What 2018 Cincinnati Means

As I said in my post-Cincy Final post, the win in Cincy is huge for Novak on several fronts. I guess the two that stand-out are: A) this is everyone’s favorite: that he has completed the Masters set, thus garnering him all kinds of praise and greatness; and B) that he really has confirmed his return (WB was pretty illustrative) and the hard court win on the elusive Cincy court has to bolster his confidence even more going into NYC.

Again, huge win. Novak, in pretty emphatic fashion crashing the Fedal celebration. Such an interesting narrative on this legends front. 2017 AO was spun (especially by me) as Fedal crashing the ATP party big-time, both running-off three majors each between then and Roland Garros 2018.

But Novak seems to have found his bearings, his hunger and his immaculate form and in order to return to his tennis quest and thus remind his older siblings that the part is over.

I actually visited a little discussion board over on the ATP site earlier today. One reader was trying to qualify Novak’s Masters Slam (we’ll call it to give it even more elevated praise). She then faced a fierce mob of Djoker fanboys and girls who ultimately said Novak is the GOAT, this Masters set is definitive GOAT material, along with the standard name-calling and such. Really rich and lovely tennis discourse.

I helped the poor lady out (I was on Twitter the other day actually chiming-in with our old friend Ruan in setting a few Nadal fans straight).  Ha ha.  I love the GOAT debate. You see people and their best and worst (I’m serious about this.  The debate encourages thoughtful argument and creative research and story-telling; it also reveals fanaticism gone bad, belligerence and lunacy.

So, I helped the poor lady out. Here’s what she needed to say to these Djoker fans foaming at the mouth. First, the Masters set is a great accomplishment and there is no way around this. He’s the only one of the big 3 to have done it. Roger has 7/9, Rafa 6/9. One would think Rafa has them all twice, given his total of 33; but 24 of his are from, basically, three tournaments (MC, Madrid, Rome).

As incredible of an achievement as this is, this is a Big 3 tennis distinction; this honor relates almost entirely to the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic era. Your whole life (your ability to see and make tennis discussion with others who may know what in the hell their talking about) will be enhanced if you understand that fact. This means that Novak has risen to the top of this most recent era in terms of accumulating Masters titles. Fedal, Murray, Wawrinka (MC 2014), Tsonga (Toronto 2014) Del Potro (got his first Masters earlier this year in IW), Isner (first at Miami 2018) and Zverev (Rome ’17, Madrid ’18) are included in the most recent and most relevant competitive field.

Going further back, Ljubičić snared one in 2010, and Davydenko, Nalbandian, Robredo, Roddick and Soderling also have some Masters hardware. Coria, Moya (yeah, that Moya) have some hardware too as do Safin and Agassi (he straddled the era fence, did he not?).

To the first few years of the 21st century, what was called the Tennis Masters Series (we’re getting ancient here folks), the parity was much more pronounced.

Needless to say, winning these tournaments was not a huge focus of the ATP and its athletes. Players did not value (the tour did not value) attending and winning these tournaments nearly as much as they do now.

In other words, Novak has out paced (and played) his bosom buddies, Federer and Nadal. That’s pretty much what this boils down to. The accomplishment is huge, he’s won them all, but it’s actually more of a niche achievement. What I marvel at is his consistency and winning ways. Novak has won the other eight more than once. He’s been prolific, dominant. This is another example of his incredible consistency and versatility and winning ability. All hail Novak!

But to say that he’d done something that no one in the sport has ever done is naive and misinformed — is probably drinking Djoker kool aid.

Do you want another complication to this massive, historical achievement? I certainly would offer this, but Roger does for us in the video below. By the way, I put this video up to show the graciousness of Federer — during the ceremony and here in the press room, the Maestro is very appreciative and respectful of Novak’s tennis accomplishment and greatness. Both players seem to have so much respect for one another; one article quotes Novak during the Cincy trophy ceremony as suggesting that Federer is the “best tennis player ever” — what did that do to the fanboys and fangirls?  These guys are just being classy, folks. Don’t get too caught-up in their rhetoric.

But back to the point here: listen to Federer talk about what Novak has accomplished. It’s amazing, to paraphrase, but it’s a more this-era-sort-of-thing. Fed points out that players from other eras never had the opportunities to achieve this sort of milestone (tour structure) and perhaps more importantly — something I have discussed ad nauseam — the slowing of the surfaces across the tennis calendar plays a huge role in this conquest. As he says, tennis used to be a sport more made-up of specialists who won primarily on certain surfaces. By slowing hard courts and grass, that changed the nature of the sport.

Granted, we can argue all day long the Federers, Nadals and Djokovics of the sport are more versatile, that their greatness transcends the sports idea of surface specialization. This is the golden era, after all. These are the three greatest players of all-time. You’re drinking the kook aid there, pal. There are fundamental changes (equipment, tour structure and surface speed) that have facilitated all of this triumph and glory.

Back to the meaning of the Cincy win, the return of Novak, etc. We have to remember, too, that Roger is just not playing very good tennis at this point. Watching the match illustrated this claim. The match statistics further clarify this reality. How about that unforced error count from the Cincy final: Novak had 16 and Roger had 39. Lol.

In the end, I’m disappointed that Novak wasn’t swinging the stick like he is now back in 2017 when both Roger and Rafa were surging (Rafa still is, of course). But the rampant form of Federer back in Melbourne 2017 that peaked in Miami 2017 would have been quite the affair with a summer 2018 Novak.

Novak lost early in those tournaments in 2017 (Melbourne, IW and even WB). In IW, Kyrgios beat Novak, preventing a Roger v Novak match that would have occurred.

So, even to the greatest form of all time folks, Novak’s defensive relentless tennis with clinical balance from both wings is indeed an incredible watch and almost impenetrable sort of game. But we’ll never see this H2H with the refreshed, Ivan-the-terrible-inspired offensive genius that was 2017 Federer.

Either way, these are some classy and brilliant tennis blokes. I hope Roger can find the “energy” to make a run in NYC.

More on that later.

For shits and giggles, here’s my response on that discussion board with all of those stable tennis fangirls and fanboys.

Btw, Donald Yipee is my new Facebook persona! Ha ha. Are we having fun yet?


Donald Yipee 

All of these fanboy and fangirl comments make you all sound so cute. In addition, the bullying of Betty Scott is a really nice look. The point that Betty should make is this is a 21st century accomplishment. How many Masters does Sampras have? How many does Murray have? Does this mean that Murray is a more dominant player than Pete? This accomplishment wasn’t available to players in the past. It’s a more recent ATP development.

It is still a great achievement, demonstrates his versatility.

But listen to Fed’s intereview after Cincy where he was so, apparently, complimentary. He also does indeed point out that this wasn’t an achievement available in the past, and what added to this was the slowing of the courts, where players could win all four majors and now all of these Masters.

Read between the lines as you congratulate your hero. Novak is a tennis great. His fanboys and fangirls, unfortunately, sound naive and new to any of this; you almost undermine your hero — it’s actually tough to discern much of what you’re trying to say with those poms poms jammed down your throat.

Keep up the good work!


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