Tennis Mailbag (cont.)
I'm looking at Donald Young's playing activity for 2011 and if you take away his results at two tournaments (U.S. Open, Thailand), can we really say 2011 (12-15 record) was the "emergence" of Donald Young? Looks more like he got hot in the month of September?
-- Scott, Atascadero, Calif.
A few years ago, I offered up a Fabrice Santoro paean. A reader responded that he looked up Santoro and was surprised to see that he was a top-60 player, yet had lost more than half his matches. "How good can this 'Magician' be if he can't even play .500 ball?"
You're being a bit harsh here with Donald Young. He did beat Murray, reached the semis in Washington, D.C., and won a few rounds at the Paris Indoors Masters event. (I would also add that part of the hype here is tied less to his results than his overall image upgrade, his ability to go from "entitled hothead" to "nice, humble guy" in the span of a few months.)
But, yes, for all the talk of his "emergence," Young went 19-17 in 2011 and won a combined zero matches at the first three majors. The moral is not that Young is overhyped. The moral is that, for all the challenges tennis presents, a player can rewrite the script fairly easily.
I find it impressive and a bit crazy that Djokovic, at 24, has already surpassed Andre Agassi in career prize money. It's undeniable that prize money has increased exponentially over the past couple of decades for those at the top, but has it also been increasing for those ranking between 11th-100th? Do we also have a case of the 99 percent when it comes to tennis players?
-- Corey, New York
Mark Miles, Etienne DeVilliers and Adam Helfant all thank you for taking the time to make that point. Yes, for whatever else you want to say about the ATP -- and, for that matter, the WTA -- there's no question that recent leaders deserve credit for considerable prize money increases. We noted last week that Wozniacki made roughly the same coin in her Slam-less 2011 as Hana Mandlikova made for her career. I recall Wayne Ferreira making more in his career than Rod Laver did in his.
Cynics will point out that much of this comes from prize money increases at the Slams, not at Tour events. Others will note that television is driving these increases and if tennis had a more cohesive and coherent structure, prize money should be even higher, as the PGA figures suggest. If I had limitless free time, I would like to look into this: How much have prize money increases been caused by the weak U.S. currency? Remember that in most cases prize money is given in dollars. When $1 = 1 Euro, winning the French Open means one thing; when $1 = .6 Euros, it means something very different.
But still ...
Has this increase been enjoyed across the board? Yes and no. Djokovic made roughly three times what the top player a decade ago, Lleyton Hewitt, made. The No. 50 player for 2011, Juan Carlos Ferrero, made nearly $500,000 in 2011. Ten years ago, No. 50 Franco Squillari made just over $400,000. Granted, Djokovic had a silly-good year in 2011. Still, suffice to say the vast increases in wealth occurred at the top. If I didn't know better, I might think there was larger point about wealth distribution embedded in here somewhere.
Regarding the Stockholm commercial. The age listed for Nadal in the commercial is 7. He didn't start playing lefty until he was 8, when he won an under-12 tournament and Uncle Toni had a bright idea. Still, the depiction isn't accurate, because he apparently played two hands off both sides as a youngster.
-- Jennifer Boller, Los Angeles
Several of you -- pedants! Pickers of nits! -- mentioned that. I say this was supposed to be kids depicting the pros (not kids depicting the pros as kids) so Nadal should have been a lefty. With no Afro. Seriously, lost in our discussion: What a fun and inspired commercial, nej? (Nej, of course, being Swedish for "no." Ah, Goggle, what did we do before you?)
From the icky, self-promotion department, my publisher has asked me to mention that Scorecasting makes a great holiday gift.
It's our new favorite segment: Fans' Encounters With Pro Players. We're going all American this week. This week's featured guests:
Nancy Selph of Bound Brook, N.J.: "I was working for Merrill Lynch and they held an online silent auction every year for charity. I came across a one-hour tennis lesson with Lisa Raymond and I just had to bid. It was quite pricey but completely worth it. Lisa came to my club in Princeton, N.J. After a half-hour lesson, she played doubles with me and the owner and manager of the club. One set partnering with me and one set against me. She stayed long past the original set time. She was so kind and giving. Very engaged. We had a wonderful time and spoke for some time afterward. I love to see that she is still playing into her late 30s and looking better than ever!"
Nicole of Bartlesville, Okla.: "During the early '90s -- maybe 1993 or '94 -- I visited a friend in Cincinnati to attend the Mason tournament. One day, we went to a Graeter's Ice Cream shop. While we were there, Jim Courier walked in. I was a big fan of his and very excited to see him there. My friend's mom encouraged me to go request an autograph, placing pen and paper in my hands. I was incredibly nervous, but I approached him with the very witty, 'You're Jim Courier?' He looked down at me, smiled, and said, 'Yes. You're Sally ...?' His friend laughed (and I'm not sure what he meant by that). I said, 'No ... I'm just a really big tennis fan.' He smiled again, took the pen and paper from my hands, and responded, 'Well, I like really big tennis fans,' as he signed my paper. It was brief, but I was a wide-eyed young college student, and Jim's kindness meant the world to me -- especially when I later learned he had lost his match earlier that day."
Danny Reichert of New York: "I'm a huge Chris Evert fan. A few years ago at the U.S. Open, a friend and I spotted Colette Evert, Chrissie's mom. Too embarrassed to say anything, I followed her around a bit until my friend ran up to her and said, 'I'm with your daughter's number one fan!' I was mortified and started to walk away until I heard her say, 'Well, I'll have to meet him then!' She chatted with me and thanked me for all the support and then asked for my address so she could send me a picture of her daughter. She could not have been nicer. A month or so went by. I had given up on the photo until I received a note from Colette herself that said, 'I bet you thought I forgot about you' along with a personalized signed photograph from her daughter."
Our man Kevin Lynch of Eden Prairie, Minn.: "Here's my mini encounter with Johnny Mac at Madison Square Garden. Go back to winter/spring 1993. I'm playing with the Hornets in a game against the Knicks. It's the end of halftime and we're on the court, warming up for the second half. Standing in the layup line, I see McEnroe sitting courtside just a few feet away from me. I know it's him but I can barely tell because his baseball hat is pulled way down, and the collar on his jacket is up. It looks like he's in a bad or sad mood and doesn't care to be noticed. I say loudly, 'Hey, Mac!' and give him a little head nod. Me doing this doesn't seem to cheer him up much, and I think to myself, 'OK, man, whatever.'
"So about five years ago I'm reading his book, You Cannot Be Serious. In it he mentions how in the winter of 1993 he was shaken, crying all the time because of his divorce with Tatum O'Neal. He also had just retired from playing tennis as well, AND Arthur Ashe had just died. Lots of stuff to deal with. He writes how during that period, he couldn't stop the tears. When I saw him at that game, it must have been smack dab in the middle of that time. As I was reading that part of his book, my encounter with him 14 years earlier made sense -- and I finally forgave him."
Rusty Cohan of Los Altos, Calif.: "I'm a former teaching pro and two-time national men's team coach at the World University Games. I also had the opportunity to play on Tom Chivington's first California state junior college championship team way back in 1970. I have volunteered my services at Stanford University ever since Dick Gould began his career there doing both officiating and announcing. I have been the announcer for every regional and national Division I men's and women's championships they have hosted. It is incredible to me how the rosters over the years have so drastically shifted to foreign players. I have looked at the program for the entire 64-team draw and some teams have actually had 100 percent foreign players or their rosters are dominated by their presence. This phenomenon is also prevalent at the junior college level.
"I find it a real disincentive for American players because it is an unbalanced playing field. How is it that public institutions supported by American tax dollars and those of the particular state are allowed to do this? I feel that every school (public or private) should be limited to two scholarships that are awarded to foreign players. Having teams with predominately foreign players is very self-serving no matter what the sport."
Aside to Patrick of D.C.: Loved your Anna Kournikova story. But surely you didn't expect me print it as is! (And also remain gainfully employed.) Rework it, please, and then file it again!
Terry of Atlanta: "Roger Federer's ranking points record adjusted for today's system would be 15,745. Some tennis nerds have calculated this a while ago. You can check out the thread here."
Mark Flannery of Fullerton Calif.: "Have you heard of a band called "Tennis"? Check this out."
Have a great week, everyone!