- Tennis is a brutal sport. Last night, I was watching replay of Murray beating Isner in Davis Cup play earlier this year and one of the announcers recalled a poignant, intimate exchange with Murray where the Scot basically said tennis is a brutal sport. There were so many examples last week of this tough merciless atmosphere these gentlemen endure during tournaments like a 1000 or a major. The battles are fierce, the tennis heroic and tragic; in the end, we’re left wondering what, how, why, and most importantly wanting more. Murray has seen a lot of big time tennis in his day; he’s been on the short-end many many times, perhaps giving cause to his referenced confession. Good on him for finding some well earned hardware along the way. No doubt these guys have to earn their hardware.
- Murray is a threat to Djokovic. Granted, if you look at the numbers, the statistics, you see this: 19-8 (Djokovic, before yesterday). Wow. That’s dominant. If you asked me about this H2H, I would have given you a much more accurate read. How? I watch tennis. A lot of tennis. In my recollection, Murray has beaten Djokovic when it counts. In the matches that matter, Murray is not Djokovic’s whipping post. I recall, of course, Murray taking him down during USO and Wimbledon finals. Djokovic has a mere 3-2 advantage on him in major finals. In 2014 Djokovic (according to one H2H source) was 4-0 vs. Murray. Those matches were as follows: Miami Masters QF, USO QF, Beiging SF, and Paris Masters QF. I’m the first to say a win is a win. But I might argue that we should focus on matches with bigger stakes, namely tournament finals. Going back to 2011, in masters and major finals between these two, Djokovic has a 6-4 lead. These are in finals. Biggest stage. Murray is anything but a push-over for Djokovic. The bigger historical perspective backs this up, too. That 3-2 edge in major finals is a red flag for those proselytizing the Serb’s dominance of the Scot. Djokovic’s overall 9-8 in major finals again highlights this issue. Novak is at the top of the sport right now, but he has work to do to convince of his historical dominance. The Scot proved again yesterday that this is a more even rivalry than those superficial numbers suggest.
- Losing Montreal is not the end of the world for Djokovic. As I said in a recent post, I would almost prefer (rooting for the Serb to triumph at the USO) that he get to a SF or F at both Montreal and/or Cincy so he can still peak in much more important circumstances. Winning Montreal and/or Cincy and losing the USO would be a disaster. Care to disagree? I suspect that if his arm is recovered for Cincy, he will win since A) he has yet to win this tournament and B) he is moving toward championship form. On the other hand, he may come-up short next week, as well. And again, I couldn’t care less in terms of his outlook for the USO. It is very difficult to peak for 3-4 weeks vs. this deep of a field. In Cincy, here comes Roger, rested and looking to add another Cincy title, find his HC form for NYC. The draw is out, and it’s going to be tough. To summarize, there is no need for the Djokovic camp to worry or panic at all. In fact, this could be just what the doctor ordered (and take care of that arm, Nole!).
- Nishikori was brilliant, but is still not quite a threat to win a major. Of course, last year’s USO final contradicts that statement some. Still, I see him as a bit of a long-shot to get through these deep draws. Having scored a nice win vs. Nadal (his first in eight tries), he faced the music vs. Murray who was rolling. After his QF win, I was asked who I like in the Murray/Nishikori and I said Murray immediately. Mainly, because I had seen Murray’s form. Secondly, Kei’s win over Nadal was not the dynamite result some might have celebrated because. . .
- Nadal is done. I know, I know, I might be eating crow in 2016 or 2017 when he reaches 2 major finals and wins his 10th or 11th FO. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? It is. He is awful right now. His play vs. Stahkovsky was boring and his win vs. the 33-year-old Youzhny was anything but impressive because Youzhny is not the same player he was in 2006-2012. Plus he’s had a very poor 2015. Nadal getting beat in straights by Nishikori was not shocking (nor would Nishikori losing to the Spaniard who has 14 majors have been shocking). The second set had a nice pivotal couple of games as Rafa battled back from 1-4, but Nishikori was able to prevail. Good for him. Big confidence boost. The eye-test is what, for me, really hurts Nadal. He’s just not the frightening, bullying base-line presence he once was. I hope fans are noticing this fall. It’s a bit of a pattern and at the same time pretty sudden, at 29 years old, and precipitous. And a big reversal of form at this point would be almost silly to imagine. I see a huge build and push for his 10th FO next year, but otherwise he seems to be on the downside of his career with a game that can not weather the storm, so to speak.
- Can Gulbis keep his game afloat? I mentioned him in my post where I looked at the possible challengers to Djokovic’s run at greatness. He moves in and out of tournament play but at only 26 years of age I had to include him. I like his game a lot. I mentioned he would be “stalking” that bracket late in the week and he absolutely gave Djokovic a test. Ru-an’s take on this was spot-on: “Djokovic Tries to Lose Against Gulbis but Finds It Impossible.” Ha ha. That is exactly what I saw. Novak’s demeanor was ideal. He was having fun, on the brink of defeat. When Djokovic went up 1-0 in the third, I was off to run errands. But kudos to Gulbis for his keen game sense, his power and finesse and for that lovely fore-hand! Great stuff. Keep those emotions in check, Ernie, and keep doing what you’re doing.
- The Wawrinka/Kyrgios drama is for the tabloids, not the ATP. Having said that, listening to Gimelstob chime-on about how the ATP board feels, how several players are concerned and want punishment for the Aussie, listening to journalists and bloggers react. . . seems like it’s already taken-on a life of its own and I’m waiting for it to grace the cover of a tabloid or the feature of a TV celebrity news show. More interesting for me is that he was beating the Swiss until the latter’s retirement from the match and then Isner pounded him amongst jeering from the crowd. My quick take on this is the chair umpire needs to take more control of these matches, try to subdue this kind of crap. After that, I suppose it depends on the incident, but a couple of things for sure: he will have to face reaction from fans and fellow players; this can be very tough given what obstacles are already out there in order to win tennis matches and tournaments. I like his game a lot. But for his sake, he needs to get his act together. That match vs. Isner is what he’ll have to endure and most could see how quickly he wanted off of that stage. And I’m not sure what Stan’s love life has to do with Kyrgios’ inability to control himself.
We’re on to Cincinnati.