Posted: Tuesday June 28, 2011 7:35PM ; Updated: Tuesday June 28, 2011 7:56PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

Debating Nadal's injuries, Murray's mindset, American tennis, more

Story Highlights

Rafael Nadal may want to consider how his calls to the trainer are perceived

There is no American player on the horizon that may end the Grand Slam drought

If Maria Sharapova loses, she will regret missing a great chance to win Wimbledon

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Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal stopped his match multiple times because of an ailing foot on Monday.
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2011 Wimbledon
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Previous Coverage

He doesn't always take medical time outs, but when he does, it's always at a very critical time in the match. He's Rafa Nadal -- the most mysterious tennis player in the world. "Stay Injured, my Friends!!"
--
Vijay Kalpathi, Houston

• Lots of questions about Nadal and his injured -- or, ahem, "injured" -- foot today. But Vijay's made me laugh. I'm not sure what we can say here. A lot of you think Nadal was faking his injury last night. His opponent, Juan Martin del Potro certainly did, having allegedly referred to Nadal as "lying" when talking to the chair umpire. From your mail and tweets, I gather Pat McEnroe was outspoken on the air today.

Michelle of Texas: "It was so refreshing to hear Patrick McEnroe call out Nadal over his supposed 'injuries'. PMac said that even though players might not admit it publicly, they're ticked off with his constant talk of something bothering him. He said lots of players have issues, but they keep it to themselves."

I think it's awfully dangerous to question an athlete's injuries. Nadal plays this violent, harsh style -- we can all see that with the naked eye. He clearly tweaked his foot late in the first set. If this were a tactic, why would Nadal call a trainer at 6-6, right before a tiebreaker? Did he recover miraculously? Sure. But we see this all the time. Adrenaline and chemicals are coursing through the body, the athlete is relieved to learn the pain is bearable and continues on. Sometimes a simple retape job makes all the difference. I just don't see why Nadal would feign -- or even exaggerate injury -- at that point. To get inside del Potro's head? Really? To stop momentum in a match that had no breaks of serves to that point? Really? To give himself a built-in excuse if he lost? Really? To psyche out Mardy Fish? Really? That's pretty cynical.

Here's what I do know, though. Especially for a player who speaks so often about fair play and sportsmanship and congeniality, Nadal makes some curious decisions. There's his chronic tardiness getting to the court. His chronic delays between points. His grunting. And his various and sundry calls to the trainer. I still say that, on balance, Nadal is, overwhelmingly, a force of good. But he may want to think about some his actions and how they're perceived in the context of fair play.

The reason Andy Murray cannot win a grand slam: His thoughts when the new royal couple came to meet him -- "I was thinking to myself as I came off I was sweaty and very hairy. I said to them, "I'm sorry, I'm a bit sweaty. But it was really nice.'" Do you think a Fed or a Nadal would ever think that? The problem with Andy is that he is too nice guy, which is why I would love to see him win, but I don't think I will.
--
Raj Sonak, Potomac Falls, VA

• Actually, that sounds pretty much EXACTLY like Federer and Nadal.

Just wondering how good is the men's game right now. I am a huge Federer fan, but when I see the draw for Wimbledon there are only four players that have a shot right now to win a major. Are the top four that much better than everyone else or are the rest of the players that weak?
--
Bobby, Toronto

• Don't look a gift horse in the oral cavity. I think most of us will take four elite players over parity. Again, though -- and I realize I'm getting insufferably redundant -- consider quality. If the four players are elite because everyone else stinks and is out of shape, it's one thing. If the four elite players perform brilliantly, don't buckle under pressure and are in superb condition (as is the case) we should be more charitable.

An American male hasn't won a tennis major since 2003. In which year does it happen again, and is this future winner in the current junior ranks, or has he not been born yet?
--
Big Slim, Atlanta

• These are obviously rough times for American tennis. And with a few exceptions (Ryan Harrison) it's not as though the pipeline is gushing. Ideally, the U.S. system improves, young athletes gravitate to tennis and the situation gets less bleak. Short of that, there's always the passport office. (I say this only half-jokingly) Sabine Lisicki lists her residence as Bradenton. Maria Sharapova has spent more than two-thirds of her life based in the U.S. Even Alexander Dolgopolov has a base in New Jersey. If any of them want to consider a nationality change, the prospects for American tennis would improve.

Is Mardy Fish the most unrecognized No. 1-ranked American tennis player of alltime?
--
Jeffery Nielsen, Surprise, AZ

• Quite possibly. It sort of stands to reason, though, doesn't it? All credit to Fish for getting to this level, especially at this point in his career. But he's never won a Masters Series title, never won a Slam, (as of today), never been to the final four of a Slam and never been in the top ten. Again, this is not to knock him. But I suspect that never before has the top American had such modest credentials. Fish, incidentally, isn't just the top American male. He is the top American -- male or female.

Can you make any sense of this?
-- Steve, Missouri

• In a word: no.

With Clijsters a non-starter, the Williams sisters rusty, and Wozniacki still wobbly, would Henin be thinking I re-retired too quickly? If Wimbledon was her goal, now could have been her time, even with a dodgy elbow.
--
Arin Sydney

• Henin, Hingis, Dementieva, Pierce, Dementieva, Seles, Sabatini, Lottie Dodd, Alice Marble. I suspect a lot players under the age of 40 feel like they retired too soon.

Jon, you say that there's no way a four-time men's champion would have to play an outside court like Serena did, but that ignores the fact that men's matches by and large are simply much better to watch than women's matches. The quality in general is far higher (and you get best-of-five sets, not best-of-three ...), the shot-making is far more impressive and there are far fewer sets that are won 6-0. Serena may have won numerous grand slam titles, but outside America, not many people actually enjoy watching her play relative to say Federer, Nadal, Murray etc.
--
David Boston, London

• You like pistachio. I prefer rocky road. Tastes (and distastes) are too personal and inexact here.

Maria Sharapova. Pressure much?
--
Cheri Lambert, Great Falls, Montana

• Yeah, I don't want to say it's hers to lose. That deprives the other players of too much respect. But put it this way: if Sharapova can't close the deal, she'll recall this as an exceedingly winnable Wimbledon that got away.

You say, "Women' tennis is in a state of relative disarray right now." How does this not make women's tennis all the more interesting to watch? You never know who is going to win -- and that is why we watch sports. I love Federer, Nadal, Djokovic because of their respective talents, but we all know it's going to be one of the three who wins the men's side of the tournament at Wimbledon. Who the heck knows who is going to win the women's draw?
--
Kate Noser, Birmingham, MI

• That's more spin than a Nadal forehand. But I buy that to some extent. We like (prefer?) excellence and consistency and rivalries. But there is definitely some appeal to the sheer openness of every WTA draw.

By claiming that Marion Bartoli, who "has the audacity to read books in public" is not a "cool kid", you do add fuel to the wave of illiteracy-worshipping which is drowning contemporary media, don't you? I guess you prefer celebrities who think that "book" is just some mysterious suffix of Facebook as the true role-models for children.
--
Zemun, Milan

• Hopefully even those with their nose in a (face)book will read this as sarcasm.

Hewitt is a fighter. His reincarnation as a player worth rooting for is consistent with the career trajectory of previous a-holes like Roddick, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors, etc. who were clowns in their youth and redeemed themselves when they finally grew up. Better late than never!!
--
Ryan Ruske, Sacramento, CA

• Better Lleyton never?

Shots, Miscellany

• Paul Kumar of Springfield, VA: "Why talk down to 95 percent of the viewers so you can edify the other five percent?" Because the Monday morning viewing tennis fans will watch irrespective of inanities, clichés, or repetitions and the 'other five percent' will not move away from the broadcast because they will learn some interesting factoids about the players. It's what is known in common parlance as a "win/no-loss" situation :-).

• Mark Schmidt of Manila: Hi! I'm having a hard time finding the Wimbledon coverage in this side of the world, but I found it in this site. Hope this helps others!

• Matt of Toronto: Grunting is surely a part of Sharapova and Azarenka's routine as documented by Seles.

• Jim Courier on the speed of the court.

 
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