- In his latest mailbag, Jon Wertheim answers questions about Wimbledon, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and makes the case for a fifth-set tiebreak at 12-12 in the Slams.
Time for a speed round to wrap up Wimbledon 2018. I’m also wondering if—amid all the storylines—we have made a big enough deal about the fact that 16-year-old Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan was the boys’ runner-up in Australia, won the French Open and then won Wimbledon over Britain’s own Jack Draper. Talk about a story hiding in plain sight….
This week’s podcast—a Wimbledon recap—will be up tomorrow.
b) I’ve been asked to publicize this and, in the spirit of good soldiering, I shall: “Strokes of Genius” was the No. 1 ranked documentary on iTunes this week. (And that’s without Federer and/or Nadal reaching the Wimbledon final!)
You can order it here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/strokes-of-genius/id1404175109
What is the point of having a gigantic retractable roof and lights if a match can only to go to 11 p.m.? By cutting it off early, they threw any sense of momentum down the toilet and made Nadal and Djoker sleep on it and resume the next day? Part of Brexit should be doing away with this arcane rule.
—Tory, Quincy, IL
• Why do you think Boris Johnson resigned?
I think everyone should retire the word “charitable” when it comes to comparing the ATP and the WTA. It’s not charitable to consider Serena’s dominance as a reflection of how good she is versus how weak the field is. It’s realistic and respectful. It’s funny, because I have caught myself saying “charitable” in the same context and have become conscious of it, then I saw it in your 50 Parting Thoughts, so I wanted to share my opinion on it.
Thanks for being a champion of women’s tennis. It’s still the undercard of the sport, and not because of the Big Four.
• We always pit men’s and women’s tennis against each other—why not pair them and take on other sports?
You want sustained excellence and consistent winners? Three dudes have won 46 of the last 54 majors. Want upsets and uncertainty? We have that, too. None of the top 10 seeds on the women’s side made the quarterfinals at this year’s Wimbledon.
As for Serena: she is an irresistible force of nature. But not such a force that she wins a Slam with substandard movement, 10 months removed from giving birth and two months from 37. And in this sense, the women’s draw worked out fine. She has motivation to continue on. “Hell, I was two sets away!” And the rest of the field wasn’t shamed by having her win so soon.
You are very polite, Mr. W., in not mentioning how Djokovic's resurgence also spells the end of the Federer era. Over coffee this morning, friends and I agreed that there’s no chance will Federer have his way when Djokovic, Nadal, Del Potro, possibly Murray and Wawrinka, and Zverev are all ready and eager to compete. Very good move that he signed the Uniqlo contract already!
• Two years ago, Federer dings his knee against Milos Raonic in the semis and the question becomes, “Will we ever see Federer at Wimbledon again?” A year later, he wins the title.
There are so many factors militating against retirement right now. You don’t sign a new clothing deal to walk away. Players have more autonomy than ever in their scheduling. Federer is six months removed from winning a major. In the first week of Wimbledon, he didn’t even get his serve broken—and didn’t face a break point. As a therapist might say: postpone the worry.
Where has Carlos Moya been? He was absent from Rafa’s box at Wimbledon.
• Per his schedule, he has Wimbledon off. Francisco Roig fills in, much as he used to do when Uncle Toni took a break during Indian Wells.
I’m still following your columns with pleasure. But I have a small bone to pick. The Isner-Mahut match lasted longer than Isner–Anderson but was spread over three days. So everybody could eat, drink and have bathroom breaks. After that match even the umpire, Mohamed Lahyani, got an honorary mention.
So in your five thoughts on the Isner–Anderson match I had hoped for a word of praise for umpire Marija Cicak. She had to sit there and concentrate for those six-plus hours without a bathroom break. And she sure was sharp and alert to the last point. So far I have only seen a tweet from former Dutch pro Kristie Boogert to commend Cicak. But I think she deserves a bit more recognition. And don’t say she was only doing her job. So were Isner & Anderson!
—Tineke van Buul, Amstelveen, Netherlands
• Objection sustained. Good game management, better bladder management.
You apparently enjoyed the Isner-Anderson match a lot more than I did. It was brutal on the players, brutal on the fans, it ruined the second semi-final and—as I’m writing this on Friday night—it will likely ruin the men’s final because Anderson will surely have nothing left to give after playing the equivalent of 15 sets in his last two matches. There have been a small number of great matches that went "extra-innings," notably the Wimbledon finals in 2008 and 2009 (Federer-Nadal and Federer-Roddick). But mostly these matches are torture for all involved. The time has come to implement a 5th set tiebreak.
—Rich, New York City
• I’m thinking a tiebreak at 12-12. You have the finish line. You have the symmetry of, essentially, a second overtime set (12 games as 2 x 6). You have the punitive aspect: You couldn't close on your match in regulation so you’re going to have to pay a physical price.
Back to the “finish line,” there is a ton of social science about how critical it is for performance. Tell me I have to swim 10 miles to survive, I make a calibration and act accordingly. Tell me I have an indeterminate distance to swim and I am lost, unable to know how to apportion energy. There are studies whereby subjects are told run, say, five miles on a treadmill. After the fifth mile, the researcher says, “Actually, go a bit more.” The subjects can't because they were so invested in the finish line. Telling athletes to continue competing without a fixed end point verges on sadism.
Lost amid all the media attention surrounding Serena Williams's return to the tour after her pregnancy is the broader question, which is not so much how well Serena is doing but in general how do mothers of any ranking perform on their return compared to how they performed before their leave of absence. A player who left ranked in the hundreds and returned to rise into the top 50 would be an interesting story.
—Elsie Misbourne, Washington, D.C.
• Fair point. Tatjana Maria, it’s on. Seems to me, seriously, that there are too many variables. You have the norm, the result for age, etc. It's like Maria Sharapova. There are, predictably, ever more vocal murmurs that her middling results owe to the fact she is no longer permitted to take meldonium. My response: how can you be sure it’s not just a function of a lengthy layoff, or a player hitting their 30s, or injury…
I want Camila Giorgi to win the U.S. Open.
—Bill, San Antonio
• I want to drum like Carter Beauford.
Much as we appreciate FE-DAL, we have missed this DJOKER, haven't we? Locked and loaded, dialed in...he's a nightmare to play in this sort of a mood.
• Well said.
Kudos to Mackenzie McDonald for his charge to the fourth round at Wimbledon. Looking into your crystal ball, is this one enchanted run or does he have the potential to lodge himself high enough in the rankings to be a regular in the main draw of majors and ATP events? What do you think his ceiling is? Top 50? Top 25? (He came into Wimbledon ranked 103, and moved up to 80 in its aftermath.)
—Teddy C., New York City
• I’d say top 50 is totally doable. And top 20 is ambitious but reasonable. At 5'10"—which he admits might be generous—he's not winning any serving contests. But he moves well, competes well, conducts himself like a pro and doesn't get outhit much once he's in a rally.
Did you think Serena was thrown off by having the lineswoman from her controversial 2009 US Open semi vs Kim Clijsters present during the Wimbledon final? Couldn't they find someone less distracting for Serena? I'm crying foul here.
• Isn’t the burden on Serena? She was the one in the wrong then. Why punish the lineswoman?
Since you brought it up—and I took the bait—can we agree that the statute of limitations has lapsed here? This was a regrettable moment, one of the few Serena lowlights. But this occurred nine years ago. I submit that people stop using this against her.
So you can't escape, the GOAT discussion. I get it. Fans are competitive, maybe moreso than some of the players. Perhaps that neither Rafa nor Roger won Wimbledon will give a small reprieve. But it may be worth pointing out again, as you sometimes do, that there is much to like about the game in general right now. History is history, the future is uncertain, people are always stuck in the present; but are we perhaps experiencing the Greatest Time Of All in tennis?
• Totally. And add these three: 1) One more major and Novak Djokovic ties Pete Sampras. 2) Five continents were represented in the quarterfinals. And a sixth (Australia) boasts some of the best young talent. 3) The World Cup team/ Davis Cup might be a fecal matter show, but at least there are backers willing to put up nine-figures of investment to stage new events.
Things that make you go hmmm:
Would Mike Bryan have won Wimbledon if he played with Bob instead of Sock? Will Mike and Sock try for the year-end tournament in London if Bob doesn't return soon?
How is Donald Young ranked No. 242 without being injured?
• Who among us isn’t a sucker for a C&C Music Factory reference?
1. Interesting. Truth is, Sock is an outrageously fine doubles player. Maybe this kickstarts his season in singles, which has been befitting of his Kansas City Royals so far.
2. I know Bob saw a specialist in California and the feedback was not encouraging. Since Sock isn't making London on the basis of his singles, why wouldn’t they go for it?
3. True. And note that Ryan Harrison—no longer with coach Michael Russell I’m hearing—could use some wins, too. You wonder what that unpleasant interaction took out of both of them…
Because there is no fifth-set tiebreaker for the first men’s semi, play in the second semi is suspended because of a curfew—the Australian Open and New York City are laughing right now. Curfew? What’s a curfew? And Rafa and Nole would’ve had to agree on whether the roof is open or closed for the remainder of the match? We can do better than this.
• Your best point is your last point: We can do better than this.
Here was my thought about Djokovic, a player eager to be liked: He wakes up Saturday morning and says: “You know what guys? It works to my disadvantage, but we need to play outdoors. It’s a glorious summer day. This was meant to be an outdoor tournament. The only reason this started under a roof was because of darkness, not weather. We have these environmental initiatives—spearheaded, ironically, by Kevin Anderson—and now we’re air-conditioning a 15,000 seat venue? This is ridiculous. I vote outdoor tennis!”
• To be clear, Djokovic was under no obligation here. In no way was it unsportsmanlike for him to decline Nadal’s preference to play outdoors. But how much good will would he have accrued, win or lose?
Jon, someone has to tell it like it is and it might as well be me. Wimbledon is the most reverential of tennis tournaments, yet it treats the players with the least concern and respect. Questionable scheduling, irrational roof-closure policies, no fifth-set tiebreakers and nonsensical curfews. Enough is enough. Wimbledon’s draconian adherence to tradition must end, and tennis journalists—especially influential ones—must speak out. Jon?
• Wimbledon has done such a good job mixing tradition with evolution. The digital technology is first-rate. We have courts with roofs. We have an innovative ticket buy-back policy. Yet you still enter the grounds and play time-traveler. Time for the nouveau thinking to extend to scheduling.
Here’s a point I heard multiple times and, as a parent, one that has extra resonance. Tennis needs to do a better job of reducing the practice of player lobbying. The stars know they can go the tournament office and get an audience. “I want a night match.” “I want court X.” “I want to play early and need some extra tickets for my sponsors.” When the tournament accedes, one child knows that they now have leverage on their parents. As Catherine Pearlman would say: “Ignore It!”
Serious question: Do you think Ana Ivanovic should be in the HOF?
• Under the Stich standards? Sure. Quick generalissimo (that’s Italian for the generalization, I believe): Americans can’t get enough of these Hall of Fame questions. The rest of the world could scarcely care less.
• John Farley writes: “I'm sending along to you here my new blog post. It is on the reversal-of-aging research on Transcendental Meditation and how it is significant to the tennis player's performance and overall health. If you feel to, please present it to the tennis world any way you wish—in your mailbag or wherever."
• World TeamTennis, the innovative professional team tennis league co-founded by Billie Jean King, announced the selection of Chris Renner as the Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. The announcement was made today by WTT co-owners King, Fred Luddy and Mark Ein.
• The Western & Southern Open announced Katie Haas as its Chief Operating Officer and that Tournament Director Andre Silva will add the role of Chief Executive Officer.
• The USTA announced that the prize money for the 2018 U.S. Open will be at a record high of $53 million, maintaining the U.S. Open as the richest purse in tennis history. Prize money at the US Open has increased by 57% since 2013. This year marks the 45th anniversary of equal prize money, and the U.S. Open was the first tournament to offer equal prize money to men and women competitors in 1973.
This week’s LLS comes from the editor of this very article, SI’s very own Daniel Rapaport.
Wimbledon semifinalist Julia Goerges and “How to Make it in America” star Lake Bell
Srikanth of Washington, D.C. takes us home:
One Saturday last August, on a whim, I decided to buy a ticket for that evening's session of the Citi Open here in D.C. Alexander Zverev was playing Kei Nishikori in the men's semifinals. I think the cheap tickets were maybe $30 or $35, which seemed like a reasonable price for a match between the next big thing and a top-10 player (which Nishikori was at the time). And there would be a women's semifinal after, between Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic—two names I recognized as solid pros. I planned on sticking around to watch it, but Zverev-Nishikori was the main attraction for me.
Well, Zverev's talent was impressive in person, but Nishikori didn't–perhaps couldn't–put up much of a fight, so the men's match was a snooze. (Zverev won 6-3, 6-4, but it wasn't even that close. It felt more like 6-1, 6-2.) Then Goerges and Petkovic began playing. The sun went down, the hour grew late, the night got a little chilly, and the stadium gradually began to empty. The match, however, was fantastic. Goerges won 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, but both played well. There were lots of long rallies, deuce games and shifts in momentum. There was evident friendship and respect between them at the end. (They're both German, of course.) The relatively few fans left loved it.
So what's my point? I guess I have four:
1) A great match can break out anywhere, between any two players. You don't need big names.
2) Go watch tennis live and up close if you can. I was able to move down to much better seats for the women's match. I've gone to several other tournaments, but these were maybe the best seats I've ever had. You see how good and consistent the players are.
3) Watching a great match live can connect you to the players in a way that just watching on TV can't. I've paid much closer attention to Goerges's and Petkovic's results since then. (Petkovic, in particular, seems effortlessly charming off the court and easy to root for. I vote for her to be your mailbag fill-in again, whenever you next take a week off.)
4) Goerges, currently ranked No. 13, is in the Wimbledon semifinals. Petkovic, now No. 95, has been playing qualifiers this year and can't seem to put more than a couple of wins together (although she did get to the third round at Roland Garros). When I see their results, I often think about how little separated them that night. This is no great revelation, but the difference between two players—between winning and losing, success and struggle—is often miniscule.