The Aftermath of Federer’s 6th Australian Open Title

A few strands of confetti are still pirouetting about Melbourne Park, especially in and around Rod Laver Arena, but most of the Australian Open fanfare has dissipated and moved-on, perhaps similar to a kind of circus or country fair. The excitement of Roger Federer’s victory and 20th major certainly has some fans and tennis professionals alike wanting to perhaps end it all right here. The number and the man involved seem so enormous at this point. Shut it down.

Ahh, but the show must go on.

February involves first several Davis Cup ties, and then a mix of hard and clay court tournaments throughout Europe, the U.S., Mexico, South America, and Dubai (this includes some 500-level tournaments — Rotterdam, Rio, Dubai and Acapulco).  The boys get to keep picking-up their games, fighting for points and form with March right around the corner (Indian Wells and Miami).

Indeed, the tennis will continue despite people seemingly stuck on #Federer20. I mentioned the celebratory aftermath, the corks and confetti flying through the air, all of this historical Aussie tennis jazz throughout the streets and cafés, jamming away to the summer down under. Quite the event.

Others are stuck too, though not in so much joyous revelry. The critics are out, obviously. Some criticize the tournament for facilitating too much favor for Federer, the notorious roof now the subject of this conspiracy theory.

You know that I’ve criticized this part of the tour’s marketing plan. We also touched on the questionable scheduling the day Djokovic and Monfils almost heat stroked and Federer got a night match on Laver (sure, this upset some people; I think this is suspicious, too). I did want to mention that I watched a bit of the tennis that day and perhaps this was an issue of the court position to the sunlight, but simultaneous to the Djokovic v Monfils was the Khachanov v Del Potro (among others), but these two towers were handling the heat much better. Seemed odd. Monfils and Djokovic looked on the verge of collapse, but other players playing in those same conditions didn’t appear to be having so much difficulty.

The bottom-line: the AO organization fucked-up. Close the roof, re-schedule, whatever.

Now we have roof-gate with the men’s final. The way I hear it: Federer warmed-up on Laver and Cilic on an outdoor court. Then Cilic is surprised as he arrives at Laver to see the roof closed and gets caught off-guard. Cilic even remarked that this surprise is partly what caused him to look like a startled junior in the first set.

On top of this, people argue that the closed roof is controversial because A) Federer’s tennis excels indoors and B) this closure was inconsistent with other matches, such as the women’s final where the roof remained open.

What does this all mean? That the AO handed the trophy to Federer?

People are still talking about the draw, Federer’s draw. If you read my blog, the draw was assessed.

Federer had the likelihood at the beginning of the tournament of facing Djokovic, Sascha, Del Potro, Goffin, Raonic, Berdych, Wawrinka, Thiem and several of the other bright youngsters.

On paper, that’s soft?

Nadal had the likelihood of playing Isner, Carreno Busta, Cilic, Dimitrov, Kyrgios, Pouille, Tsonga, Anderson and Sock.

I have already addressed this, but just to refresh some foggy memory.

Roof-gate and scheduling might get some under-garments into a bunch, but I just don’t see the injustice compared to actual draw-depth — for me a much bigger issue.

As JB said in my comments, much of this criticism will wane, but for those devout fanboys and fangirls who will tweet and sabotage discussion boards into eternity, the clown-show must go on.

But to clarify: no matter how much talk ensues, the history of the sport will stay intact, as baffling or unjust as that may seem. I conceded that even despite all of my criticism of Nadal, throughout the existence of this blog (and beyond), none of this hot air diminishes his 16 majors, 10 FO titles and 3,457 masters wins.

The numbers stick. Despite all of the heated debate, conspiracy theories and so forth that attempt to qualify and undermine these accomplishments, these players won these tennis matches, over-came their opponents, secured those trophies.

The marketing component/tournament organization of so many events is sometimes very suspicious. But the players still have to lace-up the shoes and get out there and play.

And, yep, I’m going to say it again: life isn’t fair. I have to take that medicine as I’m prone to bitching about some of this unfairness, and I advise others to do the same. I rant and move-on. This is our therapy. Get dirty and then wash your hands and get something cold to drink. 🙂

One of my favorite American sports pundits, Michael Wilbon (who even consistently criticizes his own employer, ESPN) was very critical of the trophy ceremony. To paraphrase: Shut the fuck up, marketers and other money men and women: let the players speak! Music to my ears. This aspect of the tour is garbage and believe you me: I will continue to speak my mind here and there. You know this.

Be that as it may, 20 majors is fucking wild. 20 is a tipping point, if you know what I mean.

Believe me: The fact that I wrote HRFRT back in 2016 when he was sitting on 17, seemingly going nowhere, is a beautiful thing. So much work to do. That project is still in the works, accruing value every second of the day.

Back to the numbers. Did you like that one statistic, pointing-out that Federer has won 10% of all the majors in the open era? Indeed, since 1968 there have been 200 majors played. Granted, 20 isn’t that much more than 17 or even 16, but this achievement seems to crack a code, so to speak, destroy the paradigm.

And yet there’s more criticism. The weak-era argument. Does that even make sense at this point? Not that 20 dismisses reality, but what exactly is the gist of the weak era argument here?

How far back does this weak-era go? Do you see the complication or contradiction? Likely fanboys and fangirls are making this argument. If a Djokovic fan goes there, then what exactly is she saying about Djokovic? Or did the weak era begin in 2017? Of course.

These proponents of the weak era are perhaps confused. We have an injury-riddled men’s field. Is said depletion affecting the entire era? Doesn’t weak-era argumentation concern the quality of the field? Is this the same as an injury-plagued field?

No.

Many of these same people subscribe to the weak-draw argument, too.

These are all different and even a bit contradictory, which brings us to the term of the day portion of this post:

Kettle Logic: Making (usually) multiple, contradicting arguments, in an attempt to support a single point or idea.

You catch my drift.

A lot of this criticism, in other words, sounds scattered, incomprehensible, and weak.

The injuries are a massive problem. I keep promising to explore this issue (and I will). Here’s a quick thought on this: with a 36 year-old winning majors (though he did look his age a bit on Sunday night), we have to continue to discuss style of play and, yes, equipment. But style plays a big part in this injury epidemic.

I’ve seen this too much with my own eyes: Djokovic and Nadal work so hard in many of their bigger tilts. Granted, the Serb is not 100% fit, but the match with Chung was brutal. Djokovic was getting bullied out there, which was shocking, but makes sense since that’s his style. He tried to counter that defensive attack with similar means. Not enough variety. Maybe this was a come-to-Jesus moment.

Can a player keep playing like that into his mid 30s? Probably not. Nadal is the same way. He has to be 100% and rampant, spitting fire. If not, he’s not the same threat. This physical style (all play is physical, but you know what I mean) is probably not sustainable. Nishikori is not surviving that style. Andy, similarly, will struggle maintaining that BL heavy artillery.

Sure, some of this is almost cliché at this point, but it’s worth bringing-up again after Sunday night. Federer has so many options. He didn’t play very well, but enough when it mattered. Roger was deep into his tool-box and tennis great’s manual of operations.

I really did feel bad for Cilic. He was in the driver’s seat going into that fifth set.

If you’re looking for the biggest threat on tour beyond Fedal in 2018, Cilic is probably a good candidate.

We have to wait and see the status of so many of the top guys: Is Djokovic having surgery, how’s Nadal’s hip/knee, when will Murray return, and what about Stan, Kei, and Milos?

I certainly believe that the tour suffers with this much carnage. We hope for speedy recoveries and continued health for those healthy enough to play.

I also certainly believe that you have to be in it to win it.

And that we can’t really criticize players for being healthy. 😀

Sorry for the delay here and thanks for reading.

PS
We have at least one more “Aftermath” post coming before we turn back to the actual tennis. What about those tears, which in a very very interesting way (with the help of a great article I read) remind us of this unusual journey that is Federera. On the surface, it’s as if he’s played through a generation of greats, outlasted his biggest foes. But the story can be even more interesting than that.

Peace.

6 thoughts on “The Aftermath of Federer’s 6th Australian Open Title

  1. Dani

    Matt, both players were kept posted about the possibility of the final getting played indoors. The mixed doubles was also played indoors prior to that match. Only half an hour before the match however the final decision was taken.

    Cilic did however not change his practice routine, even though he could have practiced on an indoors practice court (they have several), Federer did as he wanted to be prepared for either possibility (source: their interviews). Some people who don’t like the result of the final really made a lot of noise about this issue, when there isn’t much to discuss there. To me I don’t know whether the roof is an advantage or disadvantage for either player and both had to adapt to new conditions.

    If anything the women’s final should have been played indoors too (although it was much hotter on sunday), although I’m sure Wozniacki would mind.

    The Djokovic-Monfils match is always cited, but this is a very different situation because it wasn’t the only match that was played at the time. And if they had closed the roof, play would have to be suspended on the outer courts. Would that really be in the spirit of fair play to possibly let those players play 2 days in a row to catch up with the schedule? And then there’s still the rumour that Djokovic’s team requested the daytime knowing Monfils is very susceptible to heat (like Simona Halep). Djokovic denied that HE requested of course, but the source of the rumour is his own team (Agassi). So who knows there? Players do use heat to their advantage as well.

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    1. The complaints, as I think I suggested, are a bit unfounded. And by the time we’re at 1-1, going into the third set of the final, or even 2-2, there’s an even-playing-field for both men. The complaints and conspiracy theories are minor static to what really happened.

      Djokovic denies that he requested that. I will say this: if Agassi requested the heat to undermine Monfils – that says a lot about his confidence in Novak. Poor strategy.

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  2. Jason Bourne

    This is a bit OOT regarding Federer’s level. Matt, do you think that current Federer’s level is maybe a very slight notch below last year during the AO win & sunshine double?

    He did have patches of unplayable periods, but it was fewer than last year, he could not sustain it as long. In 2017, he had this 1 full match being completely unplayable against Berdych. And then the 1st 2 sets against Stan. This 2018 Fed, he never had 1 full match of sustained brilliance. Initially I thought that the opponents weren’t good enough for him to set into the godly gear…and he was saving it for the final. But as it turned out, even in the final he couldn’t set into that god gear. He had to win it with grit, helped by Cilic’s misfires.

    Maybe this is too early to say, but could this be something similar to Novak’s 2016 FO win? I sure hope not…for I know how much I will miss watching him play.

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    1. I think his level is lower, but he was so full of nerves in that final that perhaps it’s tough to say. The last pretty high level we saw from Fed was probably Shanghai or early WTF — I would say Shanghai.

      Let’s see going forward. Like I said, he looked a bit his age in that final, but I might be blending the match with the emotions afterwards. I suspect #20 frees-up his swing even more.

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  3. Duarte

    I believe the mental factor played a role. I suspect that if Fed vs Cilic was a QF Fed would dispatch Cilic in 3/4 sets.

    I think his level was good throughout the tournament, better than last year, if you remember last year’s SF, Stan was actually thr better player and coming from 2 set behind..

    Regarding the sunshine double, while he was awesome in IW, the same cannot be said of Miami (in spite of the thriller against Nick Kyrgios).

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  4. Great writeup Matt, A lot of good points from Dani, Jason and Duarte too. It was a patchy final but some dramatic, gripping moments. Cilic blew some chances but he also came up big on a few occasions when he needed to and made a match of what threatened to be a blowout. I think he can hold his head high and hopefully he will be a factor for the rest of the year. Another straight sets snorefest would have been a disaster after last year’s RG, SW14 and USO. It would not be a massive exaggeration to hail the big Croat as the saviour of tennis at the moment. Looking forward I hope Chung can regroup and push on. I’m still on the bandwagon and looking forward to seeing what he can do on clay. He’ll have to work on that second serve but full credit to Roger for exploiting that weakness. The deep hitting of the Korean was a threat, so target the second serve. Brilliant from the maestro (and/or Ivan). In the end it was a pretty fun tournament with some good storylines. I hope also Zverev, Kyrgios and Thiem can get over their disappointments, move forward and improve. Tennis needs them.

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