Sorry for the delay in this little post-Indian Wells discourse.
Obviously, the injury to Nadal was very bad news for the entire tennis community (anyone with a pulse). We were frothing for sure, but watching the QF between Rafa and Karen had us walking very gingerly around this idea that we’d get this much anticipated match-up.
Nadal had to muster all kinds of engery and savvy to get by the Russian, like their 2018 US Open encounter. The Russian is a giant obstacle and there were a few moments in this IW QF where it looked like we might get a Khachanov v Federer SF.
Two things here:
1) Nadal getting injured is the least surprising men’s tennis news. Go look at his career injury numbers. This is another telling sign of the guy’s limited tennis character (or class), his inability to maintain a consistent championship brand of tennis throughout the year and throughout his career. I covered some of this in my Fedal H2H series and, as you know, elsewhere.
I believe there is some discussion (actually, I think they passed some ATP legislation on this) regarding players withdrawing from a match and being denied their tournament winnings — that the money goes to the player who lost the match? And/or the loser gets to advance instead of the player withdrawing due to “injury”). I am not sure about this, but I know there has been some discussion.
We know there is tanking in tennis, as do the “authorities.” I believe there has been some rule change to try and deter this from happening — again, a guy enters a lower-level tournament for a little warm-up or whatever, wins his first couple of rounds, but withdraws, citing injury, and running-off with a little take-home cash.
Am I saying that Nadal tanked the SF? No, I am not. But we should have seen Khachanov get to the IW SF, by win or by some rule change. Nadal’s injury bullshit is just a shame. Honestly, I feel for the guy, a bit, how he had to get Nike to make him those shoes back in the day when his career hung in the balance because of foot issues, which means you see him now in shoes you might see on a septuagenarian.
He ended last season (as well as 2017, as well as . . . ) injured. No kidding. And now he starts the year, in effect, injured. Remember him getting injured in 2018 Melbourne, as well. So, as we said, nothing new here.
And, just to be sure, this is a bad look for the sport.
2) Khachanov probably beats Federer in that hypothetical SF. The Russian’s power is for real and Federer would have had some difficulty there, most likely.
Imagine a Thiem v Khachanov final.
He wanted the WTF played on clay, too. I guess you can’t blame the guy, but this just doesn’t work. Imagine more 1000s (or even 500s) on grass, or even more majors on grass. There are three clay Masters. We’ve done this before: over 70% of the guy’s 33 Masters titles are on clay and 65% of his Major titles are from Roland Garros.
Am I bitter because I didn’t get to see Fedal XXXIX in the 2019 IW SF? Nope. I’ve been qualifying this champion for a long time. I didn’t think we’d actually get the match, even though Nadal seemed good in warm-ups, no announcement had been made though it finally came mid-match of Thiem vs Raonic. Sure, the walk-over sucked. Federer doesn’t even get credit for the win in their delusional H2H. 😀 GTFOH.
And we know why Nadal pulled-out (other than to control his delusional H2H): Monte Carlo.
You’re easy, Rafa. Just know that.
I don’t need a separate post for Djokovic at IW. He came-up short here, affected perhaps by the rain-delay in that Kohly match. Who knows. He may not have all of his match machismo unless the stakes are really high, meaning he’s playing for a major. You see this again this week in Miami. He just looks a bit disinterested, or not quite in-it-to-win-it.
But the fact that at 37+ Federer was able to reach this IW SF and have the balls to play Nadal in the SF and Djokovic in the Final says a lot about his character, his class. People love to play the numbers games, H2Hs, etc., with the Big 3. What people will often miss (a big part of that Fedal H2H repudiation) is the chances Federer has given himself.
At the same time, Federer has missed a lot too. No question. Hence the complication and the importance of these kinds of discussions ala Mcshow.
Which takes us to Miami.
Were you surprised by Hurkacz’s win over Thiem? Actually, a let-down was expected, but the Pol can play, which is what we talked about in seeing both his and Federer’s IW form. His Miami R32 match with Auger-Aliassime gave us some more insight. I am very much with-holding any excitement for the Canadian until I see evidence of a real run; IW was a missed opportunity given how the top-half opened up.
Again, Hurkacz just needs some polish; his easy power and offensive minded game are sensational additions to the draw in 2019 so far.
Auger Aliassime has a nice match next against Basilashvili. That should be competitive; the winner gets the winner of Kyrgios v Coric. Indeed, some talent in that top half. The survivor of those four gets Djokovic in a SF.
Coric seems a bit less of himself so far (this year), the Georgian doesn’t quite have that big of a game, the Canadian we’re hesitant to carry, and the Aussie is simply unplayable (when he’s on and/or when you’re not sure if he’s on).
I have to admit, especially after seeing this, that he does have a very likable side.
He talks there about the keys to beating the Big 3. He’s 6-6 against them. That he may or may not be correct in his strategy for each is beside the point. It’s that he’ll talk about it. His under-hand serve to Nadal is so exemplary of this old-school confidence. I love this about the guy.
But his capacity to tank any match at any point is conversely unforgivable. So, flip a fucking coin with this guy.
Why haven’t I been all over the Miami Open on this blog? Because I’m not that into it, which apparently seems to be the case for guys like Federer and Djokovic. Call it what you will. Both have looked a bit abstract.
I’m a Californian and am way too convinced of the tennis majesty of Indian Wells, where a big match means you’re watching guys like Pistol Pete and Rocket Rod watch guys like Novak (5 titles) and Roger (5 titles).
Maybe both Novak and Roger will find some form for the second week (Federer just took care of the tough Krajinovic in straights 75 63).
Federer’s half looks like this: The likes of Anderson, Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Goffin? Sascha’s loss to Ferrer is a terrible stain on the German’s precociousness — this is taking-up as much space as is his list of accolades.
Personally? All I want to see is Kyrgios v Auger-Aliassime.
That’s it. You can have the rest.
I’ll check-in soon, however, because whether I like it or not, the business-end of Miami will certainly have me searching again for these keys, to reflect on the tennis, but even more: to tap a final couple of tunes before this glorious sport turns the seasonal (and proverbial) corner and disappears into a red cloud of clay.