2019 Roland Garros Aftermath

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Nadal, winning his 24th French Open

Aftermath:
1) the consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.
2) new grass growing after mowing or harvest.

Ha ha. The second definition there is perfect reference to where this bumbling tour is going next, no? In other words, the two definitions provided by my source both perfectly address where the tour just was, and where it’s going.

Of course, we’re dealing here with the first definition.

If you’re a Nadal fan or some media honk who contractually has to say things like “Rafa is amazing once again, brilliant, genius . . . .blah blah blah!” then 2019 Roland Garros was not an unpleasant event.

To be fair, how can any tennis fan not, on some level, appreciate what the Spaniard has done again at Roland Garros. This is as consistent as the sun and moon, the passing of seasons, the clock-work of life. Rafa wins the French Open every year almost entirely without challenge.

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The ATP website likes to post the above graphic after every big tournament, mainly majors, which are always won by the big three, have been for nearly twenty years. The numbers in that graphic are absurd. This seems great, the three legends statistically dominating the “Big Titles.”

I’m not necessarily going to pile-on Rafa here because this dominance, to which Rafa simply continued in Roland Garros 2019, involves all three of these “gluttons.” Look at the big tournaments so far in 2019. Novak won Melbourne, Roger almost completed another Sunshine Double, up a set on Thiem in IW, breezed through Miami (let’s add his 100th title in Dubai) and then Rafa won the French.

Not to leave the clay masters out of this tally, Fognini did win Monte Carlo, Novak Madrid and then Rafa won Rome. So, aside from Fognini and Thiem, the Big Three have gobbled-up every bit of legitimate 2019 championship hardware. Which is just par for the course.

Dominance.

And embarrassment.

To be honest, I am qualifying Rafa’s 12th FO, but this is done mainly for all of the little fanboys and girls out there. Indeed, this is for all the fangirls that help define our culture: you all need to see the forest through the trees; if you’re gripping so hard on this “GOAT race,” the accumulation of majors and Masters, etc., then you clearly can’t see beyond the end of your nose.

In other words, there is all kinds of room to be less-than-enthused by the state of this sport.

Rafa winning a twelfth FO is the extreme example of this embarrassment. Sure it’s impressive, just as it is for Novak to flirt with another Novak Slam, or Roger to play as well as he is closer to 50 than 20.

One roots for guys like Domi and Stefanos because the sport needs that new blood (and more of the one-handed genius). But this sort of common sense, taste and/or logic is lost on most of the tennis audience (riddled with irrational fanboy immaturity) at which I will continue to aim my occasional verbal scurrility.

That’s the role Mcshow plays in this theater of the absurd.

Back to the French Open.

I recently provided another installment of my impression of this major. It’s always been a 2nd tier major in my life-time.

The fact that at one point the greatest tennis players of all time, starting with Sampras, who secured that place during his historical (at the time) run, didn’t have a French is not a coincidence. No one would challenge that idea of Sampras’ superiority at that time other than the Laver faithful. Pete owned the sport, at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and he even won a couple of Aussies. The argument was immune to dissension. Pete had surpassed all, confirmed a dominance that everyone recognized.

He didn’t have a French.

Then, along came Roger. He, unbelievably, overtook Pete in tour dominance and the accumulation of majors. He now had his own place at the top, whatever you want to call that (GOAT, etc.).

He didn’t have a French.

Prior to this incredible stretch of greatness from Fedras, there was a bit more intrigue at the French with the likes of Borg, Lendl and Wilander — but Fedras rewrote the sport’s greatness and, again, the French wasn’t even involved in this equation.

That’s just the reality of the sport. I haven’t even brought-up the surface itself that some think is the greatest test, etc. The tournament this year, which I discussed, represented other elements of this tournament’s historical inferiority.

What about the typical winners of this major, prior to rise and rule of Nadalism?

Noah, Chang, Gomez, Courier, Bruguera, Muster, Moya, Kafelnikov, Kuerten, Costa, Ferrero, Gaudio et al.

After the Borg era (undoubtedly an all-time great), the tournament succumbed to mediocrity. Period. This will return after Nadal’s reign comes to an end. This is inescapable.

And this haunts Nadal as well. I wrote this a year ago (asking if clay is actually Nadal’s weakness — you get the point of this irony, hopefully). Nadal is without a doubt a clay court specialist (the classification we give to Noah and Moya, et al). I don’t think there’s any question about this observation, this contention.

I have acknowledged that Rafa’s wins off clay are impressive, his third U.S. Open in 2017 a huge accomplishment even though he didn’t have to play a guy in the top-20 throughout that title run.

But another French Open only reaffirms what we already know about Nadal. Indeed, his dominance at this venue is terribly impressive, but we know of this impressive clay court dominance. He is virtually unbeatable on clay, especially at Roland Garros.

I nod in agreement when one says that beating Nadal on clay in Bo5 is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do in sport. Sure. But this also puts him in that aforementioned classification, which is not, historically speaking, the highest calling in this sport.

And Nadal’s dominance on clay (especially at RG) can’t be digested without talking about the rest of the field.

That’s embarrassing. Sure, the Spaniard is genius, brilliant, greatness personified. And the field is a joke on the terre battue (again, two things can be true at the same time). There is no other way to process this one-sided era of clay dominance. You are either a Rafa fan and are wholeheartedly in on his greatness, or you qualify this greatness a bit because of the company he keeps.

If Novak had beaten Thiem in that SF and then overcome Nadal in the final this year, we would have had a very interesting twist in this Big 3 plot (and the GOAT nuthouse would have been manically constructing that new wing to this edifice of oddity and insanity). Novak would have 16 majors, closing-in on Nadal’s 17 (at the time), would have that double career grand slam, another Novak Slam (holding all four is quite dominant) AND he would have beaten a rampant Nadal at Roland Garros.

That fanbase would have been irrepressible. The show might have ended there. Novak could have really moved himself and all of his little oompa loompa fans into supreme position at the highest level of this sport. The major and Masters counts, the career Golden Masters, H2H with Fedal — and overcoming Nadal at RG with Rafa in this form would have been something to recognize, for sure, for everyone.

But, now Novak stays in that Federer-like part of the conversation, which is, in the end, the part that talks about a more complete game, a more versatile dominance, etc.

Novak and Roger have both acquired just the one French. And to be fair, those titles were won by not having to go through Nadal. Novak fans want to claim some kind of stature that Novak spanked Nadal at the French, in straights, but Nadal in 2015 and 2016 was on his way out of the sport; he was a mess. The year that Novak beat Nadal, Novak lost to Stan in the final. The year that Novak won the French, Nadal had pulled-out in the third round.

Federer of course took care of Soderling in that 2009 final, after the Swede had beaten the Spaniard in the R16.

So Novak and Roger maintain a very similar position when it comes to the French.

Lastly, as far as the two SFs and final went at this year’s French, I thought Roger actually showed more form to challenge Nadal than did Thiem (if Novak gets through Thiem, we could have had, admittedly, a very interesting final with so much on the line, which I went over, above).

But the trouble Thiem has with Nadal is he’s just too far back. He can hit anyone off the court during many exchanges — the Austrian will win the French one day, I hope, his tennis and heart are brilliant — but there’s still too much vulnerability in that court positioning.

Thiem stands further behind the BL than Nadal. He still, like every member of the lost generations (plural) will have to establish the Bo5 authority that the Big 3 have monopolized. Thiem still has to prove himself in that format. And his court positioning is a losing proposition.

I would argue that Federer and Djokovic both have the tennis to beat Nadal, even in Roland Garros. But we haven’t talked about the mental game yet and Nadal has that in spades. Federer folds like a cheap suit on the red clay against Rafa and Novak, for some reason, has not been able to securely establish the meaningful win over Nadal on the Paris clay.

But both Roger and Novak play a more aggressive court position and tennis that can trouble Nadal.

Federer was very much in that SF. The first set was closer than the score indicated. Roger got into nearly every one of Rafa’s service games. Roger had BP opportunities. The rallies spoke to a closer match. How is Rafa not a little nervous of a Federer in apparent form reaching this SF, an opponent who has had Rafa’s number (though still not on the clay).

The second set had Federer deep into this one. Of course at 40-0, 4-4, Federer went away. Unbelievable yet something we’ve become accustomed to. Federer was fresh, had form, was well into this match, but he simply fell on his face, perhaps from choking, on the red clay dust clouds filling Philippe-Chatrier.

Here’s a video of Federer’s court position. You’re not beating Nadal standing 12 feet behind the BL. Federer has the position here, the ability to deal with the CC FH from Nadal that he’s used to beat the Spaniard under the tutelage of Ljubičić.

Thiem, or anyone willing to beat Nadal, has to be more aggressive.

Federer’s position illustrates this kind of approach to challenge the unchallenged.

But the conditions and Federer’s fallible mental fortitude become too much to complicate the clay GOAT. Obviously.

Nothing new here.

Just like nothing new here with Nadal winning the French Open.

I’ll leave it there: sorry for the delay.

Thanks for reading, as always.

2 thoughts on “2019 Roland Garros Aftermath

  1. Elmar

    Good analysis !
    There`s another blog (actually the Facebook page of it is used for updates by the author) called The Ultimate Tennis Blog (the blogger used to have the popular http://www.ruanfederersblog.com few years ago) with a post- FO article which draws similar conclusion about the inferiority of FO.

    Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/TheUltimateTennisBlog/posts/2579917985361520?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARDgURVVrvI_spzoPoIUd5mmiQ5PeOGkXarzHC7wq5n_bEMVuzkSRBtTgSCGFHL0oO50oTUJueYaai2gw_2HX-Qvf7hhfQQWOJJHhEk5jYQ5VEMy45q3ChZyWlbfEf7X7NGbrRTM8E8YRqH3Sj_0dw4z6IRLcIb-olGWSkixTTz4QSlegekFGkuNVLL8KFo0iOz5L8uClDeBhgCbdttJaDBBtGLkxVonh9jnayGjN0kKZ515RPtBI2dnQhXjo_a_jNsb_7JwDtqVfOvwY3mDxThDl2LwOkiG5fn_nnJwhaBxks9IEg4-vJxDc_gUMtebrxZV0vsmlSoZuV8yKMBYw7WUsg&__tn__=K-R

    I wish there were more bloggers and reader with an unbiased opinion like yours and more fans of Thiem, Tsistsipas and the “new” lost gen:)

    Federer is way too dependent on several patterns to win versus Nadal on clay :
    – It is mandatory for him to get the first break of serve versus Nadal to have a chance to win the 1 st set
    – It is mandatory for him to win the 1st set in order to have a chance to win the mach
    – It is mandatory for him to stop wasting 1000 BP opportunities not only vs. Nadal but in general. He never improved here…He showed he can save multiple break-points on his serve during 1st set of FO2019 but he cracks sooner or later and it is just useless improved stat for him since he does not break enough his opponent/s serve.
    – It is mandatory for him to be able to consolidate serve when breaking Nadal on clay but he still has to learn how to do it. The joy of breaking his serve is so great and taxing mentally/physically that not only Fed but Thiem and Djoko have dropped serve right back after a break versus Nadal on memorable occasions.
    – It is mandatory for him to not play any top 5-10 player before the final (as Nadal had the pleasure during multiple FO and USOpen and other runs).he seems not to be able to repeat peak performance 2 matches in a row even if he is not fatigues physically but only mentally which is even worse for him.
    – It is mandatory for him to stop melting every time he approaches the net. In the past he was making way too many wrong decisions when to go to the net . Now he does it at the right moments but he kept being too shy there , sending slow/no-power balls close to Nadal even if half of the court is empty for a winner. Never improved here
    -It is mandatory for him to stop making way too many unforced errors on regular shots.Never improved here
    – It is mandatory for him to understand that Bo5 is Bof format and the mach continues after you loose your serve from 40-0 up or you did not make an easy break point or set point.
    – It is mandatory for him to start paying attention only on his service games and rely more on tie-breaks to win a set or match on clay vs Nadal as Thiem did this year during 2nd set when he was out of gas.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Elmar.
      Good points. He often falls victim
      to many of those patterns.

      I know Ruan. He is a big Djokovic fan now.
      As you probably know.

      We are in much anticipation here for the next wave of champions to take hold.
      This is taking much longer than we had hoped. It’s bizarre really.

      Like

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