Qualifying 2017 Fedal

federer_nadal

See my previous post where I addressed the rise of Nadal to #1, in retrospect, and how that might have stung with my apparent insight over a year ago when I buried him along with his kitchen sink (as the saying goes). But I hint at the end of that last post that this year, this claim, becomes a bit complicated, as well (with many things Nadal).

And too I need to remind everyone that there really wasn’t any negative bias in 2017 from me as I recorded and made commentary that was both fair and celebratory regarding the play of the 16-major Spaniard.

I was just being honest and reminding you all myself that I had been quite tough on the guy in the past, as I think said toughness was warranted. I am not the tennis status quo. I am not a mainstream media hype doctor. I-call-it-like-I-see-it.

I want to back-up even further and look at 2017, focusing on the background for a bit, which took-on a certain blur with the mess of fireworks going-off in the foreground, which amounts to Fedal splitting the four majors and putting a strangle-hold on the entire season.

As we turn to the eve of the World Tour Finals in London that begin November 12, we know and will continue to digest all that has happened this season. Remarkable, incredible, truly historical stuff from Fedal in 2017 that took the tennis world, record books and athlete expectations, among other things, by storm.

Be that as it may, we need to talk about the season in light of what didn’t happen. Or more significantly who didn’t happen. As astonishing as 2017 was in terms of the Fedal dominance, the continued emergence of Sascha, some other gems from next-Gens like Tiafoe and Shapovalov, Fedal had minimal competitive obstacles or distractions (other than age, especially in Federer’s case, which makes his year even more unbelievable, obviously).

The absence of Murray and Djokovic made the bigger, more meaningful draws much easier to navigate. The previous #1 and #2 in the world were, it’s safe to say, not nearly 100% in the first half of the year, and both finally bowing-out for good at or around Wimbledon. As the US Open Series opened-up (N.A. hard courts) the virtual rest of the 2016 top-ten went away on injury-leave for good, too. The Wawrinka-Nishikori-Raonic-et al. clan seemed to buy-in on this sabbatical.

And let’s get this straight: this was Federer’s first “sabbatical.” I’ve read bullshit fanboy/girl garbage about how Federer taking so much time-off is almost unfair, blah blah blah. Federer’s absence from the 2016 French Open was his first miss at a major his ENTIRE career. Even the “sudden” surge from Federer in 2017 was framed as a “surprise.” We’ve been over this: Federer’s previous majors, the ones he played prior to 2017 AO went: SF 2016 WB, SF 2016 AO, F 2015 USO, F 2015 WB.

2017, I’ve argued, wasn’t shocking from Fed in terms of results. His form, more accurately, was what had changed. His court position, BH and that business-end of the point/game/set and match might’ve been different. But not so much the results.

The field was different, though, too. The Djokeray absence, especially the missing Djoker, was another significant difference, or change. But not necessarily the quality of tennis. Just look at the data.

Back to the injuries. We’re not going to leaf through the annals of tennis history to verify, but I feel pretty confident that the ATP injury-list we saw by mid-summer 2017, of the kind of talent that had gone away, was unprecedented. As if no one wanted any part of Fedal.

Of course, the discussion around injury, as a result of the schedule, gained momentum throughout the light-weight tennis commentary with which the sport is unblessed. That’s another discussion for another day, but I was certainly reminding folks of a few other factors that play into this stream of injury.

Did Nadal and Federer benefit from this weakness at the top (and mid-section)? Yes. No question. We can only hope that they have this same (or similar) form next season.

But the other part of this weakness of the 2017 tour (to qualify the dominance of Fedal) is the complete shitshow that is the lost boys/generation/etc. This is not just about Dimitrov and Nishikori and Raonic. This is a tennis-plague of staggering proportions. It’s as if the legends are on some kind of performance enhancing drug, just them, just the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic contingent. Of course, I am not making that argument. But the sport is a mess, really.

Look at Paris-Bercy, for instance. Or any number of other tournaments this year where the usual suspects were nowhere to be found.

Congratulations to Jack Sock. He’s actually not a complete imposter, but you know what I am talking about.

I don’t have the energy here to go through a bunch of examples, but Grigor sure is easy to find. Of course, I was terribly interested in his early season results as he mounted quite a charge that actually started toward the end of 2016. He mastered a solid draw in Brisbane this year before his great run in Melbourne. He has to beat Nadal there in that SF. But he didn’t.

He lost his ass in IW with MPs and the USO utter failure, coming-off his first Masters title in Cincy, has to be the biggest tennis turd this side of Djokollapse (I will never let Djokovic off-the-hook on that one, sorry). Dimitrov is a disaster. As the USO draw imploded, already weakened by the exodus of frightened top-tenners, that Nadal bracket up-top was especially horrid.

I completely digress (but not really). Is Sascha Zverev really going to inherit the tennis earth? With Djokovic, especially, coming for scalps in 2018, I can only wish the German a lot of luck. I half-jokingly said recently that the younger one is at this point the more hope and promise he has. I fathomed that the unborn represent the sport’s future (ummm, you’re stating the obvious there, Mcshow. True, but I’m trying to underscore the crisis and see if anyone out there is awake).

Folks, this discussion of the rest-of-the-field is terribly disheartening. I beliem in Thiem, and so do you. The Americans have a couple of youngsters as do the Canadians. The Canadians. . . between FAA and Denis the 18 y/o tennis super star, the future is. . . . completely unfounded. We can only hope.

Think of the gap established in 2017 between Fedal and the rest of the tour. The two legends practically toyed with the field. They’re not even close, can’t even whiff these gents’ after shave, let alone tennis genius.

Why not? WTF (and we’re not talking about London here, but rather what the bloody fuck is wrong with the rest of the field?)!

It’s two sides of the same coin: brilliant we have so much greatness at the top and an incomprehensibly shitty rest of the population. The inequality (and this rings true in more ways than one) is massive. Again, think of how far the tour’s 2017 “promise” was from Fedal.

Which brings me to Federer, who at 36 years old, really shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. This is absolute insanity. He’s 36.

Were you as baffled reading my 2017 Basel Final: the French Connection post as I was writing it? Do you want to know the thesis of that piece? It was actually pretty simple.

Federer is old. That’s it. That’s all I was really trying to say. The Basel final was brutal to watch. He was agonizing. He had to play the tournament. He knew he couldn’t chase-down #1 because he couldn’t back that up with a Paris win. Why not? Because he’s old.

He got himself into this situation because. . . he’s old. He skipped the entire European clay calendar. Skipped it. I wrote about how significant that would be. I said he’s retiring. Why? Because he’s old.

That’s where I was going with the racquet. Folks, the real reason he’s SO GOOD this year? His racquet looks like something Nadal would use; it should be illegal. I don’t recall the specs now, but Federer, probably to his chagrin since he’s a traditional guy, sure enough, went to a ginormous racquet with the forgiveness of a rules official working the clock at a Nadal or Djokovic match.

I remember really seeing this in stark definition vs. Mannarino in Basel. Mannarino’s racquet looks like a jacuzzi on a stick. And Federer’s is right there, big as a tear drop from God who sees the sport circling the drink, having resorted to this hyper-drive of equipment and style that’s rendering this circus. God, help us!

Indeed, this just clarified the age of the Maestro. Brilliant stuff this year, playing his part in the 2017Fedal epic; but the signs are there as well, folks, again, obviously.

At least he’s got himself in seemingly good enough shape to represent in London.

This might not be something his other half, Nadal, can say, as we turn our attention to this fiasco, of Nadal missing the WTF.

Folks, with a bum knee, why would Nadal play Paris? After Shanghai, skipping Basel and Paris should have been the program. The WTF takes precedence over the year’s final Masters. This is not even debatable, not given Nadal’s company in the sport, given his history at this event. Given the prestige of being #1.

If your knee was sore, you should have waited to secure your YE ranking in London.

I actually thought he might catch London, right place at the right time. We’ll see what happens. Maybe he still does play and maybe he wins his first WTF. But it’s not looking good. On many levels.

The more things change (I have to say it, with apologies. . .), the more they stay the same or plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose . . . 😉

 

What say you?