A couple of things I need to make clear. The clay court remains. . . how should I say this and not alienate too many people. . .inferior. Poor. Sure, I could resolve to say it is simply a different surface, gives the professional sport a little diversity, adds to the calendar, the seasons, etc. But it’s crap. Seems to have been brought to bear on the sport in order to neutralize bigger and stronger games from bigger and stronger players. I argue that the dirty tennis court renders the game a much less interesting and sophisticated version of the sport, favoring less equipped, more defensive players. I don’t think anyone can counter that general sentiment about the clay court.
The Monte Carlo quarter finals are here and, as we all know, the draw has been opened-up with the loss of Djokovic. Naturally, his saboteur is gone, drowned in clay by Monfils who seems to be doing his thing, looking destined for the draw’s top spot in the semi-finals. The athletic Frenchman gets the veteran Spaniard Marcel Granollers who knows his way around the clay (has a couple of FO R4 to his credit). Not going to put a lot of thought into that QF match.
The winner gets Federer or Tsonga, a more interesting match. Would we be surprised if Tsonga beats Federer? We should not be surprised. However, given what we’ve seen, Fed looks spot on to find his way to the SF, perhaps a little more motivated by the opportunity of no Djokovic (but that doesn’t really mean anything, when you think about it. Federer has to beat Tsonga. Period). Having said that, again, no surprise is the big hitting Tsonga takes down the Maestro.
What I like about Roger’s game so far (have seen a bit, most of the Garcia-Lopez match) is his instincts. He’s using a lot of variety, quick to net to finish, BH has looked especially good. I love how he’s finishing points when he can. But I’ve also seen him rush when he gets impatient, when his opponent takes the reigns of a rally. Federer cool is a tough assignment. I think he runs Tsonga around and advances.
Nadal beat Thiem, obviously. I watched some of this match. It made my skin crawl. The match reminded me of a Federer Nadal back and forth, with the one hitting the skin off the ball with big OHBH all over the court, big FH, solid serve, etc. And then there’s the muscular Spaniard running it down, getting it back. This is as much a characteristic of the clay as it is a characteristic of Nadal (they’re made for each other). This combination does not reward great offensive tennis. I watched most of the first set. Thiem looked better than the man of mystery, but the latter hung around and his clutch chops got him across the finish line first.
People, Nadal finding his confidence is just bullshit. Not sure what that means. Roger is off for a month or so, has knee surgery, coming off an AO SF, and gets right back into rhythm, on a new surface, new knee, etc. The Nadal excuse machine just doesn’t work. He’s either special needs, or he’s just a clay monster, or worse; whatever it is it’s an inferior brand of tennis that does not belong on the slopes of The Greats. Nadal’s career arc is a joke. And watching him defend against these better tennis players – sure it’s his style of tennis and it works now and then – does not make for a good watch.
Sure, I think he probably beats Wawrinka. Why? Because I don’t trust Stan and Fraudal seems to have his clay court specialist hat on. Stan should beat him. He seems ready to mount his RG-bound steed and play some clay like we know he can. But I have to see it to believe it. Again, he should hit the Spaniard off the court.
Remember, Nadal and his camp are honing their mysterious potions for a run at his tenth RG – la decima.
Murray v Raonic seems a toss-up, if you ask me. Raonic is no slouch on the dirt. Murray should cruise but he’s struggling, no doubt, and given that I don’t have a nano of faith in the big clumsy Scot, I like Raonic in the SF to play. . . Narinka. Sorry.
Let’s say we do have a Federer v Nadal clash in the final. This would be a tremendous opportunity to see how Ljubičić does with this assignment, if Roger is actually listening to anyone at this point, ever.
Watching Barcelona lose to Atletico Madrid yesterday, the idea came up that Barca struggles when they are not controlling the match, playing out of position, if you will, uncomfortable, from needing to change strategies, play more aggressively, to match the opponent’s aggression, whatever tactics they’re using. Barca couldn’t rely on their tiki-taka, small-ball possession first approach. They were lost. You could sense the disorientation.
That describes, more or less, Roger in Nadal’s clay kingdom. I want to see Roger v Nadal in the Monte Carlo final if this inferior surface and style of tennis deems that the end game. Let’s see the old man become born again on the shores of the Mediterranean.
At the same time, with all the nutty, bizarre clay plot twists, we could see Murray v Monfils.
Enjoy the tennis!
UPDATE: So Murray routs the Canadian and seems to have found some business-end-of-the-tourney form. Congrats. He seemed pretty listless earlier in the draw.
Sure enough, Stan did not make a showing or maybe Rafa has his “confidence” back. Do you know how ridiculous this sounds? Rafa must be special needs. And Toni is his “keeper”? I need to explore this more. Looking so bad, so awful (not fighting injury) but turning it around. . . what in the hell is that? That we have Murray to save the world is a scary thought, but vamos Scotland!
Federer goes down in three. I haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like a good one. In the end, a great first tournament back for Roger. A lot of very big tennis on the horizon, so for both Djokovic and Federer, not huge set-backs. Happy for Tsonga. Please consolidate this win.
Sure, I want Murray to withstand the Spanish freak show, but a Tsonga Nadal final would be a fine consolation. Or maybe my Murray v Monfils (sarcastic) prediction will stand.