Mailbag: Thoughts on the "throwback" Australian Open and longevity in the game

Tuesday January 24th, 2017

MELBOURNE – Right to the Q/A today…..

Nadal vs. Federer. And an all-Williams sisters final too! Throwback Australian Open. Love it! Can I also be 35 again? Bonus!

• Welcome to the Retro Aussie Open. We have the possibility of a Williams-Williams final, a repeat of 2003. We have the possibility of a Federer-Nadal final, which happened here only once, in 2009. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni—who before this year won her last Aussie Open match in 1998—is alive as well. Even the breakthrough players aren't exactly young striplings. Coco Vandeweghe, who destroyed Garbine Muguruza on Tuesday, is 25. Same as Grigor Dimitrov. And Mischa Zverev—a full decade older than his younger more-touted brother—is 29.

Much as all sports like to court a young demographic and unveil new sensations, I’d submit that this “throwback Open,” as the reader puts it, is great. It speaks well of the sport that it can accommodate these veteran players. It speaks well of the players as athletes, that their durability remains into their 30s. It speaks well for the sport that careers can span two decades. Will we see Williams-Williams and/or Federer/Nadal? The heart says yes-yes-yes. The head says: too soon-too soon-too-soon.

We can revisit in 48 hours. For now, just enjoy the message that this tournament’s geriatric draw is conveying.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Hi Jon, As usual great work with the Mailbag. We are at the quarterfinals stage of the Australian Open and at the risk of being proven wrong, I’m already tempted to pick a Nadal-Federer final. In spite of how great Fed is playing, if that happens, it’s still Nadal who’s walking away with the title. Do you think this plays in the minds of both these champs? Or Fed thinks I’m a winner already coming this far in the tournament?
Auxilla J.

• Stop jinxing it, guys. But I like your question: what are the dynamics and psychodynamics of a Federer-Nadal match in 2017? We all know the history. We all know the head-to-head, which is currently 23-10, and that’s with Nadal having no wins over Fed in three years. We all know the match-up, the problems/benefits of the high spinning lefty forehand into the one-handed backhand. But man….

On a lightning fast court? With Federer having spent much less time on the court at this event? With history in the balance? With both players surely saying to themselves, “When am I ever going to get a sniff like this again?” Leave it here: who among us wouldn't stand on our heads to watch this match?

Tennis
Upsets down under: Unseeded underdogs deliver unexpected results at Aussie Open

Hi Jon, Late to the upset party with this, but I would say that whoever beat Rod Laver at his first major in 1970 following his second Grand Slam would just have to be included on any list. I did some light digging and didn’t see who it was—do you or Greg Sharko know? 
Jon B., Seattle, Wa.

• This spoke Sharko: “I looked up Laver’s first Slam in 1970 after completing the Slam at the 1969 U.S. Open and it was Wimbledon where he lost in the 4R to Roger Taylor (who went on to SF). Not sure why he missed AO, RG that year.”

Can you talk about doubles just once on your Tennis Channel show? I want you to explain how a couple of low-ranked Aussie duos are beating some top doubles teams and are into the quarterfinals. Polmans, 19 and ranked No. 249, and Whittington, 23 and ranked No. 309, upset eighth seeds Nestor and Roger-Vasselin (after losing opening set 6-0) and 11th seeds Rojer-Tecau. Bolt, 24 and ranked No. 512, and Mousley, 21 and ranked No. 330, beat Querrey and Young (Querrey played well, Young didn't), who knocked out second seeds Murray and Soares in the first round. None of these Aussies are ranked high in singles, either. Highest is Whittington at No. 190.
Russ, Los Angeles

• Doubles, doubles, doubles! Here’s the men’s draw. And here’s the women’s draw. It's funny, for all the upsets—starting with Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, the defending champs going out—both top seeds remain. As do the Bryans. How do two journeymen ranked a combined 558 beat Nestor and Roger-Vasselin? Doubles has a lot of variance. Especially on a fast court. Especially with crowd support. Especially when one team has never seen the other before.

Tennis
Clijsters, Roddick joining International Tennis Hall of Fame

Just for follow up, I just saw now that the Bryan Brothers have pulled out of Davis Cup (DC) competitions for 2017 as well. While I don't blame players for managing their schedule, this is becoming ridiculous and embarrassing for the ATP. Why go through the motions anymore for a grueling format that the players aren't buying into?
Dr. Rob Oliver

• Let’s use this opportunity to commend the Bryan Brothers on their Davis Cup service. If this a) frees up their schedule to concentrate on the biggest prize and b) gives the U.S. more flexibility—Querrey, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson are all strong doubles players—so much the better. The Davis Cup is really struggling. We’ll see if the Laver Cup or perhaps an ATP version can fill what is a growing void.

Tennis
Bryan brothers announce retirement from Davis Cup

WTHIGOW Vasek Pospisil? I noticed he lost first round singles qualies and first round doubles too. Outside of that run at Wimbledon he really hasn't done much of note in singles, but he looks like he should have all the tools to be successful on the tour. It's not unrealistic to expect him to put things together soon, right?
Willie T. Brooklyn, N.Y.

• It’s tough. He’s a talented player both in singles and doubles. (Now working with Mark Woodforde.) But he’s had some injuries, he’s prone to some mental lapses…and he’s not a sufficiently big name that he can rely on wild cards until he cleans up his game. He lost in the first round of qualifying here. He’s outside the top 100. And he is not even in the ATP guide; which is quite a fall for a guy who was once in the top 25. Hard to believe that a few years ago there was a conversation to be had over who would be the better pro: Pospisil or Raonic?

Tennis
How both Australian Open No. 1 seeds lost on same day, what it means going forward

Last time Venus was in SF of a slam President Trump was a liberal.
James B.

• Alternative facts!

G'day Jon. Good to see Andrey Rublev in the Aussie Open draw. Is there any other player you know who shares a name with a film?
Cheers, Ken Wells, Gardiner, Maine

Good one.

James has LLS: Was thinking that Dominic Thiem looks like Ricky Nelson during the match last night.

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
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