Donald Young is better than I thought, the women are all mixed up, and McEnroe Senior applies for de Villiers’ job.

I am officially upgrading my expectations for Donald Young. I had him reaching a high ranking somewhere in the 30’s and compared him to Marc Giquel: big game no power. Then I saw him rip off forehand winners and come up with Tsonga-like net retrievals and throw in a few 124mph(200kmh) serves while pushing James Blake to five sets on opening night at the US Open. Now I have Young somewhere close to, say, Mikhail Youzhny. Not in game but ranking. Youzhny bounced back and forth between the teens and twenties for the past two years and I can see Young doing that.

By the way, help me out here. Who’s a better comparison to express Young’s style of play? We have Blake for speed, Tsonga for nimbleness. Who else?

As I write this, Sam Querrey has just smashed Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. Wow, that’s a bit shocking. Young and Querrey are clearly the frontrunners to take over for Blake and Andy Roddick. They don’t have the game of Marin Cilic or Ernests Gulbis so I think the US is in for another era of not-quite-the-best, and that directly affects me because the game of tennis in the US goes as the top players go. Especially as online tennis gambling is illegal and don’t underestimate the power of gambling to sports popularity in the US, it’s a huge part of the interest in the National Football League.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep praying for more upgrades.

Mishegoss on the Women’s Side

mish•e•goss: Crazy or senseless activity or behavior; craziness.

Imagine this:
Roger Federer retires today and all of his points erased from the rankings table.
Rafael Nadal out for two months with a shoulder injury.
Novak Djokovic retires upon the birth of his first child.

That is roughly the situation on the women’s tour at the moment. Justine Henin disappeared, Maria Sharapova has a tear in her labrum, and Kim Clijsters is on the mommy track. And the next level of players isn’t quite ready to take over.

Here’s what we have. Ana Ivanovic won the French Open this year and she’s the obvious choice to stay at number one for a while. Dementieva has two slam finals – also in 2004 though she won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing and she’s all the way up to number six (isn’t it amazing what an adequate serve can do for your game?). Dinara Safina is almost ready and she has one slam final.

And here’s the second level. Svetlana Kuznetsova has one slam but that was four years ago and if the WTA still used bonus points (additional points for beating higher ranked players), her ranking would be lower because she loses to higher ranked players so often. Jelena Jankovic is here for the same reason. She has a losing record against all of the women I’ll mention today except Venus Williams. Jankovic has yet to reach a slam final.

Serena Williams and her sister Venus are in their own category. They have 15 slams between them but I doubt that either player will reach number one again and the last time either player won the US Open was 2002.

I’m assuming Sharapova will return to good health unless she develops Tommy Haas-like shoulder problems and Safina is likely to continue to improve, so hold on until next year when we should have three women at the top just like the men’s tour. By the way, if the top three men did depart for some reason or other, who’d take over?

Mac Daddy Wants de Villiers’ Job

In concert with this week’s coronation of Barack Obama – otherwise known as the Democratic Convention, the tennis world is in the middle of its own political shift. The CEO of the ATP, Etienne de Villiers, will step down at the end of the year because, in short, he was hired to make sweeping changes to the ATP and the players resisted. Who’ll replace de Villiers? Jim Courier and a few other retired players have been named but the most interesting self-proclaimed candidate is one John Patrick McEnroe. Senior.

Yes, Mac Daddy wants the job and if you read the letter below, you’ll understand why Johnny Mac Junior credited that tempestuous nature to his upbringing during his induction ceremony at the Tennis Hall of Fame. Mac Senior trashes de Villiers, screams out the stupidity of required tournaments in capital letters, and blows his own horn. I don’t think it’ll go anywhere. Mac Junior didn’t do him any favors with his mishandling of the Davis Cup team and while Patrick captained the squad to a Davis Cup title, Mac Senior’s letter is much too reminiscent of Junior’s state of mind for comfort.

And don’t expect either Johnny to mellow with age. A few weeks ago Junior was defaulted from a seniors event for verbally abusing an umpire. Would you hire Senior? I wouldn’t but I’d pay attention to his ideas. He’s got a few good ones. Here’s Senior’s letter:

Gentlemen:

As you all probably know, I am the father of John, Mark (my “normal son, ” the lawyer) and Patrick McEnroe. I have met some of you at various tournaments, Davis Cup ties, etc.

To get promptly to the point, I am interested in succeeding Etienne de Villiers as Chairman of ATP Tour, Inc. I am strongly of the view that the best interests of men players, particularly the top ranked players, have been very badly served by Mr. de Villiers, to put it mildly, and by his predecessors.

The rules for participation on the Tour are an abomination. My own view is that NO player should be required to play in ANY TOURNAMENT if he doesn’t wish so to do. Also, as long as a player’s ranking entitles him to entry, he should be able to enter any tournament without requiring a minimum of tournaments each year. This is a position I have held for over thirty years.

You are all too young to remember that, in the early 1980s, I represented the “quintessential quintet (QQ)” (Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis, McEnroe (John) and Guillermo Vilas), in negotiations with the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council (“MIPTC”) over newly proposed rules. Those rules included proposed “hard designations” by the MIPTC for the top hundred players on the ATP computer. You will not be surprised that the QQ were not happy with that proposal. We were able to negotiate an arrangement whereby the QQ and the Council agreed in advance what the “designations” would be.

I am aware that the Mercedes-Benz international sponsorship of the Tour ends at the end of this year and will not be renewed. As your new Chairman, it would be a major priority of mine zealously to work to find a new sponsor. Also, I would work diligently to find opportunities to monetize various aspects of the Tour in order to ensure its financial foundation is solid.

Additionally, I have represented John and Patrick in connection with all of their legal needs. This includes all of their broadcasting contracts with BBC, NBC, CBS, ESPN, Tennis Channel and Australia’s Channel 7, agreements with respect to special events, endorsement agreements with Nike, Dunlop, Wilson, Snauwaert, Sergio Tacchini, etc., not to mention a myriad of endorsements for companies not directly involved with tennis, book contracts and so on. I know and have interfaced with all the constituencies in professional tennis for many years.

Finally, I am currently Of Counsel to the internationally recognized law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, where I practiced commercial law since 1967. From 1974 through 2000, I was a partner in the Corporate Department.

I would be most pleased to meet in person at a convenient time and venue (the US Open site?) with any or all of you, your agents and anyone else you deem appropriate. Please feel free to call or e-mail me with any questions, comments or suggestions you may have. Thank you all in advance for your consideration of this proposal.

Sincerely,
John P. McEnroe

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