No business has ever become more profitable after unionization. Tennis is not exactly thriving, compared to the top sports. Adding a union to the mix would be a recipe for failure. Twenty years after a union's work, expect the USTA to be burdened with massive debt and high ticket prices. No thanks -- please don't advocate for a union in tennis.
-- Victor Valencia, Berkeley, Calif.
Many writers -- mysteriously, never with an email address attached -- have been chastising me about "lefty" talk of a union. (Presumably they don't mean a separate trade association for Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, Thomaz Belluci et al.) If someone wants to include their email address, maybe we could have a discussion about this.
What is the protocol for the loser as for autographs? Are they expected to just leave? Or is it up to the player whether or not to sign?
-- Brandon, Chicago
I say we give players a wide berth here. Different matches end different ways under different circumstances on different courts. Sometimes you want to leave the court, get the hell into the locker room, or vacate a show court so the winner can conduct an on-court interview undistracted. Other times, you're willing to stick around. I couldn't help noticing that after the trophy presentation ceremony at the U.S. Open men's final, Nadal -- the runner-up -- still had the grace to stick around and sign for fans.
I feel for players on this front. A few years ago, I saw Andy Roddick sign autographs in Cincinnati for the fans who lined the back gate. He signed dozens and dozens of times, before finally raising a hand -- enough -- and walking inside the players' lounge. One woman stamped her foot, groaned and said, "He blew me off again! I'm going to write about this on my blog!" Appease 99 fans and the 100th will write a blog post about what a jerk you are.
Circa 2001, Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kurten, Goran Ivanisevic and Lleyton Hewitt were the GS winners. In 2011, we have Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur as GS winners. Back in 2001 we were celebrating the depth of men's tennis, while we are saying there is no consistency in women's tennis today. Why the double standard?
-- Raj, Bridgewater, N.J.
I feel like the double-standard police is clocking in overtime. But let's get our facts right. When the men's game was in turmoil B.F. (before Federer) and the likes of Al Costa and Thomas Johansson were winning majors, the storyline wasn't depth. It was how the women were offering a more appealing and marketable product. Here, for instance, is the Sports Illustrated wrap-up from the 1999 Australian Open.
It's about 95-5 women and, if you don't want to read the whole piece, here's the men's section: "Pity the poor men's Tour. On Sunday afternoon it trotted out Thomas Enqvist and Yevgeny Kafelnikov for a final between good players who are duller than oatmeal." A few months later I covered the Key Biscayne event in which Venus and Serena played in the final and I don't even think the men's winner (Richard Krajicek maybe?) even made the story.
Do you think the overhyping of some young Americans, and making such a huge deal about them winning a round or two -- putting Christina McHale on Ashe at night, for example -- does more harm than good?
-- Anand Ramaswamy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Obviously there's a balance here. I see the USTA's motivation for putting McHale on the big court for her third-round match. You want to give her the experience of playing in this environment. You want to show off your product a bit. If a player is riding a nice wave and generating attention (consider Donald Young), you can ride the wave a bit. But you also don't want to overfeed the hype machine. After Madison Keys lost her match, a figure close to her told me that she breathed a massive sigh of relief. The morning shows would have come calling. A prime-time slot on Ashe would have awaited. "No good can come from lavishing that kind of attention on a 16-year-old." Good point.
Venus often talks about doing everything together with Serena. Do you see them retiring together?
-- Joe Johnson, Allentown, Pa.
I don't. If one retired tomorrow, I don't think the other necessarily would. They have a different relationship with tennis.
I'm amazed at all you sportswriters who keep saying, "Is there anybody who can stop Djokovic?" Federer did it in Paris and almost did it again in New York. He is the only player who cannot be bullied by Djokovic and when he's able to keep his focus, like in Paris and in the first, second and early in the fifth set in N.Y., Djokovic ends up on the losing end. Even at 30, he makes the Serb fret! Just a little reminder.
-- Rohan, Pondicherry
Come on, that's authentic frontier gibberish. The guy is 10-1 against Federer and Nadal. He is 52-2 against everyone else. And those were both on account of injury retirement. He's won three majors, more than $10 million. If you didn't ponder who could stop this guy, you'd be cited for incompetence.
Do you wish you could be in the chair for the Andy Roddick-Serena Williams mixed doubles match?
-- Pete, New York
Does Mardy Fish speak French?
"Whistleblower" of Ann Arbor, Mich.: "I had the strangest tennis-related experience today. I am a new hire at Chase, and I'm taking numerous online training courses on all of Chase's policies and banking-related issues. In a course on mortgage fraud, there was a sample fraudulent pay stub. What was the fake employee's name? Rafael Nadal. It cracked me up, especially because of Chase's involvement in tennis. In the example, it was Nadal who was trying to defraud the bank. There must be a Federer fan deep in the heart of Chase bank."
Eric Y., of Sunnyvale, Calif.: "Regarding Jack Sock being told not to look at Roddick's wife. If Roddick places Brooklyn in the line of sight of his opponent, can the opponent charge Roddick with intentional hindrance?"
Today's anti-grunting email comes from Jay Gosselin of South Bend, Ind.: "I have been playing and watching tennis for about 35 years and until the Maria Sharapova/Victoria Azarenka 'era,' I have enjoyed watching both the ATP and WTA Tours. If I tune into a tennis match and either Sharapova or Azarenka is playing (God forbid they're playing each other!), I change the channel immediately. Until WTA CEO Stacey Allaster finally realizes that their unnecessary shrieking is hurting the WTA financially and puts a muzzle on them, I will not watch another WTA match.
"In exhibitions and practice, both players have demonstrated that they can play tennis without shrieking at 100-plus decibels. It's time to enforce the rules and warn and penalize the players for their audible hindrance. Once they start losing points and games due to their shrieking, they will quickly find a way to lose their bad habit. Until then, I will stick to watching the ATP."
Note David Letterman's question to Rafael Nadal at 1:40 mark.
Rafael Nadal, labor leader?
Mark Flannery of Fullerton, Calif., was among those linking the Slate piece: An Aural History, Victoria Heinicke, the sport's first grunter.
This week's unsolicited book recommendation: Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness, by Toure.
Stan Smith has succeeded Tony Trabert as president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Random thought: "Champagne Super-Novak" ... Surely someone has come up that nickname, yes?
Bess Jacobson of Des Moines, Iowa, wraps up the U.S. Open.
Andrew of New York: "You mentioned that you're 'not sure mixed doubles is much more than a well-paying novelty.' Further, to that tension: Late on the first Thursday of the Open, my dad and I were hanging out at the now-empty Court 4. Lo and behold, suddenly activity commenced and soon Bob Bryan/Liezel Huber and Anastasia Rodionova/Christopher Kas appeared before us, their match having been unexpectedly moved. Pretty cool. Play started and, inevitably, we started scrutinizing and discussing whether he or he was serving full speed to she or she. Everyone seemed pretty serious. At one point, Bob even vocally disputed a service line call (of course, there's no Chase Review on Court 4). But, mid-match, the players exchanged some across-the-net banter and chuckling. And later, after a good shot, Bob and Liezel chest-bumped to great applause from the small, but enthusiastic, crowd.
"Then, as the match neared its conclusion, Bob, again, found fault with a call by the same linesperson working the service line. He proceeded to lampoon the linesperson's eyesight, then waved his arms and engaged the crowd in a game-show style 'How many people vote out? How many people vote in?' call-and-response. Of course, the call stood, but Bryan/Huber prevailed in the match. My dad (septuagenarian, Midwestern, casual tennis fan), thought it all great theater. Me? Conflicted. From moment to moment, I'm not even sure the players were certain of their roles."
Me: "I just saw Mario Batali on the street."
My son: "Is she the one who runs in place when she returns serves?"
A reader named Terry with a separated-at-birth submission: Ivan lendl and this guy.
Have a great week, everyone!