Early Thoughts on Early AO ’19


I have the gargantuan time difference to contend with, what I am calling shitty Tennis Channel and ESPN coverage and other day-in-and-day-out distractions that together curtail my ability to watch all of the early tennis taking place in Melbourne.

What’s a guy like me supposed to do?  Watch the one-handers, the players who play the kind of tennis that makes me smile. 😀

I saw some of Federer v Evans, Tsitsipas, Dimitrov v Cuevas, and Thiem’s first match with Paire (every one of those players, minus Paire, have been blessed with one-handed charm). I’ve been watching my phone for scores and have seen a few other highlights, but let’s mention a few things, in a pretty general sense.

I may only be watching the boys with form, or perhaps the lay-off (from watching ATP) has me hungry so any tennis looks good, or this may be one of the very best tournaments to watch because the men are hungry, as well, and rested, healed, etc.  The tennis I’ve seen thus far in 2019, going back to that RBA v Djokovic Doha match has been out-of-sight, dyno-mite! Seriously.

Federer and Evans put on a full-court ball-striking/spinning clinic for all to see in their little tussle yesterday. Evans was brilliant. I liked his game a few years ago, as this Englishman began to make his appearance felt in some deeper draws, etc. He is a former squash player, can wield his racket with great fluency and effect. These boys were all over the court, volleys, FH cutting digs from the deep corners, cutting and attacking BHs: this is how the sport should be played. The one-hander was on full display in this match.

Federer had that second set on serve, but found himself in another TB which he was able to secure; Evans certainly showed the old man some fight. Solid stuff. Federer still looks pretty sharp (having seen the Tsitsipas Hopman bout, a bit of his win over Istomin and now this). He needs to continue to straight-set these blokes to have any hope in a war with Nadal, if that comes to pass. But there’s big boys from here to there — we’ll look at the draw in a minute.

The Thiem v Paire match was wild! I do not like Thiem’s need to go five here, but Paire is simply one of the most talented guys on tour. His two-hander is a joke it’s so good. He’s one of those who runs around his FH. Haha. What a battle this was. Thiem’s BH looked marvelous. Love his style. Love the way he murders the ball, fights with such genuine focus and determination. But he needs to be more efficient, in a major. That kind of match, in the first round, will wear on him in the second week. I hope he can continue to march-on, hopefully with an easier contest today v Popyrin, a big 19 y/o Australian kid.

The Tsitsipas v Troicki match was decent. Tsitsipas looked good throughout most of it (Troicki also looked a bit off early), but there were a few games where the Greek just looked a little tired, ball a little short, etc. I suspect we will see him continue to fight and should see the Federer v Tsitsipas R16; however, Basilashvili is no joke and could cause all kinds of trouble for Stefanos.

Lastly, Dimitrov v Cuevas was entertaining. Dimitrov looked solid against a talented veteran. I liked how Grigor came to net more early and really jumped on the Uruguayan, getting quickly to a break of serve and grabbing that first set. He was able to fight back in that second set from a break to get it to a TB but the S. American was able to equalize the match. After winning that critical third set, Dimitrov looked destined for another TB in the fourth, down 0-40 at 5-5, but battled back, won the game and served it out. Very nice.

Dimitrov needs this kind of confidence. Great win and style of match for the Bulgarian. We are all in (only probably to have our hope crushed) on Dimitrov. He’s disappointed so often. Let’s hope he can find a QF with Nadal. 😀

A few thoughts on the draw:

I’m looking forward to catching some of the play in that top half as these boys get through the second round. Wawrinka has a big test against Raonic. The 2014 AO champ had a little trouble early in his 1R with the difficult Gulbis, down a set, but up a break before Gulbis apparently retired from the match. Now he gets the big Canadian who beat Kyrgios in straights (tough draw for Nick, but things continue to look pretty bleak for that kook).

Stan v Milos needs to be on my set later today/tonight. I’m also very interested in how Coric looks. He has a tough one with Fucsovics. Hopefully, Borna keeps his mission intact.

Chung survived his first round, down 0-2 sets. As did Nishikori. My lord, gents. Especially you, Kei. Get your shit together. Like I said, if Kei loses, that part of the first quarter is a kiddy bounce-house. Novak actually has a tough little bracket to get to that QF. If Kei is anything but remarkable, Novak will be handsomely rewarded for his early tests with a puff-ball QF.

As I said earlier, Novak v Tsonga might have some intrigue. At the same time, Novak knows this, so he will probably pick-up his game and focus a bit for this early test (that’s if Tsonga has some form, which might be the case given his Brisbane SF). Shapo v Daniel is the opposite second rounder — Denis may actually enjoy the Bo5 more, may suit his game a bit — a guy who loves the energy of the match, etc. We’ll try to catch some of his form, as well.

The other two interesting matches involve Goffin and Medvedev. Goffin plays the big game of Copil and Medvedev the sometimes tough Harrison. A Goffin v Medvedev 3R match could be quite good.

Finally, we will try to catch some of the Zverev match against Chardy. This should be a clean sweep of an affair. For Sascha’s sake (confidence), he needs the likes of a 3 3 and 3 match, at least straights. We are suddenly quite intrigued with how Zverev the younger competes in this major. He is yet to show us anything at this level. Yet he’s the defending champ of the prestigious WTF, the winner of three 1000s, etc.

And he just hired Lendl, in the last six months or so. What does he have to show for his play under this esteemed supervision? He defended Washington D.C., SF appearance in Shanghai, and the WTF win, beating Djokovic.

Two things matter with the possible affect of Lendl on Sascha’s game.

First, one could accurately argue that winning at the highest level might be associated with the Czech’s influence on an aspiring underachiever.  Look at Andy Murray as our greatest example.

I will keep this short: Murray’s most brilliant career highlights are his three majors (2012 USO, 2013 WB and 2016 WB), two Olympic singles gold medals (2012 and 2016) and reaching #1 in the world (end of 2016).

Lendl’s tenure with Murray looks like this 2011-2014 and 2016-2017. Connect the dots, folks. He wins a couple of majors and an Oly gold with Lendl, then goes missing with Mauresmo, yet when back with Lendl in 2016, he wins WB, another gold medal and finishes the year at #1.  telemmglpict000180491235_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqm37qciwr9ctrqmimdqvx7hvpwxsq4oo5sfhys_9ffkq

I’m not going to slander Murray; instead, I will underscore the importance of Lendl on an underachiever’s tennis success. This coaching, guiding influence is now at the helm of Alexander Zverev’s tennis expedition.

With the WTF at his back, could we see the rise here of this young talent? Again, there are other youngsters, and Sascha has demonstrated all kinds of big stage fright. But he has Lendl now and this former world #1 is anything but a pint of lite beer.

Zverev could get knocked out by Chardy or Simon (or Bolt) in the next round. Or the likes of a Milos or Stan in R4. But we likewise, with this huge coaching move and already a bit of results in the Zverev camp, ought to pay a little more attention, perhaps, to this youngster’s play.

Secondly, there was this story (I went and found an article that references this, but I wrote about it back in the day. Not sure if you remember). Lendl plotted to take Djokovic down back at the height of the Djoker in 2015-16; again, I wrote about this because this is a phenomenal story, but it also adds to the intrigue of Sascha’s results in this year’s AO. Imagine if that Novak v Sascha SF materializes?

Sascha has that WTF win over Novak to pull from (along with Lendl’s insight). Then again, I can already imagine the bagels that Novak would be hastening to prepare and deliver on such a marvelous occasion.

One last comment on the win of Tiafoe over Anderson. Not terribly surprising because the American is vastly talented. Obviously, we’ve written a ton about Frances on this blog. Unfortunately, this probably weakens the draw in that Frances can go belly-up in blink of the eye. Do we want this young American to make nice little run here? Of course. But if he fades in the next 1 or 2 matches, booooo.

Happy viewing!

PS I meant to take a look at the second half’s bracket, but we’ll wait on that.

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