Developing Story at the French: Djokassi

Greetings, my tennis fiends (Not a typo. Indeed, you are my “friends,” but with the French underway, and the sport’s history on the men’s side embellishing our dangerous tennis drunkenness: you and I are no better than fiends of this ghostly tale of legends and champions).

Having opened with that. . .

nothing too interesting to speak of on the court in Paris other than clay remains the main character in most of these matches; in other words, generally, among the 80-90% of the field, the result is a coin-flip. But that’s just clay for you.

Or we hear the collective character of a country come into play to explain a result, as we’ve heard many fans say this or that about the French on many occasions, getting down and not having the heart to fight. Does this explain my failure of highlighting the chances of one Jo-Willy Tsonga, who got embarrassed by a complete unknown in R1?

I have already written that post: What Could Have Been

But Tsonga is pretty much past the point of no return now. I was making more of a comment about the wide-open top half of Roland Garros.

The Del Potro match, if both survive to the R16 (even though Juan is less than 100%) will be a good gut-check for Murray since we know the Argentinian will fight with whatever weaponry he has. But don’t hold your breath, or breathe too deeply the cloud of dirt kicked into your face by some “unforeseen” result.

Again, nothing too much to speak of so far (too bad Sock has gone away, great emotional win from Stevie Johnson – a little nod to my fellow Americans).

I see Novak and Rafa have been fairly clean through these first two rounds, though the commentary seems to suggest that Novak’s two straight-set victories have not been without a little nervy and clumsy close-outs (I have watched highlights. Nothing too remarkable here). I’m not buying any of this concern, yet. I’m of the opinion that Novak is getting a lot of lift from the presence of Agassi.

Do you want to really know what Agassi brings to this story? This video is a good example:

Interesting juxtaposition between the two coaches sandwiching Novak in this tennis time and place.

I said this before: Agassi often assumed the role as the less gifted athlete, but he had the fight of a cornered cat, a champion cornered cat. He’s smart, competitive and, as many have noted, complicated in a way that makes his approach to tennis more than just the ROS, taking the ball on the rise, etc. Agassi has had to come-up with those intangibles to beat many bigger and more gifted tennis players.

He’s the classic underdog in a way, which is ironic since he’s held the top spot of the sport for stretches of hBoris40E9810200000578-0-image-a-64_1496066120744is career.

Sounds a bit like Novak. Novak has been a monster in this sport for years, dominant, pretty consistent, etc.  Yet he’s seen by many as a kind of underdog. Is it Fedal? Is it his and his family’s sometimes acerbic antics that have caused tennis fans to recoil, refer to them as classless, etc.?

Agassi has this gene, as well. We all recall his exhibition match against Pete (Rafa and Roger were on the court, as well) when he made reference, into the microphone that projected the comment to the hundreds and thousands listening, to Pete’s extreme frugality. Certainly caught Pete off-guard and made everyone, including Fedal, a bit awkward.

That’s where this Agassi and Djokovic relationship is really interesting. They’ve played the underdog (in an ironic way) throughout their careers and perhaps because of this slight, this under-appreciation, they’ve acted-out in ways that have often invigorated this role.

But they’re both smart. This we know. The video above is a good example of the tennis intelligence that precedes the American.

By the way, this is just another reminder of the intelligence of that earlier era of tennis. Look at the impact that Norman (who’s a little younger, of course), Lendl, and Becker have had on this era.

Again, the presentism of fangirls and boys is a terrible look deep in the heart of tennis literacy. Those old boys from back in the day would’ve eaten quite well in this day and age of super tennis.

The tennis should pick-up in Paris over the next few days. In that bottom half, Djokovic will get the tough but diminutive Diego Schwartzman, who loves the clay, then turn his attention to Pouille/Ramos-Vinolas, all of which sets-up the big QF that we assume is a winner of Goffin v Thiem. Having said that, Thiem has an emotional (and potentially inspired) Johnson, grieving the recent loss of his father; and Goffin has the awkward but dangerous Zaballos.

Definitely better clay foes on the rise in the Djokovic bracket. The writing here at Mcshow Tennis will certainly pick-up as the draw tightens.

Nadal, as we said in our short preview, has a pretty straight shot to the SF. I am not as confident as many about Rafa’s chances to win RG, but he should not see too much trouble until the potential epic we could see in that SF.

I am happy to see Dimitrov advancing and another Nadal v Dimitrov could be an interesting match, but, again, this is Nadal’s quarter all the way.

In the top half, it seems wide-open. No one stands-out at this point. A lot of you like Stan, but that’s fools gold until very late in the draw. Literally, there are too many names to sift through at this point.

I am quite intrigued, as you might have guessed, with the arrival of Andre. He has always been a complicated tennis entity. From his relationship with his father, to his quirky style, his win at WB, his career grand slam, and continued battles with one of the GOATS (who pretty much owned Andre) to this now savior status in the Djokovic box.

Even if Andre’s presence in Paris is limited, his affect on Novak, imho, could be ingenious. We shall see.

Looking forward to the next couple of days. Stay-tuned.

10 comments

  1. Potential SF prediction based on past meetings between Djokodal at RG.

    RG 2006 QF – Djokovic gets schooled by prime Nadal, still claims he was in “control” of the match and retires due to lack of conviction and heart and the inevitable realization that no matter what he does he is will get owned. 6-4 6-4 0-0 Retired

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SdfhhYJsJ8

    RG 2007 SF – Djokovic puts a respectable fight in the first and second set, then gets annihilated by prime Nadal in the third set. 7-5 6-4 6-2

    RG 2008 SF – The Djoker gets some needed motivation in the third set after getting owned by Optimus Prime Nadal, yet falls short of doing anything remotely right the deciding tie-break. 6-4 6-2 7-6(3)

    RG 2012 F – The Djoker can’t seem to shake up a declining Nadal who still manages to spank him respectably in the first two sets. Djokovic gets into some groove in the third set but due to rain the match is suspended and resumed the next day only for Nadal to remind him who is still king of clay. 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5

    RG 2013 SF – The closest match they have ever played at Roland Garros, a declining Nadal shows that with heart and knowing the rules of not actually being allowed to touch the net before the ball has bounced twice, ensures him the win. 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 9-7

    https://usatftw.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/djokovic-stare.gif?w=1000

    RG 2014 F – A hopeful first set victory still means that Djokovic gets manhandled by a half dead Nadal, not even when Nadal is within ~50% of his true capabilities on clay can the Djoker close the deal. 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4

    RG 2015 QF – The tennis world has the pleasure to witness a dilapidated Nadal whose short returns look like they belong in the junior tournament section get eaten alive by a delusional Novak and his legions of moronic apologists and fangirl parasites, and when Nadal begins to correct some his short groundstrokes the first set suddenly looks open again, but the wounded bull cannot keep the intensity up and falls. 7-5 6-3 6-1

    So, looking at the entire picture, a prime Nadal 2006-2008 has 100%-win ratio against Djokovic with not one dropped set. A declining Nadal (2012-2014) could show up in a wheel chair and still beat Djokovic, 100%-win ratio with an average of 30% of dropped sets.

    2017 Nadal looks more solid to me than 2014 Nadal, and 2017 Djokovic looks worse than the 2014 version, not even Agassi can help Djoker when Nadal has the capabilities of fighting back in a Bo5 clay-court match. Let the fangirl tears commence!

    Now of course this fiendish post is aimed at the fangirls, but I have not seen them around, and as far as I know Matt doesn’t abuse the block functionality.

    1. My resident Nadal historifan. 😉

      You and I know that a SF between Nadal and Djokovic here could be pretty compelling since it means that the Djoker would have bit of his swerve back.

      The 2012 match was affected by the rain pretty dramatically to favor Nadal. 2013 the gap got even closer. 2014 is one of Djokovic’s slumps (he’s had a few throughout his career, which hurts his overall case).

      Don’t forget 2015 when he was mugged in what should have been his crowning moment.

      To qualify your point-of-view: the Djoker, one could argue, is due, given how many times he’s shit the bed in majors. He’s been in a slump and those slumps do end, just to clarify that historical truth.

      I am not giving fangirls any nutrition for their garbage diet of gluten-free fructose french-fries. I am saying that Djokassi is a potential danger to the draw.

      Those of us who can argue any which way have a distinct advantage over the fangirls and anyone else for that matter. We have no blinders, no bias brown bag over our head that prevents us from seeing reality.

      Let’s see what happens with Djokovic’s path to the SF. If Schwartzman beats him tomorrow, Agassi should run for the hills. If he gets through to the QFs and straight-sets Goffiem, then we have a little nervousness in the Nadal camp.

      Remember our discussion of Nadal’s clay schedule. He has been peaking, perhaps. There’s a possibility of Novak playing into peak.

      I know your historical argument quite well, my Lord, but do not be blinded by a potential Novak run.

      To be fair, prime Wawrinka v Nadal would be an amazing final, something we all deserve. Having said that, I kinda want Wawrinka to win WB so he has the career GS and then I can start arguing he’s GOAT. LOL.

      1. Wawrinka is one of my favourites, no doubt about it, when he’s on it’s a thing of beauty! Dolgopolov was a quality opponent for him today, and the match was pretty entertaining!

        I welcome the chance of a Djokodal SF. I couldn’t care less who wins it…. nah who am I kidding? I want the fangirls to suffer! Plus, the #10 FO title would be a monumental achievement, something I think would be a perfect send off for the Spaniard, he must earn it of course! And I am not one to shy away in witnessing a potential spanking of “the player who plays at the highest level of all time!!!”. The tears it would produce in the fangirl camp would sustain me for another century at least!

  2. A big part of the post is where the similarities really are – career underdog and both are, according to many, more or less assholes.

    Looking over the rivalry, Nadal has certainly had Novak’s number. Pom poms will point to the H2H.

    But look at the big matches at the FO, USO, Olympics. Novak has the WB final win and the AO final, but Nadal has certainly gotten his fair share and more against the Serb.

  3. Hear! hear! Caligula my Lord! 😀 If there is one thing I love more than tennis itself, it’s making the fangirls cry. I don’t wanna be mean. Have never been mean in all my years as a tennis fan…..until the fangirl monster was born. He and his groupies are so ridiculous, they should be labelled POISONOUS and illegal! Yeah, Caligula, their tears would sustain me a whole century too when “the greatest tennis ever played of all time” falls to the Spanish Bull. I’m drooling already, haha. But I agree with Matt, Aggassi may have come just in the nick of time. History goes out the window. Djoker is a highly “dependable” person (completely opposite of Federer whose motivation and inspiration often come within) but when an exterior inspiration Is provided, he can do the impossible. It would be monumental for Nadal to grab the 10th. If not, I want Stan to spank the Serb again. Spare us the coronation of the Serb as the GOAT if he wins a double career slam by the fangirls🙄 Yes, Matt, even starting argument for Stan being the GOAT if he wins Wimby is more bearable😂😂Thanks Wilfried for the mention. I loved your comments in the fangirls blog and the day he banned you, I was totally flabbergasted and that started my falling out from his blog as he went from unreasonable to mean to….mad. The new gen is still not ready for bo5. Much improved but needs few years yet. They’ve gotta be smarter in their scheduling and choosing their moments, working on their fitness and learning to peak. Without that, no matter how good they are, I don’t see them sustaining their good form, stamina and mental toughness in bo5. The big 4 learnt these important things from young. Young gen or even the failed gen have not shown much savvy in these important areas of managing the sport.

    1. I am glad to see that I can entertain our tennis blog demography one way or the other Tennisisthebest! 😉 It is indeed true that Djokovic’s biggest weakness is his lack of natural mental fortitude and as you and Matt point out, a solid external motivational factor like having Agassi, a star-coach could be enough to make him dangerous again. I still don’t see him steamrolling through the opposition like in 2015, granted the opposition was weak as hell back then and today FEDAL and the younglings are beginning to stake a claim on the tour. Under the right circumstances he will break.

      A motivated and tenacious Nadal on clay in a bo5 match will do the trick just fine!
      I stand by my argument that a Nadal within ~50% of what he could do in prime form (arguably the most dominant clay-court monster we have witnessed throughout tennis history) is more than enough to tip the balance in his favour against Djokovic on clay.

  4. Btw great vid on Agassi hacking Boris. Gosh! how scary is that?!! I wouldn’t want him to be my opponent’s coach; that’s for sure! Ugh! looks likely the fangirls might get their wish…. aaaahhhhhhha! God save us all.

  5. Great post again. Nadal’s quarter all the way you say: it’s certainly looking that way. Tragic what just happened to Goffin. My commiserations Wilfried! Thiem is playing great but my money was on the plucky Belgian to come through and give Novak a test. I can’t see Thiem turning around the form from Rome. So it looks like Nadal v Djokovic again. I felt djokovic’s comparative freshness might stand to him but rafa is just knifing through the draw. 0-1-0 against his latest victim. Thank you to Caligula for the history refresher. I will never forget novak’s encounter with the net in 2013. He’s had plenty of wins against Rafa since then but I wouldn’t be surprised if he still has nightmares about that epic choke job. But Tennisisthebest makes an excellent point about the serb’s psychology (also like the point about the next gen and failed gen). When I think of ‘mentally strong’ players I automatically think of guys (Sampras, Borg) who are more stable, less needy. But with the right help the suggestible serb can reach a state of mind that allows him to overcome the most difficult obstacles. One thing is for sure. Stan is the only guy from the top half of the draw that can beat either of these two. Nobody’s mentioning Murray and rightly so. If he gets to the final he will be a doormat for rafa or novak. But if Stan gets into beast mode all bets are off.

    1. Thanks, Clint Grike.
      Sad accident.
      As far as I’m concerned, the Roaldn GArros organiszation and infrastrucutre is partly to blamfor what happened to Goffin because the space behind the baseline on that court is not sufficient for a player to retrieve deep high bouncing shots. David was looking at the ball and didn’t realize he was close to the extremities of that court.
      You know at Roland Garros their infrastructures dates from the middle ages (slight exagerration…) without any signicant improvements or investments in the last decades. Time doesn’t stand still, but at Roland Garros it stood. Shame on them. As far as I’m concerned they may take the slam concessions away from them and give the honors to Shangai or another Asian city to organize a slam in a proper way.
      Anyways.
      I watched also the Djokovic-Schwartzmann match afterwards. Was an entertaining match, second to the hell of a show Monfils and Brown gave in the second round.
      One last remark about Novak’s antics.
      His celebration ritual with the ball boys – after his victory – contrasts strongly with the way he treated them during the match. Novak was irritated against them the entire match.
      He remains a mystery to me.

      1. Ahh, you see the antics, my friend, Wilfried. He is a mystery. Down 2 sets to 1 and then the greatest level to ever play.

        I too am sorry about Goffin. Terrible luck and circumstance here in Paris like the bogus over-rule against Nadal in MC? He’s played consistently and courageously for most of the year, especially on clay. Good things ahead for your fellow Belgian and I will be tipping the Belgian ales in honor of his continued threat on the ATP.

What say you?