What has made much of this golden age so interesting concerns the depth and complexity of these bigger-than-the-sport rivalries (which is part of the flaw of presentism in any discourse, a latest-is-the-greatest, a newest-is-truest stupidity).
But these three rivalries’ longevity alone (historical fact) makes them significant. There’s the Fedal H2H about which folks have gotten themselves all messy (that I destroyed back in 2015, prior to 2017 and will certainly continue my assault on that mythology). Then there’s the more interesting, perhaps, Djokovic v Federer (Novak 23-22) and the Djokovic v Nadal (Novak 26-25) rivalries.
We are not here to explain in-depth these latter two, but the numbers themselves are pretty interesting, in general, and definitively orgasmic for the Djokovic fans. Indeed, Novak has the slight upper-hand on his two older “brothers.” But, of course, there’s more to all of that, which we aren’t exploring at this point.
Tomorrow’s second Wimbledon SF between Novak and Rafa has big-time ramifications on the draw, these players’ fortunes and legacies, history, the debate, etc., etc.
So how does tomorrow’s match play-out?
There’s really two approaches to predicting the outcome tomorrow. One approach concerns the more immediate context which entails Rafa’s recent form: he has won three of the last six majors, including the French Open about a month ago. He’s been playing top-notch tennis for over a year and still appears to be flying pretty high on momentum, confidence and ability.
In this first approach, looking at recent form to predict tomorrow’s match, Novak, on the other hand, has not been playing as well. It’s that simple. His slide that began in Wimbledon 2016 continued even through the early parts of 2018. He appears only recently to be emerging from this Djkollapse. He’s been improving over the last few tournaments played, with signs of peak Djoker mixed-in with traces of the snake-bit tennis legend who’s been seen literally stumbling around the BL in quite bizarre fashion.
He’s looking better and better now, with each passing match, which brings us to the 2018 Wimbledon SF. The look appears to have returned, in his ROS, his consistency, his serve and the look in his eyes, which can only be troubling for the rest of the field.
But given this first approach to our prediction, we have to say Rafa’s recent string of success might still trump the comeback (31 year-old) kid.
In the second approach to a prediction, we would look at a bigger sample of tennis, include some of their H2H over the past few years.
If we look at their last ten meetings, which happens to include the 2014 French Open final, which Rafa won in four sets, we come-out with Novak leading this roughly three year sample (last ten matches) having triumphed in 7 of their 10 meetings.
To summarize: Rafa with an edge in the more recent context based simply on health, form and results while Novak gets a big nod as the prediction concerns their recent history playing one another.
Glancing at some gambling odds, the folks that put these together, though they might not purport to being tennis analysts, do have the professional responsibility to do their homework. At a glance, the odds look pretty even with Rafa getting a slight advantage, according to that industry, that perspective, which, again, has some credibility when it comes to making predictions.
But there’s a reason you turn to Mcshow for the insight. Because I’m a little crazy and a little right on (but like anyone else can be wonderfully wrong, which is the nature of this endeavor — predicting the weather).
Rafa v Juan Martin QF
I am going to sound like a grump or a snob (but let’s just agree that I’m a proud curmudgeon) but I thought this match between Rafa and Juan Martin was not the greatest tennis I’ve ever seen by any stretch of the imagination. On the sheer inability of Del Potro to break-back in the fifth makes this just a weird aligning of the stars or whatever you want to call it.
Fatigue aside, that was just bad. What makes sense of the Argentine’s failure to secure one of those many chances is Rafa’s will to win. I’ve acknowledged this many times over.
At the same time, however, Rafa’s grass tennis (his style in general) is anything but classic, or elegant in the traditional sense. He’s a tougher fit on this surface, period. Why, for instance, had he not been to a QF since 2011? He’s a terrific anomaly given his tremendous touch at the net, which is his skill at delivering the opportune drop-shot (probably the best in the game). But he’s more or less making a mess out there. Indeed, his will and ferocious all-in uniform undoubtedly scares most players.
Rafa gets away with murder, which is both a criticism and a compliment (as you know).
Just like me saying Roger is too good for his own good.
That’s life and the wave we ride here at Mcshow, full of contradiction (which is complexity, reality and therefore insight). Buy-in. It’s you’re only hope for a satisfying existence.
In other words, not only was the overall quality of the Rafa/Juan Martin QF underwhelming, but Rafa’s form shouldn’t frighten necessarily; therefore, I wouldn’t put much money on him succeeding in these final frames of Wimbledon.
Granted, no one competes like him and this includes his clutch, his ability to avoid self-destruction (see Federer v Anderson) and his sheer sense of timing (both in hitting a ball and putting pressure on his floundering opponent). He does the most with the least.
But he’s at a disadvantage on this surface. That’s the point here.
Back to the Rafa v Juan Martin QF. What was Rafa constantly attacking in yesterday’s match? Which is the same as asking what stroke is still hampering the Argentine? That’s straight-up the big man’s Achilles’ heal. Sure, I’m stating the obvious. But that part of Del Potro’s game will continue, almost certainly, to let him down. Not only is that a weaker shot of his, but he’s continually trying to run-around said weakness to employ his much better Fear hand; but this, of course, causes him problems, almost as many problems as the fear hand causes his opponents. That’s the reality of the Del Potro BH/FH dynamic. It’s a problem.
This added to my review of that QF. For all of the competitive brilliance, there was much to add to the quality of the actual tennis. Between Rafa’s over-reliance on the top-spin (a curling, looping Safeway drug store) to Del Potro’s BH and in the case of yesterday his inability to secure one of his 300 BP opportunities in the fifth. . . Sorry to pee on your parade if that’s what’s happening here.
First of all, Nadal will not be able to attack or abuse Novak’s BH. Is Novak all the way back to form, which includes the greatest two-hander BH in the sport? We’re not positive, but I suspect he will be better on that side of the court, with better movement and execution, than the Tower of Tandil.
Why has Novak had so much success against Rafa in the last 3-4 years? We know that Rafa can be called the greatest competitor of the sport, but we have to say a close second is Nole (and some I’m sure say it’s closer than that). Rafa can intimidate opponents; his sheer competitive spirit alone does the trick; opponents, such as Del Potro after yesterday’s match, even glamorize the Spaniard’s fight and focus.
Novak is not intimidated by Rafa nor as impressed as some of these other players. Rafa knows this. Go back and watch their 2018 Rome SF. That first set was game-on, Novak right there probably worrying the crap out of the clay king. Novak was still a ways from having his form and confidence back. And he still made a case in that first set against a peaking Rafa on clay.
Mental fortitude aside, Novak’s game has similarities (in all the significant spots) to Rafa’s game. Mainly that Novak is in every one of his opponent’s service games and he is likely to make you hit an extra shot, press until you break, make the match become more and more uncomfortable. This defensive genius is shared between them, for sure. To be fair, Novak’s approach has just been more successful on more surfaces.
If Novak continues his trajectory of form (we still have seen dips, at the French, at Queen’s, the second set vs. Nishikori in their QF match yesterday), and he continues this improvement, perhaps even rises to the occasion tomorrow vs his old nemesis, I don’t see how Rafa stays with him.
Before Del Potro, Rafa had a nice draw. The suggestion that Vesely could be a test, another lefty ala Gilles Mueller . . . No. Mueller is a grass courter who had all kinds of form last year and the result there was no surprise. Rafa has had a tame draw in 2018 and the conditions have been to his favor.
And the QF doesn’t suggest to me that he’s flying high at this point. He’s surviving, which to be fair is all one can do!
But as I come to make a prediction about tomorrow’s SF between the Spaniard and the Serb, I rely on a bit of that history, a bit of the current trajectory and the general style and make-up of these players’ games. Rafa has to beat Novak straight-up, without favoring that CC FH at his opponent’s vulnerable BH. That’s a huge factor, not to mention the movement of Novak, which should be on par, on point and gaining momentum and class.
What’s the case for Rafa? He’s Rafa. He finds a way. He digs a hole and pulls you in, he employs gamesmanship, he doesn’t get too down on himself, his focus melts mettle, etc.
If Novak’s serve is garbage, that could be a factor as well. We know Rafa will give himself a chance. We know he will rally, he’ll find opportunities to come to net to snuff Novak’s return, he’ll drop shot the Serb who is scrambling behind the BL.
Would a Nadal win tomorrow surprise me? Ha ha. No. I’ve seen too much tennis for that sort of thing. Even Federer’s loss yesterday (SHOCKING TO THE WORLD OVER, OMG, HOLY SHIT) was not that much of a surprise. Shit happens out there. In Federer’s case, there are and were too many factors (some current and some career) that explain that “collapse,” which really wasn’t a collapse, which I explained earlier.
The five-setter aside, Nadal will be ready. We won’t even factor that possible fatigue, if Nadal even knows of such human condition. He will be tough. But Novak, imho, now that he’s really feeling his tennis pulse, has the hunger and drive and seems only to be hitting the ball with more precision and depth, will continue his success against Nadal.
Djokovic in four.