Another Weekend of Grass On Tap

The Halle SF are set. Federer beat the defending champ, Mayer, 3 and 4 and will face the young Russian Khachanov in one SF while the second SF has Gasquet facing Zverev the younger.

Zverev traded TB with RBA in their QF before the German took control 6-1 in the decider. Gasquet’s grass looks fairly potent, so we’ll see how he handles the rising Zverev who looks to find another Halle match with Federer; he beat the Swiss in last year’s Halle SF in three sets, but lost to Mayer in the final.

In London the SF look pretty much like Cilic v Muller and Dimitrov v the winner of Lopez /Berdych (Lopez up a set and they’re in a TB in the second – will update).

Dimitrov looks to have survived his QF, taking the first set 6-3, but losing focus and allowing the young Russian Medvedev back into the match before taking the final set 6-3.  Dimitrov seems to be finding some kind of rhythm though it’s tough to say if he has the legs of that early 2017 hard court form back in Brisbane and Melbourne. He’s still on our list.

Another we’ve been watching who continues to play well is Cilic. His serve, benefiting from his time with Ivanišević, is formidable at this point and if his ground strokes continue to be strong, look out for his grass campaign. The FH, which looked so strong early in his match with D. Young, lost a bit of its snap as that second set stayed close, but the American lost his cool and the Croat simply closed him out 64 75 (Young’s profanity was somehow overlooked by the umpire – not a good look for the American, cursing-out his box after every error).

To clarify, Cilic, WB quarter finalist in ’14 – ’16, is finding his grass slippers just in time, or so it appears. His solid serve will go toe-to-toe with the serve of Muller, winner at last week’s Ricoh Open, where he beat Sascha in the SF there in straights; no one should be overlooking the #26 in the world from Luxembourg, but if Marin wants to build his confidence for WB, I suspect he needs to and should beat Muller.

The Lopez v Berdych QF has gone to a third set.

So is everyone excited about Federer’s form now, consolidating his 2017 Jan – March run?

Yesterday’s R16 with Zverev the elder was good tennis from both men. Watching the S&V pressure players to make shots and be creative is a nice addition to the era of grinders we’ve become used to over the years. As I said back in January, listening to McEnroe the elder call the Zverev v Murray match in Melbourne was quite a treat. The present vs. the past, in a way. A bit like this blog of mine.

Most notably from the Zverev match, Federer looked very focused, sensing the importance of the result, needing more tennis than he’ll have under his racquet when he steps to the lawns of SW19. In other words, there was a shred of urgency to Federer’s game in that R16 match. Zverev held his own and the match could have become quite interesting at 4-4 in the first set TB. Federer held-on in the TB 7-4 and found a break at 4-4 in the second set to seal that victory. Pretty tight.

In today’s win over Mayer, the following seems to be the case here in our tennis laboratory at Mcshow Tennis. Federer looks good, but he’s reminiscent of the pre-Fed_Halle149815148594322017 Federer. The most glaring shortcomings of today’s match (pretty much of his tennis so far since his 10 week break) were in his attacking BH consistency and his BP conversion. He was pretty bad on both fronts today. I want to say he was 2/11 on BP opportunities today, and it was his slice BH that truly gave him the edge vs. Mayer. Sure this is a classic grass tool (slice), but the BH we came to enshrine in Melbourne through Miami was no where to be found, really.

Federer still has his FH and his flick-of-the-wrist creativity that still causes people to lose a breath. His serve is intact, as well. He was up 5-2 in the first set, had several BP (4) on Mayer’s serve to take the set 6-2, but, agonizingly, couldn’t find that break. Then he served-out the set at love (or something to that extent – the serve is very strong, still, which is a big reason he has and can continue to remain dangerous on this ATP). But that’s the 2015-16 Federer. What’s made 2017 so special is his attacking BH and his nerves on some big points. Granted the grass is making things a bit touchy and more difficult right now, but that’s my take-away from today.

He’s playing well, but the vulnerability from the BH and the BP conversion is alive and well.

Otherwise, the serve, the FH, the footwork, the BH slice, the volley magic, etc., are all there. The main thing, back to the point that’s being made in several posts here, is he continues to advance (doesn’t get Haas’ed), gets to play more matches, which he absolutely needs. No doubt.

Roger’s spring break will perhaps benefit him especially late in the season. He will be fresh for the summer Masters, NYC, the WTF. This is undeniable as long as he stays healthy.

But right now I am seeing a Roger who’s missing the pieces that made January thru March so historical.

Ljubičić’s expressions from the box look comforting, meaning he looks a little uncomfortable. At least that’s how I’m reading this: relief in advancing, but a little rough around the edges, for sure. Which we expect.

Lopez has overcome Berdych 76 67 75 to book passage for that second SF at Queens-Club.

I hope you’re enjoying the tennis, as well.

Notes on a Wednesday

The grass continues to befuddle a few of our higher ranked players and, in fact, as you know, London this week has become a kind of journeyman’s journey.

The top three seeds are vanquished at Ageon Championships with Murray getting beat in straights by lucky loser Thompson from Australia, Raonic getting over powered by Aussie super boy Kokkinakis, who has yet to live up to the youth hype of his countryman Kyrgios, and Wawrinka falling to grass veteran F.Lopez, which we probably don’t even consider an upset; Lopez is playing well and likes the grass, a finalist last week in Stuttgart.

Nice to see the young Kokkinakis rise-up, but we need to see a lot more from him before we start putting him in the same sentence as his better half: Nick Kyrgios. Speaking of, he looks to be dealing with some hip trouble, extending from the clay, and was dismissed via retirement down a set to American Nick Young, who had some nice showings on earlier hard courts.

Winner last week in s-Hertogenbosch Gilles Muller just beat Tsonga in 2R (R16) at Ageon, so he continues to use his solid serve to advance (that final v Karlovic was an ace factory, probably not a match enjoyed by our clay court fans).

Other notable play in London is to see if Dimitrov can find some form pre-Wimbledon. He’s down a set now, so we’ll see what happens there. Cilic should be able to find some deeper draw this week in London and I’m a bit interested in watching how this young Canadian Shapovalov fares vs. Berdych today. This kid, unlike the two Australian super boys who are now 21 years-old, is still a teenager. Looks like he can play. Good test today against Big Berd.

Murray’s loss is not a good look, like the loss from Federer last week. Federer has this week to find some rhythm, but Murray has to just get his shit together at this point. Murray should be able to outlast many an opponent in the Bo5 format and probably gets Andy-Murray-819267a decent draw from the top, as the no. 1 seed. He looked like he’s looked most of the season yesterday, sluggish, defensive, uninspired. His tennis in the RG SF vs. Wawrinka showed signs of the more offensive Murray, which, combined with the world-class defense, becomes a fairly potent brand. But simple defense won’t cut it. He has to raise his level, starting confidently in a couple of weeks.

Federer should get tested in Halle. Zverev the elder might help the Swiss groove that S&V a bit. Down the draw there are some other potential interesting matches for the people’s Wimbledon favorite. Looking forward to watching some of these Halle contests with the likes of Pouille continuing to build (though he has a difficult one next with local grass authority Mayer), Khachanov, Zverev the younger, Thiem, et al.

A nice counter-point to my Djokovic post yesterday about his fall, that in my sportsman’s mind seems among the tennis intelligentsia such a whisper at what amounts to the gates of hell, would be a little commentary on the Federer milestone, upon posting his 1R Halle win against the unlucky loser Sugita: 1100 wins.

That list puts a lot of tennis history into perspective. Makes you almost want to open the door on the statistical arguments that really persevere through time and space.

When you enter the discussion of greatness in anything, you are taking for granted to key elements: genius and time. The craft of greatness has reached a highest level and this level has been maintained over a period of time that we can define in various ways, depending upon the craft.

In tennis, Federer’s career consistency is incredible. For one perspective on that, see my comparison of Federer and Nadal in terms of their 2017 level. Federer’s level is consistent with his level over the last several years. With Djokollapse (and Ljubičić, the improved BH, etc.) he has made quite a move to the winner’s circle, but the level has been high for years. Nadal’s level in 2017 is more of a surprise. Period.

This is the context of my concern for Djokovic.

Speaking of which, let’s see how Eastbourne treats the Serb. I am certainly rooting for his improved form and confidence.

This is Still on the Djokovic Legacy

“This” is a reference to the state of the men’s game right now. His legacy took some massive growth nutrients in 2015-16, but has since shit the bed and I am utterly shocked to hear Djoker fans still talking about his GOATness.

This is an historical collapse. Any thoughts, Djokerfans?

You and I know exactly how 2017 has been going and how it will probably continue to trend.

I’m starting to see Murray finishing the year #1. That is on Djokovic.

Furthermore, Fedal have murdered the ATP this year (2 majors, 4 Masters) and the record books Djokovic is supposed to be rewriting himself at this point given his supposed control of the tour; this is his time if we’re talking GOATness. Not only has a three-major Murray taken-over the helm of the ATP, but Djokovic sat idly by while Fedal came back from the dead and conceivably could end the year #1 and #2.

This is ridiculous. I have written extensively of Djokovic’s brilliance and shot to make a serious claim to be on the sport’s proverbial Mount Rushmore. A slump happens, sure.

2015 Australian Open - Day 14

But this has A) become a bit of a pattern for the Serb (well documented on this blog and B) the worst kind of timing for such a decline. He should be seeing some better form at this point, gaining some confidence, but he seems to be continuing his dip.

I have said, too, that he will rise again. But this might be too little too late. Why? Because his style of tennis doesn’t preach longevity. Despite people calling him the most balanced game of all-time, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

He will have to find that 2017 Rome SF form on a daily basis. At 30+, this becomes much more difficult to do against younger, stronger and more agile players who use equipment that gets only better, whose games are becoming more and more confident against even the greats like Novak.

I’m just surprised there hasn’t been more of a discussion of how big of a disaster this has been, a Djokollapse that’s over a year old at this point for a player who was 29 years-old and in complete control of the tour and his sport’s record books.

I guess I should be okay with this lack of recognition and discussion by the tennis media, with the fact that I’ve been pretty much the only one charting this dumpster fire.

I’ll be back to smoke some grass discourse soon, people. Let’s get fired-up for some big time grass!

T-shirts will be in production, of course, soon. 😀
#Djokollpase #BeliemInThiem #BIT #2017Fedal #HRFRT #StayTuned, etc.

Cheers!

2017 Grass in Progress

Stuttgart final four:

French connection of Pouille v Paire
and M.Zverev v Fel. Lopez

Zverev took-out the German sharp-shooter (Haas) 4 and 4 and Lopez took care of Berdych in three after losing the first set TB. Pouille, a WB QFinalist last year, got by Kohlshreiber in three today and Paire beat Jankowicz in straights.

Looking for some patterns to affect the draws at SW19 in about a couple of weeks, Pouille could be finding some rhyme and rhythm after his choppy clay. He has a nice offensivetennis that the grass suits. Zverev’s S&V will be fun to watch match-up with certain players who will struggle with that grass gas. Lopez’s game is a nice change-of-pace from a Spaniard – he’s a graceful grass player who can certainly make opponents earn a win or a loss. Paire is a mystery, decent ball-striker (solid BH) with a terrible temper, who can seek-out an upset.

Let’s look for a Pouille v Zverev final in Stuttgart (to raise the volume on the Zverev grass factor).

In s-Hertogenbosch, the SF:

Cilic v Karlovic
Mueller v A.Zverev

Ahhh, the serve is a factor again. Haven’t seen much of Karlovic this week, but Cilic continues to show some form; the 2016 Wimbledon Semi finalist should surgically impair the Dr., but I suppose he could ace the court right off the Croat 😉

Big serving Mueller shouldn’t have enough to beat Zverev, who continues to grow. We have to like the play of Zverev at WB this year (both of them, perhaps). He had a bad draw in Paris (Verdasco), but got his first Masters, of course, and is really mowing the lawn this week. He got beat last year in WB R32, I’m pretty sure, by Del Potro, so we’ll have to see his draw. But he’s different player this year.

We will continue to watch next week’s WB warm-ups to assess more form and possible contenders at The Championships.

These names jump-out as players to watch, some quite obvious.

Federer
Nadal
Murray
Djokovic
Wawrinka
Raonic
Zverev(s)
Pouille
Cilic
Berdych
Kyrgios
Dimitrov

We hear Djokovic is considering a warm-up in Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon.
Federer, Wawrinka and Murray should be in action next week, as well.
Another note on the Federer loss: he had, correct me if I’m wrong, 29 aces. Up 6-2 and MP in the 2nd set, with a gob of aces. . .no panic in the loss, but in the potential that he’s lost that edge that began the year in all-time fashion.
I might not be back to write untfederer-haas-stuttgart-2016-monday-2il next Tuesday (my son’s soccer team has a big weekend up the road a couple of hours). Then again, I have my phone and have been known to touch the keys from the discomfort of that awful Apple phone keyboard. 😦  I know, get a laptop, pal.
Of course, some of you might want me to take a break anyway. Good luck with that 😀
Wimbledon will be here before you can say “upset!”
Cheers.

The Palantír: Chaos, Chaos and Andy and More Chaos

A palantír (sometimes translated as “Seeing Stone” but literally meaning “Farsighted” or “One that Sees from Afar”; cf. English television) is a crystal ball, used for both communication and as a means of seeing events in other parts of the world or in the distant past (Encyclopedia).

You might recognize the reference from J. R. R. Tolkien, as well.

Are you following the transmogrification of the game? If you are not twisted and spun, or spinning-out-of-the-bowl, as we might say, listen-up.

Professional tennis is under siege. Such a series of events could drive any (wo)man crazy, but I assure you: we will survive. The civilized game will chart and lead us toward Big4_38f19160e1fbed1175906d2db43101a3greener pastures where our confusion will subside, though perhaps only temporarily. These are trying and concerning times on the tour; imbalance and epiphany fight for the throne while we can only wait and watch, calmly, and reasonably the struggle to understand the headless leadership whose stewardship repairs a system flawed beyond repair.

I confessed my church attendance following the Roland Garros massacre. Indeed, I sought council for the mess I had yet to fully comprehend.

Meditation and the blog, literature and great match replays have afforded me perspective and rest from the 2017 ATP chaos that we somehow must represent, explain, only to lessen the crazy and the crying. Even the shame.

The Federer loss today to Haas is not, by itself, a calamitous event. But there is commentary and foreshadow in the 2R Stuttgart result. I have plainly submitted that this is very much a result of his decision to skip the entirety of clay. Just a bad move that contradicts the fellowship’s ethos. To be clear, just a dumb move.

Such a decision is quite questionable for three reasons:
1. It’s arrogant. I think clay is inferior and still I wouldn’t skip the entire schedule. He has to respect the venues and crowds and players enough to report and play even a few matches. He’s too good for clay? I have entertained the injury excuse long enough; he did mention his concern for the knee, the unsteady court, etc. But you have to compete even symbolically, remind the boys you’re still there, still in all of that glorious form with grass on the horizon, so actually this or that match doesn’t mean a whole lot, but I’m here to play and keep you guys honest, especially you, Rafa. How’s it going, pal?

Instead, Rafa can go take care of his La Decima, devour the clay and continue to build momentum? no worries?

Maybe he is that confident or indifferent. Who knows.

He could have played cautiously and as if he had nothing to lose. He could’ve developed his game, deepened his familiarity with the tour, stayed in-touch. Nope. Federer is off to train in the clouds with the seraphim and other angels. Very bold move.

When Ljubičić publicized the idea of a reduced clay schedule back in 2016, upon his hiring, I suggest that was in retrospect, certainly an idea to consider, but perhaps something that might have made a difference in your career in the past, Federer. Sitting-out so much tennis at this point is probably not advised. You missed two months of tennis, which is different from practice, as you know; this acknowledgement in your statement recently hinted at perhaps a tiny admission that you’ve been away for too long. As we age, what’s the most important thing we can do physically? Keep moving. Utterly paramount. Playing competitive tennis is “moving” for a player who wants to compete at the highest level.

You had so much form early, so much momentum. Why throw all of that away?

2. It’s inviting too much pressure. Federer: Forget about the clay and the French; I’m pinning all of my hopes and dreams on Wimbledon. You all can have that entire season of competition: I am going to focus all of my training and preparation on this fortnight in July.

That’s crazy.

3. It’s scared. Again, if Federer is injured, rest, take a break from the phenomenal first three months of the season (a major and sunshine double). But the complete abstinence is too drastic, almost telling in a way. Why not play one of the Masters, or one of the smaller events, just to stay fresh, add some points, keep it real. Nope. He wanted nothing to do with the clay. Nothing! He was a clay abolitionist.

This might be the greatest of all examples of the intimidation of Rafa.

At least you’re keeping us guessing, Federer. After the loss today, I argue Federer is anything but a sure bet for Wimbledon. He’s almost 36 years-old. His year is teetering, if you ask me.

Adding to the chaos is Nadal, who you watched destroy the 2017 clay, including his RG La Decima that I have already married and divorced several times on this blog: it was beautiful and disturbing. His form is monstrous, scary, and seemingly as dominant as he’s ever been. Go figure.

2017 Fedal has been just a bizarre development, splitting the first two majors and first four Masters. They’re pretty much #1 and #2 in the world based on 2017 projections – Nadal is currently #2 while Federer currently is #5. They’ve shaken the entire tennis planet.

But just to be clear about the current chaos: Nadal’s freak-mode coming out of Paris is ironically unstable (which is so surreal) and Federer, though dominant before the clay, suddenly has a bit of a concern with only one 500-level tournament to play before The Championships.

Questions abound concerning these two since Nadal’s apprehension of grass has reared it’s head by skipping the London warm-up this week (per “medical” advice), and people wondering if he can transfer his manic clay recipe to grass; and Federer is finally returning “home” like the prodigal son, who seems, naturally, disoriented.

The whereabouts of Djokovic are unbeknownst, especially after Paris. We’ve charted this ad nauseam. What are one’s expectations for the Serb?

Wawrinka might still be partying, trying to postpone his French final hangover. Grass is not his surface, but he did, apparently, hire the celebrated Paul Annacone to consult during the grass campaign. Still, questions and chaos surround Stan the Man.

murray_grin2_976Of the top 5 guys, Murray may be the eye of the storm. This is not a betting site though I have been propositioned by several sports betting entities. Here’s my own advice: bet Murray to emerge throughout the fortnight (still awaiting confirmation from Fedal).

One could say I’m tempting fate here, as many may see Federer, in the end, rising to stake claim to his most cherished prize. Others might see Nadal forcing his way into the business-end of the draw with a suitable grass attack.

However, Murray, who might have escaped real damage in Paris, is perhaps the cleanest, the clearest and safest bet to steady his nerves and game for a defense of his Wimbledon grass.

What’s missing from this discussion and from most “betting” prospects? The younger future. Dimitrov (not exactly green) began 2017 sharp, with a renewed confidence. He’s suffered some tough losses and seems to be in retreat. Thiem and Sascha Zverev continue to blossom, yet both have yet to convince us of their Bo5 credentials. Then there’s Kyrgios and Raonic who seem to have the kind of game for SW19. The sport needs them to rise and ignore these giants banging around and creating such a mess.

This we will continue to follow and analyze: the carnage of the tour, seen quite clearly now in the aftermath of the early HC and Euro clay. Of course, I see this as nothing more or less than HRFRT. That’s more or less what we continue to observe here on this blog concerning these courts throughout the tour, for instance with Fed winning #18 and then Nadal winning #15. You realize how absurd this is, right? The sport is, one could argue, getting so far out-of-reach we’re in the throes of a kind of crisis, a little pandemonium, perhaps.

Bring it on.

More to come, thanks for reading and cheerio.

You’re Welcome

My read once again pays dividends. Folks, I just call it like I see it: Federer’s withdrawal from RG after skipping all of the clay left an immediate and continued bad taste in my mouth. I knew deep down it was a poor strategy.

That news, if you recall, came down in the middle of me writing a post about the Italian Open and Federer’s RG preparations, and you can see what this bombshell did to my thought process; even worse, the point I make is I knew what this news would do to Federer. 

You’re rolling in 2017, a major, two Masters, 3-0 v Nadal. . . and you take a seat for two months? What was my hypothesis? That he’s retiring, getting ready to take two final runs at WB and the USO. The move to skip clay didn’t make sense any other way, unless he was battling injury, which I think we can rule out.

He is out at Stuttgart 62 67 46. He had a MP in the TB and Haas (yeah, the 39 year-old tournament director Tommy Haas) saved several BP, consolidating his break in the 3rd and he just served-out the match.

Guess what, Federer. Take another break why don’t you.

Skipping the entire clay court season was just unwise, unless he really was injured. I tried to make sense of this disaster on my blog (history, retirement, etc.), but that’s all neither here nor there at this point.

He’s got Halle to get ready for The Championships and that’s it. Practice is not the same as match play, old pal.

This just solidifies my read on everything else. I actually smell a Fedal collapse here in 2017. Could it be?

Ha ha.

And stay-tuned because I have a lot more to say, or follow me on Twitter for the occasional chirping. . .

 

 

French Open 2017 Aftermath Part II

To continue the thread from my previous post, Nadal has to be considered a favorite for The Championships. His form is too high and devastating to not be considered transferable to another surface, such as the homogenized grass, especially in the slower conditions during the first week or so. If one wants to certify the tennis we saw last week, especially in the final four, then one has to argue that such massive dominance can translate to the grass.

We should use the 2008 model – where he didn’t drop a set in Paris (destroyed the field, including Federer in the final) and then went on to beat Federer in the Wimbledon final, as we all know. Nadal had similar outcomes in 2010: didn’t drop a set in Paris and followed that with a championship at Wimbledon (Federer was spared in these two finals).

Rafael Nadal with 2017 French Open trophy, Eiffel Tower_7083367_ver1.0_640_360

The point is: this past week we saw a virtuoso performance, again, by the clay great. With my own eyes I saw an unplayable tennis of incredible strength and quickness with violent depth and accuracy to go along with his almost unrivaled tennis nous. What wasn’t working for the Spaniard?

To then offer some sort of excuse that the clay and grass are so different and therefore he could struggle undermines Nadal, fatally. This is not the hard and fast grass of the 90’s. The court homogenization has created the kind of tennis circumstances to cater to the baseline grinder like Nadal and Djokovic.

And, again, that kind of dominance on clay not only has transferred to grass, but it had better, in order to consolidate that kind of run with that kind of all-time, almost cartoon-like dominant form.

What about Federer? What about him?

Many of you know that I write from my gut. I warned of the Djokollapse extending through to the 2017 French and beyond back in September; I called bullshit on Djokovic’s Rome SF master class, among other reads (in 2015, to be fair, I argued Nadal had shrunk and disappeared like the threat of his ground strokes).

When Federer announced he was skipping RG (following his early clay abstinence), I thought “this isn’t good.” All I could use to rationalize the decision was his injury (he must not be 100%) and a bit of history (skipping the French to prepare for WB has been done many times by tennis greats). I discussed these propositions in a few posts. The only problem with this latter reason is this is a different tour, a different brand of tennis and these guys, especially Federer, don’t skip majors. Using this historical rationale is a stretch, a camouflage covering perhaps a more meaningful and accurate logic. My initial thought was he’s essentially preparing for retirement, wanting to give WB and the USO two final runs in the best possible condition he can manage at 35, turning 36 in September.

You’re telling me he’s going to play clay and RG next year, at 36 going on 37? He’ll be stronger next year? That’s practically an insult to our intelligence.

That means the decision had to be in consideration of his injury, his preservation.

And/or Ljubičić sat him down and told him, “No,” which turned-out to be a smart move perhaps.

Wilander even says as much in an article on Tennis.com: “[Nadal] has taken confidence away from [Stan] Wawrinka, from [Andy] Murray, even though he didn’t play him. And Roger Federer is a very happy man that he didn’t come to the French, because his confidence has not been dented.”

I’ve talked about that strategy already, completing Ljubičić‘s thought-experiment on Federer’s career and rivalry with Nadal: if Federer had skipped more clay in the past, his H2H with Nadal and probably his tennis in general post-French Open and over-all would have resonated more confidence.

Either way, here we are:

“A rejuvenated Roger Federer is committing to a full schedule in the second half of the season, saying that he’s had enough of practice and is hoping to quickly recapture his stunning early-season form. Fresh off a two-month break to rest his 35-year-old body, Federer returns to the ATP World Tour this week at the grass-court MercedesCup in Stuttgart.

‘There are no more breaks now,’ Federer told ATPWorldTour.com Monday. ‘I’ve had enough breaks. I’m a practice world champion now and that’s not who I want to be. I want to be a champ on the match courts. So I’m going to be playing a regular schedule for the second part of the season… And this is the beginning here at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart.'”

You don’t say; you’re done with “breaks” now? You missed a shit ton of tennis, Roger. No shit you’re done with breaks. This statement is troubling if you ask me. He seems to have come to the realization, especially after last week’s macabre tennis theater, that the situation has gotten a little more intense, a little more apprehensive.

Granted, he came off an eight month break last year only to win Melbourne. Certainly, this smaller two month break can result in a quick return to that kind of form, only he’s even more refreshed, right? Sounds perfect!

I’ll believe it when I see it.

The build-up to SW19 is short. Nadal is taking this week off but will be back in action in London next week at the Aegon International.

The Championships begin a week after that.

My eyes will be tuned to these next couple of weeks, to the form these two greats manifest for the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Federer has some interesting competition at the Mercedes Cup this week with the likes of his buddy Haas in his opening match, followed by some S&V with M.Zverev, perhaps Berdych, Pouille and if we’re lucky a final vs. baby Fed.

Indeed, the clay interrupted some interesting tennis from some interesting players; hopefully we can see these gents find enough rhythm and confidence to prepare for some big results on the grass.

Nadal only has to maintain that fire-breathing form of his. Again, who would bet against that kind of relentless, rampant form at this point? Borg, Nadal and Federer have all completed the FO/WB double. When was the last time you saw Nadal so ruthless? He has to consolidate that, or he’ll continue to be plagued as a virtual one-trick pony.

To counter my impression, hell, back to Wilander at Tennis.com:

“As for the remaining Grand Slams on the 2017 calendar, Nadal is a two-time champion at Wimbledon (2008 and 2010) and a two-time champion at the U.S. Open (2010 and 2013). He hasn’t won at the All England Club in seven years, and has made it to the fourth round just once since 2012. Nadal reached the final in Melbourne this past January, and in 2014 and 2012, but has only hoisted the trophy there once, in 2009.

Still, Wilander believes that, the way he’s playing, Nadal has the ability to hold all four majors, just as Novak Djokovic did this past year.

‘Rafa could arrive here next year, in May, with 18 [majors],’ the Hall of Famer told the news agency.”

Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but in defense of the Swede’s Nadal-hype, this is what I am actually talking about.

In the aftermath of the French Open 2017, concerning Nadal’s incredible tennis exhibition, one has to either buy-in and sound like an idiot (or genius, Mr. Wilander), or almost call into question this kind of level, so insanely dominant that it renders the tournament irrelevant, the draw practically meaningless and the tennis likely unsustainable (what was that about the highest level of tennis ever played?).

If Nadal crumbles on the slowed grass and can’t consolidate Paris, we have more questions. That kind of dominance should transfer; a non-transfer brings into question the player (inferiority) and continue our denigration of the clay. We are beyond the days of Costa, Ferrero, or Gaudio winning the French in the days of clay specialization. We got a once-in-a-generation player who can dominate that surface, as well as achieve huge results on other surfaces, in other majors (allegedly due to the fact that those surfaces have been slowed). Is he different, a more complete player, or is he a manic dirt baller whose form contradicts the tennis imagination?

As we slowly tip-toe to the end here of this exploration and really come to the question of style sustainability (that’s really what this is all about, folks; can Nadal sustain this? And I’m saying he better), we reach a philosophical intersection.

I am reminded of the way Sampras approached tennis as a junior when he was figuring-out his game, switching from a two-handed BH to the one-hander, watching his results reflect this change, short-term, but knowing he would benefit in the long-run, trusting his mentors. He clarifies: “To us, it was always about playing the right way, trying to develop a game that would hold up throughout my career. It was a calculated risk [. . .] On the other hand, some of those juniors were like starving guys, eating everything on the table while the eating was good. They didn’t think long term, they lived and died by their daily results. . .” (A Champion’s Mind).

Consistency is the quintessential element of class and greatness.

You know me: these two posts (Aftermath Parts 1 and 2) are explorations of this brilliant and unplayable and awkward and disturbing tennis that Nadal delivered at Roland Garros. It was humbling and unappetizing, if that makes sense (and I will continue to make sense of all of this).

This Nadal puzzle has been missing pieces for almost a decade; we’ll call the puzzle la década del misterio.

This grass season we’re stepping into will answer, for me, many questions concerning 2017 Fedal and other players, of course (are you awake Kyrgios?).  My tennis calculus and calibrations will be working overtime to locate these missing pieces.

I say Nadal’s form has to carry him to Wimbledon as a tournament favorite. The eyes don’t lie; that transcends clay (it’s more Borg or Federer or Djokovic than it is Gaudio, et al.)

Who else you got at Wimbledon? Raonic? Djokovic? If you said Murray, I agree with you; he found his game in Paris, along with some confidence, missed facing the wood-chipper in the final, will be the homeboy in-front of andy-murray-i-hope-that-in-2017-federer-and-nadal-will-be-injuryfree-his home-crowd and he’s the defending champ. Good call. Of course, with Nadal #2 in the world now, he won’t have to see Murray until the final.

Federer? He has some quick make-up work to do and I still think he rolled-the-dice on skipping all of that tennis, while his rival found the fountain of youth and some Parisian absinthe that empowered him to La Decima and could inspire him to become, perhaps, the werewolf of London.

Time will tell, folks.