Post AO Q-and-A, Part 3

Friday, February 02, 2007 /by

I'm answering a few more queries from the Any Questions? post today, and will return to them early next week; I will address most questions but will leave some out to avoid repeating myself, or taking on things that don't seem relevant. So here goes:

Matchup writes: What are in your opinion the future youngbloods which will dominate the AFTER-Fed era" What are in your opinion the future youngbloods which will dominate the AFTER-Fed era? One of my personal guesses is Juan Martin Del Potro, the young, tall (195cm) Argentinian with a killer forehand, strong double-handed backhand and with incredible speed.Having seen Del Potro playing live in Basle against Fernando Gonzales, I am sure that the this 18 1/2 year old will be a top contender with the likes of Murray, Djoko and Nadal. Del Potro can play on hard court and has a ultra agressive attacking game coupled with good slice, volleys and movement. Pete, what is your take on him? Think since he is neither British nor American he is kept below the "new generation" radar by some quarters of the media. Thanks.?

Matchup: Andy Murray declared himself the main challenger among the Young'(g)uns at the Australian Open with the variety, strategy and composure he showed in his battle with Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic is a close second, but don't forget Marcos Baghdatis - he needs to make another statement soon, but his performances in Grand Slams last year make me think he is indeed the real deal as a contender.

You're absolutely right about Del Potro being under the radar, although I would not say he's being "kept" there by the media; they're just behind the curve on this. I like this kid. A lot. So here's a question for you all - what's more important and a better indicator of future stardom, the kind of consistency Djokovic has shown, or the kind of brilliance Baghdatis demonstrated last year?

Tokyo Tom triple dips with these questions:

Fed often says how much he enjoys playing against what would seem to be his toughest rivals. He seemed quite pleased Gonzo had made such significant progress under his new coach. . . Do you get the impression that Fed really feels this way? If so do you think it also partially explains why he seems able to handle the big matches so well?

You know, I don't think you get mind-games with The Mighty Fed. This guy definitely wants to play his rivals (he's not a title-bagger, he's a respect-bagger), especially guys like he callow Novak Djokovic, who call him out. I think this amuses TMF in a cat-with-mouse kind of way. And you're dead on when you suggest that this translates to a wholly sanguine match temperament. You could also say this is one sick dude, under all the niceties!

Secondly, and I have no opinion or feelings one way or the other about this but -- I was shocked when I saw some stills of SW during the tourney. Far from looking heavy - in the idle weight sense, she looked seriously pumped up - in the body builder sense - especially her arms. As she has been out of action for quite awhile, was there any discussion as to her work out routine with the weights as to how she built such muscle mass. Given the sorry state of American baseball, there is the obvious question lurking in the background.

If Serena has been on weight-training program, she's been very secretive about it. I've embraced the suggestion that we've developed a very narrow definition of the "right" body-type for a tennis champion, based on the mean. It made me think of the times I'd attend a triathlon in which my wife, Lisa, took part. She's built more like a Maria Sharapova than a Serena, yet at any given race,  some women built more like Rosie O'Donnel than Martina Hingis (I kid you not) finished well ahead of her.

Granted, this was amateur, just-for-fun stuff, but it was eye-opening just the same, because Lisa is a good athlete. I remember similar scenarios from my moderately serious tennis-playing days. The weeding out process tends to put "ideal" body types at the very top of a sport (the best amateur triathletes are usually classically built), and in Serena we have a bit of an exception. But remember, there were times when Monica Seles and even Martina Navratilova were not exactly lean, mean fighting machines. I think it would be irresponsible to speculate on the last part of your question; but I will say that I didn't entertain any of those speculations myself, and that both pro tours have gotten much more serious about monitoring performance-enhancing drugs in the past few years.

I missed this but, it was obvious that Sharapova's serve timing was way, way off. As her power game starts with the serve, I am sure that affected the rest of her game. Any idea what happened to her serve action and timing? Did it seem to be the beginning of a psyche problem ? Was it present throughout the tournament or just in the finals?

This observation takes on special meaning if you scroll through the Comments section in the post below, where Mod Squad (9:52 AM) makes a very similar and even more well-documented connection. There's no doubt that Sharapova relies on her serve far more than  many of her rivals, although bombing away successfully was pretty central to Serena's final-round win, too.

Slice 'n Dice writes:

(1) Would you agree that, in general, parity is better for the game than single-player dominance? If not, please explain. If so, does the play of Federer represent the exception? Is he, like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and others before him, just so exceptional, so gifted, as to be able to elevate the status of the game practically single-handedly (no pun intended)?

Personally, I don't much like parity in tennis (I do like it in football), and it seems to me that the game is best off when you have a great rivalry between two players who stand head-and-shoulders above (Chris and Martina).  Next best, though, and more common is having a dominant player (Graf, Federer, Sampras) whom everyone else is gunning for. I don't think TMF is an exception in this regard, although the quality of his dominance ought to be noted with an asterisk. This game tends to to be driven by the  Long live the Emperor, kill the Emperor meme, and I think it's worse off when that isn't in play. Among other things, the meme supports the notion that tennis is, above all, is a matter of heart and head, not strokes and strategies (beyond a certain level of expertise). Long live the gunslingers, sports is their final refuge.

(2) Will Federer continue to "widen the gap" between himself and the rest of the field with more forays into the net, a more attacking style, and perhaps even serving and volleying? And if so, will this hinder his chances at winning the French Open? Or do you think he'll make the FO his focus until he's won it, then and only thn allow himself to explore new tactics and shot combinations?

I like the issue this raises. For my money, the key for Federer against Nadal - on any surface - is versatility. Andy Murray's match with Nadal vividly showed what mixing up a game and a nuanced strategy can accomplish, although I concede that the task is tougher on clay. Roger's strong suit is versatility - anything that enhances it is a plus, straying from it is a minus. It seems to have worked pretty danged well so far.

Well, I have a few chores to take care of here, including posting an OT invite. So that's it for now, have a great weekend, everyone!

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