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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: July 29, 2009

7/29/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

July 29, 2009

It's my fault. I feed the beast. All this Greatest of All Time talk. Is it Roger Federer? Is it Pete Sampras? Who's this Rod Laver guy I keep hearing about?

I'm sick of reading about it. Seriously. Why? Because there's no way to know.

Has anyone seen a G.O.A.T?

Not that it stops people from asking. I sat in on Pistol Pete's press conference Monday at the L.A. Open, right before he took the court against Marat Safin. It was a rematch of their '00 US Open final clash in which Marat shocked Sampras and the world by beating him in straight sets to claim his first Slam title. Still, the talk today was squarely on good ole Rog.

Is Roger Federer the GOAT? Is it tainted by the lack of depth in today's game? (substitute "lack of depth" for "H2H v. Nadal," "lack of variety in today's field," etc. etc.) It went on forever. Someone actually asked if Pete would've tried to go for more Slam titles had he known Roger would've reached 15, and could reach more. So basically, not only would Pete have had to see into the future back then, he would need to be able to do so today. And somehow let Pete in the past know what happened in a future that we ourselves have yet to see. Yeah, my head hurts too.

How would they stack up against each other in their primes? Okay, how about on grass? On hard court? With a ten pound baby strapped to their left legs?

Honestly, Pete tried. He did. And he seemed game. But I wanted to ask if it felt strange for someone of his supreme accomplishments to be doing nothing but talking about this other guy of late. To be reduced to a supporting player in the theater of Roger Federer. I thought that would be a buzzkill, to both Sampras and the press whipped into a GOATy lather. A couple of polite questions about his current projects and adorable children and he's ushered off.

As I reflected during the Sampras/Safin match (when I wasn't distracted by Pete's gun show – sleeveless? orange?), I thought about all the stats and names that were thrown about during Pete's time on the hot seat. Names not just Laver, Borg and Gonzales (thanks for bringing Pancho up Pete, cuz no one else is doin' it), but guys like Goran Ivanisevic. No one was claiming he was in any kind of contention, but he did pose a challenge to Sampras that Federer doesn't have to face in today's game (Coming in? What's that?). And stats like the ridiculous number of Slams Laver could have racked up had be not been forced to sit them out all those years when he was in his prime (and yet at the same time, the lack of depth in the field should be considered when talking about his untouchable two calendar-year Grand Slams). And yes, Federer's uniquely lopsided head to head against a certain Spaniard.

There are so many caveats that you can really make a convincing argument for anyone one minute, and then dismantle it yourself totally the next. It's enough to drive you (or a pub, or an internet message board) crazy. There will never be, and can never be, an answer to the question of who is the greatest of all time. You can't go by numbers alone. But talking about the GOAT forces us to talk about those numbers. Those names. Those amazing accomplishments that might otherwise be filed away and forgotten. And they are huge.

So debate away. Just don't ask me to pick sides.


The last few days were busy indeed. I got a chance to catch up with new mom Ashley Harkleroad this weekend at the Shotgun 21 event at the Palisades Tennis Center. It's a raucous co-ed, no serve tournament using ping pong scoring (first to 21) that mixes pros (Harkleroad, Taylor Dent, Donald Young, Robert Kendrick, Alexandra Stevenson and champ Vince Spadea), celebs (Elisabeth Shue, Jon Lovitz, Chad Lowe, Donna Mills) and a few qualifiers from the general public, all trying to get their grubby hands on over twenty grand in cash and prizes. It was some of the first steps Pebbles has taken on court since the birth of her baby boy 4 months ago, and she took the time to answer a few questions for the Sweet Spot.

SS: Okay, first thing's first. How's being a mom?

AH: I love it. I love it. Every day is a new day. I'm still having some pain from just, you know, child birth, holding a

A mom's smile.

baby... It's pretty traumatic on your body. [But] it's definitely getting better each day. Right now I'm just enjoying being a mom and watching him grow. I'm going to come back and play tennis. I think probably next year, 2010. As he gets older, he'll be a better traveler. I'm hoping January, February, something like that.

SS: Have you gotten any advice from moms Kim Clijsters or Lindsay Davenport?

AH: I have talked to Kim and Lindsay, just about formula and little things like that. And they're real helpful. Kim's little girl is a little older. I think she's almost 2 years old now? They get a little easier because maybe they're sleeping through the night. Though I got lucky because my Charlie sleeps 12 hours.

SS: Charlie is a great name.

AH: It is, right? Tiger Woods named his baby that so you know it's cool. (laughs)

SS: Whatever pain you've got going on, you look damn good for having given birth four months ago.

AH: (laughs) I don't have time to eat! I'm the type of person who hyper focuses on other people or whatever I'm doing and I totally forget to eat. And then all of a sudden I crash. I won't know what's wrong with me, I'm just so tired and my boyfriend will say, did you eat? And I'm like, no actually, I haven't eaten all day. So it's good and bad. Skinny, but...

SS: ...but you're passing out around the house and need medical attention.

AH: (laughs) Exactly.

Ashley was knocked from the draw, but not before scalping a rueful Jon Lovitz.

Friends, I too played the event (what?!). I'm writing about it for Tennis Magazine so you'll have to wait until the issue drops to read about it. But I can say I too faced a celeb, as well as a pro. Which certainly puts me in contention for GOAT. And I have the stats to prove it.

Let the debate rage on