Indian Wells 2017

What a start to the year for the 35 year-old Roger Federer. He had a “dip” in Dubai, but what the hell. Federer’s dominance in Indian Wells, out playing his opponents relentlessly, netted him his fifth PNB Paribas Open (to match Djokovic’s five IW titles). In the season’s biggest and most popular Masters-level tourney, he sent every opponent packing, in fairly routine fashion. You know what I’m talking about.

The tennis in Indian Wells had some highs and lows, but perhaps I’ll let you share your thoughts on some of those. At Mcshow Tennis, we’ve already talked quite a bit about Indian Wells, starting with our firm dismissal of the draw hysteria (though I did concede that the top half was irresponsible – there simply was not enough talent for a Masters in Roger IWthe top half – unless the organization thought Tsonga and Murray were enough of a “top,” along with Wawrinka and Thiem?. . .That just doesn’t make enough sense with Dimitrov, Nishikori, Sock, Del Potro, or even Federer in the bottom; one or two of them could have joined the top without notice or harm. . . pretty mind-boggling given what happened when Tsonga and Murray both lost early. . . That was an impoverished bracket, naked and prepubescent).

You probably recall how I was able to attend both SF matches in-person, which we knew would be a little thin, especially in that top half. The Kyrgios withdrawal from the QF match against Federer was a surprise, but you couldn’t have been that shocked. That’s Kyrgios, the erratic, unpredictable Aussie talent whose antics eclipse his youth. Don’t forget: he turns only 22 in about a month, so this is a young guy playing an old man’s game (ha ha). His prodigious talent and early success, against some fairly stiff (and legendary) opposition, have created perhaps an unsuitable season of expectations.

This is the conflict surrounding Kyrgios. Are you giving him a break because of his youth, or do you overlook this excuse because of the talent, that (be careful now) somehow implies maturity. . . that just isn’t there, emotionally at least. I advise we remain optimistic on Kyrgios since we’ve seen him play some brilliant tennis, especially recently. Just as Federer has backed-up his fifth AO championship with his fifth at IW, Kyrgios backed-up Acapulco.

After the dismissal of Djokovic, for the second time in three weeks, we were certainly excited to see him play a rampant Federer. I was more excited about that match than just about any that might have been on offer in the desert last week.

The SFs were, as one publication asserted: the men against the boys. The Wawrinka v Carreno Busta match was very underwhelming. Despite the lack of name recognition, I was looking forward to seeing the young Spaniard play. But by the second set, with the Stanimal in pretty decent form, Busta was pretty much below the surface. The organization should have seen this coming. Not the best look for such a prestigious enterprise.

Federer v Sock developed a bit of competitiveness in the second set when the American found his feet and got his FH working; but Fed’s shot-making was just too good. Too much coming at Sock. Fed’s ROS and defense in general had the 17-seed shaking his head. Sock tried to come-in to give Federer a different look, but the passing shots perplexed the #1 American. No doubt Sock played some good tennis to even get to the SF, his first 1000 SF of his career, so IW  was a”win” of sorts, beating the likes of Dimitrov and Nishikori. But Roger was just too much, as cliche as that probably sounds. Sock really doesn’t have a BH. Federer has what amounts to two or three BHs.

To be honest, the SFs were pretty average, but the energy was fantastic and the views pretty stunning all the way around. I plan to invest a bit more next year, perhaps watch some of the previous weekend’s contests, as well, as there’s more talent through out the facilities, and the smaller courts come into play. Absolutely can’t wait for next year.

As for the final, Federer just never seemed threatened, a microcosm of the entire tournament that began with his 51 minute win over the Frenchman, Robert. The final seemed a bit like the Federer and Wawrinka  Melbourne match where Stan played some really solid tennis, but his counter-part kept the steadier upper-hand, enough to create that essential separation. The separation in IW was tight. You might have seen in the first set, with Stan serving 4-5 at 30-15. He hits what looks like an ace to push the game to 40-15, but the umpire rules wide. Roger motions wide himself, though this was not some wawrinka-indian-wells-2017-saturday-sfkind of gamesmanship from Federer. After several replays, one can see Roger thought it was out. Stan doesn’t challenge; it was in. Hence, it’s 30-30 and Federer goes on to break and take the first set. In the second set, Federer breaks Stan serving 5-6. So, certainly the tennis was fairly competitive, but Roger, again, never seemed threatened much at all. He faced almost zero break points on his serve and the BH just kept firing winners, shaping volleys, defending masterfully. . .pretty definitive tennis from the old man. I don’t want to leave-out his FH that went toe-to-toe with both Sock and Wawrinka, two of the bigger FH on tour.

Funny that Roger was 0-1 v Wawrinka in Masters finals going into Sunday. He almost joked how he was motivated to even that H2H. Whatever works. Federer is finding all the right buttons to push for sure.

Interesting dynamic between the two Swiss gents. Stan looks fit, by the way, and will be a very dangerous opponent over the next seven months.

So, not a whole lot to say, really; sorry for the delayed and pretty flat commentary. The Kyrgios v Federer match would have been a nice litmus test for both players, who have seemingly played some of the most inspired tennis this season. I suspect Roger would have won the match only because Kyrgios would have to solve so many riddles and Roger’s serve is on par with the youngster’s.

The whereabouts of Djokovic might have been given a little light, as well, given that he seems to have no answers for Nick.

Listening to Djokovic fans call Kyrgios a serve-bot is amusing. I don’t think they know what a serve bot is. I’ve heard (probably the same) people call Pete Sampras a serve bot. Again and again I see no reason why this blog shouldn’t thrive.

Folks, please beware. Fanaticism and incapacity is a two headed monster, in most cases. Exhibit A)  People talk of Djokovic’s IW tennis as a return to the highest level and in the same breath say that Nick is a serve-bot, shame on him, etc.

My word (as my mother would say), this is fun. I get to write about the great sport of tennis, its players, the stories, analyze the matches, etc., AND get my kicks undermining the slow roll of a very interesting family reunion that occurs in around tennis discourse: the family consists of two cousins who can at times seem like distant relatives, but at other times seem and sound like one-and-the-same individual, identical twins, I suppose. Their names are Fanaticism and Incapacity.

As I watched Federer glide around the court last Saturday to secure his 90th title, the fan experience was a reminder of how important that element is to the sport (fanaticism), meaning this is often a healthy part of the passion that is professional tennis. Be that as it may, the “passion” can be (let me say) foolish.

To make myself clear: as we’re watching the Federer Sock match, I’m giving a little support to the American, mainly so we all aren’t exiting the arena in about 60 minutes. Beyond that, I want to see some majestic tennis, see the players push each other, etc.

Some of the goofball fanblogging we’ve discussed is echoed in a bit of the fanaticism I heard in IW. Like I said, I’m giving really both players some support, as I am there to see a couple of pros put on a show.

Juxtapose that with the likes of fan yelling for Roger to “come-on!” as he serves at 40-0, up a couple of breaks, Sock pretty much handing Roger the first set 1-6. That, my friends, is incapacity.

But I know I need to be more understanding, because sports and fanaticism often go hand-in-hand; wish me luck.

I got into a little spat with a Djokovic fan on Twitter the other day. A different one. The Brit Greg Rusedski tweeted: “I don’t think anyone would have predicted Federer playing so well & no.1 in race in 2017. Quicker conditions & balls better for men’s tennis.”

I can’t see her response at this point (because she blocked me/ironically she was actually following me up until she blocked me :), but she said something about how Andy and Novak should/would be winning if not for injury and how is that good for tennis?

My response to her: “Woulda coulda shoulda. Is whoever wins Miami penalized because 1 and 2 are ‘injured’?” 

I carried-on a bit with her, pointing-out that Djokovic was not back on form and her hypothetical, again, is weak. Block.

This is feisty fangirl, friends to the other one CB3 I had a conversation with about a week ago, who compiled all of those “objective” stats.

Look, my point is the fanaticism is pretty weak, at times. I understand the passion; if you enjoy sports, you end-up pulling for a team/player you connect with, that represents your country, city, etc. But some of this “passion” is just absurd.

A classic from your favorite fanatic:

“I couldn’t have said it any better myself, _____. I hate it when ppl call an era weak too. I find it laughable and arrogant that Fedfans would call the current era weak when the 2004-07 era was even weaker.”

Ha ha ha.

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So where are we at this point, IW in our rear-view mirror, heading to Miami?

The IW final, really, involved the sport’s two best hard court players; I don’t think many will disagree with that. The Dilemmovic is happening before our very eyes. This is all something we were talking about here after the U.S. Open back in September. Folks, the Serb is taking some more time off and probably needs to find that form fairly quickly.

The Djoker fanatics have claimed he’s been back, that his two Del Potro wins were supreme, maybe legendary. Not the case. Del Potro is without a BH and isn’t very fit. He’s #34 in the world. Their match in IW was anything but classic. This is where the incapacity rears its head. I will do what I can here at this little blog.  I hope you enjoy the commentary.

Needlesstosay, Nole needs to find his serve, his patience and that steely nervous system he’s used to crush the beauty of so many ATP dreams.

Speaking of Del Potro, we’ll get to see him play Federer in R3 in Miami.

I put-off this post because of work and because I feel like I’m stating the obvious, here. That there wasn’t much to say about IW (though work is really the obstacle for this blog). Stay tuned for some more inspired tennis prose as the pros engage in Miami, my work schedule gets a little lighter and the discourse gets hungry for some not so typical, not so predictable tennis exegesis.

Thanks for reading, folks.

8 comments

  1. Hey Matt,

    Great stuff as always. I’ll add a point I feel similarly about, i.e. that everyone’s already considered it.

    Roger’s consistency was his biggest enemy in some ways as he began to struggle. So many matches at top level (with consistency records unlikely to be matched for many years, if ever) had begun to wear on his body, in spite of his balletic and efficient style of play. I thought he might do a lot better when he came back, but not as well as he has.

    And it’s the same with Djokovic. His consistency and time at the top has worn him out. His consistency even rivaled Roger’s for a short period.

    My basic point is that Murray, Nadal and Djokovic all base their games on extreme fitness and athleticism, so I think it will be harder for them to keep going. I’m not sure they would ever have been able to face Roger down if courts speeds hadn’t been reduced, but on slower courts their athleticism has posed definite challenges for Roger (read that, ‘has taught Roger some definite humility’).

    I don’t expect any of them to approach Roger’s totals in the long term, but science is advancing, and Novak is so flexible (physically) that he might be somewhat dominant for a few more years. On the other hand, I don’t expect him to surpass the level he’s already reached, ever. Nadal has really surprised me this year btw. He’s one of the greats, no doubt, but I know he was undergoing platelet replacement therapy a while back, which may or may not increase HGH levels. I thought he might be cheating for a while (and Djokovic too, after their 6-hr final in AO ’12) but that’s probably harder to do with bio passports in place.

    Sorry, long winded paragraph that was a diversion about whether cheating would allow others to catch up with Roger, and definitely not a claim that they are cheating in fact. And although it hasn’t really happened yet, the new generation is still on the way up.

    So, although Roger’s rest was good for him, that it won’t be as easy for the other three to come back similarly refreshed, b/c their games will always exhaust them physically, wear on their bodies, etc. Just a (fairly obvious) thought…

    All the best..

    1. Incondite, thanks for the comment. Well said; don’t be shy and so modest. Keep exploring these ideas. . . here, on this blog.

      No doubt the consistency at the top wears these guys out. Look at Andy now. He seems a shell of himself, but, as I and others have pointed-out, his run was sans Roger and Novak. Nonetheless, I agree he probably would have beaten Roger at WB (Fed barely hanging-on while Murray was very confident), and he did be Novak in the WTF. The point is it’s tough to be that consistent.

      This also alludes to my bigger (satirical) argument that Federer ruined tennis. His standard of excellence and dominance (consistency) almost certainly pushed Nadal and Djokovic to their limits, which has helped define an incredible era.

      As for the longevity of these games, Roger’s is just so versatile, much less physical and his serve will help extend, as well. The serve is key. You think Karlovic sticks around these last few years without that serve? A serve is such an advantage.

      Not only are Andy, Rafa and Novak dependent on a more physical baseline game (that’s showing more and more limitation given the physical wear and the discussion of the court speed), but they don’t have that serve. The serve is letting down Novak big-time. He works so hard on defense, on his ROS, but now he has to work hard on his own serve. He’s gassed if you ask me.

  2. Matt, very good read as usual.

    About Nick, I totally agree…I could totally understand if some one calling him pusher but its laughable saying he won against Novak by servebotting. That’s enough to understand the “incapacity” you points out.

    And also I never able to get around to understand how someone gets called out for weak-era on 03-07 but their own player is supposed to be superior just because he beat same “weak-era” champion?? Just absurd logic.

    Agree on DelPo call, his backhand is too much liability as of now… Lets see how it pans out on Miami for him and Roger…

    Hope you had good time out there in IW.

    1. Thanks, Nambi. The IW experience was fun, but I think the SF might have been a bit anti-climactic. The grounds are a bit empty, the energy a little subdued compared to the mid-week tennis frenzy, but lack of star power in the SF might have had a bit to do with that, as well. Busta was a big long-shot, obviously.

      And yes the illogical runs amok out there.

    1. Good idea! I might write a little Miami prognostication. I hope Wawrinka consolidates IW, gets to a SF, F or even win. Thiem should represent, as well. This would be a great place for Grigor to kick his game back into high gear, go deep in a Masters.

      Not sure who wants to play Federer. If he’s motivated, look out. Considering he probably plays very little clay (this was discussed last year by both him and Ivan – which I said at the time should have been Roger’s approach earlier in his career).

      No Murray, Djoker, Tsonga. . .

  3. I was quite disappointed with the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios, because I was really looking forward to watching his match against Federer.
    Won’t be able to follow much of the Master event at Key Biscane this year unfortunately.
    I hope Murray and Djokovic get healthy again soon and won’t need missing the upcoming Master tourneys.
    As for the withdrawal of the world number 1 and number 2 from a Master event, it is very exceptional to have them simultaneously withdrawing from a Masters tournament. The last time this also happened, was at the Hamburg ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in 2006, where the absenteeism was even worse, as in that particular Master event not only Federer and Nadal were missing and replaced by much lower ranked players, but also Nalbandian and Roddick, respectively world numbers 4 and 5 at that time. Ivan Ljubicic and Nicolay Davydenko (ranked 3 and 6 in the rankings) were at that event the highest seeds in the draw (seed 3 and 4 in fact). It was however 8th seed Tommy Robredo who won this event

    1. We’ll keep a close eye on Murray and Djokovic only because their pretty disastrous starts to 2017 seem to have multiple attribution. Djokovic is still burned-out from 2015-16, as the argument goes? As I said a long time ago, Federer made every major final several years in a row. How was Djokovic’s run so much more taxing? I don’t buy it.

      Murray’s fall is a bit more a result of his run at the end of 2016 – that WTF title was very taxing on top of the late summer run to overtake Novak and you can imagine the emotions as he scaled the heights of the rankings for the first time. Then again, the losses to Mischa Zverev at the AO and Pospisil at IW have, and the way those losses materialized, has a bit more ominous undertones.

      Take care, Wilfried. Looking forward to having you back, eyes on the ATP, commenting on this blog. 🙂

What say you?