U.S. Open — Getting Caught-up

20180827 Dominic Thiem v Mirza Basic - Day 1

Let’s run through some of the matches over the past few days.  Unfortunately, I missed several of these (in some cases classic) contests because I was busy with other matters (work and family). Forgive me of my tennis sins.

Federer

Let’s start with that Federer v Kyrgios match. I hope you realize how fair I am with regards to the Aussie. Sure, I hammered him with various descriptions, called him “nuts,” a lunatic of some sort, and even put together “reigning king of millennial rubbish.”

However. I suggested that this 3R match would likely give us some clarity on Federer’s form. That assumes that Nick has pride and some level of maturity to recognize the importance of a match like that and . . . well, he pretty much shit the bed. You could go two ways here: Federer was quite good (straight sets against Kyrgios is pretty impressive), or Kyrgios was a mess (for a variety of reasons).

I assumed this would be more difficult for Federer. We’re still not sure about Roger’s capacity to rise and beat Novak in a QF if he takes care of business against Millman today. He should meet the Serb — and that match, if it happens, will have a lot of consequence on the tournament, and on these guys’ legacies (especially the Djoker – as I explained earlier and boy could I write a lot about that argument).

In the end, then, that match, though a solid win (not having to extend himself much at all), doesn’t tell us much. To be fair, we really won’t know match-to-match much about Federer’s form; he’s at that age where you get a solid match, which might be followed-up by a mediocre or even poor showing. That’s the reality of Federer at this point.

The Kyrgios match, along those lines of the future of Federer, looked more like an exhibition — all smiles and “brilliance” and hardly breaking a sweat and lots of ewwwws and aahhhhhhs.  As tennis fans, we hope that the Federer v Djokovic QF happens and it’s memorable, at least.

Nadal

Nadal’s form looks typical of his HC tennis; he’s beatable on this type of surface even if the court has a higher bounce than normal (a more classic HC is faster with a lower bounce resulting from the faster, slicker conditions — not as much as carpet, but that’s where you are on the spectrum, meaning they’ve slowed the conditions. Period.).

Rafa is almost always a good interview — I like his conversations a lot more than his tennis. One journalist asks him about standing 100 feet behind the BL. You can see him get a little uncomfortable on this topic. He knows that ROS is awkward, exposes him a bit and all about making his opponent uncomfortable. No doubt his opponents should fashion an underhand serve, only to make him think about that possibility and have to adjust. Nadal is playing chess while most of the players on tour play checkers if you catch my drift. Without the tennis to outplay some of his opponents, he relies on other factors: ROS from the moon, rain delays, and his opponents choking under his top-spin and slice-driven defensive mastery. Sure he’s got a lethal FH and BH finishing shot, but he’s a defensive genius on HC where he’s getting, quite simply, often out-hit.

Khachanov — we hyped the Toronto match between these two, which we mentioned going into this 3R match: Nadal was in all kinds of trouble. The Russian’s stage fright (I suppose) and the rain gods gave Nadal that little opening he needed to survive, but not much surprise here in this outcome. Same with the Georgian yesterday. Nadal having to go to the well a bit in these very winnable matches against top 30 or 40 types doesn’t bode too well. Some much stiffer competition is coming.

The stat has been circulating on social media, but his QF match with Thiem will mark his first top 20 opponent at the U.S. Open since 2013. Take a moment to reflect on that. That means he’s not a monster hard court player and he’s had a nice bit of luck from the draw — 2017 as the biggest example. 2014 he didn’t play, 2015 he bowed-out in the 3R and 2016 in the 4R — no top-20 opponents. He won last year not having to face one at all.

Tomorrow he faces the 9-seed in Dominic Thiem.

Thiem

Günter Bresnik follows Mcshow Blog. There’s no question in my mind. Thiem’s tennis looks like a transformation in court position and strategy. He still drifts pretty deep, but that’s part of his style, really a similar kind of tennis to Nadal, which makes sense.

Look at the Anderson match. Anderson obviously has a much more offensive style, huge serve, some volley finishes, big ground strokes, etc. Thiem is forced back by that kind of game. But Thiem’s service holds were quite routine and he was able to keep a lot of balls alive from the S.African, especially on the big guy’s serve.

Straight sets? We have to factor Anderson’s draw, he played two five-setters, a really tough one vs. Shapovalov in the 3R (great sign from the Canadian, who is a solid player and fighter with much growth and development to be had), but Thiem taking this guy to the woodshed like that is a very good sign from the Austrian.

I think that “break” he had, getting sick, etc., might have a nice sling-shot affect here at the Open. He has a little more in the tank, and the development of this more all-court tennis — only common sense here, just smart in every way shape and form — perhaps part of this practice period he had coming-in to this final major — may make a huge difference for this guy.

Thiem is no surprise, really, because he’s not only a top 10 player in the world. He was a 2018 French Open finalist. He’s the best “younger” player on tour despite the hype surrounding Zverev, Shapo, Khachanov this week, Chung or Coric . . . Thiem, a couple of years older, sure, but he’s young blood and he’s a legitimate threat on tour.

And he’s beaten Nadal before, on clay — three times (Madrid, Rome, Buenos Aires). This is their first HC match together. Thiem should feel confident here. He seems pretty fit, finding the deeper court with that loop or slice on defense and the finishing ball that has weight poses all kinds of problems. Even much of the CC FH I saw v Anderson was shorter, with a tighter angle and subsequently unplayable. Nadal will be able to keep more in play, but I have to think we get a decent showing from the Austrian here. Welcome back, Thiem.

For me, the best plot of this Open so far.  We beliem in Thiem and think this story may have legs (and dangerous ground strokes and net put-aways, etc.).  As I have thought to myself and others on this blog regarding Dominic’s game, if he can mix well the DTL from either wing, we’re in for some beautiful tennis.

Adding this little link to an interview with Galo Blanco, one of Thiem’s coaches.

Djokovic

Nothing to say here, really. He is rolling along, and the (potential) Federer v Djokovic QF could be good or could be Novak making fairly easy work of the Maestro. That’s what recent history tells us. Novak needs this major more than anyone (yes, this matters) and he’s got a deep deep well if things get dark there on the tennis court. The reign of Pepe is over; we’re enjoying the return of the dark knight. Tennis is far more interesting when he’s around, as dangerous as ever.

Stan the (Hu)Man

We didn’t get our dark horse into that final stretch. I watched the end of the first set v Raonic and Stan looked very good. Raonic wasn’t into Stan’s serve at all, and the ground strokes were just too heavy from Wawrinka (of course, Raonic held serve too). Jimmy Arias had a nice call on the match and he saw what I’d seen: Stan looked on the verge of that form. His CC BH was shorter and tighter (like the Thiem FH CC), as well, which kept Milos (and anyone Stan was playing) guessing, given that Stan’s deeper BH CC, along with the BH DTL is a deep and scary weapon.

So they go to the TB, Stan goes 3-0, looks good getting to SP and then the FH breaks-down. He misses on SP (he might’ve had a second look?) and Milos, an experienced, dangerous opponent for sure, steals the set. I was a little surprised, dismayed, thought Stan could still make this happen, but Milos was too good.

Nor should we be surprised about Milos. Some recent discussion regarding this guy’s tennis:

Djokovic had to work a bit to get by a charming Raonic. I almost titled this post “I was Raonic” since that seems to confess my error in overlooking the Canadian as much as I generally do. He played a nice brand of tennis yesterday, mixing-in the slice quite well. The FH broke-down, partly because of Djokovic’s pressure, and some of Raonic’s own decision-making as he likes to run-around that BH to hit that more dangerous FH. He netted several in that sequence. Footwork and indecision got to him. Djokovic certainly facilitates this clumsy tennis.

His serve looked devastating much of the match, reaching 140+ on several FS, but not holding serve in the first-set at 5-4 was a bit of a choke; this pattern followed but, again, Novak has a lot to do with that. He has to be able to secure those holds with that kind of serve. Almost unforgivable.

But the rallies were at times quite interesting and overall a good tennis match. Djokovic continues to look off at times and then completely engaged and inspired at other times. He lost his serve in all three sets yesterday against Raonic. That wasn’t expected.

Elsewhere, nice to see Johnny Isner playing well. He has had a break-through season, so probably not the player you want to see this deep in the tournament on this surface in his homeland. He took care of Raonic, though five sets may take a toll on the big guy. Del Potro has to be a favorite here in their QF match, but again, John is doing little things that make him far more dangerous than just a big serve. He’s returning serve a lot better, and if he adds a particular target on that Argentine’s BH, we’ll see what happens.

To be honest, even I want to see Del Potro v Nadal (if Nadal survives the Austrian) for old-time sake. 😉

But I think most of these matches are fairly wide-open, other than Djokovic’s. He has too much impetus, too much at stake — and he’s playing with added refreshed energy and optimism.

Zverev

Yikes. Nothing short of disastrous for this guy (that is not an overstatement). What’s Lendl’s window with this guy? Forget the Bo5 Achilles heal; you have to beat Kohlschrieber. I’m not going to discount experience here, but the older German has little business hanging around these parts of the draw. Zverev had the draw to make a run with Darth Lendl on board. And the way Philipp dismissed him — damn. Back to the drawing-board.

PS
I did miss the de Minaur v Cilic match, which some are calling match of the year. I’ll grab a peak. Glad to see Australia coming correct on some young competitive blood. This kid has quite a fight, similar, again, to his mentor.

2 thoughts on “U.S. Open — Getting Caught-up

  1. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Whatever happens today, think about where are young contenders for Bo5. Only one survived, just being completely under the radar for different reasons. Clay game. Predictability. Bresnik. No super coach. No upsets. No hype-lover.
    Completely not a star candidate.Instead doing some progress every year. Now falling a bit in the ranking, first of all because part of old (not yet too old) guard is coming back from injuries. I have read a discussion among Austrian tennis experts about Thiem’s chances at USO. Only one was optimistic enough to say. It will go. He sweeps Anderson away.I’m not superstitious but don’t want to make predictions. Since Fed is gone, we can forget about arrangements. The road is clean. Thiem first time on Ashe under the lights. A little advantage for Rafa. But not deciding. I will hardly sleep well today, while they start around 3.00 am CEST tomorrow.

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  2. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Few words about Thiem’s drifting deep. Did you watch the whole Anderson match? Thiem was staying close to BL over 2 first sets and playing aggressive return game. In the third he stood far behind all over the set. I was a bit worried and actually this ended with no break from him. His returns were not deep enough. But this was probably not unconscious. Anderson was under pressure, not Thiem. So maybe the concept was to let Anderson run more (he was running not much in fiest 2 sets) and get him tired. He was then passing him on many occasions and this way holding under pressure, while he could then take care of holding own serve. In TB Anderson was beaten before it started. Some unforced errors plus some sudden attacks from Thiem was enough for the win.
    I doubt Bresnik to read anything, so far I know his position about media 😉 But maybe your (and my?) blog are places, where Bresniks looks for recommendations, how to make Thiem better 😉
    I’m now not sure, if this is Bresnik’s or Thiem’s new concept, but I see, Thiem kind of adapted his deep swing+long follow-through to staying closer to BL Both parts are now shorter, but substantially there is no change in hitting technique. It’s still fool-blooded shot preparation, but faster and every phase is a bit shorter. But shots are still as hard as they were and have maybe the same spin, but they come faster back to the opponent’s court. I must analyze this closer in slow-motion. At first sight, he is now involving more the wrist, which additionally allows to create some nice acceleration in the last phase of the hitting sequence. If I’m right, this could help him to turn an all-court player, no more clay-oriented. But probably still able to play his old classic clay-game, whenever it’s necessary or desirable.

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