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Posted: Wednesday November 12, 2008 12:46PM; Updated: Wednesday November 12, 2008 2:51PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
TENNIS MAILBAG

The question of Nadal's longevity, tennis' long season and more

Story Highlights

Rafael Nadal's aggressive, grinding style may shorten his career

But the season is brutally long for all players and threatens their health

Has women's tennis lost some of its luster without a dominant player?

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Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
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Should we take a step back and consider that Rafael Nadal is very unlikely to have the longevity that Roger Federer will likely have and that Nadal may only have five years in him before the body officially breaks down? Essentially what I'm saying is this: Enjoy Nadal's mastery while you can.
-- Mark, Toronto

• Good point. And in addition to relishing Nadal while we've still got him, let's also acknowledge Federer's astonishing durability. His ability to stay healthy and generally injury-free at a time when tennis has never been more physically demanding is still another part of his legacy.

A few of you noted that while we complain about the length of the season and the toll it takes on players, Nadal is a bad case study since his bellicose, grinding style all but begs for injury. Point taken. But I still think this is THE lynchpin issue facing tennis right now. The season is unsustainably long and the demands made on players are simply not realistic.

A lot of you have been complaining about the television coverage in Dubai and China. But put yourself in the place of the networks. If you were considering broadcasting an event and knew there would be a good chance that the most marketable stars wouldn't play (Nadal? Serena Williams? Maria Sharapova? Ana Ivanovic?) would you be rushing to write a fat rights fee check? Seems to me, until the issue of player health is addressed in a meaningful way, the whole enterprise is stuck.

Confession: I somehow missed the whole WTA Yearend Championship. Maybe I've been busy lately, but I did keep up with the news from the ATP somehow. My question, has the ladies game somehow become less relevant with the absence of a major rival or dominant player? (Will Justine Henin come back and make it interesting for one more year?)
-- Joseph Goins, Chicago

• It seems to me the WTA had a choice several years ago. They could either put the year-end championships in a major media market, invest in the marketing/promotion and use it as a platform for women's tennis and the top players. (New York was ideal. Madrid seemed to be working well.) Or the WTA could simply go to sell themselves out -- literally -- to the highest bidder.

Regrettably, the executives chose Door No. 2. The result? The tour is making many millions from the good folks in Dubai and Istanbul, no small consideration, particularly in these austere times. Yet the year-end event, which should be a real showcase event, exists in a virtual vacuum and a literal desert. Buzz and media coverage is non-existent here in the U.S. and, judging from a lot of you, in Europe and Asia as well. The ESPN coverage is long gone. From what I saw, the attendance was dreadful. Sharapova and Henin were MIA, and two other top stars, Serena Williams and Ivanovic, couldn't even get through their matches.

You may just be catching me at a particularly cynical moment, but I also thought there was something off-putting about flying in Billie Jean King to promote gender equity. Look, we're all for gender equity, but the WTA went to Doha because it coughed up the biggest check. That's fine. But let's call a cash grab a cash grab. Trying to spin this as missionary work -- "We've chosen your conservative sheikdom because we can come and enlighten!" -- strikes me as more than a little disingenuous.

As for Henin, I know of no indication that she's coming back. During the U.S. Open, the Belgian journalists were saying that they were doubtful Henin or Kim Clijsters would "un-retire." Still, we can hope.

I am so impressed with how Venus finished the year, winning in Doha and Zurich. Do you think this is enough to call her the real No. 1 for this year, with Serena a close second?
-- Keith J., Minneapolis

• From the Freudian slip department: a transcript of Larry Scott's postmortem reads, "There's never been more parody at the top of the game than there is today." I still say you cannot be the MVP of a season unless you've won a major. Given Venus' late-season surge -- coupled with her dominance at Wimbledon -- she gets my vote. Let's do, however, take this opportunity to congratulate Jelena Jankovic on her season. A few months ago, we described her as the William Henry Harrison of WTA No. 1 's. She's up to, say, Grover Cleveland.

She still obviously lacks the major title, but she has done herself proud this fall, reaching the U.S. Open finals, ruling the indoor circuit and then running a little short of gas in the last event. And she did it all with charisma and a smile. Some of us might like to see her curtail her playing schedule, but it seems to work for her.

I would like to start a petition to ban the use of "Venus Rising" as a headline whenever Venus wins. It was good for maybe the first two wins, but after seeing it for the umpteenth time it just makes the press look lazy.
-- Eric, Menlo Park, Calif.

• Same for eclipse of Venus, Venus fly trap, Venus-from-another-planet, I'm Your Venus, Venus de Milo, Venus on the Half Shell, Venus of Urbino, etc.

C'mon, Jon, as a huge Pete Sampras fan I appreciate you answering the reader's question about Pete's six years in a row at No. 1 record, but you let go his assertion that Federer had five year-end No. 1s. It's four (Jimmy Connors, five).
-- Marc, Youngstown, Ohio

• Of course, you're right. My unforced error. Federer won Wimbledon in 2003 as well as the year-end Masters Cup in Houston. But Andy Roddick nudged him out for the No.1 ranking. Federer then won the 2004 Australian Open, though, and then the deluge.

Why does Paris get both a Slam and a Master Series event?
-- Khairi Akbar, Kuala Lumpur

• They behaved extra nice and cleaned their plate? I guess for the same reason London gets Wimbledon and the Masters Cup: money talks. In the case of France, I would suggest that the country minting the most quality pros is entitled to a disproportionate number of events.

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