Wednesday, August 28, 2002

THE U.S. OPEN (tennis, not golf) started Monday in New York, and so I'll be a tad preoccupied over the next two weeks.

I was all set to write a blog entry in defense of Anna Kournikova when Anna went and lost in 40-something minutes in the first round to an unknown 17-year-old from Indonesia. Disgraceful. A horrible performance. Still:

It's dumb-jock-sportswriter horseshit to call Anna a bad player who doesn't belong on the tour. She's an underachiever, yes. A disappointment, yes. Squandering her talent? No doubt. But to say she doesn't belong on the tour with all those non-fashion-model players is nonsense. Even in her understandably distracted state, she's among the top 50 female tennis players in the world by any measure. In terms of talent, she's in the top 10, maybe the top five (hence the "underachiever" business). She has the shots, but she lacks a certain psychological ability to understand how to parlay those shots into victories. (I can relate.)

At the very, very least, Anna is a doubles superstar who has had lesser success in singles. That's still pretty select company.

John McEnroe makes a huge production out of the fact that x player is ranked y despite a mediocre, perhaps losing, record. I love John McEnroe, but if he looked at the records of all the players (and perhaps took a statistics class) he'd find out that not only do a lot of world-class players have losing records, but also that it's mathematically impossible for everybody in the top 128 of what is not much more than a 200-player universe to have a winning record. Half the players who play on any given day are losers. Batting .400-something in pro tennis is pretty darn good.

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