The mess of the clay has without a doubt affected the quality of my blog of late. Sure, you might not have noticed since the form here, as you know, has been “the highest level ever played.” 😀
There have been some choppy posts, but I’m going to attribute this, naturally, to the chaos of the clay. At the same time, some of the blame goes to the circus at the top of the tour: a 35 year-old wins the first three big HC events of the year, and then a 31 year-old (he turns 31 on June 3) practically sweeps the clay schedule and now is the favorite for
the year’s second major (see: 2017 Fedal). Meanwhile, nos. 1 and 2 are searching for something, anything – and this is where some real inference and analysis (my two favorite cups of tea!) come into play. In the end, we’re fine here at Mcshow Tennis; please be assured of that.
None the less, the mess, to which I’d like to add a little clean-up, focusing on the Federer withdrawal from the French Open.
In retrospect, the withdrawal makes sense. Certain media members have found quotes from reputable sources (current and former players) that confirm his decision to skip clay is smart because of his intentions and expectations on the grass. Sure, I’ll drink some of that, but I’m rather conceding it’s smart because he has no recent clay play to get him ready for Roland Garros. Nadal said something to this effect, which makes the most sense. Federer didn’t play any clay tournaments, so it’s only logical he pulls-out of the French.
In addition, we can all see the possibility that the unevenness of the red dirt could play havoc with his 35 year-old knee that put him on injury-out for most of 2016. So, I should have known better.
I should have done my homework; there is a history of tennis that goes beyond Federer-Nadal-Djokovic, which I remind readers of regularly. Presentism is a lethal intoxicant that can make you sound pretty uninformed. Federer ruined tennis. Remember?
Is skipping the French unprecedented?
As Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times reminds us, “Skipping the French Open to improve one’s chances at Wimbledon was more common in the past, especially among Americans. John McEnroe played Wimbledon after skipping the French Open five times; Jimmy Connors did it six times. Martina Navratilova played at Wimbledon after missing the French Open 10 times, doing so in two five-year blocks, 1976-80 and 1989-93” (NYT).
Indeed, years ago, believe it or not, the tour was vastly different. Equipment, surfaces and scheduling were of a different order. I explain this in my series HRFRT although most of you probably understand this historical complexity already.
One of my all-time favorites is the fact that Bjórn Borg played the AO once, in 1978. In his nine-year career, he played that major one time.
Jimmy Connors’ career spanned roughly twenty years. He played the AO twice. He won it in 1974 and lost in the final in 1975. That’s it. Twenty-year career. Twice. Do the math, people.
Two of the sport’s greats could have added several majors to their totals. Connors skipped, as the quote above says, six times. Different time, different sport all together, really.
Lesson: don’t forget your history.
This would have helped me rationalize the decision by Federer, who, again, ironically, ruined the sport according this guy right here. I should have known better. If it was a snake, it would have bit me.
Ultimately, here’s my problem with him skipping the French. The draw needs more significant quality for the second week. I think the way the clay build-up went, we have some real deals in Goffin, Thiem and Zverev to add depth. Others will hopefully make their case. This tournament has a favorite and its #2 seed will be an interesting watch, as well, as he looks to defend with his new coach. But beyond that, this tournament is fairly wide-open.
I assumed this would be the case weeks ago, which is why I was encouraged to see Federer play. Nothing to lose, rested – if you go out in the 3R, who cares. His withdrawal, initially, denied the sport that mystery, especially given his form in 2017.
Moreover, I connected the decision to his impending retirement. I thought of those comments he made at the Australian Open trophy ceremony (slip of the tongue?).
My logic moved immediately to he’s skipping the French to devote entirely to WB and then the U.S. Open, his two most successful venues. He’s going to get while the gettin’ is good. This is indeed his farewell tour, which makes some sense given the idea of a great going-out on-top.
Consequently, his comments about seeing his French fans next year make no sense to me. Why would you play next year at 36 1/2 years-old? That would point to the knee.
Of course, don’t you have to second-guess any retirement propositions given that he just won the AO and the sunshine double? It’s a tough read, which is why I wanted to revisit this just for a bit. What a perplexing year of tennis, no?
He certainly has our grass attention. Certainly looking forward to that stretch of tennis culminating at The Championships.
While I have your attention, tune-in tomorrow (I wanted to add another discussion here tonight, but that’s probably a bit messy 😉
Tomorrow I will explore this war of 2017 between the current King, Djokovic, who’s lost his way, who’s Kingdom has been cracked and pillaged first by a brawny Brit (Scot), and secondly, and even more ruthlessly by the two Kings of old. The Serbian great must now gather himself, and replenish his armaments, prepare for a war the likes of which we may have never seen before.