Capriati's comeback is complete
Sports Illustrated staff writer Jon Wertheim will answer your tennis questions every Monday. Click here to send a question.
Still adjusting back to Eastern Time ...
Now that Jennifer Capriati has won a Grand Slam, how do you see her future? Will she be a consistent threat in future Slams, like Lindsay Davenport after her 1998 U.S. Open breakthrough, or more of a possible threat, like Mary Pierce?
Lots of questions about Capriati this week, not surprisingly. Pierce is a good analogy. I see Capriati as a looming threat that no higher-seeded player will want to see in her quadrant. But let's not initiate her in the Martina Hingis-Venus Williams-Serena Williams -Davenport sorority quite yet. Capriati played a great tournament in Melbourne, but less than three months ago Anna Kournikova thrashed her at the Chase. On the other hand, let's give Capriati her due: She beat the fourth, second and first seeds in Melbourne, serving consistently over 110 mph and pummeling players who have different styles. She even introduced some variety into her power game, throwing in slices, loopy topspin and even the occasional jaunt to the net. If she stays fit, focused and free of injury -- clichés, I realize -- she's easily a top-five player by year's end.
With Jennifer Capriati proving that any player as talented as she is can come back and join the list of elite champions of the game, what kind of effect do you think this situation will have on another struggling former champion, Monica Seles? If Capriati can overcome her motivation and fitness problems, can Seles do it as well (especially since Seles has always been the better player of the two)? And what will happen to Seles' Fed Cup slot? If she continues to win on the tour, Capriati will probably be playing singles for the U.S. now, because Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams are sort of in a mini-slump and Monica won't be on the team anymore.
Seles is a few years older than Capriati and has more clicks on her odometer, but your point is well taken. If Capriati can get in shape and make a run at a Slam, surely Seles has a source for inspiration. The status of Seles' Fed Cup slot will be interesting, but I think Billie Jean King, having learned her lesson after the Lisa Raymond fiasco, will go by the rankings. On the other hand, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Venus and Serena to join the team, so maybe the captain will get off easy.
I was just wondering if you know anything about Monica Seles and Jan-Michael Gambill being a couple? I have heard a lot of rumors that they are! Second, how far do you think Jennifer Capriati will go before doing an "Iva Majoli"?
Despite a number of reader inquiries, I'm not touching the Gambill-Seles rumor. That's a Linda Richman, discuss-amongst-yourselves topic. Ironically enough, Majoli is among Capriati's best friends on tour. The easy answer is that Majoli -- who has improved of late, we should add -- was beset by a series of injuries before her ranking tanked to triple digits. The better answer is that Majoli was a teenager when she won and her confidence was buffeted by the losses that followed. At 24, Capriati is no doe-eyed kid. She has been around the proverbial block and knows enough not to take her ascent for granted.
Why hasn't Rebound Ace caught on as a surface? Any chance of seeing tournaments played on it in the U.S.? like the high bounces and slower play; it forces players to construct points.
Good question, and one for which I have no answer. I'm in total agreement with you, as are a lot of the players. When the court doesn't play too fast (as it did in 2000), Rebound Ace is a democratic surface that is slow enough for baseliners but slick enough for attacking players. I played on the back courts at Melbourne Park before a night session and found it preferable to asphalt.
I'm such a fan of Andre Agassi, and I notice that he never thanks Steffi Graf explicitly during the trophy ceremonies. He thanks Gil Reyes and Brad Gilbert, so why not good ol' Steffi? Do most players leave out their significant others?
Got a few questions about this. If Graf is like most of our significant others, male or female, Agassi sleeps on the couch for neglecting to thank her at an awards ceremony (see: Swank, Hillary ). I'm told the Garbo -esque Graf, however, told Agassi not to mention her in his speech, as it would just draw attention to her.
Agassi, in fact, was asked this very question at the conclusion of his postmatch press conference. Verbatim:
Q: If I didn't miss words during the official speech, you said thanks to Brad, thanks to Gil. You didn't mention Steffi. Is it because you're shy?
A: It's because I know people like you will only write that.
How much do coaches like Brad Gilbert get paid? Do they get a salary and expense money? Do they get a percentage of a player's winnings? Also, do you think that it is really necessary for a top player to have a coach?
The standard is that players pay coaches what they would otherwise earn giving lessons (usually $1,000-$1,500 a week), plus expenses. Most coaches have bonuses tied to a player's performance at a particular tournament or standing in the year-end rankings. (Others learn the hard way. According to a classic, if apocryphal story, Michael Chang gave Jose Higueras a bonus for winning the French Open in 1989: a personal check for $50.)
All bets are off, though, for the top players. There are all sorts of rumors floating around, but suffice to say coaches like Gilbert, Larry Stefanki, Paul Annacone, Gavin Hopper and even Robert Van't Hof are doing far better than $1,500 a week, i.e., $75,000 a year. Not unlike Tiger Woods' caddie, I wouldn't be surprised if Gilbert brought home more than the vast majority of players on the circuit.
I'm not a monk -- or even a compassionate conservative, for that matter -- but could you come up with some expressions besides "get off my ass" and "pissed off" in your column? Your column is for all ages. Perhaps you'll have a clever retort to this, but I've read you for years and I know you have the ability to express yourself poetically in other ways. Parents of young tennis players would be grateful.
No clever retort. Sorry, Paul.
Can you explain why Pat McEnroe went with a classic underachiever like Justin Gimelstob over Chris Woodruff for the Davis Cup team? Didn't he watch Woodruff take apart Jan-Michael Gambill in Australia? And how could he forget Woodruff's clutch play in Davis Cup last year? Have we just seen McEnroe's first major blunder as captain?
I have it from good sources that when Woodruff beat Gambill in the first round in Melbourne, he assumed he'd be tapped for the singles post. When a guarantee from Pat McEnroe wasn't forthcoming, Woodruff was livid and decided not to make the trip and risk sitting on the bench. As for Gimelstob, he was named to the team because of his doubles acumen -- and his ability to make animal shadow puppets on the team flight. McEnroe's first gaff would have been installing his big brother in the doubles slot. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Let's wait and see how the team fares against the Swiss Misters before enumerating blunders.
How is it that you and others in the press go on about how "gracious" Magnus Norman was in conceding match point to Sebastian Grosjean? Can't you guys see that he knew he was beaten, the crowd was on its feet cheering the end of the match and he was tired, so he said, "What the hell." If anything, you should be saying he's lazy for tanking. Norman is a very nice guy, but let's not read into his actions too much and give him credit that's undeserved.
You're right that Grosjean had Norman dead to rights, but I still say it was a noble gesture. Norman would have been well within his rights to retreat to the ad-court and make Grosjean play another ball. For perspective, imagine Shaquille O'Neal drawing a foul, even in a blowout, and saying, "He didn't touch me, ref. Grizzlies ball." Better yet, imagine if Arnaud Clement had conceded a match point against Grosjean.
Here's one that's bound to land you in hot water (which seems to be half the fun here anyway!). How would you rank the top five players of the Open era, regardless of gender? That is to say, was Steffi Graf a greater champion than Pete Sampras? Was John McEnroe more accomplished than Martina Navratilova?
You're right, this is an invitation for fans of Chris Evert, Mac, Ivan Lendl, etc., to get their knives out, but I'll say:
1) Steffi Graf
What happened to Elena Likhovtseva and Mirjana Lucic? A few years ago they were highly touted as being the next thing in women's tennis, but they've all but disappeared. Likhovtseva went out of the Australian Open in the first round (against a tough Barbara Schett), and Lucic has vanished -- she didn't even play the Australian. Have they already passed their prime?
I'm not sure I'd mention them in the same breath. Likhovtseva, who has been on the circuit for a while now, is a workaholic who seems content to earn a mid-six-figure income and hover in the No. 15-25 range. She's a nice enough player who acquits herself well in doubles and is a good athlete. But don't look for her late in the second week of any Slams. (On the other hand, she gets bonus points for eloping in Vegas after a Fed Cup tie a few years ago.)
Lucic is in another category. After reaching the Wimbledon semis in 1999 and making the 2000 Commitment List, she has fallen hard. Out of shape and out of sorts, she's no longer ranked in double digits and has to qualify for most events. If you believe her -- and many don't -- she's still a teenager, but her once-promising career is in serious jeopardy.
This isn't really a tennis question, but what the hay. For someone who is on the road as often as you seem to be, what are your top-five tips for travel?
What the hay is right.
1) Call home every night.
2) Join one of the rental-car company's preferred customers club. It's well worth the $50 not to have to wait in those ridiculous lines while Winfred from Terre Haute calls his insurance agent to see if he should accept or decline the collision coverage.
3) If you're like me and don't require special tonsorial treatment, get a haircut. It's a great way to kill an hour and a local barber will have infinitely richer insights about the city than any concierge.
4) Better to eat alone in a restaurant than to order room service.
5) Avoid Detroit Metro Airport at all costs.
AN UPDATE on Magnus Larsson, courtesy of reader David Law of Monte Carlo:
"Our ATP player services department tells me that Magnus had knee surgery (I remember he walked into the ATP office in Monte Carlo one day with a frightening-looking contraption on his leg) and is back hitting tennis balls. He hopes to come back with a protected ESP of 57 to enter the tournament at River Oaks in Houston, April 30-May 6. With a forehand and serve like he has, it's best not to count him out just yet."
FINALLY, BE sure to tune in Sunday at 8 p.m. for a special episode of The Simpsons featuring Agassi, Sampras and the Williams sisters. It's a sure bet to head all future top-five lists.
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