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The ultimate battle (pt. 3)

Posted: Wednesday February 7, 2007 10:34AM; Updated: Wednesday February 7, 2007 11:07AM
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Was the men's final at the Australian Open the first men's final at a Grand Slam to feature a female chair umpire?
-- Steve K., St. Louis

Right you are. With increasing frequency, females have been working men's matches. It's at the point where no one even notices. Incidentally, the woman working the chair for Federer-Fernando Gonzalez was Sandra DeJenken, who had a rough time of it in the women's final several years ago but acquitted herself fine Sunday night.

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When was the last time a Grand Slam has gone over two weeks due to the weather or some other problem?
-- George Tehan, Auburn

I suspect it was "People's Monday," the magical Monday final at Wimbledon '01. Goran Ivanisevic beat Patrick Rafter amid an atmosphere akin to a soccer/football match.

The clay-court season is only a few months a way. Are we seeing Guillermo Coria playing again? Is he still coming back to play?
-- Aldwin, Laguna, Philippines

Lots of Coria questions this week. Here's the ATP's Greg Sharko: "I just spoke to his coach, Hernan Gumy, today and he is not sure when [Guillermo] will return for his first tournament. They are practicing and Gumy says he is going about it "slowly and he doesn't want to rush back last year." He definitely plans to be back in the spring."

Who ends their career winning more Slams -- Maria Sharapova or Rafael Nadal?
-- Mark Bright, Kent, England

You have to go with Sharapova. 1) She doesn't count Federer among her contemporaries. 2) She's younger. 3) She plays less physical tennis.

A few of you have recently asked about my level of concern for Nadal's modest results lately. He's taken few "bad losses" per se; but he also has really cooled off since Wimbledon. Because of his game -- ground and pound, as they say in mixed martial arts -- if he's the slightest bit injured, it can exact a real price. I think that Nadal at 90 percent health is like Roddick at 60 percent. The good news for Rafael-ites: Clay-court season is soon upon us. The bad news: These early exits continue and his ranking is going to drop like a Rex Grossman pass.

I noticed you said Larry Stefanki has coached Tom Henman. Who is this Tom Henman, and what can we expect to see from him in the future?
-- Shaun Shahani, Los Angeles

Look for him to thrill the Wimbledon crowds but fail to meet their unreasonable expectations. No, obviously we meant Tim Henman. Remember it was Stefanki who designed the controversial strategy of getting "Henners" to take something off his serve, presumably so he would have more time to get into the net.

Shots, miscellany

• Look for the new ATP calendar to include eight Masters Series events: Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Rome, Canada, Cincy, Paris, Madrid and China. (Hamburg and Monte Carlo get downgraded to economy class.) Players will be expected to play "eight of eight", though, realistically, six or seven will be the norm. The year-end Masters will be held in London. Details to come.

• Thanks to David Nicholas of Liverpool, England, for this link to the best overhead you'll ever see.

Olivier Mabaya of Gatineau, Quebec, writes: "I have a better answer to this question: 'Where can I get a copy of The Fed-Roddick rout?' You can find it here."

• Thanks (if that's the right word) to Charles Lum of Atlanta for this fashion link.

• Someone (whose name I've misplaced) sent me this great YouTube clip of Venus Williams. Pretty hard to watch this and not come away with an elevated opinion.

• Speaking of Venus, this from Golf World: "Off the playing surface: PGA Tour player Hank Kuehne and WTAer Venus Williams began seeing each other in December." (Doesn't Golf World know? It's not WTA, it's Sony-Ericsson WTA? What is wrong with some people?!)

Andrew Friedman of New York City writes: "Now this is crossover appeal. Andrew Sullivan, of all people, linked to this super-slo-mo footage of Federer in action that someone posted on YouTube. Great footage -- among other things, it proves that Fed sure knows how to keep his eye on the ball!"

• In recognition of National Black History month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum will present a new exhibit titled Breaking the Barriers, honoring the achievements of African Americans in tennis. For more information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum, its collections, exhibits and programs, visit tennisfame.com or call 401-849-3990.

• Speaking of tennis and Black History Month, here's a blog item worth your time.

Rocky of Singapore sends this clip of Roddick's finest ace.

Have a great week, everyone!

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