A little update on the actual tennis from my end.
Japan. Love Stan preparing for this last big stretch of HC. The next few weeks should be loaded with victory and death.
Japan has a huge draw. Stan, Paire, Kyrgios, Cilic, Simon, Nishikori, et al. Paire has been playing well for months, it seems, but I see Kyrgios getting by him for a huge match v Cilic/Nishikori. Big time tennis. Here’s what I’m seeing: Kyrgios is going to win Japan and based on his game in general, along with a bit of what I saw today (watch it: Roger-like snappy forehand, Djokovic backhand along with 6’4″ great athleticism) – the fact that he’s back in the game after that little controversy, feasting on the mediocrity, he is coming. With decent trajectory, he will be winning big big tournaments soon. Athlete and big, deep guns. Stan v Kyrgios will be huge (then again, if that sneaky Frenchman beats him in the next match, ha, I guess I wouldn’t be terribly surprised, nor if he got beat in the SF or to hard charging Stan in the F). So did I just shit on everything I just said?
Very tough draw in Japan, couple of guys could win that thing. But Kyrgios is the future if he grows-up and gets his shit together. He’s the next level. Rog and now Djokovic have brought the game to a very high-level – the GOAT all surface, all-court tennis. But it must keep progressing. Kyrgios looked absolutely comfortable as hell on the court. He’s the next.
China is the annual Djokovic trip to Beijing? He owns the place. Nadal, of course, is in the draw with a pretty clear pass to the SF (Tsonga loss helps) though Jack Sock and, potentially, Fognini are in the way. Go Jack Sock. Control your game, deep breaths. You can beat Nadal.
Djokovic is hitting the ball so well, from both sides. I watched some of his Zhang match. Big rallies, great hitting. Djokovic looks so efficient, so solid. Ball is so deep on his opponent. And no one can hit with him. Good luck with that. With all of the hoopla going down now about Novak over Roger, I saw both SF in person at Indian Wells (Novak/Murray and Roger/Raonic). Roger made cream cheese out of Raonic who had just EMBARRASSED Nadal in the QF. Roger looked perfect for March. Djokovic toyed with Murray.
But Djokovic was on an entirely different level. In the final, Roger won the 2nd set TB to get the place into a frothing heap of tennis orgy, but Djokovic more or less routined him: 63 67 62.
China Update: I just watched Nadal v Sock. Sock looked good early, securing an early break in the first and holding on for 1-0. Then Nadal returned the favor in the second set. Sock had opportunities to break back but the Spanish Magician spun his little spell on the clumsy American. Too bad. I was rooting for Sock to make a move here and establish some confidence against a very beatable Nadal. Problem is they’re very similar type players, meaning not as much upside for the American. Poor court positioning, practically on or behind the baseline “Beijing” court sign during rallies. Not good. Both players flirted with this strategic dilemma and Nadal actually looked better once he moved forward, became a little more offensive in his play.
But he’s just not the same player. He doesn’t have the speed or the strength. Go figure. Weak serve and his backhand now finds the bottom of the net regularly. Fun to listen to the announcers try to rationalize this fall from grace for the dopey Spaniard. They want to talk about confidence, sustaining form, blah blah blah.
Meanwhile, Nadal continues to glance frenetically at Toni throughout the match. Doesn’t look good. Not sure what’s going on there, but doesn’t look good.
Speaking of not looking good. Here’s a link to a video I took tonight during the changeover between the 2nd and 3rd sets. Listen to Lindsay Davenport and Paul Annacone try to make sense of whatever Nadal is ingesting there in his chair. Looks suspicious. Sure, it’s probably not steroids, but the guy is a wizard, a magician. He’s been fooling tennis for years. Just watch the video. It’s hilarious if use of that sort of creepy nutrition makes you laugh.
And unfortunately, I have another Nadal post up my sleeve. So, between some comments on Japan and China, stay tuned for that!
Japan Update: Benoit Paire continues to play well. I did say I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the Frenchman beat Kyrgios. Kyrgios up 1-0 (6-3) and then pretty much dismissed. Keep battling, Kyrgios. I still like your game, a lot.
In addition, Nishikori, who is very tough on that court, was still very impressive in his 3 set win over Cilic. Cilic looked very good in the first set. Hats off, Mr. Nishikori.
8 thoughts on “Asia”
In my humble opinion Benoit Paire’s at his very best is still a little bit better player than NIck Kyrgios at his very best, at least at this stage of their respective careers. The way I see it, Benoit Paire’s got more tools at his disposal, a lot more variety than Nick, is very athletic as well and moves great for a tall player like him. Nick’s serve is more consistent and explosive than Benoit’s first serve, but the rest of his game is more predictable in my perception, and Benoit Paire clearly doesn’t fear Nick’s game. He smiles all the time when playing Nick, and radiates confidence.
Benoit’s ranking doesn’t reflect his best level either imo. He should at least be in the top 15, but is not consistent enough, or injuries prevent him from playing all year.
Ranking anyways is only sort of the mean value of a player over the last 52 weeks, and never indicates the best level of a player, unless he is very consistent all year long like it is the case with Novak Djokovic.
Paire played an excellent match againts Nick imo. He was the better player.
I didn’t see the SF’s between Paire and Nishikori as it was during the night, but I’m not surpised at all to see this morning that he beat Kei in the Bejiing SF’s. Wawrinka will have his hands full and will need his very best level to beat the talented Frenchman. If Paire continues playing at this level, he’ll also beat my fellow countryman David GOffin i n the upcoming first round of Shangai easily.
As far as Rafa is concerned, I respect your opinion, but I don’t share the negativity.
I know Rafa is suspect as far as PED’s are concerned, but to me they all are at the top, Federer included. I don’t trust neither one of them and don’t rely on appearances. That’s why I personallly wouldn’t focus to much on this topic till there is more evidence for this than only cicumstancial pointers.
Manupulation of draws is something that bothers me equally much, because it can be very unfair towards certain players, and I hate unjustice. None of us is evidently in a position to provide hard material proof that one or another particular draw has been manipulated, but statistical evidence and analysis has ensured me – with 95% certainty level, that it exists.
Anyways, I enjoy a lot reading your posts and hope you keep finding the drive and time to write about tennis.
correction: in the Tokyo SF’s. (instead of BEjiing SF’s)
Wilifried, thanks for input, the insight.
Paire is having a solid year, especially since the summer (from what I recall). He played Djokovic tough, has beaten Kei twice now, on HC no less, so good for Paire.
Kyrgios is a mess, but has a lot of tennis ahead of him. He’s only 20. And he’s reached both an AO and Wimby QF. I feel like a demanding coach and his own willingness to improve and compete long-term could put him on a pretty steady track to playing deep into tournaments throughout the year.
We talk about attitude with great players (Mac, Lendl, Nastase, Sampras, Fed, Novak, etc.). Kyrgios has that edge, but he has to control it. He’s too volatile. But I still like his prospects (again, at only 20 years old). My bold claim came crashing down because of a hot Paire. No way around it: he’s playing world class tennis, challenging and beating top players. Congrats to Paire, no doubt.
In my humble opinion, Nadal is a joke. He’s a marketing darling and that camp and the tennis institution did everything in their power to accumulate majors since that became the most important part of the game during this Federer era. The beauty of the game, ironically, has taken a back seat during an era where the most beautiful player has dominated and his handing the torch to another maestro in Nole. Beautiful tennis. Remember that phrase? Nadal has bulldozed the era with his style and unscrupulous preparation.
Sure we have no genuine proof, hard evidence. But we haven’t had it for many other athletes who somehow remained “clean” but were eventually caught.
As Nadal’s game has slipped (by the way, he’s shown this sort of shitty form on certain surfaces throughout his career), this suspicion can only get more validated. Look at his game. As Pete Sampras wore-out, he still had such tremendous game to rely on, same with other greats. Roger at 34 is the antithesis of Nadal (at 29!!!). Roger can play for years because his game is so fundamentally sound. His greatness is a natural extension of this. Same with Nole.
Nadal is like a circus act. Sorry.
We do know that Nadal has had platelet replacement therapy several times, and that PRP, according to the page quoted below,
“contains and may trigger systemic increases in substances currently banned in competitive athletes.”
Use of PEDs can and usually does lead athletes to push their bodies beyond normal limits. As I understand it, although use of PEDS can increase muscular strength, it doesn’t strengthen tendons or ligaments. Although I may be wrong, it’s my understanding that many PED-related injuries occur because athletes who use PEDs use their newly found muscular strength to put more stress on their bodies than their tendons and ligaments can support.
This page (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23211708) includes this information:
“Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an autologous blood product used to treat acute and chronic tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries in over 86,000 athletes in the United States annually.
“This is the first and only adequately powered study of the systemic effects of PRP. We present evidence that PRP contains and may trigger systemic increases in substances currently banned in competitive athletes. Finally, we provide evidence that VEGF could serve as a useful molecular marker to detect athletes treated with PRP.”
In this connection, I think it’s significant to note that Roger is almost never injured.
What Becker did at Wim 2014 — good insights
Mat, THANK YOU! That is a very special story from a former great player and now great coach. Novak should feel quite lucky to have him. What a fascinating All England mentorship we get to witness in that anecdote.
A couple of things come to mind. First and foremost, people that make these weak attempts at character assassination with Federer have their bias blocking their blow-hole. Federer is a gentleman, as is Edberg. Do great players convey a nastiness sometimes, a kind of cockiness or whatever you want to call it? Of course. Just ask Becker. But in the end, these are gentlemen and that anecdote reminds us of this. This kind of civility characterizes the tour today, especially compared to earlier eras with Conners, Lendl, JMac, etc.
Secondly, we are reminded of those great days of Becker and Edberg, et al. Think of how different was that era where you had several great players. Such a different kind of tour. Becker bursts onto the scene and wins Wimbledonin 1985, unseeded. Remarkable for a 17 year-old. He beat Kevin Curren who destroyed Mac and Conners in the QF SF. Of course he and Edberg had some great battles there, as well. So many great players. The top four seeds of that ’85 Wimbledon: Mac, Lendl, Conners, Wilander. Pat Cash was 6, Curren 8, Edberg 14. And Becker comes out of nowhere and wins it.
But I think along with all of this character back in the day (the players had more personality, more attitude, etc.), there was more humility on tour, as well, especially among these top players. This chase for majors that defines today’s era now has given the game a different, not necessarily good, sensibility.
We’re not concerned as much, perhaps, with the beauty of the game.
This is wrong, imo. I might put some of my disillusionment on Nadal. He’s not the only one, but he seems to embody this last golden age’s obsession with winning AT ALL COSTS.
You mentioned this, Mat, in one of our exchanges. It’s spot on. Thanks so much for sharing this Becker anecdote. Brilliant stuff.
I noticed the anecdote that Lendl and Gerulaitis split the prize at a tournament, and from the comments, it seems it was a common practice when there was a big difference in prizes for the winner and the runner-up. It seems almost noble to me.
Then, there was also the custom to play a competitive third set, after splitting the first two, for the public and the TV. Now, they play dead serious even exhibition matches. Things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse.
About placelet use and injections — there are forbidden in Italy, e.g., where they consider them to be doping. My opinion that the story with injections was just a cover up, a way to get a TUE. Why would somebody who has problems with BOTH knees take an injection for ONE knee, then, a few months later, ANOTHER injection for the other knee?
I find this to be an excellent question Mat4. What would Nadal’s reasoning have been for the delay?
I won’t try to answer, b/c I sense the question is rhetorical…