Best value in sports, Roger Wed-erer's decline and new rankings
Attending a pro tennis event midweek has to be the best value in sports
Newly married Roger Federer is clearly in a state of decline at the moment
If Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo pair up, they would dominate
I'm back from a week off. One of my new Twitter buddies noticed that I had attended the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., last week, not as a journalist but as a fan. He asked me what the experience was like, and it was a good question. I can't recall the last time I'd attended a tennis event armed not with a notebook but with a bag of popcorn, concerned not about a deadline but about my daughter's sunblock status. Here are five impressions:
Attending a pro tennis event -- at least midweek -- has to be the best value in sports. The sessions last eight hours or so, you're entitled to move around and, most important, you get a full slate of matches. When the Knicks or Dodgers mail it in, you're out of luck and no amount of dance routines or T-shirt giveaways can mask that. In tennis, if you get a dog of a match, sit tight. The next one will be better.
The practice courts remain the sport's unkept secret. If a band or a Broadway show opened rehearsal (at no extra charge!), fans would fall over themselves to attend. Funny how Elena Dementieva warms up right near the food court and the same folks who paid $50 to watch her compete aren't much interested in her hitting session.
There's a reason why companies sponsor tennis events. Even at a modestly sized event, even in the throes of a recession, it was hard not to notice the makes of cars in the parking lot. It was like an S class showroom. Tennis is wise to market itself as accessible. The sport is not, contrary, to perception, expensive to play. But let's not fool ourselves: There are a lot of wealthy people in the stands.
Sell the foreigners. I was impressed with Melanie Oudin -- can anyone lend her three or four inches? -- and Alexa Glatch has been playing well of late. But let's not fool ourselves: The days of five Americans inhabiting the top 10 are long gone and never coming back. For events like Charleston to thrive, it's really imperative to educate fans. I overheard some variation of this exchange way too frequently:
"Who's up next?"
"Don't know. Two girls whose names I can't pronounce!"
Venus Williams = grace. I saw Venus lose to Sabine Lisicki and my enduring impression was not Lisicki's vast potential but of Venus' dignity. For as many times as I've seen her play, I was so struck by her dignified comportment. She walks around with her head high, her expression unchanged whether she hits an ace or double faults. No looks to her box pained or otherwise; no fist pumps; no antics of any kind, even now that Roger Federer has made racket-smashing hip. She didn't project indifference, just pride.
Quick and simple: How in the world does Dinara Safina get to be No. 1? I would not be surprised if she goes on to never even win a Grand Slam title!
Quick and simple: Tennis needs a ranking system that, yes, rewards merit, but also one that incentivizes frequent appearances. The top players -- Venus and Serena Williams but also Justine Henin and even Maria Sharapova --tend(ed) to play when they felt like it. Plus, injuries skewed the math. Hence, when players such as Jelena Jankovic and Safina entered early and often and sometimes even won titles, they were able to leapfrog superior players. Even Safina herself seems to admit that her top spot isn't necessarily deserved. On the other hand, the math doesn't lie.
I heard Rafael Nadal refers to the Fed as Roger Fodderer. Thirteen and done?
I'll see your "Fodderer" and raise you "Wed-erer." We'll say it once, we'll say it again: Federer is clearly in a state of decline at the moment. But how do you write off such an accomplished player so cavalierly? His days of winning three Slams each calendar year are no longer; on the other hand, it's not hard to envision him catching a few lucky breaks and bagging another few Slams.
What's with the random Winnipeg bashing asides in your last two mailbags? Besides, I'll have you know that we hosted an exhibition match in 2002 featuring no less than Monica Seles and ... Anna Kournikova. Hmm. But my point remains valid: We've got plenty of tennis players and tennis lovers up here, so show a little love for your northern neighbor!
We kid the Paris of Manitoba, the Athens of the Canadian prairie, the Rome of the convergence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. After we were told to lay off Milwaukee, Dubai and Rotterdam, well, we needed a new city to pick on. We'll find a new target. Wichita: It's on.
If Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo pair up for any of the remaining majors this year, do you think they could win? I would love to see them play Wimbledon together.
I submit that if these two (KuzMo? Svetelie?) played together consistently, they could easily be the best doubles team going. With the athleticism, hard serving, all-surface play and volleys, there's little reason they couldn't replicate their success in Miami.
I will always do as asked but why do I root for Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter?
Dude was going absolutely nuts when Andy Roddick played Federer a few weeks ago in Miami. Nice to see a "big four" athlete care so much about tennis.