Wertheim on Andy's sportsmanship, where is Younes?, etc....
Model of good behavior
Andy Roddick's act of sportsmanship is no surprise
Posted: Monday May 16, 2005 4:01PM; Updated: Monday May 16, 2005 9:14PM
Andy Roddick overturned a linesman's call on his match point against Fernando Verdasco -- only to eventually lose the match.
Ian Walton/Getty Images
(Ed. note: Beginning next week, look for Jon Wertheim's Tennis Power Rankings every Monday on SI.com and his Tennis Mailbag every Wednesday. For a preview of the Power Rankings, check out this week's edition at the bottom of the Mailbag.)
•A correction from last week: The Houston event is played on the same red clay as Roland Garros, not green clay as one reader suggested. Line of the week goes to [USTA spokesman] Tim Curry who wrote: "In fact, Jim [McIngvale] has folks come in from France to tend to the surface each year. I'm terra firma on that."
•Line of the week runner-up comes from Todd Spiker of Hedgesville, W.V.: "If the USTA is Snowball, who's Napoleon? The person(s) in charge of Grand Slam tennis programming at ESPN, maybe?"
•Second runner-up goes to the dissatisfied, anonymous reader who likened last week's Mailbag to a "Marat Safin at Wimbledon effort."
•Thanks to Rima of Washington, D.C., for this link on beach tennis.
•Andy Stoter of Suffolk, England, deserves a wild card for passing on this link.
•Robert of Washington, D.C., writes: To put Roger Federer's results this year into perspective, his win at Hamburg gives him 575 ATP points. Last year, Safin amassed 612 points for the entire year and finished fourth in the world.
At the risk of sounding like a whiny fan, I was disappointed that there was no Mailbag mention of Andy Roddick's sporting gesture in Rome two weeks ago against Fernando Verdasco. It warranted your colleague Frank Deford's comment but not yours? Anyway, I have seen other players insist that a ball is in when they could've won the point if it was out -- Tim Henman comes to mind -- but are there many players who would do so at match point?
-- Katrina, Quezon City, Philippines
As always, Deford wrote a terrific column. Here is the link.
Inasmuch as we "underplayed" this, I guess there are two reasons. First, Roddick's sportsmanship -- particularly his graciousness in defeat; particularly his sensitivity to not being considered an "ugly American" when playing overseas -- is old news. The guy is the reigning Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award winner. If it were a less gracious player it would be one thing, but a headline reading Roddick Shows Sportsmanship is about surprising as Nadal Competes Feverishly, or Federer Plays Well.
Second -- and Roddick, to his credit, was quick to admit this -- the match was on clay where, of course, the balls leave an imprint. Had the chair descended from his perch and checked the mark, Roddick would have lost the point anyway; so essentially his real act of virtue was saving the guy a trip down a ladder.
Should we commend Roddick and others for their honesty? (For the record, we saw a number of players in Rome, including Richard Gasquet, who stared at ball marks and did the right thing.) Absolutely. Would if be nice if this practice extended to other surfaces? Sure. (We can think of a women's quarterfinal match at last year's U.S. Open that were pocked by bum calls.) But is it an act worthy of canonization?
Venus Williams had an excellent chance to be ranked in the top eight heading into the French Open, instead she's chosen not to defend most of her clay-court points/wins from last year and has fallen again out of the top 10. Now her only red clay tune-up is the Istanbul Cup (a Tier III event). What happened to all of her momentum? Even though she lost the match, she showed her old brilliance and grit against Maria Sharapova in Miami.
-- John, Birmingham, Ala.
Sometimes you get the feeling the Williams sisters put every event into an iPod and hit "shuffle" when choosing their schedule. There has seldom been much logic to their scheduling. I'm of two minds about this: They don't chase points, and they don't really chase appearance fees and there's something refreshing in this. On the other hand, it's terrible for the Tour, for the promoters, for the networks, etc. when they are so whimsical about when and where they play.
Maria Sharapova turned 18 years old on April 19.
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
When will Sharapova stop saying "I'm only (age)" whenever she loses a match (e.g. after she lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the German Open)? As true as it is -- there's no doubt about her talent -- it's starting to get annoying. To me, it's like Serena/Venus constantly blaming their losses on ... what? ... fatigue from playing three tournaments in a month. What's your opinion?
-- KHo Chor, Hong Kong
This has crossed the fine line between "annoying" and "very annoying." Dare we point out that when they were "only 18" players like Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Steffi Graf were winning Majors as a matter of course?
Let's hope this is Sharapova groping for an explanation of defeat -- however tired it has become. If this were some IMG-mandated talking point aimed at underscoring Sharapova's youth for potential sponsors, well, it would simply be too much to stomach.
I love watching Patty Schnyder! She is at the top of my list of favorite female players. Her undeniably awesome left-hand slice is one of a kind. Considering her good run at this year's Australian Open, and the Family Circle Cup, what are her chances of making it to at least the semis of Roland Garros? And do you ever see her winning a Slam?
-- Fox, Ventura, Calif.
I too like watching Schnyder's lefty game, and she is obviously coming off a terrific week of tennis on the clay of Rome. But I'm skeptical she has the head or the stamina to win a Slam. Schnyder is always on the "dangerous floaters" list, but for a player who cracked the top 10 in 1988 she has never been able to take that next jump. Part of it is a deficit of power. But I also tend to think she is freighted with too much personal baggage.
Can you come up with a game plan to beat Federer? If so, what would it be? No one, including the "so-called experts," seems to know.
-- Arun, Laurel, Md.
What are the odds we can pass some sort of legislation to eliminate the phrase, "so-called experts."
Anyway, here's the best way to beat Federer:
1) Catch him on an off day (you know, when he is merely a terrific player and not an untouchable one).
2) Play the match of your life. It helps if you're outside the top 20, and he hasn't generated full motivation to beat you.
3) Disrupt his rhythm and make him hit high backhands.
4) Get a little help from the elements (exceedingly hot or uncomfortably chilly).
5) Try to pay off the linesmen.
The scant few matches Federer has lost over the past 18 months doesn't fit a tidy pattern. But with the exception of his defeat to Safin -- probably the second-most talented player on the planet when his head is right -- the losses have come to opponents who Federer may have regarded too lightly. Even in victory we sometimes see it; at the 2004 U.S. Open, Federer demoralized both Henman and Lleyton Hewitt in the semis and finals. But he dropped a set to Marcos Baghdatis earlier in the tournament. Remember that two French Opens ago, he lost his first match to Luis Horna. As a rule, you need to get him early, because as the tournament progresses he seems only to get better.
Whatever happened to Ashley Harkleroad?
-- Shawn Frost, Raleigh, N.C.
Our friend Tim Curry at the USTA writes:
"She's on the road back, which of course is the USTA Pro Circuit.
This week, she is playing in Charlottesville, Va., at the Boyd Tinsley $50,000 USTA Women's Pro Championships -- the last place Anna Kournikova played a sanctioned match two years ago. She's already played in three other USTA Pro Circuit events since mid-April -- Jackson, Miss., Dothan, Ala., and Raleigh, N.C. (where she won the doubles title with Lindsay Lee-Waters)."
I thought you might find this stat interesting: "Almost three quarters of a million tuned in to the Guillermo Coria-Andre Agassi semifinal on Italian station Italia 1. At 6:40 p.m., Italia reported 737,000 spectators, while the average figure for the match was 524,000 -- around seven percent of the total TV audience." If that many tuned in in Italy ... wonder what it would have been like if the match were actually broadcast in the States!
-- A. Miller, Washington, D.C.
Thanks. Yeah, we love stats like this. Just the 12,321st reminder that tennis is a global sport. Just because it isn't going gangbusters in the United States, doesn't mean the sport is headed for the hospice.
Moroccan Younes el Aynaoui is 0-7 in ATP tournaments this year -- only winning two sets all season.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Where are the Moroccans this year? Did Hicham Arazi and Younes el Aynaoui retire? I always try to catch their matches for the sheer entertainment value, and with the vain hope they'll advance further than they ever do ... sigh!
-- Sike Quan, Victoria, Cameroon
Greg Sharko, the hardest working man in show business, informs us: "El Aynaoui has played this year with not much success (0-7), using a protected ranking which expires on Oct. 10. ... Arazi is 0-2 and underwent hand surgery last month."
I was watching the Rome Masters recently, and it looked like Feliciano Lopez was wearing eyeliner and eye make-up. Is this a growing trend in men's tennis? I was actually a bit bothered by it -- it looked crazy.
-- Nthati, Johannesburg
I'd be inclined to adjust the color on the TV. Can't confirm the eyeliner rumor.
However, before that same match in Rome, Lopez took the court wearing a shirt with the word NIKE emblazoned in huge letters. There are ATP stipulations about how big patches and logos can be. The folks at Nike think the folks at Adidas violate this when players wear the three-stripe band all the way down the backs of their shirts. In retaliation, Nike adorned their shirts with massive letters and swooshes. When the ATP officials caught sight of Lopez's attire, they made him change shirts. (Maybe all of this pre-match intrigue made him so red with anger and embarrassment that it refracted off his blond locks, creating the appearance of blue eyeliner?)
Last week, you included a complaint about all the categorizations and lists that go on into your Mailbag ... to that end, what are the five most annoying questions you've ever received (preferably from left-handed writers who have a slow red clay beneath their keyboard)?
-- Jeff Wise, Moorpark, Calif.
The slow red clay imported to Houston? I'm going to sound sappier than a Mitch Albom-Bob Green collaboration, but I don't really get annoyed by questions. It's nice that people are sufficiently interested in tennis topics to write in. I've even come around a bit on the Hall of Fame debates.
The only real annoyance? Fans so passionate about their player of choice that they abandon all reason and civility. Disagreement is always welcome here -- but no need to wish a series of inoperable cold sores on someone just because they suggest, say, that Venus Williams could stand to bolster her second serve.
When you speak about the greatest players of all time you never mention Bjorn Borg. The guy won five Wimbledons and six French Opens. He is undisputedly the greatest. Won't you agree?
-- Marvin Blair, Nassau, Bahamas
If he's undisputed, why do you need anyone to agree? I still say it's Pete Sampras, Rod Laver and Borg in that order.
Regarding the recurring subject of a book on choking, mental toughness and anxiety, there is a specific tennis book that addresses these issues called The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Galleway. It's a great book, with a lot of interesting insights about how your mind imposes on your tennis. It's worth reading for anyone who's ever noticed how his game suddenly dropped off after his opponent told him how well he was playing.
-- Ethan Steele, Stanford, Calif.
Thanks for the tip.
I recently viewed a documentary on cable titled She Got Game. The movie followed a Canadian female player on the women's tour, who once cracked the top 50. It also interviewed various tennis stars, like Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis. What was the name of the tennis player, and do you have any idea what she's doing now?
-- Majib, Bethany, Okla.
The player is question is the irrepressible Sonya Jeyaseelan. She played doubles as recently as last year, but it's safe to say she is retired. (Random fact we flukily came across while looking up this answer: Jeyaseelan lost her first WTA doubles match to Jill Smoller who, when she's not representing Serena Williams, now boxes in her superiors' cars in the William Morris parking lot.) Anyway, first person to come up with a plausible characterization of Jeyaseelan's current whereabouts gets swag.
Karl Miller of Phoenixville, Pa., sent us this long-lost sibling alert: Dinara Safina and Sally Brown (Charlie Brown's little sister).
Introducing ... Tennis Power Rankings
Roger Federer: Rafael who? Swiss Mister wins his third ATP Masters Series event of the year, taking out Guillermo Coria and then exacting revenge on Richard Gasquet in Hamburg, Germany. He and Nadal head to Paris tied for match wins this year. Rivalry anyone?
Amelie Mauresmo: Talented-but-fragile Frenchwoman defends Rome title with uncharacteristically gutsy win over Patty Schnyder. Just in time to get some expectations up for Roland Garros.
Richard Gasquet has a 10-3 record in 2005, including an upset of Roger Federer in Monte Carlo.
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Richard Gasquet: Mere months ago he was the poster fils for unfulfilled potential. Since the clay season has commenced, he's done a nice impersonation of a top-10 player. Reached the Hamburg final after coming through the qualies.
Patty Schnyder: Crafty lefty reached the Rome finals -- and actually won more in defeat than Mauresmo -- and thwarted Maria Sharapova's bid for No. 1 in the process. Schnyder is too good and too old to be considered a dark horse but look out for her in Paris.
Dinara Safina: Though you'd be within your rights to wonder why she was playing a Tier IV event and not Rome, Safina had a decidedly better week than her brother, winning the Prague Open.
Andy Roddick: May have lost early in Hamburg, but find me an athlete with a better image right now. He's still getting props from his display of sportsmanship in Rome. And here's more glowing praise from the Boston Globe. Read to the end.
New Haven: First Berkeley College gets props in the New York Times for its organic food menu. Then the city of Elms is awarded a men's event to complement the Pilot Pen as a U.S. Open tune-up. Book your table at Louie's Lunch today.
Lleyton Hewitt: He may be out of the French Open with a cracked rib, but the world No. 2 is an expecting father. We can hear the delivery room "C'mawwwns" already.
Tennis Channel: Happy Second Birthday. And many more ... in many more homes.
Ralph Lauren: Wins U.S. Open clothing derby and, aside from outfitting the employees, will have a 3,500-square-foot store on site. And to think, the only player Polo has under contract is Scott Oudsema.
Kristina Brandi: According to one international media source, she defeated David Nalbandian at the Hamburg Masters.
Doubles Winners: In Rome, Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Maria Kirilenko and Medina Garrigues. Mailbag faves Emilie Loit and Nicole Pratt beat Jelena Kostanic and Barbora Strycova in Prague. Up the road in Hamburg, Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi beat Mike Llodra and Fabrice Santoro, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6.
Have a great week, everyone!