The Big 3

As we look to Monte Carlo and the start of 2016 clay, what are the big 3 up to as they prepare for the start of the season of the dirt?

Stan

He said so himself: 2016 so far has been something from which one might want to hide.

StanPreClay

But the clay just may bring out the best in this guy whose only Masters is Monte Carlo (where he beat Roger in the final) and, of course, got a FO title to go with his AO. Time to show-up and play, Stanimal. Wouldn’t that just be a peach.

StanClay

Roger

Apparently he’s been practicing, in fact with Stan recently in MC. We don’t expect much from the Maestro, but it will sure be good to have him back in the draw.

RogerClay

Novak 

Everyone’s heard he’s “practicing” with his son on the clay. This guy is having the time of his life. Good for him. Here he is via twitter acknowledging International Day of Sports.

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Sure “my” Big 3 doesn’t really reflect the world rankings, but let’s face it, who else is there  that you would really like to watch in a high stakes match? Sure Thiem is going to be exciting, especially on the clay, and, right, there are other talents who can move well and hit hard, etc. But these are the big 3 at this point. Unfortunately, no one is even sure when Stan will actually show up, nor are we that confident Roger can still pull off the unbelievable at 34 1/2, especially after this little knee injury.

Yet, folks, this is all you got. I’ll take it. Hopefully, some other threats emerge as the play turns to clay and we start to get this spring fling going on its merry way toward the warmer months and bigger and bigger tournaments.

2016 clay also means we can cement the demise of your favorite clay specialist. He has 8 MCs. What a clay legacy that guy has. Would be a real shame if the whole Spanish affair is a gigantic fraud, but we’ll probably never know, so it’s enough to just remind ourselves that he was a clay guy (and that’s about it) who somehow “prospered” elsewhere. Go figure.

Looking at the Monte Carlo draw, Fraudal will get Thiem in the R16 if he survives one of his nemeses in Luke Rosol R2. If he survives Thiem, he faces the likes of Stan, Dimitrov and Simon in that QF. Most of us like Stan in this quarter. I would love to see Thiem come out, to be honest. Either way, we have Nadal with a tough draw. He should not survive the R16.

Interesting they did not put Fognini nor Verdasco in with Nadal, but, again, the butt picker has a tough draw.

Up top, Djokovic should get his favorite watch, Monfils, in that R16. Here’s what Novak did say: “Gaël is Gaël,” he said. “That’s what he does. He loves jumping around, sliding, he’s very unpredictable. You don’t know what his next move is, so that’s why he’s so interesting. I said before that he’s probably the only guy in the world, tennis player, that I would pay a ticket to watch the match. He’s really fun to watch but not so much fun to play against.” – See more at: http://www.tennisnow.com/Blogs/NET-POSTS/August-2014/Djokovic-on-Monfils-Fun-To-Watch,-But-Not-As-An-O.aspx#sthash.w6k1Xi1n.dpuf.

He’s 10-0 against the Frenchman. That QF should pit Novak against Goffin (if he still has his form), Ferrer or Zverev if he can continue to build. But who really cares who Novak plays.

Federer is in this top half, too. What can we expect from him, really? There are five Spaniards in that quarter so let me just stereotype and say he has to overcome all of that clay genius (another flaw in my reasoning is the false cause and even some kind of historical flaw), but the point is Fed does have to beat some decent talent to get to the R16 and face the winner of Tsonga/Gasquet. Gasquet is not the clay talent that his fellow Frenchmen, Tsonga, is so a Federer v Tsonga is most likely with all things being equal. We’ll see. . .

Having said all of that, a Federer Djokovic SF seems an awful long-shot given Roger’s recent injury/lack of tournament tennis. . . and age.

The survivor of the Stan quarter gets what’s left of Murray, Berdych and associates. The only guy I’m rooting for here is Guido Pella. Watched him play Feliciano Lopez at the 2016 AO 2R; lost in five, but four sets were grueling TBs and Lopez took the fifth in another tight 6-4. Great watch. He reached the Rio Open final a couple of months ago losing to Cuevas in three tough sets. That was clay. Guido’s my dark horse in that bottom quarter 😉 though the decider between the unremarkable Berdych v Murray will probably advance.

In the end, the only real threat to Novak here seems to be in the Nadal quarter and ironically it’s not the Spaniard who poses the threat.

Btw, where are Kyrgios and Tomic? “Injured”? Hopefully, Hewitt has ’em over his knee.

What say you?

2 thoughts on “The Big 3

  1. First of all, my compliments for the “Ho Hum” article. The essence of a tennis month (and maybe more?) concentrated in an easy to read and pleasant piece of writing.

    Combining hard-court events results with clay season preview:

    Djokovic is truly alone, as he is the only one of his generation in the top tiers who has this “champion’s” mettle. His strategy is sound, his mentality excellent, his game is complete but not outstanding;(as some people have mentioned -with considerable humor- you get the impression that if you exercise for X years, eat only vegetables, practice tennis 12h per day, meditate etc. you could play like that – it doesn’t seem as an out-of-this-world (or tennis age) experience). Nevertheless, that shouldn’t take anything away from Djokovic’s achievements;he is a worthy champion of this era. As comparing eras in my mind is a fruitless effort, I find your comment regarding the momentary rush of his dominion pretty acute.

    Now to his rivals:
    -Nishikori hasn’t still learned the Australian Open lesson: you can’t defeat Djokovic when you are rushing to the detriment of your game. As he is the most stable player on tour, he just loves his opponents taking big risks. If he decides to play a different strategy, he may have a chance. The clay season shouldn’t favor his angled game.

    -Goffin has a game that can bother Djokovic: his balls are “soft” without much to attack, and he hits them early taking time away from his opponent, traits that annoy world’s n1. More importantly, he plays the matches with Djokovic without much fear, following his game-plan, playing patiently. If he could stabilize his first serve (&improve the 2nd), and play the big points better (Djokovic excels at that), he could be a contender. Then again, his chances should be mainly in faster (hard) courts and keep in mind that his game doesn’t match-up with every player that well.

    -Thiem has the power, stability and athleticism, but seems to lack the finishing touches at the moment (ending points for sure). “The power of Wawrinka combined with the spin of Nadal”, as some say. This guy seems to be the real deal, as I have mentioned before. His powerfull serve helps him defend his games, his can push Djokovic backward, but he should take few risks more at times to cripple Djokovic defense (maybe BDTL?). I would’t be surprised if he entered the top ten by the end of the season. Along with Wawrinka he is the best bet to topple Djokovic on a clay court.

    -Kyrgios has the talent; everyone knows that. If he starts working on it&his mentality on the game overall, he could become a threat. Clay courts shouldn’t favor his game as he likes fast courts better I think (they don’t hamper it much, as well).

    -Federer is injured and aged but his game matches Djokovic’s pretty well. I don’t consider him a threat on clay for Djokovic at the moment and his record on Monte Carlo against world’s no 1 is not indicative. Then again, maybe the Ljubicic training may pay-off after some time…

    -Nadal produces a repeatable match-up with Djokovic: he has no weapons to hurt him. I do expect him though to collect as many points as last year in the clay season (overall). This clay season should be telling about the rest of his career.

    -Murray disappointed his fans once again in Indian Wells and Miami. Clay should fit his power game better but then again he has no weapons to hurt his good friend Novak just a serve to be exploited, at will. He has probably the best draw in Monte Carlo but that doesn’t mean much with him lately.

    After all, although a hiccup or two could arise from time to time, Djokovic remains alone on top…

    Like

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