Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - CE 10: Nobody Knows Anything Edition
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CE 10: Nobody Knows Anything Edition 02/23/2009 - 4:41 PM

Vw“Nobody knows anything” was a pithy description of Hollywood coined by screenwriter William Goldman in the 1980s. What he meant was, if anyone said they had a clue as to what had made a movie a hit or what had made it a bomb, that person was lying. Reading and watching the financial news over the last few months, I think it’s time we expanded Goldman’s mantra to cover more than just the movie industry. In fact, I’m predicting that “nobody knows anything” will be the defining philosophy of every aspect of life in the coming century—to answer any question, all you’ll have to do is raise your hand and say, very quickly, “NKA." Goldman himself will be looked on as a modern-day Aristotle.

With that in mind, make what you will of these 10 thoughts.

1. Andy Roddick
His withdrawal from Dubai hardly had the ring of righteous anger to it—“I don’t know if it’s the best thing to mix politics and sports, that was probably a big part of it. It’s just disappointing because that reflects on a tournament that didn’t have much to do with the decision. Nevertheless, I don’t feel there’s need for that in a sporting event.” But Roddick did say something and do something in light of the Shahar Peer situation.

He also won his 27th tournament this weekend, in Memphis. Roddick has taken more criticism than virtually any perennial Top 10 pro I can remember, and even his fans concede he isn’t the prettiest player in the world to watch. But while he hasn’t continued the tradition of No. 1 U.S. male players, his doggedness over the years has helped him build a quietly impressive résumé. By the time he retires, it will likely stack up well against the careers of many more talented and celebrated men.

As for Roddick’s game right now, I should have more on that after I watch the Memphis final on tape tonight.

2. Venus Williams
Are you disappointed by her and her tourmates’ measured reaction to the Peer affair? On the one hand I am—firebrand speeches and boycotts are better copy, better publicity for the tour, and more satisfying all around. Venus, with little time to react to the situation, didn’t argue for this choice. She said she supported her colleague, but that the tour had to consider its sponsors and couldn’t simply boycott the event. Then she obliquely mentioned Peer at the trophy presentation. "I felt like I had to talk about her. I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her.”

Second question: Is there a conflict between Venus' reaction in Dubai and her and her sister's continued boycott of Indian Wells after they were booed and allegedly subject to racial taunts there in 2001? By that standard, she should support other players' right to be welcomed everywhere. But I don't know if not boycotting Dubai amounts to hypocrisy, honestly—what do you think? I’m guessing that Venus feels like the world is fragile as it is, and messed with only when necessary. She has consistently said that tennis and politics shouldn’t mix; it’s just that in this case that stance came off sounding compromised and corporate. But I also felt like Venus addressed the situation honestly, that her calm approach might be the right one in the long run, and that there is a leader, rather than just a player, inside her. Maybe she’ll take more chances next time. Maybe she’ll realize that taking a riskier stand is more satisfying, whatever the consequences. Maybe she’ll trust that she has some real say in how the tour is run, not just how she does on the court.

3. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
A second title for Jo-Willie this weekend, in Marseille, and a win over Novak Djokovic. I didn’t see this tournament—was he doing anything differently? I like that he’s kept up his momentum after a good run in Oz, but I can’t help but hear his injury clock ticking—when’s it going to go off? I guess I should stop worrying and just hope he makes it to Indian Wells, where we can watch him again.

4. Victoria Azarenka
The Bulgarian up-and-comer won the singles and doubles in Memphis this weekend. I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in that, except that she beat another, even more highly touted, up-and-comer, Caroline Wozniacki, 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

5. Stat Abuse
As shown last week in this excellent NY Times Magazine article by Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Blind Side), the stat geeks have invaded the NBA. I guess there’s no way to transfer this kind of analysis to an individual sport like tennis. Over the long haul, you’re pretty much as good as your ranking. This is one of the beauties of the sport—there’s no hiding—but also one that leaves little room for stat-based speculation and revision by obsessive fans. As it is now, you can pretty much “prove” your favorite tennis legend was the greatest of all time by weighting the stats any way you want.

6. Oscar Watch, Part I
Despite his conspicuous self-regard, I actually don’t have much against Sean Penn. This is the man who is responsible for the creation of Jeff Spicoli, which is more than I will ever give to this planet (see clip below). I mostly liked his speech, even if I couldn’t tell whether he ever thanked his wife, and even if it won’t be remembered next year. (Very few acceptance speeches are remembered for anything other than being embarrassingly over the top. The only one that has stuck with me in a non-laughable way was Russell Crowe’s for Gladiator.)

At least Penn mentioned his “brother,” Mickey Rourke, the guy I was hoping would win. I thought Penn was overrated in his last Oscar performance, in Mystic River, but maybe it was just the movie that was overrated. (I’ll have to see Milk now.) Is wearing your political convictions on your sleeve the way Penn does such an awful thing? As long as they’re not Republican convictions, of course.

7. Oscar Watch, Part II
A night’s worth of adulation at these awards can grate. These people are actors doing their jobs, I always end up thinking; they may also be “stars,” but that fact alone doesn’t seem worthy of a standing ovation.

I rented a movie this weekend called The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, directed by Roberto Rosselini for French TV in 1966. It's story of how the shy Sun King outsmarts his backstabbing subjects, including his mom, and reclaims control of the country. The lead actor had never appeared in a movie before and couldn’t remember his lines. Rosselini had him read them off a chalkboard, and you can see him doing it throughout the movie. His performance is utterly stiff, but it’s perfect for the role of the stiff but willful king. There were no histrionics, which is usually what gets called “good acting." For another example of this, see The Wire, which used local Baltimore kids to play local Baltimore roles. They were convincing just because they looked and sounded the part.

Then again, the other movie I watched this weekend was The Harder They Fall, a boxing flick from the 50s starring Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger. It’s worth seeing for Steiger’s performance as a vicious, fast-talking fight-fixer alone—without his acting, the movie is worthless. Steiger won an Oscar for a very different performance 10 years later, as a racist cop in In the Heat of the Night. Like Penn, he could play a wide range of roles. OK, maybe actors are worth clapping for.

8. TV Watch
I’ve asked this before, but do you follow Friday Night Lights? The show started brilliantly, went into the pandering toilet in the second season, but has rebounded in the third. It’s not hip—there are many, many lectures about what it means to be a man, which I guess I should try to take to heart. But it’s also the most novelistic show on the tube today. The sarcasm is actually funny.

9. Album Watch
Best new record I’ve heard this year: Hold Time, by M.Ward.

Record I’ve listened to the most this year, even though it is from 1968: Nefertiti, by Miles Davis. Good for all moods, places, and times.

10. A Philosophical Question
Last and probably least, Tommy Robredo has just won two straight tournaments. I’ve tried all day, but I cannot decide what this means. Can you?

See what I mean? "NKA"


Posted by MJ 02/23/2009 at 04:52 PM


Posted by gliciouss 02/23/2009 at 04:53 PM

first win over novak in five tries???

Posted by xiaoming 02/23/2009 at 04:56 PM

On #3 - it's Jo-Wilfried's fourth win over Djokovic in five tries, not his first.

Posted by MJ 02/23/2009 at 04:57 PM

Minor correction -

"A second title for Jo-Willie this weekend, in Marseille, and a first win over Novak Djokovic in five tries."

ATP shows Tsonga's h-h over Djoke as 4-1. J-W hasn't lost to Nole since last year's AO final.

Posted by Chris 02/23/2009 at 04:57 PM

Two errors in this article: 1) this was Tsonga's fourth win in five tries over Novak, who has beaten him only in the 08 Australian final. 2) Victoria Azarenka is from Belarus, not Bulgaria.

Posted by Chris 02/23/2009 at 04:58 PM

Poor Steve probably feels like he's being jumped on by all of us, but it just shows how good his reporting normally is if we're shocked when he's off the mark.

Posted by Andrew 02/23/2009 at 04:59 PM

Hi, Steve. You write:

"I guess there’s no way to transfer this kind of analysis to an individual sport like tennis. Over the long haul, you’re pretty much as good as your ranking. This is one of the beauties of the sport—there’s no hiding—but also one that leaves little room for stat-based speculation and revision by obsessive fans. As it is now, you can pretty much “prove” your favorite tennis legend was the greatest of all time by weighting the stats any way you want."

Hum. By definition, one can't transform statistics about the value of an individual's performance into statements about their value to a team in an individual sport.

And "proving" that X=GOAT through statistical means is also worthless.

But what Bill James and others have done for baseball (and others seem to be doing for basketball) is to show that the most obvious statistics tell you less about what matters, while other ways of describing outcomes quantitatively can be very useful, on a predictive as well as explanatory basis.

I think the same will be true of tennis.

To give an example: what is the point of exhibiting the 1st serve percentage? It's easy to capture, and it seems like it might explain something, so Goodall, Adler, Koenig et al never allow a broadcast to go by without mentioning it. But it doesn't seem very valuable to me.

I'd much prefer to know about serves not put back into play, or returns put into play. I think that many players allow a clean look at a first or second serve, while others win a ton of free points. And some players make life very hard on servers, while others are consistently starting a return point under the cosh. Might be worth something...

Posted by feedforward 02/23/2009 at 05:02 PM

Djokovic beat Tsonga in AO final last year. Tsonga has now won their last four meetings.

Posted by Chris 02/23/2009 at 05:05 PM

Roddick did indeed have a terrific showing in Memphis, but the best shot of the match and the tournament for me was hit by Stepanek. Serving at 3-4, 30-30 in the second set, he was in a lot of trouble when Roddick hit an excellent lob over him at the net. But he raced back to the baseline, somehow got his feet positioned, wheeled about, and hit a world-class backhand pass that was not only on the line but deep. Roddick applauded, and for once Stepanek's melodramatic gyrating seemed justified.

Posted by Divesh 02/23/2009 at 05:14 PM


Jo Willy has actually won against Novak the past 3-4 times. Get your facts right.

Posted by Quadruple Bagel 02/23/2009 at 05:15 PM

Any guy that knows Miles and tennis is cool with me.

I like "Miles Smiles" a little better, though. It's got more bite and I think "Circle" is prettier than "Fall," to me.

Love Miles' second quintet. I'm guessing you do, too.

Posted by Master Ace 02/23/2009 at 05:18 PM

That shot by Radek was indeed incredible after Andy lobbed him nicely as Radek came to the net(as usual). Also, surprised that Andy won his share of baseline rallies with Radek.

Victoria may have stepped up her game as we saw in the Australian Open against Serena but Caroline defeated her at Fed Cup a few weeks ago along with defeating her at USO. Also, Victoria and Caroline won the doubles title at Memphis.

Posted by Black Matt 02/23/2009 at 06:28 PM

As always, I have to comment when Steve mentions a great jazz album. And Nefertiti is a GREAT jazz album. Tony Williams wails on the title track.

Posted by maedal 02/23/2009 at 06:28 PM

I absolutely love Friday Night Lights; agree that the second season didn't live up to the first, but this one seems to be percolating along nicely. I hope it gains a wider audience this season so that its continued existence won't be threatened.

Part of the problem, at least the problem that I have, is describing it to people. On the surface, it's about a high school football team in a small Texas town. In reality, it's about people, relationships, difficult choices, compromises, husband-wife and parent-child relationships, friendships and's about life. And so well done.

At least it's scheduled for Friday nights now. It was even more difficult to describe to people before: "It's called Friday Night Lights but the show is on Wednesdays..."

Go Panthers!

Posted by Christopher 02/23/2009 at 06:46 PM

Friday Night Lights is great. As Maedal points out, it does a wonderful job of portraying real relationships between people. I'm especially impressed by its treatment of the coach and his wife. I also love the fact that the characters face real problems that can't and aren't neatly solved in one hour (or even 12 hours).

Of course no one watches it, so like most high quality network TV (oxymoron alert), it's doomed.

Posted by Dreamsonfire 02/23/2009 at 07:24 PM

I adore Friday Night Lights. I hope it manages another season. There's something about the situation that the characters find themselves in, the dialogue, the interaction between characters that are incredibly real and strike a cord with me. I haven't found all of those things above in any tv show I've watched.

Posted by Ryan 02/23/2009 at 07:29 PM

Stat I'd like to see tracked, and Todd Martin pointed this one out in an article I saw in Tennis back in the day: Games held where the server faced break point. I bet Nadal leads in that category.

Posted by Patsy 02/23/2009 at 07:49 PM

When have you or anyone else ever come out in defense or support of Venus and Serena re Indian Wells. I heard no cries for a boycott of that tournament then or now. So I smell hypocrisy and it stinks.

Posted by NDMS 02/23/2009 at 08:15 PM

It's a quality title for Roddick even though it's been remarked that Memphis 500 has a less stellar field than Marseilles 250. Hewitt gave him a scare and Stepanek forced him to come up with passing shots and deal with nothing balls during baseline rallies.

I think Tsonga who played 3 tourneys this Feb is trying to up his ranking as quickly as possible to be at least #8 because the seeding for #5-8 guarantees that you don't meet the top 4 before the QF of the Masters/GS. That he made French toast of Djokovic again was not surprising especially since it's a homefront encounter.

In the YEC in Shanghai, I was very annoyed at Djokovic in not wanting to fight out the 3rd set with Tsonga in the round robin. It was a "meaningless" match to Djokovic but not in terms of 100 extra points and getting more money if he won the title undefeated. But Djokovic didn't bother after he lost the 2nd set. Tsonga played for pride and for future investment.

Robredo who also logged in 3 tourneys in Feb (all clay) is just making hay while the sun shine on his favorite surface. All these points will give him a better seeding in the Masters/GS.

Posted by Christopher 02/23/2009 at 08:23 PM

On your Sean Penn comment: imagine if he had promoted a conservative cause in his speech, like supporting life or traditional marriage. He'd be villified by his Hollywood pals, instead of celebrated. There's no place for tolerance of conservative beliefs in Hollywood. Maybe that's why more and more Americans just don't care about it.

Posted by jhurwi 02/23/2009 at 08:31 PM

Dear Steve, It's great to see there is someone else who has seen the Rosselini film about Louis XIV, though I had never heard that story about the actor readin his lines off a blackboard!
When I taught European history in high school, I always used to show the key scene in which Colbert lays out his mercantilist economic policies. Louis, who has been listening in silence, then adds only one sentence : "and velvet mantles" --making the nobles at court spend vast amount of money on their clothes is part of his strategy to keep them under his eye and under his thumb. Throughout the film he mostly watches others and says very little, waiting for the moment when a few words have maximum impact. That is true to the character of the real Louis XIV, who was famous for his iron self-control and refusal to lose his temper.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 02/23/2009 at 09:59 PM

Answer to #10: Robredo may not be the flashiest player or the most brilliant shotmaker, or even the grittiest grinder, but he's proven time and again that he is a professional. That means he comes to work every day and does his best to win every match. Sometimes, under the right circumstances (like a really slow court), that's all it takes to notch up a few titles.

Posted by Andrew 02/24/2009 at 12:57 AM

I watched the Friday Night Lights first season, then gave up, with regret. I loved the book, and thought the set-up great - but, dang, the whole show is grim. If anyone can remember any humor - any humor at all - in the first season, you're ahead of me.

Posted by Factchecker 02/24/2009 at 02:50 AM

Steve, Vistoria Azarenka isn't a Bulgarian. She is from Belarus...

Posted by Factchecker 02/24/2009 at 02:51 AM

Sorry, Victoria, of course...

Posted by rg.nadal 02/24/2009 at 04:30 AM

Friday Night Lights was good. Its already three seasons old???! I saw only one season. So now i have to download it and watch the other two.

to #6: I saw Mystic River and thought Penn did well. As for his deserving the nod for the role, i am not sure because i don't remember the the other contenders. Yet to see Milk and Wrestler. Would see both this week. I think Penn won more because of the role and what it represents in the larger sense. The academy has certain notions and favourite themes -likes World War-2 and derivative subjects), fond of underdog triumphing stories, hates big-budget summer movies, and likes to see those liberal thoughts flow in the movies.

#2: I do not see why the Peer-visa-Dubai episode and the Venus-Serena-Indian Wells issue are being addressed together here. The peer issue of a totally different nature and more serious. As for the williams sisters not wanting to play as IW, even Monica did nto go back to Germany after that attack on her.

#1: I like Arod. I see myself rooting for him, unless he is playing Rafa. He aint that gifted, but does his best with the strengths he possesses in his game. Its his misfortune to be playing in the same era as Roger. But then again, "if ifs and buts are fruits and berries, every day would be Christmas".

Posted by P66 02/24/2009 at 06:41 AM

Roddick must keep up to his words and should never come to Dubai for the rest of his life then I would appreciate his protest.

Posted by metu 02/24/2009 at 08:44 AM

not a stat person but if there's one that's telling in today's game it's Fed's percentage of break points converted against Rafa. Now that's a stat to pay attention to.

good post, as always.

Posted by Bethany 02/24/2009 at 09:21 AM

Patsy is right - you Pete are being extremely hypocritical. I really can't recall you leading in support of TWS when they first boycott IW. Not good at all. Just because they are black doesn't mean they should be leading calls to do anything. Your hypocrisy is really shocking here.

Posted by Will 02/24/2009 at 10:00 AM

Andrew, there is SO MUCH humor in Friday Night Lights, season 1 included. For starters, anything surrounding Landry Clarke. Especially the episode where he tutors Tim Riggins, who then goes to see Landry's "Christian-speed metal" band Crucifictorious.


Posted by Diane 02/24/2009 at 10:14 AM

As the author of the excellent sports and gender blog, After Atalanta, has stated repeatedly, when one makes a political statement or takes a political stand about the Dubai situation, it is ridiculous to say that sports and politics should not mix. Taking the stand or making the statement is--duh--a political act. So yes--sports and politics should often be mixed. We would have no WTA if they had not been mixed.

Venus and Serena have long taken a political stand about Indian Wells. They did it, as far as I know, without first consulting sponsors or tour officials. That makes Venus's statement pure hypocrisy. I understand where Venus is coming from, even though I couldn't disagree with her more; in my opinion, there should have been a boycott and/or a cancellation. But for Venus, of all people, to say that politics and sports should not be mixed--and to say that players should not go off and do things on their own--is outrageous.

Posted by Fran 02/24/2009 at 10:41 AM

Thanks for sharing Russell Crowe's acceptance speech.Crowe and Andy Roddick have something in common;they both attract undeserved negative media,yet they both are in my perception very real,have a great sense of humour, yet take their work very seriously.

Posted by PC 02/24/2009 at 11:08 AM

The wife and I are big FNL fans. My big complaint is that that the football and coaching scenes are so unrealistic that I almost have to turn away. During slow mo football scenes you'll see guys simply standing around on the field. There's never any actual coaching going on either.

The story lines, and overall acting, however, are great. Besides that, the women are hot!

I refuse to watch Sean Penn. His political and social lectures are completely unwanted by me. Ditto Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, etc.

I hear a lot of non-tennis geeks calling Roddick a "stiff". Because he can't rise above Fed and Rafa. To me, he's living the dream, performing better than he or anyone ever expected. He's got millions in the bank, and millions more on the way. Super hot fiance. He gets paid to exercise and play tennis. Not a bad life.

Posted by Skip1515 02/24/2009 at 11:18 AM

1. Venus and Serena felt offended by the spectators at IW. Whatever their complaint about the tournament, as far as I know it was not with the organizers. There was no political or right-to-work issue raised by the tournament organization or United States government.

It is for the Williams' to decide what does and does not offend them. I'm not debating whether their being insulted was correct or not. I was not at IW when the offense occurred, did not see it on tv, and have not seen it on video. That does not change the fact that it was not an an
institutional position of any organizing body.

2. L'Affaire Pe'er had everything to do with the tournament and Dubai government reneging on agreed upon principles for running a WTA sanctioned tournament. They reneged at the last minute to boot, in spite of previous assurances and the fact that no details of the situation had changed at the last minute.

The two situations are not comparable. The Williams are free to play IW or not as they see fit. No one is *preventing* them from playing IW. (The WTA's hard designation for IW is another matter.) Whatever one's opinion may be of the Mid East political situation, Pe'er's being prevented from playing Dubai was in contradiction to her union's agreement with the hosting tournament. Her union should have responded more strongly from the first.

Posted by André 02/24/2009 at 11:43 AM

Hi Steve,

Since you mentioned Rosselini, perhaps you'd like to watch his film about the philosopher who knew nothing: Socrates.

Posted by GeoffB 02/24/2009 at 12:04 PM

I actually don't think a boycott is the right way to describe the Williams sisters' refusal to play Indian Wells. A boycott, the way I understand it, is more of a tool for change - *until* Dubai grants the visa, I will not play, *until* South Africa ends apartheid, I will not play. But a boycott implies that you will return provided the conditions are met.

I think the Williams sisters avoid Indian Wells because they have unpleasant memories of the place. They almost certainly also have a lot of anger and may be "punishing" the tournament for the way they were treated. By the way, none of this is meant as a comment on what did or didn't happen - this is just what I would guess is motivating the refusal to play.

I really do wish Venus and Serena would play Indian Wells, because they have a lot of fans in California, and not all of us have the financial resources or time to fly over to Miami. But the idea probably does fill them with dread, so I guess I can't be too upset about it.

Posted by unknown 02/24/2009 at 01:46 PM

"The two situations are not comparable. The Williams are free to play IW or not as they see fit. No one is *preventing* them from playing IW. (The WTA's hard designation for IW is another matter.) Whatever one's opinion may be of the Mid East political situation, Pe'er's being prevented from playing Dubai was in contradiction to her union's agreement with the hosting tournament. Her union should have responded more strongly from the first. "

Posted by unknown 02/24/2009 at 01:47 PM

"Patsy is right - you Pete are being extremely hypocritical. I really can't recall you leading in support of TWS when they first boycott IW. Not good at all. Just because they are black doesn't mean they should be leading calls to do anything. Your hypocrisy is really shocking here. "


Posted by creig bryan 02/24/2009 at 03:13 PM

The two situations are not comparable. The Williams are free to play IW or not as they see fit. No one is *preventing* them from playing IW.



Posted by courtcat 02/24/2009 at 03:18 PM

I've been reading you all week and linking to you Steve, you're right on. Keep saying the right thing on Dubai.The more you read about their human rights record - I'd be in jail for lots of things if I lived there - the more horrifying it is to be in bed with this country. And Roger lives there. Unreal.

And M Ward is a genius. Hope you have all the albums, including Transistor Radio.

Posted by PC 02/24/2009 at 03:22 PM

Can a player from North Korea play in a US tourney?

Posted by Belinda Moss 02/24/2009 at 04:43 PM

Everyone is on the case of the Williams sisters, who needed to make a statement, but what about the other accomplished "Women in Tennis" Billy Jean King, who could have really made a difference and got involved, or a Chris Everett, Marie Sharpova. Don't just put this on the back of the Williams Sister's, put this on the back of the "Whole Tennis Federation". Andy Roddick was the only man to come forward with enough balls to take a stand for a woman. What with the rest of the male group? So, don't ostersize the Williams, if your not going to take down the whole Tennis WTA and ATP.

Posted by Sajid 02/24/2009 at 05:07 PM

"His withdrawal from Dubai hardly had the ring of righteous anger to it—“I don’t know if it’s the best thing to mix politics and sports, that was probably a big part of it. It’s just disappointing because that reflects on a tournament that didn’t have much to do with the decision. Nevertheless, I don’t feel there’s need for that in a sporting event.” But Roddick did say something and do something in light of the Shahar Peer situation."

Steve, I am guessing that you support Andy Roddick's decision to boycott Dubai.

However, by boycotting Dubai and by the ATP forcing Dubai's hand, it was tennis that was mixing sport and politics NOT the Dubai championships, something that Roddick understood. Dubai has never had diplomatic relations with Israel and even now Andy Ram's visa was granted as an exception, something made very clear by the Dubai tournament officials.

In light of this, and to be consistent, shouldn't the ATP be advocating a complete boycott of Dubai altogether since its attitude toward Israel has not changed one bit? Politics is ultimately more fundamental than sport and within reason, sport always has to bow to politics. It is neither the fault of tennis nor the fault of Dubai that Shahar Peer and Andy Ram hold Israeli passports. That's just the way the world is.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not be granted a visa into the US today for obvious reasons (this was made plain during his speech at Columbia). What if he decided to play tennis? During the Kargil war Pakistan and India did not have diplomatic relations. The Indian cricket team recently refused to tour Pakistan over the Mumbai terrorist attack. Thus, if you respect the right of the state of Dubai to set its own political agenda then you have to live by it. If you don't then you shouldn't deal with them in the first place. Don't arrange a tournament in Dubai with full knowledge of Dubai's politics and then cry about it when visas are denied to Israeli players. In this case it is Dubai being consistent and the ATP forcing its agenda onto Dubai. The press and Andy Roddick are trying to make it sound as if Dubai is making a statement by denying Shahar Peer a visa, something that is just not true.

For the record, I am glad things turned out the way they did as I support Israel's war against Hamas and I think the world became better when Andy Ram was granted a visa. However, if I were against the gaza invasion, there would be no way I would be on board with the ATPs and WTAs decision to enforce their agenda on the Dubai government.

Posted by NDMS 02/24/2009 at 06:35 PM

Sajid at 5:07pm said,

Don't arrange a tournament in Dubai with full knowledge of Dubai's politics and then cry about it when visas are denied to Israeli players.

I agree Sajid. That was my spontaneous reaction when I first learned of this. One has to accept the sovereignty of foreign states. You go in their country, you abide with their rules.

I'm also glad that Ram got a visa but again that was an exception. Maybe next year, there will be a clear-cut compromise.

And for the record, the Dubai men's draw is not weakened because of the visa issue except for Roddick's reason.

It's because of Federer's back, Nadal's knees, Verdasco's ankle, Davydenko's heel, period.

Posted by Ruth 02/24/2009 at 07:05 PM

1. Roddick has been my #1 favorite player on the men's side for several years. I admire his dedication to his tennis and to playing Davis Cup, and I enjoy his sense of humor. I am neither overly impressed nor bothered by his statement that he was skipping Dubai because of the Peer incident.

2. Venus has been my #1 fave on the WTA side for more than a decade (you casn really pick 'em, Steve). I have been chatting about the Dubai situation over at TW for a large part of the day. I believe that a boycott -- what I feel would have been a knee-jerk or instant boycott, given the circumstances -- would have been totally inappropriate. It would IMHO have been a win for the wrong people, mainly those who probably don't want a women's tourney in Dubai in the first place.

I wish I knew what Venus said at the trophy cermeony. I didn't see it, and all the quotes I've read are what Venus said about why she mentioned Peer in the ceremony. Can anyone help?

3. I know the feeling about worrying about Tsonga and injuries. I saw 2 of his matches at the USO last year, his first tournament after surgery and months off recuperating. And, instead of relaxing and enjoying the matches fully, I kept thinking, "Oh, I hope he doesn't re-injure himself here."

6. I wanted Milk to win the best picture, but it didn't. I wanted Penn to win the best leading actor Oscar, and he did. So, I'm somewhat happy.

7. Rod Steiger's best performance -- Pawnbroker. I'd give a standing ovation for that performance. Now, with a push from Steve and jhurwi, I'll be trying to find The Taking of Power.... Thanks for the recommendation, guys.

10. Robredo took a look at Verdasco's "heroic" performance in Davis Cup in Argentina and said, "If that jerk can do it, i can do it." I hope that Tommy continues to have a good year. I like him so much more than I do Verdasco.

Posted by KnSD 02/24/2009 at 07:08 PM

I guess the point tht is attempting to be made is that the Williams sisters have taken a stand for discrimination and predjudice by refusing to play IW. No one but them heard that comment (and their father) to my knowledge. They are boycotting (and you are right, not really the right word except I can't think of another) because they felt they weren't treated the same as everyone else because they are black.

The hypocrisy being intimated is because they refuse to play a tournament because they faced predjudice becasue of the color of their skin from some fans, not anyone in the government or torunament - yet when blatant discrimination takes place for no other reason than religion/nationality, they suddenly aren't so righteous about it.

As 2 of the highest ranked females in the world, and certainly the most popular players at the tournament, it falls on them for that reason to lead. By barely mentioning it and not standing upon the principles they profess to believe in (let's hear another thank you to Jehovah) they are showing that they will stand up only when it affects them - that is not principled, that is selfish and predjudiced.

I just don't think the Monica Seles situation with Germany belongs in this conversation. Just my opinion.

Posted by KnSD 02/24/2009 at 07:12 PM

On a side note - can someone tell me why this is -

When Federer beats Roddick it's always the same story "Roddick sucks" "he can't play" "all he is is a serve" yet when Nadal continuously beats Federer the conversation isn't how much Roger sucks but how Rafa just matches up well against him.

I have always wondered - without Federer, Roddick has potentially 4-5 more slams under his belt by this point. He has had a career in which he has acheived everything he set out to acheive save one thing - Wimbledon. I don't think he is over-rated, I think he is under-rated. Even Federer said at the Aussie that Roddick's had a career, as of now, that most people would kill for. Isn't the fact the Federer respects his play enough for the people (including me) who think Federer is the greatest of all time in the open era?

Posted by Codge 02/24/2009 at 07:24 PM

Excluding the current controversy with Peer, I continue to be amazed by the passionate debates about Dubai even having a tourney.

Where is the outrage against ATP YEC in China for the past 4 years!

If we're talking about human rights abuses as sufficient cause not to grant a tourney then whey is Shanghai never part of the discussion?

What is the difference?

Also the Williams' stance about IW and Dubai are apples and oranges. Not even worth arguing that point.

Posted by Ruth 02/24/2009 at 07:31 PM

Shahar Peer wants to exercise her right, guaranteed by the WTA-tournament agreement -- to play in in a tourney at a location where she is reportedly not wanted. She has the right to choose where she wants to play as long as she is qualified to play there.

Venus and Serena are exercising their own right NOT to play in a tournament at a location where they think they are NOT wanted. That's their choice. Serena said, a few years ago, that there are too many places where they feel welcome for them to feel obliged to play where they feel unwelcome. And, recently, in typical Serena style, she said that she'd play in all "non-racist mandatory" tournaments, but not at IW.

Posted by Ruth 02/24/2009 at 07:53 PM

"Also the Williams' stance about IW and Dubai are apples and oranges."

Yea, apples are oranges are different, but they're all fruit! :)

Posted by Codge 02/24/2009 at 08:34 PM

Touche Ruth!

Posted by rg.nadal 02/24/2009 at 11:20 PM

For me, Jo's main and only concern is his health. Surprisingly, i do not feel the same way about Nadal. I mean , both of them play a physically intensive game, but Jo has somehow had a bigger share of injuries.

Posted by jbradhunter 02/25/2009 at 01:36 AM

Thanks Steve- I was happy to hear Sean- a straight man- stand up for gays & lesbians deserving equal rights. Bravo to him. We've legally tackled sexism & racism in the US, though they still rear their ugly heads mostly behind many closed doors. It's ridiculous this national homophobia seems stronger than ever. Sean gains nothing if gay marriage is legalized except taking a real stand for equality. His speech is the best public proclamation I've heard on the matter. As far as I'm concerned, any arguments about this in the religious sector can be taken up with God because he/she made all living things perfectly. Everyone has their place, and it's up to all of us to support that and take the right actions.

Posted by P66 02/25/2009 at 10:48 AM

Nobody cares whether Rod dick plays in Dubai or not. It doesnt make much difference. If Nadal or Fed didnt play that really makes difference.

Posted by carlo086 02/26/2009 at 06:16 AM

agree with the comment about venus! it seems to me she has a lot to give to the game, always wanting to move forward and make positive changes.. much like how davenport was kind of one of the tour's elderly statewomen... shame about boycotting indian wells though! but everyone's entitled to their choices...

Posted by Nikki Dai 02/26/2009 at 01:13 PM

Regarding Serena/Venus and Shahar. You in the media continue to use alleged or frame the argument that it's the sisters and their father's words against what you seemingly don't know was said during that final in Indian Wells. You use this alleged incident to say that it makes it a requirement for the sisters to stick up for a player who won't even stick up for herself in Peer. If you aren't even taking the Williams' family word and seeing that no one in their right mind would boycott a tournament over simple boos, why then would you use something you don't believe as a point for someone to defend another? Would Serena/Venus quitting the Dubai tournament have been the alleged into something true?

Posted by JillfromNY 03/02/2009 at 04:15 PM

Steve, you are clueless. It is wrong of you to blame Venus for anything related to the decision of the Dubai government. Why are the higher-ranked white players not held accountable??? Black women are not the mules of the world who have to take on everyone else's burden.

And for you to continue to suggest Venus and Serena are lying about what happened at IW (when there is visual evidence and Larry Scott has acknowledged what happened) is disgusting.

And stop being a dummy. You clearly don't even have an elementary understanding of the word "boycott."

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