Nitto ATP Finals Sees Dimitrov Crowned

Good match between Goffin and Dimitrov, the Bulgarian coming through finally 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

On these last three matches:

I got to watch finally the Federer v Goffin match (son’s soccer game, what can I say – but of course I could follow on my phone, which, by the way, reveals a lot about a match if you can believe that: length of service game, patterns, like Federer getting to 30-0 on several Goffin serves, but then laying an egg and unable to break, etc.).

I watched the Dimitrov v Sock and saw most of the final earlier today/night.

  1. The Federer v Goffin match was almost predictable and quite unbelievable at the same time.  I really never felt that confident about Federer’s chances, which goes back to me saying the tennis gods would give this title to Nadal (joking, but not really). This, of course, unleashed fanboy in my comments saying I was being “controversial” or whatever. Ha ha. Federer’s ability to get through his group (a tough group) even facing some resistance, suggested he had enough to handle most of these blokes. Throughout RR play, he’d play well, then look pretty shaky, hang-on, put-together some brilliant shots, serve well, come-up with a BoS, yell at his demons, etc. This characterized Federer’s London. As much as I did not see him breadsticking anyone, he looked to have enough left in the tank to get #7. And like most of you, if he did lose, perhaps we thought it would be to a high-flying Dimitrov in the final. But Goffin was plucky and skilled enough to take-down the favorite. His entire game, as I have observed often, is solid throughout, perhaps a tennis player’s player, can work both sides of his stroke, both corners of the court, can come to net, has a decent serve, can slice and play more offensively, etc. . . just no definitive weapon, necessarily, that scares his opponents. He outplayed Federer. That’s for sure. And Federer, on the other hand, looked so out of sorts in this match; which turns-out to be more the case the entire tournament. Watch his footwork, especially with his FH. This is that shot where he looks like he’s rushing it, wristing it, and actually looks almost like he’s sitting down trying to hit this FH. But it comes back to his footwork. He’s not getting up to the ball. And why is that? Well, if we play detective, we see him struggling with whether to be more offensive or more conservative, employ more slice and stay back or more like his Shanghai and Basel campaigns where he was up inside the court, thrashing his opponents with that topper BH and brutal FH. He wasn’t sure in London, and this hesitancy probably did-him-in. We saw this in his play with Zverev early, a pretty consequential match; he smartly played that BH slice a lot because it gives the tall German fits (keeping the ball low, etc.). Perhaps he just didn’t adjust enough to his different opponents and then became increasingly unsure of himself. Look at the camera cuts to his box; Ivan and Severin look like they’ve had some corrupt curry. Not all was quite right in Federer-land all week; at least that’s how I read it from the get-go. Still, I was surprised he wasn’t able to win the decider vs. Goffin. And like we said, bravo, David.
  2. The Sock v Dimitrov match went about according to plan. I thought Sock’s run ended here as that’s how I previewed the match, unlike my pick of Sock over Zverev, more or less. But we also referenced the fragility of Dimitrov. And he did try to give the match away there at the end. Sock showed-up again, despite taking that middle set off, like he did against Zverev; but when the chips were down, Sock hung easily with these more established players. Didn’t surprise me and I hope this turns-out to be a good experience that pays interest for Sock.
  3. Dimitrov’s fragility showed-up today vs. Goffin in the final. If I was having to pick someone in this final, I’d have to go with the Bulgarian, partly because of his form right now (85% of the time) and his easy win over Goffin earlier in the RR. But he had all sorts of trouble here too with closing-out the match and the championship. Credit goes to Goffin for playing such gutsy and quality tennis when he needed to (I believe he saved 5 championship points, several other big BPs as well), but the Bulgarian got shaky again. Sure enough, an error from the Belgian ended this match; still not sure Dimitrov could have closed on his own racquet. The errors did begin to creep-up on the tired Goffin, who played a whale of a tournament — and he has a DC final v France in about a week. . . on clay I suspect. :0

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One thing that really adds to David’s game is something that was talked about in his win over Nadal but you could see Federer struggle with this, as well and it goes back to his fluency on both wings: his opponents have trouble reading where he’s going. Same set-up and movement whether that BH/FH is going CC or DTL. Lovely little nuance that drove Fedal, among others, a little crazy.

So, bravo to all — a surprising final but really solid tennis at times from all 7 players (we’re leaving that little Spanish contingent out of this 😉

Goffin’s run has to be the most compelling story here (sorry, Grigor even though this is the biggest title of your career). Goffin is practically a journeyman, but has had really a brilliant 2017. His play on the European clay was very high quality and after coming-back from his injury at RG, he played well enough (two titles in Asia if I’m correct) to get himself into London, along with representing in Belguim’s inspiring Davis Cup run. Then his London exploits, which include sending packing Nadal and Federer both. I waved the Belgian national flag for a reason (before even the SF): Goffin’s humility and class belong near the top of this sport.

Dimitrov is a bit more complicated, for me. I have referenced 1,000,000 times my Grigor stock purchase at the tail-end of 2016 – he played well there in the fall, which catapulted the one-hander (seemingly) into his run in Australia early 2017. His Brisbane tennis was dynamite, truly.

We know of the epic five-setter in the Melbourne SF v Nadal. But that, I guess, was his early peak. He struggled through the spring, really didn’t have much to show even through WB (Federer toyed with him in the R16 4 2 and 4).

But then he wins Cincinnati vs. a strong Kyrgios. Well, well. On the eve of NYC, the athletic, all-courter has finally decided to revisit that early 2017 hard court form.

In New York, losing in straights to Rublev in R64 pretty much spoiled that delicacy. Sure, Rublev made a nice little run there at the U.S. Open, but Dimitrov should have found that deeper draw, perhaps a date with Nadal. Of course, Dimitrov was part of that grand slam bracket implosion at the 2017 U.S. Open.

Still, Dimitrov was being Dimitrov. Losing in the Stockholm final to Del Potro just another nail in the proverbial coffin.

Yet, here we are (congrats, Dimitrov!). If 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that players rise from the dead. Right?

2018 will be all kinds of interesting on that topic.

2017 Fedal Officially Over and Out

Fun while it lasted, no? The lasting image we have of this amazing year, dubbed 2017 Fedal, looks something like two worn-out veterans smiling, waving to the crowd, who’s on their feet, some crying, as these old legends, empty, victorious and defeated simultaneously, walk away. . .

Think of the various endings that could have wrapped this story of 2017 Fedal. We’ll keep it simple and say 1) that Nadal could have consolidated his YE #1 by bringing a flury of form at the ATP Finals where he’s never won. Or 2) where Federer, though even a little disappointed in not challenging #1 (skipping clay was that forfeiture), lifts his 7th ATP Finals trophy.

Having Federer and Nadal battle each other for this London year-end title would have been the cherry on top, of course.

Of course, none of this occurred.

Some call Nadal’s pull-out of London a failure.

Some will call Federer’s loss in the London SF to Goffin a failure.

The word here is both assessments are correct on some level (and much of this depends on one’s point-of-view), but the year and the way this all ends is such a complicated menagerie of tennis folklore and legend that only Mcshow Blog can possibly wrap it’s tennis imagination around such an affair, such a dramatic story. And indeed we will.

Congrats to David Goffin!

Here’s another small Belgium national flag to honor such a massive win from the Belgian.

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Indeed, I’m taking some credit for this upset, for flying the flag a few days ago and making amends with my Belgian friend, Wilfried. Congrats to all of the Belgian tennis faithful.

I certainly never said Federer had this match in the bag. 😉

Let us now observe Dimitrov’s victory. He can’t possibly lose to Sock can he?

Do you see the irony?

A wrap on the two matches later today or tonight.

Some Belgian ale certainly on tap tonight. 🙂

Final Thoughts on the Semifinals

Goffin looked quite good in taking care of business against an overwhelmed, or concave Thiem (happy off-season, Dom: good luck in the off-season, working-on better court position). Goffin’s ability to find such different angles looks positively poised to play in the ATP Finals SF. Federer should overtake the Belgian, but stranger things have happened.

Hearing that Federer took a day off between matches and people are suspecting injury is ripe gossip. But for a 36 year-old, who in the hell knows.

Federer should proceed 4 and 4.

Dimitrov looks on fire. Stepping around short balls, hitting 127mph solid on that FS and quick to back-it-up appears devastating. He should be opportunistic. The question is will he shine under the bigger lights.

If he doesn’t beat Sock, and I am not certain of Grigor at all given his past, no one should be shocked. He should beat Sock given the parade of glory from this all-court artisan. He needs big results. Enough is enough.

A Federer v Dimitrov final is the call, but Sock upsetting the fragile Bulgarian wouldn’t surprise anyone.

Group Becker Wraps: Federer & Sock Advance to Semifinals

I watched just a bit of the Federer v Cilic though I happened to catch the end of the first set TB. That was just strong tennis from the big Croatian, no two ways about that. Big serve, hitting lines and finishing at the net. Set point was brilliant.

An odd set of circumstances: the only relevance of the match is in ATP points, cash, and, potentially, seeding in the Semifinal for Federer (and the players’ confidence, I suppose); really not much tournament relevance at all and here’s Federer down 0-1 probably wanting to get his legs up to prepare for some bigger matches over the weekend.

Nitto ATP Finals, Day One, The O2 Arena, London, UK - 12 Nov 2017The last two sets went by while I was working, not that I or probably anyone really thought Federer would lose; nonetheless, the second remained tight, he finally broke serve to close that at 6-4 and ran away with the third.

All-in-all, Federer has to be feeling quite good. He’s looked good when needed and he’s been tested a bit, by both Zverev and Cilic (not that today’s deficit was that worrisome given the relevance).

We’re at that point where we want to see some great tennis, but given the remaining players, most probably suspect Federer to close this out and win his seventh Tour Final.
He should, no question.

Through the years, however, you learn not to take things too much for granted. Federer is a good example here, actually. The best player in the world doesn’t always win these big matches or tournaments; this we know all too well. I recall seemingly countless French Finals back in the mid aughts where we thought Federer, the best player, might win one (that, of course, is an odd example given who he played. But Rafa hadn’t yet built his statue there).

The point is the best player in the world didn’t win. With Federer we recall, aside from the several French, 2009 Australia, or 2010 U.S. Open, among others. In Sampras’ case, we think of 1996 Wimbledon, among others. Obviously there are many many examples concerning many many overwhelming “favorites.”

I don’t really see Federer losing to a Goffin/Thiem in the SF, nor a Sock/Dimitrov in a final (although most tennis fans probably wouldn’t mind seeing Dimitrov finally fulfill his destiny — but then again, that guy’s destiny seems recycled news at this point).

All signs read Federer: on this court, this year. We’ll talk more later about the Nadal story-line here; I began our London commentary with a few words on Nadal (Nadalism), all of that jazz that turned circus music in the O2. We will have several more thoughts on that turn of events that goes back to Shanghai, to Paris-Bercy, etc.

Teaser: what in the hell was he doing in Paris?

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In the other Becker match today, the match that had massive significance, Sock prevailed. I saw this coming. By the way, I didn’t even bring-up the Sock-factor in the france_tennis_paris_masters_39034_c0-608-5633-3892_s885x516group draw. Having just won Paris, here again is a player who might be surging, peaking, as we like to say. Why not put a guy like that (or Zverev – always dangerous, or even Cilic) in the Sampras group to bolster that Dimitrov-only group.

You all know how I cherish Thiem’s tennis, and have written glowingly even about Goffin, but their current form/health, I would say, suggest this is not the Thiem/Goffin from April/May.

Now we have Zverev and Cilic going home (Cilic has a pretty poor Tour Final record going. . .for sure).

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sock beats Dimitrov. Grigor’s tennis can rival some of the best in the game, but Sock has played some pretty meaningful tennis throughout his career, as well — perhaps even more so. He’s not as green as he may look.

He won Wimbledon doubles in 2014 as a 21 year-old. He’s played a bunch of Davis Cup, won gold in Rio mixed doubles. Sure his claim-to-fame has been doubles, but he’s been sliding up the singles rankings the last couple of years. And sure he won a down draw in Paris last week, but that’s still a 1000; it’s better than nothing, and yes that’s bad sarcasm.

His BH is improving by the match (like Del Potro’s BH this year. People would say, in September, Del Potro’s BH sucks. I would ask if they saw it in February. These players’ games improve, believe it or not).

I saw in person the Sock v Federer SF in Indian Wells this year (yes, Sock made that SF). Sock beat Dimitrov in 3R in Indian Wells, staving-off a few MPs from the Bulgarian. He then beat Nishikori to reach that SF where he made a little showing in the second set, playing Roger to a TB (4-7).

In other words, this is not an American getting jingoistic on a lone Yankee in London. That’s not how I roll and you know this. Sock is playing well, has been playing well. The call for him to give Zverev all kinds of trouble was not a stretch.

And what in the heck happened to Zverev’s FH and serve? He really fell apart in this tournament and I don’t think all the slice BHs coming his way was a coincidence. Everyone read that report and it still stands: a guy that tall will struggle big time on occasion, especially on a surface like London, having to go low like that and hit his robotic (but very effective) two hander.

So, Sampras wraps tomorrow. I am rooting for Goffin actually, sorta, partly because an old reader of this blog, Wilfried, countryman of David’s, seems a bit annoyed at some of my discourse (if I’m not upsetting someone, I’m not doing my job). No hard feelings, my friend.

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Despite waving my tiny Belgium national flag, I think Thiem will look to take advantage in this Western-Central European scuffle. Hopefully we, the viewers, win in this one.

The ATP is Drunk

Not sure who exactly is in charge of what (marketing, draws, doing the laundry, etc.), but the ATP (is that Chris Kermode?) is a mess.

I’m just pointing to two things: that Next Gen opening ceremony disaster – how dumb was that?

Kermode_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8But I have dumber: the Nitto ATP Finals group drawings. I said at the beginning that Nadal had an easier group, compared to Federer, but this is ridiculous.

Dimitrov just waxed (a depleted) Goffin 0 and 2. I seriously forgot who the fourth player of that group is for a second: oh yeah, Thiem, another depleted fellow.

Dimitrov had trouble with Thiem, so we’re not yet calling his tennis upper-class.

Meanwhile, the Becker group is large and in charge. We’ll see how this Zverev v Sock plays-out, but I don’t think you want to be playing Sock right now, unless your Roger. Is Sock’s break-through win against Cilic going to cost him? Will he be too “depleted” to put-up much of a fight against Sascha? That’s how this story goes with these ATP middle-class blokes. Keep riding high, Jack.

On the other hand, group Sampras (thanks for throwing shade at that esteemed name, ATP wonks) will likely offer up for the SF a seemingly in-form Dimitrov and a winner of Goffin v Thiem?  Carreno Busta is, of course, on the premises, but that group, to be clear, couldn’t be making my point more emphatic.

Pull your shit together, ATP.

Nitto ATP Finals Day 3: Federev v Zvererer and A Sock Star is Born


First set seems like less a chess match and more of a show of intimidation. I like the tennis actually, the players showing-off the breadth of their skills: aces, two wing weaponry, serve & volley, swinging volleys, trying to assert their dominance simultaneously. Watch the game at 5-5. Tense stuff, tight. Don’t just look at the tennis quality in a vacuum, people: this is Federer v Zverev, ATP Finals and we all know this is essentially the final, the sequel played in a few days.

I really need to keep this short.

I’m hearing people say the tennis was error-prone, less than magnifique, but I say it had the tension of a heavy-weight bout with some big-time tennis.

First set is, we’ll call it, pretty even; but I thought Federer looked better. Nonetheless, to the TB they go, and though Federer gets off to a miserable start, Zverev blinked (barely). Federer even saves a set point at 5-6 and triumphs at 8-6.

You should know the story, at this point. Federer breaks game one in the second set, looking to close this deal in straights. But he’s broken twice, subsequently and loses the set 5-7. He comes hard in the third at 1-1, breaks and runs-away, leaving the uber-talented German with a breakstick.

Again, one can whine all they want about the errors, etc., but this was very high-stake tennis. Federer’s box looked nauseous. The court looked tense (Federer showing all kinds of agitation, especially in that second set), warm, and thickly merchandised with class; this IS the class of the tournament unless Dimitrov or Sock want in on this.

Federer’s FS continues to be a point of discussion here. The weapon abandoned him a bit at the end of that first set, especially the TB there when they alternated some massive points, even SPs. But the slice-BH seemed to curve to the rescue for world #2.

By the way. . .That double-handed BH hasn’t just, stylistically, taken a dump on the more classic BH; it often prevents guys from developing a slice, which only means that the argument I’ve subtly championed all along (that the more classic, traditional tennis is superior) needs, of course, more time and energy from me to drive this home.

To be clear: the slice, a brilliant, often overlooked shot, brought-up today in the Fed v Sascha match, is another resounding reason to stay classy.

I only caught the end of the Sock v Cilic match. Sock is doing some things on the court right about now. Look at the scorelines from Paris-Bercy. He has several big wins of which he drops the first set and roars back in Sock fashion. This roaring style is only getting more refined.

I only saw the tail end when the match could have gone either way. Sock came up huge. The BH played an enormous part here. And some of that retrieving foot speed continues to impress all kinds of critics and players alike.

Bravo to Sock and Federer.

Zverev v Sock is going to be must see, folks.

I like Sock in this but I’m an American so don’t you dare listen to anything I have to say. . . on anything!

Ha ha.

Stay tuned!

Nitto ATP Finals Round 1 Done

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Sorry for the delay and I need to make this quick. . .ha ha.

We’ll actually start with today’s matches from Group Sampras:

Day 2

They seemed, for me, very similar as far as a general take-away, how the matches played-out and who won vs. who lost.

Dimitrov v Thiem

Simply put, Dimitrov right now, on this surface, is the better player. The surface, especially as it’s apparently pretty quick (Paris-Bercy-esque), with the lower bounce, will clearly benefit certain styles. The Dimitrov v Thiem match emphasized this point as the more offensive Bulgarian had the advantage really throughout.

I watched most, if not all, of all four matches, so some of the details of each are a bit foggy, but Dimitrov should have won in straights. In fact, wasn’t he serving for match in the second? I don’t need the specifics necessarily, but Dimitrov showed that little bit of gag that we’ve seen, even this year, quite a bit unfortunately. The call of the match brought-up 2017 Madrid where Dimitrov had something like five MPs before eventually succumbing to the Austrian.

A combination of Dimtrov’s inability to close and the tough clutch tennis of Dominic pushed this match to a third. Grigor was just too tough in the end.

Style certainly played a huge factor. Watching Thiem camp so far behind the BL and try to dig-out of that hole on almost every point was like watching a guy with an injury, almost. He ballooned balls, resorted to that dreadful constant-CC shot-making, so the fact that this went three sets is really a credit to the Dom, who is, even in this form, in this setting, a lot of fun to watch. The serve kept him alive, as well. He’s got a ton of game, at his second ATP Finals, so we have a lot to look forward to with this nut. We continue to Beliem in Thiem (t-shirts are on back-order).

Goffin v Nadal

Whatever I said about today’s first match, ditto for this one. Nadal’s knee is clearly sour (I see that he’s officially pulled-out, which was pretty evident as he played this long, brutal three-setter; even as he left the court with the way he waved at the crowd, one could assume he was done). And given his affinity for this type of court/tennis venue, like Thiem, he seemed like a fish-out-of-water. Even a healthy Nadal, barring a “gift” from the tennis gods, was going to find this tournament pretty challenging. With word that the speed was Paris Masters-like, especially with the ball staying low, not reaching that sweet-spot and above for the big top-spinners trying to attack a one-hander high, etc., Nadal was, again, here at the year-end tournament of champions, so to speak, going to most likely be on the outside-looking-in.

Hence the Thiem – Nadal parallel in today’s play. Goffin, despite practically trying to snatch a loss from the jaws of victory, eventually got it done. His tennis is a pleasure to watch unless he’s double-faulting, say, back-to-back trying to serve-out a set.

Like the first match, this should’ve been Goffin in straights. Credit to Nadal for willing his way in that second set TB. Goffin definitely gifted the Spaniard in some pretty critical spots of this match. If you watched, you know. No need to beat-up the Belgian too much; he might just have matured a bit tonight. He deserved to win and, in the end, he did.

But like I said, the two matches played-out quite similarly for me. Dimitrov and Goffin were both in the proverbial driver’s seat, playing a guy a bit compromised (or more), with a style advantage, who should’ve made this more routine than it was.

Back to Goffin’s style: taking the ball early like that and able to change direction so well on the BH — very much a tennis player’s player, I suspect. Tremendous that he does so well, plays so consistently, without a big weapon (serve, FH, etc.). But that ability to hit down both sides, tough to read for opponents, good from both wings. . .just a pleasure to watch and I’m happy for him that he got over the hump on this one.

Against the big 5:
1-5 v Djokovic (won their 2017 Monte Carlo QF)
0-6 v Federer
0-5 v Murray
1-3 v Wawrinka (2016 IW)
1-3 v Nadal (now)
All this means is he’s learning how to play in these bigger matches.

Day 1

Zverev v Cilic

This seemed pretty predictable, but nice to see Cilic give Sascha (and the crowd) a little scare or sense of 2014 😉

Zverev seems to be one who can challenge for this title. Cilic too, but you can just see Zverev’s consistency and confidence, not to mention his athleticism; Cilic is a bit gangly, awkward and now showing his vulnerability (other than 2014 September this has always been the case, perhaps).

Cilic won only one title this year, which seems a bit of a surprise (Istanbul). But he did make the QF in each major and did make the Queen’s Club final, where he played a classic v Feli Lopez (we wrote a bit about that, look it up: Cilic was a contender going-in to Wimbledon, more or less).

The point is he’s not on the same level of Zverev the younger at this point. Like today’s matches, nice to see Cilic grab a set, but Zverev seemed always, pretty much, a game or two away from raising his level and finishing this match.

Federer v Sock

As relatively routine as this looks from the score-line, I didn’t see it that way. Ironically, Federer looked more vulnerable in the first set. Jumping on Sock early was Nadal-like, stealing a game and simply holding-on. Even though the statisticians are quick to say Federer didn’t face a BP on his serve all match, that first set was quite uneasy. He did raise is serve in the second set, for sure. Sock continued to play pretty well, too.

But Sock had several DFs and costly errors that made life a bit easier for Federer.

The upside for Roger, which he pretty much acknowledged himself, is getting more comfortable with the court speed, etc. He didn’t play Paris-Bercy, so this might account for some of his less than stellar play.

We will know a lot more after tomorrow. Zverev will be much bigger, in general, better BH, etc. Sock was tough, but, again, some of those gifts took some of the air out of this contest.

I suspect Federer will step-up his play knowing this is probably his finals opponent if that’s how this plays-out.

Hope you’re enjoying the tennis.