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Posted: Wednesday June 10, 2009 11:54AM; Updated: Wednesday June 10, 2009 12:49PM
Jon Wertheim Jon Wertheim >

Federer's poise, security concerns, improving the sport and more

Story Highlights

Roger Federer showed uncommon poise in reacting to the French Open intruder

Justine Henin's remarks about lack of leader on the WTA Tour were off-putting

Martina Navratilova wants to eliminate grunting and service lets from the game

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A fan made it onto the court during Roger Federer's title match win at Roland Garros.
Bob Martin/SI
Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from users in his mailbag every Wednesday.

As much as we all want to forget about the unfortunate intruder incident in the French Open final in order to deprive said intruder of the satisfaction of accomplishing his goal of getting attention, I feel it is worth noting how this showed us more deeply the side of Roger Federer off the tennis court. When they showed the replay from a different angle, Federer saw the guy and visibly jumped backward in fear. I have never seen Federer as scared as he was or out of sorts like that. It just goes to show that off the court he is a harmless, non-violent guy (I would've smashed the idiot with my racket). The fact that he shook it off after a couple of games is another testament to his extreme mental focus. After the Monica Seles incident, he had a valid right to fear for his life for a moment there.
-- Robert B., Melbourne, Fla.

• Couldn't agree more. This was such a scary, bizarre, unpleasant -- and not even remotely amusing -- moment. But, yes, an unintended consequence was that it enabled us to get a glimpse of Federer's internal wiring. We talk about "fight or flight," but his reaction was really neither. It was abject fear followed by something approaching sympathy. Total non-confrontation. He later put it thusly: "It seemed like he wanted to give me something. So I was actually OK, because I saw he wasn't pulling for anything stupid. It definitely felt uncomfortable once he came close to me. ... Normally, they always kind of look at me and go, 'I'm so sorry I have to do this,' because they have some sort of a reason for it, you know. I remember the English guy [at Wimbledon in 2006] was actually quite funny. He looked at me and goes, 'I'm so sorry I have to do this.' I was like, OK, just don't touch me, you know."

Consider this: How many of us would have reacted with such restraint? How many other athletes -- macho, locked in combat -- would have reacted so demurely? How many other athletes, armed with a racket, would have resisted using it? Guy is lucky he picked on Federer. Otherwise, I suspect he'd meet the same fate as this clown.

What specific steps need to be taken to prevent maniacs from running onto the court?
-- Wendy, Portland, Ore.

• Obviously, there needs to be improved security. But what about the "punishment" phase? After the guards did their Detroit Lions imitation and missed a series of tackles, they finally got the guy and ... then what? No one is advocating anything too cruel or unusual here, but the best deterrent is to stiffen the penalties.

Several of you also noted that the reason the clowns charge the court is for attention and we're playing into their hands by holding extended discussions and, of course, replaying the video clips. Fair point. But I think it's naive to ignore this trend in hopes it will go away. Sadly, this has become as much a part of Grand Slam tradition as awkward awards ceremony. And the tournaments need to address it before it gets further out of hand, or worse.

Concerning comparable upsets of the Rafael Nadal-Robin Soderling magnitude, I didn't find anyone who mentioned this (fairly recent) one: Wimbledon 2007 semifinal, Marion Bartoli def. Justin Henin 1-6, 7-5, 6-1. Blew me away, anyway.
-- Shawn, Long Beach, Calif.

• That was a biggie. But Henin hadn't won Wimbledon once, much less four years in a row! Many of you also referenced Lori McNeil's first-round defeat of Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1994. Still, I vote Soderling. As one of you put it to me, Nadal losing on clay is like Michael Phelps losing in water.

About your "ocean of empty seats in Paris" story: Years ago I lived in Paris for a while. I tried and tried to get tickets to Roland Garros. It seemed to me like the whole system was corrupt. You couldn't just go somewhere and buy tickets. The alternatives were to be a member of an exclusive tennis club, know somebody who worked for the "Administration" or pay a scalper. Eventually, I paid a scalper and loved attending the tournament.
-- Mitch Gart, Bedford, Mass.

• Interesting. Here's an anonymous e-mail I got on the same topic:

"You've touched on the empty seats at the majors before, but I have to agree that it's particularly glaring at Roland Garros this year. I am employed by [a main sponsor] and work closely with one of the people who organizes the institutional client seminars that are often planned around the fortnight (as an excuse for our big foreign institutions to send a few people to see a little world-class tennis). Due to the crisis, however, attendance at these seminars is WAY down this year -- probably because these pension funds (rightfully) have tightened the reins a bit on discretionary spending and are requiring that any travel demands get pre-approval as being both compliant and necessary (go figure). So a lot more of those prime seats have gone unused this year than normal. Not a good excuse, I know, but it probably has something to do with it."

I have three quick things. First, Tommy Haas is good-looking and injured a lot, but at least he did not star in The Age of Love Part 2. Second, my father and I took some empty box seats at Cincinnati in 2006. We picked a blacktopping company because we figured our attire would be least questioned. People might be able to creatively fill empty seats. Finally, my daughter is seven months old and 97th percentile in height. If the U.S. needs a crazy tennis parent, I can start replacing her mobile animals with tennis balls. Just say the word.
-- Dan Martin, Dayton, Ohio

1) Spare a thought for Mark Philippoussis.

2) Only in Cincy do blacktopping companies have boxes. (Love that event.)

3) When IMG asks, do I give it your e-mail?

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