Madrid Final and Rome Draw

Madrid 2017

The SF and F matches went pretty much according to form. Though Cuevas played well, knocking-off Zverev in the QF (playing well of late, generally), we figured the future of clay would advance. Though a lot of people are critical of Thiem’s scheduling, he’s been learning how to win for a few years now, so these deep runs are becoming more and more common place. He belongs. He’s podium material.

I only saw highlights of the Nadal v Djokovic SF. My own scheduling got in the way here. However, his tennis is not “moving” me; I’m not really looking for a Djokovic match these days. 14nadal1What I tell people often, who are trying to reach an audience: if you don’t feel it, nor will your audience. Djokovic is only going through the motions. But we knew this going in. Those who think Djokovic made things difficult for the Spaniard to close. . . come on.

I don’t trust Djokovic right now because I don’t trust him under pressure. He had nothing to lose down a set (2-6) and looking at the shower and an early flight to Rome. He has to play well to see adversity. He isn’t playing well enough to see any real drama in a match. Nishikori went running (Djokovic needed that match), so he had, really, no chance in the SF. Djokovic is all smiles. We need the madman.

Thiem, on the other hand, played brilliant today. How about some progress on a week-by-week basis? Last week, he crumbles at 4-5 in the first and the match is gone. Today, he’s at 4-5, down 0-40 to Nadal – three set points!

The Austrian fights back to even it at 5-5. The TB is even better. Nadal saw a total of 5 SPs before finally closing. The Dom is pop corn pop-star stuff. He got another clinic from the master today, but showed much improvement. The TB got to 5-3 Nadal, looking pretty grim for Thiem, but he fought that off, got it to 5-5. Just brilliant stuff from both players.

The actual tennis analysis takes us straight to, as I said in my last post, court positioning and ball depth. Thiem likes to play from the men’s locker room, scorching one-handers and his big (fallible) FH like a street-fighter from about 100 feet behind the BL. He actually got more offensive today, moved in, enabling him to engage his BH eaNadalandThiem-1rlier (ala Federer) and pin Rafa a bit to his own BH. That’s how these guys try to escape Nadal attacking their one-hander: feed his BH. Thiem went toe-to-toe with the clay GOAT today. Much growth in the young man. Back-to-back finals on the red clay vs. El Rey de la Decima (sure Madrid wasn’t a 10 spot, but you know what I’m talking about).

Of course, kudos to Nadal. What a throw back. Watching Thiem and him battle today was a bit of that Federer v Nadal of old – work with me here. Thiem has a bit of that raw offensive big serve/first strike/one-hander attack to counter-balance the soccer mid-fielder’s strength and athletic pitch mastery of Nadal. One of the biggest take-aways from this month-long clay master-class from Rafa is his court fluency, how to read and execute the drop shot, or the nasty BH, running around that short ball to end the point on his inside-out FH. He’s the chess master. Have always been perplexed by the fact that I truly believe clay is a less sophisticated surface and game, yet the king of clay is perhaps the smartest guy out there in shorts and tennis shoes. Bravo. Much respect to Rafa.

2007 or 2012?

We’ve been relishing this 2017 Fedal phenomenon since January. What a remarkable season thus far. As if we’re in a time machine. I said something to the extent of how ironic: Fedal is on top of the sport and there is no sign of the Djokovic-Vajda project. As Djokovic bid his ~10 year-old box good-bye, Roger and Rafa are destroying the tour. Flash-back to 2007, right?

Or is this more like 2012? What’s the connection? Well, Rafa did win FO and Roger did win WB, but the bigger deal was the massive drop in form (relatively speaking) from Djokovic. 2011 many will argue was peak Novak, where he blitzed the ATP for three majors and numerous other titles. The following year, however, other than the AO (which he wins almost every year), he went away. That appears to be the case this year, following his incredible ’15-’16 run. In fact, even 2013 was pretty rough by Novak’s standards.

What explains these giant peaks and valleys of the Serb’s dominance? In other words, we’ve been here before: not only with Fedal taking hold of the men’s game, but with Djokovic almost vanishing. If you think about it, sounds pretty natural: sustained dominance is difficult.

Or is it 2009?

Here are some videos of Madrid 2009. Nadal had the epic SF with Djokovic, which he survives, of course. Federer pretty much routines Nadal in the final 4 and 4. Look at the S&V Federer employs on MANY points. If he’s serving, he’s coming in. Brilliant stuff on the clay. Sure Nadal passes, but that’s pretty relentless stuff from the Swiss.

Thiem doesn’t have the S&V of Federer, but you saw him use it a bit today, which was pretty effective. Watch the Fed/Nadal highlights. Some of the S&V is all-time. Federer goes on to win Roland Garros that year (The Djokers say but he didn’t have to face Nadal. When Djoker won RG, he didn’t either). Compare Thiem today to Federer. Certainly different, but glimpses and he’s going nose-to-nose (new body part) with Rafael.

Lastly, I did want to get another shot off at Nishikori:

Asked what are his plans now, Nishikori replied: ‘I’ll take couple days off, for sure. I will plan to play Rome, but we’ll see. I cannot promise to play or pull out right now. I feel a chance, you know. I just need couple days, I guess, to recover well. But French is more important. We’ll see next couple days.’

It was inflammation‘, Nishikori explained furthermore. ‘Now I think it’s getting better. It was my first tournament. So, you know, I was feeling a lot of little bit issue everywhere. I think that’s little bit causing to get little bit of pain. But I was expecting to have some pain. I tried to get used to little bit of pain. Yeah, hope I can get better.’

Inflammation? Kei needs to find a good spot in the top 20, say 15 or 16 and ride-it-out.


Rome (link)

Novak has Nishikori again in his Rome quarter. There are a few other interesting names in that quarter that the Djokerfans might not approve of. Yawn.

Nadal has Thiem in his quater. Really? That’s the best you can do, Rome? A Nadal v Thiem QF?

Wawrinka and Cilic have their own little irrelevant quarter.

Then the Murray/Raonic party in the top quarter. Does he even beat Fognini in his first match?

More to come as this plays-out.

I’m in tennis watching and writing mode so stay-tuned and feel free to chime-in. Interesting stuff for sure.

7 thoughts on “Madrid Final and Rome Draw

  1. Caligula

    My cold, tyrannical Heart goes out to Thiem who showed that he is so close to taking control of these old dinosaurs. He plays inspiring and aggressive tennis, reminiscent of Federer. And I love how you pointed out that his S&V aren’t Federer material, yet! If he can improve on his overall game which I think he most likely can, then it’s over! Nadal’s perhaps last chance to get #10 FO is this year, he knows the dirt well but to quote you Matt, he ain’t no spring chicken! He sometimes goes into suicide mode hitting the balls so short that it’s embarrassing to watch or even just returns the ball with zero interest hoping his opponent will go easy on him, he is no longer the unstoppable monstrosity who could retrieve virtually anything. But I digress….

    As for the rest of the “top” field, horrendous. Murray should wear a bag over his head to hide his shame, Djokovic should look somewhere else than the skies when he makes those silly faces when things aren’t going his way. And what the hell is GrandMaster Federer thinking when he skips every major clay-court event running up to RG2017? He has the audacity to just show up in Paris and do exactly what? Unless Ljubicic has employed some miracle training program on clay, Federer will have to adapt real fast. Now we know Federer is one of the best clay-court players of all time (eat that Slowakians!), but at the tender age of 35+ one would think he would want to at least test the waters a bit before committing to play RG.


    1. You smelled something with Fed’s absence. This is surely a tell that he’s all but calling 2017 the magnificent end. You have a good nose, Caligula. Who knew? Ha.


  2. Super impressed with Thiem yesterday! He improved even from a couple of weeks ago against Nadal. He’s strong, has some raw talent and feels like he belongs. I’m excited to see where he goes from here.


  3. clint grike

    Great analysis of the game and current trends! Nishikori is a special snowflake (I’m not in the alt-right; the metaphor just works in this case) – far too delicate for life at the tough end of the business. I’ve given up on that generation. Dimitrov has a lovely game (though if you watch him alongside federer he looks slow and clumsy – roger’s footwork is on another level). He showed a better attitude in the aus open but I’m not holding my breath; he’s disappointed far too often. Raonic is just too limited. He moves like an oil tanker. Goffin is a competant grinder, no more. Tomic is obviously the biggest bum of the lot. I’ve been told (on your favourite rival blog haha) that players peak later now and these guys may yet turn into the great players that they’re obviously not. I don’t see them ever amounting to anything. The future belongs to Thiem (but step up to the baseline! ‘100 feet back’ is right.) and Zverev and maybe Kyrgios (though you need to ask the psychiatrists, not the tennis pundits about that guy; physically it’s all there). Maybe Coric? Until that generation really finds its feet there are slams to be won and it is certainly not good timing from novak to be having a slump right now. But like you say, it’s hard to keep up that level of dominance. He feasted for a couple of years. Does he have the appetite of the very greatest champions?


    1. I said already (last year) that Novak is picking a whale of a time to slump. I don’t think he has the game to play into his mid 30s. He’s tired, I said, worn-out to a certain extent. Remember, Rafa took a lot of time off through out his career. Not sure, to your point, Djokovic has the appetite.

      But who knows. Ha.


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