Monte Carlo Wrap: Same Old, Same Old

The title of this post doesn’t necessarily refer to the Nadal win, his 10th MC title and his 29th Masters title (a new-era metric for all of you tennis “historians” out there who unknowingly build wishful thinking logical fallacies to promote their favorite player).

Nadal continuing to play solid tennis is more the story relating to his win, not that he wins MC again, or that he’s at home on clay (again).

2017 Fedal continues to sort things out at the top of the tour right now and with Murray and Djokovic (and Wawrinka) continuing to struggle, the theme of the ATP has to continue to be delightful/shocking/miserable for diverse tennis fans.

b083fe955fd8187e932d5dInstead, the “same old” refers to clay’s inferiority as far as championship tennis is concerned. The tennis, all the way around, was pretty mediocre this past week, but I am guilty of comparing the tennis to hard courts or even grass (the grass seems to have gotten a bit chunkier and soft in the last ten years or so, as well).

Before I get ahead of myself, I do want to applaud Goffin, who played very well, consistent, quick, beautiful hitting from both sides ( and especially from the mental stand-point, how he was able to stay upright and close-out Djokovic, how he had control of the SF until a chair umpire took a giant doo doo on the red clay of the Monte Carlo Country Club). And applause too to Rafa, who did what he was supposed to do (and let me reiterate, in defense of Nadal: he has been playing well all year, so one figures he should consolidate his quality of play on hard courts at the first clay opportunity he has). Again, bravo to both players.

But the clay tennis just didn’t really take-off, in my humble opinion, which is the same-old. It rarely seems to take-off.

The Nadal v Zverev match is a great exhibit of the dramatic change of surface (change of season) on the ATP and the inferior tennis quality fostered on clay. Nadal buried the 20 year-old in long, exhausting rallies of top-spinning risk-free tennis the German just couldn’t withstand; the images of Sascha standing there in complete dejection were almost bizarre. Again, credit to Nadal for mastering this style, but what a substantial shift in court quality from the truer bounce and style that is the hard court. Zverev looked like many players this week, who seemed to wilt in the conditions (not the heat): the call for uninspired ping-pong-like rallies that go to the fittest player with the best top-spin and clay sensibility.

Ramos-Vinolas is a perfect example of this kind of “specialist.” The balls in almost every rally seemed like those practice balls you can buy that are bigger and lighter, which you can smash, but they don’t carry nearly as far. This makes them great for rallying, for practicing bigger baseline groundstrokes that pose much less threat to the hitting partner.

I didn’t watch every match of Monte Carlo, but Nadal and Goffin seemed to play the most inspired tennis; Goffin was seen flattening-out some shots, looking very confident around the court, and Nadal is, of course, fairly apt at harnessing some depth and weight on his clay groundstrokes.

The bit of the Pouille v Ramos-Vionlas match I saw was unwatchable. Pouille tried desperately to play “tennis,” but was met with this soft-top balloon-ball from the Spaniard that rendered almost a different sport. It was painful. The look on the Frenchman through-out the first set sealed the result of that match. Ramos-Vinolas is a decent player, but come-on.

If you’ve been reading the last couple of days, you saw the comment by my esteemed Belgian reader who posted an excerpt of an interview with one-time clay great Thomas Muster (I put a little effort into finding the actual interview online, but to no avail, so we have to take this reader’s word for it. But it makes sense to me).

The comment reads:

“The following interview on Skysports is worth sharing with you’ll I think .
Annabel Croft: Has tennis on clay changed ?
Thomas Muster: It’s the balls that have changed. They are made now (in comparison with back then) of a different kind of rubber, and have also less pressure (inside is a gaz) than they used to have. As a result of this the current balls don’t take off (the ground) as fast as they used to in the past, which gives the defender more time to track the ball down and hit a passingshot. In other words, the attacking player is now getting punished on volleys that used to be winners in the past; and because it is harder to hit winners, the rallies tend to be much longer (too long in his opinion) than they used to be in the past.”

This only fit with much of what I have seen in the past, but seemed especially apparent this week in Monte Carlo. I know the clay is a different surface, that this kind of diversity of surface is good for the sport, but the conditions seem to be “worsening.”

The defense-first tennis is just tiring; one can see it in the more offensive-minded players and from fans, as well. We have discussed the changes in the sport and we will continue to march to this band or warning: the bigger equipment, softer balls, softer surfaces, better “nutrition,” etc., impede sport integrity and history.

Albert Ramos-VinolasThe other point that evidences my title, that this is clay, that this is the same-old, concerns that ghastly call by Cedric Mourier in the 6th game of the first set of Goffin v Nadal. To put this shot into context, we all have to acknowledge that Nadal was putting massive pressure on Goffin in the game, that even before the controversial call at
advantage Goffin, there had been 4-5 deuce and advantages in this intensely tight game at 3-2, Goffin serving for a pretty firm hold on that first set. Nadal was finding his feet after being really dominated in the first 4-5 games. In other words, this was already becoming pretty tight; one had to assume this was going to probably go Nadal’s way, either way.

But the call was buffoonery. Mourier should have been stripped naked and sent shamefully to the shower or the waters of the Riviera. Get the hell out of here with that garbage. The ball sailed long, the call was made by the line judge and not even Nadal raised an eye-brow, looked at it, or glanced at his box.

Goffin was getting situated to return serve. But this Cedric the Entertainer-type comes bumbling out of his chair to confirm. . . what? That the match is fixed? That you fell asleep, Mr. Mourier?

And because it’s clay, there is no Hawk-Eye; the system hasn’t been calibrated for clay. The rationale stands that Hawk-Eye is not needed on clay because of the mark left by the ball. There have been far too many cases where these umpires have missed. The Hawk-Eye TV determined, like everyone else watching the point, that the ball was long, that Goffin had a 4-2 lead in the first set of a SF v Nadal.

Having said that, as I already pointed-out, the match was tightening, Goffin’s upper-hand in the early stages of the first set was weakening and in no way can we determine that this decided the match.

But it reminded us of the claw (flaw of the clay). Believe it.

Of course, the call drew heavy boos from anyone watching and really affected the play of David Goffin, a top-ten player who was making a big run at a Masters 1000. His play has been pretty solid of late. In 2017, he has reached the AO QF, and finals at Sofia and Rotterdam, before a couple of 4R defeats at IW and Miami.

His win over Djokovic was a big break-through for sure.

The win answered my rhetorical question from my previous post about the survival of the Serb. Said survival was in massive doubt from our end. Did I think Goffin had it in him to put the Djoker out of his misery? I did not and I was wrong.

I figured Nadal would do the trick.

Not sure how the Serb processes a loss like this. The obvious point is he is still struggling, in a big way. Remember, even though Goffin, a solid top-ten player on the tour these days, beat him, he has been struggling with all sorts of players from all sorts of rankings. He is going to have to make quicker work of these earlier round “beatable” opponents in order to control and overcome even more dangerous opponents.

Then again, if 2017 Fedal has anything to tell us: it’s that these great players, who have so many past victories to fuel their impending form and motivation, can recover from these apparent dips in quality.

As I have written, however, on several occasions, Djokovic needs to get back to his winning ways sooner than later. Younger talent is rising, and his game, one of endurance, a huge base-line grind, and steel-nerved BPs doesn’t dominate forever.

We suspect he’ll find more fitness in the coming weeks, but one could see the clay grind and three-set standard taking their toll on the Serb.  With regards to the time violation against Goffin in the QF, Djokovic said, “That’s fair from the chair umpire to tell me that I’m taking a little bit too much time. It was just in a very awkward moment to give me a warning. . .It’s just that sometimes there should be maybe a little bit more tolerance and understanding for certain situations like that one, where it was very long point, at 6-5 in the third.”

The chair got this one right, I’m afraid.

Monte Carlo QF – The Survival of the Serb

Following the Djokollapse of 2016, we discerned even after a win over Murray in the 2017 Doha final that Novak still had much work to do to convince any of us actual tennis detectives that he was out of trouble. The Djokofans rejoiced, sending him on his merry way to Melbourne for his annual AO crown. He collapsed in the 2R in AO (to an “unplayable” Istomin), only to become a victim of rigged draws where he was again thrown into the “ring” with other “unplayable” talents. Folks, the fanboy/girl BS out there is truly embarrassing.

I am finally hearing as of today that these fanboys and girls understand that Novak is not in form. It’s been about a year, we’ll call it 10 mdjokovic-monte-carlo-2017-tuesday-previewonths since the foundations started giving way. That’s a long time for people to realize that their idol’s hair is out of place.

Djokovic looked pretty bad again today. There are flashes of the Nole we have known, but then this new reality returns. I have written several accounts of this new reality, which is really not that new at all.

He’s going to get a break on the clay, as his game will stay on the BL; he has to out hit and retrieve everyone else. His serve and any semblance of a net presence are diminished; of course, the clay only enhances this part of his tennis reality. He has been pretty shaky in his first two matches.

I suppose Thiem or Goffin represent about the same kind of resistance, but my thought is Goffin is more thoroughly “trained” to die in such a match. The brash tennis of Thiem I thought might present a bit more of a contest. I don’t think Goffin has the heart to take the Djoker out.

But Nadal awaits that winner (unless pigs fly Schwartzman to the promised land) in the SF. Did you see Rafa perhaps set Zverev back a few years. Yep, he turned 20 today (yesterday) yet Nadal might have set the German back a few years tennis-wise. Wow. Sascha will have to shake that off and move on.  1 and 1 at the hands of a confident and malevolent Rafa is a scene out of a horror show. He looks very good around the court.

The guy is such a clay natural. That top spin is just a beautiful thing on this surface. He can get away with the shorter ball a bit, too, only because he can still retrieve with the best of them.

Indeed, this is a hungry Nadal. The writing appears to be on the wall. Do we get a Djokovic v Nadal SF? That would be good. That might be just what Novak needs.

No need to go into Stan or Andy at this point. Stan is the most enigmatic tennis player in the history of the world. I had a feeling, I mentioned so in my last post, Cuevas could advance there. All we do know about Wawrinka is you don’t want him in a major final. Other than that, he’s just a pink Yonex outfit running around the country club.

Murray is a mess. Again.

Let’s get these men to the SF: Cilic v Cuevas to play the winner of Djokovic v Nadal.

All that is left in Monte Carlo: the survival of the Serb.

Monte Carlo Midweek: Djokovic Still Struggling and Dimitrov Succumbing

The title above pretty much covers the biggest news thus far at the Monte Carlo Masters where we’re into the R16.

I watched the Djokovic match with Simon and the only thing that might undermine my inference (and my title) is if Simon turned-out to be playing an even higher-level of his unusual brand of (awkward) defensive tennis.

Djokovic and Simon looked like a mirror reflection throughout the match. The only thing separating was when Djokovic found a bigger F or BH that proved too much for the underwhelming Frenchman.

The UEs from Djokovic spell concern (still) and the aura of confidence continues to elude the world #2. This has been the same story from the Serb since last early summer. He’s struggling. I don’t know what else to say about that. We talked about his personal life, his coaching change (can we get an update on Pepe?).

I made very clear that if you happen to watch him play (this was glaringly apparent at the US Open), you should see the physical decline, but I suppose this could be injury. People forget how much tennis he’s played, how much big tennis, long matches, grinding from the BL, effectively sacrificing himself for the glory. His is an exciting style when he’s in form and boring (with lower risk more consistent ball striking) or constricting his opponents to death. He’s an Agassi with a little length.

When he’s not in form, lacks confidence, etc., he’s more of a Gilles Simon with a bigger heart and better nerves.

No doubt his nerves got him through that match. Simon served for match in the third. . .

Along with our clarification last summer, mind you, of Djokovic’s physical deterioration, we then moved on our next bit of analysis: 2016 will be remembered as the Djokollapse (did you miss our discussions of Slow Courtjovic ((aka Slovak))?). Ah yes, what fun we have over here at Mcshow Tennis.

In the end, until evidence contradicts our current findings, the struggle continues for Novak.

The clay got the best of Dimitrov. He is a classic clay casualty. The clay reduces his athletic all-court game to a mud fight. This clarifies my continual warning with clay court tennis. Dimitrov fell in Marrakech early, as well.

Zverev_ClayLooking to the next round, we’ll see if Nadal’s three setter vs Edmund is a sign of concern: he gets Zverev next, who has been drowning opponents in the dirt. He smacked a couple of vets off the court (Seppi and F. Lopez) with some bakery items. He continues to show, for me, a real Del Potro-like guile and
sophistication. By the way, Zverev turns 20 tomorrow (4/20), meaning he’s still a very young big guy who can hammer the ball on all surfaces.

Wawrinka v Cuevas could be an interesting watch. If Stan doesn’t destroy, Cuevas will likely triumph in a cloud of dust.

Goffin and Thiem should be a good match, as well. Let’s hope (sorry Belgian readers – especially Wilfried) Thiem gets a shot at a match with Novak in the QF.

We’ll see, as well, how Andy consolidates his tough win over Mueller – an underrated player if you ask me. Andy should find that top SF.

Novak’s next test should be a Thiem QF (followed perhaps by a Nadal SF; but again, he could end-up playing someone with the tennis skill of Donald Trump – only this is clay, so such limitations can be rendered negligible).

Have a good one.

Monte Carlo

Greetings.

Are you ready for some dirt balling along the French Riviera? Seems a bit of a contradiction. I have already written much about my opinions of the clay, yet here we are on the eve (play is underway obviously) of the European dirt harvest.

Congrats to Steve Johnson for taking the U.S. Clay Champs last week in Houston.

In the other season opener last week, 20 year-old Borna Coric got his first title in Marrakech.

Look for unpredictability to rule the court in the coming days, hopefully with top guys finding their feet and their Roland Garros form. Of course, I am speaking mainly of Murray and Djokovic.

Djokovic’s draw includes a match against Simon tomorrow (today), Carreno Busta and then Thiem or Goffin with a chance to face the winner of the Nadal/Dimitrov quarter that includes Sascha Zverev who steam-rolled Seppi, and RBA. But, again, it’s clay so anyone can win at anytime.

Seeing Djokovic have to play Thiem and then Nadal could be interesting, if the bracket holds. This should give us a good idea about where Djokovic is following his Davis Cup success. People have brought-up the Serbia 2010 Davis Cup title, the country’s first, as a context for Novak’s amazing 2011 run. Could we see a similar cause-and-effect in 2017?

Murray should face Wawrinka in the top MC SF, but, again, who knows.

monaco-2016-airCertainly, the most interesting subplots here involve Murray, Djokovic and Nadal. Nadal would absolutely love to finally cash-in on his solid start to 2017. Federer has eclipsed the Spaniard’s incredible early season form. A win would mean a lot as he prepares for Paris.

Djokovic has everything to lose on the clay, in my humble opinion. He has to get his game together. Between the three big clay tournaments prior to Paris, he should be able to find some confidence, but that means he has to start finding some confidence.

Surely you do not follow me on Twitter, but I did recently point-out there that Djokovic recently said he has not been at his best. This flies in the face of the Djokovic fan club saying his form was back but he was simply the victim of outrageously difficult draws. I detailed some of my exchanges with fans here on this blog, trying to clarify this reality for them; hopefully his own admission helped clear things up. He has not been very solid since Paris last year (he did win Toronto, however). Again, Doha was ugly and the rest of 2017 has been an extension of the second half of 2016.

After the clay, he will have Federer, Murray, Wawrinka, Zverev and Kyrgios, et al at the top to deal with. A victory in Paris would be just what the doctor ordered for the Serb. We shall see, starting with some of these early matches with the likes of Simon, a potentially dangerous Spaniard and possibly Thiem before the stakes steepen in MC.

Murray is another question mark. We need to see some tennis before too much is said. The clay, I suspect, will help Murray find his form, giving him more than enough time to camp along the BL and use that solid defensive tennis of his.

Cheers.

Federer is From a Different Era

No, I am not getting all starry-eyed on Federer. When I say he is from a different era, I am not making some mystical reference to his celestial origins, as if I think Federer’s game is just “out-of-this-world.” Ha ha.

You all know that I don’t waste the space on fanatical rants or emotional poetries. I have celebrated and berated them all.

What exactly do I mean when I say Federer is from a different era? I mean: Federer is from a different era.

He predates Nadolovic. This observational fact complicates the discussion of the golden era/Big Four even more. What makes 2017 Federer such a phenomenon is the idea that he began in a “different,” earlier era, has played through Fedal, developed a real rivalry with Djokovic and now, at least for a few months it seems, he is playing beyond this era.

Obviously, one has to stop there and remind himself that Djokovic is far from finished. He has had a bit of a burn-out, we suppose, his Young_FedererNadallevel has dropped from that ’15-’16 reign, and injury seems to have hampered his game, as well. We suspect Djokovic to gain confidence and form throughout the clay and make a valiant run in Paris to defend his 2016 title, and accomplish the career grand slam double (win each major twice). Djokovic can re-insert/assert himself back into this discussion very quickly and powerfully with a great clay run here in the next couple of months.

But the fact remains that Federer started dominating tennis, winning majors, etc., well before Nadal and Djokovic were doing much of anything on tour, played throughout this golden era and, as the story goes in 2017, has vanquished his greatest nemesis, which seems to mean he is winning (dominating) beyond the Spanish clay GOAT’s time. The ramifications of this development could be pretty significant. But the story isn’t over.

Just as Djokovic is far from done, Nadal could rise-up even more (his 2017 campaign has been very impressive, as well) and win his 10th FO. The story lines will continue to be written by the athletes battling for these precious championships.

Another thing to recall here is the absolute center-piece of my HRFRT thesis: Federer’s tennis created a context that inspired/facilitated the championship/title frenzy that has defined this golden era. The historical context of players is a critical element in the consideration of legacies and eras. As I have already argued, Sampras obliterated his historical standards. There was nothing left for him to climb, really.

Even his clay omission can be explained in this historical context. The French Open before and during Pete’s era was almost a minor key in the men’s professional tennis theme song. Borg and Lendl are more outliers of that era, winning the French multiple times (Wilander did, as well). This was a tournament generally reserved for the clay court specialists. If one disagrees with that assessment, then tackle the other end of the discussion of majors, which argued that Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were, essentially, the ultimate tennis crucibles, where the greatest champions triumphed. Sampras owned each venue historically.

So, the current version of this historical influence is that 2017 Federer will inspire Nadolovic again.

We’re not saying that Nadal and Djokovic have come and gone. But the recent moves from Federer to return, dramatically, to this championship winning form is fairly remarkable, historically I am arguing.

The clearest illustration of this argument that Federer is from a different era? (other than I just explained it to you 🙂

What were you doing in 2008? Think back for a second. What was happening in men’s professional tennis at that point? You have already thought about the Wimbledon final, where Nadal, on his third try, up-ended Federer to claim his first Wimbledon.

The year is 2008.

Federer already has 13 majors to his name.

Nadal has 5.

And Djokovic has 1.

A lot has happened since then, no doubt.

And this is part of what is so remarkable about 2017 Federer. Historically, this shouldn’t have happened.

But it is happening.

How?

His athleticism and his new coach. I have argued a bit of both and will continue to take this on next.

Cheers!

Federer is Ruining Tennis

I wrote a series of posts last year arguing that Federer’s role in this golden era, in the history of tennis for that matter, has been very consequential.

Introduction. . .Tour Structure and Numbers. . . Federera. . . Roger Created a Monster (or Two).

I left-off needing to deal with the Djokovic effect, his role in this era (again, Roger being the cause of the Serbian serpent of lithe lethality).

federersmoke1My plan now is to figure-out exactly what more I need to write to finish and package this short E-book of sorts. This could be extended into a longer, more traditional book format, as well. Do I want to sell it? Sure. But for now, I am just writing, watching, writing, watching and reading this glorious game.

But what I want to touch-on briefly here are some of the ideas people have about Roger playing his greatest tennis now, at 35.

Let’s say I concede this point and say Roger is playing his greatest tennis at 35.

Ha ha ha.

Okay, I’ve gathered myself. We hear the point being made that players’ careers are being extended into their 30s, that there is a kind of late blooming in the men’s game. Wawrinka, Lopez, Karlovic, et al, are proof positive that this trend is rampant and the arch of a player’s career will extend beyond the “wall” that has been the late 20s and early 30s. Using, then, just a bit of playground logic, this means that other players like Djokovic and Murray (tough to say Nadal’s tennis is on the ascent) could/should/might play dominant tennis in 3 or 4 years? That would still keep them shy of Federer’s 35 going on 36, but I’m willing to play along here. 😀

Djokovic will be vying for #1 in the world, winning a major or two, Masters tournaments, etc., in four years?

Where’s Andy in 3-4 years? Dominant?

First of all, I don’t need to argue here that Federer is NOT playing the best tennis of his career right now, in 2017. Just on the surface that’s ridiculous. But we’ll look at this with more depth in the coming weeks (as I find time to delve in given our week-to-week coverage of ATP fireworks).

No, that argument can be clarified later, and needs to be since bloggers and even guys like Brad Gilbert are under this spell of Federer’s ruination.

Instead, just think about what you’re comparing, making a huge leap to this vague notion that players are peaking later in their careers. Djokovic in 4 years (which only puts him at 34, by the way) is having a similar kind of significance on tour that Federer is now?

Or the likes of Dimitrov, for instance. In 10 years he will be 35. You think Dimitrov might be part of this rampant late-bloom of professional tennis talent?

Folks, this is some seriously flawed reasoning: because Roger is dominant at 35, and players do seem to be playing with more relevance later into their 30s, we can expect this trend to continue and argue, in fact, that father time has massively reconsidered his identity and meaning in life? Ah, that’s a great title for some of this discussion/argument: The Identity Crisis of Father Time (or Mother Time, either way). 😉

The point, of course, is Federer is ruining tennis! I use the exclamation point not to soften that statement with some kind of sarcastic tone, but to emphasize, announce with more force, the point of this phenomenon.

As I think to finish that series of articles (HRFRT), think of what 2016-17 will do to this argument?

Today’s post is a brief reminder, as you begin your weekend, that this 2017 Federer is not as much about the men’s game (as many will have you believe – that today’s nutrition and technology and science will have players peaking into their 30s). No no no. This is about Federer. He is a singular talent.

What bothers me is how his success (because of his talent and love for the sport) wasn’t able to affect other players. Like Sampras. Sampras was burned-out by 31. He’d climbed the Mt. Everest of tennis by then. Federer would have changed that (Federer created monsters). Federer changed the entire narrative and expectations of the sport.

But now we have a possible epidemic on our hands of unrealistic expectations. Thank Federer for that.

We’ll eventually move to a more specific comparative analysis of the younger and older Federer, the athlete.

Happy Friday.

Miami 2017 Finale

I hope this post isn’t as anti-climactic as Sunday’s final. Here’s how I began my preview of the Miami final a few days ago: “The Fedal final tomorrow is a bit anti-climactic to be honest. If you’re caught-up in the Fedal rivalry, you’re probably a bit confused. If you need any clarity on that, search my blog under Federer v Nadal H2H.”

I had Twitter lined-up, streamed the match on my computer, in case other “discussions” surfaced and needed any attention, and the quality of the picture on my Mac surpassed the quality of Fedal XXXVII.

The first set was certainly competitive, with Nadal actually establishing some control, pushing forward, letting Federer know that this could be a classic. Through 5 games, Rafa had seen 3 BPs to Roger’s 2. My notes clarified “nothing too spectacular,” as the guys maintained pretty uneventful exchanges, Roger came to net effectively, Nadal held his nadal-federer-indian-wells-2017-miami-reactionown, especially on serve and as Roger even pointed-out later, saving some of those early BPs was critical to the match. Nadal pressed Federer in that first set, but somehow (like the mettle Federer displayed in the QF and SF) the Swiss held and added pressure to the Spaniard’s Miami title drought.

Federer ended-up 1/6 on BPs in the first set; Nadal settled for 0/4. The break came and went and the first set went to Federer; the writing was on the wall. Nadal’s sweat drenched kit vs Federer’s wind-blown mane seemed to reiterate this Miami final graffiti.

The second set became almost tough to watch. You can see in my Twitter feed how critical I was of Roger’s game. He seemed to take points off, handle Nadal SS like a weekend warrior – the match lacked energy and intensity by the second set. I reported that Nadal was set to break and assume control, so long as he kept his serve. Roger’s nonchalance spoke volumes, in the end.

What explains this seeming lack of effort on Roger’s part? Mind you: I am not saying he didn’t put forth a championship effort – that would be wrong and foolish to suggest. But the tone was palpable: Federer was in complete control here; he didn’t appear troubled much at all. We are used to seeing Federer tangle with opponents professing such control and nonchalance, but the problem with this explanation is that two nights earlier, this same poker-faced tennis elder showed all kinds of emotions and intensity vs. Kyrgios. That was a match for the ages; the final vs. Nadal seemed more like an exhibition.

To say that Federer’s difficult draw may have qualified this championship match seems fairly reasonable; indeed, Fedal37 may have lacked the level of his previous two matches, so the Swiss simply flew with the punches.

Federer assumed control in the second set, especially late as he again found the break and served-out the match, securing his third Miami title, third tournament win of 2017 and third win vs. Nadal during this calendar year.

His 63 64 victory spoke volumes of his form and the current 2017 run he’s on, as well as the bigger picture that I have written so much about on this blog regarding the flawed (failed) analysis of these players’ H2H. I am not fact-checking this, but I am almost positive that Sunday’s victory brought the players’ HC H2H to 10-9 Federer.

The talk of Nadal’s excitement and comfort on the up-coming clay reminded me of more of these observations I made last year (or late 2015) when I dug into the H2H and what I called “Nadalism.” At one point I wrote a post discussing Sampras and Nadal, both of whom have 14 majors.

My main point (from what I can remember 😀 ) was that Nadal does not belong in the company of Sampras. I said something to the extent that Nadal would be remembered, mainly, as a great clay court player, the clay GOAT.

I don’t think I ever have to or want to get into those discussions again (unless I’m forced to): I respect Nadal and actually miss his dominance. Do you know how many AO and FO matches I stayed-up to watch, or woke early enough to see the first (or second) ball toss in many of those great Fedal matches? Take it from me: Nadal had his way with Roger, which we know is tennis lore.

This brings-up an important point with regards to Federer having this kind of dominance over the declining Spaniard. There is a balance in life. Some call it karma, balance, the truth and even life. I, and probably many others, feel somewhat sorry for Nadal, coming-up short like this, not finding that peak physical monstrosity that defined his tennis back in the day.

Miami on Sunday really underscored his shortcomings. He’s never won Miami, his decline seems pretty definitive, and Federer has found a game (at last) against which Nadal really can’t compete. The journalists around the world are especially echoing this last point: as much as Federer couldn’t figure-out how to play Nadal through much of their past encounters, Nadal seems the one lost now.

As we turn to clay, Nadal perhaps can locate some of that advantage we grew to expect, but this seems a bit of an uncertainty, as well. We’ll save that discussion for another day; I will add that I look forward to this clay season and watching 2017 Nadal bring this year’s confidence to defend his dirt legacy.

On the other hand, Federer will be skipping the clay, working-on his recovery – as many are now aware, as he told Brad Gilbert and certainly others this news following Sunday’s victory. But this has been in the works for over a year.

When Ljubičić was hired, this reduced (removed) clay season was part of this campaign’s agenda. Here’s part of that post I wrote back in December of 2015:  Ljubičić is going to help Federer, I believe, with some in-match mental fortitude. How to convert a BP, how to withstand an opponent’s surge, how to just play a little smarter when that is absolutely paramount. Federer’s beauty pageant is over. He needs to start winning ugly, getting the job done, with or with out the stunning pirouette that dazzles the crowd. If he has any hope of continuing to remain relevant and/or win another big tournament, he needs to listen to the big Croat, Ivan the terrible, and come-away with a more sustainable game plan.

Here I want to talk about Federer’s much diminished clay schedule. I am attributing this to Ljubičić. Here is another competitive strategy, a little more macro than the in-match help he’ll give the Maestro.

This will help Federer continue to ruin tennis. You are sick of hearing me reference this volume of essays that puts this golden era in perspective. My argument, as articulated in this series of posts, it that Roger has ruined tennis. This is both satirical and serious. I waited to write the Djokovic chapter; my patience has paid off since we are in a very interesting stage of the Serb’s career.

I referred to balance above. Almost certainly, Novak will rebound and find his confidence again. Does the resurgence of Fedal complicate this rebound? Most likely. This is another reason why the clay is a much anticipated schedule, even without Roger. Novak (and Andy, of course) will return to fight for their confidence, their tour points (both have several to defend and are both already free fallinIvan_Rogerg in the 2017 tally).

But the Novak chapter will be interesting. As will the essay that explores 2017 Federer, that phenomenon that few saw rising from the ashes to reclaim such dominance. I can’t tell you how much I believe that Ivan the Terrible has much to do with this. Federer has such a quiet confidence –  perhaps more it’s an assassin’s cool.

The manifestation of this is a much better BH, a more offensive court positioning, better ROS, insanely steady S&V (btw, did you see the point where Roger comes to net to meet a 118 mph Kyrgios FH that Federer softly forwards to the open court? I will search, find and post this point). Here’s the point. Scroll to the 9:20 mark to see this lethal FH from Kyrgios meet Federer’s insanely steady grip:

Looks like ATPmedia blocked this video.

It’s these physical improvements that SEEM to define 2017 Federer. But I argue it’s mostly mental. People, from Chris Everett to fanboy and girl bloggers alike, ask where did this Federer form come from? How is he doing this?

The fanboy will say it’s Djokovic’s slump. To be fair, we can’t say how Djokovic would factor into this run because he’s been dismissed from each draw he’s shared with Federer.

Ljubičić is at least part of the common denominator. If you never watched Ivan play, you have little to go on here, other than taking my word for it. He got to #3 in the world and certainly one career highlight was winning IW in 2010 where he beat Djokovic (4R) and Ivan-LjubičićNadal (SF) before taking down Roddick to claim that prestigious Masters title. He lost to Roger in the 2006 Miami final in three TBs. He has been critical of Nadal for taking too long between points. In short, Ivan knows his way around this golden era tennis court, so to speak, and his level-headedness and business sense, in my humble opinion, have been critical in this resurgence of Federer, in 2017 Federer.

Lastly, people are crying about the crowds again. The last big incident (at least that I caught wind of) was US Open final 2015. Both, interestingly enough, involve Federer.

I said it then and I will say it again: Federer can not control the crowd (though his whistling wife could be asked to shhh).

Then again, he completely controls the crowd.

With regards to NYC, if you win the US Open five times in-a-row, you will have a favorable reception. Granted, Federer’s fandom is well-documented, and a bit fanatic. But that kind of success breeds that kind of following. Folks, five in-a-row. He is beloved in NYC and elsewhere. People appreciate consistency, integrity and victory. These have defined his legacy. His genius is well received, one would think. I recall pulling for Agassi in the USO final 2005. To no avail. The Swiss giant had begun to spread his wings. Tough for people to disregard or deny that kind of “entertainment.” Pretty much what you see is what you get and people really like this kind of tournament-in-and-tournament-out brilliance.

On the other hand, Kyrgios is a complicated cat. I said recently that people need to keep their thoughts to themselves during those kinds of heated matches (though this is tough to control – I talked about seeing this in IW two weeks ago). But there are people saying that Roger cheated somehow, or his win over Kyrgios was unfair because of the crowd. That’s sour grapes or incapacity. My goodness that’s a weak argument.

Blame Mohamed Lahyani, the esteemed umpire. He did seem to provide some council to the animated crowd, but, I suppose, to no avail. Either way, Kyrgios is going to have to earn his reception. Roger, like many before and after him, developed that kind of support because of a certain kind of legacy.

I defended Kyrgios, but I have been very critical of him. He has done some deplorable things on the tennis court. Fans, who pay and support these players and their sport, do not easily forget this kind of lack of character. I have faith in Kyrgios. He will earn his stripes.

But again: if you are complaining about Federer’s popularity at this point, you’re a clown.

Look around. There are some things we have to accept. I am, as you all know, not a Fedfan. But I really appreciate great tennis (I still want to see Sampras ’96 v Federer ’06 😉

Thanks for sticking around and reading and enjoying this insane early season of ATP tournament competition.

Talk to you soon.