Posted: Friday January 21, 2011 8:37AM ; Updated: Friday January 21, 2011 1:19PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

Mailbag: Venus far from finished, Clijsters' kills them softly, more

Story Highlights

Venus Williams showed fight by even trying to play Friday when obviously injured

Kim Clijsters got her licks in against Todd Woodbridge while remaining charming

Martina Navratilova has impressed greatly as a broadcaster for the Tennis Channel

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Venus Williams (left) showed fight by trying to play in Friday's match with Andrea Petkovic. It says here she's not done yet.
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I know not much is to be expected since the more newsworthy of the Williams sisters (Serena) isn't competing in the Australian Open this year. The decision to overlook Venus is also bolstered by the almost unanimous prediction of Venus' demise prior to the start of the tournament as well as her "slide" in quality over the past few years. Regardless of this, don't you think her heroic effort [on Wednesday] deserves some mention besides a tweet about the ridiculousness of her dress and a vague psoas references? Thanks.
--C.D Allen, Toronto, Ontario

• Absolutely. Last night marked the first time Venus ever retired from a Grand Slam match. Despite ample opportunity, she is one player who resists -- and sometimes outright refuses -- talking about injury. And at a time when "fight" sometimes seems like a rare commodity in short among the WTA's upper echelon, Venus still, at age 30, will play through a painful injury, as she did in the previous round, and will herself to a win.

You won't hear me joining the chorus of "Venus is done." She might never get to No. 1. She might never win another Slam. And, yes, she's 30 -- though given the modest and tactical schedule she stuck to earlier in her career, her odometer is reads younger. But conventional metrics and conventional wisdom has never applied to her. There were a few boos as she walked off the court after six minutes against Andrea Petkovic. (Aside: If you were tournament director and knew that one player was in dire physical condition, maybe that's not someone to use for the featured evening match?) But that she has mentality simply to go there and try to fight through the pain ... well, doesn't that cut against the impending retirement theory?

How great was Kim Clijsters in her interview with Todd Woodbridge? Not many women laugh off the "Are you pregnant?" question when it isn't true, but she made the whole thing quite entertaining. The sport is fortunate to have her back.
--Jess Hahn, Mauldin, S.C.

• Agree. I thought that was so deft. A lesser player would have told her agent, "I'm not talking to that @#$@!*&." She got in her licks and managed to charm at the same time. Quick lessons: 1) Never speculate about pregnancy unless you know for sure; 2) Rule of thumb: when you speculate about pregnancy because you perceive a woman to have a grumpy disposition, you're setting yourself up for disaster (and low-grade physical assault); 3) Be careful not to send Rennae Stubbs texts. I feel like I need to add that Todd Woodbridge is good people. He got roasted pretty resoundingly, but don't draw too many inferences from one rough day at the office.

Interesting link you provided to the New York Times article on the Graf v. Zvereva double bagel. The thing that stood out to me was that the match took 32 minutes. Today, 12 games of tennis probably takes between 45 minutes to an hour. I know Graf played quickly, as did Capriati after her, and Clijsters in today's game. But I can't imagine a match ever being played this swiftly again (in this age of asking for a towel after every other point).
--Jack, Connecticut

• Plus, you're not accounting for the bogus trainer call.

You like the Tennis Channel crawl. I like it too -- the first or second time the info crawls by. Or even the 10th. But if I watch several hours of tennis I go mad seeing the same words over and over again. And the info is often day-old. And they give the scores of the matches they are showing -- why, why, why???
--Anne Dempsey, Baltimore

• Agree. I suspect it's an issue of staffing. But there is so much happening at Slams, especially. Just fire up ye olde Tweetdeck and I guarantee, within five minutes, you'll see a dozen items more interesting than "Jelena Dokic gets new coach."

So I spied the young married couple Sam and Jarmila Groth in the AO mixed doubles draw. After two years or marriage, they're still playing mixed doubles together. How many other couples have played professionally together? Of course, there was Jimmy and Chrissy in the '70s but that's long gone. Anything more recent? (Like did Stepanek and Hingis every play when they were dating?)
--Ted Ying, Laurel, Md.

• A Groth spurt, as it were. Good question about romantically involved doubles teams. (Hetero, anyway.) I don't believe Stepanek and Hingis -- or, for that matter, Stepanek and Vaidisova -- played together. Back to Groth, in case you missed it, this was a doozy.

I've seen so much talk about double bagels I thought maybe the press should ask the person on the wrong end of the beatdown if they got some cream cheese with that today. Maybe a latte extra foam, too? And what about 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 -- that's some good looking binary code there -- can anybody translate? Yeah, they got their ass kicked today. Thank you, thank you -- be sure to tip your waitress. Yes, I'm keeping my day job. I think I've up way too late for too many nights in a row watching the Australian Open.
--Dean, Austin

• Good night, Dean.

While we're discussing broadcasters, how about giving some props to Martina Navratilova's insightful -- and brutally honest -- commentary? Last night she could not hide her contempt for Feliciano Lopez. I wondered if he would watch the tape later and cringe when she called him "lazy". Tonight she and Lindsay Davenport have really illuminated the weaknesses of Wozniacki's game.
--H., Philadelphia

• From what I've heard, Martina has totally been on her game. Her analysis of Henin-Kuznetsova should be preserved and sent to all colleagues. Real insight. Some candid opinions. Anecdotes. And when the tennis got good, she shuts up. She also realizes that anyone watching tennis at this hour is a FAN and thus doesn't need to be told that "It's 5-3, just a game from the set." Such a pleasure.

I'm calling a moratorium on ESPN gripes for a few days. Except here's a plea for more of Rothman's man Tom Rinaldi. My mail is skewing 19:1 that Mary Carillo -- she of the gravitas, wit, and professionalism -- is sorely missed. Why not give Rinaldi, a real journalist, some more minutes?

I bet I'm not the only one sending you this e-mail. Wladamir Klitschko, Vitali Klitschko, and David Haye all hold heavyweight championship belts. There are still some boxing fans around.
--Mike Blickenstaff, Los Angeles

• Actually you are the only one who wrote. But we tennis fans probably shouldn't be ripping boxing for its diminishing popularity. Glass houses and all.

Hearing that Franklin Templeton piano riff every 15 minutes makes me want to stab myself in the eye. Just sayin'...
--John B., Brooklyn, N.Y.

• Here's the perfect cure for that earworm: there's this Longines spot with Steffi Graf ...

There's another facet to the discussion of love and love drubbings: dropping games or points is disrespectful to your opponent. It seems to me the greatest respect you can show them is to play hard.
--Skip, Philly

• Agree. I think most players would be insulted.

Shots, Miscellany

• Anthony of Ridgefield: "Katharine Hepburn's backhand looks good!"

• In keeping with Pat McEnroe's vision: USTA Player Development announced today that eight junior development programs in six states have been named USTA Certified Regional Training Centers as part of its continuing effort to develop the next generation of world-class American players. The eight programs will create networks serving the Northeast portion of the country and the USTA's Missouri Valley section.

• A reader whose name I've misplaced writes: "Self-identified American lefty here who has paid attention to the flooding in Queensland, and whose household has contributed to relief funds for both Haiti and Australia: The suffering is real and substantial for those affected in both countries, but maybe, just maybe, it's not 'reverse racism' behind the more extensive U.S. media coverage of relief efforts in Haiti but proximity and poverty. The per capita income in Australia is nearly 40x that in Haiti; in nearly every reputable ranking of national wealth, Australia is in -- or near -- the top ten while Haiti ranks in the bottom 20 or lower, along with the poorest countries in Africa. One year later, Haitians are still living in tents. I sincerely hope that the people of Queensland don't find themselves in the same situation when the 2012 Australian Open is contested."

• It's official. Agassi joins his wife in the Hall of Fame.

• Um, have the Nadal fans seen this?

• Helen of Philadelphia asks: "What has happened to Sorana Cirstea? I'm alarmed. Did not recognize her. Here at the 2008 U.S. Open; here at the 2009 French Open; here last night in Australia."

Enjoy Day 6 everyone!

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim is co-author of the forthcoming book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games Are Won now available for pre-order.

 
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