Mailbag: Looking Ahead to Wimbledon and Assessing Seb Korda's Promising Future

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Hey everyone …

• Check back later this week for 2021 Wimbledon seed reports.

• Good soldiering: “Tennis Channel’s coverage of Wimbledon, the world’s oldest tennis tournament, begins Monday, June 28, at 4:30 p.m. ET. It will mark a return of the sports world to the hallowed All England Lawn Tennis Club following a cancellation of the event last summer due to the global pandemic.”

• Just a note that—owing to bandwidth overload—we are suspending the podcast.

• Cringey self-promotion at publisher’s behest: Glory Days is out. Lots of tennis, including a love letter to Martina (and McEnroe and Super Saturday).

Onward:

Djokovic versus the field, Jon. Who ya got?
Martinez, TX

• I assume this means at Wimbledon. Though it pretty much applies to any event. Let’s back up and consider the statistical awesomeness/ridiculousness of this question. Whether it’s Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal–on-clay or peak Roger Federer, the idea that you pick one player over the other 127 … over seven rounds … with the possibility of injury as well as defeat lurking … it speaks (screams?) volumes about the high regard for that player. Hard to imagine too many competitive scenarios where you have a similar exercise. You might predict Team X to win the tournament. You would seldom prefer them to the other 127 teams in the field combined.

Novak Djokovic is favored to win Wimbledon.

Anyway, let’s consider Novak Djokovic. He’s the defending champ. He comes in fresh from winning the previous two majors. He is the top seed. The last man to win Wimbledon before him is 39. The last before that, is hobbled by persistent injury. The last before that isn’t playing. (The last before that is Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.)

Realistically? Djokovic is an overwhelming favorite. I would not take him against the field. But—in part because of Djokovic’s current form, in part because of the relatively threadbare field—it’s close. (N.B.: the bettors think so, too. He is about a 40% favorite to win.)

What do you hear about the October 2021 ATP and WTA schedule. Likely week for Indian Wells?
@barbalexand

• “BNP Paribas Open will be held” is—literally—the headline. The question: Will any events in China be held? As I write this, there has been no official announcement from the tours. I gather Shanghai is the holdout but most others have informed the authorities that they will not be held in 2021.

Can you please explain to me why so many more women singles stars (Barty, Sabalenka, Swiatek, now Krejcikova) play doubles than male singles stars?
Connie, Ill.

• The short answer: the best-of-five format versus the best-of-three. For most men it’s just too taxing to play singles and doubles at majors. Some of this owes to the sheer time spent on court, but it’s also logistics and the waiting and the psychic energy. Aside: If I were Steve Simon, head of the WTA, I would be keeping this point in my breast pocket when discussing equal prize money.

Hi Jon, I was just wondering where you stand on the fawning over Seb Korda by most of the tennis media (on the cover of Tennis magazine, Jim Courier, myself and others). He’s had some impressive victories but I think some other players are more accomplished than him at the same age, in particular Sinner. Do you think that American tennis media is so hungry for an American male player that too much is being made of young Seb? I know it’s early in his career but do you think he’s the real deal and by that I mean winning a Grand Slam in the future?
Best Regards,
Eric Bukzin, Manorville, NY

• Yeah, I’m not sure I’ve seen enough of him play to pronounce a future major champ—or discount the possibility. But a) I will fawn. There’s a lot of game here. He plays well on a variety of surfaces. He has the physique and pedigree; b) I will also acknowledge there is a certain eagerness (desperation) for an American prospect and this may be coloring perception a bit. If he is Seb Korda, a 50th-ranked player from the Czech Republic, are we this giddy? Perhaps not.

It’s been a strange year for Korda. He was terrific in Delray, beating the likes of John Isner and the terminally underrated Cam Norrie to reach the final. He missed the rankings cutoff and didn’t go to Australia. Instead he won the Quimper challenger. He had a nice run in Miami, beating Fabio Fognini, Diego Schwartzman and Aslan Karatsav, among others. Then he lost four of his next five matches. He recovered to win the title on clay in Parma. But he was exhausted and lost in straight sets at Roland Garros. So in 2021, he has won a title and more than 30 matches and cranked the top 50 … and he's still looking for his first 2021 singles win at a major.

How do you read Nadal’s dropping out of Wimbledon and the Olympics? I can see skipping Wimbledon for the same reason Federer skips the French, but the Olympics are a once every four year event and realistically, this could be his last shot at furthering his Olympic glory. Tokyo would also be a hard court warm-up with recovery time before the US Open. Any word on if he is going to play Cincinnati? Is there something beyond “looking at the mid and long term?”
Paul Haskins, Wilmington N.C.

• In the spirit of George Packer, I divide players into buckets with respect to these fraught Olympics. There are the players who, uninhibitedly, want to go, a cohort made largely of mid-career players who wonder if they will get another chance. There are players who feel compelled to go—driven by commercial obligations (Uniqlo is a Japanese company, we hasten to add) or patriotism. There are players, including Nadal, who have had their Olympic glory, had the experience of the opening ceremonies and the pin-swapping and don't need it again. There are players like Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov, who are young enough to say, “I’ll get my chance in Paris—barely 1000 days from now—when I won’t have to wear masks and a full complement of fans will attend.”

Jon,

June 22, 1981: Has it really been 40 years ago? Really? "You cannot be serious!" Was John's serve in, or out? I thought the ball was in. In another broadcast of the match from British TV, even the announcers, though disgusted with John's behavior, did admit that to them the ball looked in. Has more modern technology ever tried (or been able) to determine if the call was correct or not? Different time and era. I really enjoyed watching John play tennis.
Bret, Utah

• You and me both. It’s just a pity that John didn’t take that outburst and use it as a catchphrase. It might have really endured.

Hi Jon,

A lot of times, tennis champions are properly lauded for their physical skills (strokes, movement, etc.) or mental toughness, but I don’t remember the word “resourceful” used to describe Djokovic, Federer or Nadal. I’ve seen that word associated with Chris Evert, Martina Hingis, and Ivan Lendl. I’m not sure how a player wins one major without being resourceful, let alone 19 or 20 of them. What are your thoughts on this?
Andy Krouse, Reading, PA

• Great point. And I would add that resourcefulness takes many forms. Resourcefulness within a point, within a match, within the event. And even in a more macro sense. What is more resourceful than Barbora Krejčíková’s transition from doubles to singles? What is Djokovic’s decision to build some momentum by playing an event the prior week but … scheduling resourcefulness? Sofia Kenin showed a certain resourcefulness in jettisoning pops. Serena showed resourcefulness prior to Wimbledon by finding a grass facility in the south of France. All of which is to say: we see the forehands, backhands, aces. But so much more goes into winning a title.

Is Angelique Kerber a Hall of Famer?
Doc, Germany

• Jawohl. She is a French Open away from a career slam. (Joining Lindsay Davenport and Pete Sampras among others.) She occupied the top spot in the rankings. She’s won a dozen titles. In the Hall of Fame without a second thought.

Hey Jon—seems Nick Kyrgios is into boxing this week? Does he want to become a professional boxer?
Deepak, New York

• For the record, Nick Kyrgios is 26 now. This has quietly gone from “Can he unlock his vast talent?” to “Can he salvage his career, before he ends up as a 30 for 30 subject, centered on unfulfilled talent?”

SHOTS, miscellany

• Full disclosure: Rajeev Ram is a friend and fellow Hoosier. With that out of the way, he has provided an autographed shirt for a charity auction benefiting the Indianapolis chapter of the National Junior Tennis League.

• Wimbledon is quickly coming up, and so is Christie’s sale of tennis legend Federer’s personal memorabilia.

The collection will celebrate Federer’s amazing career with items that highlight key moments for him, including the racket and outfit from his win at Wimbledon against Rafael Nadal in 2007 and the clay-covered shoes from his famous victory over Robin Soderling at the French Open. All of the proceeds from the collection will go toward Roger Federer’s foundation, the RF Foundation.

• The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.V., one of the most iconic resorts in the United States, will host its first ever Champions Series Tennis tour event on Sept. 13, as part of its Salute to Heroes Weekend, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic will feature 2003 U.S. Open champion and former world No. 1 Andy Roddick, former world No. 2 Tommy Haas, former world No. 4 James Blake and 2006 Australian Open runner-up and Champions Series Tennis debutant Marcos Baghdatis. Champions Series Tennis is the North American tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30. Each event features two one-set semifinal matches followed by a one-set championship match. The winner will earn a $25,000 first-prize paycheck.

• The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), the professional tour for the sport of pickleball for men and women, has announced a long-term partnership with Genius Sports, the official data, technology, and commercial partner that powers the ecosystem connecting sports, betting and media, to drive the global growth of the sport.

• WTA Charities and Special Olympics have announced an expanded partnership through virtual experiences to inspire and engage athletes from both organizations, including a webinar series, one-on-one video calls between Special Olympics athletes and WTA stars, and an inclusive course on sport and fashion. Top WTA doubles player and two-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion Gaby Dabrowski has been named a Special Olympics Champion Ambassador. Dabrowski began participating in a Special Olympics virtual webinar series last year and it left such an impression on her that she wanted a deeper connection with the global inclusion efforts.

More Tennis Coverage:
50 Parting Thoughts From the 2021 French Open
Mailbag: What We Learned from the 2021 French Open
Unseeded Barbora Krejčíkova Emerges From French Open Chaos to Win First Major Title