2017 Dubai and Acapulco Takeaways

I did not get my post up fast enough prior to the Federer loss, but my brain and responsibility to the blog both wanted to articulate the importance of Murray winning this tournament; having the loss of Federer at hand, such a post would sound like meaningless rationalization. Should’ve tweeted it. 😀

Much of the tennis discourse recently has almost forgotten Andy, as his more famous tennis kin tend to outshine him, even in his more recent manifestation as world #1, in all his royal splendor. Slovak, Rafa, and BEL18VE have all been making more news (good and bad), seemingly, to the chagrin perhaps of Fandys.

Murray needed Dubai and he got it. He is still (would’ve been even with a loss) world #1, so we need him to act his ranking; with big tennis coming-up (IW starting next week), Andy needs to be in full swing, confidence back, ready to keep claiming this time and space. Bravo, Muzzard. The top of the sport needs his respectable consistency and quasi-dominant attitude. Again, the buzzards are circling Muzzard (Rafa is nearing his Acapulco title which is played tonight against American Querrey, who is playing some very good tennis, by the way). Roger is coming-off Melbourne mastery and Djokovic is going to come hard, as his tennis invincibility has been pillaged by enemy forces (and age, family life, i.e., who knows).

But what is the ultimate take away from these two 500s that hosted some fairly deep draws?

Other than the fact that we are seeing some positive tennis from the Big 4, which certainly complicates the tennis a bit (the days are gone of Nole having a staggering 8000 point distance between himself at No. 1 and the No.2 player), there is more threatening tennis from players around the draw that will add even more complication. There’s more parity. That’s where we are. Period.

Granted, some discussion boards and fangirl blogs will say that drugs are involved, that the way to explain this change of tour texture is in the illegal use of PEDs (the only thing dopey here are the people talking like this). Without proof, and seeing that the people saying these things either have an online identity of something like “NolesBrother” or are of the fangirl-type who tries regularly to refute the murray_dubaienemies of his “favorite player” by talking about drugs or fixed draws, court speeds, etc., we have to simply watch the matches and determine more reality-based conclusions. Such buffoonery is amateur-hour.

Take Roger, for instance. He lost to a 26 year-old Russian who a few years ago (2013) was as high as #65 in the world and has 9 challenger titles to his name. The ATP article that clarified some of this player’s background went-on to say that Youzhny and Marat Safin both have shown interest and influence on this player. Rather than pointing to any suspicion of the Russian (a country buried in recent drug charges and rumors), I’d point to the player’s playing career and the bit of tennis I saw him play in Dubai. Even in that first set, as I said in a recent comment on this blog, he was hitting the ball very well, sharp and offensive, and running down all kinds of Federer offense; breaking Roger at 1-5 in the first set was significant, for sure. Evgeny Donskoy can play. That is a reality, folks.

Having said that, let’s also clarify that Roger massively choked. No need to go into this, but having SEVERAL OPPORTUNITIES to finish the Russian and NOT FINISHING has to be a tremendous plate of crap that the Express must consume. But this is tennis and, like in life, shit happens (and sometimes one has to eat shit). The Maestro will survive and we have another player to keep an eye-on. Next.

Djokovic’s play, again, according to “NolesShowerBuddy” on the discussion board over at FantaticTennis dot com, or the fangirl, is the result of other players taking drugs and/or rigged draws.

But let’s just look at the facts: he is losing a lot of tennis matches. Go back to Wimbledon (where he was beaten by a Sam Querrey who even this week is killing the fuzzy green ball – and his opponents). Then the Olympics. He struggled on tour from that point on, losing his #1 ranking, which he had clear of #2 by like 3 million points, losing the WTF and then losing in Melbourne in the 2nd round. Even his Doha title prior to Melbourne was sketchy, as we pointed-out, since he had the match in straights, serving for the title, but was broken and had to finish in a tough third set – to his main rival at this point. Not good.

And now he loses in the QF to Kyrgios, a player with all kinds of talent (and immaturity). What is the big surprise here? Kyrgios can beat, really, anyone on tour. We know this. His serve is scary, he has an all-court game (something even Slovak must envy) and he likes to nick-kyrgios-acapulcocreate havoc. Kyrgios lost in the SF to Querrey, as we know, but he’s a little more established in 2017. He should be around to scare a few more players in various draws. This is, unless you’re someone who lives and dies on his or her favorite player’s wins and losses, good for the sport.

We’re seeing parity on the tour, partly in the resurfacing of Fedal, but also in the maturation of youth (Thiem, Kyrgios, Pouille, et al.) and partly in the sense that the top isn’t as inaccessible. Do the math.

I have seen the struggles of Djokovic for months now, so I am not surprised at all of what we’re seeing. Nor should you be. His R16 win over Del Potro was anything but dominant. Del Potro had played a long three setter the night before against one of his fans, American Frances Tiafoe, who played inspired, whose game is very athletic and secure in its future relevance and threat. There was brilliant ball striking and competitive rallies in that match. Del Potro, without the BH he will need to go deep in tougher, deeper draws, almost beat Slovak. The syrupy Serb should’ve taken-down Juan in more routine fashion, but that’s not the kind of tennis Slovak is playing. Get used to it. Perhaps this is just a valley of form for the world #2. Perhaps we will see him scale the heights of the sport again soon. But right now, as they say in Acapulco, “nada por tu, El Slovako.”

I do think his short presser is a good sign. Maybe he is really done with this sub-prime Nole. Let’s see what happens. Maybe he’ll take a little trip to Russia.

Andy is in good shape. He’s literally been below the radar. The Kohlschreiber match appears to be just a genius set of circumstances for Murray and nice to see he had little trouble with the rest of the bunch, really. Interesting that he makes H2H pot pies out of both Pouille (4-0) and Kyrgios (5-0), for what it’s worth. Obviously, the Kyrgios H2H is more interesting since everyone’s excited about the Aussie’s success against Fedalovic.

Nadal is indeed playing well. I watched the beginning of the Nadal v Cilic match at the conclusion of the Querrey v Kyrgios match last night. As even the announcers pointed-out, Marin looked terrible with his timing, bouncing the ball 12-15 times before a serve, footwork a mess. What the hell. I’ve been terribly critical of the guy, calling that 2014 USO one of the worst developments in the sport’s history (though I did show some concession after Cincy this year); this guy is a complete mess. He got to the SF with the aid of a  W/O so there is very little positivity for that guy to take with him to IW. For sure Cilic has had a miserable 2017. Welcome to the terror-dome, buddy.

Back to Nadal. Looking pretty good even though we just discounted massively his win over the Croatian. None the less, he’s building confidence.

Did anyone else see the Kyrgios v Querrey? Sam is playing good tennis. His ball-striking, aside from his world-class serve – is very impressive. He lost his serve in that first set, but then pretty much put it on Kyrgios, pretty dismissive. Early in the second he smashed a ball into the stands, got booed, got a warning and then proceeded to breadstick the Aussie and out class him in the third, as well. His FH, BH and, of course, his serve provide quite the arsenal. I give the nod to Nadal because he’s brimming with confidence, but Sam – SO LONG AS HE DOESN’T TANK BECAUSE HE’S PLAYING NADAL – should be very tough. The proof is in the pudding – go ask Kyrgios how that tastes.

And Kyrgios’ loss has to be awfully bitter. Beating Slovak is an achievement, but lacking the subsequent title damages that badge of courage. As much as we want to say Nick is on his way to the top, there are still a lot of signs that he’s ready to tank at any “low” moment. Even last night there was evidence that Querrey neutered the youngster, who pretty much went away at that point.

Sam Querrey: the face of American tennis right now. We’ll take whatever we can get, unfortunately. Either way, I hope the Acapulco final is worth the wait.

In a comment on this blog before the AO, I said to a commenter something along the lines of we need upsets. We got those in buckets in Melbourne and this past week has been a continuation of this theme.

However: let’s go ahead and acknowledge that much of this mayhem may actually be the maturity of certain players, the rise of tour talent, coupled with the softening of a few top players.

Don’t let people like world #1 Fangirl or the commenter aka “Slovaksstepsister” skew your view. All is well in the land of tennis. Don’t you ever forget that.

querrey-nadal-rtr-759Edit: Clearly Sam’s form, at least according to Nadal, is as good as I advertised in this post. Wow. For a gangly west coast bloke out of California with a mammoth serve, not bad at all. Keep-up the good work, face-of-American-tennis Querrey.

11 thoughts on “2017 Dubai and Acapulco Takeaways

  1. Tennisisthebest

    Matt👍👏excellent post. One of your best post. I am full of admiration. Just because I CANNOT find a more excellent piece of write up than yours on the web. Period. You said it all; and how well you said it. Agree almost 100 percent all your views and observations. Couldn’t have said it any clearer myself. Seriously, I think it should be COMPULSORY that all tennis enthusiasts; not only fans, but journalists, experts and pundits; read your posts!!

    Yes, yes, and yes, all is WELL at tennis land. What a start this year has been. This is ideal tennis world. So many great stories; so much to talk and write about and we have only just passed Feb! Tennis hasn’t been this exciting for a long time. In a way you can say this is a very intriguing period of golden era of tennis we are going through; if what we seen so far in 2017 is going to continue : top guns still showing us their magic; yet there is no obvious domination; or weak field; and the mid and young guns coming along nicely. Nice equilibrium. In theory, anybody can win a slam this year me thinks.

    Agree with what you said about Murray and I am that he is hanging on to his no 1 nicely. You must be so proud of your countryman, Query. Never really paid much notice to him until Wimbledon happened. It has been a bit of a comeback for him since. What clean efficient ball striking, 1, 2 punch. I think he moves better than Isner. Has a cool head too. I believe he would be too much for Nadal. Nadal is very susceptible to power hitters who bring it on and not intimidated by him. He beat all the young guns, Thiem, Goffin and Kyrgios enroute to the final! What an achievement! Thoroughly deserved if he wins the trophy.


    1. He did win! I haven’t seen the match, but his win over Kyrgios was very impressive. He hit the crap out of the ball from both sides, serve, etc. Dangerous opponent for anyone.

      Well said, as usual, TB. I am glad you found my blog. Although you seem a bit too complimentary 🙂 , I really appreciate your insights. Indeed, a brilliant start to the year. Still three majors and several masters tournaments in store.

      Again, thanks for contributing, TB. Keep it coming!


    2. And to your point: Goffin (2 and 3), Thiem (1 and 5), Kyrgios pretty uneventful after dropping serve in the first, and then Nadal in straights.



  2. Tennisisthebest

    Too complimentary? You don’t know half of it, Matt! I have been oppressed, suppressed, deprived, haha! Maybe I’m (over)compensating for all the frustrations I felt before I found your blog. Hehe! But seriously, you have a very keen eye/sense for tennis. And I find myself not only mostly agreeing with you, but that you make so much unbiased sense and I am learning so much from you; although you are not as regular as some other tennis blogs. I need to accept its impossible to cover/do a thorough job of every meaningful tennis happening. Anyway, whatever, you have saved tennis for me as it’s such a joy to read your cold hard unbiased keen observations. I NEED to read tennis blogs/news everyday or I feel “incomplete” haha! I am thankful that there are ppl like you who put their passion to good use. Discerning writers are such a rarity these days. I suppose being the cold hard fact man that you are; more than one compliment is superflous and…..God forbid, to have a reader fangirling you😱😱 !!!!! “Get out of here, TB!” the Mighty Caligula and the rest of your excellent commentators, Black Spry, Wilfrid, etc would surely say, as they cringe each time they read how great Matt is 🙄Haha! But no more! Matt! Back to cold.hard.facts. as usual……..DAMN you, Matt! You have RUINED tennis 😜


  3. wilfried

    Excellent post indeed, Matt. I wonder sometimes how you keep finding the time and impetus, despite your responsibilities towards your family and your students, to keep us so well informed with entertaining posts. Much appreciated by me !
    I found less time this week to watch tennis and was compelled to use streaming for it.
    From the Dubai tourney, I only saw the third set of Roger’s match against Evgeny Donskoy. Roger may have choked in the second set tiebreak (I didn’t see that one), but not in the third set, at least not in my perception. Roger’s forehand was not consistent enough to force the break against the mercurial Russian, who played imo not bad at all and earned his win in the decisive tiebreak by demonstrating some courageous and well executed offensive tennis. I’m happy for this Russian journeyman, as it’s not given to everybody to beat Roger Federer.
    I haven’t watched any matches from Murray nor Wawrinka this week. I note that those two are swapping ranking points with the former gaining what the latter is losing this week. And, as Novak Djokovic is not gaining or losing any points, the combined ranking points of our current top 3 remain unchanged at 27,060 points (which is – from an historical point of view – quite low, as this amount of ranking points falls within the bottom part of the second decile of the distribution of the combined ranking points of the top 3 (ranking points of the top 3 from 2009 untill today).
    As for Acapulco, I saw a bit of Sam’s match against David Goffin. David had a positive (2-0) H2H against Sam Querrey coming into his match against Sam, but this time he found no answer – to his visible frustration – to Sam’s precise, controlled power tennis. One consolation for David though : he was not in bad company at all, as Sam destroyed in his unbelievable run to the title no less than 2 current top 10 players (Nadal and Thiem), as well as 2 possible future top 10’ers (Kyrgios and Goffin).
    In any case I’m very happy for Sam and also for you, Matt, as a compatriot of his.
    Up to Indian Wells and Miami now. And let’s find out what will happen there.


    1. Wilfried,
      I make so much money on this blog, of course I’ll find the time. Lol, hahahahahahah. (doubled-over laughing)

      To be honest, this is fun. I wish I had to work harder at it, meaning attending tourneys around the globe, creating even more content, etc.
      Any investors out there? 😀

      I agree the Russian played well, but Roger should have finished that match. Indeed, Donskoy is not a fluke.
      Tremendous run by Mr. Querrey. “Precise, controlled power tennis” is an apt description. Good news for the 29 year-old.


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