Djokovic Wins the French Open

The actual match was a foregone conclusion, and really not that great of a match, to be honest – even from Novak (in fact, the entire match seemed somewhat anti-climactic given Novak’s form over the last year or so, over these last 4-5 years even, over the fact that he is so comfortable on clay, grew-up playing on the dirt). This all makes me want to dive into the historical ramifications here, discuss the weakness of biased sports analysis (it’s not really analysis but hysterical cheerleading) – basically hit some deep DTL OHBHs of commentary at this event that we’ve all seen and heard and read so much about already. I will say a couple of things about the match, turn to some bigger perspective and then set the stage for some issues I certainly want to explore as we build toward Wimbledon.

NovakFrenchYou already know what happened. Djokovic beat Murray to win his first French Open title. It’s historical. Ironically, Novak’s form was so tentative early and late in this match (with even a few glimpses of nervousness during those dominant 2nd and 3rd sets) that he was ripe for the taking. He was not nearly as dominant or flawless as we’ve grown to expect from this #1 player in the world.

The first set was bizarre. The insightful (even if some don’t like his style) voice-over of John McEnroe spelled-out this match perfectly. He was saying the things I was thinking and he was all over this match, even helping Mary Carillo with a few clarifications along the way. One of these was when Novak was up 40-0 in probably the 3rd set, cruising, and he hit a failed drop-shot. Mary says Novak needs to abandon that shot. Given the state of the match, her comment was way out-of-touch. Mac pointed-out that at 40-0 he can afford to use that shot AND, more importantly, Andy looked like he was about to collapse from fatigue, so Novak was wanting to continue to run the Scot into the ground. No brainer. Mac was on his game. This insight (most should’ve seen the Serb’s confidence building from late 1st set) helped make the match even more anti-climactic, predictable, etc.

That’s really how this match played-out, awkwardly: Novak was uncharacteristically error prone in the first set, yet Andy still used a lot of energy pulling off the advantage. You could see toward the end of the first set, as Andy closes it out, Novak is finding his rhythm, starting to get to Murray. You knew the second set and the rest of the match was going to have a very different outcome from that first set. Andy was done.

Again, despite Novak’s crap form (nerves, stage-fright, whatever you want to call it), Andy still seems to have wasted himself winning that first set. That was the rest of the story. Novak ran Andy around the court, seemingly toying with him. And much of this is on Andy. Look how many times he hits that BH CC where Novak is standing, waiting, ready to pounce. Andy didn’t make Novak move much at all; not enough BH DTL. Furthermore, the drop-shot that Murray used so well against Wawrinka was gone. I almost joked that he better not over-use this with Novak in my preview. He abandoned it! Sure Novak can cover just about anything from Murray (or anyone), but Murray’s game was just too predictable, something we’re very used to seeing. Something that made me cringe at seeing this match-up in the final.

So, Murray’s fatigue and predictability played right into Novak finding some form in the body of the match. Things got interesting late, and I will certainly remember this for Novak almost blowing that fourth set, but it really was simply his to lose. Just to reiterate: serving at 5-2 for the championship, getting broken, Murray holding serve, and Novak, who finally feels comfortable getting the fans involved at his first MP, getting ready to celebrate, plays some of the most conservative tennis he’s ever played. He just waited for Andy to commit another UE. Murray obliged. Wasn’t exactly a dominant conclusion.

He finally closed it out. Well done, Djokovic. You earned your embrace of La Coupe des Mousquetaires. You continue to win and the numbers (the championships) say it all.

Of course, this seems like a celebration that should have happened a while ago.

Take a glance at his history at the FO. At 18 years of age, in 2005, he lost 2R (retired vs Coria); the following year he made it to the QF (2006), retiring v Nadal down two sets 4 and 4 – which I would say is some good tennis until the retirement). After that: SF (’07), SF (’08), 3R (’09), QF (’10), SF (’11), F (’12), SF (’13), F (’14) and F (’15). That is a long wait for a guy who has been very competitive there for over 10 years.

This is where that term “earned” comes into play. I think the championship match yesterday was below average tennis from both players (Novak got going in the 2nd and 3rd, but Andy was out there playing pretty inefficiently, predictably), but Novak “earned” this trophy as a kind of life-time achievement, more or less like Roger in 2009. To say things like luck (one’s draw or his opponent’s draw), etc., is some kind of fanatic’s rambling expression.

To bring up those numbers only highlights how difficult is this major and how ironic that he doesn’t win one until his 12th try, despite the fact that it’s probably his best surface. Think about it.

And the reason this is the case is because those years correspond to the clay reign of you-know-who.

So, he wins the elusive FO. He has 12 majors, he just turned 29, and there really isn’t a single player on tour who will be able to consistently challenge the Serb.

After last year’s FO, I wrote about the disappointment of that loss to Stanimal. I tried to explain how he missed a huge opportunity to enter into that elevated discussion of greatness. He was at 8 majors. He had had a tendency to lose these big matches, these finals. He was 8-8 in finals at that point, FO 2015.

Obviously the summer and here into 2016 has been an incredible run. He has won the next four majors and counting (12-8).  In that earlier post I’m pretty sure I said this will most likely prevent him from reaching the teens in Major wins. He was stuck at 8, presumably and had this terrible pattern of losing on these big stages, enough to say he might not run-off 4-6 in a row (or more!).

What a difference a year makes. If I have to say so now: he catches Federer’s mark of 17 majors. I just don’t see how he doesn’t aside from injury. Or perhaps if he has a big let down now (which is what I predicted in my 2016 predictions – win AO and FO and have a let down with WB only a month out AND the Olympics, etc.). But if you think about it, he’s too obsessed. This is too important to him. He has so much momentum. I say he has another 2 years AFTER 2016 of serious contention at all four majors. He ends 2016 with 13 or 14 and then two more years of serious threats, with that strong mental and physical game. He figures it out. How doesn’t he?

Congratulations to Novak and his family and to his people back home and abroad. We know how important this is to that country and its citizens. Brilliant national pride that one has to respect and appreciate.

As for the “fans” of Novak, the fanboys and girls that pick certain players to root for and create websites and blogs about, this is a different kind of stew. Or let me put it this way: it’s not tennis analysis. Don’t confuse the two. Can analysis get affiliated with certain perspectives? Sure. This is called one’s school of thought among other things.

But over the next day or so, I will dive into the GOAT discussion (hysteria) that has accompanied this FO win. As one can see from this post and many more like it, I have great respect for Novak and his tennis, but I will, in my usual way, complicate the discussion that is roaring from the wet lips of his fanboys and girls.

Of course, grass is getting underway, so we’ll keep an eye on those events, as well.

Until then, thanks for reading!

16 comments

  1. A well rounded write up, and I agree with most of your points. After the second set I stopped watching, I knew the Novak complex had kicked in for Murray, there was no point in wasting sunlight, there is a beautiful river 30 km from where I live, the day was enjoyed fishing for rainbow trout instead.

    As for Novak, congratulations are due, it was a long journey, but with the current state of the ATP, it was somewhat inevitable he had to snatch the FO some day and while this win isn’t spectacular considering his joke of a draw, as you say one could say that he in the end “earned” it by staying fit and outlasting the other greats.

    As far as Novak’s fans and supporters are considered, nothing wrong with some national pride, blind pride on the other hand is a whole other can of worms, which needn’t be discussed on a forum mostly dedicated to the sport of tennis. Some of the things I felt were bitter to swallow was when Murray was serving out the first set, you could clearly hear these clowns shouting “pederu” (gay) to Murray, not a crowd I would be proud of, but alas it is what it is.

    Looking forward to your next dissection of the GOAT debacle, I think we share the same views on that too, and is a reason why I broke my radio silence whilst following your blog for some time now, keep up the good work Matt!

  2. Caligula: a bit bitter are we? Yeah i know these fans. Fedfans are great, just watch usopen15. Earned by outlasting the greats? Hahaha. Nole is a superior claycourter to federer (just count the big clay titles). Novak has straightsetted nadal on RG. Federer could only win when the swede stopped nadal. Easy draw….bla bla bla biterness.

    O yeah….4 in a row! First ever(!!!!) on 3 different surfaces.

    Which leads me to matt. You wrote a nice novakpost a while ago which is why i started following this blog. Very quickly to my surprise I find you to be a huge fedfan trying to relativize novaks achievements (I still follow though…it gives me a kick).

    But Matt ffs are you kidding me??? Honestly?? Not mentioning (and analyzing) the most dominant feat in tennis since we landed on the moon?? 4 in a row? Does it hurt that much that Novak is doing amazing things not even federer was able to do?

    1. I think the blog you are looking for is called the “Ultimate Djokovic Blog”, there you will find someone willing to agree with your hysteric perception of the sport.

    2. Lol. Pretty big words there, Bottle.

      You’re going to come at me with this tone on behalf of either A) not seeing enough Djokovic love and/or B) not knowing what in the hell you’re talking about?

      Here’s a little homework assignment: explain how I’m a “Fedfan” (whatever the hell that is) and explain how I’ve hurt your Novak feelings. Not enough exclamation points for you? You think I’m a Novak hater? Lol.

      You’re making a fool of yourself, bud. Thanks for reading.

      Keep reading.

  3. Ouch that stung. Damn I am so sad now. Almost as much as Novakslam stings for you.

    Your denial caligula is hysterical. But I must give it to you…you are actually right. What nole has done is hystericly crazy big.

    Thanx for the tip, but I already follow Ruans blog. Its great. I also like this blog. Because i can handle opinions that differ from mine.

    Ahh well…considering things, maybe you should take a break from tennis. A cuople of years…it will be tough for you

      1. I dont know if it was missed but my second comment was an answer to caligula not an answer to your respons Matt.

        Well fair enough Matt. But in terms if not being a fedfan or biased should not a tennisfan mention the noncalender year grandslam. Objectivly its hugeeee. Or if i am wrong plz educate me.

      2. Sigh…..In the whole post he mentioned Federer in one place as how he earned title as he did in 2009…And another place is stating Novak could likely catch his records and you accuse him as Fedfan?? Looks like more mad because Matt hasn’t hailed Novak in post for winning all four major same time….Looks like you are toast until kneel down and agree Novak is the Xavier of tennis world…

        Good read Matt as usual…

  4. Congratulations to Novak on his FO victory. Indeed, the match was true to our recent Novak v Murray Grand Slam narrative – Andy’s initial fight, Nole finds his groove, out pops the cheese grater and begins grating Murray’s Masdam wheel of resistance down to a slither. Maybe time for a Lendl reunuion?

    Credit to Novak for getting the job done. Despite his nervousness at the end I still believe the Serb has grown his ‘Big-shot-Rob’ clutch abilities.

    I wonder with the firm establishment of defensive baseline tennis could we see a reaction to this? Will the sport pivot and courts be tweaked to start moving towards attacking tennis again? The ol’ S&V renaissance. We shall see what the tennis gods decree.

    p.s. In regards to the GOAT debate: we all have our secret favs, we weigh up the pros and cons of each and dissect it for consumption. All in all, there plenty of aspects to enjoy. A little GOAT feta, some GOAT in the Gouda style or Chabis GOAT. We’re lucky to be able to appreciate all these served on the platter.

    1. Right on, RJ. Yeah the GOAT discussion is often a ruse to make it sound like you know tennis. Full of selective memory and flawed statistical analysis.

      In the end, a definitive perspective is futile.

      But as I have said in the past, it requires people to do some analysis, study the game, its history, etc.

      What Novak is doing is remarkable. No doubt.

  5. Bottle, you’re saying I made no mention, no appreciation of what he’s accomplished in this last year, culminating with the FO win? That’s garbage. One has to say “Novak Slam”? Get the F outa here.

    If you need some Novak candy go read my assessment of the Rome QF (three posts that might give you joy?) or several other posts through out the year. That I have to explain this is a joke.

    You don’t get it. Hope you’re enjoying the blog.

    1. @nambi: i have followed this blog since matt did a guestpost at ruansblog. Also I was one of the first commenters on this blog. I am very well aware of what matt is writing. And I also have a pretty good idea what he thinks of nole,fed and nadal.

      @matt: cmon man, you act like a politician trying to avoid a central question. Romepost?? Yes i read it. It has absolutely nothing to do with completing a non calender year grand slam. You can call it a trumpslam if you will. Or just 4 in a row. The point and question remains. Shouldn’t you have mentioned the fact that Novak holds all 4 GS. And put it in historical context.

      Pretty easy. Either it is not a big thing (plz someone say its not a big thing because it will speak tons of your character). Or it is a huge deal and if you are objective you write about

      1. Ha ha ha. Your semantic bullshit is fanboy 101.

        You’re making a fool of yourself.

        I don’t run a cult here, Bottle. We don’t have to chant certain expressions or “truths” to evidence our loyalty.

        Ha ha ha. Stick around.

  6. @bottle All I am saying is, its you who picked your own battle calling Matt as FedFan and calling names on Caligula for merely pointing out what some clowns did wrong..He didn’t even mentioned about Federer there, so What it has to do with FedFans in 15 USO? Going by that logic 16 FO is fairly pro-Novak crowd which is also wrong?? Whether you like it or not, crowd picks their favorite just live with it either case….As far as Caligula’s point I see nothing wrong in pointing that out(shouting pederu), regardless whose fans, its low….

    These for sure looks like Fanboysm rather than other way around as accused…….Whole world revolves around Federar and his fans even when Novak wins Carrier slam and holding all four???? if you believe last year’s draw costed Novak’s title, then you can not call bitter as someone for pointing out easier draw…

    Its not very hard to understand these things in perspective…I would say there could be much better way for discussions…

What say you?