Roddick is a class act
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim will answer your tennis questions every Monday. Click here to send a question.
Sorry I'm late. Had an absolutely hellish flight back from Miami. I don't want to tell you what airline I flew. But I will say that it was named for a country, the capital of which is Washington, D.C.
Anyhow, some random post-Ericsson notes: Keep an eye on that Andre Agassi -- he could be a real comer ... Venus Williams draws plenty of heat, some of it justified, for her lack of commitment to the women's Tour. But consider this scene: an hour after winning the Ericsson for the third time in four years -- in a 144-minute match that ended 7-6 in the third, no less -- she marched to the NASDAQ corporate suite and schmoozed with the bigwigs from the Tour's new presenting sponsor ... Says here Jennifer Capriati shakes off Saturday's fiasco just fine. Given where she's been, failing to convert eight match points in the final of a big-ticket event hardly necessitates a hemlock run ... Weird Scene No.1: Assorted members of Pearl Jam giving the Aussies a pep talk in the bowels of the Crandon Park stadium before the Mates left for their Davis Cup tie in Brazil .. Weird Scene No.2: Heidi Graf elevating from her seat and clapping for Agassi ... Line of the week: Bud Collins, while hawking his tennis anthology, a must have for tennis fans: "Only $20. Cheaper than a U.S. Open hot dog."
What's your opinion of Andy Roddick? Is he really that good? It seems to me
that he still has a lot to prove. If he wasn't American, he'd be just another
No doubt Roddick has a lot to prove. He wouldn't argue that either. As Lleyton Hewitt laid bare in the quarterfinal match, Roddick needs to be more patient, vary his second serve, and play smarter on big points. As a former Wimbledon champ told me recently, "Right now, Roddick is a hitter, not a player." Still, it's hard not to be excited about his prospects. It wasn't just that at age 18, he marched onto Stadium Court at a Masters Series event and took out Pete Sampras. It was the serves to Sampras' body that nearly left exit wounds, the monster forehand, the footwork and innate athleticism that will serve him well on clay. As I wrote last week, more impressive still was that he staved off a letdown after the match and took out Andrei Pavel, no slouch of a player, in his subsequent match.
Would Roddick be trailed by such hype were he not an American? Probably not. After all, J-C Ferrero isn't a whole lot older and he's already reached a Grand Slam semifinal. But after years of watching highly touted Americans gobble up wild cards and struggle to crack the top 50, it's easy to see why the Roddick bandwagon is filling up fast. Roddick also helps his case by being a good kid. Call me old-fashioned, but when he respectfully removed his cap before shaking Sampras' hand at the net, I thought it was an immensely classy touch.
I want to know why you are such a jerk when a question concerning Martina
Hingis comes up. Personally I am tired of hearing you put her down for no
reason. As much as you kiss up to the Williamses, I think you should move in
with them. They can do no wrong in your eyes and Hingis can do no right. The
Williamses attacked the women on the WTA Tour and Hingis replied that there was
no racism on the tour. Where is your evidence that racism exists
The dozens of readers who lambasted me for "kissing up to Hingis" and "acting like a jerk when a question concerning the Williams sisters comes up" will get a kick out of your bilious screed. I really didn't want to revisit WilliamsGate but here's a quick answer: Like most journalists, I both admire and benefit from Hingis' unstinting candor. She is well within her rights to offer her perceptions about racism or the lack thereof on the WTA Tour. Still, when she makes belligerent arguments such as the Williams sisters have an advantage being black because no one wants to be labeled a racist , we are within our rights to take exception.
I recently read Chris Evert's prediction for the future of women's tennis. To
paraphrase, Evert believes that after Hingis relinquishes the No. 1 ranking,
we'll never again see a player of her size (5-foot-7) ascend to the top spot.
Evert argues that power hitters will forever dominate the sport. But isn't that
what talking heads like Evert were saying before Hingis came along? Do you agree
with Evert? Is Hingis definitely the last of a dying, finesse-oriented
"Definitely the last of a dying breed" is exceedingly grim. But overall I agree with Mme. Evert. Muscles, height and power are practically prerequisites for success on the WTA Tour. Never mind the Williams sisters, the most obvious exponents. Watch Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce, Monica Seles, and now Kim Clijsters, Elena Dementieva and Elena Bovina, and you'll see it's simply unfair that they compete in the same weight class as players like Hingis -- who at 5-7, is hardly a shrimp -- on down. Hingis is so ridiculously gifted and instinctual, and yet it's clear her grasp is slipping. Against Venus the other day, her presence was almost incidental: Williams would either smack a winner or unload an unforced error. So long as you're completely at the mercy of your opponents, it's hard to be the best in the business.
In any case, it will be interesting to see how a relative peewee like Justine Henin will hold her own these next few years. She's a feisty competitor with an all-court game and a splendiferous backhand. But at 5-6 and 125 pounds, she's at an appreciable disadvantage when she faces many other challengers.
A comment on the performance-enhancing outfit of Hingis: I believe
it's the same principle as the compression shorts worn nowadays -- something
about keeping the muscles compressed during performance improves performance and
That I believe; it's the claim that it improves her performance by X percent that I find spurious. By the way, if this material makes her 10 percent better, what do you suppose her semifinal score against Venus would have been had she been wearing cotton?
It seems there is a lack of "artists" in women's tennis today. All
things considered, could a graceful player like Suzanne Lenglen or Maria Bueno
compete competitively in today's
Good question. There are plenty of artists in women's tennis. I consider Lisa Raymond graceful, same goes for Hingis, Pavlina Nola, and the aforementioned Henin. The problem is, as the Ericsson final attests, players don't need a lot of finesse and grace in their games to be successful. Aesthetically, the choice is obvious. But from a sheer performance perspective, give me Venus' grip-and-rip power over Maria Bueno's celerity any day.
As a student at the University of Kentucky, I found a comment in your
previous mailbag to be offensive. A reader claimed to have read in a
"UK newspaper" that Hingis' outfit with the long right sleeve is not
so much a fashion statement but an attempt to add power to her shots. You
replied, "By UK newspaper, surely you mean University of Kentucky. I can't
imagine that even the most dubious British tabloid would run with that
story." I'll have you know that our school paper has won numerous accolades
and is regarded as one of the best college publications in the country. I mean
come on, just because we're from Kentucky doesn't make us any more
"dubious" than the British. And I would wager that a fair amount of
our journalists are much less "dubious" than you and your
I'll fess up. That was a cheap shot. My alibi: When you come from southern Indiana, mocking Kentucky is a habit spawned at birth. Sorry, though. And good luck peeling those M&M's.
Finally, in an effort to diffuse the considerable tension from the Williams controversy, I asked readers to give me their list of reasons why tennis is superior to golf. Many of you cited Agassi's observation: "Golf. It's not a sport if you can play it drunk." The other popular answer was: If the ball isn't a moving object when you strike it, it ain't a sport. (Though I wonder what then are we to make of returning Gabriella Sabatini's second serve?)
Last word goes to Joe Lynch of Gettysburg, Pa. who was kind enough to offer this opinion:
Why is tennis vastly superior to golf, you ask?
10. You can carry your racquet on and off an airplane instead of having to check your clubs and then pick them up at the "oversized baggage" claim area upon arrival.
9. You can't be a fat old man and excel.
8. You don't need six hours to finish a game on the weekend.
7. You don't have to cough up $100 to play every time out.
6. Golf is not a sport -- it's a game (like darts).
5. You actually sweat while participating.
4. You can see all the top men and all the top women at the same big events.
3. You can play indoors when it rains/gets cold.
2. Professional tennis players are all wannabe rock stars, and rock stars are wannabe tennis players.
1. Tennis is played by ATHLETES.
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