London SF

We could not have asked for a better final four.

I just finished the Stan v Murray match; Stan moving-on has to be what most non-Brits/Scots would like to see.  Stan, on form, can be pretty breath-taking.  That’s more or less what we saw in the Murray match, but a few questionable stretches and some odd strategy makes one wonder a bit.

Stan and this court, as many have already said, is a perfect match.  He has no problem moon balling with the likes of Murray or Nadal.  He has time to find his shots; the court suits his athleticism (or lack thereof) and his swing.  Today’s match looked a little like the FO Stan, bludgeoning Murray all over the court, hitting the SHBH better than anyone in the WawrinkaWTF.aspxgame CC or DTL.  Pleasure to watch Stan play like this, on courts that match his style of play.  In addition, his serve, when on, was equally as powerful, intimidating.  The call on the court was he hit a couple up around 130mph.  If he can maintain this form, he will be tough to beat.  And Murray played well (with his “box” in the nose-bleeds, seriously, up in the rafters so he could, apparently refrain from yelling at them).  Murray had this match. Absolutely goofed the first set TB up 4-2.  Unreal.  Literally handed it to the Stanimal there.

Some worry is a few lapses in focus, from Stan.  Handing service games to his opponent, not finding his big serve, unforced errors. . . the kinds of things all players deal with.  But the serve and volley from Stan seems a bit odd, even unwise.  Implementing at 40-30 (or the like) seems especially questionable.  40-0?  Perhaps.  Need less to say, it’s not his most effective game plan.  Roger S&V?  Even Novak or Nadal?  Sure.  Stan against Murray?  No.

Stay back and bludgeon, my friend.  If the Stanimal I saw today (for the majority of the match) hangs around The O2 this weekend, could be fun.

Nadal is playing well.  His form now versus the first half of 2015 is a puzzle for the greatest scientists in the world.  No other top player, of his caliber, plays so inconsistently.  That’s a killer for those Nadal fans who want to make more out of him than there is to make.  It’s flimsy, unpredictable and inferior tennis.

Having said that, his game strategy is, perhaps, the best (ever) when he’s playing well.  He’s a killer.  He reminds me of an athlete in a different sport, soccer/futbol, for instance.  A monster midfielder who absolutely demoralizes his opponent. And this heart and warrior-like demeanor is really sport intelligence disguised.  We’ve seen him out work and out smart NadalWTFmany players (who should beat him) who are probably both a bit intimidated and caught off-guard.  Before they know it, they’re done.

I’d be surprised if Novak spanks him, but Novak should win.  Of course, we’ve all seen Nadal bounce back no problem from previous extended workouts and defy logic many times before.  He’s a machine.  He’s a lot smarter than he looks.  And this court suits his spin, high bounce game a ton.  He’s right at home on these courts.  God save us if he advances to the final.

Federer is simply the Maestro.  He’s Roger Federer.  Granted he’s 3-0, he beat Novak in the round-robin, and he’s on the verge of winning his 7th WTF.  But now he’ll need every ounce of Federer tennis genius to survive.

I don’t think he wins this tournament.  It’s that simple.  The other 3 players, in my humble opinion, make better cases for the crown (see below for the big intangible in Nadal’s case*).  Even if he beats Wawrinka, he has to comeback and beat, most likely, Novak, a second time in a week.  Even seeing him face a Nadal who has just beaten Novak would be pretty unsettling for the Swiss king.

If he happens to win, and obviously this could be the case, anyone with any interest at all in the sport of tennis needs to Federer-Berdych-London-WTF-2015bow and give thanks.  He shouldn’t win this tournament.  It’s that simple. Partly because of his age, partly because of the three musketeers hunting him down.

The long farewell tour continues.  You think catching 17 majors or any whiff of his other numbers will be difficult?  What about his play as a 33 or 34 year-old.  With 4 kids.  If any 34 year-old can do it, Roger can.  But I’m being realistic.  Despite cheering-on the old man, I’m keeping the champagne in the cellar until further notice.

Novak Djokovic should win this tournament.  He’s the best player in the world.  He looked pretty mediocre in the round-robin, but I see him beating Nadal tomorrow and overcoming either one of the Swiss in the final.  That’s the safe pick, but probably the right one.

If, indeed, he has lost his impenetrable form, he will be beaten soundly by anyone of the rest of the final four.

I like Novak here, especially if I’m having to pick a winner. Novak2WTF

I like Stan if he finds that locomotive-like play and demeanor.  If he pushes Roger aside, convincingly, look-out.  He has the power and the “balls” to prevail in the end.

I like Federer if the magic continues.  He demoralized Stan at the USO. He’s recently beaten both Djokovic and Nadal.  He’s the man.  The racquet change and newer tactics look to extend his dominance.

*I like Nadal for the simple fact that life’s irony can be especially cruel.  Look at the year he’s had.  Look at his legacy with a big 0 next to WTF.  Recall his recent suggestion that they play the WTF on clay, for his sake.

A Nadal win here but be epic irony; if anyone ever asks you what irony is, here’s your example.

Which means, BEWARE: “From even the greatest of horrors, irony is seldom absent.”  H.P. Lovecraft, American horror fiction author.

Sure, that’s a bit much.  Most likely we have Novak finishing his long, inspiring journey towards tennis history.  Then again, anything can happen, especially in this company.

Cheerio.

 

11 thoughts on “London SF

  1. Excellent summary Matt. I also agree with your predictions about each of the semi-finalists ( it’s rare but mine for Stan-Nadal from group B has come to pass too). Indeed these years semi-finals’ (and projected final) pairs should produce some very entertaining match-ups.

    Since this is the slowest WTF (a hard court tourney) in the last few years it might be Nadal’s best chance to win it. But his match with Djokovic who should win just started so I’ll see what happens and complete my commentary later.

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  2. Novak looked ominous in that semi. I read before that match in Eurosport that Rafa was the player in form, and that Novak looked irritable and tired. Maybe he was. Otherwise, I can just imagine what the score would have been…

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  3. I have to admit, I watched a replay of the Nadal/Ferrer match after that post and thought Nadal looked very pedestrian. The score alone, which is all I had going in to the post, suggested a tough match, but he just looked shallow and out of sorts. I wonder how many players would have taken a dive to preserve for the SF, which was first on the schedule Saturday. Not Nadal, fighter till the end. That was a beatdown.

    Of course, my Nadal commentary was pretty light-hearted, anyway. Novak is the favorite, period.

    Mat4, I did see the last couple of games of the Djokodal. Ominous is a good description. I picked that up in 10 seconds. Unless Stan or Fed bring a very high level to the final, Novak looks quite poised. Most likely Stan and Fed fight it out, so that just benefits Nole even more.

    WTF playing to form. The only real surprise has been Novak’s hiccup vs. Federer.

    Again, we could get something special in the final (both Swiss can beat Novak), but Novak has too much at stake. He is playing for so much more. Huge advantage: Djokovic.

    I had this similar conversation with a certain fanboy blogger regarding the USO final. He said Federer had more on the line than the Serb. Ridiculous like so much of his bias. That might have been the biggest match of Djokovic’s career. He had to win that major. No question.

    Similar situation here. Djokovic needs this win more than any of these players. This is the Djokovic era. Time to define.

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  4. Matt,

    I read Eurosport in French before the semi. It was all about Rafa, the man “in form”, while Novak was “exhausted, irritable”.

    But he’s “in form” for months already. Whenever he wins, he’s “closer’ to ‘his level”. Whenever he lost, he wasn’t “at his best”. Then, I watched the match on BEIN, with Grosjean commenting. It was all about Rafa this, Rafa that, Rafa subject, Novak just part of the predicate. It just makes me sick.

    Then, Rafa “was tired” because of his match against Ferrer. Of course he was. But whoever watched that match could saw that it had nothing to do with Rafa: Novak was hitting so cleanly, it was just a masterclass. The only part of Rafa involved was his sight: he could saw the ball when Novak made all those winners, although, not always. And then, how many times did he win against an opponent tired from the previous match? Who can count all those occasions.

    I like the fact that Rafa is humble, though. He has to. I would also be humble, after being humiliated in such a manner. Because that’s what it was: a complete humiliation. He won 3 points on Novak’s serve in the second set, although Novak served 47% of first serves. Rafa did all his tricks: took 40 seconds to serve, patiently waited for the returner to lose focus, moonballed when needed, but the match was on Novak racquet, and the impression was that Novak was going to break him whenever he needed to.

    I enjoyed this match. Oh, yes.

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    • I feel your enjoyment. Good to hear. Between you and me, I was very pleased to see that SF match-up because Novak is a lock to spank Nadal. His mastery of him has been a joy to watch, again, going back to the AO ’12 final. Brilliant.

      I have not heard the pro-Nadal garbage in this recent tournament although we are surrounded by it. His entire legacy is born of this blind faith. Disturbing, in a way.

      I have Annacone and Courrier on my telecasts. Quite good, imho. Former high quality player and coach.

      There will be a Federer bias from Annacone, but they call it like they see it, pretty much.

      I will watch the replay later. Nadal looked awful vs. Ferrer. His Murray and Stan wins were suspect given Stan’s dive. Annacone called it a complete dive. Nadal faced reality today. I would bet Fed/Stan would have beaten him as well.

      But who cares. Bravo, Djokovic.

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  5. “I had this similar conversation with a certain fanboy blogger regarding the USO final. He said Federer had more on the line than the Serb.”

    We don’t have such a conversation, we never did, Matt. Honestly, I believe that Novak has already let his chances go. The matches that could define his career were the FO final in 2012 and the semi at the FO in 2013. He had to win those. But in 2012 he acted like a sissy. He couldn’t allow the match to be postponed, he had to fight with the organisers, to do the same thing Rafa did, to try to intimidate the umpire, the FFT, etc., just like Rafa did. But he just let it happen the worst possible way. At least, he had to finish the set. Then, he choked in Paris in 2013, in that famous semi. From the break in the fifth, he started to play not to lose. It was over that moment.

    We can argue that Novak wasn’t lucky then. His grand father died, he touched the net, etc. It doesn’t matter. He was unlucky his whole career, but he had to make it up. He finally understood it in late 2013, or in 2014. But I guess it was too late.

    Novak routinely misses the last step. I won’t be surprised if he loses tomorrow. I won’t be surprised if he wins the AO, then loses the final of the FO again — the only thing that could make a case for him would be to win those two tournaments in 2016. But perhaps, this time, now that he has a son, he won’t think about glory, history, but just play. I hope he can, although I am not certain about that. If he manages to do so — if he makes the “Novak slam”, he could cement his place in history, because he has everything to be the greatest. We saw it tonight, when he just let his tennis flow, when he went for winners, because he was mentally too tired to be afraid.

    But time will tell. I could be completely wrong. I hope I am.

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    • “We don’t have such a conversation, we never did, Matt.”

      I wasn’t referring to you, Mat4. I would never refer to you like that.

      I agree that Novak has let some chances go. The finals vs Murray are tough, imo. Murray should not have beaten Djokovic.

      He seems to have reached another level, another class this year. Will be interesting to see how long it will last.

      Roger looks good today despite having a pretty mediocre serve. Has to have his serve working vs. Novak.

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      • I thought that in 2012-2013, Murray was perhaps the better player, although Novak was the greater fighter. Then, Andy got injured, while Novak improved his game. Their matches since then are a scale to gauge Novak improvements.

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  6. “His Murray and Stan wins were suspect given Stan’s dive. Annacone called it a complete dive.”

    I didn’t watched the match against Murray — had to work — but I watched the Rafa-Stan encounter until the break in the second set. Stan stopped thinking somewhere in the first set. He hit a winner, then he missed the court by a yard, then another winner, then a double, then an ace, then a heavy miss… Rafa played close to the baseline, and Stan went for his shots too often, from any position, although the rallies were very fast, leaving him without time to have a clear look at his shots. He didn’t try to open the court and finish with an easy winner — it was plain blind rage, and it allowed Rafa to make those gets he’s so famous for, and to throw Stan out of balance.
    ,
    Novak demonstrated today how one can be aggressive against Rafa on such a slow surface — it’s abrasive, slows down spin, but the rebound isn’t high, and flat shots are efficient — it’s a complete plan that starts with the serve, the first shot after the serve, or the return, and the first shots after. He always made Rafa open the court, attacking a deep ball down the middle. Then he used angles to move Rafa from side to side, and finally chose where he wanted to finish the point. Novak doesn’t hit the serve very hard, but his game flows from the serve on.

    Stan could have done the same thing. But he clearly was unnerved with Rafa’s defence. He forgot to move his feet. He was thrown out of balance by Rafa’s defensive chops, short balls he had to use. That match was on Stan’s racquet, but he somehow lost his way.

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    • This WTF is another showcase for Stan’s inconsistency. I don’t think he played great vs. Murray, his one quality win. He played well, his baseline game powerful as ever, but his tactics were off and Murray made too many mistakes. If Murray takes that TB, up 4-2 before collapsing, with the home crowd, Stan probably dives.

      Roger is destroying Stan as we speak. See if he can close this out.

      You and I agree Novak is the favorite. Roger has to serve incredibly well for starters to even have a chance.

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  7. Matt,

    They are both very tired. Although Fed outsmarted Stan, playing low, fast (he went often to the net), and varying his shots, he seemed tired. Novak is also tired. It’s difficult to know how they will play tomorrow. At their best, it’s a close call. Usually Novak recovers faster, but the season was long, and mental fatigue here is primordial.

    Last year, Stan served very well in the semi. Without big serves, he just can’t keep with Fed and Novak on a faster court, or on such a court, with a lower rebound. He said it himself after he lost the round robin match. Whatever Norman does, Stan is still a one trick pony. But he’s a pleasure to watch on clay in berserker mode.

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