2017 Basel Final: the French Connection

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Federer wins Basel (his 8th) and pulls-out of Paris. I said in an earlier comment: “I think it would almost benefit Federer to go out early in Paris. He looks off. Winning the WTF has much more consequence (especially historically).”

Good decision. The best part of that quote/comment is the part about he’s off. Not the most enjoyable final on Sunday, from either side. I’ve heard folks say it was a great match. Granted, there were many twists and turns, three sets with a potentially pivotal first set TB. And the shots were here and there, the dramatic BP saves, the breaks of serve, etc.

But the FederPotro Saga and the year-end drama (the fact that this bizarre year is coming to a close) seem to overshadow the actual tennis, not to mention the idea that Federer is more nervous in Basel than he is on the clay against Nadal.

Federer looked edgy, tight, annoyed.

Federer’s FS chimed-in at 52% (53/101).  That seems to convey a physical issue. The headline regarding his withdraw from Paris Masters is either his back injury is back, or he’s taking preventative measures to ensure “the back” doesn’t come back. Either way, he’s 36 and has a history of back issues, it’s November (Happy Halloween, everyone) and he’s had a very rigorously physical year.

I’m sticking to my guns. Sunday’s final should’ve been a straight-set win. He had it in the bag, in the first, serving for set, or up 3-0 in the TB. In the end, he gifted Juan a Swiss chocolate before going 4 and 3 and lifting number 8. But the agitation and tight tennis it took to get there. . .

I recall one of our readers/commenters wondering if Federer could take-in more 250s and 500s, as a way to extend his career, etc. I responded pretty emphatically, “No.”

A rationale was provided but this Basel tournament was enough to convince anyone that these tournaments are beside the point and really pretty unnecessary if you’re a big-picture person with majors and masters filling-in your ATP landscape. He had to play Basel, from what most of us understand; he was obligated, by contract. The tournament carries a lot of meaning, memories, etc. He’s been in the final eleven times. Once upon a time he worked the tournament as a ball-boy. He carried the damn thing on his back!

So this final, especially, to my point, was hard to watch. Seemed almost unnecessarily necessary. Even though he was probably never going to play Paris this week, Basel made sure of that.

We suspect a run at #1 really became too much of a reach after the USO QF (although that bird had already been shot and cooked months earlier).

But still. Play Basel, to skip Paris, and forego the chase for #1.

As I watched this Basel final, even some of the other matches of this tournament, my mind wondered a bit (as will this post).

The 2017 narrative has everything to do with Fedal, injury and the lost sport (the “lost boys” paradigm has gone almost mushroom-cloud as we start to wonder about the championship character these legends are bestowing future generations).

Why does Denis Shapovalov seem more dangerous than Grigor Dimitrov or even Kei Nishikori? The younger the player is at this point, the more promise he has. Really it’s the unborn that gives us hope now.

Never, in the history of this sport, was a 36 year-old beating top tennis players 5-10 years younger. Nadal is right behind him, at 31, and Djokovic will most likely add to this ruination in 2018, the Serb turning 31 in May.

And what was to be a Fedal battle for #1, Nadal has secured YE #1. Most of the story is right here:

Nadal played in 9 of 9 Masters events this year.
Federer played in 4 of 9. Simple math, folks.

Numerically, Nadal just has the edge.

This is a huge accomplishment. Federer would be lying if he said #1 didn’t matter. Futhermore, he would have to acknowledge his own responsibility in this failure.

And this all unraveled for him back in May, when the tour was in Rome. Not sure if you can follow this, but I was writing about Rome when the announcement came, that Federer was skipping the French. I responded in only the way I can. I interrupted the post I was writing and turned my attention to the announcement, the terrible news that it was. I complicate the discussion: I agree Federer should’ve skipped some clay in the past (we’ve talked about this a lot), but skipping this year just seemed really unfortunate, for the tour, for the tennis, for him. The last lines of that post read:

Wow. Sorry about the oddity of this post. Began writing about Rome and wanted to throw some Djokerfan rumor-mill into the garbage. Then Federer pulls the plug on Paris. Wow.

Again: this reads true farewell tour. This is it, folks. London and NYC, WTF and that’s all she wrote. The only explanation.

I spoke of retirement, etc. Granted, he’s probably not retiring after London; why would he? The point I’m making is . . .  that was a very consequential move to skip the clay.

Sure, he was healthy enough then to win Wimbledon.

But now, despite probably playing the best tennis on tour, he has no shot at #1.

And playing Basel reinforced all of this. He’s been on his farewell tour for about 3 years. Djokovic was the only player who could beat him (again, the lost boys saga is now a zombie movie where the ATP field is more or less the walking dead to Fedal and Novak’s reigns of terror).

The French announcement was, for me, a big tell. Which relates to my thoughts on Basel.

Playing without a first serve, committing 40 UEs and looking and sounding like he’s a frustrated middle-aged guy teaching his son how to play, wanting perhaps to go inside and have dinner (it’s getting cold out here!), have Juan finish is homework and go to bed; all of this brought me a sense that reality isn’t this #2017 Fedal fantasy.

Sure, Mcshow is nostalgic.

Remember the 2012 French Open QF between these two?

Switzerland Federer      3 6 6 6 6
Argentina del Potro  6 7 2 0 3

Was 2017 Basel a microcosm of that epic, where Federer hands the man a lead and then circles the wagon?

Who’s to say . . .

Sorry for the delay in writing; the final was certainly anti-climactic; perhaps a foreshadow to the rest of the year.

And now that THAT is out of my system, I will carry-on, despite another very troubling thought. . .

Federer’s tennis racquet is a depressing state of affairs . . . this helped explain some of my disinterest in the final as this weapon of choice caught my attention, particularly.

To be continued . . .

5 comments

  1. If he gets there Delpo will have a better chance than anyone but Federer at the tour finals.
    He is clearly on Federer’s mind, just look at the break point conversion…

    1. Break Points Converted Federer 33% (5/15) Del Potro 43% (3/7)

      The tennis was sloppy here from Federer, rife with mistake, frustration, etc.

      No doubt Del Potro presents Federer with difficulty.

      Del Potro certainly has work to do to get to London (though he has said this run of his is more for 2018 – which I think is a very auspicious statement).

      Interested am I to see how Nadal plays in Paris. The WTF has to be high on his agenda, or does accomplishing YE #1 mean he can play with less pressure in both remaining tournaments.

      The lack of a WTF title you would think means a lot.

      1. The WTF’ is probably higher on his agenda than winning Paris, but if it doesn’t take too much efforts, I think he will try to win Paris as well.

      2. Calling it – if Federer is fit in London, Nadal will not win his first YEC this year.

        Kind of agree with you on the final. Make no mistake, it was entertaining while it was on, but the aftertaste was…let’s say it was reminiscent of the 2012 AO final (but better obviously; no idea why that one is rated so highly). The tennis was shit in retrospect.

      3. The draw is opening-up and looks typically terrible. You can only hope for a Del Potro Nadal SF, but Isner probably beats the Argentine. These fields, along with “favroites” (Thiem, Goffin, Querrey, Sascha. . . ) not performing is such a bad look.

What say you?