Time off would serve Hingis well
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim will answer your tennis questions every Monday. Click here to send a question.
We have a special treat here at the Mailbag. In the name of corporate synergy, CNN's Larry King, a closet tennis fan, has agreed to write the introduction to this week's column in the manner of his popular USA Today column. Without further ado, I give you the King of all media...
Gustavo Kuerten is to clay, what Fred Astaire was to a polished dance floor... Who has the rights to Jennifer Capriati's screenplay?... With all those top players either truant or out in the early rounds of the Monte Carlo, shouldn't it be reclassified as a Subordinate Series Event?... My left foot's asleep... Can I get a what what?... If you think ISL is doing poorly, imagine how things are going over at ISL.com.
It's going to be a great year for soft-shell crabs... Tuscan reds too... Never had him on the show, but that Joey Ramone sure was a firecracker... Who exactly buys those $10 cans of lavender and maroon tennis balls at Eddie Bauer?... Pavlina Nola sounds like a ballet dancer's name... Denise Rich and Hugh Rodham and Linda Dozoretz and James Riady ; now that's a mixed doubles match I'd pay to watch... I'm cold... And frightened.
If they come any funnier than that wacky Nathan Lane, I haven't see 'em... "You are the weakest link. Good-bye" has already become as trite as "The tribe has spoken" and "Is that your final answer?"... "Facetious" is the only English word that contains all five vowels consecutively... Now my right foot's asleep... When did oldies stop being golden and start being jammin'?... Tune in tonight when my guest will be Dyan Cannon.
On to a pretty sparse mailbag's worth of questions..
Is Martina Hingis playing so often just to preserve her ranking? Here we are
in late-April and she's about to embark on her ninth tournament of the year. Her
flat performance at Amelia Island tells me that she's burning out a bit with
It's hard to believe we're actually telling a top player to compete less , but I'm with you. I think Hingis would be well-served to take a break from the Tour and return to Saddlebrook to work on her game. I somewhat discount her recent performances -- a brutal loss to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in Amelia and a less brutal loss in the Charleston final to Capriati -- because she was adjusting to playing without her mom present. Still, it's becoming increasingly clear that she needs to figure out a way to stave off the heavy hitters whose missiles render all of courtcraft and guile moot. In particular, she needs desperately to add some punch to a second serve that can practically be timed with a sundial.
Why is she playing so much? For one, unlike so many other top players, she has the good fortune to be healthy, so as long as the points are there, why not make like Pac-Man and gobble them up? But there's an element of the free market at work here, too. Suffice it to say, a top player can garner more than mere prize money by playing a full schedule.
After Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario won her first title in two years at Porto, and
after her stunning 6-2, 6-4 defeat over Martina Hingis at Amelia Island, what do
you think about her chances in the upcoming clay court season? I think they are
looking very good, indeed. With the string of injuries to top players, and the
Williams sisters not playing that much, do you think that Sanchez-Vicario might
win Roland Garros this year?
I agree that the Ranch could do some damage during clay court season. As she showed in Amelia, she's still capable of whipping up a little something. Unfortunately, as she showed in Charleston with last week's early match loss to Elena Likhovtseva, Sanchez-Vicario is not the player she once was.Regardless of where she's seeded, A.S.V. will be a player no one will want to face at Roland Garros. But for her to win the tournament, it will take a miracle worthy of Lourdes.
Now that Greg Rusedski has split with his coach, I've heard folks comment on
what great timing it is for Pat Cash and a now coachless Tim Henman to hook up.
I am hoping Henman holds out for Stefan Edberg, if Edberg is interested. What do
Funny, I've heard the Henman and Edberg rumor, too. Still, I just don't see it. With the possible exception of Ivan Lendl, Edberg has to be the least likely former pro to spend 30 weeks a year traveling the circuit. What's more, what Henman needs more than anything is a martinet to help him find -- WARNING: sports cliché alert -- the killer instinct. For all his virtues and admirable qualities, going for the jugular is not Edberg's strong suit. (By the way, I'm told that Henman's ex-coach, David Felgate, has agreed to coach Xavier Malisse through the U.S. Open.)
Speaking of Cash --or lack thereof -- you'd think the former Wimbledon champ would have learned from his falling out with Mark Philippoussis: Get your financials straight before you start working with a player.
Getting back to the issue of doubles in the
ATP, don't you think that the Tour might be
best served to scrap doubles altogether? It really is a ridiculously charmed
life that the Sandon Stolles and Jeff Tarangos live while juicing their marginal
abilities. I think it's unfair that players like Magnus Gustafsson, Karol Kucera
and Galo Blanco have to fight it out in the qualies just for a chance to play
one of the top seeds in the first round of the main
You're certainly not alone in suggesting that doubles be scrapped entirely. If the current doubles reforms don't work, the Tour can certainly say: "Look, we tried to make doubles more appealing and financially viable and it just isn't happening. Sorry guys." You're also in good company regarding your concern that solid singles players like Blanco, Kucera and Jiri Novak are struggling to make the main draws of Masters Series events while inferior players make some nice cake. As Larry Scott, the Tour's No. 2 in command told me in Australia: "We feel that to be a pro player you should have a certain amount of credibility in singles."
Having said all that, there are practical reasons for keeping doubles. First, it is filler content, so to speak, for events that try to create as many sessions as possible. Even if the singles match of a night session is a stinker, fans can stay for the subsequent doubles and feel like they received their money's worth. Too, as long as doubles is part of the Davis Cup and is played at the Grand Slams, the Tour will continue to feature it.
Here are five additional suggestions for restoring the prestige of two-on-two tennis:
1) Play the doubles final on Friday night. Fans will feel as if they're watching
a match of consequence and scheduling doubles during a popular night session
will imbue it with
A while back you mentioned that the RCA Championship in Indianapolis was one
of the players favorite tournaments. A few weeks ago, I was at the Ericsson Open
where the tournament director said that the Ericsson was voted as a favorite by
the players. My question: What are the worst tournaments on both
Good question. Ironically the tournament that elicits the most passionate gripes among players is the one that disburses the most in prize money: the U.S. Open. As for actual Tour events, I haven't heard many complaints about a particular tournament on the men's side. On the WTA Tour, let's just say among players, there weren't many tears shed when the Philadelphia event announced it was moving to Europe. It came late in the year when players are at their crankiest and the venue, the Villanova basketball gym, was in middle of suburbia, half an hour from downtown. According to the participants, the indoor court was lousy, players not with IMG (which owned the event) were accorded second-class status, and the tournament hotels were lousy for the past several years.
There has been a huge drop-off so far this year for Mariano Puerta. What's
Puerta had surgery on his left wrist, which forced him off the Tour until Miami. When he came back, he claimed to be in good health, but then retired from his match in Monte Carlo with a back injury. It's bad luck for him; but don't cry for Argentina. That country still has a ton of players in the top 100.
Were my eyes playing tricks on me or was that really tennis legend Dodo
Cheney making a brief cameo last Monday on When Billie Beat Bobby. It's
been driving me crazy and I thought if anyone would know it would be you. By the
way, I picked up a copy of Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia and couldn't
put it down. Talk about information overload. Thanks for the
Cheney with a cameo role in When Billie Beat Bobby? Come on. Where would our vice president find time to act in movies? Rim shot, please. As for the octogenarian champ, I was sent a review tape of the movie that didn't include the credits. Can any of you help Keith preserve his sanity?
Finally, the winner of the "Where in the World is Nduka Odizor?" contest is Woody of Calgary. He informs us that: "The Duke is in Katy, Texas. His son Nick played tennis in high school there. I believe Nduka owns a tennis club there."
Have a good week everyone.
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