Week 10.01.06 Mail Call
by Richard Vach | October 5th, 2006, 7:59 pm

I’m going to blame Tennis-X Editor Luke Johnson for this.

He said, “I have a great idea — let’s you do a blog [who talks like that?] where unlike the other blogs, it will be totally unedited. You post stuff, the readers will post stuff, anything goes. Then you can respond to the readers.”

Great idea. Like Peter Bodo’s great-for-the-game runaway blogging success at Tennis.com? Problem is I don’t have a backing-corporate-publishing-giant or any kids to riff on, just two cats that puke and scratch up the furniture. I’m sure there’s already plenty of great stories at the blog at Cats-we-love-that-puke-and-scratch.com.

Great idea, “unedited,” until you realize that the reason other tennis magazines/stores/blogs edit their message boards, or don’t have message boards at all, is that every teenager with a keyboard and an overriding player obsession won’t hesitate to rip you a new one if you say anything other than their player is the flawless all-time greatest.

How do you respond to this — after offering the opinion that, in this physically-demanding age of super-technology and injuries, Roger Federer will have a hard time matching Pete Sampras’ six year-end No. 1s in a row:

“Shut up you editor. What do you think about your self. Are you insain federer is greater than pete”


“What is more appaling is how come a seasoned writer can make such a silly allegation. I am surprised plz make your facts correct before going after someone…Whole ATP ratings are completely opposite than that of sampras era…Sampras had the luxury of carrying ATP points from previous year & I hop[e you are aware now adays it starts fresh from the beginning of the year…It only shows your frustration to highlight sampras vis-a-vis Federer atleast on one stastics…Hmm disappointing !!!!!”


“Federer is obviously greater taht pete no arguments on that. This editor has not knowledge about tennis if he did he would’nt have made this comment at all.”

I agree with you crazy-Federer fan — Rog will go down as the greater player than Pete — but that was never even the subject matter.


“…it is your reasoning (why federer will probably not get six consecutive year-end nr. 1’s and therefore not be the greatest) that put many fans of, not even the statement itself. One: Injuries. I agree, chances of injuries are high, even for fed. Two: He won’t be the greatest because his competition is bad. I disagree. You, Mr. Vach, failed to elaborate on the statement.”

Yes, I failed to elaborate on the statement that he won’t be the greatest — because I never said he wouldn’t be the greatest. I simply said the competition these days isn’t as tough as it was in the ’80s. In my opinion. Geez. And the music was better too.

Mail Call
Here’s a compilation of message-board questions, theories and e-mails from the past week:

Allan says: “Its very simple — the ATP needs to start giving ranking points for Davis cup, just like they started doing it for the Olympics. then players have an incentive to play. At the same time, reduce the number of tournaments they need to play — reduce masters tournaments to 8 (from 9), and reduce the other tournaments for ranking points to 4 (from 5). Freeing up two tournaments would create enough space for most players to squeeze in davis Cup. Of course, the question of prize money still remains.”

Not so fast my friend. You have to ask yourself: if it’s so simple, why haven’t they done it yet? Ranking points aren’t offered for Davis Cup because it would be an unequal distribution of ranking wealth, and many players would be left out. Unless you’re in the top three or so players for a World Group country, you’re not going to see action. Then with all the tiny countries competing in zonal play, players that can’t even get into Challengers would suddenly get a nice ranking boost for doing little more than beating someone from Chinese Taipei or Netherlands Antilles. It would be great if someone could figure out how to make it work and make it fair, mathematics wizards can send ideas care of the International Tennis Federation.

Aurele Says: “I don’t understand what the big hype about Sampras is. If he was such a good player, why was he so miserable on clay (24-13 at the French, with just one SF). He had mainly two shots — first serve, second serve. Once someone got them back, he was at a disadvantage even to rookies. If he had such a great backhand, forehand, etc, then why so miserable on clay?”

He sure as hell wasn’t a claycourt specialist, if that’s the question. I’d say “miserable” is kind of harsh describing a player who won a Masters Series on clay and reached the French semis. And a two-shot player? Pete had a nasty-effective forehand that on the run was a winner-making machine. He also reached the French quarters three times, losing to former champions Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and Sergi Bruguera. But Sampras struggled at Roland Garros especially in the late years of his career, and players knew the “book” on playing Pete on clay — bounce it up around his shoulders on the backhand, and wait for the subsequent short ball. Sampras also pretty much single-handedly won the U.S.’s last Davis Cup in Russia in ’96 on red clay. But yes, clay was by far his weakest surface, with exits before the 3rd round in five of his last seven years at Roland Garros (which included the semi result). Roger Federer fans in the “vs. Pete” debate can take solace that the Swiss, had they played in the same era, likely would have taken Pete to the woodshed on clay on every occasion.

Mariel Says: “If you go back to your article, the discussion on injuries is trifling. The notable line there is that Sampras is a freak of nature, that is why he escaped injuries. Quite some reasoning there, isn’t it? Why can’t we say Federer could be a “freak of nature”, too? No, that would be a statistical improbability besides unAmerican of us to say, right?”

Not sure about the un-American part, but if Federer is another “freak or nature” like Sampras who goes six straight years without a major injury that knocks him off the top perch, more power to him. Hope he can do it. In fact, hope he breaks all Sampras’ records, and Rod Laver’s, so the sport can have a definitive best-ever player instead of “best of his generation.” One thing that separates the Sampras Era from the Federer Era is the leap in variables that cause player injuries, making it harder for Fed.

TejuZ Says: “Regarding injuries, hmmm future is always unpredictable, anything can happen anytime. But chances of that happening is slim.. else why do you think Federer has remained injury free(barring minor injuries) for the last 8 years running. So to think that to change for next 3 years is what i call ‘wishful thinking’ on your part.”

Ouch. Wishing Federer would get injured, so Sampras maintains his six-consecutive year-end No. 1 record? Hardly. Again — hope he breaks Pete’s record. And his last eight years haven’t been as a top player — top players take much more of a physical beating compared to the rank and file. But the modern conditions point to six in a row being one of his toughest challenges.

Mohammad Says: “Nobody cares about how long you have been No. 1 or how many years you have been No. 1. Sampras never broke Connors record of 160 consecutive weeks at No. 1 or his 109 titles record. The second record will also be hard for Federer to break. So does this means that Sampras or Federer is inferior to Connors, no. As much as ATP would like us to look at other records also, in the end only the Grand Slams count.”

I respectfully disagree. Amelie Mauresmo cares, she just said so earlier today in Stuttgart, the year-end No. 1 ranking is her main concern. Sampras cared so much he played almost every week between the US Open and the Masters Cup during the sixth year of his reign. Federer, whether he admits it or not, would love to break that Sampras No. 1 mark, because the Slam record is a lay-up comparatively. And in regard to Connor’s 109 titles, many historians put an asterisk next to that one since in the ’70s Jimmy played on the “Connors Tour,” a competing series of events to the main tour where he racked-up 10 or more titles a number of years in a row.

And to the e-mail questions:

Q: “Why are you so stupid?”


Q: “Why did you say Rafael Nadal said he wasn’t going to play Davis Cup for Spain against Switzerland?”

Apparently the quote that was attributed to Nadal saying he wouldn’t play was in fact an error from the Associated Press — Nadal was reportedly talking about Roger Federer not yet committing to playing the tie. The AP was immediately contacted for confirmation, and a disclaimer was put at the bottom of the article.

Q: “How can grown men call themselves Xtreme?”

Good question. Men and women. Ask editor Luke Johnson. Perhaps it refers to the Xtreme amount of hate messages on the blog message boards.

Q: “I think it will be interesting to see how Nadal does once he has a lot of points to defend (and just a lot more to lose in general) particularly on non-clay courts. It seems that Nadal is constantly saying in his interviews how he doesn’t expect much from himself and he’s just trying to do his best. Well, he can’t keep saying that forever and eventually, whether he admits it or not, the pressure and expectations will be on him.  Any thoughts?  Take care.”

Thanks, I got a little verklempt at the care toward my well being. I’m used to e-mails ending with “F*ck off!” I’d say Nadal has handled the pressure pretty well this year since he’s already defended titles at the Masters Series-Monte Carlo, Barcelona, the MS-Rome, and the French Open — as you noted, all on clay. Rafa is a humble lad, and talking himself down has become kind of his signature — this year on each occasion rattling on before playing Federer about how great the Swiss is, how he’s not even close to his level — then beating him this year at Dubai, Monte Carlo, Rome, and Roland Garros. It’s his schtick. And on many levels it’s true. It doesn’t seem to effect his results any, and if he overtakes Federer one day, the first thing out of his mouth will probably be how great Roger is. Except for some snarkiness here and there, they pretty much have a Mutual Admiration Society between them, exchanging text messages and fruit baskets and the like, much to the chagrin of fans who love to see the world No. 1 and 2 at each other’s throats.

Happy unedited hate-free weekend everyone.

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8 Comments for Week 10.01.06 Mail Call

JDC Says:

Not every Fed fan misinterpreted your post. I agree completely w/ your assessment of the 6-yr record … yet I am a Fed fan who believes he will go down as the greatest ever.

But I do have to comment on the David Cross pic. I would have expected the smart-ass smirk that you wear on Tennis Insiders … and probably wear when you’re reading comments about your posts. This pic just seems too happy.

Elwin (Netherlands) Says:

Hey, my fault too.

I said…>

´Richard Vach, Tennis Backhander.´ it says

`with all respect`…Must be the worst backhand I´ve ever seen.

Ofcourse I don´t know how your backhand is lol….

it´s great to have a convo like this without just the hatefull reactions, everyone´s opinion.

joe Says:

everyone is too happy. roger federers blog this week at the atp is too happy. happy happy joy joy.

critic Says:

Mr. Vach, i appreciate that you keep answering to these many posts even though some haven’t been written in the appropriate level of language.
However, when you comment on the statements i sometimes get the impression that you twist them around a little bit. I might misread them too, though. Example:
“Two: He won’t be the greatest because his competition is bad. I disagree.” You answered: “Yes, I failed to elaborate on the statement that he won’t be the greatest — because I never said he wouldn’t be the greatest. I simply said the competition these days isn’t as tough as it was in the ’80s. In my opinion. […] And the music was better too.”
I’d love to have seen an elaboration on WHY the competition is worse nowadays as an answer to the post. Instead you only refer to its first part and the ordinary “greatest-discussion”. Finally you repeat your opinion but still don’t explain why it is your opinion. Apparently you don’t want to get into it. Ok, i’ll leave it here.
By the way: Funny typo: Yes, the music was better in the 80s than today. It’s got nothing to do with the discussion but i’ll go with that. But the reference doesn’t work because we weren’t talking about competition in tennis of the 80s, but of the 90s. And music there was pretty bad, even worse than today. In my opinion.
I believe that competition among the top was brutal during the 80s. Especially Lendl had a really hard time beating(getting beaten by) all the Greats at their respective peak. But that’s another topic.
see ya

kamret Says:

“And in regard to Connor’s 109 titles, many historians put an asterisk next to that one since in the ’70s Jimmy played on the “Connors Tour,” a competing series of events to the main tour where he racked-up 10 or more titles a number of years in a row.”

So, was Connors the only player playing on that tour in the 70s? Weren’t his major rivals at the time (Nastase, Ashe, Vilas, Gerulaitis, etc.) playing on that tour, as well? It’s not like he was just buying the titles. He had to play his major rivals to win them. Still he managed to be ranked # 1 by the ATP for 5 straight years. What an accomplishment for someone who wasn’t even focusing entirely on ATP events!

kamret Says:

P.S. By the way, the ATP’s website says that Connors won 105 ATP titles:

So, does that mean that he won only 4 titles on the “Connors Tour” (i.e., 109-105)? Can anyone explain? Thanks.

joe Says:

the atp counts it as an offical tour. they had two tours back then and i gues they were both ‘offical’.

GopiB Says:

“every teenager with a keyboard and an overriding player obsession won’t hesitate to rip you a new one if you say anything other than their player is the flawless all-time greatest”

Mr. Vach, You know very well we are not talking about any player here, but you are referring to Roger Federer. I assure you you may not have gotten much of a response if you were talking about some other player. Or if you were not pressing the below two points.

The insinuation (with an underlying current of nefarious hope) that injuries may prevent Roger passing one yardstick you feel will somehow stay with Pete, hook or crook, is what got people going. Otherwise, your articles are refreshing, and make for great reading.

The other is your selective choosing of hurdles, so the trophy stays at home. First it is the 14 slams, right? Now that Roger is getting closer, you are scrambling to find a tricky one. And you pick the arbitrary six year end #1s fully knowing there are two other #1 records that are much more meaningful if your intent is to measure consistency of domination, and not some random technicality. The 160 weeks straight at #1 and the 286 weeks overall in that order better represent what most would agree as the metrics demonstrating dominance in your era.

So, I think it is these two points that got genuine fans to raise up and point them out to you. Unless you thought, like with most journalism in the past, this (year end #1) will simply pass without much scrutiny by the public, to become the de facto measure for “all time great”, consequently ensuring your idol Pete is enshrined for ever.

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