Posted: Thursday May 26, 2011 11:58AM ; Updated: Thursday May 26, 2011 11:58AM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>TENNIS MAILBAG

Clijsters' bad day at office puts Djokovic streak into sharp relief

Story Highlights

Kim Clijsters' shock loss emphasizes the degree of difficulty of Djokovic's streak

What a bizarre scene at end of Wednesday's Vera Zvonareva-Sabine Lisicki match

The number of people predicting Del Potro to beat Djokovic on Friday is surprising

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Kim Clijsters (above) has won three majors since coming back, but she's also twice crashed out from Slam in ugly fashion.
Kim Clijsters (above) has won three majors since coming back, but she's also twice crashed out from Slam in ugly fashion.
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A Thursday baguette ...

So with Kim Clijsters knocked out, who's your women's pick now?
--@ATP22, via Twitter

• Appreciate your mulligan. But especially when your pick crashes so spectacularly, you should have to live with the consequences. Yes, Kim Clijsters, she of the 14-match Grand Slam win streak coming in, went down to Arantxa Rus in round two. Ouch. As if the women's draw was wide open to begin with, it's now a canyon. Sharapova, I suppose, becomes a favorite, if only because she knows how to win majors (though she's down a set as I write this). Azarenka is a contender. Last year's finalists, Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone are playing well again. One forgets that the top seed, Caroline Wozniacki, is still alive. Who knows?

A final word on Clijsters before she climbs in a courtesy car and leaves the premises: she's turned in one of the stronger comebacks since Wall Street banker bonuses, winning three majors since her returns from motherhood. She also has turned in two horrible Grand Slam matches, a 6-0, 6-1 stinker against Nadia Petrova last year in Australia and today's flameout. A game from a routine win, Clijsters went on total "walkabout," dropping 11 of the last 12 games and committing 65 unforced errors on the day. If nothing else this should throw Djokovic's winning streak -- and Federer's formidable semifinal streak -- into sharp relief. One lousy day at the office (and even the best can have them) and you're headed home.

Regarding the WTA and shrieking: I've been waiting for someone to organize some hundreds of spectators (preferably at an Azarenka or Sharapova match) into wearing big noise-proofing headphones at courtside. It would look great on TV and make the point better than any amount of written or broadcast complaints.
--Wendy M. Grossman

• At the risk of crossing a professional line, I LOVE that idea. It would be more funny than mean. You're totally correct that it would be a media sensation, the stuff of a viral videos and Your Moment of Zen. You're also correct that it would be more effective than stuffing the WTA inbox with complaints. Love it. Love it. Love it. I encourage you guys to organize on the interweb and make it happen.

I know I shouldn't play the "what if" game, but with the current super-sized slump of dominant healthy players in the WTA, would this have been Dementieva's time to win a slam?
--Sjohnna, Cincinnati

• I'll take the bait. If Dementieva came out of retirement tomorrow, she would be among my top four picks.

The sempiternal interview question: "Do you think it's better to have a difficult match at the beginning of a Grand Slam tournament or is it better to have an easy one?"
--Mike, Boston

• I agree. Now what does sempiternal mean?

Watching the end of the Zvonareva-Lisicki match confirms for me again that tennis should get rid of these injury timeouts. Very poor sportsmanship to use one just to try to rattle an opponent who's on a roll, as Lisicki did. Do you think they're a good idea?
--David Sims, Mangawhai, New Zealand

• Considering that Lisicki was later taken off on a stretcher, I'm not sure there much in the gamesmanship going on. That was such a bizarre scene at the end of the Zvonareva match. A) ESPN was showing the match but had no reporter at the court, so as this player writhed in agony and courtside doctors looked so concerned, poor Mary Joe Fernandez was left to speculate -- which never goes well -- and state the obvious. On the set, Darren Cahill was similarly left hanging out to dry. "Boy, you feel for the kid. She's a great kid." B) During the injury break at 4-5 -- that is, with Lisicki a game from winning the match! -- it appeared as though she had her vital signs checked. Um, call me conservative but when the courtside medical staff is concerned about your blood pressure, perhaps it's time for an authority figure to intervene. This was scarily reminiscent of Azarenka playing her U.S. Open match suffering from a concussion. Not good. C) Last time many fans saw Lisicki, she was being carted off the U.S. Open courts on a stretcher, crying in anguish, that time with a hideous ankle injury. D) Lost in all this, as it should have been, she was on the verge of scoring what at the time would have been the biggest upset of the tournament.

Just finished watching Zvonareva-Lisicki match. Why would Lisicki keep playing on after she clearly was in no physical condition and had to be carried out on a stretcher? Is this part of tennis etiquette that you have to finish your match?
--Korjik, New York

• Exactly. You hate it when a player retires with a silly injury, depriving the opponent the chance to win outright. (See: 2006 Aussie Open final.) But when you're in the kind of shape Lisicki appeared to be in, you need someone to intervene, play the role if ring doctor and call off the fight. I don't want to malign Lisicki here at all. As the cliché-prone might say: she showed a ton of heart. But someone needed to save her from herself.

What do you think of Zvonareva's lack of demonstrated emotion on the court? Is it a good or a bad thing?
--Joe Johnson, Allentown, Pa.

• It beats the alternative. And the results speak for themselves. Remember this?

You picked Azarenka in the SI.com Experts' Poll and Clijsters in your column. Hedging your bets? What gives?
--Dan E., New York, N.Y.

• I don't know what you're talking about. Azarenka all the way! (When I submitted that pick it was unclear Clijsters was clear to play. I forgot to make it consistent.)

I'm a huge Novak fan and I have been for quite some time. I'm loving the streak and the press that it has given the game of tennis. Unfortunately, I've been somewhat unnerved by the beast that is Del Potro looming in the next round. Oddly enough, I'm more concerned for Nole tomorrow than in any of his recent meetings with Rafa. Sorry to say this, but the streak ends in the third round. Fun while it lasted though!
--Patrick, Cincinnati

• Can't get over how many of you are picking Delpo. I say it's 65-35 to Djokovic.

Can you please deal with transcript-gate? Supposedly the ITWA has pressured the Roland Garros admin to pull transcript access to the public, and fans have erupted over twitter. It's practically censorship and not to mention a slap in the face of those who are hearing impaired. Here and here are some good blog posts on the matter.
--LJ, Sydney

• Despite your generous entreaties, I'd rather not get roped into transcript-gate, especially since I'm still in New York. It seems to me that trying to suppress or delay information is wrong-headed. It does a disservice to fans and, in this here digital age, is doomed to fail. But I'm sure there's more to do this issue that I'm not aware of. (How that for a bland answer that sounds stripped directly from a press conference?)

Shots, Miscellany

• Helen of Philadelphia: "I laughed out loud at Tsonga's answer to who he'd be in a film with."

• Thanks to @Janoma for this link: "I found this video while procrastinating."

• Speaking of McEnroe, I just saw a screener of the forthcoming HBO documentary. It was well done, a nice companion to the new books from Steve Tignor or Matt Cronin.

• A discussion for another time, perhaps: but wouldn't it be nice if there a little more attention paid to tennis circa 2011 and a little less to tennis circa 1980. We all love the contours of Borg-McEnroe but I'm more concerned about getting Djokovic some exposure here.

• A Novak Djokovic YouTube Special.

• Neil of "Pawnee, Ind.," of: I'm sure you are getting plenty of e-mails about 'ajde' vs. 'hajde' and however else people want to spell it. With that being said, I'll go ahead and pile one more on top. In Serbian it's 'ajde' and pronounced ay-deh. It's possible that Croatians throw in an H, as there are some minor differences between the languages. AJDE NOLE!

Great story from Brad Wolverton, a real tennis guy, over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

• Today's LLS: Francisco of L.A. submits: Novak Djokovic and Jake Gyllenhaal.

 
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