The TSQ (The Tennis Status Quo)

I referenced the tennis status quo in yesterday’s post, where I’m trying to qualify one particularly distorted view.

Found this in the mainstream today: Tim Joyce from RealClearSports.com wrote a piece about the Federer/Djokovic USO final. Here are a couple of passages:

But consider: what if it were Rafael Nadal across the net from Federer on Sunday? Granted, the crowd would have still have likely been in Federer’s favor, but the divide much less stark than it was with Djokovic. And Nadal has the respect (even if it took a while) of both Federer and his fans (and, to be honest, they’ve had to accept it since Nadal has utterly owned Federer his entire career); they can tolerate it when Federer loses to Nadal but cannot accept, literally cannot bear losing to the hated Djokovic. . .

I don’t know if Federer fans will ever fully accept Djokovic as the world’s current greatest tennis player. But it won’t matter, since the record speaks for itself and there is a growing consensus of just how great Djokovic is, as he clearly belongs alongside both Federer and Nadal. And with the fantastic Federer-Djokovic series now knotted at 21 apiece, I can’t imagine what the Federer fanatics will do if their man ends up with a losing record against him. . .

NOTES: Speaking of rivalries, if Federer and Nadal fail to meet in the final months of 2015 it will be the first year since 2003 in which the two famed combatants haven’t played each other. It’s a testament to just how good these two have been for so long that they have faced off in tournaments for 12 consecutive seasons. Such a streak is second in recent tennis history among championship rivals, just behind Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker who met at tournaments 13 years in a row. For further comparison: Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi once had a streak of meeting in eight consecutive seasons; Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe in 11; and Ivan Lendl and Connors in 10.”

You can see the TSQ at work here. He calls out Federer fans, insinuates Roger himself, his box; then he retracts and says this crowd controversy is more of a socio-economic issue, then it’s back to the Fedfans’ fault, etc.

And so it goes: 1) Federer and his fans are arrogant jerks; 2) Nadal owns Federer; and 3) Federer better watch-out or he’ll have a losing record vs. Djokovic.

My favorite part is the little overlooked gem in the Notes: Oh my, 2015 could come and go without Federer and Nadal ever meeting on an ATP sanctioned tennis court!  Holy crap!  Can you believe that?!

Anything to add there, Mr. tennis writer?

This is classic tennis status quo. Keep Federer and Nadal on a level playing field and try to blow us away with this amazing statistic. The numbers game these honks play is a joke. The truth of this fact (that they may not meet in 2015) is that Nadal has taken another break from the tour. Not worth mentioning? Just gloss it over, Mr. Status Quo.

The argument here from this mainstream e-rag goes: Federer’s an arrogant over-rated tennis player; he’s a jerk and he pales compared to Nadal and Djokovic. This sums-up a lot of what I’ve heard lately as tennis charlatans have long begun jumping from the Federer yacht, bound for the Djokovic party boat.

In the event that someone thinks I’m on Roger’s band-waggon, you haven’t been reading this blog. Here’s a recent piece I wrote about Djokovic.

After writing this piece, I got this cool comment:

jane says:

what a wonderful appreciation – thanks for sharing your thoughts. i look forward to reading more of your analysis.

___________________

Awesome! Stay-tuned, Jane. More is on the way.

Argument and debate are always welcomed.  But a big pattern seems to be a failure to appreciate the game and all of its characters. Federer is arrogant? So what’s McEnroe or Lendl? Toughen-up!  Stop pushing these weak, emotionally driven eighteen-wheelers of garbage at the tennis community. Proceed with a little more balance, more caution, a little more authentic analysis that isn’t steeped in so much inaccuracy, lack of perspective and bone-headed bias.

One last note on that crowd controversy. New York is a brutal playground. If you follow sports, or humanity for that matter, you kinda get this. MJ had to endure and tame the Garden during his run in the NBA; football and baseball rivals throughout history have had to deal with the tough seasons of New York City fandom. Federer had to deal with a pro-Agassi crowd at the Open. Athletes for decades and more have had to face the great American sports crucible that is a New York City crowd.

The 2015 U.S. Open men’s final crowd had to weather a fat rain delay, so let’s call their passion spiked with a few more New York City cocktails. Do the math, fanboys. This was a great day for Djokovic. Leave it at that. Great athletes often have to deal with quite unfavorable circumstances.

And, again, how do you think that crowd would have treated Djokovic if he’d won five U.S. Opens in a row, owned the sport of tennis, more or less, for nearly a decade? There’s a bit of a legacy there that people kinda respect. Call them crazy. Sympathizing with Nole by packaging his difficult background and whatever other non-conformist factors you use to fit that narrative is a big swing and a miss.

Fans of sport are passionate; bring NYC into the picture and it’s more passionate: you, better than anyone, Timothy, et al., should understand this kind of bias.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

17 comments

  1. As good as usual, Matt.
    I think it’s just a media overblown thing as (in recent memory) a young man’s(Kyrgios) behavior, the innovation of SABR and all the nonsense we usually read because, well, most of the fans/journalists don’t have the level/education/objectivity/will (take your pick) to delve deeper.
    You can see all the real reasons without hype in a decent casual tennis blog conversation, where Mrs Anderson usually posts (omit this sentence or whichever part of it, you judge as too revealing).

    PS: I’m waiting for the second part of the Fedal h2h analysis to add a few thoughts there. A comparison to the Djokerer h2h might be in order (or an idea for another article).

  2. you nailed it once again…I had relatively similar thoughts when reading that article….

    It’s really foolish to bash on crowd and label them as simply Roger Fans who hates Novak…Clearly missing out whole picture….No body defends few parts of crowd go overboard by cheering double faults but that’s not what whole crowd and who/why they support is……Isn’t Novak played six matches prior to final on same Ashe with same NY fans…

    It seems most of these authors see what they wanted to see rather than applying any kind of perspective..

    Keep up Matt…

    1. Bottomline: Djokovic will be liked the more he wins there. That was only his second USO and he has a history with that crowd. If you hear anyone talking about the crowd, they are simply projecting their hatred of Federer. Crowds like winners. Federer is the greatest winner in the history of the sport, one of the greatest winners at that tournament.

      What’s the confusion? There isn’t any. The criticism comes from Djokovic fanboys. That’s it.

  3. Dear Matt,

    Although I gave a link to your blog on T-x and read all your posts, I didn’t comment so far. I really appreciate your originality, and, although English is not my first language, interesting style.

    “The criticism comes from Djokovic fanboys. That’s it.”

    I don’t really agree with that sentence. I watched the match and barely remarked the attitude of the public. It was the same (or close) in 2011 too, while Novak has a lot of fan in Italy, or China, e.g. (I recently watched again the highlights of his matches against Murray in Rome and Shanghai, just to feel a bit of the electric atmosphere there that makes Novak play a notch better.)

    So, I was surprised by the profusion of articles about the behaviour of the crowd in New York, and analysing those text, we could time after time read the assertion that Novak “wasn’t loved”, that he was the “villain”, and in more perfidious articles written by better authors, “that he wasn’t respected enough”, and all were emphasizing the love the public had for Fedal, many brought the question of mutual respect, etc. etc. so I had the impression that it was a NIike PR campaign rather than something spontaneous.

    Yes, some Novak fans overreacted, and since I read another blog (where I discovered yours, BTW), I guess that you thought a bit about his author from the back of your mind. But I doubt that it was mostly, just like the sempiternal GOAT debate, just a hidden part of a broader marketing campaign. While we can compare the achievements of top players with all the stats we have, and we can do it in depth, we don’t take in account that technological changes created shifts that shortened the careers of many great players: JMac, Connors, were the victims of the transition from wooden to graphite racquets, Edberg, Becker, Lendl, suddenly had to play with/against bigger racquets, and even Sampras and his generation of big servers suddenly were wiped from the big scene by the new kind of strings.

    It was all very clear to my generation (and I guess that we are somewhere about the same age): Edberg stopped winning after the AO 1993, and Courrier sank at the same time; JMac lost his primate when a new generation, who has grown with modern racquets, overtook the top of the sport and Connors managed to adapt only in 1986/7, when it was too late (some big shift in H2H are connected with technological advances)… Nobody talked about the GOAT, then. We knew that the biggest star in tennis (even when he retired) was Bjorn Borg by far, and that the tennis season was a lot of disseminated tournaments and two big rendez-vous, at Wimbledon and at the USO.

    But in 1989 the big corporations, the big tournaments, the big money makers in short insidiously overtook the ATP. Suddenly, Fila, Sergio Tacchini were relegated in the second ranks, Nike and Addidas started sharing the cake between themselves. The medium tournaments slowly died out, the young players made less money and had difficulties to make a breakthrough, and the elitization of tennis was in full flow.

    And overnight, only the GS mattered, suddenly a player became the GOAT, and accidentally it was an American player, wearing Nike, and winning slam tournaments, or now MS 1000, under contract with IMG… where the money is.

    So, yes, I see all this story about Djokovic the unloved as a corporate manoeuvre to assure the status quo and milk the “Fedal rivalry” a few years more. Just like the story about 8 more slams (a difficult feat), just to remind us that Federer is the one with the more slams, the GOAT. It’s just a question of money.

    Finally, I have to admit that I liked the debate that ran on T-x (I saw you posting there), because it made me think about the past eras I watched, and to reassess the greatness of champions we all forgot a bit too much: Borg, JMac, Becker, and, in my case, Mats Wilander. Although he now amuses the masses on Eurosport, he was once a great, real great champion.

    1. Mat4, love the topic and your thoughts on it.

      I will actually be bringing some of that up when I write my Part II of the Nedal v. Federer post. Marketing has A TON to do with it. Good stuff and thanks for finally commenting.

      But the NYC crowd issue I think is crystal clear. Novak has a bit of a reputation, especially at USO. Remember, he and Roddick got into it? Djokovic had issues back in the day. Roddick made some comments about Novak retiring from matches, etc. Djokovic brought this up, crowd booed, etc. He has a history there.
      And hasn’t won there (just won #2). Federer has FIVE USO and he’s been the most celebrated and consistent player, ever. The crowd’s behavior is not that surprising given the history of both players at the USO.

      To prove my point, watch how Novak is received next year and beyond, especially if he wins another 1 or 2. Then it will make sense. NYC loves a winner. Novak’s success and love in China and Rome don’t necessarily translate to NYC, full of cocktails, no less.

      If I were a die-hard Djokovic fan, I would see NYC as brilliant and a big cornerstone match for his run at majors over the next few years. It was a tremendous test. He was playing Federer. . . and PR campaigns aside, that guy has had a loooooong run of success, i.e., time to build a fan base.

      Again, thanks for commenting, Mat4.

  4. I am a die hard Novak fan, from the very beginning, just like jane, who posted here recently.

    To continue the story about marketing, recently I found articles about Uniqlo extending his business rapidly in China. In a sport based mostly in the Anglo-Saxon world, it was mostly unnoticed. But Uniqlo obviously made a good move: they wanting to expand on a growing and potentially rich market, and chose one of the star that is probably the most popular there (And just to notice, for years a Serbian actor was the most popular in China; who would believed it?). And they chose Novak not to sell tennis apparel, but clothes, and make the brand known in China, and, I believe, soon in India. You sell much more cheap clothes to 2,8 billion people than to 300 millions. For Uniqlo, it’s a win/win proposition: if Novak is popular in the US and Europe, it’s good for them, but if he isn’t, in a world full of growing tensions, it’s also good for them. So, they don’t invest too much in Novak’s popularity in the West.

    On the other side, IMG does. Having lost both Federer and Nadal, I am quite certain that IMG had in important part in the PR war that we witnessed lately. They reacted quickly — hours after articles about Djokovic the Unloved, we had blogs about Djokovic the Unjustly Unloved… After the “8 slams is too much”, “the mighty triad” (or something alike) was invented. To misquote Duke Nukem: “Damn, they’re good”…

    Born near Switzerland and having spent most of my adult life in Eastern Europe, I believe that I understand the mentality of players like Stan, Fed, but Novak also, who belong to a culture that is more alike the one we had decades ago.

    Novak has grown up, and toughen a lot. He behaves very often in the pattern of his own people — while he gives up sometimes when he feels being unjustly betrayed by the public, he finds unexpected reserves when he knows that all the odds are against him. The “This is Sparta” moto he shared with Gerard Butler, and the end of the match, was a clear illustration of it. He had similar remarks in Serbian (although I don’t understand it all) in Rome a few years ago.

    Let’s finally say a word about the Roddick-Djokovic bout. In Serbia, when you are excited, nervous, etc. swearing is mostly tolerated. But to say to somebody calmly that “he looks like shit” because he hasn’t shave for work is unacceptable. For Novak, what Roddick said in the interview was clearly offensive (especially that now, we know that he really was ill; I recently read the theory of a poster that he also has another undiagnosed syndrome on tennis.com), when Murray’s behaviour at the AO (a clear provoc’, imho), was something without importance, in the heat of the battle. In 2008, he reacted like a boy, and was deflated in the semi against Federer; now, I mostly react like a man — by simply beating his opponent.

    In that context another detail: when Rafa shot Novak in the head on purpose, although mad, Novak commented that it was nothing. But he make sure he won’t lose against Rafa again.

    1. Thanks, Mat4. Interesting comments for sure. Adds to the on-court drama. I’d like to think fans are smart enough to watch the tennis and make informed decisions on their own but we know that’s not entirely the case.

      1. I started to follow Tennis closely only after 2009 and its very refreshing to know about different players and changes back in in late 80-90’s. Thank you for this discussion….

        between, T-x means tennis forums? link is appreciated… Thanks again..

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