Dear, Reader . . .

I could have thanked the couple of readers in my previous post as the subject came up about people appreciating my blog, but I thought I’d write a post thanking them and anyone else who enjoys the blog (loved the big boost in readership during the AO. . .stick around! 😀

First and foremost, cheers to all who do visit and read, and if you do enjoy the discourse, the style of commentary (of blogging), awesome; that makes me feel really good – feel free to add your “two cents” to the mix; the more the merrier!

On this idea of readers’ appreciation, I have to be honest with you: I want to write about tennis every single day, travel, watch matches and talk about the tennis. Getting compensated for this would be ideal, so I will continue to write and think about ways to climb into the cockpit of that rocket ship. First, I need to get this blog in any way positive on the bank account. I am not a businessman first and foremost – I just like to analyze the sport and other events, cultural issues, etc. But I really do want to raise the stakes with my writing and my readership. I will continue to think about that when I have the time between work and writing, because those are my priorities (along with watching the boys hit the ball, of course 🙂

Any ideas you might have toward this end ($$$), please send them along. You can contact me via this link (one of the ways, as you know, is to leave a comment on a post).

I have some damn fine readers and commenters. You all make me smile and smarter at the same time. Keep the dream alive! And keep me honest. I really do appreciate the back-and-forth. That’s a big part of this social media, the blog.

Help me blow this thing up and make the tennis coverage and insight even better! Don’t be shy.

Caligula, his majesty, has been a steady stream of sharp commentary and I indeed appreciate his latest attempt to halt a post I might write about the incredibly “controversial” court speed of the ATP that he and I both know would be a shot across the bow of a special individual who needs our help. In fact, this insane Roman tyrant of whom I write did offer a nice cliff note on the discussion: the history of court surface evolution is actually pretty vague and, more importantly, not an issue one can really investigate with much hope of uncovering much definitive conclusions.

But I will investigate, not the specific idea of court speed difference necessarily, but what the AO offered us that has some correlation, I suppose (again, nailing down whether or not an auxiliary factor had much to do with the outcome of an event is tough to determine). The exit of two prominent base-liners coupled with the success of more all-courters has to recruit a few choice words for any brains awake on the genuine history of the sport, the importance of change, and the possibility that we get a chance to witness talent, above all.

So, I’ll explore that harbor, so to speak. Nonetheless, thanks for the advice, my friend Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus. I’m heeding your counsel to a certain extent, and was certainly lazy in even making such a suggestion at the end of that previous post. You called me on it. Fremitus! or Στην υγειά σας!

Cheers to the rest of you, as well (blackspy, Incondite, RJ, et al). Thanks!

Now, before I go: I read tonight a post by a “tennis purist” claiming that Federer’s win in Melbourne was certainly a result of doping. This guy really has two premises: there are drugs in the sport and winning big after a long lay-off is a red flag for doping.

I know, incisive stuff, right?

This guy should have a little more than that. Yeah, he’s an idiot, which might surprise him given that he takes himself so seriously. I, as you know, have a decent crap detector, and this guy is a steaming double or triple helping of bullshit.

He goes into an amateur’s history of doping and the flawed testing system. Fine, it’s flawed, yeah we’ve heard the anecdote about McEnroe, the Williams sisters’ and Nadal’s

Ha ha 😉

hacked files, etc., but this is all murky and stuff we’ve known about, which doesn’t tie anything to Federer, nor does it shed any light on the reality of drugs in sport. Federer is guilty by association, according to this “journalist.”

That’s garbage. Classic conspiracy theory.

The next argument comes from the Nadal model, coming off injury and reeling-off a huge win at a major. He then goes to the 2017 AO and walks us through all of the five-setters won by this ancient 35 year-old, etc. etc.

Ultimately, he argues, how can a guy who ran out of gas vs. Raonic at the 2016 WB SF after going five big ones vs Cilic in the QF then run through the likes of Nishikori (best five setter on the planet according to this guy’s statistical hemorrhoid), Stan (beast at Bo5) and then Nadal (the greatest Bo5er of them all), AFTER coming-off the extended injury time-off.

Aside from his entire agenda having the bias of a well-known fan-girl, I suggest that pointing-out the suspicion of a WB SF loss in 2016 followed by a 2017 AO is poor strategy if you want to win even some light applause from tennis intelligentsia or general readers, for that matter.

Federer was having a pretty rough 2016, for starters. He suffered a knee injury after the AO SF he lost to Novak; he had surgery. He didn’t play IW, Miami, missed some of the clay because of back injury, missed the FO (breaking a string of majors played dating back to AO 2000), and then found himself at WB after a little warm-up at Halle, where he lost to the younger Zverev. Coming into WB a little banged-up, perhaps? Strike you as relevant?

After the loss to Raonic, who was clearly relishing the service-friendly grass, mind you, Roger took the rest of the year off because of his knee, perhaps his back, etc. This wasn’t really shocking then, nor is this sequence of events shocking now, especially given some amateur’s wet dream.

Are you questioning the validity of his injuries? Good luck with that one. 2016 was injury plagued for Roger Federer. That’s the story I’m sticking to along with most of the other earthlings.

Then he opens 2017 at the Hopman Cup, and plays well, challenging some world class players like Evans, Gasquet and A. Zverev. This is followed by an historic run in Melbourne that saw a lot of pretty interesting upsets and runs from a few players. Was Roger’s run some kind of isolated “event”?

Wake-up, sporto. You can do better than that. Roger was doping, but Novak and Andy weren’t? Is that your explanation? Was Mischa Zverev jamming needles into himself, too? That guy came out of the clouds. What’s your explanation for that?

So here we are: Roger, a 35 year-old, goes on an incredible, difficult to fathom run that needs some kind of explanation, perhaps one that’s informed by WADA? You just can’t imagine Roger Federer going on such a run?

Even if in the last four majors he played, prior to AO 2017, consisted of these runs: SF WB (2016), SF AO (2016), F USO (2015) and F WB (2015)? These deep runs are a rarity from this Swiss guy? That’s your take? Who’s paying you?

It gets better. He really gets all frothy and aroused when talking about all the five-setters that Roger played. How in the world could this 35 year-old survive all of those longish matches and still overcome Nadal in a five-setter on top of that?!

He gets a little confused at this point. He assumes that the five setters are 5+ hours long. We are all impressed with Roger’s run, that he beat the likes of Berdych, Kei (5 sets), a surging Zverev and Stan (5 sets) on the way to beating Nadal (5 sets). This was nearly unheard of. Historical. Etc.

But this is what many miss: The Berdych match was 90min; Nishikori 3hr, 24; Zverev 92 min; Stan 3hr, 04; and Nadal 3hr, 37 min.

Sure that’s still a lot of tennis, but those are quick matches in the realm of five setters. That’s part of the genius of Federer’s tennis (not the genius of guys like Djokovic or Nadal). We saw this year the reminder of how tennis was and could be played by guys that want to just serve and ball all-court style. Settling at the BL and ripping/retrieving for five hours is not necessarily the only tennis (for those who are too young or slow to remember). That’s actually more drug suspicious tennis, mr. tennis media guy expert.

And I have already provided some pretty decent rationale for Federer’s run at the 2017 AO.

Is this guy (this voice) suggesting too that Kei, Stan and Co. took a fall for Federer? Give that guy some smelling salts or some O2.

He even included a quote from Andy Murray, who questioned some players’ stamina last spring in Monte Carlo, I believe. At least that’s where he was interviewed. Totally unrelated to Roger’s run at the 2017 Australian Open.

So this “journalist” has Federer on that “list.”


I have to write, folks, just to deal with this bizarro bullshit.

And I will be back to serve-up a reminder of the brilliance of all-court tennis, a little S&V and maybe throw some other picnickers under the bus.

Talk to you soon!

8 thoughts on “Dear, Reader . . .

  1. Tennisisthebest

    Yes! Put those stupid picnickers under the bus, Matt!! How can those articles even be published?!! Tennis purists, Pfft!! Don’t they have any shame?! For such superficial, simplistic, STUPID statements?!! Pfft! I was boiling when I read the article. And it is not even about Roger Federer. When will ppl ever get it that every time Roger Federer does something great, it is not always the Fedfans that delight over him?! That any sensible, reasonably experienced tennis fan would too. The man is a genius, for god’s sake. Why is it SO hard to bloody give him credit without trying so hard to find a fault? Popular as RF is, it seems there are tennis fans out there so bent on destroying him. I don’t get it. And that fan girl blog, don’t even get me started! You saw his response to the article?! The stupid bugger actually believe it?! Gosh! The stupidity is endless/mind blowing. How can anyone get so low and so out of it?!! And I am not even intelligent but just an average ordinary tennis fan. I wish more tennis fans can read your sensible and far more intelligent take on all things tennis related and especially on this fairy tale AO. It’s not all about RF. So many wonderful matches, match ups. Such wonderful variety. So much excitement. Unexpected results. Historical upsets. It had everything. Nothing was short changed at all. It was worth every cent; and more; for all fans who attended. What a grand slam. Bravo AO! Really hard act to follow for the rest of the slams and for many many years I believe; it truly is one for the history books. If this is because of a tiny increase in speed of the court, then I say, good on ya, Australia, keep it this way!! Nadal, the King of slow courts, got to the final. Djoker and Murray must have been tossing and turning on their beds the night before their losses, feeling the pea under their beds! Poor Princesses! And I’m a fan of the Big 5 (Djoker, Murray, Fed Nadal, Stan) lest anyone call me a Fedfanatic! That fan girl would, I’m sure, haha! It’s so good to just give it straight here, Matt! And hear it straight as well from you! Keep keeping tennis honest, sensible and intelligent, Matt!!


    1. Thanks, Tennisisthebest. I appreciate the kind words. Yeah, one of the biggest flaws in focusing on Roger’s AO is the circus that was going-on around him. There were several pretty big upsets and runs throughout the draw.

      Even more: if Roger had had to face Murray in the QF, Murray was not in top form and Roger has a good H2H with him, so a win there wouldn’t have been too shocking, at all.

      And finally: If Roger had faced Djoker in the final, Novak has been anything but unbeatable. Roger was dialed in, both mentally and physically with a BH for the ages. He kept the matches quick and short. A win over Djoker wouldn’t have been all that shocking either.

      People miss that Roger has been playing very well over the last few years, missing that mental sharpness and execution on a few pivotal points here and there. Clearly, he and Ivan have worked on that.


  2. Tennisisthebest

    Exactly, Matt! Roger got over his mental block, was refreshed, rested and did something about that bh (took him so bloody long!) and Ivan has got everything to do with that, I’m sure. Could have been Severin been at it but he was too much of a friend to RF and may not have that impact. When Ivan came in, I think Severin took opportunity to hammer it in when Ivan took it up. RF said Ivan and Severin told him it’s all mental and that it wasn’t his game. You would have thought Severin and any of his team before Ivan would have known that and advised him on it? Why only now RF takes it up? As you so astutely wrote about RF, he needs a tough coach, not one to stroke his genius. Edberg was inspiring and helped strengthen his net skills but he was too gentlemanly. RF needed a bit of dirt and warrior. Ivan filled that gap nicely. I also think Stan’s slam wins over Djokoer and Nadal, and especially winning USO ’16, sorta got RF thinking about his own bh when he saw how effective Stan’s was over his 2 nemesis. I think everything sort of collaborated and came together. But it needed Ivan to put it all together.

    And yes, I agree, that RF would have won it if he had faced both Murray and Djoker as they are both not in the best form and RF was playing into great form with a lot of confidence, freshness (especially in the mind). I think he would have straight setted Princess no. 1 and 4 or 5 setted Princess no. 2. It could even have been an easier final against Djoker whom RF doesn’t have as much mental garbage against and whose game has always matched up well with Djoker. And great point you picked up about RF being the master of quick matches. His 5 setters must be the shortest of all other players’ 5 setters I suspect. That is RF for you. It is such a delight to watch RF STILL fulfilling his potential, at such a late stage of his career! The man never fails to amaze and has still so much to give/show. Who would’ve thought, huh?! Ppl call him the perfect player. Now with the mental fragility and the “casualness” seemingly abandoned (love how you use that term, Matt, and that “beauty pageant is over” in your previous posts, haha, really good, Matt, so damn true!) and a bh for the ages, he has become an even more perfect player! Scary, huh?!! Haha! If he can physically hold it together, I can totally see him doing the calendar slam. That would shut up the fan girl finally for good, huh? Haha!

    I suspect we might be in for multiple slam winners this year. I have Stan/Rafa for FO, Roger/Murray/Dimi for Wimbledon (Yeah, love Mr Sharapova. Sort of given up on him but now, wow, what a turnaround this year. Credit to Vaverdu. It’s really a lot about the coaches, totally agree with you. Lendl, Becker, Magnus, Ivan, even Edberg and Annacone, etc. btw, It was under Ivan that Raonic improved/brought his game to another level, lest we forgot! Need we say more about super coaches! ) and USO I have Djoker/RF/Stan/new guy. However if Djoker gives a dismal showing in defending FO, then I say he wouldn’t win a slam this year. He went skiing after suffering from a shoulder injury in his Davis cup play. Tennis? What tennis? The guy has lost his motivation. And there is no Becker to keep him in check…


    1. Good stuff, TB.
      I think no question Stan’s success gives Federer confidence against those players (it certainly should!), but he still has to execute. With Nadal at AO, this may have come into play, but at the same time Nadal’s form is still not quite as manic as Nadal the younger. And we’ve talked about the Ivan factor. A lot going on, obviously. That’s life.

      Or we call it court speed and drugs. Incredibly weak, pre-pubescent commentary.

      The mystery man is still Novak. I agree with you that his road is littered almost permanently with doubt, coming upon 30, seemingly burnt, coaching an issue. We’ve brought-up his final record many times; at 12-9, he’s no spring chicken. Nadal is 14-7. I still snicker at the oversight of Sampras, 14-4 (and he somehow ran into a couple of buzz saws in USO finals v Safin and Hewitt); in my HRFRT series, I argue that one’s historical context heavily informs his/her goals, values, etc. Pete surpassed all of the greats, clay wasn’t really a “factor,” and he burned-out. Had he stayed more motivated, clearly a trend in today’s game with players playing into their 30s – many many players – he could have rattled off a few more majors.

      Back to Novak, he needs a 2017 FO or WB badly. Lots of pressure. Will be interesting to see how much he plays this spring.


  3. Caligula

    Dear Matt, I appreciate the kind words and I will always be here watching over this fine blog, lending my hand in protecting it from forces abroad with my tyrannical approach! I hope to fend off those who taint this sport with their stupid agendas and beyond childish fanaticism.

    As to how you could expand your tennis writing venture, I am afraid this is beyond my expertise. If only I knew some important people in the sport, beside my local tennis sparring partners and coach which have zero ties to the ATP haha!

    But knowing your fine eye for detail and historical commentary which plays into you having the experience of judging current events much more clearly than many other of your blogging “peers”. I think you could easily try to offer your services to different sport coverage/news sites, heck even the ATP and see if you could contribute as a writer, because your blog speaks for itself, and has received a lot of positive feedback!


    1. Thanks, Caligula. I really appreciate your interest in the sport and the blog.

      Thanks also for the feedback on the writing gig. You called it. I need to put the sensors to work and sniff-out some opportunity.
      Back to tennis. We need to look at some tourney play (Dimitrov returns to Sofia) and assess the damage from Melbourne.


  4. blackspy

    Thanks Matt for your kind words to the intelligence/undercover department; even if I am always in the dark, I enjoy a bit of appreciation for my contribution to your astute commentary that has set a standard in tennis blogging.

    Only two weeks from my last comment and so much has happened: or maybe just a bit with great importance?

    First of all happy to see the Bulgarian being the second to rise from the lost boys club and prove me wrong. Although he needs a couple more elements in his game to become a force to reckon, I like his movement and tenacity. Should he continue like that, he will soon add silverware in his cabinet.

    Some strategical-technical points of the final:
    – Federer had the luck (?) to play quick 3-set matches after his two 5-setters and have a day off, before the final. I am due to believe that at his age that did make some difference helping him move as well as Nadal (if not better) for the whole match. The fact that he keeps his matches (even 5-setters), in general, short is a deliberate decision and not a random fact in my view but is already sufficiently analyzed.
    – Federer’s game barometer is his backhand. That has been known for about 10 years or so. The backhand as he uses it at present (since the beginning of 2017) uses more spin DTL and flatter shots CC with sharper angles. This combination gives very consistent results vs slower balls with more spin/power (which at present misses rarely). The power advantage his opponents had (move evident during the 2009-2013 years) disappeared with his (overdue) racket change in 2014.
    – Nadal’s strategy against Federer (and most OHBD players really) is mostly adapted to clay (as Roger noticed in an interview) and highly predictable. Federer took (at last!) advantage of this by shifting considerably his return position (improving his return serve %) and generally being early in his backhand corner to perform the hit.
    – Although Federer’s serve % was not at his best his decision to play quick rallies surprised Nadal who expected more serve and volley tactics. A wise choice in my view, since the Spaniard is very good at the net and in passing shots, and has dealt many defeats to the Swiss by thwarting net aggression tactics. And yes the courts were quicker, as I have already commented but not grass-court or indoors-court quick. As results show all-court players and players from other generations have benefited from the change; if that trend continues we’ll have a few things to comment on.
    – Our gracious host, Matt, remains in top form to interpret the mental aspect of the game : how Federer had to win dirty and why “Ivan the terrible” helped him and not the classy Edberg. Also, the fact that Federer seemed to force play on his terms most of the match and the fact that Nadal couldn’t keep him on distance when on serve (the second set was a good example) finally tilted the match in his favor.

    I consider the doping article laughable. I agree that conditioning has changed the sport considerably (some more evidence here but that has nothing to do with unfounded doping accusations. Doping rumors are there all the time (an entire blog exists for tennis in fact:

    Your idea of Nadal using clay to impose his will on the tour is interesting. To extend that reasoning, maybe Djokovic tried to wrestle that control by getting there first (i.e. getting the first slam of the season).

    A taste of the obvious implications of this result: Federer’s GS record seems a bit too far for Nadal to reach at the moment, given the latter’s lack of competitiveness for the title in the faster slams. More importantly, Djokovic should get back on track soon if he is to challenge that record or resume command of the ATP. 2017 started with Federer’s #18, and caught us a bit by surprise ruffling the waters of the usual ATP stagnant state…

    PS: I noticed a bit of latin and greek in the post: if you’re speaking more languages maybe you can use that to get an edge compared to other writers. Other than that, I’ve got no better ideas than those Caligula already noticed.


    1. Good stuff, blackspy.
      I always thought Nadal was way out of the picture to catch Roger, especially with the last few years where he seemed DONE. But the fact that he was in a position to close the gap to 17-15. . . this match turns-out to be a huge turning-point when I never really saw that turning-point as a possibility. Pretty remarkable, really, the whole tournament, aside from Roger winning #18.

      I am going to start looking ahead today/tonight on a post. What’s nice about the schedule is we get a lot of high-stakes tennis before RG. This is a great time of year, the northern hemisphere’s cold beginning to warm and the competition at the Masters level heating-up: we have 5 1000s on tap between now and RG, two HC battles and 3 clay encounters to find that form for Paris.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, blackspy, as always.


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