Indian Wells SF

The Indian Wells final four will be complete after tomorrow, the first half getting decided today/nite with Raonic taking care of Monfils and set to join Goffin, who followed his victory over Wawrinka with a straight set win against Cilic. You know, bias is a funny thing. I was called biased by a commenter a couple of days ago.  I think with Nadal something’s rotten in the state of Denmark. I think about the same with Cilic, Mr. one-major-wonder. We know what might have contributed to that run in NYC 2014. I have a problem with that kind of stuff. Forgive me.

So, Goffin’s win today was perfect. Who knows where Stan’s psyche is at this point. He has a nice outfit, for sure. Stan has that ability to dazzle us with his one-hander and his inconsistency. But that’s Stan. Nice to see Goffin consolidate some promise and overcome some sizable odds and opponent body weight to reach a big Masters SF.

Bravo to the 25 year-old Belgian. He faces the 25 year-old Canadian where I do see Raonic as a favorite only because of his professionalism and 2016 form. Looks like he’s overcome that abdominal injury that hampered him vs. Murray at the Australian Open SF. Most of us agree that Raonic is breaking ground on sheer will and dedication, despite his height disadvantage.

The other SF should be Djokovic v Nishikori, decided tomorrow following Djokovic v Tsonga and Nishikori v Nadal.

Tsonga looks good though I have only seen a couple of games and don’t generally trust him. Djokovic looks to have found his business-end-of-the-tourney form and his recent success against the Frenchmen suggests Djokovic advances.

But we know Tsonga’s potential. I did see a few games vs. Thiem and was a little surprised that Tsonga had so little difficulty with the young star. Thiem seemed to struggle quite a bit with the weight of Tsonga’s shots, seriously struggling to even get balls back to the net. Thiem had a tough three-setter against Sock, which might have played a part but the take-away was Tsonga was hitting the ball quite well, clearly over powering the youngster.

We suspect Tsonga to play Djokovic tough. At least I do.

Nishikori v Nadal you would think goes the way of Kei. If Kei has recovered from his tough R16 win over Isner, he should beat Nadal. No question. Obviously a pro-Nadal perspective is going to say that Nadal is gaining confidence (whatever that means – what happened to it?).

His “win” over the teen Zverev has him back on form according to the peanut gallery. Nadal barely got by Mueller. I watched that match. Granted, that’s Nadal. For whatever reason (some of it is definitely clutch) he squeaks by, lives to fight another day. The Zverev collapse was horrific. Hopefully that kid does learn from this. Nadal advances.

So, if you’re asking me we have Djokovic v Nishikori to see who faces the winner of Goffin v Raonic.

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One thing seems certain with the trials of Indian Wells 2016. The Big Four as we know it is dead. For one, many tennis fans have Wawrinka as much qualified for this lofty four-top as Murray, both with two majors and Wawrinka having success more recently. Let’s take a look at all four.

Andy Murray: he’s the classic bridesmaid, some of which is not of his own doing, but from the sheer luck of the draw 😉

It’s like NBA stars who played during the Jordan era. Tough luck. Murray just doesn’t have the make-up or the game to finish these big tournaments. Remember, I hold Nole responsible for even allowing Murray to establish this faint semblance of dominance (having lost to Murray in those two major F). Murray is not royalty in this age of tennis royalty.

But that was then. Now? I’m not going to over-estimate his early IW exit this year (because he never really plays that well there), but I clearly see the Scot beginning his decline. He has the child. He has his beloved DC legacy, his solid, seemingly perennial top five stature. The youth of the sport is upon us, no question.

Andy is distracted by the past and the present. He’s been beaten down and has found success elsewhere, recently.

Rafael Nadal: you know where I stand on this guy. His game is beleaguered. That’s it. He will be out of the top five by the end of the year.

Roger Federer: my take on the recent news of his decision to play Miami – too soon. Roger’s injury is trouble for the Swiss. (Yes, I’m going to reference my Fed motto again, for the 23 millionth time) He’s been on a farewell tour for a few years now. The injury consolidates my argument. Watching Dubai and IW is too much for the uber competitive Swiss, so he’s back at Miami to trigger his spring and summer build for some big events. But I think it’s too early. I think he’s pushing the envelope here. He doesn’t even “like” Miami, his wins there coming in ’05 and ’06; recently, he’s skipped this second half of this Masters back-to-back, choosing to play IW instead.

He’s Roger, so he’s solid. But I see the slide begin to pick-up speed. As I said in my 2016 Prediction post, this is the last real relevant year for the Maestro. If you don’t see this, wake-up.

That leaves us with Novak. The other three aren’t in the same class as the Serb at this point and, yes, I’m stating the obvious.

Naturally, this leaves us with this 2016 watch or trend: at what point will the Big Four be declared dead by mass perception.

It’s over.

What phraseology or terminology will help us define this next era?

I have it!

The ATP 2016 will be a great story starring Zorro (Nole). Zorro. Nole reminds me of this masked hero figure. Here’s a definition of the character that seems to fit perfectly:

“a dashing black-clad masked outlaw who defends the commoners and indigenous peoples of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains. Not only is he too cunning and foxlike for the bumbling authorities to catch, but he also delights in publicly humiliating them.”

Enjoy the IW final four.

 

4 comments

  1. There is a misunderstanding between us Matt so I’d better clear this up right-away: I don’t think you’re biased. From my very first comment I acknowledged the fine balance you have struck between objectivity and passion and I have never ceased to believe this. My recent comments were written in regard to preserving/expanding your reader base and what a not regular of your blog reader might think reading that last series of articles. I realise now that this is none of my concern and I shouldn’t have interfered that way. If I did write something else that offended you, please let me know to apologise properly.

    Now that (I hope) the air is clear, let me give you a hand with the Nadal burial. There are two explanations for his fall from glory (i.e. his game level at the moment) a- his injuries caught up to him, b- he is a doper. For several reasons (game style, peaking while quite young, physical shape, inconsistency during his career, number of injuries) I tend to believe, as you do, that he is a fraud. Furthermore I am horrified and saddened because of the damage that he might have caused to other really great players (notably Federer, Djokovic and a few others also) by stealing from them their rightful titles and share to the tennis glory, if our hypothesis is correct. I don’t know of another player whose level presented so many discrepancies, nor one to be so successful with such a limited game.

    Since I hopefully made it obvious that I’m immune to the Fraudal poison (great metaphor by the way), I feel I must explain why I still believe that Nadal will have a top position at 2016’s end: money&atp tour current state. He has enough to invest on conditioning to keep a good form during the year (and he is consistent enough- excluding grass) and I can’t see a steady threat to him for this position given Wawrinka’s inconsistency, Nishikori’s/Raonic injuries, Thiem’s youth etc. Reading his rankings breakdown I get the impression that him collecting about 5000 points by the year end is a pretty realistic scenario- that number should get you to a top 5 position I guess. My calculations are boosted also by the fact that the ATP has invested a lot in his brand name giving him some pretty good draws… So although I consider generally your predictions to be much more accurate than mine (I’m pretty mediocre at this stuff as I have repeatedly said), being a pessimist, I’ll stand by this one. I’ll be happy (and commenting in this blog if you’d like) to admit I was wrong and you were right later in the season.

    Watching the new generation progress in Indian Wells was a relief. There are boys ready to succeed the big 4 era, at long last. The regression of the big 4 has started from 2014 according to wikipedia but Djokovic -the only notable member yet on a high level- covers that hole for now. I expect their absence to be fairly obvious in 2017 or 2018 when he looses some of his speed.

    Regarding IW results: Djokovic should typically beat Nadal in straights and have a real test in the final against a big server or a quick baseliner (but most probably Raonic). I don’t like the “early” Federer return in Miami regarding recovery since he didn’t need the ranking points to keep his position but I see a slight rationale for this: Miami is a field where he can test lower bounces as those he’ll have later in the grass/indoor season where his focus should be. He’ll most probably avoid playing more clay tourneys (other than MC which is pretty fast) that way, limiting his time on court before RG and Wimby. At his age he must be self aware of his slide and trying to squeeze even the last ounce of tennis mastery he has left; I may not agree tactically, but I do respect that.

    PS: The Zorro definition was inspired! Keep up the good work Matt.

    1. No problem, blackspy. I enjoy your comments and actually do think you have a point about the weight of my Nadal conversation. He’s been an ATP toxin. His tennis, coupled with his behavior (inconsistency, bullying and bullshit tactics) have been unpleasant, for sure. Two of my favorite matches of recent years are the AO finals of 2012 and 2014 – where his bullshit gets beaten down. That’s generally how you approach toxic elements, right? Sorry if that offends people. Sounds like you agree with me on some level. But I do want to grow my readership. 🙂

      As for the top five argument, you’re probably right. I’m basing my prediction on principle. Someone who plays like he did against Mueller in R64, last week, or against Cuevas last month or even Thiem (his Zverev “win” sounds pretty repugnant, as well) has no shot at top 5 ATP by year end. He needs an absolute perfect draw going forward. He got a good one here at IW and still basically shit the bed.

      In my prediction of his QF vs. Kei, I should have been more honest about the pit in my stomach, that Nadal would breadstick the over-valued Nishikori. I still think players in the top 20 or so have a very very good chance to demoralize Fraudal. He’s barely beating anyone at all.

      But even I have to admit that Nishikori is probably the perfect opponent for the big and bouncy 4th seed. I think Johnny Isner would have hit him off the court. Kei is too fragile. I should have pointed that out, as part of me saw that coming.

      But I’m sticking with my principles. Sure Djokovic looks off form at IW, but I see him destroying Nadal. Nadal has NO BUSINESS in a match vs. Nole.

      But your point about the politics is right on. How can I ignore/deny that with my suspicion of Fraudal? The sport is a mess when you look at this top heavy field where the success of these few darlings of the sport outweigh the health of the sport overall. Spread the wealth – fuck an A.

      We’ll see. I hope for fair draws and more emergence of these youngsters.

      Let’s hope Zorro can keep it real today.

      And I do like Raonic, as well, maybe even for the championship. Haven’t seen him at all this week but his form early in 2016 has been very very good, as we know (Brisbane, AO). I thought he was injured, but I guess he’s bounced back. I saw him basically hit Nadal off the court at IW last year though I believe that was a three setter.

      He plays well here and he’s certainly more than a serve bot.

  2. I’m keen to see how young Milos fares against the robot warrior, the tennis terminator. Another game for Milos?………….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUaMzsNKR7Q

    “The sport is a mess when you look at this top heavy field where the success of these few darlings of the sport outweigh the health of the sport overall. Spread the wealth – fuck an A.”
    True Matt. Indeed it does seem harder to crack the field because conditioning elements have greatly increased so having raw talent alone is not enough. But….can’t these young lads force the change in narrative by winning consistently? I don’t see it from say Dimitrov but maybe the young German Zverev and when my Aussie mates finally get their act together?

    Note on Djokovic: Is it just me or he seems to struggle…well struggle isn’t the word but his daytime matches throw him some problems due to the heat of day? Eh, he’s getting it done regardless.

    1. RJ, classic clip there. I think time and maturity, perhaps a few big wins here and there will get these youngsters in the fray. For instance, say Zverev doesn’t gag that match. Maybe a win there propels him past Nishikori and voila he’s playing the Djoker in a SF. That’s the kind of stuff that needs to happen. I was disappointed in Fritz, but the American who beat him took Goffin to three sets (18 y/o) so they’re knocking.

      Thiem seems ready to make a move though he’s 22. Milos is too big. A colleague of mine who knows the game brought Milos to my attention maybe 3-4 years ago. I saw him play and immediately said “no.” Too gangly. Then again, he is on the verge because of his commitment. The guy works his ass off and has definitely developed a better game to go with the serve.

      But as I say in my recent post, no one is safe in the aristocracy. No one.

What say you?