“HE SHOULD SUFFER FOR HIS LIES”: The confession of Lance Armstrong brought the issue of drug issue in tennis to the fore. Many, like Djokovic and Murray, denied there was any use. Djokovic said, “They should take all Armstrong’s titles away … He should suffer for his lies all these years.” But Dick Pound, the retired founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency, after reflecting on the physicality and longevity of today’s players, said, “Look at the difference in build and the sustained level of activity. If the tennis authorities don’t believe there is EPO or HGA use now, they are not paying attention.” Belgium’s former player Christophe Rochus again repeated his previous, highly controversial claim that there is drug use in tennis. He and Pound have no proof whatsoever. Most outrageous is the inventive theory that Nadal’s seven month absence from the tour is a conspiracy by the ITF and the ATP to cover up drug use by Nadal. Again no proof. And as a big drug trial of a doctor in Madrid unfolds, Rafa reported he was drug tested nine times during his absence and he again vehemently denied any wrongdoing and insisted that if all the drug testing in tennis were more open there would be far less of a problem.
RUMOR OF THE MONTH: That the Mercury Insurance Open will eventually move from San Diego to Chicago.
TSONGA, BERDYCH, DELPO, RAONIC, FERRER, ISNER: Who will be the next man, outside the top four, to win a Slam.
LET’S SEE IF WE CAN PULL THIS ONE OFF: One of our cultural treasures, Tina Turner, is about to become a Swiss citizen. So does that give us the right to lure Federer and try to convince him to become an American citizen? BTW: Roger recently told the AP that when he was a kid his dad was almost transferred to a job in Australia, in which case he might have become an Aussie.
NO KIDDING: After Darren Cahill said he’s never seen panic in Federer’s face, Pat McEnroe responded, “Let me know when he shows some. He never has before.”
GENDER GAP?: Young American women are surging quite nicely. It’s exciting. Sloane Stephens, 19, beat Serena in Melbourne and is now ranked No. 17. Madison Keys is 17 too, 17 years old. She, her serve and forehand drew rave reviews in Melbourne. “You don’t have a serve like that at 17 … I haven’t felt this for 15 years,” gushed Pam Shriver. “Best U.S. hope I’ve seen since Williams,” added Lindsay Davenport … Jamie Hampton, 23, gave Azarenka fits . Although the U.S. eventually lost to Italy in Fed Cup, Varvara Lapchenko scored two stunning wins on foreign over the considerable Sarah Eranni and Roberta Vinci. Plus, Christina McHale and Taylor Townsend could emerge and Melanie Oudin is soldiering on.On the men’s side, young Americans Jack Sock, Steve Johnson and Bradley Klahn all show promise, but Ryan Harrison is the only young American man in the top 100, and the jury is still out on him and young Jack Sock. No wonder Jon Wertheim suggested that, “For all this talk of ‘Where is the next Sampras/Agassi?’ the reality is that the U.S. would be thrilled with the next Todd Martin or David Wheaton or Mal Washington.”
APOLOGIES ALL AROUND: BBC offered an apology for a Federer expletive it broadcast during an exchange Roger had with Murray … ESPN apologized for the X-rated congratulatory comment Redfoo made to his pal Azarenka.
JUST WONDERING: Is Federer, sadly, in the downside of his prime years. Or is he in the beginning of his twilight. Or will the timeless one, who still astounds, go on playing until one of his daughters breaks into the Top 50? … Does promising junior Allie Kiick have a good kick serve?
MEDICAL MUSING: Have medical injuries ever played a bigger role in a run to a Slam title than in Azarenka’s journey to the Aussie title? Before their injuries, American Jamie Hampton and Li Na had decent shots at beating Vika and the Belarus’ medical timeout was a turning point in her win over Sloane Stephens.
IMAGINE THIS: The saga of the imaginary girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’O at first brought to mind one of the great imaginary happenings in American history, Orson Welles’ 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio drama of a fictional invasion of aliens. As for tennis, we had an imaginary interview with the founder of tennis, Major Wingfield, who actually had died in 1912. And our former Managing Editor Hugh Delehanty interviewed Yonex, Martina Navratilova’s dog. Still our favorite piece of imaginary tennis journalism was Jon Wertheim’s fictional account of a rising phenom. He wrote, “Simonya Popova is hot. Smoking. Close to it, anyway … [She] is on a back court at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy, midway through a series of practice sets … Her skin and hair colored by the sun, Popova is dripping sweat like a busted faucet … Showing court craft to match her power, Popova unfurls a topspin lob that traces a perfect arc and nicks the baseline. “More accurate than ICBM,” says [Popova’s father] Sergei, smiling at his daughter. “How you beat her? I cannot say, because I do not know.”
POLITICALLY AND NOT S0 POLITICALLY CORRECT: Some say no man’s land should be called no person’s land … When comparing the men’s and women’s circuit, France’s wildly popular but not so “PC” Jo-Willie Tsonga said, “The girls, they are more unstable emotionally than us. I’m sure everybody will say it’s true even the girls … you don’t think? It’s just about hormones and all this stuff. We don’t have all these bad things, so we are physically in a good shape every time and you are not. That’s it.”
SCRAMBLED COMMENTARY: After Azarenka blew a volley in the Aussie finals, Eleanor Preston was asked “where did that come from.” She replied, “It came from the scrambled ears between her ears.”
WILL THE BOY BECOME A MAN: Bernard Tomic lost his license.
SUPER SIBLINGS: On the field, it was said that it was a singular achievement to have both Jim and John Harbaugh coaching in the Super Bowl. But, upon review, the call on the field was reversed. We’ll take the lifetime achievements of the Williams and Bryans.
VIKA’S NO LANCE: Everybody now agrees Lance Armstrong was a cheat. But there are many different takes on Vika Azarenka’s medical timeout in the semis against Sloane Stephens. They range from viewing it as outright cheating or savvy gamesmanship to “everybody does it, no big deal, she didn’t break the rules.” What is curious is that Vika took a hard line on Lance, saying “You can’t lie. You can’t cheat … the only thing I liked about his interview [with Oprah] is that he doesn’t expect anyone to forgive him.”
DESERT BOOM: If the Indian Wells City Council approves, look for a construction surge at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with the building of a new state-of-the-art stadium with two restaurants and new parking and shade structures.
SOUTH AMERICAN SIZZLE: Although Juan Martin del Potro has yet to reach the very top, and Brazil lost to the U.S. in Davis Cup, South America has been on fire. Brazil and Equador has attracted tournaments from both Northern and Southern California, Federer had a triumphant exhibition tour where he was adored by thousands, and Nadal returned to the tour and reached the final in Chile, where he suffered a shock defeat to Argentine Horacio Zeballos who, is No. 73.
DOUBLE DOUBLE BAGEL: Maria Sharapova won the first 28 games she played at the Australian Open, which prompted Peter Donegan to say, “Is the unthinkable going to happen? Is Maria going to lose a game? Eventually, Maria was crushed by Li Na, 6-2, 6-2 in the semis.
LIFE’S A HOLIDAY: Golf’s U.S. Open is always on Father’s Day, but remember this season, as in many years, the six biggest tournaments in the world are on holidays: Australian Open – Australia Day; BNP Paribas Open – St. Patrick’s Day; Sony Open – Easter; French Open – Memorial Day; Wimbledon – July 4th; U.S. Open – Labor Day.
WORD OF THE MONTH: Vikagate.
SAY IT ISN’T SO: Federer won’t be playing Miami’s Sony Open … Nadal is ranked No. 5 … Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Francisco Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez were all Davis Cup no-shows for Spain. Canada, led by Milos Raonic, won … Two former coaches at Southern Miss offered a former player $5,000 and a car to stay at the school.
BEST NEW AUSSIE OPEN NICKNAME: Crocodile Dunblane for Andy Murray .
HEY ESTELLE, ‘YOU’RE AN A–’: Estelle, a listener to the Australian Open broadcast, sent in an email saying the broadcasters should offer less banter and focus more on the match. At which point the broadcasters had the following dialogue: “Is she Jupiter or Saturn or that other one I can’t mention?”
“Uranus?” “That’s the one.”
BAKER BUMMER: There’s just something downright lousy about the fate of Brian Baker. Once a promising junior who got off to a nice start in the pros , the Tennessean endured five surgeries in six years and then, as his ranking rose from 406 to 54, he became last year’s comeback story of the year. But at the Aussie Open, while up on Sam Querrey in the second round, he suffered a devastating knee injury , was rolled off in a wheelchair and underwent surgery. As Pat McEnroe put it, “That’s just a major bummer.”
DAWG DAY AFTERNOON: John Isner is famous for his 11:05 Wimbledon marathon. So we asked him if he could spend 11:05 doing anything else (outside of the sexual arena), what would it be. He said he would go fishing on a Carolina lake with his cocker spaniel, Magill, who’s named after the legendary Georgia coach Dan Magill.
MOST USELESS STAT OF THE MONTH: Federer won three Grand Slams with a ponytail and 14 without.
“THERE’S CRAP EVERYWHERE”: Nadal is famous for his obsessively tidy courtside seat, but Craig Willis noted, “Looking at Murray’s bench, it’s like a 12-year-old’s bedroom. There’s crap everywhere.”
WE GET YOUR POINT IVAN: Lendl wore a T-shirt that read, “PREPARE, ATTACK, DESTROY
YOU KNOW YOU ARE PLAYING AN ITALIAN DOUBLES DUO … : When commentator Lindsay Davenport says, “The first thing you have to do is defend against the lob.”
“DE GAULLE” OF GILBERT: Brad Gilbert said, “The French resistance is a great group, but I don’t see any Grand Slams out of them.
NICE DRESS, BUT … : We loved Venus’ artsy pastel dress, but the senior sis got crushed by Sharapova and hasn’t gotten past the fourth round in a Slam since 2010.
VERGEER RETIRES: The most dominant player in our sport, Esther Vergeer, has retired. The 31-year-old Dutchwoman was undefeated for 10 years, won a total of 44 Grand Slam titles, and had a winning streak of 470 matches. Her retirement means that she will not match what is thought to be the longest runs of consecutive wins in sports, which is 555, by Pakistan squash legend Jahangir Khan.