From established Hall of Famer Graf to burgeoning career of Sharapova
Posted: Monday July 12, 2004 4:04PM; Updated: Monday July 12, 2004 5:49PM
Andre Agassi presented the Hall of Fame honor to his wife, Steffi Graf, in Newport R.I.
Let's start with the Hall of Fame inductions this past weekend in Newport, R.I. Steffi and Stefan (Graf and Edberg, of course) were enshrined as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Nice coverage from TheNewport Daily News. ...
At the concurrent Campbell's event in Newport, Greg Rusedski won his 14th career title, beating Alexander Popp. For the 28th straight year, the top seed failed to win the event. Vince Spadea was tuned in the quarters by Popp. ...
In Gstaad, Switzerland, Roger Federer piggy-backed his Wimbledon title by winning his home country's event. Federer beat the up-and-coming Igor Andreev in the final. Now, how about a well-deserved week off? ...
In Sweden, Mariano Zabaleta outlasted French Open champion Gaston Gaudio 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 in the tournament's first Monday final since 1981. (Rain forced the cancellation of all play on Saturday.) ...
In Fed Cup play, the U.S. lost to Austria. Go to the Fed Cup site for all the results. I'll play ogre and pose this question: Can we euthanize Fed Cup right now and put the thing out of its misery? The top players don't take it seriously, the format is forever changing, fans don't care, it clutters up the schedule and hemorrhages money. (Other than that, it's a great competition.) If the ITF wants to create a Davis Cup equivalent for the lady folk, how about a Ryder Cup take-off? That is, take a team from the country with the most players in the WTA's top 10 (say, the U.S. or Russia) and pit it against the rest of the world?
Co H. of Ellicott City, Md., gives the Mailbag a rare infusion of hip: "I just wanted to point out that in Brandy's new album she gives a shout out to Serena, saying she's Serena's Biggest Fan and Friend Forever. Another example of the impact of the Williams sisters." ...
NBC's coverage of Federer's four-set victory over Andy Roddick in last Sunday's Wimbledon final delivered a 3.6 overnight rating/10 share -- up 33 percent from last year's 2.7/8 for the Federer-Mark Philippoussis final, according to Nielsen Media Research. It is the event's best overnight rating since 2000, when the Pete Sampras-Patrick Rafter matchup generated a 5.0/14. Saturday's telecast (9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT) of the Wimbledon ladies final, in which Maria Sharapova beat defending champion Serena in straight sets, generated a 3.9 overnight/11 share. That rating represents a slight decrease from the 4.0/11 for last year's all-Williams final, in which Serena defeated Venus. ...
Speaking of the Times, another typically great column from Harvey Araton last week about Dodo Cheney (registration required) -- the third player inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend. ...
We had a good laugh reading Nick Bollettieri's quotes in London's Daily Mail last week. On the success of Britain's junior Miles Kasiri: "Let's get one thing straight: It wasn't a success story for British tennis. It was another success for the IMG Bollettieri Academy." On Miles' mother, Gail: "To be honest, she was a royal pain in the ass, a real pushy mother." On Xavier Malisse: "He got his ass kicked out of Belgium because of his attitude." ...
Here's a cool site you guys might enjoy. Check out the old tennis entries. Anyone want to know what to get me for my next birthday? That Indiana Loves t-shirt is great. ...
The USTA announced that the 2004 U.S. Open purse will top $17.75 million, and will potentially exceed $19 million -- representing the highest purse in sports -- as the top three men's and women's finishers in the U.S. Open Series may earn up to an additional $1.3 million in bonus prize money at the U.S. Open. The men's and women's U.S. Open singles champions will each earn $1 million. ...
Nice to see James Blake back in action in Newport. Likewise Rafael Nadal sure looked sharp in his first event -- the Swedish Open -- since April. ...
John McEnroe's talk show on CNBC kicked off last week. It's early in the first set, but, um, well, here's what my esteemed colleague Richard Deitsch, SI's TV critic, had to say. ...
This week's shameless plug: Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, by Joel Drucker is eye candy for any tennis fan. And here's an unsolicited, non-tennis recommendation: The Circus in Winter, by Cathy Day. ...
Both Sharapova and Serena announced last week they will play in the China Open. Does anyone want to venture a guess about what it took to lure them to Beijing the week after the U.S. Open? ...
Here's all you need to know about the effects of injuries (and scheduling) on women's tennis: Kim Clijsters, who hasn't played a match since Indian Wells in March, is still ranked No. 2. ...
Last weekend Sharapova was fourth on the Yahoo!'s most-popular-search list behind Lance Armstrong, The Amazing Race and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. ...
For those wondering if Donald Young is worthy of the hype, consider he won two rounds of qualies in L.A. last weekend. McEnroe may make Magic Johnson look like Charlie Rose, but he sure can spot tennis talent. ...
Long story, but I'm in the market for a gag gift: Do any of you guys know how to find tapes of the PBS show The Electric Company?
Martina Navratilova stated last week that Sharapova's Wimbledon victory was the best thing that could have happened to women's tennis. Why? Where was all the hoopla when Anastasia Myskina became the first Russian woman to win a Grand Slam title? Why weren't Justine Henin-Hardenne's victories in the previous three Grand Slams considered great for women's tennis? -- Nikki, Cincinnati
We got several questions making the same point, and it's one worth discussing. Playing devil's advocate, one could point out that Sharapova is young (17), completely bilingual and doesn't mind the spotlight. Playing in her first Grand Slam final, she stared down Serena, the dominant force in women's tennis. That is grounds not just for "hoopla" but for justified "hoopla." But yes, you're right. There's a faintly icky feeling that a lot of the attention is owed to the fact she looks like (and is) a model. If she achieves the identical feat but stands 5-foot-3 and has braces, is she "the best thing that could have happened to women's tennis?" Is the WTA turning cartwheels? For that matter, is she on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Some of this -- perhaps sadly -- is the "reality of the marketplace." Women's sports have yet to get to the point where athletes are judged solely on their merits. That's been made clear time and again. For Navratilova to be among those perpetuating the cycle is, at the very least, ironic.
I found the play of Roddick simply amazing, and at times, stellar. While he lost the Wimbledon final, don't you feel he revealed that Federer is human and capable of being beaten? Give or take a few points, Roddick would have been the champion. -- Sonji, Greenville, S.C.
Andy Roddick played well at Wimbledon, only to lose in the final to Roger Federer.
Agreed. If I'm Roddick and have had a few days to ruminate, I come away from Wimbledon pretty pleased. He played terrific tennis and showed what I thought was an unprecedented versatility in reaching the final. When he arrived there, he had his chances against the best in the business. Obviously he would like to have won the whole crumpet, but there's no shame in going down in four well-played, well-competed sets to Federer. If I'm Brad Gilbert, here's how I spin this to Roddick: Roger is a sick player (note: authentic Gilbert locution), but how much better can he get? You, on the other hand, still have a lot of upside and came within a few loose service games of beating him on grass.
By the way, a note to our readers who will be returning to college in the fall: There's an easy five-page paper to be written about how the games of Roddick and Federer parallel broader differences between Americans and Europeans. One on side of the net: relentless power, an utter lack of subtlety and a taste for combat. On the other side you have style, precision and (at least until recently) questionable ballast when under attack. String that along for a few more paragraphs, and you'll start your semester off with, at worst, a B+.
Federer is something else. For the second straight year, two days after winning Wimbledon he has played a clay-court tournament in Switzerland -- his home country. What sort of appearance money do you think he gets? -- Aaron Gerritz, Arlington, Va.
If his appearance fee is less than six figures Federer needs to fire his agent ASAP. (That was a joke.) But regardless of the pay-out, his commitment to his commitment, so to speak, shows a lot of class. The guy would be well within his rights to say, "Look I've played seven best-of-five setters over the past two weeks. I need a break."
I asked him about keeping his promise to play Gstaad last year, and he sort of shrugged and said it was one of the few chances he got to play on his home soil. Let the record also show that Sharapova promised to headline a "Street Clinic" in New Haven, Conn., last Tuesday to promote the Pilot Pen event in August. After 72 dizzying hours and a transatlantic flight, she discharged her duties as promised.
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag each Monday.
During the Wimbledon telecasts, the commentators kept saying that Federer hadn't been broken in the tournament. Can you explain why women are so easily broken and men are not? -- Lisa L., Toronto
I remember a female player -- I want to say it was Navratilova, but don't quote me -- saying it has as much to do with second-serve differences than first-serve discrepancies. True, women aren't hitting 145 mph rockets, but they also aren't hitting 115 mph second serves laced with various species of spin that kick out wide. Anyone who watched the balls struck by Roddick and Federer knows Martina has a point.
Who is the most accomplished Tour player you've never seen in person? -- Sbari Sbari, Beit Shemesh, Israel
I know how much U.S. tennis fans like to complain about ESPN, but spare a moment for those of us in the U.K. watching Wimbledon on the BBC. In a fit of insanity, the network employed Boris Becker to provide commentary. His mangled grammar and lack of anything meaningful to say would be funny, if it was not so sad. Have you had a chance to see him? -- John Gallagher, London
To me, listening to Becker is a treat. I remember at one point during a Lleyton Hewitt match last year the camera panned to Clijsters. After a typically awkward pause, Becker said, "Kim is watching her lover." Funny under any circumstance. But with perfect "Dieter from Sprockets" inflection -- "Kim vatching hair love-ah!" -- it was simply hysterical.
Do doubles teams usually have a coach? Or does each player have his/her own coach? I need to know! -- Rafi Zlotnick, Woodmere, N.Y.
If the answer to this question constitutes an urgent need in your life, you're doing OK. It seems as though most of the top men's teams (Bob and MikeBryan, MarkKnowles-DanielNestor, Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi, back when they were on fairly civil terms, etc.) share a single coach. Because the teams don't change much week-in, week-out (and purses are sufficiently large that they can afford it), it makes sense. With the women, since so many doubles players compete in singles as well and have their own aides-de-camp, there are usually two coaches per team.
Hewitt's going for that rare Grand Slam -- getting knocked out of each Major by the eventual winner. Has anyone ever done it before? -- Andrew Mayo, Houston
Nice catch, Andrew. According to the all-knowing Greg Sharko and the ATP ranking coordinator Bram Tukker, it's never been done in the Open era. Todd Martin came close in 1994, losing to Sampras in Australia and Wimbledon and Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open. If Hewitt falls to either Roddick or Federer in New York he might become the answer to a good trivia question.
What is the chance that Juan Carlos Ferrero wins another Grand Slam? This year he has been plagued by injury and sickness, but he had a real good run last year. Could he make a strong showing at either the U.S. or Australian Open? -- Peter Williams, Springfield
In a seven- or eight-month window, Ferrero won the French, made the final of the U.S. Open (beating Hewitt and Agassi along the way) and quietly reached the semis in Australia. It's clear he's been nowhere near 100 percent physically this year. But given his age and ability to play well on a variety of surfaces, I'd be surprised if he doesn't walk away with at least one more Major.
On a related note ...
Is there any reason why we shouldn't consider Guillermo Coria a viable contender at this year's U.S. Open? He has won on hard courts, and he looked like he was going to give A-Rod a run for his money in Miami before kidney stones took him out of the match. What are your thoughts? -- Andrew, Burlington, Vt.
Kidney stones? Thought it was back spasms. Note to self: There's a bon mot in here for the future. "With his wingspan, it's easier to pass a kidney stone than to pass Ivo Karlovic." We'll work on it. Anyway, nice question. Just as Ferrero made a run to the final in '03, we expect big things from Coria. He has a great set of wheels, he's fit and he's proven time and again he can play on asphalt. Viable contender? Sure. He and everyone else, for that matter, is a distant second behind Federer and Roddick. But if Buffalo Bill played up to his seeding and was around for Super Saturday it wouldn't surprise us at all.
Am I alone in feeling that Anna Kournikova is getting unnecessarily bludgeoned in countless Sharapova articles? Kournikova hasn't done anything to really connect herself with this whole story of Sharapova. -- Jas, Columbus, Ohio
Good point. I wrote a small essay in Sports Illustrated two weeks ago essentially making the case that, love her or hate her, give Kournikova her props for her role in the onslaught of Russian players. Sharapova might run screaming from the Anna comparisons the way Al Gore distanced himself from Bill Clinton in '00, but she's benefitted plenty from the association.
Your Wimbledon midterm grades were really high. Why are you afraid to give failing marks when players lose early? Is it grade inflation? You need to be meaner. -- Shawn Augsburger, Irvine, Calif.
Oddly enough, we must have gotten five letters making the same point. First, grade inflation is all the rage today, as any Princeton undergrads will attest. And at a time when athletes in other sports are engaged in the BALCO scandal, on trial for sexual assault, hiring Rustin Hardin on a group rate, do tennis players really deserve less than a C for losing early at a Major?
When are you going to do the player look-alikes again? I have a dandy! What about French Open champ Anstasia Myskina and the new Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash? -- Jeff, Federal Way
Where is the best place, if any, to buy DVDs or video tapes of Sampras and Ivan Lendl matches? I am talking classics, such as Sampras' last Wimbledon win or Lendl's win over McEnroe at the French in '84. Also, I would like to buy stories or profiles on these guys (60 Minutes, ESPN, anything). I've already tried eBay and other Web sites. -- Frederic Boucher, Montreal
Anyone want to help out Frederic?
I know you've answered this question before, but I lost the answer, so to speak. I'm trying to find as many Steffi Graf matches on tape as I can. Could you give me the link once again to the sites where I can purchase such tapes? I would be very thankful. -- Christian Kunze, Zwolle
Finally, some of these are painful but we appreciate the creativity:
Ai! What's up with Serena? She acts like a Childs every time someone beats her. She Roddick(ulously) says, "I was playing terrible, I was only 20 percent. Didn't you see I was playing so bad? I played like an amateur." Sounds Fish(y) to me. Can't she just say Sharapova's Pistolesi serves, lots of Popp groundstrokes, well Gambill(ed) lobs and Patience made a Dent and Pierce(d) through Serena's game. Maybe Serena has to drink a few glasses of Brandi before the interview, so she will not be that Moodie and act humble and gracious in defeat just once. -- Kris Wangsadiputra (a surname that never doubles as a pun), Americus, Ga.
Have a great week, everyone!
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim covers tennis for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.