Mailbag: Will old rivals create new fireworks at Garden exhibition?
Lendl-McEnroe is more likely than Agassi-McEnroe to produce fireworks next week
The rankings debate surrounding Caroline Wozniacki continues to divide readers
When it comes to the post-match handshake, the losing player usually goes first
In their day, Lendl and McEnroe sure didn't seem to like each other. Pete and Andre never seemed chummy, and obviously things got weird with them last year in Indian Wells. At MSG on Monday it's just an exhibition. I don't even think there's prize money on the line. But given the feelings these guys seem to have for each other, do you think there will be some intensity to these matches? Can we expect some extracurriculars from these guys?
Good question in anticipation of the BNP Paribas Showdown on Monday in Manhattan. My sense is that there's some lingering uneasiness between Sampras and Agassi. (Filip Bondy did a fine piece the other day.) And if you read between the lines, the Hit for Haiti debacle was a long time in the making, and still not settled to total satisfaction. However, both parties surely realize that last year's feud diminished them both and was excruciatingly uncomfortable for everyone else. I would be shocked if the Samrpas-Agassi match were anything less than cordial.
As for McEnroe/Lendl, I have higher (er, lower) expectations. Lendl returns after sitting long enough to heal his back (and satisfy the good folks at Lloyd's of London). Who knows where his game is right now. Lendl was never, of course, a hothead. And my strong suspicion is that at this stage of life, he is incapable of summoning the competitive juices to get worked up over a line call or a botched forehand. McEnroe, on other hand is as competitive as ever. A few years ago, I saw McEnroe go absolutely ballistic in a Legends match. I assumed -- foolishly -- that it was Globetrotter shtick or part of his compensation package. ("Hey John, could ya fire up something for the memory bank and lose it on a line judge?") Another competitor laughed at me. "John's like this all the time. He just loses it out there." Sure enough, later that summer there was a strange incident in World TeamTennis. There was also, apparently, a prolonged outburst in Delray last year.
Go ahead and say what you will about a man north of 50 going ballistic over a volunteer line judge's competence. To me there's still something perversely admirable about someone so committed and passionate and hellbent on perfection. (My fallback defense of McEnroe: at least he cares.) Anyway, especially against an opponent with whom he has a textured history, especially in a relatively high-stakes match (pride being greater than prize money), I think we have decent "extracurricular" potential.
Now I don't know who wrote the article on Feb. 19 about Wozniacki having regained the No. 1 ranking, but he/she repeats what one has been able to read several times on this site, that she Wozniacki has yet to reach a major final. U.S. Open final against Clijsters in 2009? I know, or at least get the impression, most of you tennis writers are not very impressed by her, but at least give her her due where it's deserved.
--Helle Hansen, Zurich
A few points here. 1) Yes, there was a wire story asserting that Wozniacki never reached a Grand Slam final. Not so. She lost to Clijsters in the 2009 U.S. Open final. 2) "You tennis writers" is often erroneous. For a variety of reasons, there are very few tennis writers out there. The majority of accounts are compiled by general assignment writers. Which is why players occasionally win sets 7-4 or why Roger Federer is Swedish. 3) The questions still pour in fiercely pro and against Wozniacki. I'm not sure I get the controversy. She lacks a major title, which robs her top ranking of some heft. Again, this isn't just subjective. The WTA's own points allotment make clear that those four events are the biggies. By the same token, Wozniacki has played sufficiently well at the other tournaments to hold a points lead. Would it be nice if she complemented her strong overall play with a big title? Yes. Should we deprive her of her ranking because she hasn't done so? No. Not sure what I'm missing here.
Here's a take from Les Banas of Las Vegas: "Here is my two-cent contribution to this seemingly never-ending discussion on the No. 1 ranking and winning (or not) Grand Slams. I think this knocking down the number players who never won a Grand Slam may be more American, rather than global, way of thinking. Let me use analogies from other sports. Here in America, no one remembers a major league team that finshes the season at the top of the league standings; only the team that wins the playoffs counts. And that attitude is somehow applied to tennis. Let's compare that, say, to Tour de France, where the winner of the race is just that: Alberto Contador won Tour de France without winning a single stage of the race and that did not take anything from his glory. We probably should agree that both achievements, being ranked No. 1 and winning Grand Slams, should stand on their own merit, despite the fact that they are intrinsically connected."
Did you see the Safarova-Radwanska match in the first round at Doha? What did you make of the umpire's decision? In case you missed it, LS hit a ball in a rally, AR returned it into the court, then the baseline judge called out and corrected herself (so the point had been stopped). AR then challenged but the ball was indeed in. The umpire (I think his name is Carlos Ramos) awarded the point to LS. The supervisor was called and AR argued that the point needs to be replayed (she was pretty much crying at with stage with anger) as it was not her fault that the point was stopped, but the supervisor went with the umpire. I'm not too sure if the correct decision was made -- it seemed right that the point should be replayed. Your thoughts?
--Len, Cork, Ireland
Just found this. Even if the ruling is technically correct, how does Safarova not take the high road here?
I'm confused. I thought Davis Cup teams were limited to four players. How are Roddick, Isner, Querrey AND both Bryans headed to Chile?
--Anne C., Great Barrington, Mass.
The USTA's Tim Curry, one of the good guys in tennis, answers: "A four-person team will be submitted to the ITF on Tuesday per the rules (10 days out of the event). Jim can change up to two of the players originally nominated up to one hour before the draw ceremony (on Thursday, the day before play begins). That is when the roster is finalized and no adjustments can be made.
Just curious, why is Flavia Pennetta ranked No. 2 in women's doubles when she and Gisela Dulko have the same amount of ranking points and Flavia has played in less tournaments? The Bryan brothers are co-ranked No. 1 when they have not played the same number of tournaments.
--Richard Hanson, Charleston, W.Va.
Says Kevin Fischer of the WTA: "The first tiebreaker for WTA doubles rankings is overall points. The ranking points are based on the best 11 results. In the example of the Bryan brothers, they have the same ranking points, but as listed on the ATP website, lists different number of tournaments. After talking with Sharko here in Memphis, he explained that Bob Bryan played Davis Cup, hence the different total number of tournaments. However, participation in Davis Cup does not affect the rankings."
Is anyone else amused by the tone-deaf, triple-decker names that seem to result from bank mergers? Regions Morgan Keenan, we'll stick with that. Actually, let's name a tennis tournament after it ...
--Nate, Midwestern and Northern U.S.A.
Man, in this climate? If you find a sponsor, you don't care how cumbersome the name,
How about a shout-out for Mike Belkin, the guy who, before Milos Raonic, was possibly Canada's best player ever (Greg Rusedski doesn't count). Belkin had his best years in the '60s and early '70s, before the ATP ranking system started. He was Canada's top-ranked player for five years, a Australian Open quarterfinalist and winner of the Orange Bowl as a junior. He was immortalized in this 1963 SI profile by Frank Deford. Last I'm aware (2010), Belkin was still passing on his tennis knowledge in Key Biscayne, Fla., where he's been a top teaching pro for years.
--Ian Katz, Herndon, Va.
Shouts are out. And if Frank Deford wrote a grocery list and put it on Amazon, we would download it for our Kindle.
Interesting point about Rusedski. On the other hand, let the record reflect Raonic was born in what was then Yugoslavia. (As, interestingly, was Daniel Nestor.) New rule: we just defer to players on matters of ethnicity. If they say they're from Country X, they're from Country X.
Speaking -- indirectly -- of Raonic we had fun on Twitter discussing this. In the spirit of Carmelo Anthony, what would the USTA have to give up to Tennis Canada to get Raonic? I'm suggesting Querrey, Blake, Donald Young, use of a luxury suite at the U.S. Open and Arlen Kantarian's pension plan.
Best headline ever: "Fish still not recovered, pulls out of San Jose" My first reaction was: why would Tennis.com be covering the theft of a fish in San Jose?
--Andy, Minneapolis, Minn.
Nice. All the more reason, we eagerly await the emergence of Jack Sock. Sock still not recovered? Check the dryer.
Talk to me, Jon, about the post-match handshake with the official. Is there a "protocol" that dictates who shakes first, or is this really a symbolic final shot of the match.
--Marina, Dallas, Texas
Usually the loser goes first. There's always that awkwardness when the players' chairs are on opposite sides and they have to cross over each other while the handshake is ongoing. ("After you!" "No, after you!") Lots of choreography there.
New York readers, I'll be doing a Varsity Letters event on Scorecasting on March 3 in the Village. Details here.
Gilbert Benoit of Ottawa: "Just for the record: everyone is calling Milos Raonic a wild-card entrant at San Jose, but that is actually wrong. Even though he was given a wild card, he did not need it: he ended up squeezing in as the last player to make the cut (I am assuming that there was a late pull out)."
Congrats to John Frederick Bodnar Snider, 7 lbs. 13 oz and 19.5 inches. Consider this an early Google hit.
Congrats to Mario Ancic on a fine career and a bright future.
Top-seeded Emory rallied from a 2-0 deficit to capture its fourth ITA National Division III men's team indoor title with a with a 6-3 victory over Washington University, which resulted in a repeat 6-3 Emory victory in a finals rematch from the 2009 championship.
Check out the boys 16 draw here: think that was a good era? That was 25 years ago. Wonder what the folks in Player Development think when they read this:
Astute Herr Doktor Professor M. Howard, Ph.D./J.D. (anticipated) of Washington D.C. gets bonus points for noticing the name "Menendez."
Stacey Tan's three-set victory powered No. 1 Stanford to a 4-2 win over No. 2 Florida on Monday en route to capturing a record 10th ITA national women's team indoor title.
The top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers made history today at the Nordstrom Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Washington by capturing an unprecedented fourth straight ITA national team indoor title, topping No. 3 Tennessee, 4-0, in a rematch from last year's championship match. The only other school to win more than two in a row was Stanford, which won the first three events in the mid-1970s.
Bob Bryant has been named tournament director of the Atlanta Tennis Championships, which will be played at the Racquet Club of the South July 18-24, 2011. Effective immediately, Bryant will also serve as USTA Southern Director of Sales & Marketing, covering nine states and about one-quarter of the U.S. membership.
A favorite artist, Alyce Grunt, is holding an Opening Reception next week.
Jelena Jankovic is losing her grip.
Have a great week, everyone!
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim is co-author of the New York Times bestseller Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games Are Won now available online and in stores.