Sunday, March 1, 2009

Have a question for the Fan Child?

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Hey tennis freaks and afficianados, welcome to another installment of the monthly mailbag, where yours truly aka the fan child do my best to respond to your most thought provoking queries.

Here we go ------------------------------------------------------

Q: What exactly is a lucky loser? I keep hearing this term over and over.
Betty Alexander, Jacksonville

The Fan Child: Each tournament has a qualifier tournament, and in that tournament each player has the opportunity to win their way into the event.

There is even incentive for losers in these tournaments, hence the name "lucky loser." In cases where scheduled players can't compete, the tourney will select the lucky loser (the highest ranked player among all who were eliminated in the final round of the qualifier) to enter the tournament in place of the absent player.

Q: Do you see anyone sneaking into the top-5 that hasn't already been there before?
John Rosthner, Quebec

The Fan Child: I have a couple of names in mind, guys that might climb a bit, but realistically there are only a select few (maybe only 1?) that are going to provide a challenge for the big 4, and we know them (him?) already: Jo-Wilfried aka float like a butterfly Tsonga comes to mind quickly.

There are only three more names that I can think of: Verdasco is obviously the guy who is lining up for a long-term visit to the top 10. But he has to build on his Australian Open run, not celebrate it! Delpotro and Simon are long shots at the moment; they might have reached their ceiling in the last two majors. I honestly hope not - Delpotro has been in the quarters of the U.S. Open and the Australian open back to back - so he has to be a guy you have to consider, but his endurance and big match capabilities are still largely in question (same for Simon).

Q: What's the deal with Rafa changing from the muscly sleeveless look? Is he forgetting that he's a fireball wrecking-machine type of player?
Stephanie Geral, The Netherlands

The Fan Child: I don't think Rafa has forgotten that he is a wrecking machine. It's a big change, I know. I'm mystified. I thought it would affect his game, since he is known for being hyper superstitious - We can nix that theory after he slaughtered the field in Melbourne though.

Q: Do you have any complaints about the challenge system in tennis? In case you were wondering, I think it's cool.
John Maston, Baltimore

The Fan Child: Glad you think it's cool, John! My only complaint (and it's more of a comment or an observation than a complaint) is that the officials looking at the video seem to assume that the whole surface of the ball hits the court (they assume that it completely flattens out on the court when it makes contact - follow me here?). I wonder: Of the shadow that they show you on t.v, how much of it ACTUALLY HITS THE COURT?

I seriously doubt that these videos are as accurate as they lead us to believe. That being said, it makes for great drama, and provides closure, which cuts down on temper tantrums and the bullying of lines people. It's a good thing for tennis, no doubt about it.

Q: Why are so few players hitting the one-hand backhand nowadays? I think in the top 10, Federer is the only guy?
Mario, Miami Fla.

The Fan Child: Great question Mario. I think people are hitting the two-hander now because it allows you to be quicker in the setup. In other words you can get to contact faster against the screaming pace that todays players are hitting with. Guys are hitting two-handers very open these days, and they are also very good at turning defense into offense with the shot. Because todays top pros hit so hard, every millisecond that you can save with quick preparation is huge.

Q: If the French Open is the next major why aren't these guys all playing clay tournaments?
Gaston, Serbia

The Fan Child: The Clay season isn't officially getting underway. And if guys can play on their best surface, they are going to do that when given the choice. You have to consider the economics of the game and the importance of the rankings here and gain both prize money and points to position yourself for the majors.

On the other hand I do agree with you that it would be a wise idea for some to play on more clay. Most Americans don't sniff the second week of the French Open, and even when we've had great champions like Sampras and Johny Mac, they can't make a run at Roland Garros. It kind of annoys me, as an American. But I love that different cultures excel on different surface. Clay is flat-out awesome.