the American players, you ask? Good question. The USTA is working on that. And remind us to explain Luxilon….
As for your question: I hadn’t thought about the backboard. Small sample but in my nape of the wood (Greenwich Village/Chelsea) there are no courts but backboard galore. There are also players improvising and hitting off of the walls in parking garages. It’s a bit of a different exercise, but kids can use this to groove their strokes.
As for fashion, all resources are currently being devoting to debugging Stan Wawrinka. Maybe after that, we can undertake Operation Drawstring.
WTHIGOW Andy Roddick? (Beside fatherhood?) I expected—and hoped—he'd call more matches by now. I was looking forward to his insights on players he faced, most notably the Big Four. Is this just a function of him signing on with Fox and not a broadcaster that airs the Slams?
—Megan Fernandez, Indianapolis
• Roddick’s work on Fox Sports One is consistently excellent. His wit is quick, his sense of irony sharp, his knowledge of sports vast. I suspect that soon—when he no longer needs to cope with the frustration of knowing that he can still beat most players—he will spend more time in tennis. This recent announcement presages as much.
I have a bad feeling about this year’s U.S. Open and the partially constructed roof over Ashe Stadium. 1) On a sunny day, will the court look like a Mondrian painting with all the interwoven shadows cast by the steel structure? 2) Let’s say it has rained but then clears up. Will there be pools of water collected in the nooks and crannies of the structure that will continue to drip for hours onto fans and the court?
—Rich, New York
• “A Mondrian painting with all the interwoven shadows cast by the steel structure?” Damn. Look out, Peter Schjeldahl! Seriously, that’s a good question.
Initial thoughts: 1) a year of inconvenience is a small price to pay for a roof that is a decade overdue. 2) Now that nine figures are being invested in this project, you can be sure that it will never again rain during U.S. Open. Mother Nature’s sense of irony is famous. 3) when Wimbledon built the roof in 2008, I recall that there were some unusual shadows; but nothing that had a material impact on play or the fan experience. 4) Anyone else share my Schadenfreude re: USGA getting beaten up for the U.S. Open greens last week?
So there will be a new Louis Armstrong Stadium in 2018. Wouldn't it have been a nice time to thank the Jazz great for his service in the wonderful world of tennis and continue with the tennis names on-site (Ashe & King) and name it for the best U.S. men's player ever and U.S. Open great? Represented the sport and tournament very well too, and doesn't get as much exposure as many past greats, even if that's his desire. Still, I think he could live with "Sampras Stadium."
—Marc Nichol, Youngstown, Ohio
• I can't tell from your note if you want Armstrong to be recognized or you want a new eponym. But I like your idea. If all those prosaic and civic-minded stadium names—Veterans Coliseum, Market Square Arena, Municipal Stadium—have been renamed for corporate overlords, tennis could replace Armstrong with an actual tennis player. I have no objection to Sampras Stadium. But I do wonder: why limit it to an American just because it's the U.S. Open? (Secondary wonder: if you name Sampras, isn’t Agassi just as valid, especially given his labors post-tennis. What about Agassi-Graf Stadium?)
What do you think explains the greater trend toward longevity in top players? Pete Sampras was 31 when he retired and was clearly struggling the last couple of years on tour. Roger Federer is 33 and Ivo Karlovic is 36, and while their success could be attributed to their style of play, David Ferrer is still active at 33 and still playing at a consistent level. His style is certainly not one that conserves energy. I'm wondering if players have learned some new techniques for self-preservation.
—Rob from Honolulu
• Here comes my short, crass, soulless, coldly rational answer: money. The significant recent increases in prize money give players incentive to extend their careers. And, more important, the infusion of capital gives players the means to invest in nutrition and trainers and first class airfare and other comforts (innovation!) that encourage longevity.
This is no way a bad thing. I’m all for the athletes (labor) making all they can. And the longer players around, the longer we build relationship and they can (icky phrase alert) build their brand.
Kudos to Andreas Seppi for having a career year and reaching the Halle final, but the ATP needs to change its policy on retirements. Here we have an ATP player advancing to a final without even completing two sets of tennis in the quarters and semis combined. Retirements are a disservice to the fans and the rest of the field, particularly those that are healthy and able to compete. Obviously, this is not an easy fix, but we owe it to everyone to do something.
—Rohit Sudarshan, Somerville, Mass.
• I don't disagree with your frustration. Can you really re-enter a player into a draw who lost his previous match? Perhaps. It’s not unlike a lucky loser falling in the qualies but, through fortuitous circumstances, still getting a spot. To me the real issue: why not address why so many players are getting injured so often?
• Again, here are all of the SI Tennis Podcasts:
• Pro tennis comes to Indiana, volume 1.
• Pro tennis comes to Indiana, volume 2: (Headliner Robbie Ginepri?)
• Your Wimbledon 2015 suicide pools.
• Tennis Warehouse has renewed its partnership with the ATP World Tour, as the official online tennis store of the ATP through 2017.
• The USTA announced that it will participate in the 2015 New York City and San Francisco Pride Parades on June 28 in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. In addition, the USTA has partnered with award-winning global provider of mobile event applications DoubleDutch to develop the “LGBT Tennis Network,” a free social networking app to connect LGBT tennis players and their friends, family and allies.
• J.B. notes that Andreas Seppi looks somewhat similar to original MTV Vee-jay Alan Hunter: