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Posted: Wednesday January 28, 2009 12:40PM; Updated: Wednesday January 28, 2009 4:05PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >

Hopes for a global warming reversal and Roddick's restraint

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Too many matches have been about players' ability to deal with extreme elements

Andy Roddick has distinguished himself both with his play and his disposition

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Semifinalist Andy Roddick has impressed with his play on the court and disposition off it.
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Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from users in his mailbag every Wednesday.

With regard to the Slams, it has been argued that players are least fit coming into the Australian Open, because they are not as match-tough after the 'offseason'. Bearing that in mind, why does the year start with possibly the most grueling Slam (in terms of playing conditions)?
-- Stephen Males, Devonshire, Bermuda

• A lot of you wrote in with a similar point. I think the discussion of moving dates and rejiggering the tournament calendar can get tiresome in a hurry. But it's time to take a serious look at Australia. Quite apart from the event coming so early in the season (and conflicting with the Super Bowl) it's just too damn hot. It's dangerous for the players; it's dangerous for the fans. Too many matches this year have been less about the tennis than about players' ability to deal with extreme elements. This has gone beyond fitness tests, hydration and conditioning. We're talking an ability to withstand 140-degree on court temperatures in a best-of-five match. Unless global warning reverses itself, unlikely in epoch, it ain't getting any cooler in the years to come.

Aside: some of you guys object to Hawkeye on the grounds that it's not available on all the courts and applied inconsistently. What about this retractable roof business? You play al fresco tennis in conditions resembling a Turkish bath. Then the "heat policy" kicks in and it's suddenly an indoor match being played in air conditioning!

I was extremely impressed with Andy Roddick's interview after the Djokovic match, not to mention his on court performance and behavior during the match. The genuine respect he showed for Federer and what he said to Novak when the match was over was really nice. I know people have been giving him grief over the things that he has said or how he behaved in the recent past... I'd like to give Andy props for his sportsmanship and attitude and I hope he goes very far this year!
-- Rise Gilliland, Rochester Hills, Mich.

• Agree. Roddick has really distinguished himself with his play and his disposition. (Was it just a year ago that he humiliated a linesman?) No question he took the high road with Djokovic, who, let the record show, has now retired from a match deep in Grand Slam play three times in the last two years. Question about Roddick: did he lose weight? He looks a bit slimmer. Kidding. The chestnut about weight loss is encroaching on Ana Ivanovic-practiced-in-a-drained-pool territory.

For all the talk and hype about the up and coming Andy Murray, he did not make it to the quarterfinals. Novak Djokovic did not even give himself a chance to defend his crown. This makes me respect Roger Federer even more, now that he has been through to a Grand Slam semifinal for the 19th (!!!) straight time. While this record is not as high profile as Sampras's 14 Grand Slam titles, it should not be overlooked by any means. The next best guy for consecutive Grand Slam semi appearances, Ivan "Mr. Consistency" Lendl, made only nine straight, and Federer played in an era with much more depth. I would say this record would be even more difficult to be broken. What do you say?
-- Chris Au, Hong Kong, China

• That's an excellent point that I don't often hear. The failings of Murray and Djokovic only reinforce just how absurd Federer's level of dominance has been. It's been five years since he's lost before the semifinals of a Major. That is my definition of a joke. Apart from the titles, we never see him "running into a buzzsaw" and getting beaten early by a hot player (i.e. Verdasco). Nor have we seen him retire from a Major, however grueling the conditions might be.

Can you tell me how, technologically, the replay challenge is considered the absolute truth? From my perspective, any animation program could draw the ball bouncing in or out as shown on the challenge screens. How can we be sure this is exactly what happened using animation rather than actual video footage?
-- Steve Kowalski, Farmington Hills, Mich.

• Just to be clear, the replay is not "absolute truth." Hawk-eye uses these complex algorithms, to reconstruct the probable path of the ball. It doesn't show what happened. It shows what's likely to have happened. The system, however, has been extensively tested and the proven accuracy level is such that it is to be trusted.

Here's a stat I would not have expected -- up until today, Jelena Dokic actually had more aces at the Australian Open than Serena. Rusty? I think not! Here's hoping her recovery continues and that her dad stays away....far, far away.
-- Eric, Menlo Park, Calif.

• In fairness to Serena, Dokic played five three-setters. But your point is well-taken. One of you asked whether I was prepared to rethink my answer from last week and anoint Dokic as a top player. I'm still pushing caution here. Dokic revealed plenty about herself and the state of her game in winning four matches, but let's not crown her as the second coming of Justine Henin just quite yet.

While I would agree with your assessment that Venus and Serena are the best doubles team ever, I wouldn't put either in my top 5 list for best doubles players ever. Isn't that ironic, don't you think?
-- Steve Philips, Brussels, Belgium

• As ironic as rain on your wedding day. Neither Serena nor Venus are "classic" doubles players. But all that power on one side of the net is just insurmountable.

Nitpicking really...Phil Nichols of Jacksonville, Fla. wrote in to note that Amer Delic should be titled as the "former Wolfson High grad of Jacksonville"...except, you can never be a "former grad." Once a grad, you are always a grad... unlike, say, a tennis star at a college. One is an honor bestowed, the second is a position, or title so to speak.
-- Ramesh, Tempe, Ariz.

• It reminds me of the former Czech Republic.

Safin's post-retirement career? He appears to be headed toward your other favorite sport, Jon: UFC!
-- Tony Hooper, New York

• What's UFC?

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