Janowicz breaks through in career run at Paris Masters, more mail
The 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz knocked off five top 20 players at the Paris Masters
He has a booming serve, but also shows a rare variety of drop shots and lobs
Serena Williams will likely take over No. 1 after the Australian Open; more mail
Now that I have power again, let's start with a public service announcement from the USTA. Now on to this week's mail ...
So is Jerzy Janowicz for real, or was it lightning in a bottle with an ultra-fast surface in Paris that favored his game and no Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic to contend with?
-- Robert, Reston, Va.
• Lots of questions on Jerzy Boy Janowicz this week. Let's pause first to acknowledge that David Ferrer was the player who actually won the Paris event last week. Incredibly, this marked A) Ferrer's first Masters Series title and B) his SEVENTH title of 2012, more than anyone in tennis. This, for a guy who is in his 30s and is 5-foot-9 while standing on his wallet. (Old joke.) In this era of the Big Four, there are often few speaking roles for the other cast members. But Ferrer is ranked No. 5 for a reason.
On to Jerzy, what a great week for him. After qualifying, he beat, if not a murderer's row, a Grade B felon's row -- Phil Kohlschreiber, Marin Cilic, Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Simon -- to reach the final. And, on its face, a 6-foot-8 21-year-old with a titanic serve and nifty shotmaking skills has a bright future. The cynic would say that one tournament isn't much of a sample size. And while Janowicz climbed 43 spots in the rankings to No. 26, he has still recently lost to players on the order of Inigo Cervantes and Dennis Novikov, an American teenager then ranked outside the top 1,000.
But lots to like here. Yet another reason we all eagerly await Australia.
I know that I may be the only one, but I was really excited about this Masters Series Paris tournament! I admire the Big Four as much as anyone, but I didn't miss them this weekend one bit. I'll see them in London. How could you not enjoy the unpredictability of who would step up to win that big title in their absence? I was hoping for the Jerzy boy, since I am from there (NJ, not Poland). And in all seriousness, my thoughts and my donations will be going out to the Northeast. Take care.
-- Chris De Tone, Clearwater, Fla.
• Thanks, Chris. I agree that after losing Federer/Nadal before the tournament and Djokovic/Murray during the tournament, the Paris event did OK. I would add that the World Tour Finals in London -- unfortunately abbreviated WTFs -- brings extra excitement this year. We've had some debate about the ATP's Player of the Year and I think there are credible cases to be made for Federer, Djokovic and Murray. In the likely event that one of them wins in London, it will factor heavily in the MVP considerations.
Quite disturbing to a Fed fan coming from his fellow countrymates. How much does $2 million add to his annual earnings of $50-60 million? It has always been a matter of scheduling for him. Davis Cup comes right amid peak season or in the end when one is totally spent. Someone who has brought so much glory to his country and undoubtedly the biggest ambassador this sport has ever seen, such a biased and baseless view is totally unfounded.
-- Ganapathy, Mumbai
• Something clearly got lost in translation as Ganapathy responds to my answer to a question last week about Maria Sharapova's comments on Australian Open prize money. This was my point about Federer: Every time he takes the court in a sanctioned event, he is being paid less than what the market bears. He can command $1 million a night for an exhibition. Even in London this week, his wages are far less. Yet he has made the decision, as have all players, that competing on an organized circuit -- which gives context and gravitas to his wins and losses, provides him exposure and enables him to appear on media outlets and websites -- is worth it.
I am really confused... Just read an article that said "Caroline Wozniacki beat Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 on Thursday to make it three wins from three at the season-ending Tournament of Champions." Didn't Serena win the "season-ending Tournament of Champions" last week? Did I miss something?
-- Kelvin, Charlotte
•Yeah, the branding/distinctions should be better here. But the WTA seized on a fine idea, holding the WTA Championships for the top eight players and then a second year-end event for the next tier. With the all attention/riches being hoarded by the Big Four, the ATP might do well to hold a similar event and give the John Isners and Juan Monacos and Milos Raonic types their showcase.
As for the WTA Tournament of Champions, held last week in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nadia Petrova capped a dynamite fall by taking the title. She pasted Wozniacki in the final 6-2, 6-1.
I can't be the only one who finds this claim from Serena Williams hilarious: "I've been No. 1 before and believe me, I'll be No. 1 again. It's just a matter of time." Not with her schedule she won't. No one can argue about her being the winningest player today, but No. 1 is not determined by how many Slams you've won -- it's a more holistic picture of the athlete's performance during the year. And Serena just isn't around for more than brief splashes of brilliance. Thoughts, comments? How likely is she to regain her No. 1 ranking without significantly altering her routine? (Baring any unforeseen misfortunes to the other top women, of course.)
-- Natasha, Toronto
• A few points:
A) Serena WILL be No. 1 after Australia in all likelihood. Which speaks to her level of dominance because -- as you and others note -- it's not due to her racking up points a la Wozniacki by playing an abundance of events.
B) Part of why Serena polarizes so profoundly: You have no idea what is going to come out of her mouth or whether she believes it. I remember one year at Wimbledon she was asked about Jennifer Capriati and said something to the effect of, "Jennifer is really funny." Jennifer Capriati is any of a thousand things. Funny is not one of them. It's like Mad Libs sometimes.
C) We had a lot of back and forth on Twitter about Serena's No. 3 ranking. She is the best in the business; she won more majors than anyone else this year and was a combined 8-0 against the two players ranked ahead of her. Here's the dilemma: The rankings are designed to reward merit but also to encourage players to enter many events, thus supporting the entire circuit. So which ranking system hurts the WTA's credibility more: one that is either subjective or invests so many points in majors it further discounts the run-of-the-mill tour stops? Or one that encourages and rewards frequent participation but makes it possible for Serena Williams to finish behind two other players? As I see it, this is the baseline question.
Reading about how women's tennis is no longer a teenage sport got me thinking (and I couldn't Google the right search terms to get this answer): What was the youngest combined women's Grand Slam final in the Open Era? I'm guessing it was probably the 1997 U.S. Open between Venus Williams and Martina Hingis.
-- Psquared, San Diego
• This goes to a point I raise (too) frequently. At a time when Big Data is all the rage, tennis is missing the boat here. This should be a simple question with a simple answer. "In the Open Era, what is the smallest combined age of two finalists?" The average fan should be able to find this without going to the ATP's Greg Sharko and WTA's Kevin Fischer. Go to Basketball-reference.com -- or analogues for other sports -- and look how much data you can access with a few keystrokes.
It is hard to believe that Svetlana Kuznetsova has dropped to No. 72 in the world. I always liked her. Do you see her coming back?
-- Joe, Easton, Pa.
• Will she come back to the top five? Unlikely. Can she make a deep run at a Slam or turn in a year like Petrova's? Sure.
Comparing hitting a fastball in front of a roaring crowd to hitting a tennis ball is a bad comparison. The issue is that, in tennis, the OPPONENT has to hear the ball being hit, so as to know whether the ball was hit cleanly, framed or some other subtlety. The shrieking during points should be stopped. Do what you will or exhale with an "uhh," but do not scream, shout, shriek or sound like you're being stabbed to death. And let's be clear, what Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Michelle Larcher de Brito and Maria Sharapova do is NOT grunting. It is screaming, and that is a hindrance. End of story. Get it straight. Even calling it grunting is a pragmatic attempt to mislead the argument. Jeez, Jon.
-- Doug Messenger, Los Angeles
• What are getting mad at me for? I don't grunt. Much less shout or scream.
A little discipline? Tennis needs some bad behavior. We need McEnroe and Edberg. Yin and yang. Chael Sonnen and Brock Lesnar were huge draws in MMA. Fedor, not so much. Just saying ...
-- Brandon, Chicago
• Yeah, this is also the big gripe against Hawk-Eye. Misbehavior sells. We need villains as well as heroes. Why tamp personality? Say what you will about McEnroe and Connors, but they weren't boring. I play the old-man card here and say that tennis ought to be above this. If players show personality, great. But if your sport needs "bad behavior" to be popular, I'd rather be niche.
A pretty good headline on SI Tennis, "Tsonga, Jankovic secure last spots at ATP Finals." Is that Tipsarevic's new nickname?
-- Steve B. Whittier, Calif.
• Sometimes we must turn the lens on ourselves.
• The ATP World Tour Finals will be played at the O2 Arena in London through 2015, and Barclays has extended its title sponsorship of the tournament.
• Dale Stafford of Atlanta: "The ongoing doping discussion inspired me to go back and re-read some David Foster Wallace, the late novelist laureate of tennis. Recall that doping at a junior tennis academy ('Enfield Tennis Academy'), and the robust market in 'clean' 10-and-under urine that dopers purchased to game the testing system, is a key theme of Infinite Jest. DFW was a researcher. It would surprise me if this was purely a figment of his imagination."
• Richard Wolf writes: "To go with your 10 worst songs ..."
• This reminds me of one of my favorite trivia questions: Who designed the CSN logo that Crosby, Stills and Nash used and is generally known as one of the most gifted album-cover designers?
• Glen Janney of Miami: "The reason snickering breaks out during a backhand slice rally is that we are laughing at hearing ourselves murmur 'ooh' in unison."
• Your must-buy book for this week: When Saturday Mattered Most by Sports Illustrated's Mark Beech.
• Who's that getting honored during the Fed Cup final? Yup, Jana Novotna was presented with the 2012 Fed Cup Award of Excellence on Saturday.
• Love the Djokovic as Darth Vader, but the best Halloween costume goes to ...
• Alex of Pennsylvania.: "One more stat to add to the 'blow-your-mind greatness of Roger Federer' category: Coming into the event, the Swiss master has more wins at the year-end championships (39) than the other seven players combined (34)."
• The Paris Indoors double winners: Bhupathi/Bopanna def Qureshi/Rojer 7-6 (6), 6-3.
• Oh, we have a second. Ivan H. of New York says: "Jon, this is my way of congratulating Janowicz on the biggest win of his career. Maybe some good PR will come out of this comparison! Janowicz's long-lost sibling: Mr. Law."