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Posted: Wednesday July 30, 2008 11:42AM; Updated: Wednesday April 22, 2009 12:00PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >

Federer's inconvenient truth, tabling GOAT talk and more

Story Highlights

The Gilles Simon loss consecrated that we're officially in a Federer recession

Rafael Nadal's trophy biting a childhood habit that he's continued as a pro

The book on Donald Young's that he's long on talent and short on temper

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Frenchman Gilles Simon's defeat of Roger Federer at the Rogers Cup was another sign that we are in a Federer recession.
Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from users in his mailbag every Wednesday.

We're on vacation this week and next, so the 'bags might be thinner than normal....

In an earlier post, you mentioned that we should get back to you in mid-July to see if we were talking about a Federer slump. Well, it is late July now. So I will ask this again. What is going on with Roger Federer?
-- Michael Elias, Tarzana, California

• WTHIGOW Roger Federer was the big question this week. For many of you, the Gilles Simon loss last week in Toronto consecrated this inconvenient truth: we're officially in a Federer recession. Sadly, I tend to agree that the Simon match said a lot. It told me that a) his protestations to the contrary, Federer still hasn't recovered from the aftershock of the Wimbledon final. It told me that he's fatigued. Losing to a lesser player after being up a break in the third, it told me that his confidence isn't where it needs to be.

Again, I encourage realism on both sides. Federer's run of winning 90 percent of his matches as a matter of course lasted for four-plus glorious years. Inevitably, it had to come to an end, the same way the housing market had to cool off eventually. We wish the boom times could last forever but that's not how capitalist markets work and it's not how human nature works either. Inasmuch as you can call a "slump" two Grand Slam finals and a Grand Slam semi, Federer's result are, indisputably, down this year. Whether or not the rankings reflect it this week, next week or after the Open, the torch has been passed to Rafael Nadal.

Having said that, who's to say that Federer can't reclaim his spot. The housing will rebound eventually. Federer can as well. He's barely in his late 20s. He's still immensely talented. His "annus miserabilis" is a dream season for any other player. These rumors of his quitting tennis after Beijing are preposterous. Part of being a champion is responding to defeat and adversity. How Federer bounces back (or doesn't) to the Challenge of Nadal will be a vital chapter in his legacy. Stay tuned.

If Federer wins the U.S. Open and retains the number one ranking by a nose this year, is he truly number one? Two majors don't offset one? I realize that this scenario is unlikely.
Ben Bittner, Milwaukee, WI

• I made a vow to cut down on these hypotheticals, but like my beloved wasabi-covered peas, they're just so darn irresistible. I might put a U.S. Open title, a Masters Cup title, an Olympic gold (and a French Open final and Wimbledon final) up against two Slams. Which is to say that unless Federer absolutely runs the table from here on out, Nadal is the 2008 MVP.

Think there's any chance the USTA gives two-time NCAA champion and UVa graduate Somdev Devvarman a wildcard to the U.S. Open? He's had a blistering start to a pro career. Somdev has won his first four events with victories over several top-100 guys, including Sam Querrey, Bobby Reynolds, Dudi Sela. Plus he's beaten Robert Kendrick twice, as well as Xavier Malisse (who was down multiple service breaks when he retired). In the past month he's won two futures, a $40,000 check for a N.Y. invitational (which was more than the runner-up at the ATP Newport event received) and his first challenger. Obviously, he's not American, so that's an issue, but he seems to merit consideration.
-- John, Greenville, SC

• I must have gotten a dozen e-mails asking the same question, and methinks there's a letter-writing campaign underway. I'll take up the cause here. I don't fault the USTA for declining to give a wild card to the overseas 24-year-old ringer who came to State U (or Princeton for that matter) under dubious circumstances and ran the table. But given Devvarman's career at UVA, his academic record there, and his early success as a pro, I think there's a strong case to be made here. And he CERTAINLY deserves a wild card into qualies.

Just a friendly note that Magnus Norman fended off 10 match points against Guga Kuerten in the final of the French Open in 2000. Which reminds me that, contrary to reports by John McEnroe and others, Bjorn Borg did attend the French Open in 1997 -- he presented the trophy to Guga that year, and Guga bowed down to Borg. Please pass this along to McEnroe if you have a contact with him, as he keeps saying otherwise.
Kerry Mackin, Ipswich MA

• Thanks, though let the record reflect that Guga ended up winning the match. And Johnny Mac, if you're out there, read above. For more on match points, go to the end ...

How would you rate the chances of Safina at the USO? She certainly seems to have taken a huge step forward insofar as her mental state is concerned.
-- Rhys, Singapore

• Intended pun v/v "huge steps"? Safina has made immense strides (ba-dum-bum) in recent months and, having won L.A. last weekend, she's pretty much a de facto U.S. Open contender. I still think there are a few mental questions that need to be addressed, but I put her as a shortlister right now.

Please tell me, what is the story behind all of these pictures showing Nadal biting his trophies?
Valerie, Lemon Grove, CA

• A few of you have asked this recently. Just a childhood habit that he's continued as a pro. Plus, he gets his RDA of zinc and iron.

WHOA! wait a sec...where's all this "Nadal for GOAT" talk coming from? I know you're arguing against it, but how is it even in the picture in the first place? Are we getting a little too carried away from his Wimbledon win? Let's do a quick refresher of the players that are still in a league above his game, slams and historic presence: Federer, Agassi, Sampras, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Connors, to name a few in just in the modern era. He's having a great year and equaled a long standing record, but, there are too many things to do for him before he even gets in contention for top 10 of all time.
-- Vijay Kalpathi, Houston

• Dude is 22 and he's won Wimbledon and four French Opens. Not crazy to speculate: "If he continues on this trajectory where might he end up?" A long way to go, to be sure, but I think it's perfectly reasonable to spin the clock forward and play the "what if" game. Sort of like Tommy Carcetti is only a Baltimore city council member, but he's so promising they already speculate about his becoming Maryland governor.

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