- In his latest Mailbag, Jon Wertheim answers questions about the Serena Williams/Andy Murray mixed doubles team, Fagio Fognini's outburst and the rest of the Wimbledon action.
WIMBLEDON, England — As it is written, Wednesday is Mailbag Day. Some quick Q&A to hold you over until the business end of the Championships…
A full house on Centre Court for a second-round mixed doubles match? Star power. And it was a blast to watch. More, please.
• Yes, more please. Watching Serena play mixed doubles, I am thinking:
1. If singles didn’t exist, she could have 23 of these titles. She’s awesome. And she’s kind of carried Andy Murray so far.
2. She returned a guy’s 138-mph serve yesterday and hit a clean winner.
3. She deserves credit for simply staying in the draw and honoring her commitment, having reached the semis in singles.
4. Then again, maybe this is part of the plan. Work out some kinks—on Centre Court no less—and get in some extra match play.
5. The only time Serena has looked this happy on a court: playing doubles with Venus. Singles and chasing history is WORK. This business of playing alongside a partner—and one as good-natured as Sir Andy—that is fun.
Wimbledon 2001 was the first Grand Slam to have 32 seeds. Since then, three players have won 53 of the 72 Grand Slam men’s singles titles.
I suspect these two factoids are not unrelated. By the time the Big 3 face a top-16 player, they have played themselves into form. Although the 32 seeding may not statistically have helped the 1-to-16 or 17-to-32 groups as a whole, it does seem to have helped the very best.
—Peter Latham, Uxbridge, United Kingdom
• I always like the “Yours” sign-off. And great point. I would suggest that there’s, perhaps, a correlation/causation gap here. But you’re on to something. When you are a seed at a Major, you are guaranteed not to play a top 32 opponent until round three. And seeds 17-32 will not play a higher-ranked opponent until round three. Whereas Pete Sampras could have, theoretically, drawn the No. 17 player in his first match and the No. 18 player in his second match, the top players today have this membrane.
I have no objections. Seeding should have an element of protection, a reward for accumulated excellence. If you’re top 32, you should be encased until round three—by which point you’ve made six figures in prize money, by the way. But there’s no question it works to the advantage of the top players.
Supposed “journalists” like @jon_wertheim and @benrotheberg and @christopherclarey can’t write about #rafa’s “shock exit” at #wimbledon so they’ll come up with any reason possible to dump on #nadal. What a trio these 3 are—apparently weak minds think alike, as well.
• “Don’t feed the trolls” is one of the cardinal rules of operating in the public square circa 2019. But—apologies for dragging in Ben and Chris, who are both “journalists” the way Ben Simmons and Chris Paul are “basketball players”—every now and then anti-social behavior needs to be called out. I got a bunch of these messages the other day and couldn’t figure out why. The most cursory search would reveal a trove of my columns heaping praise and admiration, deservedly, on Nadal. I’ve written a friggin’ book on the guy that’s basically a full-length love letter. I’ve always had a strong, warm, professional relationship with the Nadal camp, part of it based on agreeing to disagree sometimes. And I certainly hadn’t heard complaints from them—in fact, I had spoken to Rafa’s father and manager earlier in the same day. What was triggering this barrage of you’re-a-moron bile?
Then I realized the source of the offense. This throwaway tweet:
“This joke needs a bit of work-shopping. But if Nadal is displeased with the draw seeding, he should be thrilled with the court seeding. Benefitting from the slow surface, he looks terrific again today, up 6-2, 5-2 #Wimbledon2019”
Passion is great. Tribalism is at the heart of sports. Partiality and rooting interests are at the heart of fandom. And so, too, does social media enhance the experience of being a fan and covering a global event. But this kind of incivility always strikes me as so…creepy. Really, this is how you express yourself and interact with other people? Really, there’s a mainstream media conspiracy to discredit your guy? It’s so wildly out of touch. So wildly disproportionate to any perceived slight. So wildly at odds with the personality and values of the athlete you purport to defend. And it kind of ruins the experience for everyone. Lame joke? Sure. Want to argue the courts aren’t, in fact, slow? Go nuts. But “weak minds think alike?”
Consider this a public service announcement: cheer like hell for your player. Pick your favorite. Disagree and challenge when you feel like your player isn’t getting a fair shake. But stay within the tramlines of decency. And maybe before sending flame try asking, “Is this really the best representation of myself?” Or ask: “How would I feel if Jon weren’t a nice guy and had included my surname, enabling my kids and co-workers to see me in this unbecoming state?”
I’m sure you’ve receiving a lot of emails about Coco, so I’ll keep this short.
Her three most impressive attributes are:
1. Her all-around game that looks flashy at times but is clearly very consistent.
2. Her composure on Centre Court and the fight showed in round 3.
3. She’s a 15-year-old in 2019 and I haven’t heard her say “like” even once in an interview
—Taylor Witkin, Medford, Mass.
• Amen, including to point three. I noticed that as well. The same composure and put-togetherness that enables her to stave off match points and win on Centre Court extends to the interview room. Warning: trying to do my part to dial back the hype, I’m going to go easy on Coco mail and coverage for a while. Great run here, but let’s zoom out a bit until she plays next.
Will Joao Sousa and Matteo Berrettini now face having their R16 earnings clawed back because they weren’t on court long enough and didn’t put up enough a fight? Asking for a friend.
Another question: Why the apparent slap on the wrist—really more of a bro fist bump—for Fabio Fognini, who is still under a suspended sentence and suspended fine for prior misdeeds? Shouldn’t those now be put into full effect?
OK, one more: Why would tournament organizers (or ANYONE, really) consider this to be an APOLOGY? —“If somebody feels offended, I say sorry. No problem.”
—Helen, Washington, D.C.
• Helen nails it. Because it’s tennis’ Nickelback, Bernard Tomic—the act everyone is entitled, if not obliged, to mock openly—no one is especially concerned. But when the suits are making subjective determinations about effort, we art hurtling down the family-fun-ride known as the Slippery Slope. And the non-apology apology is apropos Fabio Fognini …..
"I wish a bomb would explode on to this club" - dude Fog, you for real?
• We give wide berth to players acting out and speaking intemperately under moments of stress. Threatening a bombing doesn’t cross a line. It swerves across the median entirely. Enough of the passes for this guy. A lousy track record and body of evidence undergird Tomic’s fine for tanking and undermine Kyrgios’ reputation. How does a guy on double-secret probation for calling a female official a whore get another swing here?
Would you care to predict how many majors each of the Big 3 will win before they retire? Oddsmakers say Djokovic has a 50% chance of winning 20 majors, Rafa only 25%. Could oddsmakers be biased by the recency effect? Djokovic seems unstoppable now but so did McEnroe in ’84 and Wilander in ’88. Neither won a major thereafter.
• They all end up tied with 21. Part of what makes this compelling—apart from the sheer excellence—is the sheer unpredictability. Nadal is edging closer to Federer. And then Federer wins three majors when he’s north of 35. Djokovic, the youngest of the bunch, is closing in. And then he goes on hiatus for two years. But, wait! He’s back and wins three in a row. Probabilities and these actuarial tables won’t get it right. Neither will I.
Milos Raonic's former coaches: Ljubicic, Moya, and Ivanisevic. He is a coach rabbit?
• The Milos coaching tree! (You could add Riccardo Piatti as well.)
I noticed that the Laver Cup did a quick promo in London before Wimbledon. I’m curious, how do Federer and company pick the participants? How does, for instance, Fabio Fognini get picked to join Team Europe? Is there intense backstage politicking or is it based on existing relationships and camaraderie?
—Steve, San Francisco
• It’s one reason why it’s problematic to award ATP ranking points. The selection process is subjective, opaque and veers from the traditional entry system. Some of this is scheduling. Some of this is chemistry and image. (It will be interesting to see if Kyrgios gets the invite.) Some of this is budgetary. (Suffice it to say, Fognini comes cheaper than Djokovic does.) Again: the Laver Cup is, unmistakably, a force of good. In a short amount of time, it’s become a real force, a real tent-pole. It may overtake the Davis Cup. But it’s a standalone and it’s unfair to confer points when ranking-eligible player may not be invited.
This is so unfair. Why is Djokovic the only top-3 player who has to play two matches in the No. 1 court? It's not like Federer or Nadal are playing bigger players in Berrettini and Sousa than Humbert? It's one thing for the crowds to be biased; it's now percolating to the organizers as well. And this is coming from a huge Federer fan.
• Nadal has played multiple times on Court No. 1, including in the quarters. There are so many factors here. Television, doubles, keeping players from the same side of the draw on the same schedule. When there are real injustices—Ash Barty on Court No. 2 while Kyle Edmund plays on Centre—we should get upset and declare unfairness. Not here, though.
In your recent mailbag, a reader asks why Wimbledon displays the serve speed in MPH as opposed to KPH, given the UK uses metric. Fun Fact: The UK isn't as fully metric as the rest of Europe. Notably, speed limit on roads are posted in MPH, not KPH. This is an easy mistake to make and annoy the local drivers. So, it'd make sense the British are more comfortable with that unit of measurement.
I can't say that's the 100% guaranteed correct answer because I don't work at Wimbledon and I'm not apart of that decision, but I'm fairly confident this is correct.
—Dan B., Baltimore
• Thanks. A lot of people wrote in with similar explanations.
ENJOY THESE LAST FEW DAYS!