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Posted: Wednesday May 13, 2009 1:00PM; Updated: Wednesday May 13, 2009 1:00PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >
TENNIS MAILBAG

Mailbag (cont.)

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Even when they lose, the Williams sisters tend to leave lasting effects on the game.
David Callow/SI
Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
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In addition to making tennis history by winning, the Williams sisters have also changed tennis by losing. Two of their more sensational losses resulted in two of the biggest changes in the game in recent years. The first sensational game-changing loss was Venus' loss to the unseeded Barbara Schett, then ranked No. 25, in the first round at Roland Garros in 2001, which resulted in the seeding of 32 players at big events. The second was Serena's loss, amid a slew of atrocious line calls that went against her, to Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open in 2004, which resulted in the use of Hawkeye.
-- Kathy, Michigan

• Good point. You could also add that Venus' loss to Karolina Sprem at Wimbledon in 2004 led to creation of the electronic scoreboard.

What do you think about the tennis-wide tendency to use adjectives instead of adverbs when describing play? Examples: "We both played aggressive," Venus Williams said.

"He played phenomenal." (That's not a specific quote, just Brad Gilbert in general).
-- Henry, Queens, N.Y.

• I think they're talking crazy.

You say you don't think many predicted the dramatic nature of Fed's decline. In fact, I wrote to you a year ago and noted that Fed was at the age -- 26 and counting -- at which tennis greats always decline. I noted the careers of Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, etc. all declined significantly at this age. To paraphrase the Clinton campaign slogan -- "It's the age, stupid." I don't understand why this obvious fact is not recognized. If you spend a few moments you will see that absent some exceptions that prove the rule (Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi), by 27 a tennis great's best years are behind him.
-- David Danon, Wayne, Pa.

• Again, it's a matter of degrees. Most of us realize that the ride has to end eventually, the pace of winning three Majors a year is ridiculous, and, yes, a tennis player in his mid-20s is well into his sunset years. Speaking for myself, what I didn't predict was that the once-mighty Federer would go seven months (and counting) without a title of any size, that his best shots would fail him in big matches, that he would cede so much ground to Nadal so quickly.

Even discounting Agassi, plenty of players -- particularly those whose games were not of the grinding, speed-based variety a la Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Lleyton Hewitt -- have some sporadic success in their late 20s and even early 30s. I stand by my prediction that Federer hasn't won his last Slam. But, again, it's surprising how little traction he's picked up thus far in 2009.

What is it with Juan Martin del Potro and the legs of his shorts? One of them keeps having a strange sort of upward movement of one of the legs.
-- Don Engel, Rohnert Park, Calif.

• Better that than Iveta Benesova's problem.

You gave props to Guillermo Coria on his retirement. How about props to Gaston Gaudio, the winning finalist in their Roland Garros tussle, who picked up the Challenger title in Tunisia last week? Kudos to him for putting in the effort and playing the minors to resurrect his injury-marred career.
-- Robert Webb, Dalton, Ga.

• Props, it is.

Shots, Miscellany

• From the shameless self-promotion department: We're still a few weeks away from the official publication but the Federer/Nadal book is already in stores, I'm told.

Richard Jordan of Providence, R.I.: "Just in case someone cares, the 'run out of time' quote [mentioned in last week's mailbag] came previously from Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packer teams. If Jimmy Connors used it, he borrowed it. No problem, though -- he surely felt that was the case."

John Sellers of Royal Oak, Mich., begs to differ: "Actually, it was the '50s Detroit Lion quarterback Bobby Layne who originally said, 'I never lost a game. I just ran out of time.' "

Alex Parkhurst, Denver: "That quote made by Jimmy Connors was borrowed from Vince Lombardi. Don't know if he borrowed it from somebody."

• Great quote. Regardless.

Kenneth Milstein of San Francisco kicks us this fantastic Lindsay Davenport spoof.

• The Mississippi men and Texas A&M women finished the 2009 season atop the second annual ITA Attendance Race standings for regular-season home matches. Ole Miss drew 5,550 fans this season at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center and Gillom Tennis Center. The Rebels had a strong finish, fighting off the 2008 Attendance Race champs, Virginia and Georgia, each of which drew more than 5,000. For the second year in a row, the Texas A&M women led the race from start to finish, packing in 4,583 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The total was more than 2,000 more than runner-up Alabama.

• Props to Alex Kwee of Singapore for noticing: In the second round of Madrid, Zheng Jie of China played the winner of a match between Amelie Mauresmo of France and Ai Sugiyama of Japan. All were born on July 5. (Mauresmo beat Zheng on Tuesday.)

Sundar of Laurel, Md.: "From the 1982 U.S Open to the 1991 Open, Ivan Lendl made the semifinals in 27 of the 34 Grand Slam tournaments he participated in. How about that as far as consistency? And what's noteworthy is during this period the top five players more or less were John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, all of whom won multiple Slams. When people talk about competition being so close these days, the fact of the matter is it's only three or four players who routinely win Slams and show up in the semis, namely Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick. So Lendl's consistency is even more amazing and he has always been shortchanged in the greatness department."

• One of you noticed that James Blake has now lost his last three finals after claiming the opening set. Those opponents? Albert Montanes, Marcel Granollers and Kei Nishikori.

Danny of New York: "Belated comment on Fed Cup regarding the commentary. The U.S. team was down early and big in the first set when Corina Moriaru said that they needed to focus on staying close because both members of the Czech team had a propensity for getting tight in close situations. That's exactly what happened when the Czechs served for it in the second set. Before the third, Corina said that if the U.S. could get up early, they could run away with the match. Again, exactly what happened. Let's give this underrated commentator her props ...and a shot at the big time!"

• Interesting look at sports sponsorship.

Here's a long-lost brothers entry, from Don Engel of Rohnert Park, Calif.: Gilles Simon and Christopher Walken.

And sisters, from Rich of White Plains, N.Y.: Daniela Hantuchova and Emily Deschanel.

Have a great week, everyone!

 
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