Keeping Tabs 2/7

Tuesday, February 07, 2012 /by

BtThe Australian Open is over, but tennis continues to make news. Novak Djokovic’s Laureus, Rafael Nadal’s taxes, Serena Williams’ Fed Cup appearance, Judy Murray’s Fed Cup debut—the media beast goes right on chewing.

Over top of it all is the glow from the epic final in Melbourne, which has inspired tributes to the new golden era of men's tennis, as well as its share of backlash at its so-called brutally physical style of play. To me, the only thing not to love about a match with so much skill, athleticism, and heart was what happened between points—i.e., too much time. Let's hope it serves as a wake-up call to chair umpires everywhere.

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Two Roads Diverged…
Did you know that the Daily Mails website is the most visited site on the Internet? That’s right, much to the surprise of American reporters, it surpassed NYTimes.com last month.

No wonder we were so surprised. What are we to make of a headline like this?

MURRAY MUST PLOT HIS OWN ROUTE TO THE TOP, WARNS DJOKO AFTER GRABBING ANOTHER GONG

Gong? I guess that’s Brit-speak for Djokovic’s Laureus Award for sportsman of the year. Asked about Andy Murray’s stab at a gluten-free diet last season, Djokovic wagged his finger in the air and said, “Everybody has a different path and everybody has a different structure of the body and different minds.”

At least one U.S. writer speculated that the Mail’s success with its website is due to its liberal use of graphic, sensationalized headlines about celebrity hook-ups and ax-wielding fathers. Personally, I think it's the blanket coverage of Judy Murray’s Fed Cup debut. As I wrote yesterday, never has a non-World Group Fed Cup tie made so much news. As of Tuesday, the Mail had five stories posted about Great Britain’s win in a playoff over the weekend. Here’s the last one:

NEXT STOP THE WORLD! FED EXPRESS ON TRACK AS MURRAY’S BRITS THRASH AUSTRIA

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Djokovic’s Secret Revealed
Everyone has been wondering how Nole turned the tables on Federer and Nadal in the last year. It turns out we’ve been asking the wrong people. Ilie Nastase lets The Tennis Space in on the truth: It was Nasty’s doing all along.

“I talked to him at the French Open two years ago,” Nastase says of Djokovic, “and he asked me ‘what do you think I should do, for me?’ I said, ‘you play great but you need confidence.’ After he won [the Australian Open in 2011] he called me and said, ‘you’re right.’”

You might be wondering, like I am: Where was Nasty when I needed some confidence? Why couldn’t I have run into him at the French Open two years ago?

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Not So . . . Slow
At ESPN.com, Kamakshi Tandon takes a shot at estimating how long the Djokovic-Nadal Oz final would have taken if both of them had adhered to the 20-second time limit between points, instead of taking an average of 30 and 33 seconds, as Nadal and Djokovic did respectively. Instead of 5 hours, 53 minutes, it would have clocked in at a more pedestrian, and probably more enjoyable, 4 hours, 43 minutes.

Slow play normally bothers me more than, say, shrieking, but I didn’t mind it as much in this match—perhaps because it was a final, and both players were doing it (though I was cursing them as I filed my story at 7:30 that morning).

Still, as I wrote above, I hope it's a wake-up call for chair umpires. Pascal Maria waited too long, until deep in the second set, to warn both players about their plodding pace. Warn them early. Why else do we have time rules in the first place? Even Nadal said afterward, with a smile, that he didn’t think the match was ever going to end. Seventy extra minutes didn't make it any more epic.

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What’s Shorter Than Kim Kardashian’s Marriage?
At two months, Ricardo Sanchez’s turn as Caroline Wozniacki's coach was in the ball park.

Sanchez and Caro parted ways because, as he told the Danish paper Ekstra Bladet, “Caroline was just confused by having two different coaches who wanted different things.” The other coach was, of course, Wozniacki’s father, Piotr. Sanchez went on to say that he tried to get Caro to be more aggressive, to be a “racehorse rather than a workhorse,” but that didn’t fit the Wozniackis’ scheme.

“I have great respect for Piotr,” Sanchez said, “who has never played tennis himself.”

Is that what’s known as a backhanded compliment?

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Meanwhile, Back in Oz...
Australia’s Fed Cup captain, and Sam Stosur’s personal coach, David Taylor, says he may excuse Stosur from the next round of the competition in April because he doesn’t want her to be “stressed out.” Herald-Sun columnist Leo Schlink takes issue with the idea, calling it a “cop out.”

“As a Grand Slam champion,” Schlink writes, “Stosur is the nation’s flagbearer. Times have changed, scrutiny has intensified. Fed Cup should not be an optional exercise.”

The Australian comes up with this pre-Davis Cup scoop:

TOMIC DOWNGRADES FROM HIS BMW TO A MINI-BUS

That’s what Bernie will be riding in this weekend, when the Aussies take on the Chinese Down Under. How have his captain and teammates reacted to Tomic's latest brush with the law? (The teenager is set to appear in court next week to face a speeding charge.) In classic Aussie fashion, by making a joke out of it.

When Lleyton Hewitt found out that Tomic’s famous orange Beemer was up for auction, he claimed that Bernie “offered it to me . . . but he wanted my Ferrari.”

Yesterday morning Tomic missed a surfing session with his teammates. (Is it just me, or do the Aussies seem pretty confident of beating the Chinese?)

“We’ve got to be at the beach at 7 A.M.,” captain Pat Rafter said. “Bernie? He’s just going to bed.”

The only one who seemed to be taking it all seriously was Tomic himself. Maybe a little too seriously. Asked about his driving charge, he said glumly, “That’s what you get thrown at you. . . . I’m playing tennis and soon I’ll be out of the country and never have to drive here again.”

If I were part of the Aussie Davis Cup team, I might be a little worried about that last statement: Is Bernie ever coming back?

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