Posted: Wednesday July 6, 2011 3:46PM ; Updated: Wednesday July 6, 2011 4:48PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>TENNIS MAILBAG

Thoughts on tennis' new alpha rivalry, more from mailbag

Story Highlights

Nadal-Djokovic is the new alpha rivalry, but don't write off Federer completely

Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis could be one of the best doubles teams today

No ATP player could benefit from a mental coach as much as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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Rafael Nadal (left) and Novak Djokovic (right) comprise the current alpha rivalry in tennis, but don't write off Roger Federer yet.
Rafael Nadal (left) and Novak Djokovic (right) comprise the current alpha rivalry in tennis, but don't write off Roger Federer yet.
Bob Martin/SI

A small vacation-based, post-Wimbledon bag ...

Let's be honest and admit that Nadal-Djokovic is the new alpha rivalry of men's tennis. They're meeting in a second out of the last four Grand Slam finals and given their ages, my guess is that many more are to follow. Will Andy Murray turn out to be the Andy Roddick of this new era (i.e. a player who would have won multiple Slams in most other eras when top players were not as consistent and the spoils were shared by the top five or six instead of the top two or three)?
--Adam Boyd, Scarsdale, N.Y.

• I still think its better viewed as a three-way rivalry. Obviously because of their ages and their recent average of meeting once a month, Nadal-Djokovic is the talk right now. But don't forget the last three head-to-heads: Federer def. Djoko; Nadal def. Federer; Djoko def. Nadal.

Andy Murray first needs to win one Slam before he's on equal footing with Roddick. But, yeah, I think your comparison is pretty good. Murray has a complete game, an underrated serve, generally strong mental toughness. Imagine if he'd been born a decade prior. Murray vs. Lleyton Hewitt? Murray vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero? Murray vs. Ivanisevic? Murray vs. Thomas Johansson? I suspect he'd fare pretty well. As it stands, he still quite isn't in the leading fraternity on the ATP campus. Mind the gap, indeed.

You mentioned Tsonga's mind-wandering, and it was obvious he made some strange decisions out there against Djokovic. I think I heard he doesn't have a coach. If there's anyone who needs a coach -- at least a mental coach -- it's him, right?
--Dax, Indianapolis

• I wouldn't say mental, so much as strategic. But, yes, he could use a coach. (Neil Harman surmises that Murray hires a coach before summer's end. Maybe he and Tsonga can get a package deal.) To me, Tsonga is such an intriguing player. There are is so much to like about his (surprisingly complex) game but too often the gears get jammed.

Davenport/Hingis: the best doubles team that should have been?
--Greg Lennie, London

• Yes. I can't tell from the time code when you sent this, but they played together at Wimbledon. Give them a few weeks to get in better and get accustomed to playing together; and they would be a top team right now.

Maybe when Tsonga served 130 m.p.h. on a second serve, it wasn't that "his mind wandered." Maybe he's just been reading all the columns where you have been pining for a player to buck the conventional wisdom and go with all first serves! It was time to try it out. Reading into things, this may be why you so rarely see against-the-grain decisions. If it doesn't work out, for any reason, players get hammered for it, like they clearly should have known better. Much easier to conform and avoid scrutiny.
--Jason Shaw, Richland, Wash.

• Great thought. And I love the concept. But if you're going to buck convention and make a data-driven decision -- which we commend -- you still want to pick your spots. Hit a second serve at first-speed pace? Great. But don't do it at 5-4 deuce in the first set of a Grand Slam semifinal!

I'll tell you of a couple of complexes that could accommodate a week-long grass court tournament -- Philadelphia's Germantown Cricket Club and Philadelphia Cricket Club. Both with easy rail access from downtown (and just a few stops from each other on the same rail line), both with historic grounds and storied pasts. Bring it!
--Helen, Philadelphia

• I will stop at nothing to plug tennis in the Philadelphia area. But are we really expecting players to compete in Paris, hightail it to Philly and then cross the ocean again to go back Wimbledon?

One thing I don't understand that gets neglected in the Federer-Nadal G.O.A.T. debate is the fact that Roger has won the World Tour Finals five times and Rafa has never won it. I mean, that's when they're playing against only the top eight players. What a great way to show who is really the best. Why isn't this talking about more and figured in, if not on par with the majors, at least just a step below? Nadal fans seem to downplay the fact that he hasn't been able to win this, but to me it seems like a big deal.
--Kim, Bellingham, Wash.

• What makes the G.O.A.T. discussion both fun and frustrating is variables like these.

Shots, Miscellany

• Mean to post this a while ago from Mark Darby, ATP Supervisor: "Just a clarification regarding your comment about players getting an injury time-out for cramping. The rule is that a player cannot receive a medical time-out for cramping. He or she may be treated during a changeover, however. The player does not make the call on whether it is cramping or not. That is done by a physiotherapist employed by the ATP/WTA."

• J.P. of Chicago: "On a non-Wimby note, I'm reading the great book Bounce by former table tennis champ Matthew Syed, who makes an intriguing argument for athletic success not necessarily being a direct result of talent. Amazon link."

• Meet Mason Oelrich of Dunn Loring, Va., who hates WTA shrieking.

• Trivia: Diego Rivera painted a large portrait of what tennis star? (Hint: the painting hangs in the Tate Modern.)

• Mano Mendes of Sao Paulo: "The magic mirror into the racquet. A brief story about a Queen of Tennis and her Magic Mirror Racquet, this time with an unhappy ending. When Sharapova looks to the racquet, it seems that she's looking into the mirror, and it is not difficult to imagine what was she saying, or praying: Magic mirror on the grass, what should I do to stop my opponent to become a star? And the mirror responds: Stop screaming just once, my Majesty. I am sorry to compare Miss Sharapova like this, but fortunately the good tennis prevailed. Let's start a campaign for 'Stop Screaming in Tennis,' face it, it is a good and appropriate moment to start it. It is terrible to watch someone screaming in every point, completely out of control, in my opinion. It is a education matter, better, reeducation. By the way, congratulations to Kvitova, to show the world how to play tennis in an old fashion."

• Robert B. of Melbourne, Fla.: "Though Grigor Dimitrov has not yet exactly lived up to the billing of being the 'next Roger Federer,' one cannot deny that his strokes bear an extremely uncanny resemblance to those of Federer. Just watch this video. Photoshop Federer's head in there and no one would be able to know the difference. A Federer-Dimitrov match would be a golden ticket for tennis fans, would it not?"

• Here's another book recommendation, this one a collection of peerless Wimbledon photography from the mighty Bob Martin..

• Ben of Hong Kong has lookalikes: Juan Martin del Potro and the Monkey King from the classic Chinese novel Journey To The West.

Have a good week everyone!

 
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