Is Roddick fragile?
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim will answer your tennis questions every Monday. Click here to send a question.
We jump straight in this week ...
I just read that Andy Roddick is injured ... again. It looks to be nothing major, but he seems very brittle for a 19-year-old. Is it too soon for American men's tennis fans to worry about The Franchise? Also, am I the only one who winces watching him skid and dive on hard courts? It seems that with his already growing injury problems, he would be wise to rein it in a couple of notches. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate his hustle, but I want him to be physically ready in the future when the bell rings for big events. Patrick McEnroe must be holding his breath right now.
A few questions this week about Roddick's perceived frailty. My concern isn't with his lower extremities, but with his arm. I watch that jerky forehand and that exaggerated service grip and I can't help thinking of the 13-year-old that throws a mean curveball [insert Rolando Paulino All-Stars joke here].
That said, I'm not worried too much about Roddick's injury problems quite yet. As we saw with the Williams sisters and see with phenoms in all sports, young athletes are often unsure about the limits of their bodies. They have yet to be tested physically and are figuring out what's a nagging injury and what warrants defaulting immediately. My guess is that Roddick is taking a conservative approach to his body, asking himself, Is it really worth jeopardizing a 10-plus-year career by playing through this injury during a forgettable Tuesday night match in Hong Kong?
Please point out to those journalists who have bashed the Williams sisters for their Sports Illustrated photo (in which they are draped in American flags) that the photo was taken in 2000 and that the magazine was published prior to Sept. 11. Also, how could you not include the best tennis commercial of all time in your list: the Mary Joe Fernandez-Anna Kournikova commercial for Charles Schwab!
First, the frivolous: The Charles Schwab ad probably belongs in the top five, though the bloom is certainly off the Anna rose these days.
Regarding the Williams sisters, you are correct on all counts. That issue "went to bed" on Sept. 10, before the cataclysmic events. The photo was originally supposed to be part of an Olympic package -- they weren't gratuitously posing with the flag. Those columns about the Williams sisters' "disrespect" were wrong-headed.
Here's my question for you guys: Tons of readers were up in arms about this photo, blasting either the sisters for posing or the magazine for printing it. The story, meanwhile, contained a passage in which Oracene Williams confirmed that Richard had assaulted her and that she plans on filing divorce papers. Given that Richard trumpets himself as a paragon of fatherhood and given that the Williams' "family affair" theme was inescapable at the Open, I would have thought that this revelation would have been a semi-blockbuster. Yet it hardly provoked much reaction -- outrage or otherwise -- from you. How come?
Based on the criteria you used, I'm really surprised that you think Pam Shriver should be voted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame but not Michael Chang (or at least you think he's a longshot). I, too, think Shriver is a Hall of Famer, but I believe Chang should be in there also. Chang easily matches the standards you used for Shriver.
I think it's insulting when you imply that Chang would need help from the fact that he's the best tennis player of Asian descent to boost his chances of entering the Hall.
Also, I think there are two factors that make it hard for some people to consider Chang's candidacy:
1) Unfortunately, Pete Sampras, probably the greatest of all time (or close to it), overshadowed Chang when both were at their peak.
2) There's a bias for strong, power players. People aren't as impressed with quick, thinking players.
You make a compelling -- even convincing -- case. Just to play devil's advocate:
1) Unlike Chang, Shriver never won a Grand Slam singles title, but she's on the short list of the best doubles players of all time. Consider that she won every Slam at least four times, including the Australian seven years straight.
2) Chang's philanthropic work with Asian causes, wildlife, literacy, etc., is admirable. But he has never been particularly vocal or political within tennis. I'm not saying that Chang should be condemned for this, but I think it's fair to say that Shriver has done more off the court for the good of the sport. Chang's spotty Davis Cup record also cuts against him.
3) I'm not implying that Chang "needs help" by being the first Asian-American champion. I simply think it's a factor that improves his composite candidacy. Not to diminish his skills, but he is a first -- just as Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson were firsts -- and that carries historical significance.
Regarding your five favorite tennis-related commercials: How could you leave out my favorite, that Heineken spot a few years ago? It was set in some sort of pub and ball kids were picking up bottles off the table as soon as they were set down. That ad was a stroke of genius.
Yeah, I loved that one too. Those incessant Lincoln ads that ran during the Open were cheap knockoffs.
In regard to your list of the top five tennis-related commercials of all time, how can you possibly omit the Nike commercial that featured Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras jumping out of a cab in midtown Manhattan and playing right there in the middle of the street? It was right at the point where Agassi was finally starting to reach his true potential, and they were (if I'm not mistaken) ranked 1 and 2 in the world.
Good points all. If memory serves, that ad was tied too closely to their 1995 U.S. Open final. When Agassi began to freefall, it became a bit obsolete.
Since the Fed Cup final will be played on clay, do you think Billie Jean King should ignore the rankings when choosing the team? Who would choose a Lindsay Davenport or a Serena Williams over a Monica Seles on clay? I think Seles and Jennifer Capriati should play singles since both have won at Roland Garros; likewise, Serena and Venus in doubles. What are your thoughts?
Having embarrassed herself last year by flouting the rankings and opting for Serena over Lisa Raymond for the Olympic team, BJK would do well to play by the book this time, particularly since the players are so closely matched. Clay certainly helps Seles' and Capriati's chances while working against Davenport and, to a lesser extent, the Williams sisters. But the truth is that Venus and Serena are simply the best players in the game today -- surface be damned, rankings be damned.
I have been watching Daniela Hantuchova since she lost to Anna Kournikova in Australia. I think she has great potential. If she builds up a little more muscle she will be a very serious threat for years to come. She has a great serve-and-volley game and is about the same height as Lindsay Davenport. I was wondering if you have ever seen Hantuchova play and how you think she will fair in the pros.
I couldn't agree more. The long-legged Hantuchova, the reigning Wimbledon mixed-doubles champ with Leos Friedl, is on the short list of players to watch. She is right around 6 feet but moves well, volleys well and she's only 18. She gave Venus a good run at Wimbledon and feeds off pace. I say a year or two of seasoning is the missing ingredient before she's a top-20 player.
You've made clear your love of the Rochus brothers. But I'm wondering if there are any undersized women's players we should be rooting for?
The obvious name is Justine Henin, whose 5-foot-5 height is perfectly average in "real life" but renders her a veritable Muggsy Bogues on the WTA Tour. Meilien Tu is listed at 5-4, but I'm not sure she's taller than 5-2 (five-Tu). Sonya Jeyaseelan is 5-2, as is Anna Smashnova. For my money, the closest the WTA Tour gets to a Rochus is 5-footer Tatiana Panova, who looks like she should be wielding a lollipop and welcoming Dorothy to Munchkin Land. I remember walking by her practice court in San Diego a few years ago and thinking, This player has unbelievable strokes. She has to be the nation's best 10-year-old.
To the high-ranking ATP official who laughed at you when you suggested inventing something that monitors whether the ball goes out or not: Linespeople have been absent from the Hopman Cup in Perth for years now because the tournament uses such a monitoring system. I'm not sure what it is, but it works so well that players don't complain and television viewers can be told how close a ball was to the nearest millimeter!
I confess knowing nothing about this, but thanks for your insights.
I pretty much have faith that umpires make calls as they see them, but I make an exception for foot faults. It's as arbitrary, subjective and mentally breaking a call as you can get. As far as I can remember, foot faults have always been called at bad times (on Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon, Lleyton Hewitt at U.S. Open, to name two this year), and because there is no possible overrule line judges know they can get away with it. In my opinion, they occassionally use this to try to influence matches. So while I don't like the idea of replacing all the judges with Cyclops machines, what do you think about using a camera to verify foot faults and giving another judge power to overrule it?
I take the opposite view. These umpires are only a few feet away and they're staring at the players' feet when they serve; when players flagrantly trespass the baseline, the judges make the call. Period. Unlike a line call, where the umpires may be looking elsewhere or have an obstructed view, foot faults are no-brainers as far as I'm concerned. Still, players -- who are never looking at their feet when they serve -- argue them as vehemently as they do line calls.
It's true that foot faults seem to be called at the least opportune moments. But in a sense, that stands to reason. In the crucial stages of matches, players are more likely to stray from their routines or become overeager to get to the net.
Does everyone have to adjust his/her racket strings after every point? Is there some rule requiring this? Two players have a great rally, someone hits a blazing forehand, the crowd goes wild, and there's the player, head down, checking those darn strings. Do players think this is the cool thing to do? And can all this be blamed on athletes idolizing Pete Sampras?
Every dime-store tennis shrink tells players to concentrate between points by staring into their strings.
What's the deal with Mary Pierce? Her absence from the tour has practically gone unnoticed. If she reads your column, I hope she knows she has many fans awaiting any word on her retirement or her return to the tour.
Who knows what's up with Pierce? Her shoulder is a wreck, but I know a number of players suspect her troubles are also between the ears. One hears conflicting reports about her return, but say this: It's inconceivable that she was a Grand Slam champion just 16 months ago.
FINALLY, crushing news: Owing to a menacing letter from a corporate attorney, peppered with terms like "copyright infringement," the Long Lost Siblings segment has been suspended until Mailbag in-house counsel can figure out a way to run the celeb shots without risking fine or imprisonment.
Meantime, how about a soundalikes segment? I'll get the ball rolling: the gravel-voiced Goran Ivanisevic and rapper DMX. OK, maybe not.
I'm open to suggestions if you guys have alternative ideas.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim, author of Venus Envy: A Sensational Season Inside the Women's Tennis Tour, is a regular contributor to CNNSI.com. Click here to send him a question or comment.