What are your big take-aways from this last couple of weeks of tennis in Indian Wells?
Here are mine.
- Novak Djokovic’s ownership of the ATP is a young aristocracy. He dictates and dominates matches, and talks of creating another tournament level between the Masters and the GS like he owns the place. Though there might have been signs of vulnerability on the court in IW, the news of his ominous grip on the men’s field should continue to frighten the present, add more and more challenge to the future and really bewilder the past and its reverence for the sport’s records and lore. No real news here. The Big Four is long dead and Novak has the sport in the palm of his hand. He can do whatever he wants on the court and practically say anything he wants off the court (more on that in a minute). This has become a pattern of Novak in the way we see a player not at his best earlier in the draw, yet raising his level as he gets to the business end of the tournament (QF – F). Two possible scenarios: either A) he is playing into form during a tournament along the lines of what some cyclists do in grand tours and/or B) he is borrowing a strategy from his forefathers that says do not waste energy early. Save your best tennis for the later rounds, the SF and F. Put Novak, Fed and Rafa in a room and what say you about their comparative intellectual and competitive depth? I think Novak dwarfs these two when it comes to tennis strategy. Fed flexes his skills and technique and Rafa resembles a pig truffle-hunting. Both have demonstrated tremendous athleticism, and great competitive drive (Rafa especially, truffle hunting). Djokovic’s athleticism is on par with theirs but moves ahead with his cerebral tennis. As we’ve been charting for the last year +, think of what you have to do to beat Novak, especially in a major. You will have to go five and play perhaps some of the most physical tennis AND out think him at crucial points in the match. Good luck with that.
- As an American and a huge tennis fan, I am as excited about Frances Tiafoe as I am about Taylor Fritz. These gentlemen have a ton to prove, obviously, but there is more than a glimmer of potential. Fritz did well in Memphis, playing Nishikori tight in the final. Tiafoe looked great in dispatching Fritz at IW in R1. Look at the control of Tiafoe vs. the bigger and slightly more awkward Fritz. Fritz will grow into his body and should be just fine, but Tiafoe’s tight BH that he controls very well, his big serve and FH, a lot of athleticism and even a little chip on the shoulder makes me pretty excited. I like what I see; plus he played SFinalist Goffin very tight in 2R.
- I’m no more impressed with Nadal after IW. You know my arguments against this guy. I repeat: he should have lost to Mueller in R64. I didn’t see his tennis v Hot Sauce or Zverev, but he was very inconsistent and, of course, downright lucky vs. Zverev. But where did that form come from against Nole in the SF? The first set was “vintage” Nadal? Why doesn’t he play that way against lesser foes and straight-set these guys? The inconsistency is mind-boggling. His win against Kei was actually pretty predictable only because Kei is just not a 1000 level guy. And, I guess, Nadal’s growing “confidence” was too much, apparently. That still cracks me up. Nadal’s confidence. Can you imagine saying that about other top players? Confidence? Nadal, the man of mystery. Carry-on, Riddler (that might be a new nickname, as well; but I do really like “Fraudal.”)
- I watched some of the QF between Cilic and Goffin. Cilic looks terrible. The announcers (not the somewhat goofball American call) were astonished at Cilic’s lack of timing. He couldn’t hit Goffin’s fairly weak first or even second serve. He was simply terrible. I’m not going to be tough on Nadal and not on Cilic, too. The Croat’s 2014 USO is a big problem. Like Blackspy said in his recent comment, the biggest problem with these dopers and then the uncertainty of doping is the idea that they are ruining so many other players’ chances and legacies. Bottom-line is Cilic’s form is awful and I don’t want to overlook that as evidence of his fraud. Quickly compare the 1-major duo of Del Potro and Cilic. You think these are comparable? Similar in size and tennis, but the former is a genuine champ and the other is a man of mystery.
- The talk of WTA v ATP was pretty wild at IW. Moore’s comments, Serena’s rebuttal, and Djokovic talking about prize money equality. I love it all. I’m not a big fan of Serena, but I love her sticking-up for the women and coming at Moore though he did have one or two too many bloody-marries it appears. And to have Novak climb on board that bandwagon and continue to throw the women under the bus? This will be dwarfed by the tennis on the court. But as many of you know, I encourage the discussion and the debate. People speaking their minds is a beautiful and healthy exercise. If anything is coming out of this American political circus, it’s that people are talking about the issues on a more visceral or emotional level. The character arguments try to undermine and distract these debates, but people are talking and according to the reaction (voting), this is all a little more complicated than some rich guy is acting like Hitler. Bravo to those who are speaking-up. Nothing beats a good back and forth, a good rally of tennis balls or ideas and ideologies.
- Toni Nadal’s little column on the future of the game is ridiculous. Kinda like the 14 majors he has in his garage.