From this week's mailbag:
-- Darise, Amherst
• Not gauche. And depending on where the event is held, it might not even be dangerous. I do think you've also highlighted a...I don't want to say a flaw, but maybe an "odd dimension" of Davis Cup. In this era of globalization, who can really get worked up in a nationalistic frenzy, cheering against those dastardly Swiss?
Now that Rafa is the year-end No. 1, Sampras' record of six years
as year-end No. 1 remains. Am I right? You had mentioned earlier in one
of your mail bags that "it's one of sports' most underrated records." I
thought I would point that out now. Fed was year-end No. 1 for five
-- Shanky Fremont, Calif.
• Good point. Pete Sampras, take a bow. Long as you brought up Sampras, as many of you know, I've been spending this fall trying to write a book about Federer, Nadal and the 2008 Wimbledon final. In the course of the research, I've really been struck by how classily Sampras has handled the "Greatest Ever" talk and his relationship with Federer more generally. Hard to imagine too many other athletes embracing the guy who's gunning for their record.
I am wondering. Are you getting any questions about Sharapova
those days? Or more generally: how long does it typically take for a
player (injured or retired) to be "forgotten"? I guess you can judge
this from the mails you get.
-- D.P., Europe
• Interesting question. I'm not sure this is the greatest barometer for her relevance, but, as one would expect, the Sharapova questions have slowed to a trickle. It's funny, though, because I think she (more specifically, her health) is a fiercely relevant subject. Before her shoulder went back on the fritz, she was playing exceptionally well to start the year and is/was, I think, the obvious heiress to the top spot, the player best suited to grab the top spot and make some order of all the chaos in the women's game. If she is unable to come back, the WTA is a much weaker product.
Have you ever seen Mario Ancic and Marin Cilic in the same room at the same time?
-- Brett Davis, Los Angeles, Calif.
• When Cilic starts showing up at Croatian CLE classes, we'll know something is really up.
All credit and respect to 19 year old Marin Cilic. What a performance. Cilic was en fuego tonight, displaying an impressive combination of size and speed. I knew Cilic was a big server, but I had no idea the boy had such great court coverage. He was a brick wall tonight and he frustrated the heck out of Nole. Some of those returns that he got back were pure magic.
As for Nole, overall he didn't play poorly (and he looked good in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle gear). But every time he had a chance to put the pedal to the metal, he blinked. So many opportunities to break, consolidate breaks, etc., and he muffed a lot of them. It wasn't until the fourth set tie-breaker that his experience bubbled to the surface and he was able to outclass a gassed Cilic to win the TB 7-0.
But it wasn't his play that concerned me tonight. It was his lack of emotion. Nole plays better when he's on the edge emotionally and for some reason he was quite detached and reserved tonight. One thought that crossed my mind was that he didn't want to incite the Serb/Croat undertones to the match. A whooping and hollering Nole probably wouldn't have gone down well, especially in contrast to the mild mannered Cilic.
Here's hoping that Nole got this out of his system and can go forward with more fire. He's got Disco Tommy next (who impressively took out Tsonga in straight sets) and then possibly Roddick, who also won in straight sets today, and Fed. And that's just to get to the final! Turtle Power!
How about Gilles Muller? Talk about an underdog. A qualifier from Luxembourg, he toppled yet another seed in a five set comeback, beating Nico Almagro 75 in the third. He'll play Kolya next, who beat Tursonov in straights.
Is Lena D. the only one on the ladies' side not named Williams that can win in straight sets these days? She is just plowing through the draw, dispatching a very solid Na Li, 4 and 1. She looks dominant, people. Get ready for a Lena D. vs. Serena final. That's where I see it shaking out right now.
Apart from Lena, the only other storyline on the ladies' side is how open JJ's draw is getting. You'd think it couldn't get any easier, but then Mono Bartoli had to go and lose to 28 year old mom Sybille Bammer. They didn't show the Bartoli match on USA, but apparently she was like a test monkey out there, calling the trainer, getting her blood pressure taken, rubbed down, and otherwise lollygagging between points. Of course, that didn't stop her from bageling Mama Bammer in the second set (maybe Bammer's maternal instinct kicked in and she wanted to run to Rite Aid to get Mono some Pedialyte?). So JJ gets Bammer next and then most likely Lena in the semis, unless Peppermint Patty can pull off the upset in the next round. Doubtful.