Early thoughts on Wimbledon
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim will answer your tennis questions every Monday. Click here to send a question.
Is CNNSI.com giving away free Sergio Tacchini shoes with each Mailbag entry these days? The 'Bag was more swollen than ever this week. I think we hit triple-digit questions by Wednesday. Thank you for your support, as Bartles and Jaymes might say. Lots of questions about Wimbledon. Check back later in the week for a seed report. However, unless I quit my day job, I can't, unfortunately, get to all of your queries, but there were some recurring themes:
WIMBLEDON'S SEEDING FORMULA
You love it. You hate it. You're confused and frustrated to the point of Ulhas from New Delhi, who suggests scrapping seeding altogether -- that action might yield disastrous first-round matchups but it would extinguish the controversy. My take? The compromise struck by the boys at the All England is downright Solomonic. They refuse to slavishly follow the rankings, which would have meant seeding Pete Sampras -- who has won 53 of his last 54 Wimbledon matches -- behind Marat Safin. On the other hand, the creation of an objective, empirically-based formula assures that the seeding isn't totally arbitrary. That is, there will be no Greg Rusedski redux. Further, the 32 seeds means that top players hurt by the formula still need not worry about facing a Sampras in the first round. Well done, boys.
Many of you point out that Sampras was seeded fifth at Roland Garros despite his futility on clay, so why shouldn't Gustavo Kuerten (were he playing) be seeded first at Wimbledon, even though he has less use for grass than Bill Bennett? My response: Were Sampras seeded appreciably lower than fifth at Roland Garros, it would have been completely justified. Conversely, had clay-court cynosure Juan Carlos Ferrero been seeded second (not fourth) in Paris, that would have been utterly acceptable, too. I've said this before: the gripes of the Spaniards et al. ought to be with the French Tennis Federation, not with Wimbledon. Seeds exist as much to forecast a draw as to reward previous accomplishments. Seeding a player like Alex Corretja No. 9 when he has never made it beyond the second round at Wimbledon (and won just two games off Jerome Golmard -- Jerome Golmard! -- in last week's tuneup), makes no sense.
HOW WILL MONICA SELES FARE AT WIMBLEDON?
However poorly she's playing, Monica Seles should rest assured that she has a fan base as collectively optimistic as it is vocal. As Carry P. of Chicago writes: "I would loooooove to see Monica finally do it at Wimbledon." Hate to sound harsh (really), but I would looooooove to speak Mandarin, hit Justine Henin's backhand, and learn to play Welcome to the Jungle on the ukulele. All options, alas, are equally unlikely. As I've said in the past, we're all rooting for Seles at some level. But let's be realistic: She's battling injuries; she's already lost to dynamos like Tatiana Garbin and Rossana de los Rios this year; and even in the best of times, she had a hard go of it on grass.
Late-breaking news: Seles has pulled out of Wimbeldon. So she definitely won't win.
WAS ALEXANDRA STEVENSON EATING PAINT CHIPS WHEN SHE SAID SHE INTENDS ON WINNING WIMBLEDON?
Doyle Srader of Nagodoches, Texas, writes: " Alexandra Stevenson has been doing a lot of bragging over the past couple of days, and I have to wonder how seriously anyone is taking this. Do they think it's just been a rough two years since her 15 minutes of fame and she really has a chance to win Wimbledon, or does she touch off a lot of eye rolling and smirking?" Liane Ye of New Haven, Conn., put down her Louie's hamburger long enough to opine: "I would rather watch Anna Kournikova than Stevenson ... that's how unbearable Stevenson is." Ted McCarthy of Baltimore is angrier still. "I love how a player ranked around No. 130, who has won maybe seven matches in the two years since Wimbledon 1999 comes out with 'I plan on winning Wimbledon this year.' What a complete joke. I hope she loses in the first round. Sorry. Had to vent."
To answer the lone question here, Alexandra Stevenson has gone from a fresh-faced curiosity (albeit with a tabloid-worthy story) to an annoyance and then to a source of pity. She is disliked as intensely as any player on tour. But there is growing sentiment among Stevenson's colleagues that her omnipresent, attention-craving mother saddles her with unrealistic expectations and ultimately is the one to be blamed for the manifold etiquette breaches. You folks catch that Samantha Stevenson ripped newspaper clippings off the walls at the Birmingham tournament because they referred to Alexandra's second-round defeat? (Another advantage of writing an Internet column. The Tennis Mailbag: Out of Samantha Stevenson's reach since 1998.) The WTA Tour cited her for "vandalizing club property."
On to more questions ...
Shame on you for answering Stelio Savante's question with only a list of the top male players of the Open era. Nowhere in his question did he give any indication that he was asking only about the men. While I agree it makes sense to have separate men's and women's lists, your decision to give us only a list of the men is yet another blatant example of the sexism of the sports world in general and the sports media in particular.
Jason Romero of Bucks, Pa., raised the same point. I plead innocent. Sort of. Some of you preface your wonderful questions with filibusters. At times, I take the liberty of editing these submissions before they induce reader narcolepsy. In this case, I truncated Stelio's question -- which was exclusively about males -- but failed to make it clear to you that he was seeking a gender-specific answer. Mea culpa for lousy editing. Anyway, we're all about gender equity here at the 'Bag, so here are the top 10 women over the past 25 years:
*NB: The great Billie Jean King won her last Grand Slam in 1975.
Let's switch to the hurry-up offense to accommodate as many of you as possible. In short-answer format ...
Think of a "mensch" as a "fair dinkum mate," only with an overbearing mother.
"Gustavo Kuerten plays well on clay but is so mediocre on other surfaces that he has a hard time capturing the imagination." Mediocre? This "mediocre" tennis player won Portugal last year, remember? He beat Magnus Norman, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Andre Agassi and ... who else? ... Pete Sampras. And it wasn't on clay.
You and I respect Kuerten deeply and stand (sit, anyway) in awe of his accomplishments. But casual fans have a hard time embracing a player yet to advance beyond the quarters of a Slam besides the French.
Before Pistol Pete Sampras, there was Pistol Pete Maravich. Before A-Rod Andy Roddick, there was A-Rod Alex Rodriguez. Why can't you tennis media people come up with original nicknames for tennis players?
Without further ado, we present Albert (Drop Shot Dragon) Portas.
What do you think the future holds for Martina Hingis?
It's all in the shoes.
Where is Irina Spirlea?
She's sipping vino with Jenny McCarthy, Alicia Silverstone and Thomas Muster in the Where Are They Now? lounge. Seriously, she's retired and living in Rome, I'm told, far away from Richard Williams.
Can you see any quarterfinalists from this year's French Open duplicating their feat at Wimbledon?
Agassi and Hewitt. Maybe the Fed (Roger Federer).
Martina Hingis said that her match with Jennifer Capriati was effectively the French Open final. Perhaps it was a good thing for Martina's ego that she didn't get to the real final. Do you think she could have beaten Kim Clijster's power game?
Clijsters proved at Indian Wells that she's capable of overpowering Hingis; besides, which of the two gave Capriati a better match?
Going back to your tennis/celebrity/athlete lookalikes from a couple of weeks back, don't you think the current First Couple of tennis, Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters, look eerily similar?
Judge for yourself.
I think the reason the cereal is called Grape Nuts because it has the taste and texture of grape seeds. I guess Grape Nuts just sounds better than Grape Seeds.
Insert West Virginia joke here.
I have a thought regarding dirt (or the lack of it) on the tennis balls used at the French Open: Dry Ball + Clay + Hitting = No Dirt. Wet Ball + Clay + Hitting = Dirty Laundry.
Insert Manila joke here.
I hear there's no such thing as stupid questions, only stupid people. So I'll take a risk and hope you don't place me in the latter category. What exactly does it mean to be a wild card in a tournament? I always assumed that it meant you didn't meet the qualifications to enter, but were allowed into the main draw anyway by discretion of the tournament officials. But I saw this week where Pete Sampras was given a wild card in the Queen's Club and was seeded second. How can you be a wild card and be seeded? By the way, your column is great. It gives me an excuse not to work for a few minutes each week.
Not stupid at all. Your assumption is essentially correct, but wild cards also can be bestowed on players who are ranked sufficiently high but missed the cut-off date to enter. (Now get back to work.)
I can't help but notice your defense of Andy Roddick when someone suggested that he faked his injury at the French Open. I also noticed the lack of any defense whatsoever from you or any member of the media both in the U.S. and Britain when the Williams sisters are and were being accused -- in most cases without substance -- of faking injuries or tanking matches. I hate saying it, but there seems to be an unconscious element of guilty until proven innocent because of their race.
When Roddick pulls out of a draw -- not retires during a match -- for the quadzillionth time citing an injury no one previously knew existed, rest assured there will be just as much skepticism.
Could you please print the phonetic spelling of Kuerten the way Gustavo Kuerten himself pronounces it?
I know what you're thinking: Tanzania, far out! Anyway, what did you think of Gustavo Kuerten drawing a heart and lying in it to thank the partisan crowd? And do you feel that the tour marginalia will start giving him a hard time in light of his accomplishments?
Tanzania, far out! The "heart art" was a nice touch. Guga's too well-liked in the locker room for anyone to give him a hard time about it.
Enjoyed your discussion of announcers, present and potential. Have you ever heard Bud Collins do play-by-play? I think he's the best play-by-play tennis announcer there is. But he's almost never given the chance to strut his stuff. His colorful color is entertaining and informative, but his best talent is being wasted. What do you think?
Bud Collins is too good for contemporary TV.
Perhaps you should qualify your comment about Andy Roddick and 18-year-old boys dancing in public to 18-year-old European-American boys. Young men from the African-American, Hispanic and Filipino cultures have no problem getting their groove on in public.
What does Gustavo Kuerten need to do to be part of the Tennis Hall of Fame?
It'd be nice if he picked up another Slam somewhere other than Paris. But I'd say three Slams, a Masters Cup, a protracted run at No. 1 and some Davis Cup success are pretty solid credentials.
Could you enlighten me on Bjorn Borg's record at the Australian Open (he won no titles there) ? How many times did he play there?
In 1973, Borg made his lone trip to Melbourne and reached the third round. Not exactly in the running for that Quantas endorsement.
I noticed your list of the top tennis players of the past 25 years. I can't say that I really disagree. Here's my question: How is it that Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, but Ivan Lendl is not?
Lendl will be inducted later this summer.
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