A quick note on the Federer loss though a little after the fact; despite the disappointment of not getting to see an even sorta-in-form Federer play Djokovic in the QF, Federer has clearly been treading in these kinds of water lately.
To truncate this potentially long-winded discussion/post, the loss is totally in-line with what I’ve been writing about with regards to the former Swiss #1. He’s old and these kinds of matches will more and more be the case, if they haven’t already been the case. Players not in top form (even the Big 3) suffer “shock” losses. But this was not as shocking as it apparently was for a lot of people. How can I be shocked if my reading and writing has reflected this kind of ping pong skepticism of mine over the past few months.
I have already charted this in other 2018 posts: IW final, the entire grass season, Cincy, his 37th birthday in August, the return of the Djoker.
He’s not injured. The conditions were brutal (this from a lot of spectator testimony, people not playing tennis: apparently, word around there is the tournament last night kept some doors, openings to the outside, open to allow more circulation. The night of Federer v Millman, the place was a breathless hell hole. This was definitely not Melbourne where the A/C provided more comfort for the players and fans; Arthur Ashe with the roof closed creates a more hostile environment, apparently.
So, sure that contributed, but Federer just doesn’t have the same impenetrable game (his game is infamously penetrable, actually, but you get my point); he’s a step slower, has slower recovery, opponents are “younger” and hungrier: this isn’t rocket science.
And if this doesn’t really silence the Federer has been peaking 2015 thru 2018 crowd, I’m not sure what will. His retirement in two years, for these fanboys and fangirls, will probably be described as Federer going-out on top. 😀
This later Federer has had to use a lot more guile, which does certainly stretch his form and possibly make it look like he’s more efficient, etc. But the physicality of the game reigns supreme, especially in these kinds of conditions: Bo5, hot, U.S. Open.
To be fair, Millman had that Aussie fight of some of his more recent forefathers to help him overcome Federer. But the Swiss’ serve (critical to his success) disappeared and that MP/SP on racket collapse, characteristic of Fed, reared its head once again.
Djokovic, as we have been saying all along, is the the prohibitive favorite in that bottom-half anyways. In other words, how consequential was this Federer loss? Only for the certain tennis fans that either worship Federer (this is tragic for them, of course) or those who really wanted Federer v Djokovic is this very surprising or unbelievable.
This Federer loss just falls right into our recent discussions. Hence the lack of a quick-response-post from me.
Thiem, on the other hand, was that close to changing some of the tennis narrative. We need a change in the narrative (No: Federer’s loss is not a change in the narrative. . . HE’S A YEAR OLDER THAN ANDY RODDICK for christ’s sake).
Because of the consequences of this match and the insanely high level of tennis, I posted a response last night, after midnight PST. This was a great match, full of incredible shot-making (passing, defending, holding/saving and breaking), all kinds of drama, all kinds of great major championship five-set battle.
The sport needs new blood. You know the general lost boys/generation discourse and you certainly (better) know my particular contribution to that larger conversation. There is excitement surrounding the likes of Thiem and even his younger NextGen brethren, but we’re getting a little nervous to be honest.
And let’s get one thing straight: those of us who have watched with intensity the sport (many sports), and know the nuances of championship mettle, majesty, failure and dynasty, understand that a “new” champ provides much more to the sport and even the broader culture when his/her breakthrough happens by defeating a current champ, star, or legend near his/her prime. Period.
Sure, if three years go by and Novak and Rafa are still slapping these youngsters around, and a Zverev or Thiem finally beats a graying Big 2, we’re excited, sorta.
Inevitability is more interesting when it descends from the clouds, rather than rises from the grave.
Rafa stormed the 2005 French Open when he was 18, beating Federer in the SF, among others (of course his win over Roger in Miami 2004 marks the beginning of his tennis destruction). Rafa is a great example of a younger “outsider” disrupting the power structure.
Novak in 2008 was 20, I believe, and he beat Federer in the Aussie SF on his way to a first major.
One can see that the two monsters that Federer created were precocious in their desires to overcome their dominant ancestor.
Pete Sampras of 1990 is another great example and one I might suggest informs my read on the Thiem v Nadal QF at 2018 U.S. Open. Pete’s U.S. Open run that year was perhaps a little like what Thiem’s could have been (sure this sort of comparison is flawed and unfair — but when you’re playing at this level, in this company, you better be ready for such lofty comparisons).
Pete was 19 years old, 12th seed, and he beat a 30 year-old 3-seed Lendl in the QF, Johnny Mac in the SF and Andre in the final. That Lendl QF almost looks like a perfect parallel for the Thiem v Nadal match last night.
The easiest approach to this, for Dominic’s cause, is to applaud and say he’ll get there soon, some day: bravo, allez!, well done — good progress.
But we don’t necessarily roll like that; it’s not in our analytical blood. From our perspective, he needed to overcome his elder there (the great Rafael Nadal), to roll into the Friday SF with all kinds of class and confidence (btw, he needed to serve-out the third set last night — not the second, as I think I reported in my commiseration).
This should have been Thiem’s time. This would have echoed some of his forefathers’ advanced, ahead-of-their-time conquests of leaders of those earlier orders.
But as you can suspect, we will continue to Beliem in Thiem. From that first title (three in all that year) in 2015, he’s been coming. The developments in his game and confidence here in summer/fall 2018 should propel the recently turned 25 year-old.
Quite frankly, his power tennis, equipped with an incredible one-hander, a tremendous serve, and a developing all-court assault is the best “look” on tour in terms of style and persona. Along with his humility and grace on and off the court, this young Austrian is brimming with class.
We look to guys like Domi Thiem to (save) develop this glorious sport. Sorry if that sounds unfair or laden with too much expectation and responsibility. Actually, it’s the highest compliment I can pay.