When Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters were engaged way-back-when, to many it seemed like an odd pairing. No way does match.com yoke these two. He was the combative No. 1, who relished the battle and compensated for an absence of height with oversized heart, spleen and guts.
NEW YORK -- The best moment in American tennis this year? You could point to Serena Williams' stirringly tearful return at Wimbledon, or the flare-up of vivid, varied talents like Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Jack Sock last week at the U.S. Open. Some, of course, will focus on the three Yanks -- Andy Roddick, John Isner and 22-year-old Donald Young -- who made deep runs in the men's draw, despite all bowing out before the semis.
He doesn't always take medical time outs, but when he does, it's always at a very critical time in the match. He's Rafa Nadal -- the most mysterious tennis player in the world. "Stay Injured, my Friends!!" -- Vijay Kalpathi, Houston
I hadn't seen much college tennis until the NCAA tournament came to my area (Stanford) last month, and it was a revelation. It struck me that a lot of talented young players have no idea what they're missing, and that current trends on the women's pro tour could affect significant change.
Over the past 36 months, as he immersed himself in the nation-state otherwise known as ESPN, James Andrew Miller became admittedly obsessed with his subject. Charged with writing a book on one of the great media success stories of all time, Miller found himself struggling to condense a tale of empire building, fierce rivalries, sex and drugs, and self-reverence. He had enough information for multiple books after interviews with more than 550 subjects. The hardest part, he knew, was letting some of it go.
Why do Wimbledon and the other slams keep making announcements every year that they raised the prize money, isn't that a given at this point? And do we really care to know how many millions it's going to be? This must be the only sport where they announce prize money as some sort of PR move. --Patrick, New York
1. Double vision. If you did a -- we ask you to pardon the pun -- double-take looking at the Indian Wells doubles draw, well, you're forgiven. The doubles sub-circuit, province to the Bryans and a bunch of other guys familiar only to the hardest of hardcores, has been invaded by the big boys this week. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray -- nine of the top 10 singles players are also playing alongside a partner. (And, so far, dominating the rank-and-file doubles teams.) Are they relishing the extra match play after a long absence? Is there a financial incentive? Were they induced to play by Larry Ellison's clandestine offer of Oracle stock options? Whatever, it's great for the BNP Paribas event and for tennis overall. Here's hoping it's a trend and not a happy aberration.
1. Courier a great hire for USTA: In another victory for common sense, the USTA made a sound hiring decision, tapping Jim Courier to succeed Pat McEnroe as the Davis Cup captain. First, a clink of the glasses for McEnroe, one of the sport's good guys, who acquitted himself well over the past decade, leading the U.S. to a title and deftly avoiding the many political landmines. In Courier, the team gets a straight shooter with instant credibility -- he has four times as many Grand Slam singles titles as all eligible U.S. players combined -- and good rapport with the players. (That he is already agitating for a Davis Cup format change is a bonus.)
Why can't Fedofiles and Rafaelites stop fighting over who's the best? Sit back and enjoy the fact that, combined, they're the greatest phenomenon in tennis history (21 of the past 23 and 25 of the past 30 Grant Slams)! They could potentially end their careers as the equal GOATs -- and we as fans should love them both for it! Look at the video of the two promoting their Credit Suisse exhibition -- they're clearly great mates and so we should stop creating a "hated rivalry" when it doesn't even exist!! I'm all RF, always have been, but RN has my 100% respect. Let's just enjoy the history, don't you think? --Michael, Hamilton, New Zealand
A quick post to start on Patrick McEnroe's decision to vacate his Davis Cup duties. This has been in the ether for a while. Unlike Mardy Fish, P-Mac has an awfully full plate these days, plus a wife and brood of young kids.
1. Rafa returns: Clay season is upon us, which, of course, means it's time for Rafael Nadal to reduce the rest of the field to rubble. Never mind that he'd failed to win a title in nearly a year and looked a smidge off -- "Like 87 percent Rafa," a friend estimated -- in the first four months of 2010. Nadal was up to his old domina-tricks last week in Monte Carlo, winning the title for the sixth (!) straight year and nearly double-bageling two opponents including Fernando Verdasco in the final. As we saw last year on the middle Sunday of the French Open, anything can happen on any given day. But if Nadal stays injury-free and sustains anything close to this level of tennis over the next two months, he's your favorite at Roland Garros again.
Mentally tough? Try Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting from the cricket world. Or try, still active, track legend Haile Gebreselassie (more than 25 world records in middle- and long-distance races and current men's marathon world-record holder). It sure takes mental toughness to beat out your tough rivals while dominating middle- and long-distance running over the span of a decade. -- Jim Bates, Cairns, Australia
I realize that some people will immediately denounce this column as gender bashing, but they would be wrong. My analysis that Davis Cup in America is thriving and Fed Cup is dying is merely an objective look at the discrepancies and inequities of the two.
OK, I lied. Last week I said we were going to present the annual Baggie Awards. But because we got a welter of Davis Cup questions (and because I'm still recovering from a hellish redeye) we'll do a 'Bag this week and present the awards next week.
In the past few months, I've written numerous blogs about playing Fed Cup -- what it's like to play for your country, the passion that goes along with playing and how different it is than anything else we experience on tour.
The 2007 Davis Cup competition begins Friday with the men of the United States lacing up their clay-court sneakers to face the Czech Republic on their turf. The Americans' clay-court struggles are well documented, but I'm confident they will net their first world group clay-court victory in 10 years.