Wow, a lot of shit went down on the clay today, so I have to address that, but I had planned to write a little about the night in the NBA and my thoughts on Federer, having had a chance to see him play yesterday against Garcia-Lopez, his first match back from injury.
Don’t read too much into Djokovic’s first round loss. He was due, let’s say. One can only play so much good, invulnerable tennis for so long. The loss actually distracts us from the real issue of there being, really, no threat to Djokovic on the tour unless his form dips. That’s the narrative. Jiri Vesely, all 6’6″ of him, brought enough heat to bring down the Djoker on his home court. Can Vesely consolidate this result. Probably not. And so it goes on the ATP. Dominated by 1 or 2 players who might find a boogieman under his bed every blue moon.
Here’s what is worth mentioning about today’s loss, however. This does add some pressure to his play in about a month in Paris. He has to win that major, this year. Most observant tennis fans will acknowledge this. It’s a very tough tournament and he’s already had his trouble there. Sure, he could come back and win Madrid or Rome, but even winning one of those won’t lighten the RG load; Novak has to be feeling some level of burn-out, where he needs a break – which actually means losing today may have been the best thing that could have happened.
The loss is also a tiny reminder to the church of Djokovic to calm the hell down. What if he doesn’t win RG? Imagine the possibility.
I wouldn’t worry about that at this point, but the loss is a loss. I think he needs the break.
The loss opens-up the tournament for sure.
I have always thought that life and sport at the highest levels are never easy. That’s what makes great runs, great dynasties so special – they overcome the odds, the insane difficulty of maintaining that dominance. Of course, Novak was going to lose at some point. His 2015 into 2016 run has been remarkable, historical. Do we have another 2012 on our hands, following his epic 2011? Probably not.
Funny that today only falls in-line a bit with what I saw yesterday, have seen over the years, and hope to see in a little over a month from now.
Federer at the French
The Federer match was very entertaining. First of all, what a treat to have him back in the draw. He looks like he didn’t miss a beat and Garcia-Lopez (#38) is not a piece of bubble-gum. The Spaniards are tough, especially on clay. I really enjoyed seeing the two men trade some brilliant OHBH. That’s close to being the best shot in the game. If you don’t have one, we’ll figure-out what to do with you when it’s all said and done. OHBH is the stuff of tennis royalty. No question.
Federer cruised but for a slight hiccup when he was up 5-1 in the second. Sure he struggled a bit closing, but the Spaniard hit some brilliant ground-strokes (OHBH) that made it tough on the Swiss. In the end, Roger advances. And this is certainly a better look than everyone’s clay dark horse Murray going three to get by P-H H.
So my thoughts wandered a bit on clay with Roger back in the mix, despite this being his final lap, so to speak, on his farewell tour.
Roger has had a brilliant career on clay. I have heard people say Djokovic is the second best clay courter of the era, or whatever. Go look at Roger’s numbers at RG. Sure, he hasn’t faired as well at the clay Masters (no Rome or MC, I believe), but he’s been to several RG finals and won one. Even Nadal has said Roger is perhaps the second greatest clay courter of all time (I could find the article if I had to). He made all of those finals during the Nadal heyday. And who can forget the “finger wave” 2011 SF between Djoker and Federer; that was a HUGE upset and a brilliant match. Anyone remember that?
All this to say, as I watched Roger look pretty comfortable on the clay yesterday, what are the chances?
Well (and this is before what happened today and I’m not even going to read too much into Djokovic’s loss), he has a tremendous game for the clay. History speaks for itself. Secondly, I think Ljubičić and he are developing a sound approach to the season, and although the injury has thrown things off a bit, playing a clay warm-up or two might be a blessing in disguise. Finally, the two-headed dragon: there really are no expectations for Roger on the clay (his only hope, as the expectations go, is the grass – WB). And the other edge: there’s really very few real contenders. Djokovic is the favorite and then who? Ha!
Should I put a poll up? My last post looks more and more silly bringing such spotlight to Wawrinka. I can’t see past is pretty outfits. This guys’s knees look fat. Does that make sense? He looks almost indifferent. What a shame. Granted, he could turn into the Stanimal, but I have more and more doubt. And don’t get me started on Murray. You think Murray beats Nadal or Stan to reach the final in MC?
My point is we could be overlooking Roger at RG. Yesterday’s match reminded me of this. If he can stay healthy and catch a few breaks, which everyone needs now and again, voila!
What happened today (Djokovic down, Berdych soils his shorts again) only supports my essay of Roger’s chances on clay. Again, I wanted to share these thoughts from watching yesterday’s match. Today is only gravy on the Fed Express I saw pull into Monte Carlo, fresh off injury.
Be Like Mike
What happened to Djokovic today adds balance to the tennis universe. It shouldn’t be that easy. I thought the same of the Golden State Warriors in their march toward history this season. The game has been too easy for them. This speaks to the mediocrity of the league at this point, but the success they’ve had couldn’t, I thought to myself, not be challenged. Something has to give. Too much of a good thing. This train has to come off the tracks at some point.
Until a week a ago, I thought almost for sure they will not win the championship. This kind of lack of resistance, lack of adversity can not go on as they run unchallenged to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
About a week or two ago we found adversity. Suddenly they were struggling. Surpassing the Bulls’ regular season record was in jeopardy. Down the stretch they battled, having to raise their game these last four games of the season with history on the line. Tonight, in fact, they are in position to break the record against a beat-up Memphis Grizzlies team, in Oakland (it’s 90-74 late in the third).
They still have to march through the playoffs and hoist that trophy to consolidate the record, but it looks like they will. They’ll overcome Jordan’s Bulls’ regular season mark along the way. What I like even more about their chances in the post-season is that they beat the #2 team in the land at home and on the road down the stretch – snapping the Spurs’ home unbeaten mark in the process. Stay tuned. The NBA playoffs, especially in the West, should be interesting as we get late and see the 2-4 teams that have any significance go head-to-head. The Warriors facing that adversity was key, in my book.
The other big event tonight is Kobe Bryant’s last game as a professional. Do you have any thoughts on that, on him and his career? I have a million. Always have.
Here’s my point in this entire post (Djokovic’s loss interrupted my train of thought). I am a long-time MJ fan. I watched him win in college, leave and play for the Bulls, watched in awe his entire career. I could go for days on MJ, folks. But here we are, April 13, 2016 and this is reality: his shadow still hangs so relevantly and ominously over the sport it’s as mind-bogglin as is his career on the court. The Warriors are trying to eclipse one of his many marks and Kobe, who tried with all of his flawed basketball soul to play like Mike, retires after tonight. I love it.
Everyone, still, wants to be like Mike.