By C.W. Sesno, SI.com
The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.
• Which of Rafael Nadal’s seven straight wins in Monte Carlo is your favorite? Also, I miss his sleeveless days.
• Ripping the tennis calendar has become a popular fad. But ESPN’s Ed McGrogan makes some compelling cross-sport comparisons suggesting it could be a lot worse. NASCAR has the Chase for the Cup, but its biggest race, Daytona 500, isn’t even a part of the Chase. Golf has the FedEx Cup, which just hasn’t caught on among casual fans and hardcores alike. He even goes on to say that the NHL playoffs and NCAA hoops tournament, while widely popular, undermine the regular seasons (to wit: More than half the NHL teams make the playoffs).
Tennis, by contrast, spreads the wealth with its quartet of Slams, each managing to inspire a playofflike atmosphere. And with the sport’s harebrained 10-plus-month-long schedule, that’s a good thing. I’m not sure anything in a single season is worth that long a wait. It’s worked out well, with these four powerful attractions generating widespread interest in the game during the winter and summer months. Yes, some finality would be nice, but the exquisitely crafted fabric of tennis is too beautiful to tear.
To me, tennis manages to strike a fine balance with its calendar, which contains elements of a “regular season” and “playoff” without some of their negatives. There is always room for improvement, and tennis’ schedule is oft-maligned for good reason — primarily because there’s no time to breathe. But having just watched March Madness, and currently enjoying the NHL playoffs while avoiding the MLB regular season, I realized that tennis might not have it so bad after all.
• Steve Tignor has an interesting take on the balance of natural talent vs. originality and genius when it comes to the most useful talent for a clay court player. A few aspiring players often come to mind in this discussion, Bernard Tomic and Alex Dolgopolov, whose unique styles of play separate them from the standard baseline bashers. But does it come at a cost?
Tomic and Dolgopolov have qualities of original genius, and Dimitrov is as smooth as they come. But are original talents useful ones? For every player touched by genius who reaches No. 1 — I’d put John McEnroe and Roger Federer in that category — there are plenty who never get close, perhaps because it comes too easily to them.
Perhaps, also, it’s because genius doesn’t get you all that much. Think about Andy Murray, another player gifted by the Hands Gods. The ever-sober Murray can do virtually anything with the ball, but he mostly chooses to play it straight and solid. Every so often, though, he’ll relax enough to do a little showing off. Up 5-0 in the first set against Viktor Troicki on Monday, Murray hit a forehand at an extreme angle, and with an extreme amount of topspin, that crossed the net and immediately dove to the court — it was a circus shot, and something I’d never seen before. Pleased with his success, Murray tried it again on the next ball, put it in the net, and yelled at himself. He must know that geniuses look cool, but you can’t count on them.
• Happy 25th birthday to Maria Sharapova. Here’s an SI.com gallery of Sharapova photos through the years.
• On The Go Tennis has a quick Q&A with Gilles Simon. We share a couple of things in common: video games and disdain for airports.
• First Maria Sharapova pranks us with a fake haircut (pretty good wig-job), now it spills out that Andy Murray’s buzz cut was unintentional. And don’t forget Svetlana Kuznetsova’s new ‘do. Sveta went badass on us.
• Galina Voskoboeva rose from outside the top 600 to the top 60 in 2011. Get to know her here.
• Non-tennis: One wouldn’t think Ron Swanson would be quick to jump on the Twitter train. Which is precisely why this video is so thoroughly enjoyable.