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Posted: Wednesday May 14, 2008 2:46PM; Updated: Wednesday May 14, 2008 4:51PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >

Reserving judgment on the U.S. Open's move from USA to ESPN

Story Highlights
  • There can be positive and negative effects of the U.S. Open's move to ESPN
  • Giving Stan Wawrinka some belated props
  • A telling story on Monica Seles from Anna Kournikova
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Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from users in his mailbag every Wednesday.

For a riff on the news of Justine Henin's retirement, click here.

ESPN will be televising the 2009 U.S. Open instead of the USA Network. Personally, I think USA Network did a great job and preferred their tennis coverage to ESPN. Do you like the change?
-- Bob Diepold, Charlotte NC

We had many questions this week about the U.S. Open's new television contract. I'm in a bit of an awkward position, having been on the USA payroll for the past few years. But I think the simple answer is that we need to reserve judgment until we see how this all plays out.

If ESPN broadcasts honestly -- as they've been doing at the other three Slams of late -- great. If they give us a reheated Andy Roddick match while two players who have the audacity to be non-American are deep in the fifth set, it's not great. If the network can replicate USA's wall-to-wall coverage, great. If tennis is being pre-empted or moved to another ESPN platform to make room for that higher-rated West Virginia football game, not great. If ESPN can import some of the familiar USA talent, great.

If ESPN imports more bland and down-the-middle former players, or "name" announcers with no tennis chops, not great. If ESPN's involvement increases the likelihood of the network returning to Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, great. If this means the network had completed the Grand Slam and the regular tour events are more marginalized than ever, not great. If this spurs ESPN to take a great interest in tennis year-round -- say, including it on SportsCenter highlights -- that's one for the plus column, too. You see where I'm going here.

I think the intriguing component is the digital platform. Particularly as tennis becomes so global, the live streaming video (which will also be available on could be immensely important. The USTA held a rah-rah press conference on Monday and it was hard not to leave fired up with some optimism. But I think we need to see how this all plays out before making any determination about whether it's ultimately good or bad for tennis.

Jon, enjoyed your feature on college tennis. I can see both sides of the coin here, but the situation at many places, similar to your examples, is ridiculous and, frankly, unacceptable! Do you think that some sort of a limit on foreign players (let's say no more than three out of eight and two out of six scholarships to non-US players) should and could be implemented? That way the rules are set upfront, the playing field is fairer and it still offers reasonable opportunities to kids from all over.
-- Bob S., Redwood City, CA

I do think a limit would be logical and fair. Two "internationals" per team, perhaps, which is essentially the way overseas basketball leagues operate with respect to Americans. Would this survive a legal challenge? Good question. Maybe there's a summer associate in search of some busy work who could research this.

But again -- and I hope this point didn't get lost -- this isn't simply about a player's passport. It's also about context and playing history. The best player at Princeton, for instance, is Peter Capkovic, a 25-year-old junior who, according to his bio, once beat Radek Stepanek and former Wimbledon semifinalist Vladamir Voltchkov.

"He brings a wealth of experience from his years competing against the world's best professional player" [sic] we're told.

Sorry, this is not a recruiting coup. It's a dishonorable farce that completely runs counter to the spirit of college athletics. Doesn't matter if you're from Bratislava or Bala Cynwyd: a 25-year-old junior with years of experience playing pro events has no business competing in intercollegiate athletics. Even if your hard-charging A.D. is demanding Ivy League titles. I can only hope that when Princeton wins matches, the adults feel the same level of fulfillment I do when I beat my six-year-old in chess. What a joke. What a shame.

Hey, Jon. How crazy is this statement: With the possible exception of Wimbledon '08, Roger Federer has won his last Grand Slam. (And if I am indeed prophetic, then who's the GOAT?)
-- Michael, Dubai

Crazy. But not chase-you-around-with-a-butterfly-net crazy.

Any input as to why NESN (New England Sport Network) showed the first two sets of the McEnroe/Krickstein match and not the champion tiebreak? They showed the after ceremony and not the ending tiebreak! Awful!
-- Ginny, Boston, MA

A tennis telecast ending early? Whoa! Now you're talking crazy! I make you this solemn promise: I will never quit answering a question in mid-se

Can someone please tell the Tennis Channel that even the most rabid Nadal fans do not want to see a lengthy close-up of his really disgusting blistered and callused foot? Seriously. That was just nasty.
-- Pam, Overland Park, KS

I'd just be thankful for the coverage.

How many emails do you receive each week? Do you read them all? I just wonder: How big is our "tennis club" on SI? Let us know.
-- Ivo, Bzenec, Czech Republic

Does that count the spam for cheap Cialis? It varies. During a standard week I might get maybe 200-250 questions, I'm guessing. During a Slam (or after we've discussed something particularly controversial) I can get that many in a day. More important, please know all submissions are read. Once upon a time there was a "screener" who picked a handful and sent them on. Now I just have these go directly to my email.

How is Jo-Willi Tsonga looking for the French? Also, is anything being done about the No Djo ball bouncing? I already cannot bear to watch his matches as that bouncing grates on my nerves, but on clay? My Tivo only allows me to tape three hours after its ending recording time on a live sporting event.
-- Meredith Master, New York

Jo-Willi is in trouble if the knee isn't 100 percent. Djokovic has apparently stopped doing impressions because he fears it angers his colleagues. Maybe if his colleagues impress upon him how annoying the ball-bouncing shtick has become, he'll quit that too. Think that's our best hope.

I enjoy your weekly mailbag and the ad-in/out very much, but i have to confess that I'm disappointed that Stan Wawrinka was not listed in this week's list. Going in his first masters final, taking a set of the Djoker and getting in the top ten ... hard to imagine a better week for him! Why not giving him some credit?
-- J., Aarau Switzerland

All credit to Stan the Man. I would add that he beat Roddick and former top players -- Moya and Ferrero -- along the way. Quick digression: a few years ago at Roland Garros, I saw Wawrinka beat Brian Baker in the boys final, having defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis. Baker is currently ranked No. 844.

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