Best of Three: Federer building momentum with strong 2011 finish
Roger Federer proved he could play top tennis for multiple years with Paris win
Tennis may have its problems, but Penn State reminds us it could be much worse
Varying interests are pulling the search for the ATP's new CEO in all directions
1. Federer's longevity: In the scoreboard dot race that is the ATP season, Roger Federer is suddenly surging. While Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are injured, exhausted and complaining about the workload, Federer is playing his best tennis of the year.
A week after winning his hometown title in Basel, Switzerland, Federer picked up his first Masters Series title of 2011, taking out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final to win the Paris Indoors. Suddenly he looks like a good bet to win his seventh World Tour Finals title. This is why the 30-year-old Federer could easily play top-shelf tennis for three or four or five more years. He manages his body and his schedule.
He doesn't veer from the script, resisting the urge to chase points or appearance fees. He won't win a Grand Slam tournament this year for the first time since 2002. But note his points haul this fall. He is putting himself in fine position for 2012 and is very much back in the conversation. I suspect, to his way of thinking, the Australian Open can't come soon enough.
2. Tennis' integrity: Having spent the past five days reporting on the Penn State scandal, the virtues of tennis were thrown into particularly sharp relief for me last week. If the worst issues we have to confront are grunting, an excessively long schedule and scattered TV coverage, well, it could be much worse.
One of the great current tennis stories is the partnership of the Indo-Pak Express, Rohan Bopanna (the Indo) and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi (the Pak). While spreading a message of peace and unity, they also play top doubles together. The team won its first Masters shield in Paris, beating the French team of Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut in the final. I know from past discussions that a lot of you are cynical about sport's ability to catalyze social and political change. But when national publications run stories like this, how can it be a bad thing?
3. Now hiring: You'll notice we're not writing about the women this week. That's because the WTA cast is off vacationing, as it ought to be. The men soldier on. And while the players grind it out on the court, the suits are in a struggle of their own.
Around the time of the French Open, ATP CEO Adam Helfant announced that he would not seek a new term. Half a year later, the search to find a replacement is ongoing, suggesting that the inherent rift between the player representatives and tournament representatives has widened into a gulf. Ian Ritchie -- an ideal candidate on the surface: Europe-based, well-regarded as chief executive of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, plugged in with the Slams -- was not offered the job.
There is a strong desire for an "inside the tennis beltway" candidate, but finding someone agreeable to both constituencies is not easy. The ATP board meets next week in London and we'll see if any progress in hiring a new leader is made then.