Posted: Tuesday May 24, 2011 4:00PM ; Updated: Tuesday May 24, 2011 4:31PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>TENNIS MAILBAG

Picking Nadal to win the French is not a Djokovic slight, more mail

Story Highlights

Nothing provokes more angry reader response than Grand Slam prognostications

Break points won/break point chances is one of sports' more misleading statistics

Journalists shouldn't gamble on sports they're covering, but OK to look at the odds

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Just because you pick Novak Djokovic to win the French Open doesn't mean you're part of a conspiracy against Rafael Nadal.
Just because you pick Novak Djokovic to win the French Open doesn't mean you're part of a conspiracy against Rafael Nadal.
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2011 French Open
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I must admit to you that I've followed your articles for a while and I see a bit of skepticism towards Djokovic's game. Second major in a row he is not your man to pick up the Grand Slam trophy. Although I am his compatriot I follow all the main players on Tour and it is undeniable that Nole is clear favorite for taking Roland Garros (and for most of former tennis stars). Why is so hard for tennis writers to accept the fact that he's beaten Roger Federer and Rafa for seven times in a row -- all in big tournaments?
--Zeky, Belgrade, Serbia

• There's no skepticism at all. What Djokovic has done for the last six months is comparable to any hot streak in tennis. He is my second favorite. But my first is the guy who has won the French Open five of the last six years and has lost a total of one match at Roland Garros. If Djokovic were to win, it would surprise no one. But I'm backing Nadal, who, as I write this is in the fifth set.

A point and a question. Point: Nothing I write gets more angry responses than these prognostications. They're meant to be fun, but the conspiracy police has a field day. Pick against Sharapova and it's holdover Cold War anti-Russia animus. Someone suggested I picked against Djokovic because of a bias against players from small countries. (The behemoth Switzerland, notwithstanding, I guess.) Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Question to ponder: If Djokovic wins the French and remains unbeaten, does he become the favorite at Wimbledon ... despite his modest record on grass, despite the combined success of "Federal," one of whom has taken the title for each year since 2002?

Regarding Varvara Lepchenko's shut-it-down moment, I know you were joking, but ... a close three-set win against a former top tenner vs. a 6-2, 6-0 DESTRUCTION of former top tenner, back when Lepchenko was a sub-100 ranked Kazakh instead of a fiftyish ranked American. The Schnyder win ranks MILES higher, was the first big win of her career, and I'd bet you 100 dollars that Lepchenko hasn't had the WTA media training to know you always lie and say the win-of-the-day is the best of your career.
--Stanley, Portland, Ore.

• A few of you took issue with that crack if mine. Yes, Lepchenko's job is to win tennis matches -- which she did -- and not cooperate with media members on deadline, following their leading questions and giving them the answers they want. (This goes for television as well. When the courtside reporters asks: "How excited are you by this great victory?" it's clearly a cue.) Today, Johanna Larsson of Sweden beat former champ Ana Ivanovic:

Q. Would you consider this victory as the biggest win in your career?

A: Um, these questions all come when you beat a good player.

Yes and no. I mean, it's really my first time that I beat high ranked and very good player in such a big stadium and big court with this crowd, so this way it's probably my biggest win, but I also had a good win in Miami this year.

I'd like your opinion on what I consider one of the most misleading stats in TV's coverage of tennis: break points won/break point chances. If you're receiving serve and the game goes back and forth, deuce and ad, and you finally break on, say, your tenth chance you've got your break but statwise you're only a paltry, and misleading, 1-for-10 in break points chances. All that really matters is you're 1-for-1 in break chances. Your thoughts?
--Ed Winkler, Oakdale, Conn.

• Agree. We've said this before: what would you rather be? 2-for-50? Or 1-for-1?

You've stated repeatedly that you do not gamble on tennis but does the ATP/WTA/ITF explicitly state that members of the media are forbidden from wagering on tennis? With sports gambling not being illegal in most other parts of the world, there have to be some tennis journalists out there who are betting on the matches they're covering, correct? As someone who does not gamble, though, do you at least occasionally look to see who's favored to win a given match or tournament?
--Blake Redabaugh, Denver, Colo.

• At some events, you're asked to signed a form agreeing not to gamble and acknowledge that doing so is grounds for surrendering your credential. But whether or not it's explicit -- at least in the U.S. -- it's a serious no-no for journalists to wager on the events or sports they're covering. I do, though, look at the odds. The line on the favorites can be an awfully good reflection of available information.

I usually agree with most of what you have to say about tennis, but completely and vehemently disagree with your constant clamouring for a players' union and your constant chirping on tennis players getting a raw deal. In the modern age which provides ample choices and protections to employees, unions are simply bad for business. I would hate to see unions make it difficult to run the sport or tennis failing to attract top managerial talent because of union-power. Besides, we're talking about wealthy tennis players who can opt out of tournaments if the schedule doesn't suit them. I work at a corporate job and would love to work for an employer who lets me pick my own hours and allows me the luxury of unlimited sick leave and unlimited vacation time as long as I can return healthy to my job. Of course, I lack the world class talent! But lets not pretend that tennis players are getting a raw deal -- at least not any worse than conditions in every corporate offices across the world. NO UNION, please!!
--Hoshiyaar Sandhu, New York City

• Leaving aside a broader discussion of the organized labor, I think it's vital in sports. From the perspective of the athlete, you need a bargaining unit to negotiate everything from salary/prize money to working conditions. Tennis players' inability/unwillingness to bargain collectively in a meaningful way has really been to their detriment. The schedule, benefits, travel costs, draw sizes, a pension, the percent of revenue the Grand Slams pay as prize money ... these would all be improved with a union.

But look at this from the side of management. In the absence of a union, anti-trust laws kick in. A salary cap? Limited roster sizes? A draft? All of those wouldn't exist in the absence of the statutory labor exemption from anti-trust. This is one of the great ironies of the NFL labor strife. Owners may hate the terms the NFLPA is trying to negotiate vis-a-vis a new collective bargaining agreement. But they absolutely want the union to exist! Otherwise, it's a completely different business model.

Shots, Miscellany

• If you haven't done so already, read Virginie Razzano's postmatch interview transcript. (I'll tweet a link later.) If you're in the market for a player to support, look no further.

• Love the washboard abs. But, alas, Nicolas Almagro goes down today. Joseph B. of NYC asks: "Is there a Nice curse? Richard Gasquet wins it last year and loses in the first round at Roland Garros. And this year, Nicolas Almagro suffers the same fate!"

• Helen of Philadelphia notes: "I hope Tennis Nation will spare a thought and prayer for Joplin, Mo. A number of players competing at Roland Garros this week played in the Joplin Challenger in years past. (In fact, Bob Bryan was a singles winner there in 2003.)"

• A story to follow: The contract of negotiations surrounding ATP CEO Adam Helfant. The tour sent an email yesterday: "I'm reaching out to you as certain recent reports about the nature of the contract discussions between the ATP and Adam Helfant have been misleading, and it's important that the facts are accurately represented. Adam remains fully committed to fulfilling his duties and responsibilities with the organization and has not asked the ATP Board for a compensation increase at any point. Adam also has made no statement or announcement regarding his long-term professional plans or future career decisions, contrary to a story published today. The process is still ongoing and to be sure, we will let you know when there is additional information to share. Adam doesn't plan on commenting in the meantime, and his hope is that the focus remains on the exceptional play and inspired competition on court."

• A mixed doubles team to follow: A. Mauresmo and M. Llodra.

• Moles tell us: "Captain Russell Heier and his Eastern Section team escaped with a victory in the 26th annual Talbert Cup, the legendary over-35 intersectional tournament. Heier's squad was able to overcome an agonizing defeat by star player Adam Mandell, who succumbed to severe full body cramping."

• Terry of Manila, Phillippines: "For long lost siblings: How can you miss Rafael Nadal and the feral kid from Mad Max?"

 
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