Toronto Day 3 and Day 4

fognini-los-cabos-2018-hair

In yesterday’s post, we pushed the importance of these three matches:

Thiem v Tsitsipas (Thiem)
Shapovalov v Fognini (Shapovalov)
Auger-Aliassime v Medvedev (Felix)

You can see I even picked a winner. Let’s entertain some explanation.

The first is perhaps a harbinger of things to come for Thiem. My criticism of his tennis (his coach) stands resolute at this point. Outside a clay court, he doesn’t strike fear in anyone. If you are going to stand at or really behind the BL and hit shots as hard as you can with a once-in-a-blue-moon approach to net with a shaky volley cut drop-shot, you’re very limited.

I remember before Thiem’s match against Jarry in Hamburg last week, the Austrian praised the Chilean, in my athletic sense coping an admission that Thiem knew what was coming.

Is it that these younger pros are hungrier than the almost 25 year-old Thiem (9/3)? Perhaps.

But the argument here is simply that he becomes far too vulnerable hitting from his heels 5-10 feet behind the BL, with a one-hander. Tennis Channel wouldn’t give me much coverage of yesterday’s match; I did catch the scoreline, saw an easy set for Tsitsipas, but as Thiem held serve in the second set, I thought my prediction would still stand. Thiem just needs to find his feet, get some confidence and out-compete this young Greek.

The coverage switched to the match as they went to the second set TB. To make a long story short, Thiem didn’t have a chance. The Greek’s ground strokes were more consistently deep and difficult and Thiem’s court position left him in further and further impossibility.

The image I’m left with is Thiem in a deep ad court, 8 feet behind the BL trying to hit a slice BH, Stefanos coming to net and the ball falling scared into the net.

JW, my Polish Thiem commentator, made some nice comments on this blog regarding Dominic, my comments about him and his coach, among other things. I stand by my analysis of Thiem. We beliem in the Austrian, but he’s become even more one-dimensional, it seems, meaning a guy for one-surface.

JW, thoughts if you’re reading this?

Remember: other players have coaches too. Imagine building a plan to beat Thiem. Push him and pressure his BH, his entire BL arsenal, which has to be perfect for him to have much of a chance.

We can criticize these BL goblins all day and night. But there are other factors, as well. For instance, Tsitsipas, and Rublev, even Shapovalov, for instance, hit flatter balls. Thiem’s reliance on massive top-spin, again standing deep in the court is a really exposed game.

He looked utterly smashed, coming to net to congratulate Tsitsipas. It wasn’t even close.

So, I missed this one, but at the same time, my diagnosis of Thiem has only been confirmed. Changes need to be made. The quicker courts and this hungry youth spell difficulty for the Austrian’s limited tennis.

Shapo’s win over Fognini was a tremendous call. I got such good odds on that one, Fognini the favorite, playing some of the best tennis on tour, that I made-out pretty well on that one (ha ha).

I didn’t get to see much of this, but seeing him down a couple of breaks in the second, getting the match back on serve and then exchanging heated words with Foghat during a change-over, gathering himself and serving-out the match was simply brilliant.

This kid is a gamer, which we discussed yesterday and have for a while now.

With Del Potro’s injury exit, we need a Shapo v Nadal SF.

Shapo straight-setting the Italian is money in the bank on this kid. Buy stock now.

In the last match there, Auger-Aliassime v Medvedev, I wasn’t terribly confident, mainly because Felix is so young. He turned 18 YESTERDAY. And the Russian is no joke. I liked the one set advantage, but he, probably rightly so, got a little lesson in ATP Masters quality. Certainly a solid comeback from the Russian.

Great stuff all the way around.

Nothing too noteworthy else where in yesterday’s matches, oh except for the Tiafoe win over Raonic. The similarities between Tiafoe and Kyrgios, an affinity I have championed for a while, are, again, striking. When Frances is dialed-in, he can play some very delightful and dangerous tennis. The athleticism, like Kyrgios, makes the proposition even scarier. Grabbing the first set, losing the second, the rain delay and then the bread-stick in front of the Canadian crowd? Wowzer.

My discussion yesterday of the Canadian and Russian revolutions/youth movements left-out any reference to the Americans. Tiafoe leads that charge, or perhaps stands alone (why I might not have brought-up that contingent at that point).

Tiafoe v Dimitrov today. This is a tough one because they can both go away. I suspect this to be a tight one. If Tiafoe has his game and focus, he will be a handful for the vulnerable Bulgarian.

I heard a soft explanation for Dimitrov’s tennis troubles that I guess both he and his coach have subscribed to, and I’m there’s some truth to this: Grigor’s difficulties, as the story goes, stems from his variety, that he has too many tools in the proverbial bag of tricks. He and Vallverdú, his coach, are working to simplify his approach since he gets, allegedly, confused or hamstrung a bit trying to decide which tool to use.

Variety is the king of the sport, my friend. So, I respectfully disagree here.

Dimitrov could start to find some form like he did last year (in winning Cincy). This should be a good display of athletic tennis. Frances should be riding pretty high from his dismissal of the big Canadian — I have to ride that confidence, but this is a tough one.

Of course I want to see Stan Wawrinka find his animal spirit and push the No. 1 seed in today’s match. I didn’t bother watching Nadal’s routine win v “talented” Paire (that guy, sure he has a nice BH, but what a disaster — did you check his tantrum in D.C.?).

Here’s to the rise of the Stanimal though we’re not exactly holding our breath.

Djokovic v Tsitsipas should be good, but as you can probably imagine, I’m anticipating a bit of a dip from the Greek; either way, he most likely gets a reality check from the ascendant Serb. This even competitive should be a good watch, but Novak surging could undermine any drama whatsoever.

Cilic v Schwartzman, Haase v Shapo, Isner v Khachanov. . .

Let’s hope for some tasty hard court quarter final fare after today’s R16 provisions.

Enjoy the tennis, folks.

14 thoughts on “Toronto Day 3 and Day 4

  1. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Hi Matt,
    I was called to the table, so here I’m 😉
    First, you didn’t watch the match, right?
    If you want, here you find links to both parts (before and after rain) of the match on my Dropbox account: http://prf-mypassions-tennisandmore.com/thiem-vs-tsitsipas-3/.
    I substantially agree with you about Thiem’s predictability. But not about other things. What you maybe missed a bit earlier, are Thiem’s health issues of late. Then it was his decision to play Kitzbuehel fpr local fans, which ended with a good and intense match with Klizan, but lost. Well, he had some right shoulder issue (coming from Hamburg or earlier – he did play 2 RG-level matches in Hamburg, than was over, because of the shoulder, could not hit first serve). He needed to rest 2-3 day without any hitting after this Kitz match. So he landed in Toronto, being injured and jetlagged. Then one day after arrival he catches some virus and must have with with the training. Only practiced 1 hour day before and it was still not sure if he will be ab

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  2. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Sorry, it’s gone without my willing and you don’t have the Edit option like on my blog (it’s a simple WordPress plugin, allowing to edit own post withing 5 minutes).
    So let’s continue.
    …be able to play against Stef. So he was not adapted to the new place, surface and had only 1 hour practice before Stef. Had visibly breathing problems and coughing from time to time. Meanwhile Stef was just the opposite (still I respect his doing last time, including this match and like his tennis). Maybe this was the gameplan from Galo Blanco. No chance to win, so at least let’s test some hard-court-specific things.
    Well, I don’t know, where you have seen Thiem staying so far behind BL. Almost all the time he stand very close to the line and did play lots of aggressive returns (a kind of Federer’s SABR), many times with good effect. His serve had no edge (illness-based weakness), but he didn’t make so many faults as he usually does. Return was quite good and effective, but of course also too many errors. Dominic did play lots of serve&volley (completely uncharacteristic for him, but I was calling him (!!!) to play like this since 2-3 years (since he started to have good serve). I liked the way Dominic did play. Well, like Dominic himself said after the match, Stef was in big form and he was not, so it was not enough to beat Stef. I’m not sure, if Dominic would have something in the tank, should he have won the TB in second set. But second set was even, with Dominic playing every minute better.
    BTW – you may be interested in this short article of mine http://prf-mypassions-tennisandmore.com/thiems-unique-whole-body-technique-wbt/
    I “beliem” (sorry for abuse of your copyrights ;)), Thiem will go for bigger things in Cincy and first of all at USO. Dominic is made for 5-setters, while some are not (Zverev, Tsitsipas too young).
    Best
    WJ

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    1. I did just watch some highlights (watching the Djokovic v Tsitsipas now actually) and you are right: S&V and more offensive court positioning.

      Interesting that in the TB he does remain more on the BL (a couple points he comes in). But this might be along the lines that when a player feels stress (when anyone feels stress) he/she resorts to habits (sometimes bad habits). The TB is not very long, sure, but Thiem really does get pushed back in that exchange.

      Given his health, you’re probably right he’s just not quite in form, needs hard courts exposure, etc. He has one more shot in Cincy and then it’s USO time, so hopefully he gets some reps, some match fitness on the HC.

      Tsitsipas is certainly playing well. He looks good against Nole here, but Nole seems to be only warming-up.

      Then again, Stef has a second BP here early in the third. Tsitsipas just broke Nole to go 2-0 in the third.

      Seeing Thiem come inside the BL, come to net is such a good development. I hope he can go fairly deep in Cincy so he’s ready for NYC.

      Thanks for the clarification. Glad went back and watched more of the match.
      And to be fair, Dominic played pretty well. The break in the first against a player in form is tough, but he stayed with the Greek. TB was, in my estimation, Thiem resorting to some of that older approach.

      Keep coming to net!

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  3. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    As we can see after Stef’s defeat of Djoker. Stef is really in a good form and he seems to have inborn killer instinct, which Thiem completely misses (and will always miss, his way to big wins is totally different). Thiem has a kind of bad luck this year with catching viruses (first was in Doha, where he was going to win the title and playing very well) and injuries (ankle in Indian Wells, Back and shoulder in Wimbledon against Baghdatis). And it’s his character to not call for medical timeout until he really cannot bring the ball back. Not very wise, but this is how he wants to show respect to the opponent.
    Thiem can play inside BL, but needs some matches and practice on hard to correct length and adapt to sharper angles.
    It’s kind of his feature to have a poor service game almost in every match, then (if in good shape) mostly able to rebreak. But not against a player on fire, like Stef right now.
    Thiem should play serve&volley also to make his first serve safer. I know from my own hobby tennis experience, that if you plan to go to the net, when serving, you jump more ahead and rech better ball trajectory, reducing serve faults.
    Thiem is maybe not an outstanding volleyer, but serve&volley with a really good and hard serve does not need a very sophisticated volley for a winner (like Mischa Zverev, who’s serve is mostly very well placed but not very fast or hard and he needs to have longer battles at net, with higher risk of getting passed or lobbed).
    My “prediction” is, in 2-3 years Thiem is better on hard than on clay.
    Yes, I think, you are right, in TB Thiem was a bit too passive and was not playing with required courage. But he had probably at this point empty tank and was maybe aware, he would not have enough to play the third set.
    To come more to the net (not only serve&volley) Thiem needs to learn to cover the court better. It’s so far not his big strength. But his biggest strength is, he is not less eager to learn than to play tennis 🙂

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    1. Good stuff, JW. I am really glad I watched those highlights. There was that aggressive ROS you posted in the video.

      Thiem will be fine. Love seeing him attack more. Will only make him a better finisher, better player.

      Indeed, Stefanos is on fire.

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      1. PRF - Władysław Janowski

        I think, this is an input from Galo Blanco. Thiem was designed as an aggressive baseliner. But with the progress of racket technology it’s not enough, at least on faster surfaces. Thiem’s big shots, including serve, gives him the opportunity to attack the net frequently. Needs only more “software” in volleying. Mostly no need to hit risky drives or touching lines with volleys. Dropshots or stop volleys can do a lot more damage with less risk. Serve&volley, every big shot, forehand or backhand, first of all DTL&volley, aggressive ROS&volley. This is a big arsenal, he does not use. And this would bring him closer to Fed or Rafa, a player able to use every piece of court to hit a winner or prepare for it. How often needs Federer to paint lines? Almost never. A good combination of changing direction, spin and length let’s him reach positions to hit a winner with soft shot or even topspin but 0,5 m from the line. That#s the way for Thiem.
        BTW – you meant, staying behind is a bad habit. Not for everyone, especially on clay. You now for sure certain King of Clay, starting every rally 5-6 m behind the baseline 😉

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      2. The first paragraph there is stolen from my thoughts on Thiem. I totally agree. The aggression and variety should only make his job easier. I’ve been saying this about him for a while.

        At the same time, his ability, especially on clay, to sit back and pummel his opponent with big penetrating ground strokes is a great watch.

        Staying back for him “could” be a bad habit if he’s playing a faster surface, etc. The TB yesterday might be seen as such.
        Nadal will continue to be an enigma. His ROS position 20+feet behind the BL is an abomination.

        Are you familiar with my Nadalism discourse? I’ve been developing that over the years. I destroyed the Fedal H2H “myth,” and continue to praise and blame Rafa for his genius competitive horror movie tennis.

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  4. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Yeah, Stef is on fire, but maybe more important – he has an inborn instinct for good shot selection (sometimes a problem for Thiem). Seems to play every point like it was 0:0, even if it’s 15:40. Big composure and confidence. Maybe Greek roots having something to do? Going to be big thing in tennis. BTW – cannot recall, when it was, but it seems, I have an eye for up-comers. I started to follow Thiem and Tsitsipas very early, before they reached their first media-compatible upsets like Kyrgios, Zverev or Shapo. Right now I don’t see another to follow. Forst Thiem, next Tsitsipas. Of course only one-handers, so long they exist 🙂

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    1. I meant WJ. My bad. Do you want to be called WJ or PRF?

      The one-hander is making a terrific return (pun intended). I am rooting for Grigor, as hard on him as I am. I did write some nice commentary about him early 2017. I love his high end tennis, but he just has that moniker: King of the Lost Boys.

      I’ll check-out your post.

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  5. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Ah, you can invent your own “name” for me, if you want. I’m PRF on my Gravatar, so … not worth a debate 😉 but thanks for correction 🙂
    I will look later in your search engine for Nadalism – I’m of course interested in Nadal’s tennis too 🙂
    Sorry for stealing 😉 I guess, we didn’t knew one about other by then, but … theft is theft, ha, ha, ha …
    I’m especially rooting for Grigor today (to beat Anderson, who can be a danger for Thiem’s London appearance 😉
    Generally, like you, very mixed feelings. His tennis is majestic like Federer’s, but he never was interested in working harder then necessary. His head rather balancing between Sharapova and Scherzinger and … who knows, who’s next 😉 Maybe he can win a slam before retiring.
    The other side of “king of the Lost Boys” would be “The King of Lucky Men” – he often wins matches, in which he is playing everything between high-end and dead-end and does not deserve the win. Still nice tennis. What I don’t like too much – when he play his best, he is pumped too much. When not pumped and pumping, he plays nothing. We have only 2 one-handers left ion QF and I want to see both in SF. The third is Rafa. Then rather Karen then Robin, for no reason 😉

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  6. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Yeah, I know, it’s your blog 🙂 But every time I see spelling errors just after closing and sending my comment, I feel, the plugin “Simple Comment Editing” (no cost) is nice 😉 You can see on my blog, how it works. It allows you even to delete the comment within 5 minutes. You know, you are sometimes too impulsive and then you have still 5 minutes to rethink – it is not offensive or something? Don’t take it too serious 😉
    Best
    WJ

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