Jon Wertheim answers Mailbag questions and reports from Paris on Agnieszka Radwanska, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Roland Garros without Roger Federer and more.
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PARIS – Five thoughts from a soaked Monday at Roland Garros.
• A tale of two two-seeds. It was the best of times for Aga Radwanska, who yielded just two games in a rout of Bojana Jovanovski on Monday afternoon. On the other hand, it was the worst of times for Andy Murray, who dropped the first two sets to the exasperating Czech Radek Stepanek—at 37, the oldest player in the draw—before grabbing the third and jumping to a 4–2 lead in the fourth. They'll finish play tomorrow.
• We avoided history today, but only narrowly. In the Open Era, no defending French Open champion has ever lost in the first round. Stan Wawrinka—wearing disappointingly bland shorts—was down 2–1 to the dangerous Czech slugger Lukas Rosol today. But then Wawrinka went into Stanimal mode, elevated and won 4–6, 6–1, 3–6 6–3, 6–4.
• A pair of Americans with real clay court skills scored a pair of fine wins. Sloane Stephens broke a three-Slam losing streak and advanced with a straight set win over Margarita (Manny) Gasparyan. Tied at two sets yesterday, Jack Sock came back to Court Deux and beat Robin Haase. He gets Dustin Brown next in a shotmaker’s special. Fitting that a French Open match will feature the designation Dustin Brown–Sock.
• Yesterday and today were examples of why major events ought to have roofs. Lots of rain made for disappointed fans, both on site and at home. But look who’s getting cocky, a few months in advance of her debut:
• Two of the sport’s stars remain present in their absence. Tennis is still adjusting to a Grand Slam without Roger Federer. The Kingdom is to be forgiven: it’s the first time this has happened in 17 years. Meanwhile, if the ITF conforms to their rules, a decision on Maria Sharapova's doping hearing will be handed down during the tournament, i.e. by June 1. If Sharapova is found to have committed a violation, by rule she would have 21 days to file an appeal with CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport).
Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @jon_wertheim.
Hey Jon, I see you picked Djokovic and Serena to win the French Open. Way to go out on a limb!
—Bill, Oakland, Calif.
• I get more grief over these silly picks and predictions than I do over anything I write. Djokovic has won for the last five majors. Serena is the defending champ and has a 4,000+ points lead over the next closest player. If you have an alternative pick, I’m all ears. That said, for the first time in a while, I would take the field over either top seed. Which is to say I'd still pick Djokovic and Serena over any other player; but wouldn’t be surprised if the winner comes from the remaining 127 entrants in the field. (How’s that for a limb?)
Have there been any studies investigating the correlation between the amount of time slept each night and success (wins) in tennis? Is it a positive correlation and if yes, to what magnitude?
• I'd love to see research here. “Sleep as performance metric” is not a new concept. But I know of no studies specific to tennis. The anecdotal evidence in tennis—which is to say, my anecdotal evidence in tennis—doesn’t reveal much. You hear stories of players who are unable to get themselves to sleep before a Grand Slam final but nevertheless end up winning. You also hear stories of players like Lleyton Hewitt sleeping 10 hours a night and then taking the trophy.
I understand and support the decision to remove Bob Hewitt from the Tennis Hall of Fame. I don't understand the basis on which Bill Tilden is still a Hall of Famer. It appears that he was tried, convicted and served jail time for similar crimes.
• Chris, I suspect, refers to this. (Aside: Was the Jerry Sandusky reference really necessary or relevant? I’m not sure you need a geographic coincidence before you exhibit outrage over sexual misconduct.)
Anyway, your larger point is well taken. Few are going to object to removing Bob Hewitt from the Tennis Hall of Fame. But it does risk a departure down the slippery slope. Are all enshrinees now subject to reconsideration based on prior bad acts? Do we judge conduct by the standards of the times or contemporary standards? This obviously goes beyond tennis. Here’s a recent example that hits on the same theme.
Is it a slight to call someone—especially a 14-time Slam winner—a grinder? I've heard Federer and this week Chris Evert refer to Nadal as a grinder. To me it suggests someone short on talent who finds a way to win by sweating it out. Am I misunderstanding the word?
• You know that I am Chris Evert’s in-house counsel, right? I don’t think grinder is pejorative. (Insert dating app joke here.) Nadal is an industrious, bustling player with a pack-a-lunch-cuz-I'm-gonna-be-here-all-day constitution. Nadal obviously has tremendous skills and weapons, but “grinder” fits his description as well.
Hello Mr. Wertheim: Nice podcast again with L. Davenport. Rumor has a McEnroe biopic starring Shia LeBoeuf. Peter Sarsgard ought to play Borg, J Gordon Levitt as Connors, Geoffrey Rush as Hopman...
—Regards, Wil Blake
• If we’re taking truth serum—and, really, who among us isn't these days?—Lindsay and I are thinking that last podcast wasn’t our best work. Maybe we’ll do another one before Wimbledon. Here’s the McEnroe/Borg movie.
Both Roger and Andy have 7,525 points according to the new rankings, so why did Roger edge up to No. 2? Should it not be a tie for No. 2?
• This question is from last week but it seems that we only answered in partial. Whichever player achieved his points total in fewer events—i.e. had the higher batting average, as it were—gets the higher ranking. If the two tied players still have the same number of events, it then becomes a question of “which player earned more points from Masters 1000 tournaments?”
Unfortunately, due to work and family demands, I cannot listen to the 40+ minute podcasts, but feel like I am missing out—is there any way to find a transcript? Thanks for your commitment to tennis!
• Thanks so much. In this era of media austerity, I’m not sure transcripts are doable. But what if you listened to the podcasts at 1.5 speed, maybe even double for a slow-speaking guest?
• Your Daily Data Viz from IBM and SI.
• Former ATP executive Andre Silva has been named the new tournament director at the Western and Southern Open, taking over for Vince Cicero.
• Press releasing: The USTA announced a comprehensive multi-tiered partnership with the Andrews Institute and Nemours Children’s Health System that will provide the highest level of medical services to the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, Orlando, Fla., as well as enable USTA Player Development to provide the premier medical care and athletic training in the world to U.S. players training at the new facility.