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Posted: Wednesday February 25, 2009 12:01PM; Updated: Thursday February 26, 2009 8:28AM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
TENNIS MAILBAG

The Peer-Dubai fallout rages on (cont.)

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By the "former Grand Slam champ living in the Torrington area," I'm guessing you mean Ivan Lendl. It surprised me a little that Novak Djokovic wasn't able to build on his momentum from winning the year-end; as of now, he's the only member of the "big four" not to reach a final this year. I know he doesn't match up well to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the heat in Australia was horrific indeed, but I still feel that he's underachieving recently. Initially, I thought he would turn into one of the ATP's most consistent players, but now I'm wondering if he's going to become one of those sporadically brilliant, maddeningly unpredictable individuals (a la Safin) who will never quite fulfill their potential. Your thoughts?
-- Chris, Palo Alto, Calif.

Yes, Lendl is the pride of Litchfield County -- though I gather that, on account of his daughters' golf, he's now spending more time in Florida. I think it's waaaay premature to start likening Djokovic to Marat Safin. But I do agree that he's become a bit of an enigma. He wins the 2008 Australian Open, beating Federer in the process; but then regresses. He bookends his year by winning the Masters Cup; but then starts slowly in '09. Factor in the blows he is taking in the "court of public opinion," the questions about his courage, and he's at a bit of a crossroads. But let's step back a bit: it's the rare player whose career traces a perfect arc on a graph. If he still hasn't reached a final by the summer, let's revisit.

The '09 Australian Open featured siblings winning both the men's doubles (Bryans) and the women's doubles (Williams). Has this ever happened before and when?
-- Ted Ying, Laurel, Md.

Greg Sharko says it has never happened before. So it has never happened before. Actually, re: last week's question about the top eight seeds all reaching the quarters of a major, the crack ITF researchers tell us that it happened at 1960 at Wimbledon. The top eight seeds in that tourney were:

1. Neale Fraser
2. Barry Mackay
3. Rod Laver
4. Luis Ayala
5. Nicola Pietrangeli
6. Roy Emerson
7. Ramanathan Krishnan
8. Butch Bucholz

The four top players all come from a country that starts with an "S" -- Spain, Switzerland, Serbia and Scotland. Has this ever happened before?
-- Molly Dixon, Georgetown, Texas

Don't you remember the quartet from Swaziland, Senegal, St. Lucia and the Solomon Islands? How quickly we forget.

Apparently Henin's still pretty satisfied with her retirement. The most interesting part of the interview is her explanation for placing the location of her tennis academy in Florida as opposed to Belgium. Her perception of an apathetic youth in Belgium is the same perception that critics of American tennis have when they attempt to explain its recent decline. Where is this optimism toward the "kids in the States" coming from? Should we be prepping for a second coming of American dominance, or is she coaching another generation of U.S.-based Russians?
-- Greg Tunning, Atlanta

No, wait, Justine. Not so fast. We've got the biggest slacker population. Never mind prepping for another generation of American stars, I'm trying to picture just how sloth-like Belgian youth must be. Maybe in Antwerp they've figured out a way to nap, play Game Boy, update your Facebook status, send a pointless text message and eat a chalupa at the same time.

I agree that what happened to Shahar Peer is awful and should have consequences. But what in the world is Congressman Anthony Weiner getting involved in the whole situation for? Do we not have enough going on here domestically he should be worrying about?
-- Josh, Denver

Oh yeah. You must mean that whole economic meltdown thing. "I've been a little distracted from the stimulus business because, you see, an Israeli tennis player was denied a visa to a tournament in the UAE."

Jon, on the Peer/UAE issue, does Shahar have any recourse to demand the WTA give her some cut of "expected earnings" or at least ranking points?
-- Rich Neville, Newbury, England

As it turned out, the WTA shrewdly pre-empted this and awarded Peer 139 rankings point and $44,250 (the average prize money she earned per tournament last year). Still, this would be a great topic for a law review article. Would Peer have otherwise had any remedy to recover lost earnings? Speaking of which, here's an interesting issue raised by a reader who asked to remain anonymous:

"More a comment than a question. WTA cave-in to the Peer-Dubai situation may well have violated the U.S.' antiboycott export regulations, formerly referred to as the "Arab Boycott." As a U.S.-organized entity with global HQ in Florida, the WTA is deemed to be a U.S. "business" and has been complicit with an illegal demand under the regulations by a foreign "buyer" -- for example, we love your product and want to buy it, but request/demand that you replace part No. 48 that we know is made in Israel.

"This, in fact, is being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Commerce right now, and while there may not be a technical violation of the law, the WTA certainly violated the spirit of the law. Simply, the regulation says that no nation or foreign buyer shall require U.S. businesses not to do business with a friend of the U.S. -- in this case, Israel -- as a condition of purchasing/consummating a deal. The WTA should be held accountable and sanctioned. Any other U.S. business would have the U.S. export police knocking on its door."

Build bridges, not walls, sports is a bridge. Let the hot girl play, she got nothing to do with foreign policy or politics. I do not like wars.
-- Mohamed, Atlanta

If you're printing T-shirts, I'm buying.

Shots, miscellany

• The USTA announced that more than 750 tennis facilities, recreation departments and community centers across the U.S. have signed on to host events as part of the first-ever national youth registration initiative for all spring and summer tennis programs on Monday, March 2, as part of the "Tennis Night in America" celebration.

"Tennis Night in America" also includes the winner-take-all "BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup" at New York's Madison Square Garden. The showdown features four of the top women's players in the world -- two-time defending Wimbledon champion Venus Williams; her sister Serena, the '09 Australian Open champ and currently the world's top-ranked player; defending French Open champion Ana Ivanovic; and No. 3-ranked Jelena Jankovic. The four will play in a one-night, single-elimination tournament for the inaugural Billie Jean King Cup before a live national TV audience on HBO.

The nationwide National Youth Registration Night events, which will also include demonstrations for kids and parents, serve as "opening day" for parents to sign up their kids for league and team tennis play, including USTA Jr. Team Tennis. Facilities and clubs across the country, in cooperation with HBO, will also be offering live viewing parties for the "BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup" to complement the kickoff of the '09 tennis season.

Joanna Kappel of Honolulu with this bon mot: "Definition of an ace -- the point of no return."

• Warning: Don't read if you've just eaten. But David Berman, also of Honolulu, asks: "If Kate wins while I'm in the middle of a tennis point, am I allowed to call a Kate Wins-let?"

Jelena Dokic will be training at Bollettieri's.

• Apparel manufacturers: Now that Radek Stepanek has made two straight finals, any way we could upgrade the wardrobe here? (Thanks to Christopher M. Jones of West Chester, Pa., for the link)

• A round of applause to Bay Area legend Art Spander, who has been named the recipient of the '09 PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. Now that he's conquered golf, maybe we'll see more of him in tennis.

• Richard of Daly City, Calif., (an "Industrial City") has this week's Long Lost Sibling: Richard Gasquet and actor Jeremy Sumpter, the new Dillon High QB in Friday Night Lights.

Have a good week, everyone!

 
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