Reading the Readers: Feb. 14

Thursday, February 14, 2013 /by

The latest in reader questions. If you have one for this column, please email me at stignor@tennismagazine.com

*****

Steve,

I wanted to know what you think of Nadal’s latest complaint, about there being too many hard-court tournaments, and not enough clay-court tournaments. It didn’t take him long to get back to whining about everything, did it? Don’t you think it’s bad for the sport to always be run down by a star, when he just wants more tournaments on his favorite surface?George

It would be nice, I suppose, if Nadal were happy with everything in the game as it was. And, ideally, you don’t want to hear him “blasting,” as the headlines usually have it, his own tour each morning. But at the same time, would you rather have him not say what he thinks? The vast majority of the quotes you hear from him over the course of the year are answers to questions. Would it be better if he fabricated an answer or said “no comment”? For some, that's the way to do it, but that's not how Nadal says he likes to do things.

Last year at the French Open, Nadal was asked by USA Today’s Doug Robson about his philosophy when it comes to talking about injuries in public. Nadal said that he didn’t want to come into the interview room “and lie.” That’s generally how he deals with questions on various subjects, though there are definite exceptions, such as his presser after his loss to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon, when he didn’t mention that his knees had been hurting.

The downside of this approach is, the more questions you’re asked, the better the chance is that you’ll sound like a broken record, an excuse-maker, or a terminal griper; and that’s what many non-Nadal fans seem to think of him. As far as court surfaces go, in the quotes from Brazil that I’ve seen, Nadal doesn’t say he wants to see more clay-court events specifically (though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind). He says that he objects to hard surfaces as opposed to softer ones.

“I find hard courts the worst for the body,” he said, “they’re the most harming for articulations, knees, backs...I don’t think a change to more clay and grass tournaments will be possible in my generation. The ATP needs to be more careful to prolong their players' careers.”

Maybe there were other quotes I missed, but this doesn’t sound like the King of Clay banging down his goblet and calling for “more clay!” He mentions clay and grass.

Hard courts have been around for a long time, for 100-odd years in California, and as Rafa seems to realize, they’re not going away any time soon. From my own experience, clay is easier on the body than asphalt, but the retired ATP champions I’ve seen recently were moving pretty well, and they spent most of their careers on hard courts. I think Rafa is half-right: Tennis could use more events on grass.

*****

Steve, I’m an Australian and watched the Australian Open here. I was a little surprised by the harsh treatment that the commentators and press gave RedFoo [Victoria Azarenka’s boyfriend, an American pop singer/DJ]. Is he really so bad? Do the men’s girlfriends get such a hard time?Alex

Thanks for the Valentine’s Day special, Alex. Is RedFoo so bad? Maybe it depends on what you think of the video that he sent Vika on this special Hallmark holiday. I'm probably the wrong person to ask; I had never heard of RedFoo before he got involved with Azarenka, and I can’t name any of his band’s songs. (Does that qualify as a humblebrag?)

The line in Oz on the Foo was that he’s a clownish camera hog and nonstop self-promoter. Of course, what else would you expect from a professional singer—and an American one at that? Still, I began to see the point one afternoon down there. When a camera caught RedFoo walking onto the grounds at Melbourne Park, he couldn’t stop dancing and mugging and showing off his air forehand for it. I hadn’t minded him as much at the U.S. Open. I even thought it was nice for tennis to have someone in the pop-culture universe show an interest in the game.

There was also some talk in Australia about their age difference—he’s 37, she’s 23—but Azarenka is old enough to handle herself. I guess the fact that the man otherwise known as Stefan Kendal Gordy is the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., probably won't win over any of those who are skeptical about his talent.

As far as male players and their famous girlfriends, the one that comes closest to this that I can remember is Barbra Streisand watching Andre Agassi at the 1992 U.S. Open. He was 21, she was...49. I don’t recall that anyone seriously balked at the age difference, but it made for fantastic, if highly temporary, fodder for the tabloids. (See the clip below for tennis-love at its most mystical.)

Hopefully Vika and RedFoo will last longer than Babs and the Zen Master. You can't say he's been bad for her game. When Azarenka won in Melbourne, RedFoo, seemingly her only friend in town, joined her in the booth on Channel 7. After referring to him as “Red Food,” one of the anchors asked the two of them, “What are we drinking tonight?”

“Everything,” they said at the same time. I don’t know if that sounded like love, but at that moment, anyway, they were on the same page.

 

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