QF and SF Action at the AO

Do I wish I was sitting court-side for many of these matches and interviewing, reporting and analyzing the action daily, hourly? You bet your life I do. But I have a damn job (that I love) and a small family (that I love and keeps me honest), so some of my commentary gets delayed a bit. My bad, but you understand.

There is so much to discuss with regards to some of the developments in the 2017 Australian Open. I have to postpone some macro analysis of the sport that actually has me pretty excited. The collapse in the 2017 AO of Murray and Djokovic resonates historically. Having guys like Johnny Mac call matches involving guys like Mischa Zverev resonates historically and culturally.

Stay-tuned. I will soon, as promised, put a wrap on the HRFRT series, and will then advance another argument involving much of these same players  – of this massively misread era we’re smelling the end of.

AO QF Play

The big question is what happens in the Raonic v Nadal match tonight. Raonic should win that match. Nadal, physically, doesn’t have enough to go deep with a big serve and hitter like Raonic. I am not even crazy about Raonic’s overall game, but he made the SF last year and so long as he’s healthy, he should dispose of the Spaniard. He even beat Nadal a couple of weeks ago in Brisbane, in 3 sets mind you, but still. Raonic is 2-2 H2H vs. Nadal in their last four meetings (Nadal is 6-2 overall). In the end, if Raonic can keep his body intact, he should advance.

But the witchery of Nadal could rear its ugly head in this last QF match. We know the differences between guys like Federer and Nadal. Nadal’s deliberate, violation-ridden, rafael-nadalsnail-paced tennis routine could probably bore the heavens into submission (Lendl, on the other hand, would have walked stoically around the net, kicked Nadal’s bottles aside and slapped the bulky bloke in the side of the head had he had to wait for some of this awkwardly twitchy tennis to resume between points and games). Roger’s quick, fluid tennis offers so much more to the tennis population and universe for that matter. Roger’s form has been, per usual, a thing of beauty (at 35 there is so much to say about this development, as well, but you should see that I have been purposefully quiet about the Maestro’s run to another major SF).

Nadal could beat Raonic simply because he has the will and the stamina to go five (though you and I know he’s not the same beast he was) and make Raonic miss enough trying to swat at those slices and Nadal’s crafty mix of weakly short and still dangerously deep ground strokes with an accompanying net play that even S&V folk respect, from a distance.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is Raonic in a steamroller. This one, as long as Raonic is healthy, is all mental. He has to put-up with the idiosyncratic Nadal on a huge stage where Nadal has support and momentum. Nadal, like most of these guys, is feeling pretty excited about the chance to steal a major with #1 and #2 gone fishing. How much does the Moya factor play into this? Should not. Raonic needs to S&V and hit those little pink lifts Rafa calls shoes off the court.

But we can expect some complication in that endeavor.

Dimitrov v Goffin should be an interesting match. Good on the Belgian for this run to a potential SF at a major. I only saw the beginning of his match with Thiem, but we called that a toss-up at the time. Dimitrov looked in trouble against Istomin.

My inclination is to see the Bulgarian face the winner of Raonic v Nadal. Again, what seems pretty clear for anyone to see is the fact that Nadal can have is way mentally over both Raonic and Dimitrov. I find that very hard to fathom, but already this seems to be a bit of circus down in Melbourne. A Fedal final would be, quite simply, incredible.

First SF

Stan looks good, if you ask me. He’s kicking ass, with his customary scowl and playground antics in fine form. All of that aside, watching him turn the switch in these TBs is a good sign. Then again, Tsonga continues to disappoint. In that second set when Jo finally got the break, serving 4-3 but then lost his serve at love and the set 4-6, that was a wawrinka_getty1French white flag. I have never quite understood his lackadaisical tennis. He has so much raw and natural talent and game to beat anyone, on occasion at least, but this was just another chapter of the story of Tsonga. I was pulling for him, but the Stanimal may have just found a table, eaten Jo-Wilfried as an appetizer and awaits his two course entrée (SF and F) at the Melbourne café.

The odds makers have Roger over Stan, I’m pretty sure. The H2H is 18-3 and all of Stan’s wins have been on clay. Be that as it may, the power of Wawrinka and his 3-major confidence have to suggest that he wants this mentorship to take a break while the getting is good. Stan would have been dangerous against either Murray or Djokovic. Indeed, Stan continues to fly under the radar, a bit, but he has proven he can be unplayable deep inside these majors. Maybe Roger is a worse match-up for the younger Swiss.

I think we know how to read this: if Roger is hitting his passing shots like he was against the S&V of Zverev, continuing to hit those lanes and lines consistently, serve well, maintain that masterful footwork and avoid the run of errors from both sides, he should win, given his mental edge.

But I have been quiet on Roger’s run so far because to string together this many solid matches, coming off of an injury especially, seems a bit much for the old man. His match against Zverev was a master class. I’ve been watching a lot of tennis, so perhaps we can come back to some of these matches later; those of you who saw that QF, saw some pretty remarkable tennis.

I still do not like some of his rushed FH and the BH, though pretty solid at this point, seems a match or two away from going awry. He’s been pretty impressive, for sure.

Are the upsets and his form part of an “event”? We’ll see. The Wawrinka match is big. If he straight sets Stan like he did at the 2015 USO SF, think of the hype rolling into the F. But keep in mind how confident and fit Stan has become under the guise of Magnus. If you get Stan down, you better finish him. He has the five-set resilience and heavy artillery to take anyone out in devastating fashion.

Roger better be on his game. That’s all I’ll say.

So much more to write about given some the various story-lines from some of these individual matches. Like I said, there are some bigger story-lines, as well I look forward to getting my teeth into soon.

Enjoy the tennis!

What say you?