Is the final surprising? Afraid not.
Granted, Stan has beaten Roger before; we saw quite the demonstration of this at the FO QF 2015. Straight sets. Staminal was on a sort of mission then, mission impossible, mission cannibal, baseline missile mission, what-have-you. But beating Roger Stan has not done very frequently, at all. Trivia time:
- What’s their H2H?
- What’s significant about Stan’s wins vs. Roger (other than they were glorious moments for the younger Swiss, beating his mentor)?
Answer to #1: 18-3
Answer to #2: all of Stan’s wins over Roger have been on clay (Monte Carlo twice along with the RG win).
All of this to say: we’re not very surprised. Did we yearn for the Stanimal to carry us on one of his great tourney runs? For sure. Even I hinted at the possibility. But I wasn’t even convinced of his win over Murray to reach the SF. Murray, as I said, handed him that 1st set TB. Murray’s error-prone tennis was no match for even an above average Stan. But we might have been blinded still by the Stanimal “potential.”
This fierce being never materialized today. Roger came to net from the word “go” and pretty much hand-cuffed Wawrinka. He breezed through early serves though when Roger was forced to stay back on the baseline, one could see the problems Roger would have with Stan. Surely, Federer was tasked with keeping the points short, play to Stan’s FH, etc. Roger looked either a bit lethargic, or quite determined not to find too many BL exchanges with Stan, perhaps wake the monster. Though Stan got an early break, Roger was able to break back and ride it out.
Roger’s serve was clearly not that good. A few DF and Stan having little trouble generally getting those back kept this close. Tight 1st set, but that was about it. Roger simply outsmarted Stan (Stefan out-coached
Magnus). Whatever the case may be, this was not (nor has this really ever been) a very competitive match-up. The Maestro advances.
I just watched the 2nd set of the first SF. I said in my previous post that I would be surprised if Novak thrashed Nadal. But in my comments I wrote too that I had written that post having only seen the score of the Nadal/Ferrer match. I watched that match late last night, long after I had written my little preview. Nadal looked terrible vs. Ferrer. Simple as that.
I got a little light-hearted in my suggestion that Nadal might challenge Novak and common sense, but after having watched the Ferrer match and then today’s SF, my goodness Nadal looks quite the trespasser. Djokovic destroyed him. Wow. Several points stand-out where you see the Spaniard scrambling along the baseline to return a shot, get there and hit just the most absurdly short little top-spin loop, only to get absolutely flattened by the Serb. Djokovic was deep and flat(ter); Nadal was short and up high in Novak’s wheelhouse.
I might not have articulated that very well, but the point is they were playing two different games. Nadal did not, quite frankly, belong on the court with Novak. I think I heard a stat that Nadal never got beyond 30 on Novak’s serve? Not sure if that’s right, but it sounds right. Pretty dramatic. Nadal looked awful. Novak looked focused, almost tired, a little irritated, wanting to finish his job.
Tomorrow’s match should be fun. Should be. If I was a betting man, of limited funds, betting with my brain, I like Novak, whose tennis is quite sharp these days, efficient beyond efficient. Really fun to watch.
But Roger comes in the wily old veteran, who might just have a chance. Tough to think Roger will beat Novak twice in a week, and in a final. But this format has been his cup of Earl Grey tea. Novak, I am sure, is more than happy to share this three set refreshment with Roger. Perhaps he has a little payback on his mind, perhaps a 5th WTF and historical year of tennis to take and define as his own in this, his own, era.
A little side note: I was watching the Rafa/Novak match with a friend, and we both remarked how gaunt Novak looks. Nadal looks pretty sickly himself, but Novak looks so unbelievably thin, his visage seemingly a piece of skin stretched across his skeletal face. The man needs a break? Anyone notice that?