The Palantír: Chaos, Chaos and Andy and More Chaos

A palantír (sometimes translated as “Seeing Stone” but literally meaning “Farsighted” or “One that Sees from Afar”; cf. English television) is a crystal ball, used for both communication and as a means of seeing events in other parts of the world or in the distant past (Encyclopedia).

You might recognize the reference from J. R. R. Tolkien, as well.

Are you following the transmogrification of the game? If you are not twisted and spun, or spinning-out-of-the-bowl, as we might say, listen-up.

Professional tennis is under siege. Such a series of events could drive any (wo)man crazy, but I assure you: we will survive. The civilized game will chart and lead us toward Big4_38f19160e1fbed1175906d2db43101a3greener pastures where our confusion will subside, though perhaps only temporarily. These are trying and concerning times on the tour; imbalance and epiphany fight for the throne while we can only wait and watch, calmly, and reasonably the struggle to understand the headless leadership whose stewardship repairs a system flawed beyond repair.

I confessed my church attendance following the Roland Garros massacre. Indeed, I sought council for the mess I had yet to fully comprehend.

Meditation and the blog, literature and great match replays have afforded me perspective and rest from the 2017 ATP chaos that we somehow must represent, explain, only to lessen the crazy and the crying. Even the shame.

The Federer loss today to Haas is not, by itself, a calamitous event. But there is commentary and foreshadow in the 2R Stuttgart result. I have plainly submitted that this is very much a result of his decision to skip the entirety of clay. Just a bad move that contradicts the fellowship’s ethos. To be clear, just a dumb move.

Such a decision is quite questionable for three reasons:
1. It’s arrogant. I think clay is inferior and still I wouldn’t skip the entire schedule. He has to respect the venues and crowds and players enough to report and play even a few matches. He’s too good for clay? I have entertained the injury excuse long enough; he did mention his concern for the knee, the unsteady court, etc. But you have to compete even symbolically, remind the boys you’re still there, still in all of that glorious form with grass on the horizon, so actually this or that match doesn’t mean a whole lot, but I’m here to play and keep you guys honest, especially you, Rafa. How’s it going, pal?

Instead, Rafa can go take care of his La Decima, devour the clay and continue to build momentum? no worries?

Maybe he is that confident or indifferent. Who knows.

He could have played cautiously and as if he had nothing to lose. He could’ve developed his game, deepened his familiarity with the tour, stayed in-touch. Nope. Federer is off to train in the clouds with the seraphim and other angels. Very bold move.

When Ljubičić publicized the idea of a reduced clay schedule back in 2016, upon his hiring, I suggest that was in retrospect, certainly an idea to consider, but perhaps something that might have made a difference in your career in the past, Federer. Sitting-out so much tennis at this point is probably not advised. You missed two months of tennis, which is different from practice, as you know; this acknowledgement in your statement recently hinted at perhaps a tiny admission that you’ve been away for too long. As we age, what’s the most important thing we can do physically? Keep moving. Utterly paramount. Playing competitive tennis is “moving” for a player who wants to compete at the highest level.

You had so much form early, so much momentum. Why throw all of that away?

2. It’s inviting too much pressure. Federer: Forget about the clay and the French; I’m pinning all of my hopes and dreams on Wimbledon. You all can have that entire season of competition: I am going to focus all of my training and preparation on this fortnight in July.

That’s crazy.

3. It’s scared. Again, if Federer is injured, rest, take a break from the phenomenal first three months of the season (a major and sunshine double). But the complete abstinence is too drastic, almost telling in a way. Why not play one of the Masters, or one of the smaller events, just to stay fresh, add some points, keep it real. Nope. He wanted nothing to do with the clay. Nothing! He was a clay abolitionist.

This might be the greatest of all examples of the intimidation of Rafa.

At least you’re keeping us guessing, Federer. After the loss today, I argue Federer is anything but a sure bet for Wimbledon. He’s almost 36 years-old. His year is teetering, if you ask me.

Adding to the chaos is Nadal, who you watched destroy the 2017 clay, including his RG La Decima that I have already married and divorced several times on this blog: it was beautiful and disturbing. His form is monstrous, scary, and seemingly as dominant as he’s ever been. Go figure.

2017 Fedal has been just a bizarre development, splitting the first two majors and first four Masters. They’re pretty much #1 and #2 in the world based on 2017 projections – Nadal is currently #2 while Federer currently is #5. They’ve shaken the entire tennis planet.

But just to be clear about the current chaos: Nadal’s freak-mode coming out of Paris is ironically unstable (which is so surreal) and Federer, though dominant before the clay, suddenly has a bit of a concern with only one 500-level tournament to play before The Championships.

Questions abound concerning these two since Nadal’s apprehension of grass has reared it’s head by skipping the London warm-up this week (per “medical” advice), and people wondering if he can transfer his manic clay recipe to grass; and Federer is finally returning “home” like the prodigal son, who seems, naturally, disoriented.

The whereabouts of Djokovic are unbeknownst, especially after Paris. We’ve charted this ad nauseam. What are one’s expectations for the Serb?

Wawrinka might still be partying, trying to postpone his French final hangover. Grass is not his surface, but he did, apparently, hire the celebrated Paul Annacone to consult during the grass campaign. Still, questions and chaos surround Stan the Man.

murray_grin2_976Of the top 5 guys, Murray may be the eye of the storm. This is not a betting site though I have been propositioned by several sports betting entities. Here’s my own advice: bet Murray to emerge throughout the fortnight (still awaiting confirmation from Fedal).

One could say I’m tempting fate here, as many may see Federer, in the end, rising to stake claim to his most cherished prize. Others might see Nadal forcing his way into the business-end of the draw with a suitable grass attack.

However, Murray, who might have escaped real damage in Paris, is perhaps the cleanest, the clearest and safest bet to steady his nerves and game for a defense of his Wimbledon grass.

What’s missing from this discussion and from most “betting” prospects? The younger future. Dimitrov (not exactly green) began 2017 sharp, with a renewed confidence. He’s suffered some tough losses and seems to be in retreat. Thiem and Sascha Zverev continue to blossom, yet both have yet to convince us of their Bo5 credentials. Then there’s Kyrgios and Raonic who seem to have the kind of game for SW19. The sport needs them to rise and ignore these giants banging around and creating such a mess.

This we will continue to follow and analyze: the carnage of the tour, seen quite clearly now in the aftermath of the early HC and Euro clay. Of course, I see this as nothing more or less than HRFRT. That’s more or less what we continue to observe here on this blog concerning these courts throughout the tour, for instance with Fed winning #18 and then Nadal winning #15. You realize how absurd this is, right? The sport is, one could argue, getting so far out-of-reach we’re in the throes of a kind of crisis, a little pandemonium, perhaps.

Bring it on.

More to come, thanks for reading and cheerio.

12 thoughts on “The Palantír: Chaos, Chaos and Andy and More Chaos

  1. We’ll never know for sure if it was überhaupt wise for Federer to skip the entire clay season or not, because admittedly we can well take note of his results after skipping, but only ‘speculate’ about which impact playing on the clay would have had on him (with perhaps another demoralising beatdown by/from a certain Nadal) in doing so… !.
    I know Federer has not a reputation of listening very well to his coaches, which could be viewed as arrogance as well, but I think in this case he listened to Ivan Ljubicic, because the ‘opportunity costs’ of not listening to him could have been a lot higher. Simple as that.
    ‘Avoiding injury’ surely has not had much to do with his decision to skip the clay ; Fed himself mentioned – right after the break – that the risk of getting injured exist either way, in training sessions as well as in competition.
    Nadal, in skipping Queens, is following some advise too, namely of his doctor ánd coach ; his announcement did not mention any injuries at all though.
    Will it harm Nadal that he doesn’t play any lead-up events on grass ?
    In my view not at all. After all he’s doing exactly the same thing as Novak Djokovic did a couple times, which didn’t prevent Novak from winning Wimbledon and defeating Federer.
    It’s true that Rafael is vulnerable when the grass is still lush, which is basically only during the first week, because on that type of surface he could well lose to lower ranked players.
    But if Nadal manages to reach the second week of the event, then watch out for him, because playing on the grass becomes then more like playing on clay, and by that time he’ll become very dangerous, if not unbeatable.
    Federer knows this very well, and that’s why he is also nervous about it.
    The following excerpt of an interview Federer gave in Stuttgart, shows this ‘apprehension’/ nervosity to a certain extent.

    Rogers words (in German) (from time 2 :06 untill 2 :32):
    « Wimbledon ist natürlich mein großest Ziel von der Saison. Das war schon Anfangs der Saison so. Das hat sich nicht verändert durch den Zieg von Rafa. Es ist schön to sehn das wann man einen großes Ziel hat, wie es Rafa die French Open hat, und ich vielleicht mit Wimbledon, daß man das Ziel auch erreichen kann, un er hat es vorgemacht (…) obwohl er natürlich mit riese Selbsvertrauen nach Wimbledon kommen werd, waß natürlich nicht ideal is. Ha Ha. »
    Translation in English :
    « Wimbledon is, of course, my biggest goal of the season. That was the beginning of the season. This has not changed by the goings of Rafa. It’s nice to see when you have a big goal, as Rafa had the French Open, and I perhaps with Wimbledon, that you can reach the goal. And he has shown how it is done (…) although now of course he will come to Wimbledon with huge self confidence, which of course is not ideal. Haha. »
    Judging from Federer’s words and his bodylanguage, writing off Nadal as one of the favorites for the Wimbledon title seems at your own peril.

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  2. We’ll never know for sure if it was überhaupt wise for Federer to skip the entire clay season or not, because admittedly we can well take note of his results after skipping, but only ‘speculate’ about which impact playing on the clay would have had on him (with perhaps another demoralising beatdown by/from a certain Nadal in doing so… !).
    I know Federer has not a reputation of listening very well to his coaches, which could be viewed as arrogance, but I thinks in this case he listened to Ivan Ljubicic, simple as that, because the ‘opportunity costs’ of not listening to him could have been a lot higher.
    ‘Avoiding injury’ surely has not had much to do with his decision to skip the clay ; Fed himself mentioned – right after the break – that the risk of getting injured exist either way, in training sessions as well as in competition.
    Nadal, in skipping Queens, is following some advise too, namely of his doctor ánd coach ; his announcement did not mention any injuries at all though.
    Will it harm Nadal that he doesn’t play any lead-up events on grass ?
    In my view not at all. After all he’s doing exactly the same thing as Novak Djokovic did a couple times, which didn’t prevent Novak from winning Wimbledon and defeating Federer.
    It’s true that Rafael is vulnerable when the grass is still lush, which is basically only during the first week, because on that type of surface he could well lose to lower ranked players.
    But if he manages to get himself into the second week, then watch out for him, because playing on the grass will become more like playing on clay, and by that time he’ll become very dangerous, if not unbeatable.
    Federer knows this very well, and that’s why he is also nervous about it.
    The following excerpt of an interview which Federer gave at Stuttgart in German, shows this ‘apprehension’/ nervosity to a certain extent.

    Rogers words (from time 2 :06 untill 2 :32):
    « Wimbledon ist natürlich mein großest Ziel von der Saison. Das war schon Anfangs der Saison so. Das hat sich nicht verändert durch den Zieg von Rafa. Es ist schön to sehn das wann man einen großes Ziel hat, wie es Rafa die French Open hat, und ich vielleicht mit Wimbledon, daß man das Ziel auch erreichen kann, un er hat es vorgemacht (…) obwohl er natürlich mit riese Selbsvertrauen nach Wimbledon kommen werd, waß natürlich nicht ideal is. Ha Ha. »
    Translation in English :
    « Wimbledon is, of course, my biggest goal of the season. That was the beginning of the season. This has not changed by the goings of Rafa. It’s nice to see when you have a big goal, as Rafa had the French Open, and I perhaps with Wimbledon, that you can reach the goal. And he has shown how it is done (…) although now of course he will come to Wimbledon with huge self confidence, which of course is not ideal. Haha. »

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    • The point is not that he should have even played the French though that would have been appropriate since these are majors and life is short;
      the point is he should’ve played some competitive tennis, a Masters, one of the smaller tournaments to maintain that rhythm, that “feel” of competitive tennis.
      Roger even said yesterday, what we already know, that match energy and fatigue is different from practice.

      The Ljubicic advice at this point is a bit late, as I said.

      Part of this decision’s flaw is not the actual tennis; part is the “look” of Roger’s absence, the ethos and karma of such decisions.

      Sitting for two months is just not wise, imho. Again, not talking about playing every clay tournament under the sun.

      He went AWOL. He now has only a week to work-out the kinks, gain confidence, etc., and, no, the practice court is not the same.

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  3. You are completely overreacting. As someone who plays on grass regularly, I can assure you that grass is simply a different game altogether, even the more baseliner-friendly Wimbledon courts. Personally, don’t consider it to be tennis. “Grass Court Tennis” is just that, grass court tennis. Different sport, same gear. That being said, after playing on grass for a decade (and clay and hard courts), you learn to really have respect for Sampras And Fed for their dominance at Wimbledon.

    Only a grass court player can really understand that it takes at least a few weeks to get comfortable, that losing sets here and there early in the season means just about nothing (as opposed to on other surfaces where it would actually indicates something) and that the reason Sampras and Fed won so many Wimbledon’s is because after they got comfortable on the surface, pure athleticism coupled with superb serving is what prevails at this level, especially in a best of 5 scenario. Grass is 100% about rhythm. Give him one more week…. Nothing has changed regarding Fed and those key attributes I mentioned. He has lost early before and won Wimbledon (so has Sampras…). Means just about nothing. Also, don’t assume he has been practicing on grass for 2 months. If he did that he would completely wreck his tennis game. Grass is all about precision and timing. Barring injury nobody is touching Fed at Wimbledon.

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    • Henry, welcome and thanks for reading.

      The “overreacting” refers to my description of the tour “chaos” which included discussion of more than just Federer? What overreaction are you talking about? The dramatized language describing the tour at this point with no one to challenge Fedal is aimed at clarifying the absurdity.

      Or are you calling my discussion of Fed’s loss in Stuttgart an overreaction? The loss is not that big, by itself, which I said straight-away.

      I just think his decision to stay dormant for two months (practice is not the same as competition, which you probably know) was unwise, so I’m more critical of that.

      I agree about Fed and Pete.

      I just think Fed, not a young guy remember, needs a little more match reps.

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    • And, Henry: these two sentences here are at the center of my stream of consciousness, what you called an “overreaction”:

      “Grass is all about precision and timing. Barring injury nobody is touching Fed at Wimbledon.”

      Exactly and I wouldn’t be so sure. For the latter to happen the former needs to take place.
      It’s like a deductive argument, but if one of the premises fails, the syllogism is undermined.

      Good luck at Halle, Fed.

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  4. @ Matt,
    I hope (some of my) comments don’t come across as critisizing you or your articles.
    I respect you and you work too much, and would contribute more and better if I could, but I’m afraid I’m not qualified enough to do that.
    We may sometimes have a differing narrative vantage point, but when you feel that’s the case, know that I always write my comment(s) with the prosperity of your blog in mind.
    I like this place here, your blog, and, as you know very well, I’m visiting it every day if possible.

    @ Henry,
    Keep commenting please.
    I played myself only on clay and hard court, but never on a grass court (except for fun with my kids on the “pelouse” in our garden).
    So it was kind of a revelation to read your comment.

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    • Ok, I will keep posting… Overreacting is even suggesting a calamtious event in connection with Fed’s loss to Haas in his first grass court match (and you did not say it was so, but did suggest skipping the clay court season was a bad move). Skipping clay was not a bad move for the Fed. He has limited firepower left. His efforts are best focused on Wimbledon and the US Open since he knows that Rafa is peaking and a FO title is just not happening. Very smart move by Federer. Recent history has shown that as a result of his amazing and superior athleticism, the GOAT can take 6 months off and win a major (and that Rafa can get to the finals..he was also off for like 4-5 months pre- AO?). If Fed can do that at the Australian Open, imagine what he can accomplish at Wimbledon, which is played on a surface that every other tour player only plays on about one month out of the year, and on a surface that relies heavily on pure athleticism, not hours on the practice court or tournament built confidence, in determining who will be the champion.

      The bigger discussion everyone seems to be missing is why in the world is Nadal even playing the silly one month grass court season? Nearly every year he plays he busts his knee and looks awful on the grass. It took me 5 years to move on grass without wrecking my knee…I still move horribly. It’s a clay courter’s nightmare. I thought for sure that this year he would come to his senses, make up a BS excuse and save himself the torment of grass court tennis. I still don’t understand how he even won Wimbledon twice (truly his greatest feat after the 10 FOs). He should skip grass court tennis indefinitely and focus on playing some clay tournaments ($1MM appearance fee?) and on developing continuing to develop his legacy in the US hard court season. The footwork needed on grass is entirely different than the footwork needed on clay for hard. Rafa cannot adjust on this surface and he is truly mediocre as a result. Eventually they need to remove Wimbledon. Nobody grows up playing on grass. Different shoes, different footwork, different string tension, etc, etc. It’s as archaic as the English monarchy….

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      • Henry, we welcome anyone to the discussion here, the more participants with quality posts the merrier. But I think you need to take an anti-psychotic pill in regard to your last comments about the nature of grass and why you think they should remove the surface entirely from the tour, unless you are joking then even I a sociopathic lunatic can’t get off on it.

        So, you have difficulties adjusting on grass? Big deal, don’t try to play baseline tennis on grass, try to serve it out, slice more often come to the net when the opportunity calls for it! I’ve played recreational tennis 15+ years now, my knees or ankles aren’t hurting and I don’t from baseline clay grinding when I switch off of clay, different people adjust differently but I don’t think grass is as fatal as you make it out to be. Unless you are a professional ATP player how can you objectively use your own difficulties to adjust and project it on to the pros? Surely, they eat and breathe tennis and have grown to adjust on different surfaces when needed?

        But I do agree with you that perhaps Matt is looking at this too passionately and that he is making predictions which are premature. These warm up grass court tournaments are not the end all be all in terms of indicating Fedal’s grass court form. Haas is a quality old school player, Federer was caught off guard when the old German warrior pressed him so early in the tournament, and it was it is. As for Nadal, he can afford some more rest as he has played a lot of tennis, and as a 5-times WB finalist if he is fit, no one should question his modern era grass court adaptations, we will just have to wait and see how this all unfolds, boring I know.

        We must be careful not to create a storm in a teacup in regards to FEDAL’s grass-court potential.

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      • As for reading the Haas result the way I did, I am only sharing my investigative process, how I prepare my closing argument when/if the shit hits the fan.

        If Federer underwhelms on the 2017 grass, guess where I’ll be? Looking at you and the Henry’s of the world shaking my finger, telling you to listen-up. And yes I will argue that his 2-month spring break played a factor. No matter the surface, think of the momentum he left on the court in March/April.

        If Fed finds victory and #19 at WB, not a huge shock, but I still think that’s a bigger challenge than many seem to be suggesting.

        He’s an old man, tennis-wise, despite all of the new-age tennis bullshit going around. A drop from Fedal would not be surprising from us at Mcshow Tennis.

        Keep it coming, Caligula!

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      • I suppose I should appoint Wilfried as director of reader/commenter membership at Mcshow Tennis.

        @Wilfried Thanks for giving Henry the pat on the back he needed to stick around. I hope your recovery is going beyond well. I always appreciate your comments, your contributions, unless you have recruited other Belgian readers 😉

        @Henry So, let me get this straight: you’re a Fed fan (referring to him as GOAT is the equivalent) yet you think the tour should dispose of the grass court season? Seems a bit contradictory, no?

        The decision to skip clay was not a good idea. Nor would it be a good idea for Rafa to skip grass. That sounds like some kind of soft parenting/coaching style where you only want people to expose themselves to those things they are good at. Watching players try to adjust to the different surfaces is pretty much the major premise of the GOAT debate. So, your thoughts on that seem rough, incomplete.

        Nadal would face even more criticism, solidify claims that he’s just a clay court specialist. It would do his legacy good to play deep into WB this year. He’s injury prone? Then that’s part of the equation. Federer says he plans to play clay/RG next year. Do you buy that? Why skip this year but reassure people he’ll play next year?

        Another flaw in your argument is that Fed can do at WB what he did at AO. I already pointed-out the problem with that logic. AO is at the beginning of the year, so the entire field is a bit underplayed, tight, still getting their game and form intact. Federer was on a more even playing-field, then.

        Sure clay is different from grass, but practicing is not the same as match readiness. Closing-out a match, figuring-out an opponent’s serve, adjusting to the rhythms of a match, etc. Is Federer match fit? Perhaps you discount this, on grass. He wanted to play deep into Stuttgart, for sure.

        He should be fine, as you say. I put a lot of stock in Fed’s game, if you’ve noticed from reading my blog (do your homework).

        I would temper or hedge some of your angles, broaden your margin. Federer should do well at WB and so should the rampant Nadal (even though this recent run has been on clay). I already said I like Murray’s position a lot. Federer and Nadal, remember, are no spring chickens. A drop from them is not out of the question. You think Federer feels any pressure at this point? Ha ha. Exactly. I love the Maestro’s game, but think he over-thought this WB run.

        Cheers.

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  5. Caligula, the issue is you are a “recreational player”, as you state. Impossible for you to assess what is needed to play at the pro level on a grass versus clay or hard. You are also making assumptions without actual experience on the surface. It’s simply not tennis, it’s another sport, labeled as tennis.

    Yes, I am a Fed fan (Nadal mostly), and I do think grass should be discarded. Players don’t grow up playing on grass, have very limited access to the surface and it’s just ac completely different game. Most grass courts don’t play like Wimbledon, they are slower, you must serve and volley and the ball does not bounce high enough to accommodate a baseline game. Nadal is perfectly capable of winning on a hard court and will likely do well this summer. Grass is a complete waste of his time.

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