I don’t read Wertheim’s answers until after (unless they’re really short), love his stuff, blah blah blah. Read his answers here.
Jon Brodie. Your love affair with Roger Federer is getting downright embarrassing. Have you ever written one mailbag column that didn’t include, at minimum, a reference to him and how wonderful you think he is? I challenge you: Go back through your archives and see if you can find one column without a loving reference to Federer. Enough already. He’s old news.
— Sharon, Vancouver
You sure we’re reading the same blog, Sharon? Either way, having the GOAT still playing tournaments, still being in the top 4 for the foreseeable future, and still being relevant… it’s a little hard not to mention him, no?
Whether or not he’s old news remains to be seen. I think most people think he’s got a slam in him, but I respectfully disagree. I think it’s pretty clear that his game, particularly his backhand and serve, and maybe that killer instinct and ability to hit insane, unearthly shots, is disappearing. In other words, he’s become beatable. Not by a lot, but a select few that are pumping up their game (think Tsonga’s absolute ball bashing brutality at Wimbledon) to the point where Fed just doesn’t have an answer. He’s never been one for Plan Bs anyway (not that you should blame him).
Why are Federer’s ground strokes so shallow? How could he and his coach not see this and try to fix it? Trying to keep the ball deep is good tennis strategy, isn’t it?
— Venki, San Jose, Calif.
Shallow? Like… not deep? Maybe because the guy is 30 years old now? Just a thought.
I think it’s definitely a concern, again, especially on the backhand. The dude still has excellent hands, excellent feel, great movement, there’s no doubt. But he’s getting lost in rallies to some of these big hitters who are just crushing it and going for their chances.
Put it this way, Fed has never been one for slow surfaces. So as his shots slow down… well, you get the idea.
Melanie Oudin loses in the first round of Toronto qualies. Is she done?
— Pam, Amherst, N.Y.
I think it’s safe to say that Mel’s run at the US Open was the best and worst thing to ever happen to her. Really, it never should have happened, but one after another Russians froze at the sight of some scrappy American kid they had never played returning every damn ball and getting the crowd behind her.
Now turning 20 in September, Oudin’s game really hasn’t gone far and she just doesn’t seem to have any answers out there. She really doesn’t have a terrible game for such a small player, but the expectations were always way too high. Let’s hope that after a couple of years without any huge success, she’s feeling free to go out there and do her thing and get some results. Really, she’s a fun player to watch when she’s on, and has a great heart and great fight.
I have asked before if we can finally pull the plug on Donald Young’s career. After his performance at Legg Mason (where he reached the semifinals), I am not taking him off light support, but I do feel a pulse. What do you think — the start of a trend or an aberration?
— Phil O’Donoghue, Florence, Mass.
I think it’s safe to say that Donald Young has most definitely come alive, even if that Washington draw did collapse a bit. The most important part is that this has gained him a solid points foot hold which he can ride into main draws of smaller events to further push up his ranking.
As for his game, I’m still unsure. He moves incredibly well, has some flash and can pull off some great shots, but he also seems to lack any real punch to penetrate the court and push guys around, at least from what I’ve seen. And trust me, I know it’s easier said than done, I’m a pretty small guy too, but come on man. Hit the damn ball!
Regardless, worth keeping an eye on over the next year as he becomes a regular pop up in smaller tournies.
Jon Brodie, regarding Martina Navratilova’s prediction that Federer would own multiple French Open titles if he had a two-handed backhand, she’s assuming you can neatly plug in a different stroke and not affect the whole package. Without the one-hander, Roger is a different player. Different tactics, point patterns, movement and most likely a diminished slice. One could argue that he might own fewer French Opens, not more.
— Curtis Sayers, Newton, Mass.
Hmm. An interesting idea, if a totally absurd one. I’ll take the bait.
I think we could say possibly. Maybe it gives him a bit more zip or ability to step into the ball as it pops up on clay, or the ability to do more on defense. Who knows.
At the same time, the one handed backhand is what makes Federer. It’s what makes him so quick on his toes, his ability to adapt in a rally, and his ridiculous shots off the backhand wing. And it’s definitely what helped him win so many Wimbledons and US Opens.
Would Rafa have won more US Opens if he hit flatter and with less air under the ball? Maybe. But that’s what makes Rafa who he is. It’s also what helped him win French Opens.
Utlimately, it changes the whole outlook of Fed’s game, how he would set up point, move, etc., and it’s impossible to know. What if Rafa was a righty? You get my point.
Does anyone (perhaps Greg Sharko?) have a tally of the Williams sisters withdrawals since turning pro?
— John Gordon, Toronto
Peaked at Jon’s answer because it was so short. Turns out it’s rather hilarious too: “I’d ask Sharko but I worry about a bandwidth issue.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at Serena in her final press conference after winning Toronto, mentioning that eight months ago “I really wanted to win Toronto. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason I really wanted to win Toronto.” And it’s not even that I don’t believe her. But the Sisters have a bit of a reputation for bailing on Canada pretty hardcore, so the mass Serena fan support was a bit strange, if the reason why. In fact, the stat of them both pulling out of tournaments together is probably staggeringly high as well.
I have little patience for “anti-doping” — a hypocritical and tyrannical regime that is based more on moral indignation than science, and which wants me to believe that ingesting drugs is bad, but drinking Gatorade or buying the fanciest racket one can find is good because … drugs are bad! The entire anti-doping house is built on a foundation of silliness, lies and false notions of “purity.” Nonetheless, I have to say that I don’t understand why you think it matters that Robert Kendrick didn’t “intend” to enhance his performance. Anti-doping is a slippery slope. He did intend to mitigate the effects of jet lag, which in itself could be viewed as a performance-enhancing act — in fact, if this pill actually did help him recover from jet lag, this almost certainly was more beneficial to him than the stimulant effect. I don’t think this pill has any effect on athletic performance or anything else. Most illegal performance enhancers are ineffective if not outright countereffective. But that’s not the point. The anti-doping overlords believe it’s effective, and taking it “on accident” (but totally on purpose) doesn’t change anything. And Kendrick’s one-year ban for taking something that might actually provide some kind of material benefit seems downright generous in light of Martina Hingis’ two-year ban for a substance that could not possibly have improved her play!
— Joshua, Portland
Holy shit, there’s a lot going on here. I think most will agree with you that the uber-crackdown mentality of anti-doping, particularly in tennis (no thanks to our good Canadian friend Dick Pound, by the way) is a bit insane, particularly the scheduling. Making players predict where they’re going to be months down the road and at what particular times is absurd, if not abusive.
I’ll agree with you on intent though, for sure. The hard rules are meant as a deterrent, and it is most definitely a slippery slope. If you think it might boost performance, then don’t take it. That’s the whole point.
As for the Hingis (and Gasquet) thing, I agree and disagree. No, cocaine, that I know of, is most likely not going to improve your play. (unless you’re uber-paranoid and know there’s a sniper on the roof? I don’t know.) At the same time, something tells me you probably don’t want someone coking out in the locker room of other professional athletes, especially someone who has won grand slams and at the end of the day is an ambassador for your sport with the fans, media, etc.
You know what Kendrick’s problem is? His name is not Andre Agassi. Had it been, the powers that be would’ve accepted any excuse he may have offered. But I assume poor Kendrick is just another journeyman without a huge entourage paid to tell him what to do. It’s awful for him, because even if they overturn the suspension, it may be too late for him.
— Miriam Garcia, Rosario, Argentina
Two big things. Anti-droping isn’t the same as back in the day (I might be wrong on this one, but I’ll once again half sarcastically thank Dick Pound on this one). That is, they don’t take crap, and they don’t take excuses. Like I said before, it’s tough in aims to be preventative. Watch what you’re putting in your body.
The second thing is, as far as I know, there’s a lot more performance enhancers that are easier to get, and it’s a much better known fact that it was a real problem with sports in the 90’s than originally thought (I’m looking at you, baseball). Different cases require a different eye.
Kendrick’s ban is awful. Yes, it is strict liability, but if you want to look at it legally, he has proved it was an honest and reasonable mistake. If he were charged with a crime, he would be acquitted. I don’t see the point of sending this kind of message. Is it really going to deter athletes?
— L.T., Sydney, Australia
Jon, you’re burnin’ me out man. Look above. I think it is, and should, cause they’re clearly not screwing around.
I am very glad to see that Roger Federer has spoken his mind about the changes to the Canadian Open. Holding the men’s and women’s tournaments simultaneously in Montreal and Toronto has to be one of the worst ideas ever. I have not heard any criticism from the media, so it is good that at least one credible person is willing to say that the emperor wears no clothes.
— Gilbert Benoit, Ottawa, Ontario
Yup! I’m going to do more on this later, because there’s a lot of people discussing it on Twitter, and I can’t be assed to do it over that (it’s the whole reason I made this blog in the first place to be honest). Talking to other folks in media and watching Sportsnet (doing the coverage for the first time, as well) struggle to find the people to cover it, let alone people who actually know anything about tennis or have ever covered it before, was a bit painful. If there’s anyone who benefited, it was the folks at home in Canada and are too far away to make it to a tournament. The coverage was pretty seemless, and with so much tennis going on, it really did feel like grand slam chaos, so there was plenty of watch. But that’s it, and even that is debatable. More later.
Michael Chang is miffed at Agassi’s book, yet he didn’t even read it. I just think he looks really silly commenting about the book and then admitting that he only read excerpts. Excerpts can be taken out of context and you really need to read the whole book before you comment.
— Bob Romero, Monee, Ill.
Two things. One, absolutely. If you don’t judge a book by it’s cover, you probably shouldn’t judge it by it’s back cover either.
Secondly, a lot of people got ticked that Agassi said he didn’t like Chang thanking God after a win, and Agassi didn’t quite agree that God would choose sides. However, if you read the book, it’s an account of how he felt. Was it wrong? Sure, but it’s how he felt at the time, and if you didn’t know, he was a bit of a hot headed kid at times.
We’ve been to the U.S. Open three years running now (first-week day sessions). We drive up from Pennsylvania and have been pleasantly surprised by no issues with parking or traffic. In terms of sunscreen, be sure to warn your sunglassed listeners about raccoon eyes! Sitting in the same position under the sun for a three-hour match with sunglasses on will make you the butt of many jokes the next day!
— Bob Smith, Philadelphia
Definitely! I read Jon’s bit because this isn’t really an opinion question, and he has some great points. Take public transit if you can, to any tournament. Pack light, take what you need, bring a hat, some water (there’s usually spots to fill up water bottles, or just use the sink) sunscreen, a printed out order of play (and draw if you’re a nerd like me), and whatever else you might need. Just makes for a much easier, stress free day.
I’m going to my first live tournament, in Cincinnati for the semis. What are the “must-dos” and “don’t-dos” at a tournament? And how can I increase my chances of meeting and taking a picture with one of the players?
— Joe, Chicago
Again, good comments by Jon, and I’ll throw in a few myself.
Be aware of the people around you. There were a couple of people in the press reserved seats who wouldn’t stop talking, loudly, and during points. The stinkeyes being thrown their way could have killed an army. (At one point, someone asked of Azarenka’s serve “I don’t even know, is it good?”). So just be aware that there are different types of fans at different matches. Oh, and no matter how much you talk, don’t talk during points! Baaaaad!
If you’re in the market of trying to get some autographs and see players, the earlier the better. Everyone is there (literally, if it’s Cincinnati) and practicing, roaming around. Hell, I saw Petra Kvitova walk to a practice court with her coach and hitting partner, and I don’t think anyone outside of myself and another woman recognized her.
Which, once again, practice courts are the way to go. No idea how they’re set up in Cincy, but find them.
Also fun? Doubles! It’s often a small crowd, a lot of the times the players are a lot more candid and laid back on court (I’m looking at you, Ivanorazzi) and doubles is just super fun live in it’s own right. We don’t get to see it often on TV, so I’d say seeing some doubles is almost a must.
Lastly, these are human beings. No really. Nothing bothers me more when people get pissy about someone refusing autographs, ignoring fans, etc. Sure, not all players are as generous as others, but these are pro-athletes, they have scheudles, warm-ups, cool-downs, and other commitments. In other words, they’ve got places to be and shit to do. Cut them some slack and be generous, because they’re taking time out of their day to give you some love, no matter how much you paid.
Regarding your answer to the question about Federer not watching finals he isn’t in, you used Kobe Bryant as an example. In an interview with ESPN this week, he said he indeed watched the Heat-Mavs. I guess it is different for different guys?
— Russell, Houston
Different strokes. It’s also a team sport, you’re only one of five guys. You and those other four guys lost to the other five (and bench) guys. Tennis is just one on one. Shmeh.
I’m doing a video project for my dad’s 50th birthday. Do you know of any famous (or just plain funny) jokes related to tennis?
— Peter, Connecticut
For fun, Jon’s answer: On-court coaching? The “Bet-at-home.com Open”? Maybe too obscure. I would avoid anything having to do with the word “love.” That’s pretty played out. What about this line from the late, great Mitch Hedberg? “I think Pringles’ initial intention was to make tennis balls. But on the day that the rubber was supposed to show up, a big truck load of potatoes arrived. But Pringles was a laid-back company. They said, “F–k it. Cut ’em up.”
Have to say, there’s a lot of bad puns out there. I happen to think my blog name is kind of clever, but it’s still pretty cheesy. And yes, the love jokes suck.
I have to say, tennis tends to be home to a lot of unintentionally crude and hilarious jokes. Just look at the vocabulary. I’ll let you do the work. Brad Gilbert repeating hitting “deep and hard” about a thousand times in two minutes at Wimbledon absolutely killed me.