Nadal, Federer (actually), Djokovic (generally), Murray (hopefully), Thiem and Goffin (stylistically), Stan (if and when), and perhaps a few others make up a short list of guys whose games translate to clay.
Otherwise the analysis of a draw like Madrid is witchcraft. Clay is witchcraft, at best. Otherwise, as I and many before me have argued, it’s a kind of dumbed-down tennis. No question.
That translates to odd-ball tennis.
Your Monte-Carlo and Barcelona villain/superstar Ramos-Vinolas is out to another clay maker Schwartzman. Been watching Murray struggle a bit with this Marius Copil, nice one-hander out of Romania (though Murray appears to be headed toward 5-2 in the second – took the first 6-4).
I enjoyed the end of Cuevas v Bellucci. I swear. Cuevas, like the Romanian, has a nice one-hander to give the tennis a bit more than the clay generally makes available. Thanks, boys. The erratic Brazilian served for match in the third of a typical clay adventure, but Cuevas broke back to go to a TB. Which was another adventure, the Uruguayan going up 6-2 and finally closing-out the set and match 8-6.
Guys like Dimitrov, Kyrgios and Tsonga are fighting for their lives (and our tennis enjoyment) to get through to the next round. Pouille is about to get whacked by fellow young Frenchman, Herbert, a #88 over #13 – standard clay foray.
Sock is out, the Brit Evans is out (not a huge loss but again just the nature of the beast here where the everyman/journeyman/etc is in tremendous “form” on clay).
The sky is blue, the air we breathe, and the clay is uneven.
The draw looks quite similar to MC, as I’m sure others have noticed.
Some interesting match-ups take place in the next few days, so long as any semblance of talent can survive.
Djokovic has a French/Spanish omelette in the next few matches involving Almagro tomorrow and then winner of Lopez v Simon. Djokovic, I suspect, will get a little boost from this mental retreat, the novelty of a fresh start, a lightening of the load, so to speak. But he should be challenged on the Madrid clay here early. Those left at the top of that quarter can pose a threat on clay, as well.
But Djokovic has to go deep, at least show his wares in a SF v Nadal. Djokovic can’t just show-up in Rome and/or Paris and dominate the world. He has to start now. We’ll give him a pass on the team turmoil, but he needs to get some work done, now. Good luck to the Serb. As we’ve said, we need him deep in these draws. More on that in a minute.
In the next quarter, we have an ailing Nadal (ear?) ready to go with Fognini, then probably Kyrgios, which leads to a survivor here playing the survivor of all kinds of trouble in Raonic (who showed-up in Istanbul last week in the final), Goffin, and Muller (finalist last week in Portugal).
Top half looks pretty interesting with a power patch in the Cilic/Verdasco/A.Zverev/Berdych part of a quarter to settle things with the likes of Stan and Cuevas (but you can’t, because this is clay, count out Paire and Mahut either. Ha.).
The top of that half has some nice one-handed tennis with hopefully Thiem and Dimitrov finding their showdown in R16. Murray should find his SF, but we never know these days.
The struggles of the top two ranked players continue until we’re notified.
I alluded to the fact that Djokovic could get a little boost from this skin-shedding of sorts, a newness perhaps washing over his box and his tennis. Madrid and the rest of us are all on watch here. How does Djokovic fare in Madrid? Critical.
Please remember: as far as minimizing Djokovic’s concern here in 2017 based-on the logic that he has many years to accumulate trophies and titles, etc., such a flaw is donning a dunce cap.
He turns 30 this month. We have been over the age factor in the men’s game. To summarize, though there are exceptions, and one could try to argue that the game is seeing older players thrive in the advance of technology (and nutrition and motivation) that characterizes this era (with the likes of Karlovic, Lopez, and others having almost second acts in their careers), don’t be fooled.
In the last several years, Agassi proved to be the biggest exception, winning the Australian Open when he was 32 and making a USO final when he was 35.
Of course, Federer has shocked the trend with his AO win this year at 35. But these are exceptions and all-time greats, especially Federer. One might (and should) point to Wawrinka. For sure he’s a late bloomer. He won his third major (2016 USO) as a 31 year-old. He turned 32 in March, so we’ll see if he continues to be a bit of an outlier.
Novak has time not on his side. He could win WB this year and the USO. Granted. But as I have argued, his game is not ideal on these surfaces, especially if the grass turns-out to be “fast.” All kidding aside, there are a lot athletes and games that will come into play on the grass, not to mention the rejuvenated Federer will be lying in wait.
Novak can win the USO, but this has historically been tough from him to do.
So then we’re 30.5 coming around to AO 2018, and FO 2018 when he’s going to turn 31.
The difficulty only increases.
Djokovic, with his Agassi super-coach or not, needs to get to work.
We’ll have more on that story as the details surface and filter.
Speaking of surface, enjoy the tennis!