Welcome to the Changeover Mailbag! Every week, I’ll be answering questions on tennis or life in general. If you’d like to submit a question, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions may be edited for brevity or clarity.
“Do you think that Federer really has a super easy draw and nothing standing in his way to make the French Open final? On paper it looks amazing – but bear in mind that he historically does struggle against Benneteau and Simon, with a loss to the former all too recent. Tsonga has the propensity to really surge and explode and he nearly beat Djokovic last year. Tsonga is also no stranger to upsetting Federer in a Slam. Ferrer has never beaten Federer, but is it really a “gimme” if that match happens? Would love to hear your thoughts.” -Jyannis
“Is this the best possible draw for Roger Federer to have a shot at French Open?” –
I think that Federer got the most ideal draw he possibly could have with the players participating in this tournament. If he’s hoping to make the final, having David Ferrer as his highest-ranked potential semifinal opponent is infinitely better for him than having Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic waiting there.
That said, I wouldn’t say that nothing is standing in his way of the final. Nothing can be taken for granted.
As you mention, he lost to Benneteau earlier this year, and to Simon a couple times in the past (but that was five years ago). I’d still expect Federer to beat either one of those players in a best-of-five match on clay. Tsonga is always the question mark, and barring the unexpected, he’s probably the opponent that could prove the most challenging to Federer, should they meet in the quarters.
I do expect Federer to reach the final, given this draw, and that brings me to the next question of whether this is the best possible draw for Federer to have a shot at the title.
The answer is yes — but Federer still doesn’t have much of a shot. Nadal is the odds-on favorite, and should he meet the Swiss in the final, I would expect him to destroy Federer. If Djokovic pulled off a win against Nadal in the semis, Federer would have a small chance at the title because the match-up is more favorable to him. It would still be an uphill battle, and the chances are slim. But it’s still the best draw Federer could have hoped for.
“What is your assessment on the potential of Grigor Dimitrov in terms of his legacy in tennis? There is no doubt that his strokes are very polished and flashy. I would also argue that he is one of the most marketable next generation tennis players at the moment. However, in terms of his productivity on grand slams / masters series / ATP 500, ten years from now, do you see him as:
(a) Extremely prolific with multiple grand slam and masters titles (i.e., Federer / Nadal / Djokovic)
(b) Very consistent in every big tournament, multiple masters titles, possibly several grand slams (i.e., Murray, Del Potro, Roddick)
(c) Constant fixture in top 10, but not a legitimate contender to win a big tournament (Ferrer, Berdych, Tsonga, Gasquet, Soderling)
(d) In and out of top 10, winner of multiple smaller tournaments (ATP 250 and some ATP 500), but nothing “big-time” (Haas, Wawrinka)
(e) Comfortably bouncing around top 30, but not a threat to achieve anything special
I like multiple choice! For me, it’s D, with the caveat that it’s very difficult to predict a young player’s future achievements.
I think Dimitrov still has many areas to improve. His fitness is a big issue–he seems to always be cramping up after just a few sets of tennis–and I question his endurance. He’s never reached the third round of a Slam. His best results have come in best-of-three matches.
I also think his shot selection leaves something to be desired. He plays too many low percentage shots, and it gets him into trouble. When he’s firing on all cylinders, it might deliver him a big upset like the one he earned over Novak Djokovic in Madrid, but it doesn’t lend itself well to days when he’s not at his best.
That said, his technique is solid, and he can hang with the top players for stretches. If he works hard on the aforementioned issues, he should be able to become a mainstay in the top 10.
“How important it is for tennis bloggers like you guys to be objective? is it difficult to keep fandom aside while writing posts?” –@shs_techi
Our site is a tennis blog, not a tennis news website, so we don’t have to completely set aside our fan status. Juan Jose is a Novak Djokovic fan and has an absurd but funny hatred of Jarkko Nieminen. Lindsay likes random players like Julien Benneteau, John Isner, and Xavier Malisse. I don’t like to talk about my preferences, but I’ll admit to being partial to Bernard Tomic. We make no claims of having total objectivity.
That said, as I have covered tennis events for our site and for other sites, I don’t find that it’s that difficult to detach myself from being a fan. Most sportswriters grow up as fans of certain teams, and when you know you have a responsibility to cover a sport objectively, it’s not that difficult to do so. In fact, it makes watching tennis more enjoyable when you don’t have a vested interest in the outcome.
I am grateful that I’ve had those experiences of covering events as a reporter, because they have made the sport much less stressful to watch. Most of the time these days, I find myself rooting for high quality matches, and not for any particular player.
I’m not perfect. I’ve been accused of hating various different players (although the accusations are sometimes funny, given my actual opinions). But as every day passes, I find myself less of a fan of individual players, and more a fan of the sport in general.
“What do you think of Yulia Putintseva’s potential? Do you think she will be a grand slam winner one day?” -Karunya M.
I really enjoy watching Yulia Putintseva. The Russian-born Putintseva, who now plays under the Kazakh flag, is a firecracker and can be fiercely competitive, but her tennis is always compelling. I’ve gotten to watch a couple of her matches in the last few days because they happened to be on televised courts, and I think she’s enormously talented.
I love the consistent depth she gets on her shots. Like many young players, her serve has room for improvement, and she needs to get out of the habit of resorting to moonballs, which are more effective against junior players. However, she is poised and capable of challenging even the top players. Plus, she’s only 18 years old.
I don’t know about winning slams because that’s too far away right now, but I can’t wait to see what she can do in the next few years.
“Should we (fans and media) be questioning a players weight? A complex issue. Most agree Ivanovic’s weight loss robbed her of power, some point to more healthy girls as being too big.” –@bradhunter
Personally, I try and stay away from it. There are a few cases where a player has gotten frighteningly skinny, like Daniela Hantuchova back in 2003, which drew comments from Martina Navratilova and other public figures in the tennis community.
Ivanovic has lost a significant amount of weight, but hasn’t drawn quite so much mainstream media coverage as Hantuchova did, perhaps because her results have improved lately.
I don’t think we should criticize players for their weight on either side of the spectrum, but I can see why the media and fans would be concerned if a player loses what seems to be a scary amount of weight. As athletes, they face more scrutiny than most normal people, so we can assume there will be some eating disorders among tennis players. But we need to exercise caution when discussing those kinds of issues.
As Roger Federer makes the Twitter transition, wondered who do you think does Twitter well in ATP/WTA & why? Who deserves a must follow? –@A_Gallivant
Stan Wawrinka is always hilarious on Twitter. Boris Becker is weird and crazy. Maria Kirilenko tweets about her adventures with her hockey player fiancé Alex Ovechkin. Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick are pretty entertaining, as is Caroline Wozniacki.
It all depends on your taste, but Sports Illustrated’s Beyond the Baseline has a great list of tennis players on Twitter.
I trust our readers will weigh in on their favorite tennis players on Twitter in the comments section!
Have a question for next Monday’s column? Send it to me at email@example.com.