Federer and Djokovic R3

I have to admit that I really only watched the matches today involving Federer and Djokovic. I will hopefully find the replay of Thiem and Dimitrov, in particular, later, among other highlights.

But Federer and Djokovic have the most interest here as they do probably anywhere else, other than the countries or fans of those other very relevant athletes toward whom I mean no disrespect.

To defend some of my commentary earlier, for instance skeptical of Federer: I am looking at the third set of a SF, BP and the tournament and even legacy on the line. I go to those high-stake moments, judging the tennis here-and-now on those pivotal moments down-the-line.

Back to today’s rounds and again no disrespect to those players not named Fedovic.

Admittedly, there may be no better development in the tournament than to have Dominic Thiem go berserk. The more one-hander power we have raking the lawns the betterer.  .  . 😉

Don’t forget Berdych’s little run in Miami; he had Federer in his sights.

804051778.0But let’s start with the Djokovic v Gulbis match. To start, Gulbis, as we know, is an under-acheiving talent. He’s had some decent results, winning six 250-level tournaments, finding a RG semi-final in 2014 where Novak outlasted him in four sets; essentially showing some real signs of a threatening serve, BH and a kind of unique quality that gave us tennis fans some hope that we had ourselves a bonafide tour regular.

This has not been the case with Gulbis. He’s essentially wasted any talent he’s had, known as a party-boy, heir to a family of diverse talent and success, perhaps fortune and fame. Whatever the case may be, Ernests has been an ATP bust.

But he found his way in the weakest section of the draw, got by Del Potro and found himself face-to-face with his old friend, Novak Djokovic. He and Novak were hitting partners back-in-the-day and the Latvian actually beat Novak in R1 of Brisbane in 2009. Talk about two players, then, going in opposite directions.

Novak took care of business today 64 61 76 (2) to advance to the second week where he’ll next face the Frenchman Adrian Mannarino; the alternative would have been Novak v Monfils, so it’s not quite as bad as it looks; actually, it’s worse than it looks!

Gulbis was up a break in the first at 4-3, serving, but fell-down and couldn’t get up. He soon found himself down a set and buried 1-6 in the second. However, he maintained a glimmer of belief and kept the third set tight and tense. This is somewhat significant, perhaps, as Novak, indeed, had a little trouble closing-out the hopeless, unseeded Latvian.

I mentioned that Gulbis is an “unprepared” opponent. Novak stumbled a bit despite the opportunities to really advance his game upon the unseeded journeyman. Novak’s ROS wasn’t very sharp, though Gulbis does threaten when his awkwardly flat serve hammers the chalk. Novak found himself on his heels a few times in today’s match. That may be all we need to take-away. He won in three, but, as I said, the Latvian maintained hope to the end, and with a win in that third set TB, who knows, as Djokovic, we can all acknowledge, is not out of his own woods quite yet.

Yet he survived and has a gift of a draw to support this recovery. To be fair, Gulbis is a challenge, but not the kind of test that Novak might need to fortify his craft for later encounters.

The match that followed Djokovic – Gulbis was Federer v. Mischa Zverev, which the Swiss won in straights 76 (3) 64 64. This wasn’t much of a match after the first set; and the first set should have been a much more decisive affair than says the scoreboard. Federer was serving 4-2, was broken and needed the TB to decide the opening frame.

The tennis during the TB and into the last two sets was master class grass tennis from the Maestro. Or it might better be called an effortless walk-in-the-park. In the southern California July heat, I had more perspiration sitting on my couch than did Federer. Seriously. I will take this as a very good sign for the Swiss seven-time champ.

More particularly, Federer was anything but brilliant during the first set. That he didn’t close-out the set was a bit worrisome. His ROS, BH in general and overall point construction seemingly lacked polish and execution. This is the kind of form that should worry anyone wanting to see Federer advance and win this tournament against much stronger competition. The ROS was especially bad. Such errant tennis will get him in all sorts of trouble, later.

The second set proved to be a much better case for Roger. Especially in the department of ROS. His early break in the second was leveraged on his brilliant ROS and other kinds of shot-making that brought back all kinds of classic Federer grass legend.

There was a bit of the same feel in this match that I sensed in the Halle final vs. Mischa’s younger brother. Did the opponent lack form and execution or did Federer impose his will on these two? Surely a bit of both.

In contrast to the straight-set Djokovic win, this one felt more like a suffocation, Zverev looking less involved as Federer grew more and more confident and brilliant with some of his exhibitionist shot-making (volleying, passing-shots, ROS, variety, etc.). He didn’t, literally, appear to break a sweat. That’s the biggest take-away: that he found the close-out against a decent grass opponent with this sort of ease. The match gave Federer some good looks at working his BH pass and other improvisations against a mobile and smart S&V veteran.

Djokovic struggled, on the other hand, imho, to close-out a challenging yet error-prone wild-card.

Of course, the next match will tell a different tale, perhaps.

Up-set alert: Mannarino in a five-set epic over Djokovic (you heard it here first). 😉

Federer gets Dimitrov, then Zverev the Younger or Raonic. Wow.

You Fedfans out there, I feel your confidence from today’s match. The TB and second and third sets were vintage. And I even got the sense (articulated by Utsav) that Federer might be holding-back a bit, or angling to play into final-four form. Today was a yawner, in the end, despite that break back in the first that kept the German alive and well. But the way he steadied the ship and really demoralized Zverev seemed as effortless as it was definitive.

But as I tweeted after a brilliant volley exchange in the first set that Federer won and had the crowd and announcers wet and wild: “That beautiful volley at 30-30 has zero significance in this tournament. He needs to choke his competition, not dazzle them. #Federer.”

I suspect Ljubičić and Co., are making this point, moving forward. Dimitrov,  Zverev/Raonic, and Djokovic will be more dangerous, more unforgiving. Again, I’m comparing the tennis I see in these earlier rounds to the fierce consequence of those deeper rounds.

Day+Two+Championships+Wimbledon+2017+QEAddK4_95qlTomorrow’s off day will see more from Mcshow Tennis with regards to some of the other final 16. The Thiem v Berdych match is a bit under-the-radar, but could foreshadow all kinds of meaning on the Serb’s run for glory.

Also, Nadal v Muller and Cilic v RBA are interesting matches though we tend to lean toward a last tune-up before the Cilic v Nadal must-watch. Imagine that.

Querrey v Anderson is a big serving of a big serve grass clash, and let’s not forget about Murray who certainly should advance.

8 thoughts on “Federer and Djokovic R3

  1. Incondite

    I hope you’re right about Mannarino taking down Djokovic.

    I think Federer will be fortunate if he can get by Dimitrov in four sets; do you have a prediction about that match?


    1. Incondite, I was pretty much kidding about the upset, BUT we truly don’t know much of Djokovic’s form because he hasn’t played anyone yet on the grass; even if he smothers the Frenchman, we still won’t know how truly ready he is to face the music. Extending that logic, if he gets beat, wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world. At the same time, that would be quite an upset.

      As for Federer, I will talk more about this in a post I’ll write later and publish tonight, around 11pm PST.
      This should be a decent test. I suspect Federer to take care of Dimitrov in straights or maybe four.
      Anything other than that would not bode well. Fed has a tough draw.

      I have to believe that Federer and Ivan have a real game plan, round-by-round. It’s time to start to press and suffocate, move harder to break and TAKE CARE of the serve. Federer, all things being equal, has the tools to win this. It boils down to execution, mental and physical focus. I have been reading the Sampras bio and watched Tennis channel’s replay of the 2002 USO final. Sampras’ serve and volley were really unplayable. He could have played and won for years with that combination. Fed needs to go to school on that.

      I will develop these thoughts tonight.


  2. Tennisisthebest

    Matt, “you cannot be serious!!” NO WAY! It will be a Djoker/Nadal final. You heard it here first!! But if AO is any indication, Unplayable Roger can still make an appearance!! It’s early days yet!! Fingers crossed, Incondite!! BEL19VE!! But honestly, I’m just hanging on a thread, haha. The courts are atrocious! Shame on you, Wimbledon, so called most prestigious tennis tourney…😱👎


    1. I am starting to believe, as I said to Incondite, that we have a peak in play from Roger. I saw some of the Lajovic match today and Roger looked pretty unimpressive. Forward to R3 v a veteran S&V, better, but still not great (though some of his tennis was superb, very high level). If he routines Dimitrov, (the likes of 4 4 and TB – or a 4 setter), the team should be quite pleased. Federer should not struggle v Dimitrov.

      Remember my upset alert! 🙂


  3. Roy

    i think your analysis is spot on Matt.RF looked very tentative so far in this grass season (except Halle final), contrary to his resolute style of play in the first quarter of the season which I think the singular factor for his breakthrough this year. It’s more like 2015: wouldbe enough to pass the earlier stages but certainly not enough to touch the finish line. Tbh like almost everyone else, i also kind of thought that his BH was the single most important factor for his success in 2017 but as i watched some of the matches of 2015(e.g. wim15 semi) he was hitting his BH almost like this year.So in my opinion, playing big point decisively (his heyday hallmark) was the difference between 2015 and 2017.

    Moreover, for some reason, he also seemed very disturbed.IDK if is because something off the court or the frustration of not replicating the shotmaking of the earlier part of this year but if he can’t put his act together soon reaching semifinal will also be difficult. For Fedfans, the bad news is he might not find his early form in the Championship since its kind of natural state of someone age of 36. But the good news is that he might caught cold according to some news. Moreover according to Roger himself his FH IO & serve gives him the most confidance and those tho shots he is hitting well in the championship so far. SO maybe he will be back to his best from the 4th round.Moreover, I heard that tomorrow’s forecast is rain, so there is a high chance RF vs Dim match will be under the roof which Federer prefers.

    With regard to the other members of Big Four i think everybody has a chance. I’m sure as the tournament progresses Murray will be very tuff to beat, Djoko is playing so far the best in this year ( although i’m very cautious to predict something because of the erratic nature of his game lately). Nobody is talking about Cilic but his game looked real good.

    And finally Nadal looked really really good. Contrary to his style, he is taking the ball earlier than every, serving well and also regained the confidence of his FH( something that was missing in the AO,IW & Miami). i remembered in Miami open again P. Kohlschreiber Rafa tried to take the ball early & got Bageled, therefore forsake this style in the hardcourt season. But so far in SW19 he is doing that pretty successfully.I think before final if anybody could take down Nadal, it will be Cilic. Otherwise, i fancy Nadal reaching the Final comfortably. if RF somehow goes to the final & then meet Nadal it will be very interesting matchup due to adjustment both played did to their style. I think Carlos Moya successfully pursued Rafa to play more aggressively for long-term benefit but interestingly this gave Federer some advantage in their matchup. Roger definitely hit his BH incredibly well but Nadal also never hit his FH CC that flat to Rogers BH before. That definitely helped Roger to hit his BH so well. So La Decima Rafa could be proved too much for rest of the tour briefly but for Roger ironically it gives him better chance that before.Although now Roger has to deal with Rafa’s FH IO which he is hitting way better than the early HC season.

    Nice analysis Matt. Please carry the good stuff: It’s delicious! Happy blogging!!


    1. Great stuff, Roy. Welcome and thanks!

      Like I said, I will write a post tonight covering a lot of this stuff – Rafa, for instance. I see a vulnerability. Like you, for me Cilic appears to be finding that ’14 USO/ ’16 Cincy form. He’s having a solid spring/summer so far and that could be match of the fortnight.


  4. Tennisisthebest

    Matt, totally agree on your reply to Incondite. Roger needs to go to school. He could develop/exploit his serve/volleys even more. And he should always play his all court game/ strategically/tactics. He has all the tools. I always say when Roger plays his all court game, nobody, and I mean nobody can beat him. Just clamp down and execute, Goddamit! Ivan gotta hammer it to him, force it down his throat, haha! As for Djoker, true he hasn’t played anyone significant enough to gauge his form but he IS playing into form, he seems to have regained his passion for winning and if there is still any question of his lack of motivation, it ALL vanishes if he sees Roger across the net. Roger is his irritant; his hot button. He ALWAYS rises against Roger. Only an AO Roger would be able to contain Spartan Djoker….


    1. I agree. I have kept saying he’ll rise, thought he would at RG, pretty surprised and wrong about how off he’s been. I’m going to borrow some of the talk (probably Caligula’s) that Djokovic is not in that impeccability and something truly is amiss, something the hiring of a coach can’t quite fix (maybe we should ask Pepe).

      Routining Dimitrov will be critical. Roger should not be beaten by Grigor, Sascha or Raonic. Tomorrow’s match will tell us more.

      Post publishing later tonight. Off for a cold beer!

      Cheers, TB.


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