Davis Cup, Fed Cup at odds with today's globetrotting times; mail
Do you have any idea how ridiculous it sounds when a U.S. writer says it undercuts the international aspect of Davis Cup to have players who are born in one country and play for another? Would you say that if they had selected the U.S. instead? Your nation, like Canada, is predominately a country of immigrants, so what difference does it make what generation that happened in? I also recall that the U.S. was only too happy to have Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles get American citizenship and help the U.S. win several Fed Cups. Try not to let your double standard be so obvious.
-- Chris Dale, Sherwood Park, Alberta
• A lot of you drilled me for this. I didn't mean to impugn the Canadian team or diminish that achievement. But I stand by the sentiment: International competitions are at odds with the times. They're like naval competitions in the age of aviation. I had a few very civil back-and-forths with a few readers on this issue. Figure I would just cut-and-paste:
Thanks, XX. My point was only this: In this age of internationalization, when borders have never been less relevant, we live in a global village, we trade and travel and live and Skype elsewhere with unprecedented ease. ... Isn't the idea of nation-versus-nation a bit dated? I always cite Maria Sharapova at Fed Cup a few years ago, explaining how she wanted "to kick American butt." I'm thinking: Um, you mean the country where you've spent three quarters of your life, have multiple homes, avail yourself to roads and social services and climate and have become stupendously wealthy?
You're right that I could just as easily have used Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras or Ana Ivanovic or any other dozens of other players. But that's my point. Tennis players work all over the world. Many of them reside in a country other than the one in which they were born. Many went through the juniors in multiple countries.
We should obviously respect whatever identification they choose. I just get hung up on the competition. There was a time when international competition was -- if not a proxy for war -- a referendum on national strength. How do our warriors fare against your warriors? Now, as issues of citizenship and nationality become murkier and more personal, it seems to me that Davis Cup -- and, for that matter, the Olympics -- which stresses differentiation and differences, seems kind of tone deaf to the times. Not sure if that helps or hinders. But thanks for taking the time to write.
Rafael Nadal's quote going into Monte Carlo: "I cannot say I'm the biggest favorite to win here again." Who really believes that? And, it also begs the question: Who is the favorite if not Nadal? The injured Novak Djokovic? The aging Roger Federer? Or Any Murray, whose clay-court résumé is thinner than my iPhone? At what point does Nadal lose complete credibility in his quest to temper expectations? Because, let's be honest, Nadal has been collecting clay-court titles like it's candy on Halloween night.
-- Pooja Joshi, New York
• Nadal is in a no-win situation here. Let's acknowledge that. False modesty or immodesty. But you either want truth serum or you want to press him.
Q: Rafael, are you the biggest favorite to win here in Monte Carlo?
A: Gee, let me think about that ... I've won this event eight -- that's EIGHT, if you didn't hear me -- straight times. I'm like Robert Byrd in a West Virginia Senate election, baby.
Q: Rafael, are you the biggest favorite to win here in Monte Carlo?
A: I cannot say I'm the biggest favorite to win here again.
Q: No? Really? Who else could it be?
A: John Isner just won on the clay in Houston. I would have to put him ahead of me. Also, Ernests Gulbis is always dangerous. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is, too. And Richard Gasquet! Never count out Gasquet. Who else am I missing?
Which pair of contemporary players could be considered the "greatest Slam final that somehow never happened?" On the women's side, I think Kim Clijsters versus either Williams sister would rank very high. What would be your pick on the men's side?
-- D.P., London
• Good question. Among the Big Four, obviously Nadal and Murray have never squared off in a Slam final. Among the women: Until Justine Henin "unretired" -- and was by then a shadow of the player she once was -- she and Serena Williams never played in a Grand Slam final. Does that count?
In reading this article on Russia's decline in men's tennis, I was somewhat surprised to read Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpischev's comment that it costs $200,000 to train a 16-year-old. Is that a standard across the globe? If so, is it fair to say that the Spanish federation must be more flush with cash than others? Or is it something else?
-- Charlie G, Washington, D.C.
• These numbers are obviously fairly flimsy. And $200,000 seems awfully high, but not implausibly so. Still, it's interesting to discuss. Every federation claims that its players have it the hardest. (A USTA official once explained that all Europeans can play international competition via train travel. American kids had to board planes.) The four federations "flush with cash" are the four whose countries host Slams. Which makes the success in Spain all the more impressive.
Enough already with the groaning, moaning and shrieking. I watched the Gilles Simon/Roberto Bautista-Agut match while eating my breakfast Tuesday. I could clearly hear the racket smack the ball before Bautista-Agut let out groans and moans that sounded as though he was dying. C'mon, man! Hit the ball and shut up. I can't imagine why Simon didn't object -- the noise came after the hit. Isn't that illegal? Or am I missing something?
-- Margaret, Philadelphia
• I think we've conclusively established: This is not exclusively a WTA issue. On the other hand ...
Mary Carillo displays a complete lack of reason in calling on-court coaching sexist. Sort of like blaming a casino for a gambling habit. And Nanny Carillo is wrong in calling for a ban. I think it's a good thing when people/players have more options.
-- Hector Suarez, Norwalk, Conn.
• Totally with "Nanny Carillo." At a bare minimum: The optics are horrific when a top female athlete's summoning a coach -- inevitably an older male -- to extract her from distress. Especially when the men competing in the same event are forbidden from coaching.
I like your embrace of market principles, and I think higher pay for players will ensure that pro tennis attracts top talent. However, I also wonder if they can tie player wages (assuming the tour and players can agree on contracts for the top 150 players or so) or prize money to their TV ratings? Tough to do, lots of inherent issues to overcome. But very appealing.
-- Vishal Narayanmurthy, Jersey City, N.J.
• The Tiger Woods argument. That's tough in the simplest of circumstances, but especially difficult in a global sport. Who will get better TV in the United States? Ryan Harrison or Djokovic? It also would be incumbent on the scheduling. The prime-time matches would inevitably outdraw the 11 a.m. starts. I like your creative thinking, though.
Time will tell, but it seems to Fernando that Djokovic has lost the 2011 fire in the belly necessary to sustain the marathon rallies needed to beat Nadal, who, after the layoff, appears very motivated, no?
-- Fernando, Valencia
• We repeat: Make any claim -- not matter how fraught -- while referring to yourself in the third person, and we are inclined to use it. Leaving aside Nadal, I feel like Djokovic hasn't gotten his due lately. He had a golden 2011, very nearly winning THE Grand Slam. Though he hasn't replicated that run, he is still No.1 in the world!
I am buying tickets for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. I badly want Nadal play. But I'm not sure the best way to go about buying tickets for the sessions. Right now, I am planning on buying day and evening sessions for two consecutive days. Is this the best bet?
-- Taylor Handford, Batesville, Ark.
• Oh, boy. I feel like I need to attach a surgeon general's disclaimer warning: Making plans around Rafael Nadal's hard-court schedule could be hazardous to your expectations. Trying to predict the match schedule can be tough. He's a good pick for a night match. But that takes him out of play for European TV. He's unlikely to get a Monday start. (Though, especially in Cincinnati, he might ask for it.) I'd be inclined to buy the Tuesday day session and the Wednesday night session. I'd snoop around for his practice times. And I would hang out at the golf course behind the complex, too.
How do players defend their Olympic points? Do they need to enter a supplementary event?
-- Peter, Budapest, Hungary
• The ATP's Greg Sharko informs us: They don't defend the points, and they will drop on Aug. 5. There are tournaments on the summer schedule that could count as part of their ranking.
Isn't it time for the players to take control of the one lingering insanity that continues to this day in our scoring system? I refer to the three Slams and the ITF's continued insistence to playing out the final set. Why should we ever have to see a 20-18 final set anymore? How is that good for the players, the fans and the sport in general? I played what at the time was the longest match in number of games -- a doubles match with partner Dick Leach against Tom Mozur and Lenny Schloss in Newport, R.I., in 1967. The score was 3-6, 49-47, 22-20. We won. It was on Jimmy Van Allen's center court, and he was ripping his hair out as our match took 6 hours, 10 minutes over two days.
-- Dick Dell, Dana Point, Calif.
• Agree, agree, agree. Another idea that's outlived its usefulness. These absurdly long fifth sets (and third sets at the Olympics) are like jokes that are no longer funny. They are physically damaging to the players (note: Isner, post-Nicolas Mahut), but they rob the following match of suspense (note: the 2012 Olympic final after Federer played an extended-remix match against Juan Martin del Potro in the semis.) We need some sanity here.
Again, the players got wage increases from the Slams by uniting and finally realizing that they -- not their agents, their tours or the ITF -- controlled their destinies. One hopes this catalyzes more change.