I hope this post isn’t as anti-climactic as Sunday’s final. Here’s how I began my preview of the Miami final a few days ago: “The Fedal final tomorrow is a bit anti-climactic to be honest. If you’re caught-up in the Fedal rivalry, you’re probably a bit confused. If you need any clarity on that, search my blog under Federer v Nadal H2H.”
I had Twitter lined-up, streamed the match on my computer, in case other “discussions” surfaced and needed any attention, and the quality of the picture on my Mac surpassed the quality of Fedal XXXVII.
The first set was certainly competitive, with Nadal actually establishing some control, pushing forward, letting Federer know that this could be a classic. Through 5 games, Rafa had seen 3 BPs to Roger’s 2. My notes clarified “nothing too spectacular,” as the guys maintained pretty uneventful exchanges, Roger came to net effectively, Nadal held his own, especially on serve and as Roger even pointed-out later, saving some of those early BPs was critical to the match. Nadal pressed Federer in that first set, but somehow (like the mettle Federer displayed in the QF and SF) the Swiss held and added pressure to the Spaniard’s Miami title drought.
Federer ended-up 1/6 on BPs in the first set; Nadal settled for 0/4. The break came and went and the first set went to Federer; the writing was on the wall. Nadal’s sweat drenched kit vs Federer’s wind-blown mane seemed to reiterate this Miami final graffiti.
The second set became almost tough to watch. You can see in my Twitter feed how critical I was of Roger’s game. He seemed to take points off, handle Nadal SS like a weekend warrior – the match lacked energy and intensity by the second set. I reported that Nadal was set to break and assume control, so long as he kept his serve. Roger’s nonchalance spoke volumes, in the end.
What explains this seeming lack of effort on Roger’s part? Mind you: I am not saying he didn’t put forth a championship effort – that would be wrong and foolish to suggest. But the tone was palpable: Federer was in complete control here; he didn’t appear troubled much at all. We are used to seeing Federer tangle with opponents professing such control and nonchalance, but the problem with this explanation is that two nights earlier, this same poker-faced tennis elder showed all kinds of emotions and intensity vs. Kyrgios. That was a match for the ages; the final vs. Nadal seemed more like an exhibition.
To say that Federer’s difficult draw may have qualified this championship match seems fairly reasonable; indeed, Fedal37 may have lacked the level of his previous two matches, so the Swiss simply flew with the punches.
Federer assumed control in the second set, especially late as he again found the break and served-out the match, securing his third Miami title, third tournament win of 2017 and third win vs. Nadal during this calendar year.
His 63 64 victory spoke volumes of his form and the current 2017 run he’s on, as well as the bigger picture that I have written so much about on this blog regarding the flawed (failed) analysis of these players’ H2H. I am not fact-checking this, but I am almost positive that Sunday’s victory brought the players’ HC H2H to 10-9 Federer.
The talk of Nadal’s excitement and comfort on the up-coming clay reminded me of more of these observations I made last year (or late 2015) when I dug into the H2H and what I called “Nadalism.” At one point I wrote a post discussing Sampras and Nadal, both of whom have 14 majors.
My main point (from what I can remember 😀 ) was that Nadal does not belong in the company of Sampras. I said something to the extent that Nadal would be remembered, mainly, as a great clay court player, the clay GOAT.
I don’t think I ever have to or want to get into those discussions again (unless I’m forced to): I respect Nadal and actually miss his dominance. Do you know how many AO and FO matches I stayed-up to watch, or woke early enough to see the first (or second) ball toss in many of those great Fedal matches? Take it from me: Nadal had his way with Roger, which we know is tennis lore.
This brings-up an important point with regards to Federer having this kind of dominance over the declining Spaniard. There is a balance in life. Some call it karma, balance, the truth and even life. I, and probably many others, feel somewhat sorry for Nadal, coming-up short like this, not finding that peak physical monstrosity that defined his tennis back in the day.
Miami on Sunday really underscored his shortcomings. He’s never won Miami, his decline seems pretty definitive, and Federer has found a game (at last) against which Nadal really can’t compete. The journalists around the world are especially echoing this last point: as much as Federer couldn’t figure-out how to play Nadal through much of their past encounters, Nadal seems the one lost now.
As we turn to clay, Nadal perhaps can locate some of that advantage we grew to expect, but this seems a bit of an uncertainty, as well. We’ll save that discussion for another day; I will add that I look forward to this clay season and watching 2017 Nadal bring this year’s confidence to defend his dirt legacy.
On the other hand, Federer will be skipping the clay, working-on his recovery – as many are now aware, as he told Brad Gilbert and certainly others this news following Sunday’s victory. But this has been in the works for over a year.
When Ljubičić was hired, this reduced (removed) clay season was part of this campaign’s agenda. Here’s part of that post I wrote back in December of 2015: Ljubičić is going to help Federer, I believe, with some in-match mental fortitude. How to convert a BP, how to withstand an opponent’s surge, how to just play a little smarter when that is absolutely paramount. Federer’s beauty pageant is over. He needs to start winning ugly, getting the job done, with or with out the stunning pirouette that dazzles the crowd. If he has any hope of continuing to remain relevant and/or win another big tournament, he needs to listen to the big Croat, Ivan the terrible, and come-away with a more sustainable game plan.
Here I want to talk about Federer’s much diminished clay schedule. I am attributing this to Ljubičić. Here is another competitive strategy, a little more macro than the in-match help he’ll give the Maestro.
This will help Federer continue to ruin tennis. You are sick of hearing me reference this volume of essays that puts this golden era in perspective. My argument, as articulated in this series of posts, it that Roger has ruined tennis. This is both satirical and serious. I waited to write the Djokovic chapter; my patience has paid off since we are in a very interesting stage of the Serb’s career.
I referred to balance above. Almost certainly, Novak will rebound and find his confidence again. Does the resurgence of Fedal complicate this rebound? Most likely. This is another reason why the clay is a much anticipated schedule, even without Roger. Novak (and Andy, of course) will return to fight for their confidence, their tour points (both have several to defend and are both already free falling in the 2017 tally).
But the Novak chapter will be interesting. As will the essay that explores 2017 Federer, that phenomenon that few saw rising from the ashes to reclaim such dominance. I can’t tell you how much I believe that Ivan the Terrible has much to do with this. Federer has such a quiet confidence – perhaps more it’s an assassin’s cool.
The manifestation of this is a much better BH, a more offensive court positioning, better ROS, insanely steady S&V (btw, did you see the point where Roger comes to net to meet a 118 mph Kyrgios FH that Federer softly forwards to the open court? I will search, find and post this point). Here’s the point. Scroll to the 9:20 mark to see this lethal FH from Kyrgios meet Federer’s insanely steady grip:
Looks like ATPmedia blocked this video.
It’s these physical improvements that SEEM to define 2017 Federer. But I argue it’s mostly mental. People, from Chris Everett to fanboy and girl bloggers alike, ask where did this Federer form come from? How is he doing this?
The fanboy will say it’s Djokovic’s slump. To be fair, we can’t say how Djokovic would factor into this run because he’s been dismissed from each draw he’s shared with Federer.
Ljubičić is at least part of the common denominator. If you never watched Ivan play, you have little to go on here, other than taking my word for it. He got to #3 in the world and certainly one career highlight was winning IW in 2010 where he beat Djokovic (4R) and Nadal (SF) before taking down Roddick to claim that prestigious Masters title. He lost to Roger in the 2006 Miami final in three TBs. He has been critical of Nadal for taking too long between points. In short, Ivan knows his way around this golden era tennis court, so to speak, and his level-headedness and business sense, in my humble opinion, have been critical in this resurgence of Federer, in 2017 Federer.
Lastly, people are crying about the crowds again. The last big incident (at least that I caught wind of) was US Open final 2015. Both, interestingly enough, involve Federer.
I said it then and I will say it again: Federer can not control the crowd (though his whistling wife could be asked to shhh).
Then again, he completely controls the crowd.
With regards to NYC, if you win the US Open five times in-a-row, you will have a favorable reception. Granted, Federer’s fandom is well-documented, and a bit fanatic. But that kind of success breeds that kind of following. Folks, five in-a-row. He is beloved in NYC and elsewhere. People appreciate consistency, integrity and victory. These have defined his legacy. His genius is well received, one would think. I recall pulling for Agassi in the USO final 2005. To no avail. The Swiss giant had begun to spread his wings. Tough for people to disregard or deny that kind of “entertainment.” Pretty much what you see is what you get and people really like this kind of tournament-in-and-tournament-out brilliance.
On the other hand, Kyrgios is a complicated cat. I said recently that people need to keep their thoughts to themselves during those kinds of heated matches (though this is tough to control – I talked about seeing this in IW two weeks ago). But there are people saying that Roger cheated somehow, or his win over Kyrgios was unfair because of the crowd. That’s sour grapes or incapacity. My goodness that’s a weak argument.
Blame Mohamed Lahyani, the esteemed umpire. He did seem to provide some council to the animated crowd, but, I suppose, to no avail. Either way, Kyrgios is going to have to earn his reception. Roger, like many before and after him, developed that kind of support because of a certain kind of legacy.
I defended Kyrgios, but I have been very critical of him. He has done some deplorable things on the tennis court. Fans, who pay and support these players and their sport, do not easily forget this kind of lack of character. I have faith in Kyrgios. He will earn his stripes.
But again: if you are complaining about Federer’s popularity at this point, you’re a clown.
Look around. There are some things we have to accept. I am, as you all know, not a Fedfan. But I really appreciate great tennis (I still want to see Sampras ’96 v Federer ’06 😉
Thanks for sticking around and reading and enjoying this insane early season of ATP tournament competition.
Talk to you soon.