Sure, the videos are not my normal look, but we can still enjoy them; and, in fact, isn’t this the best time of the year to step-up your game? Ha. Call it my chip and charge, catching the reader off guard (more on that momentarily).
It’s time for New York City tennis, folks. American bias aside, NYC is the big one, last major of the year, North American hard courts, where great players make big statements under the big lights. Indeed, New York has the “it” factor, the U.S. Open customarily showcasing the best games on the tour, the best athletes, the player that can handle the pressure, the size of it all along with the heat and speed of a bunch of New York minutes full of a bunch of world class tennis.
This is all about one or two players. You know exactly what I’m talking about. If Murray can make a run here and win a second U.S. Open, wow, more power to him. Montreal was impressive. He’s had a sneaky good year, actually. Taking down his side of the draw, which could include Federer, and then beating, most likely, Djokovic in the final would be story-book stuff. With out going into detail, I don’t see it happening.
This about Novak and Roger. That’s it. Nishikori, not a chance. Cilic? Speaking of the two 2014 finalists, that was a disaster. Or an unbelievable accident. Bizarre. If Roger/Cilic and Novak/Nishikori played ten final fours, how many times would both Cilic and Nishikori advance? If you’re about to say, “Well, actually. . . ” you’re full of shit. That was ridiculous. Good for Cilic and Nishikori, exclusively. Having them both advance was, really, a nightmare. Not just for the spectating public, but for the two losers. Novak v Cilic. Roger v Nishikori. Imagine the possibilities. Of course, Novak v Roger would have been unreal. But again, hurricane are-you-kidding-me rolled into the NYC semi-finals last year and destroyed the place.
Novak should face Roger in the final in 2015. Of course, this is tennis, five sets, so lady luck will certainly be visiting upset city through out the draw, which means we brace ourselves for anything. But Novak should face Roger in the final.
Novak v Goffin at best in the 4R. Nobody should scare Novak in that bracket and Goffin should look to get straighted as Novak owes him and the Serb should be in good form after some early warm-up matches. Who does Novak get in the QF? Look at that draw. If Nadal makes it there, I will be surprised though this is tennis and his luck just might turn around after that nice move he made by standing-up for the game and for Stan after refusing to pair with Kyrgios in an exhibition match. Good stuff. As I said in a previous post, this will be the worst kind of punishment for Kyrgios – worse than a fine or suspension. The fans and his peers’ rejection will be brutal – not ideal for a player trying to climb the heights of the ATP. Rafa and Raonic in that bottom bracket should not concern Novak very much at all. See you in the SF, Nole.
Neither Nishikori (hip and results other than ’14 USO) nor Cilic strike me as serious threats though if the Croat does make his way through and finds the SF, you never know. Just don’t see it.
In the bottom bracket, how can you look beyond Wawrinka, Murray, maybe Gulbis or Gasquet and Federer? Sure, Berdych could make a run, but he’s been missing, probably doesn’t have the matches, the confidence.
As for some long shots, interesting early matches: having just said Kyrgios has a long journey ahead to regain his credibility, wouldn’t an upset of Murray in 1R go a long way toward said respect. Lol. That is just too much, but Kyrgios, believe me, has that kind of fire power both in his racquet and between the ears. He can get up for one match to make a mess of the place. Murray 3-0 against, all in straights, twice in majors, says no. Is Kevin Anderson finding world-beating form in Winston-Salem, enough to make a run at the USO? Are Isner or Karlovic going to bother Roger? He’s a combined 17-2 against, generally owns big serves. Just don’t see the big upsets, though you know there will be a few.
The point here is if you’re a betting man, you take the chalk and you should do pretty well. Last year, for instance, Cilic was finding pretty good form on the HC, losing to Roger in a close one in Canada and Stan in Cincy. He wasn’t that visible, but you could see some form was taking shape.
This is Novak’s to lose. It’s his time. This is a must win for him. He doesn’t look very sharp on the HC, nor has he looked very sharp in New York over the years. It’s that simple. His path to the SF is clear. From there, he has a lot to prove on this big U.S. Open stage where he’s seen a lot of difficulty closing the deal.
Roger, on the other hand, has closed the deal here five times. Of course, that seems like a long time ago.
I liken his journey in 2015 to what Sampras did in the 2002 U.S. Open. Granted, there are many differences in player, the field, and even age. Pete, 31, was in a downward spiral the year or two prefacing the ’02 USO. He entered as the 17th seed. Can you imagine seeing a four-time champ early in your draw? Ask Tommy Haas how he felt, the 3rd seed who got Pete in 4R (an interesting story is how Pete, during those first few easier rounds, started to find his form and faced the big serving Brit Rusedski in the 3R. Pete beat him in a brutal five-setter. In the press room, Rusedski said Pete had lost a step; in short, the Brit wasn’t impressed. WTF? You lost. Rumor has it, Pistol Pete got a little more motivated. Haas was next. Agassi got it in the final).
Pete won his first USO in 1990. He won his last in 2002. That’s a twelve year separation. He was younger than Roger is now, granted. But Roger is in great form, #2 in the world. Winning a sixth U.S. Open is not completely off the table this year, in my opinion. We know his struggles in this format. We know Cincy is a flawed USO prognosticator.
But here’s what I think: Roger reminded us of a game that cast a spell on tennis about thirteen years ago. Cincy gave me flashbacks, which I called The Federer Reminder. But here’s some clarification of what he demonstrated: he showed us NOT some “funny” gimmicky second serve return surprise attack. That was a distraction. The key to Roger’s game in Cincy was his attacking presence throughout the game and the match, on first and second serves, during HIS serve, during rallies, etc. He came to the net. He threatened to come to the net. He stayed back and his opponent thought about him coming to the net. This was the Roger Federer we remember. This was the one who vanished around 2007, who decided to stay on the baseline and try to beat Rafa and Novak playing their game. There is risk coming to the net, especially when your opponent can pass at will. But if that’s an integral part of your game, of your attacking athletic brilliance that purchased your esteemed mantle of greatness, you have to stay with that, at least not abandon it. Roger on that attack, through out the game, is a tough out.
Rog is coming to the net now; he needs to come to the net now. The second serve service-line blitz is not the play, though I guess if he can mix it in here-and-there, bravo. It’s the commitment to the net through out the game. He was never broken during Cincy. That’s the serve and volley. That along with his attacking backhand, constantly coming forward, putting pressure on his opponent, waiting to smash 3-4 hit rallies into thin air. That’s the brand of tennis that can make a big run in NYC. That’s what I meant by the best of Roger is a truly sublime quality of tennis. Is it the best ever?
Watching Pete play recently made me second guess the point of trying to make these claims. Pete’s serve was probably the best there ever was. His first AND his second. Couple that with his incredible drive, his masterful net presence, huge ground strokes, very long and athletic. . .
I see similarities between Pete and Roger. Cocky, dominant games. Hard court and grass masters. Both have seven Wimbledons and five U.S. Opens. Will Roger be courageous enough to find and stick to his game? Will Novak be able to consolidate 2015 and the legitimacy of his run at the likes of Pete, Rafa and Roger?
Let the drama begin.