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Posted: Wednesday October 1, 2008 12:24PM; Updated: Wednesday October 1, 2008 12:24PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
TENNIS MAILBAG

Sharapova's hits, ranking women and the Greatest Generation

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Why not combine Fed Cup and Davis Cup into one event? It can feature men's singles, women's singles, mixed doubles and so forth. Good for ratings, easier and more interesting for fans to follow, good for promotion of mixed doubles. Instead of watching Roddick vs. Nadal, which is just another grand slam quarter, fans can get a taste of Roddick/Serena vs. Safin/Safina, how cool is that?
-- Dave, Hong Kong

• Very cool idea. Like everything, it's a "calendar issue." When this event falls the same weekend as the Katmandu Open, you've got angry tournament directors on your hands. Also, what do we do about a country like Argentina, which may well win the Davis Cup but has a very small presence in the women's game? Overall, though, I think there's a lot of potential.

Why hasn't J.C. Ferrero been able to reestablish himself among the top players following all the setbacks in 2004? It's not like a game that was good enough to win majors and take him all the way to No. 1 in the world in 2003 wasn't good enough to at least see him reclaim top 10 status since then, and I don't think he has been seriously injured following the 2004 season. Maybe simply lack of motivation on his part? What's your take on it?
-- Etienne, Montreal

• A few things. J.C.F. had a lot going for him, not least some fine footwork. But he didn't really have a weapon per se. In that Lleyton Hewitt kind of way, once he lost a half step of quickness, he was a diminished player. Also, he did most of his damage on clay. Right after his breakout season, another Spaniard came along and hoarded those clay-court events, leaving only table scraps for the others.

The generation of male players born 1980-81 was the first generation I really got to see come of age, and, with the exception of Federer (granted, that's a big exception), it was a pretty disappointing generation. Five years ago, all the sportswriters (yourself included) were predicting big things for Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Coria, Nalbandian, et. al, but all of those guys either underperformed or burned out. Where would you stack this generation in the all-time ranks? Other than Federer, who is the major success story?
-- Ashwin, Rochester, N.Y.

• I think there's a bit of circular reasoning here. Between them, Federer and Nadal have won 14 of the last 15 Slams. Obviously, the achievements of the "others" are going to look shabby in retrospect. "Other than Federer...' is a bit like asking: "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

Still, you raise an interesting point. Hewitt had two great years and then crashed and burned a bit. Safin won two Majors but devolved into a lovable head case. Coria is a sad story, testament to what a brutal mental sport tennis can be. Nalbandian, I think it's fair to say, is a disappointment. Roddick -- who was born in 1982 -- has never backed up his 2003 U.S. Open, but gets a lot of points in my book for being a top 10 player for seven straight years now. To your question, this will not go down as a Greatest Generation. But I would submit that two guys from Switzerland and Spain had an awful lot to do with that.

Shots, Miscellany

• This week's random encounter comes via Andrew Shields:

• Congrats to Mardy Fish. K.G. and a broken glass? Now that's a wedding.

• How about some props for Andy Roddick, not merely for winning the China Open last weekend but for then donating $25,000 to earthquake relief.

• The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum has announced the election of nine new members to the Board of Directors. Douglas Fonte of New Hope, Pa., Lucy Garvin of Greer, S.C., Elizabeth Jeffett of Memphis, Tenn., Ted Leonsis of McLean, Va., Andrew McElwee, Jr. of Mendham, N.J., David Westin of Bronxville, N.Y. and Allen Brill, David Tyree and Nancy von Auersperg, all of New York, N.Y., were elected at the Hall of Fame's Annual Meeting on Sept. 5 in New York City.

• Preempting the questions, no, not THAT David Tyree.

• Speaking of the Hall of Fame:

International Tennis Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher E. Clouser, in his first act after being appointed Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, has announced that Mark L. Stenning is the 2008 recipient of the prestigious Chairman's Award. The Chairman's Award recognizes outstanding service by a Hall of Fame Board Member.

• Trivia: which tennis journalist once ghost-wrote a regular magazine column for Chris Clouser?

• One of you sent me this link with ESPN's John Skipper. Note the line about tennis coverage. Off-hand, I can think of two events -- big events, featuring men and women -- between the Australian and French that would greatly benefit from ESPN coverage.

Who wins the tennis 50-yard dash?

Winnie of Toronto, Canada writes: You might want to include Gael Monfils; can't remember which tournament I was watching in which he was playing and one of the commentators/broadcasters said he recently ran the 100 meters in 10.50 seconds (or was it 10.05); Anyhoo, it was a pretty good time. On the women's side, Elena Dementieva looks like she could be pretty fast too.

- Blake of Western Australia: "I'd probably throw Monfils into that one. The guy has the most sinewy muscles I've ever seen. Nadal wins the bulky competition, but does this guy get anything for least body fat/overall conditioning?"

Rachel Wong adds Graf.

• The men's team from Sacramento, Calif., representing the USTA Northern California, captured the national title at the USTA League Adult National Championships held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California. The Sacramento team defeated a team from Wichita, Kan., 2-1 in the Championship match.

• The men's team from Seattle, representing the USTA Pacific Northwest, captured the national title at the USTA League Adult National Championships held at the Randolph Tennis Center in Tucson, Arizona. The Seattle team defeated a team from Irvine, Calif., 4-1 in the Championship match. The team is captained by Robert Chung and features Josh Berger, Rolf Bjorn Hyllseth, Marcus Rose, Tim Hunter, Brad Dilling, Pablo Ramirez, Steve Fong, Albert Lu, Matt Richter, Frank Sun and Corey Cheng.

• The Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation announced that this winter, Pete Sampras and James Blake will meet across the net for the very first time at the 'Duel Under the Oaks II' fund-raising event. The exhibition match will take place at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center (PMAC) on LSU's campus on Sunday, Dec. 14.

• This week's Long Lost Siblings comes from Joshua Sweeney, Blacksburg, Va. I have a submission for long lost siblings... I noticed Carlos Moya makes a face that looks like Robert De Niro's thinking face whenever he's taking a particularly hard swing.

De Niro and Moya.

Have a good week everyone!

 
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