Posted: Wednesday June 1, 2011 5:03PM ; Updated: Wednesday June 1, 2011 5:43PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>TENNIS MAILBAG

Giving Schiavone her due, fixing the world rankings, more mail

Story Highlights

Credit to Francesca Schiavone for sustaining her top form for the past year

Another factor in the decline of tennis in the U.S. is the lack of domestic events

Petra Kvitova might not be a Grand Slam contender now, but she'll get there

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Italy's Francesca Schiavone (above) is the highest remaining seed in the women's draw entering Thursday's semifinals.
Italy's Francesca Schiavone (above) is the highest remaining seed in the women's draw entering Thursday's semifinals.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
2011 French Open
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A quick Week Two baguette ...

Why do you keep selling Francesca Schiavone short? After her French victory last year you as good as called it a fluke. This year you failed to mention her as one of the pre-tournament favorites, but as I write she's through to the semis. What are you thinking?
--Joe, Conord, Mass.

• I don't recall calling her success a fluke. Like many, I suspected that Schiavone's 2010 title was a one-time phenomenon, an unrivaled highlight of a fine career. (She even intimated at this as well.) This was the WTA's answer to Andres Gomez or Albert Costa winning the French Open on the men's side. To Schiavone's total credit, she's kept it up, and, as I write this, has a real shot at a title defense. It's impressive that she's kept it up at this age. It's impressive that she's kept her motivation. It's impressive she's still as candid and wide-eyed and likeable.

In these situations, though, I often wonder: Is this experience, in some slight way, bittersweet? Does she look back and say, "Why did it take me a decade of generally mediocre results to get here? If only I had been X percent more committed/healthy/confident, who knows what more I could have achieved?" Or does the arc of her career make this late success all the more sweet?

When the Hawk-Eye system is in place, a player gets three challenges per set. Shouldn't it then follow that at the clay court events where it is not used, the players should only be allowed to ask the chair umpire to check a mark three times per set? If the player is right, they do not use up one of their allotted three. This would make things consistent from one tournament to the next. Your thoughts?
--Pat Child, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

• Consistency? Tennis? This is a sport that changes the BALLS from event to event. I rather like your idea. Though some would contend that there be no challenge limits in either case and we simply strive for maximum accuracy.

Eureka! I've figured out how to solve the disputed No. 1 issue: Simply increase the point value of winning a Slam such that it's impossible to become No. 1 without winning one. Surely someone has the math skills to calculate it out. I nominate Sharko.
--J.P., Chicago, Ill.

• But remember, if the Slams are not heavily weighted, the tournaments represented on the WTA Tour won't like it because it diminishes the importance of the garden-variety events. What about a simple rule for both tours: a player cannot claim the top ranking if he or she hasn't won a major in the last 12 months?

The phrase defense wins championships is generally true among the major sports in the U.S. However, the contrary is probably true in tennis. In discussing with my colleague at work, he cites this as one of the reasons why he doesn't follow tennis because this doesn't strike a chord with him. And he's a pretty big sports fan. Do you think that this could one among many attributing to declining viewership and declining number of top American tennis players?
--Madhu B. Dallas, Texas

• Interesting theory but I don't buy it. First, defense DOESN'T win championships. (I can show you reams of data indicating that, especially in football and basketball, a good defense is no more important than a good offense.) What's more, especially when it's combined with potent ballstriking, defense CAN help win championships in tennis. Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are all first-team all-defense. To me, there's something undeniably artistic/compelling/exciting about watching a player prolong a point with scrambling and anticipation and speed.

If I were making a list for tennis' decline in the U.S. I would put the absence of top American at the top. But I think the scarcity of American EVENTS factors heavily, too. A generation ago the average fan would know Djokovic because odds were good he'd pass through town. Today he may only play three or four times in the U.S. in a year.

The ATP has "lucky losers" in the first round, so why not in subsequent stages of the tournament? Is there any reason Montanes couldn't have stepped in when Fognini withdrew before playing Djokovic?
--Mark Flannery, Fullerton, Calif.

• Two of you asked this. It was unfortunate that Fognini won a grueling match yet couldn't answer the bell for his next encounter. But you simply can't allow a player who lost a main draw match to re-enter the tournament. (Otherwise John Isner shouldn't have been the designated Djokovic opponent.) Also, I don't fault Fognini.

I said it before and I'll say it again: you're overlooking Kvitova. Everyone's on the Azarenka bandwagon, even though she hasn't been past the quarterfinals of any Slam in the past. Kvitova mopped the floor with her in Madrid and I'm predicting she'll do the same in Paris. So my question is: what will it take for you to show Kvitova a little respect?
--Andy, New York

• Kvitova reached the Wimbledon semis in 2010. She then finished the rest of the year with a sub-.500 record. I do like what I've seen lately, her disappointing finish in Paris notwithstanding. And the lefty look will always confound. Is she ready to win majors? Probably not. Is her top-10 ranking reflective of talent? I'm starting to think so.

How do you write "overplaying" in Danish?
--Don, United Kingtom

• I wonder if it has one of these Ø characters in it? Seriously, I don't think Wozniacki's schedule is the problem. If she were breaking down on the side of the road it would be one thing, but she seems healthy and physically able. I think it's simply a question of being insufficiently aggressive. A generation ago, she'd have been a world beater. But when your opponent is six feet, 160 pounds and clubbing every ball with her Luxiloned-Babolat thurderstick, you're not winning majors blocking balls back to the middle of the court.

Shots, Miscellany

• Marion Bartoli and Ana Ivanovic entered the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. Sam Querrey is playing the Farmers Insurance event in L.A.

• The ITF and the ATP announced an agreement to award singles ranking points for men at the 2012 Olympic Tennis Event in London at Wimbledon. As a result of the agreement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will allow nations to receive up to four entries into the men's singles and two entries into the men's doubles, with a maximum number of six men per country on-site. The ATP rankings of June 11, 2012, will be used as the basis for determining the 56 direct acceptances in the 64-player men's singles draw, subject to a maximum of four players per country as well as existing eligibility requirements. Six of the remaining eight singles places will be selected by the ITF's Olympic Committee taking into consideration a player's singles computer ranking and a geographic distribution of nations entered, as well as two Tripartite Commission Invitations decided by the IOC, National Olympic Committees and the ITF. ATP rankings will also be used to determine the 24 direct entries in the 32-pair doubles draw, subject to a maximum of two pairs per country and a maximum of six men per country in total. Doubles players ranked in the Top 10 can receive direct acceptance into the event providing they have an eligible partner. The remaining eight pairs will be selected by the ITF's Olympic Committee. The women's singles event will also offer ranking points, with the same entry criteria used in the women's singles and doubles events. Entries for the 16-pair mixed doubles event will be confirmed on site.

• Ivan Lendl and Junior Golf Corporation (JGC) have joined together to launch the Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy providing full-time tennis training and academics for players looking to reach their ultimate potential or the professional ranks.

• ESPN and Tennis Channel have agreed to a new four-year, multimedia programming alliance for the Australian and French Opens. ESPN and TC will continue to air action from both Grand Slam events, but in a key change ESPN's telecast windows of the French Open will now be virtually all live, generally starting at 5 a.m. ET for five hours. In addition, extensive schedules of action will continue on all ESPN platforms, including ESPN3.com, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Mobile TV, the WatchESPNApp, ESPN Interactive TV and ESPNNetworks.com under the new deal, which takes effect with the 2012 French Open and the 2013 Australian Open.

• Jamayan Watkins of Charlotte, N.C.: "As a defender of grunters, I had to provide you with this funny audio compilation of Maria Sharapova's match."

Nice piece by Jim Courier.

• Check out a digital tennis book offering from TMB (The Mighty Pete Bodo) and Diversion.

• LLS goes to: Paul Treacy of Washington D.C.: "Scream 4 stunk, but Jennifer Capriati was great in it. (Ten-year French Open anniversary edition of long lost doubles partners J-Cap and Neve Campbell.)

• Okay, an encore: Arun Jayaseelan of Santa Clara, Calif.: "Tim Lincecum and Schiavone."

 
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