Consequently, here we are at the great eight of the 2016 Wimbledon men’s draw. From my point of view, everything is still intact, as Djokovic’s drop in form was predicted and reiterated several times on this blog. This has less to do with insight than it does common sense. Watching his tennis last week only added to my prediction as his game and the genuine grass are not a perfect match. Furthermore, given the calendar (time between slams), events and his history in Paris, Djokovic couldn’t maintain his separation. Despite the fanboys declaring that he was the best ever, erase the history of the game, I couldn’t quite bring myself to champion the flavor of that tennis psychosis.
Referring back to my previous post, I respectfully disagreed with Annacone, Courier and the rest of the TV pundits on Novak’s early form.
Even his first rounder was chalk full of awkward movement, sloppy hitting and remarkable runs of parody between the Englishman Ward and the world #1. I didn’t see his “cruising” as the great Courier called it, with that overly relaxed and condescending demeanor of his. In another sitting between commentators on the American dominated Tennis Channel, Bill Macatee was lobbing the Djokovic is under-appreciated topic around the bunch and he even added how such subdued recognition is really tough to explain given the extraordinary depth of the tour.
Sorry, I don’t see the same game as these puppets. These are the people I called-out last year who said Serena is the GOAT. Sure, I was questioning her dominance at 34 years of age, but I was really wondering why NO ONE was wondering out loud about the banana land human anatomy lesson we were being given (or the complete disaster that is the WTA). It was all hyperbolic bullshit from this mainly American punditry.
Same thing here. The ATP field is not deep, nor did Novak look that good on the grass. I would argue that his game is not ideal for the grass, especially the lush grass, which is quite different from the dried-out, hardened courts that often grace the second week of the tournament, especially in recent years.
This is a shot-maker’s surface, a tennis that invites the fully developed arsenal of serve and volley, spin, nuance, tricky footing, etc. There is a reason why for most tennis fans (some of whom might have left the game or the planet by now) the best all time are Laver, Borg, Sampras and Federer. Why? Their grass mastery is a pretty telling criterion. Sure, Wimbledon has all the tennis history and aristocracy, but the grass game itself really lends itself to full fluency of the game. Djokovic is a tremendous grass courter, but I think his game is better suited for more of a harder-hitting baseline game.
Last year Anderson had him on the ropes, a big serving bloke a lot like Querrey. So, what is it? The big serve troubles the Serb? Like I’ve said many times before (the lunacy of this situation), Sampras might have given Novak a bit of trouble on this surface, among others 😉
So, I did see a dip in form from the Serb following an emotional FO, a major he had to have. And he finally got it (remember: clay might be his best surface).
He is out of this championship a few rounds before I suspected, but he’s gone. And to summarize what I just wrote, I think this will be a tough tournament for him moving forward. Becker, in my humble opinion, did a lot to help him secure the last two WB, and thanks too should be extended to an old, error prone Swiss.
This brings us back to the 2016 draw. Let’s take a look.
QF #1 Raonic v Querrey
I did not see much of Raonic’s tennis, but I did tune-in just as he lost the second set to Goffin. McEnroe and the rest of his box looked like him on the court – bewildered. Raonic’s serve was ineffective and even when he did land one and charge the net, Goffin was making him pay.
I watched as the Canadian began to find his game and go up an early break in the third before I departed. Not that surprised that he came back, only because I see his game as a great deal more lethal than the Belgian’s. Raonic should beat Querrey but we have to respect the American’s serve and his little run here where he knocks off Novak and actually consolidated that by beating Mahut in three. I remember the American playing well early in the year, landing that huge serve and making the SF at Memphis and winning the Delray Beach Open. Having said all of that, Raonic should advance.
QF #2 Federer v Cilic
You know what I think of Cilic, right? I have brought up this guy’s 2014 USO win several times on this blog as an utter joke. Go look at his career numbers. Really not much of a threat ever, then he wins the USO and is suddenly hurt, misses the 2015 AO and throw-in a drug suspension along the way. He has never backed-up this remarkable achievement, of winning in NYC like that.
Having said that, I would not be shocked if he beats Roger. I have seen literally about five points from Cilic in this tournament, but he seems to be hitting the ball really well, cruising, as we like to say. Granted, he hasn’t really played anyone and Nishikori retired early, but I still think the Croatian could be tough. Big serve helps a lot, as we know.
Likewise, Federer has not seen any real threat at all and what I have seen hasn’t been too impressive. I saw a little more confidence in his Evans match, but tough to make too much of that. I will add that I suspected Johnson to give Federer more trouble since he’s decent and recently won Nottingham. But Roger made quick work of him, which is good for the Federer camp, but still not the most telling development.
With our nod to the big picture, the history at stake, if Roger loses, he’s missed a grand opportunity to go deep here and even make a final without the Serb to contend with. There are many, I am sure, who see this as Andy or Roger’s tournament now. But it’s not that simple. Roger has a tough QF to deal with. We will look at the SF after this next round, but most likely a very confident Raonic will be awaiting the winner of this match. I will lean Roger in this match, but his 2016 grass resume isn’t a big boost of confidence.
I will add, in closing, that if the conditions continue to be tricky, Roger should have more of an advantage. His footwork has always been his snake in the grass, so to speak, against lesser opponents, and the cooler, damper conditions could raise the value of his balletic game. But we’re in our mid-thirties here, folks. Tough to expect too much from the old Maestro.
QF #3 Berdych v Pouille
I like Berdych here in that he has had success at this tournament and he looks pretty strong. I did see him break the will of Zverev. The two big hitters went toe-to-toe and Berdych turned the youngster away pretty emphatically. I know Pouille is playing well, and most likely I am overlooking this French youngster (good to see another youngster making noise here, backing-up his run at the FO last month), but I like the Czech to advance.
QF #4 Murray v Tsonga
Sure I said that Kyrgios could beat Murray but that’s something I should have kept to myself. Waiting for the Aussie to do something is just about overcooked, burnt, and discardable.
At the same time, it’s Murray’s form we need to take more stock in. He is absolutely poised to win this tournament. Lendl, as he did to so many courts on which he played, is dictating the proceedings, this time from the box like it’s his pulpit. I, like many of you, see this as the Scot’s to lose. He’s in front of his home crowd, he’s payed his dues (oh my has he ever), he’s matured, seemingly, and he’s got Lendl (which means massive purpose) back in his box.
Tsonga could be tough, none the less. Two sets down and he comes back to beat Isner 19-17 in the fifth? I did not watch this marathon, but have seen him come back from down two at WB before. We know the Frenchman can be focused, tough, can handle the grass, etc. Let’s hope for a good battle between this two for sure. But Murray should continue his march.
Until the SF preview, enjoy the tennis. And don’t let the conspiracy trolls affect your sobriety (let something more tasty do that). Such is the disposition of the fanboys: the establishment wanted Djokovic out. Lol.