Readers ask if Henman is done, Hewitt has mellowed
Posted: Wednesday March 15, 2006 11:50AM; Updated: Wednesday March 15, 2006 12:37PM
Tim Henman hasn't won a singles title since 2004 and has never reached the final of a Grand Slam.
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Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
Your view of instant replay is in direct conflict with your desire to increase viewer appeal, no? The casual fan loves a good argument with the chair ump or linesman (kinda like how the casual hockey fan loves a fight). Now that's replaced with endless TV replays of a ball hitting a court. Not good for tennis. -- Johnny Ballgame, Atlanta
I disagree. You won't have the McEnroe tirades, but how often did those occur, anyway? Usually the chair turns off the mike, the player approaches, shrugs, mutters an obscenity in his (the vast majority are men) native language and then plays the next point. I think the replay system will illuminate personality. Who makes judicious use of their challenges? Who has an eagle eye? Who is consistently wrong? Who gamely concedes the point -- a la Roddick last year in Rome -- before the challenge is exercised?
Of course, if we really wanted to evince personality, we would let players call their own lines. This would throw everyone's makeup into sharp relief and also generate immeasurable amounts of good p.r. -- in a time of drug cheats and match-fixing, tennis is so dignified that the players police themselves! But I'm resigned to the fact it will never happen. I need a new fixation. Maybe I'll start lobbying for on-court coaching.
What is the story behind Roger Federer playing doubles at Indian Wells? -- Sekhar Radhakrishnan, Huntsville, Ala.
I don't think there's any juicy backstory here. Federer plays doubles when his schedule permits, as he did in Dubai and last week at Indian Wells. The real question is why more players don't do likewise. Take Roddick, for instance: Your confidence is flagging, your volleys were never your strong suit, there are assorted kinks in your game you're trying to work out. I'm offering you a chance to practice under match circumstances -- ball kids, fans, the whole samosa. But wait! You also get to bolster your confidence. Don't answer yet -- you also get paid! And we'll throw in this endorsement bonus if you act fast.
Considering Tim Henman has only made one semifinal since the 2004 U.S. Open, turns 32 this September and isn't even the top-ranked player in his own country, is it pretty safe to say this is his last year? -- Blake Redabaugh, Denver
Much as I hate these bedside vigils over someone's career, I'll bite on this one and agree that Henman sure looks to be on his last legs. It's not so much his national ranking as it is his lack of potency. There are just too many players who can outhit him right now -- Tom Berdych only the most recent. Forgive me for the past tense, but I always liked Henman's stylish game and always thought that were he not from champion-famished England, his career would have been assessed a lot more favorably.
Does Lleyton Hewitt still have the same fire, in your opinion? I'm not sure if it's marriage, fatherhood and/or facing constant criticism, but from reading his quotes after recent losses, it seems like losing doesn't hurt nearly as much as it used to. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Tennis is just a better sport, in my opinion, when you can see how badly someone wants the W. (BTW, we would greatly appreciate your Hoosiers taking Isiah off our hands.) -- Jon Rapkin, Wellington, Fla.
If I may be so bold and speak for an entire state, Indiana wants nothing to do with Isiah Thomas. Whatever the polar opposite of the Midas Touch is, Isiah's got it. This guy's track record as an executive is akin to Paul Allen's as an investor. That fraudulent smile welded to his face, Isiah has an outright awesome ability not merely to screw up a situation but to blowtorch his bridges at the same time. Maybe we can get him a position in golf?
Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Speaking of blowtorching bridges.... We've known for years that Hewitt is one of those athletes who needs an enemy or a slight or some other form of agita, as they say in Adelaide, to stoke his flames. He picks fights and sues his own tour and fires his loyal agent and trashes Tennis Australia and creates conflict if all else fails. And for a while, it seemed to serve him well.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim covers tennis for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.