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Posted: Wednesday November 26, 2008 12:20PM; Updated: Wednesday November 26, 2008 2:16PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
TENNIS MAILBAG

The concept of regional tours, who will be No. 1 in 2009 and more

Story Highlights

On schedules: Players are right to complain and agitate for change

San Antonio, Birmingham and Greenville contending for Davis Cup

Love the "Tennis Night in America" in New York. Can Sharapova join?

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World's No. 2 player Roger Federer will look to unleash his return game in 2009.
AP
Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
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Exhibitions during the offseason are a double-edged sword, no matter how you look at them. You answered a question about players complaining of the long season, yet booking numerous exhibitions during the offseason. While I lean towards the argument of players losing credibility for this phenomenon, I have to think they are acting partially as ambassadors of the sport and taking the sport (and themselves) to places that have little tennis exposure.
-- J. Duncan, Flagstaff, Ariz.

• Agree. There's a lot to be said for exhibitions. It's a chance for fans in Chicago or Austin or Abu Dhabi or various other underserved markets to watch their favorite sport and favorite players live and in person. Exhibitions are the traveling road shows -- "Phantom of the Opera" comes to Minneapolis! -- that help spread the gospel and (marketing-speak alert) build the brand. In a sport with no guaranteed contracts, exos also afford an opportunity for players to earn some extra money.

The problem is that the current pro schedule is unsustainably long, both in terms of duration and -- as I said last week, I think this point gets lost -- far-flung locales. The players are right to complain and agitate for change. But when you spend your meager offseason playing one-night-only shows all over the globe, it's hard to contend that the ATP calendar should be subject to OSHA inspection. Consider this a heads up: I'm really intrigued by the concept of regional tours, and then having everyone convene at the four Slams. This goes against the prevailing grain -- massive, mix-gendered events -- but I think it's better for all the constituents: sponsors, television, the tours, and the players. We can continue to discuss this in 2009....

What are you hearing about where the Davis Cup will be held when the U.S. plays the Swiss team and Roger Federer? I think this could be a great weekend of tennis!
-- Jerry M., New York

• As I understand it, there are three contenders: San Antonio, Birmingham and Greenville. With all due respect to the good folks of Alabama and South Carolina, you have to think San Antonio is the best option. You have a huge arena -- the Alamodome -- in a major city, barely an hour from the home base of the top American player. I was told that, potentially, this could be the largest crowd ever to attend a sanctioned match in the U.S. When Federer signed on to play Davis Cup in 2009, we suspect he didn't envision himself performing before 25,000 Texans!

I'm not surprised you picked Nadal for "Sportsman of the Year," and your argument was valid... but why, when talking about Rafa not staying in the Olympic Village, did you feel the need to trash Fed by mentioning that he stayed in a luxury hotel. This was Roger's third Olympics (Rafa's first), and Roger had stayed in the village his first two. Roger had a valid reason for not staying.
-- Colleen, Plano, Texas

• I was surprised that several of you called me on this. My point was not to trash Federer, but simply to make the case that when Nadal chose his accommodations, there were other options. Rereading what I'd written I can see how some of you construed that as a dig. But I have no problem with Federer staying "off site." Apart from Federer having stayed in the village at previous Olympics, this was one of the few missing lines on his tennis resume. It's understandable that he'd want optimal conditions. (Nothing worse than getting woken up in the night when, say, the Norwegian windsurfers stage their panty raids.)

You recently recommended Rafa for the Sportsman of the Year award. While this year for him has been nothing short of phenomenal, and considering that you've heaped praise on Federer for being the exemplar of sublime grace in tennis, I'd like to know if you've ever made the same recommendation for Federer for his matchless accomplishments over the past 5 years (but one).
-- Abiola, Calgary

• Many times. Here's last year's unsuccessful lobbying attempt.

My 12-year-old daughter plays competitive tennis, and is ranked in the USTA Southern Section. She is a decent player, but she's a worse mental case than Vera Zvonareva, and tends to self destruct in as bizarre episodes as the one you saw on display in the Finals of the WTA Year-End Tournament. Is this something that can be remedied? I've resorted to just leaving her matches, because as a parent, you feel so helpless.
--
John B., Memphis, Tenn.

• I can give you my own Lucy-from-Peanuts dimestore psychologist suggestions. "Stress that she's there because tennis is supposed to be FUN; hopefully de-emphasizing the competition will help her relax." But I wonder if a real sports psychologist out there might want to help out.

I am really excited about the prospect of men's tennis in 2009 -- Nadal at No. 1, Murray and Djokovic playing consistently well, and the Fed on the rise -- I think that the Fed will be in a courteously vengeful mood -- what are your predictions for Slams and who do you expect to be No. 1 come Nov. 30, 2009? Thanks!
-- Paul, Toronto / Capetown

• First, I envy someone who splits their time between Toronto and Capetown. Well done on that front. Unfortunately, the big wild card here is injuries. In a perfect health vacuum, I don't see how you pick against Nadal. He finished this year more than 1,300 points ahead of anyone else. But realistically, we know that he breaks down as the year progresses. And you have to think he won't be 100 percent when the Australian Open rolls around. Djokovic -- not immune to injury either -- struggled for big chunks of the season and, after Australia, made little headway against the Federer-Nadal juggernaut. Oddly enough, despite Federer's "substandard" 2008, I might be inclined to pick him to regain entry to the penthouse in 2009.

I am a true blue doubles freak, but even I am confused by this situation... how can an individual player be ranked No. 1 in a team game? I'm referring to Zimonjic ending the year No. 1. Although I think it's great (awesome year, Serbia) because he is excellent, I understood the ranking more when the Bryan Bros were sharing the No. 1 spot. How do they figure this out? Thanks!
-- Chris De Tone, Clearwater, Fla.

• First, we have no practical method for selecting which questions we answer. But when you identify yourself as a "doubles freak," (never mind one tinged in true blue), you boost your odds considerably. Where were we? Oh, right. Without deferring to Sharko (he gets a break this week), I suspect that Zimonjic played an extra tournament without Nestor.

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