WTF SF Outlook

We have a final match still to play in the RR stage of the WTF, but the SF are starting to shape-up and look pretty interesting.

Murray and Djokovic have handled their business in their first two matches. I have seen just a bit of the tennis, catching some of the Murray v Nishikori today and seeing a bit of Djokovic v Thiem on day 1. We don’t need to see much to know how this thing should develop with the Final most likely drawing Murray v Djokovic for WTF champion and world #1. This should go according to plan, those two reaching the final, and it’s anyone’s guess who would win this much anticipated championship, the difficulty in that Murray has had form for weeks and weeks, but Djokovic should have an advantage in h2h he can use along with his historical success at the WTF. murray_novak

Not surprisingly, Monfils has pulled-out, so Djokovic’s final RR match is against David Goffin, a WTF alternate. The Frenchman is a piece of work; he shows a flair for the game, perhaps, but his ATP 250 stock is so out of place in these deeper waters of big boy tennis. He continues to not-shine in these moments where one can dig deep and add much joy and integrity to the sport. I spotted a quote of his where he hoped Murray would win the WTF. I don’t care to confirm this (don’t care). He’s wasting an incredible opportunity (in the USO, at the WTF, etc.) to make more of name for himself, treat the game with respect. Word is he’s dealing with injured ribs sustained in Stockholm. I suspect his elimination from the SF has a bit more to do with this withdrawal than an “injury.”

The other “injured” player also resides in the Lendl group, one Milos Raonic. He withdrew from the Paris final, we recall, with what I’d heard was a torn quad. Yet he seems to be holding his own here in London with a chance to advance to the SF with a win over Thiem in their final RR match. Is Raonic injured? Perhaps someone can catch him and Monfils at the pub, eavesdrop for some injury update.

The Murray v Wawrinka match could be interesting, with Stan playing his usual incredible bulk and the entire tennis world waiting for him, or someone or something to trigger and unleash the monster, the Stanimal. We suspect that Murray, with a much needed day-off after today’s marathon with Kei, will finish Stan and reach his SF 3-0. If that plays-out, Nishikori should claim the group runner-up and advance to the other SF, where he would most likely play Djokovic.

Who wins Raonic v Thiem? We suspect Milos to stave-off injury and advance.

SF – Murray v Raonic

SF – Djokovic v Nishikori

This is how the final four should go down.

From what I’ve seen, Murray does look the strongest of the field. Djokovic riddling Thiem after that first set TB was very impressive, and beating a “healthy” Raonic in two TB was definitely what the Becker ordered, but Murray just looks strong.

I remember watching the 2016 Wimbledon SF of Raonic v Federer, seeing Fed lay another egg in a match you would think he could will his way to a win and another Final at the The Centre Court. Be that as it may, Raonic had a look; the genius of McEnroe was lifting him into the tennis pantheon, consolidating his AO SF where he was outplaying Murray before an “injury” ended that run. This was the next stage of the ascension of Milos.

Murray spanked him in the final and it dawned on me, watching this Murray v Raonic final, that Murray is just stronger than Raonic, and Federer and just about everyone else on tour. Djokovic’s fall in level and energy (and whatever else) has certainly enhanced the Brit’s rise, but Murray completely controlled the points v Raonic in that WB final and I had to admit, despite the much more defensive style of tennis (especially compared to Federer in the SF), he was hitting the ball so much deeper, harder, more consistent, stronger.

Here’s a fact that you might already know, but in this context of the 2016 season, this WTF, the race for #1, and looking ahead to 2017 I find interesting: Murray is a week older than Djokovic. Indeed.

So this speaks to what I said after the USO, where I began to surmise bigger dips for the Djoker: The Serb is younger than Murray in terms of the calendar, but he’s got a lot more wear-and-tear on that body than does Andy.

And he seems a bit more emotional, recently. Hitting a ball into the stands and sparring with the press seems a bit rattled. He showed some of this in the last few months. That’s a bit of worry I think for the Djoker. His composure is critical to his success.

In my WTF preview I said I liked Djokovic to win this and reclaim #1, counting on his back-to-the-wall/depth-of-soul championship fight.

Murray, however, does look strong. His win today v Nishikori was a huge stepping-stone, dropping that first set TB and coming back to win two tight sets in a grueling test of tennis distance. Watching each save set points, grind-out holds, extend rallies. . .really classic stuff. Nishikori is no joke. Big win Murray. Again, Stan could rise-up as he is a win away from a possible SF, but I suspect Murray’s consistency and determined tennis to complete the 3-0 sweep.

Part of my disbelief in Djokovic’s loss of confidence is the way his style should make such a dramatic dip rare (and given Djokovic’s last few years, the dips are rare). But his great return-of-serve and solid baseline game has margins for error. He doesn’t have a OHBH that comes and goes; he plays a solid all-around game. That’s one of the reasons Murray does look so good. You know he’s not going anywhere in these matches. He’s going to play his ass-off, defend #1, on his home turf (practically) and his tennis makes this almost a lock that he’ll do very well. He serves well, defends the hell out of his opponent’s serve, his ball striking is very solid, and he’s running a lot of stuff down, looking like a pretty spry 29. We’ll see if the younger/older 29 can advance, as well, and the two meet in a thing of finals beauty.

Will the real 29 year-old please stand?

That seems to be the nub of this end of the year clash of the titans. 

What say you?