2017 Barcelona Open: Otra Décima

On a court bearing his name, Rafa cinched his 10th Barcelona title, matching last week’s la decima down in Monte Carlo. He beat Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-1 in the final.

The trend continues: 2017 Fedal. Although Federer had the spotlight early and for good reason, winning the year’s first major and first two Masters, Rafa has been virtually right next to him all along: don’t forget that. Nadal played Federer in two of the three finals. Tennis - Barcelona Open FinalNaturally, on the clay Rafa has found his true comfort zone and the confidence and clay dominance are becoming magnificent, which I’d say captures the mental, nasty and efficient tennis of his dirty highness.

We have much clay still to play, much story-line to read and drama to digest, but Nadal is looking pretty strong heading into the next two Masters (Madrid and Rome) and Roland Garros in late May, early June. Like I said earlier, if I were in his camp, I’d call for an early exit at perhaps Madrid and then bring the armada back to Rome heading into war in Paris.

He’s pillaging the clay season and given his appetite for dominance (with his cousin Roger already sitting quite comfortably on his Swiss mountaintop), he will most likely want to press on, continue to damage the field’s hopes, remind one and all of the kind of clay court carnage for which he is best known.

That’s a lot of physical tennis heading into a major (Bo5). Then again, we seem to be reaching that point of no return for the rest of the field: someone ( I think it was Gimmelstob) said again recently: the toughest thing to do in tennis is beat Nadal on clay Bo5. Rafa is absolutely cruising right now. Everyone knows this. If you don’t, you must be an hysterical Fankovic (they are reaching new heights of misery); more on that in a second.

Let’s first give a nice steady applause to the young Dominic Thiem. He’s got a nice game, the style of which makes those of us who know and appreciate style fairly impressed.

But now the Austrian is dead.


Though quite short, his was a brilliant ATP stint, if you ask me.

Seriously though: he hung around for those first nine games, played the Spaniard tough, even had game point to go 5-5 in that critical first set. Then el destino (la decima), a wise (tennis) old predator fowl drew its ominous shadow across the clay, an usually cool Barcelona breeze ruffling the patrons’ whispers before the young Austrian was predictably sacrificed.

In almost ceremonious generosity, the youngster was given a breadstick to snack-on in the afterlife. Godspeed, Dominic. Rest-up and bring your bracket wrecking havoc to another clay tournament soon. I saw his championship edge in R1. Of all the youngsters, I enjoy watching him the most at this point. The OHBH, the fury from both wings, his precociousness on display more often than not. Nadal just wasn’t going to have it.

Here’s where we stand with Madrid beginning in a week: Nadal has complete control of the draw on clay. Murray did not fare well in either MC or Barcelona. Though beating Ramos-Vinolas in a tough three-setter in Barcelona (a match that saw him escape death a couple of times, holding serve at 0-40 4-4 in the second set, etc.) seemed to suggest a breakthrough, he was handled pretty easily by Thiem in the SF, only an odd drop in form from the Austrian prevented a routine Thiem victory.

Murray continues to struggle.  There is no way to deny this. Lendl is missing from the box, the Scot is berating the box, looking like the awkward Andy: bridesmaid by birth. He’s ringing again of that less-than-championship quality and character. Add to that my insistence that people not forget that his run last year, despite the incredible consistency and success, was minus Federer (injury), Nadal (injury) and Djokovic (Djokollapse), and you have a less than legitimate contender for RG (and maybe beyond).

Indeed, the Murray campaign is sputtering.

The same applies to Djokovic, I’m afraid. I have documented this quite well. My theory goes all the way back to the fourth and deciding set at Roland Garros 2016, where Novak eventually closed Murray out. But that was almost tough to watch. Novak, we might surmise in retrospect, was starting to collapse.

Scroll to about 02:35:00 where he completes a second break of Murray to go up in the 4th set 5-2, serving for championship and Novak Slam. We can give the guy a break – a lot of pressure had built to this point. But he barely hangs on here. Immediately, following this match, we now know, he’s in a free fall as far as tennis form is concerned.

You and I know how the Fankovic tribe speaks of the hostile crowds that Novak is subjected to (this boggles my mind since most of these clowns are European, internationals of some distinction and fan rowdiness and even hooliganism is a kind of staple at many such sporting affairs): this crowd was massively pro-Djokovic.

Great Mary Carillo line: “He was similing at the 5-2 changeover, but he wasn’t smiling at this 5-4 changeover.”

Some very safe tennis here from Novak. Look at him work the crowd, especially at 40-15, double championship point. Can you imagine if Nadal or Federer did that? Ha ha. The Fangirls would implode. Djokovic doubles on first CP. Then deuce. Then he pulls it off on third CP. Novak Slam. Indeed an historical achievement. But Murray ran out of gas.

The Djkollapse had begun.

Fast forward to now: both Murray and Djokovic are hurting. The question I ask you is are we at a point of no return yet with Nadal on the clay? He did look a little vulnerable here and there, even against that young South Korean “nextgen star,” Hyeon Chung.

That is the question. I like Federer rested in Paris right now more than I do the #1 and #2 players who are reeling and have been reeling for quite some time.

What a remarkable year, with Fedal resurfacing with a vengeance against this lower tier.

My last post insinuated Murray and Djokovic are taking a beating. Indeed, that is the case on the court.

What’s happening off the court with respect to this downfall? You might have caught wind of the Djokofanclub raising hell with respect to their idol.

Our friend CindyBlack3 is back at it with her “Nole Stats.” Her latest has the Serb statistically verified as the best all-around player (most success on all surfaces, in a kind of pound-for-pound subjectively bullshitter high pitched squeal). This is simply awkward. Not a good look, CB3.

I posted her last “homework” assignment (her audience far and wide love, as do most farm animals, stats) in a post about the peanut gallery at Indian Wells when this throng of flare-ups hissed about the Serb’s draw.

As I said in a recent comment, timing is everything: these folks are seemingly trying to 2015 Australian Open - Day 14write the Serb’s obituary, meaning the timing of this advertisement of Djokovic’s career accomplishments as their sugar daddy is struggling to find his racquet in 2017 is just bizarre and boney (we like meat on our bones at Mcshow Tennis). It’s a bad look.

“Novak is the greatest!” Meanwhile, David Goffin is handing your guy a pink slip.

Oh, and CindyBlack3 and the gang’s arguments, supposedly supported statistically? Novak is the greatest HC player of all time? I’ll take Lendl over Novak in a Bo5 format (I might also take McEnroe, Pete, Federer and Conners for that matter – the common denominator here is Flushing Meadows, folks).

Let’s just say that Slovak Slowcourtovic and HC GOAT don’t really work. If you think the USO is anything but the HC Taj Mahal, relinquish your tennis fan credentials immediately. One can not be 2-5 at the USO business-end of the draw and make such a claim. Of course, Novak isn’t making this claim.

It’s your favorite fangirl blogger and this CindyBlack3 who lead the charge, but there are others just as rabid, just as nonsensical, wailing away about this historical greatness.

Think of the irony, again the timing: Federer and Nadal are making big tournament runs here in 2017 that raise this bar to which these fans refer – and they’re trying to talk about their guy’s greatness. This kind of logic is similar to saying the courts were too fast in Melbourne. Shut-up! I can make a better case for Novak than you can. Let me do the talking.

Of course, CindyBlack3 blocked me on Twitter because I questioned her methods, refused her bouquet of bullshit.

Give her hell, folks!

Sorry to bring-up this garbage, but as the Eye of Sauron here in southern California, writing an international tennis blog, I have an obligation to bring to your attention this debris that might distract, or clutter your view of the glorious competitions. You understand.

We actually root for Novak to return, and Murray as well. This would only be good for the sport. These “fans” don’t understand that kind of logic

Fedal 2017. . .Reader Poll: is this trend good for the sport?


11 thoughts on “2017 Barcelona Open: Otra Décima

  1. Caligula

    What a marvellous post, one of your recent best! The amount of hypocrisy coming from the braindead Slowak fangirl camp has reached new heights, but luckily here at Mcshow we are free from this pollution, I of course from time to time do try to troll the imbeciles, but an IP-block is quite effective and I don’t feel like going to my nearest library to post some criticism that would fall on deaf ears anyway!

    These people can say what they want and can come up with all the idiotic doping/fixed draw accusation they want, but the point stands Fedal is legendary and this 2017 resurgence is but a testament to their greatness and most important of all, consistency! Nadal was a shadow of his former self the entirety of 2015 and a good portion of 2016, but now he is making the return we all knew he had in him if he remained mentally and physically fit. The GrandMaster who is almost a relic from another era has put his foot down, and proclaimed “no more” and taught some of these baseline grinders how attacking tennis is played all while being on average 10+ years older than the current field.

    Tennis is an ecosystem that seems to repeat itself in cycles, just like the rejuvenation of spring brings new life so did the start of this season breathe new life into Fedal a duo that in their prime could perhaps easily have faced the toughest of opponents in men’s tennis history. As much as it is regrettable to see new blood fall short of these giants, but they must earn it by beating these old-timers, but alas when Fedal is in form the rest can only dream.

    I wholeheartedly agree that Nadal could use some well-earned rest before attempting the unthinkable of winning #10 in Paris. If I were him I would cancel Rome, he may just feel unbeatable on clay, but he is no longer the 21-year-old who was a death sentence to anyone facing him on clay.

    Exciting times ahead for tennis fans who understand and respect men’s tennis legacy and can see past the petty fangirl mentality. Good read Matt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment, my lord. Quite eloquent and insightful, as usual.

      This Fedal resurgence has a certain clarification, of binding these two in a way that shatters the Big 4. Most don’t notice this kind of nuance, but we’re curating this phenomenon here: the trials of Murkovic alongside 2017 Fedal.

      Djokeray has been given notice – I say this with all seriousness – a clinic is underway and the true class of the era is being defined in a startling set of circumstances. Hold-on to your legacy! Which again makes the CB3/DjokerBoy arguments simply transparent.

      The fanclub is a cartoon.

      Cheers, Caligula.


  2. clint grike

    I found this blog recently but have been reading back through your posts. Thanks for all the objective and insightful analysis!
    Let me add some thoughts on the ‘stats’ you mention (which I encountered on the other blog you mention). If Novak retires tomorrow his % win rates look great. On the other hand if he plays on for a few years with a lower success rate then even if he picks up more slams the % win rates will drop. Is the Novak in the second scenario an inferior player? By these people’s logic yes. But there’s a further point re these type of stats…. For anyone who has actually been following tennis closely these numbers reveal nothing you don’t already know. They only simplify and distort. We know which tournaments these players have won and we know which opponents they dominate and which opponents they have trouble with. And if we have any understanding of the game we know why. We know for instance that fed from 2001 dominated his own generation. We know that he has owned murray in slams, and that the trajectory of his rivalry with Djokovic is more or less what you’d expect against another all time great who is 5/6 years younger. We know the h2h with nadal and we know the reasons behind it. If I tell you this is roger’s % success rate against top 5 opponents all I’ve given you is a figure. If you know how many of those games against top 5 opponents were against rafa, how many were against players of fed’s own generation etc. etc. then you know much more. You can actually understand the figure. Without that understanding any comparison of these kinds of figures (especially when the percentages are like 46.4 v 44.8) is inane.
    But on a more interesting topic, I’ve only seen some highlights of the final yesterday. I was wondering how Thiem’s backhand held up against rafa’s topspin, and whether there were any clues about how fed-nadal 2017 on the spaniard’s beloved clay might go?


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Clint. I really appreciate the support!

      Well done providing some nice perspective to the limits of these statistics: “They only simplify and distort.”
      These statistical arguments (did you see her first installment?) represent, in my opinion, a kind of numerology to somehow challenge reality. The numbers, we know, target Federer, who’s actual numbers (titles, wins, time at # 1) are simply untouchable on many fronts.

      Yet I am a big Sampras guy, so I even have bigger issues with these numbers than would some sort of Fedfan, who’s getting called-out here, unsuccessfully, of course.

      The numbers have gotten pretty gaudy, if you ask me.

      Thanks again for undermining “those” numbers. I hope you continue to read and comment.
      We have a lot to talk about!


    2. Clint, I meant to add: Rafa did target the Thiem BH, but I didn’t see this as a monster strategy, a game changer. In the first set, Thiem seemed to handle it pretty well, was able to run around several BH and use that giant FH of his quite well. He simply got had in that first set in a typical Nadal mugging at 4-5. Just a bad game.

      The second set, though the BH was targeted, Thiem succumbed to errors, from both sides. Again, Nadal targeted the BH, but this was not the main story-line, even though I’ve heard Thiem say he needs to work on countering that Nadal strategy (to his BH).

      We’ll have to wait and see how the next two Masters transpire. Federer’s chances in Paris are an after-thought though his expectations do appear to be fairly high, whatever that means.

      All eyes on Djokovic. His AO is gone and the next three majors are, obviously, his most difficult. But this is still about him and his ability to make hay while he still has the time. He doesn’t have that distinct advantage that Federer and Nadal have on certain surfaces. Despite what his fans say 🙂

      As with so many players (especially Federer), to beat Nadal you have to beat him mentally (take the first set, avoid the run of errors, the critical error in the critical game, etc.). To beat him on clay, only more difficult.

      Thiem is coming along just fine.


  3. I couldn’t agree with you more, Matt. I don’t know CindyBlack3, but she has it all wrong! Her statements and logic leave me confused.

    Yes, we’re rooting for Novak and Murray to return to form…it would only be a positive for tennis. But don’t hold your breath..at least in the immediate future. I’m sure no one saw Fedal 2017 coming at the beginning of the year, but it sure has been exciting to watch!

    It’s a great time to be a tennis fan! Keep up the great posts!


    1. Cheers, Fraziersracket. I have noticed an intriguingly confident insight in your comments.
      I appreciate the help in sorting this out, calling people out and reflecting on the tennis.
      Thanks for the support!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wilfried

    Great post, Matt.
    I fully agree with clint grike’s opinion on the clumsy interpetation of these stats by CindiBlack3 and fanboy : inane, distorting the truth , and unfair with regard to Roger Federer, because he differs 6 years from Djokovic.
    A player’s win/loss rate and succes rate evolve constantly as those rates improve during a player’s prime, and regress when the player enters his decline. So one should compare the players at the same stage in their career, i.e. at the same age, and not compare apples with oranges.
    In fact, if we look at those rates at similar stages in their career, we see that Roger Federer’s overall scores with regard to the HC Slams (AO and US Open combined) are, with a few exceptions, most of the time better than Djokovic’s rates (calculated at the end of each season, except the last season presented here below), particularly where the succes rates are concerned.
    Federer’s rates Djokovic’s rates
    Year win/loss succes Year win/loss Succes
    1999 (-) (-) 2005 50% 0%
    2000 66,67% 0% 2006 50% 0%
    2001 69,23% 0% 2007 68,24% 0%
    2002 71,43% 0% 2008 78,13% 12,50%
    2003 72,41% 0% 2009 79,07% 10%
    2004 81,40% 20% 2010 80% 8,33%
    2005 83,93% 25% 2011 84,06% 21,43%
    2006 87,14% 35,71% 2012 85,54% 25%
    2007 89,29% 43,75% 2013 86,60% 27,78%
    2008 89,69% 44,44% 2014 86,11% 25%
    2009 89,19% 40% 2015 87,70% 31,82%
    2010 89,52% 40,91% 2016 88,24% 33,33%
    2011 89,23% 37,50% 2017 87,68% 32%
    I will provide you the underlying calculus for these percentages by mail as I don’t know how to import it in my comment (tomorrow).
    I haven’t been able to look at the overall rates for the HC-Masters (Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, Shangai, Paris) yet, but I surmise that Djokovic rates are (significantly ?) better there than Federer’s.


    1. Wilfried, brilliant. You’re our resident research department.
      Thanks for sharing this interesting and telling bit of statistical narrative that complicates the hell out of CB3.

      Roger has played a lot more tennis than Novak. They use that to downplay his accomplishments on the one hand,
      and accentuate the vulnerability of a bigger sample on the other hand.

      Novak has become the master of the Masters circuit, a very novel development on the ATP. As I have said many times, Murray has more Masters titles than Sampras. Novak is king or the Bo3 version on top of that. Have to put that into perspective.

      Win % in that format not nearly the same as NYC Bo5. Apples and oranges.

      Thanks again, my friend.


  5. clint grike

    Thanks for the replies Matt. I’ll keep reading for sure. And great research Wilfried! I’ll just add that though I like roger (a lot), I was and am also a big Pete fan :). I don’t think the goat debate will ever be settled (and hope not – how boring). But Pete should definitely still be in that conversation. I agree totally with your take on novak. I wouldn’t be shocked if he comes again with another surge and wins more slams. Until zverev and kyrgios (and maybe thiem) reach their peak there’s no-one younger than the serb who has what it takes to dominate the sport. So this is his time to mop up slams if he has what it takes. We’ll see. For the moment he must remain the king of slow hardcourts.


  6. Nambi

    hey guys, late in party as occupied with few stuffs….And Great articles and comments with more balanced views as usual…


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