Follow-up to My “Novak is Doomed” Article

Did any of you think that I was saying in that article a few days ago that Novak would never win another major? That THAT was the end of Novak in Flushing Meadows at the hands of Stan the Man?

Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.

i really wanted to underscore how big of a loss that was for the Serb in his quest for all-time greatness. IMHO, he really needed that USO (for his count and his USO clout, which I also expounded upon).

Here’s where we are. . . (and we do have a lot of tennis history to refer to more or less as we make these inferences while taking into consideration that certain trends are being up-ended, certain spells broken, i.e., history being re-written by the very likes of guys like Stan Wawrinka, 31 years of age, from whom Novak received his latest USO beating). . .

Novak is essentially 30 years old; he turns 30 at the 2017 French Open.

On the one hand, 30 is a very symbolic age in the life a male professional tennis player. This we know as a quasi-tennis truth. If you have kids or turn 30, sayonara. That’s just what happens. The youth of the sport is coming for you, you’re maturing, having babies, celebrating big milestone birthdays (30), and the hangover is just too much (from the babies too, mind you) to maintain that highest level of tennis you had when you were collecting major trophies.

But we also know that tennis players with their 21st century nutrition and equipment have and will become exceptions to these trends.

Still, here is the age of some of the recent greats when they won their last major:

Agassi actually is the current model of longevity (not Ken Rosewall who won his last AO at the age of 37 many many years ago). Agassi, who got very bald and very good late in his career, won his last AO when he was 32 years old. That’s pretty much, correct me if I’m wrong, the biggest major exception to the quasi truth (rule).

Pistol Pete, who quit tennis (only God knows what that guy could have hung-on and done if he was as motivated as an Agassi or Federer late in his career), won his last major when he was 31.

Roger, believe it or not, was 30 when he won his final major, 2012 Wimbledon. Sure he’s remained relevant and dangerous the last couple of years, but he was 30 when he grasped #17.

Stan, whom everyone wants to hold responsible for this new-age history-smashing longevity, won his 2014 AO when he was 28, his FO when he was 29, and because of his March birthday, 31 at this most recent USO. So Stan is in Sampras territory. The rules still apply, really.

What this means is Novak, who turned 29 at the French this year, where he pulled-off the Novak-slam, will be obviously 29 during his beloved AO, but then hit the big THREE OH at the French only to follow that up with WB and the USO as a 30 year-old tennis great.

I do these little hypotheticals in my head in my sleep. We are looking at Pete and Rafa (14 majors) and the Fed Express (17). Play this out with me. Novak really has to win the AO, imho. And asking him to win his 7th is big. He probably wins his 7th, will be the odds-on favorite to do this; BUT I would only say that he needs to win for him to continue to climb that mountain the way a lot of people assume he will.

After the 2017 AO he’s staring at 30 and the other three majors in which he’s been less than masterful unless you want to count reaching SF and F. He has six titles amongst those last three majors of the year. Of course that’s amazing, but remember the greatness context.

Rolling into the FO next late-spring, turning 30, and trying to repeat there will be anything but easy or a given. Will he be the favorite? Probably. This all assumes he’s healthy; no doubt that I’m picking him if he’s in form coming out of the European clay calendar.

But imagine the tour next spring. Folks, despite the lack of championship leadership on the ATP “leaderboard,” there are hungry professionals still looking to take what Novak has. That we can be assured of.

Bottomline: history says that the clock is ticking fairly loudly in the Novak camp. If you think I’m crazy, please do submit your remarks.

No surprises around here. That’s one of our mottos. Novak, like I said in that last post about his trajectory, has played a TON of big tennis. The guy has to be feeling this. Rafa is toast and Roger, despite his old (still) beautiful game, hasn’t won a major, we all know this number, in, essentially, five years. That’s half of a decade. Oh but, remember, just last year he was playing at his career peak according to some Novak Fanboys (LOL). Edit: the idea that because Roger said 2015 was better than ever, we therefore have enough evidence to believe this is like asking a New York Knicks fan if the Knicks are going to be good this (or any) year. Not a ton of objectivity. And in Roger’s case, the case of a great athlete, they think they can beat death.

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Elsewhere, on the Davis Cup front, Argentina and Juan Martin are probably the biggest news. Del Potro continues to shine in these 2016 high-stakes matches (Olympics, USO) after what was simply tennis tragedy; we all hope he continues this return to major championship relevancy. Taking-out Murray is perhaps surprising given Murray’s 2016, his ranking, etc., but we know Murray and we know Del-Po. Del Potro is a player with massive championship mettle. Murray is Murray. With Lendl he’s a threat, but even then we saw him stumble in both Cincy and in NYC where he seemed the obvious Novak substitute at the trophy ceremony. Lastly, on Del Potro, imagine if he gets that BH back, to compliment one of the games biggest and best FH. He’s just keeping the points alive, more or less, with that cut and the occasional weaker THBH that really doesn’t resemble his mid-to-late 2000’s artillery. Keep going, Gentle Giant. We’re all rooting for you.

The Cilic-led Croatian team vs. the Del Potro-led Argentines should be pretty nice big-boy tennis. Cilic is certainly showing his ability to rise-up. Big win over France.

Looking ahead, Novak’s foil (whose name is not spelled A-G-E) will be those boys we call Murray, Del Potro (with continued health and progress),Wawrinka, Cilic, Raonic, Nishikori and the handful of youngsters who on the rare occasions in the past have seemed somewhat poised to crash this party (Thiem, Kyrgios ((not really but I’ll still say his name because of the weight of some of those FHs, especially)), Pouille ((now)), various teenagers, etc.).

That’s the theme of this Asian swing and pre-WTF tennis we have before us. I’m not buying that it’s the Murray chasing #1 story; give me a break.

Someone pass a little espresso through the ATP “peloton.” Let’s get crazy!

10 comments

  1. Novak is not winning AO2017, I am calling it right now! 😛

    Murray is just Murray, I loved that remark Matt! So true, and yes the lunatic spouting that Federer 2015 was at his top level, can we finally put the straight jacket on that blogger?

    I am thrilled watching Del-Po beating the shit out of (almost) everyone, such a great player, one of my favorite players of this era (2005 and up), let’s hope he stays injury free and keeps winning, because if that guy didn’t get injured, I truly believe he would have had at least 3 slams under his belt, take the 2009 Del-Po and put him against any version of Djoker/Murray, and a prime 2009 Del-Po can beat them any day of the week.

    A good read Matt, keep’em coming!

    1. He was beating Fedal back in the day as well, such as the 2009 USO double-header: SPANKING Rafa in the SF and ruining Fed in the F.

      Imagine the kind of damage he could have done 09-16 if he’s stayed healthy.

What say you?