So that’s where we are this week: Montreal. I’ll try to keep this short since there’s a lot of tennis to watch, patterns to develop, form to be found.
A little re-cap of the Citi Open in Washington D.C. From my American perspective, I was disappointed to see Jack Sock go down in the QF to fellow American Stevie Johnson. Johnson does not have the promise of Sock; Sock’s stock took a dive in that match. I watched some of the tennis there and Sock’s body language and lack of focus was a very poor showing. Whether he and Johnson are BFFs or whatever, the match lacked execution from the 22 year-old. He would have had a decent shot vs. Isner in the SF and who knows what would happen after that. Could have been a huge stepping-stone. Fail.
The Isner/Nishikori final featured a decent look at the 25 year-old Japanese player’s form. He’s rounding into good HC form in time to make another push in September in NYC. He controlled points early and often vs. Isner. But Isner, if you watched the match, was hurting. He’s been playing a lot of tennis (having won the week before in Atlanta), and had trainers working on his shoulder during the match. Add that to fatigue on a 6′ 10″ frame and you had a fairly minor test for Nishikori. Isner’s game relies so much on his serve; this is usually enough to advance at a 500 unless he runs-up against players with a game like Kei.
Nishikori looked solid. I especially liked how he was able to win the SF and F after losing the first set (SF vs. Cilic no less!). That seems to be a good sign of his confidence and experience. This was his third title of the year. Along with his runner-up finish at the 2014 USO, people might be getting pretty excited about the world’s #4. Keep in mind, however, he’s never won a 1000 and his wins this year are vs. Kevin Anderson (Memphis), Pablo Andujar (Barcelona) and a beat-up Isner (D.C.). Montreal will be a much better test, of course. Our eyes are on the second best two-handed backhand in the game. Stay tuned.
As for Montreal, this should be very interesting. Djokovic needs to reassert himself, remind the field of his dominance; that’s the mission of this 1000×2 fortnight. Reaching the final of both Montreal and Cincy seems like musts for the Serb. On the other hand, he could lose in the 2R and still run amok at the USO, claiming his 10th major. In other words, though these tune-up tournaments can tell us a lot, they can also be misleading. Having said that, I believe the tennis is hugely mental at this point (so long as players are physically healthy). It’s the final major of the year, a lot of tennis has been played; guys are tiring. Djokovic has shown a big vulnerability in this last major.
Therefore, he needs to be rested and confident. Winning one of these 1000s (or both) would be great, but more importantly he would maintain his world-beating confidence. This is paramount. I suspect he wants to add to his wins in Canada (3) and win a first Cincinnati Masters. Again, as long as he is playing in the SF (at least) or the F, I think that’s enough for him to elevate his fitness and remain confident. Dominating these 1000s and losing the USO would be tragic, imho. Similar to golf, or other sports with smaller build-ups to the big dance, finding rhythm and confidence in order to peak in the championship is more critical than winning these tune-ups. Having said that, who can stop the Djoker?
My eyes are on Nadal. Monfils just crushed Fognini, which adds a little clarification to that Hamburg final. Nadal has the easiest draw in Montreal. He only faces Nishikori in the QF where things certainly will get interesting across the board for everyone. But he has very little early-on.
Speaking of that potential QF, I did like the discussion of Nishikori’s mental strength that was had during his D.C. run. The commentary compared him to Borg, statistically, in terms of focus, big points, etc. Great to hear. He’ll need that against the Spaniard who has made a career out of bullying his opponents (a topic I will take a look at later this week).
Djokovic could face a Dimitrov in 3R. Wawrinka might have Kyrgios in 2R; Cilic faces Tomic next, and Murray has a Robredo and probably a Monfils before the 4R. Nadal will breeze into the QF (or maybe not if his form is as suspect as some of us think it is).
So, let’s watch some tennis and re-visit on the other side as we prepare for Cincinnati (though do stay tuned for my post about Nadal and the importance of his mental game in the next few days).
Who do you like this week and why?