Doha has gone according to plan although as I tuned-in today Djokovic limped into a 2nd set TB with Verdasco, already down a set. The TB started-off and Djokovic proceeded to go down 2-5 on a point that looked very much like a guy throwing-in the towel. He then faced five MPs. Five. Verdasco has to somehow live with himself after not being able to shut that door on world #2. Unreal, watching a guy just die at the door-step like that. The Spaniard’s potent BL game became a weekend warrior at the club just happy to sip iced-teas and play with his pals. Wow. He had four MP at 6-2, Djokovic brought it back to 6-6 and Verdasco
was able to find one final MP, yet he still couldn’t close the deal. Well done to the Serb for surviving. Need less to say, the Serb’s draw has been pretty easy (though Fernando can bring it) and he looks just OK. Then again saving those MP is a good sign for the former world #1.
Murray had a tougher draw, but has managed pretty well. He has played a few TBs himself. The straights victory over Berdych today (3 and 4) has to feel pretty good going into a final against Novak.
The final has to favor Murray only because of Novak’s Djokollapse just a few months ago, the final installment coming in a H2H against the Brit. Novak can help right the ship for sure with a Doha crown, but Murray must be feeling pretty good.
Djokovic still looks weakened, tired. I don’t see any hint of the invincibility he had a year ago. Having said that, saving MPs like that is vintage Djokovic. That’s what I thought he might be able to employ against Stan in the USO final or Murray in the WTF final. I will always remember Djokovic for being a warrior with a great clutch gene, a player who musters the goods when it counts. There was a bit of that today vs. the Spaniard, but overall he looks quite beatable. We shall see. I like Murray in the final, but a Serb victory wouldn’t surprise one bit only because Djokovic has to be playing with a bit of desperation at this point. A Murray win would be pretty tough on the Djokovic camp.
Elsewhere, Nishikori was indeed tested by American teen Donaldson (I mentioned it would be a test in my preview). Kei was actually in trouble in the 2nd, down a set. He now has a date with Stan in one Brisbane SF while Raonic, who predictably took care of Nadal, is set to play the surging Dimitrov, another call I made, simply based-on his late 2016 form. Dimitrov took care of Thiem in three. I am eager to watch the Raonic v Dimitrov SF.
Federer, as we know, lost to Zverev at the Hopman Cup. Seemed like deja-vu, from the German’s upset at 2016 Halle. All we can say is the Express is en route to Melbourne and has played some fairly competitive tennis in preparation. Speaking of, Roger just bread-sticked Gasquet in their first set, so we can chew on that baguette for a bit. Roger breaking serve should be the headline. His return of serve and BH seem to be the most concerning. Then again, at least he’s healthy.
I think we see the athletes we’ll be talking about in the early part of this season, possibly making a bit of noise at the year’s first major: Andy, Novak, Milos, Stan, Kei, along with Thiem, Dimitrov, and Nadal. Beyond them, Bautista Agut seems to be continuing his form in China along with hopefully some Hopman Cup vibes from the likes of Zverev, Sock, Kyrgios, and Federer. Pouille had to withdraw from his match with young Brit Edmund, but both of these players can hopefully find some big tennis form for Melbourne.
As for Cilic, keep-up the good work, pal.
Over-all, looking good, folks. Big match tomorrow in Doha and let’s see if Stan can find enough tennis to get himself into a final to play the winner of Dimitrov/Raonic (a Milos v Kei final would not surprise me one bit).