Wimbledon QF Preview: Legends Speak

The Joker

That’s Roger more or less. Remember the TSQ? The public, per usual, has a lot of the reading on these matters a bit off, perhaps way off. They call Novak the Djoker. Wrong. Roger is the one goofing around, having fun; his whole enterprise is an exhibition.

Start with the way he hits the ball, in innumerable ways: he makes the exercise of putting racquet to ball to go over the net to frustrate and beat his opponent and to make the crowd and commentators go ewwwwww an absolute bout of cakes and ale.

Look at his clinic against Berrettini in the R16. This bordered on the ridiculous, utter comedic. By the end, the Italian was jumping through hoops and rolling around on the lawn — I don’t mean to be rude, but not a good day at the office for Matteo. We all have such days. This was his, on Centre Court, against the Maestro, who quite simply had the recent Stuttgart champ and Halle semi-finalist on a string.

The video above has Roger joking around a bit, having fun (see: The Joker). He’s many laughs but for one interesting point about the speed of the court. I heard him say earlier that the courts seemed to be similar to the past in their feel, speed (though we know that’s not true), but he did say, with regards to this R16 match with Berrettini, that he thought it quite odd that the Italian could only muster an ace or two (was it three?).

Berrettini can pull a 140 mph serve. What this means, and what Federer points-out, is that even a shitty day at the office, you’re getting blasted 1-6 2-6, etc.: you can still manage to rifle a few aces by the 37 year-old. This caught Federer off-guard. He planned for a much more difficult day, given his opponent’s power.

So, this says quite a bit about the speed, no?

Or Nadal v Sousa in a R16, or Pella outlasting Raonic to reach the QF? Pella? What! He’s a bonafide clay court specialist. The courts are slower. Roger, despite not making an issue out of this since the tournament started, does give quite the nod here.

Look, why would the ATP (Wimbledon as a spoke in the ATP wheel) not want to slow the courts? Aside from Roger, Isner, Anderson, Querrey and Raonic, every player on tour is a baseline buffoon with a custom made two-handed backhand that they actually got on sale online from some outfit in Moscow. All kidding aside, slowing the courts makes good business sense. Not many players can play the old school speed. Not many players can handle quick courts. They need time. They need time to think and react and get their low-risk THBH ready. The S & V is no can do on this tour. SW19’s courts are slower. For sure.

As for Fed v Nishikori, as Roger says in the video here, Kei has energy at this point, as opposed to his usual route to a QF where he’s played 2-3 five setters already. Kei will be tough on these courts, too, able to pressure Roger, make the Swiss run side-to-side, which is absolutely his weakness. Federer wants the point to go north – south. This will be a key to the match. Hopefully Federer has his “A” or “B+” game, serves well and breaks Nishikori when he can. The BP dynamic will be another key, on Kei’s serve, of course.

The Berrettini match was a great numbers game for Fed, but Matteo was worked from his Schwartzman bout (Schwartzman, another graceful grass technician — sarcasm) and simply awe-struck, or something to that effect.

No way Roger simply destroyed 2019’s second best grass court player, right?

Federer should advance.

.      .      .

The Dark Knight

This is a great interview. Novak is a real gent, a genuine guy, thoughtful, can laugh, but seems interested in an understanding. What’s great here is his discussion of the Big 3 (he’s asked about the dominance); he adds perspective and basically provides added support to my theory of HRFRT, as well as gives some nice insight on why the other players have struggled to break through against these giants of the sport. Very logical stuff. His appreciation for the history and the competition is the real deal. Bravo, Novak.

His play against Humbert was the most impressive of the Big 3 R16 matches (although Federer’s did look pretty clinical). But Humbert looks dynamic out on the court, a youthful energy and sophistication (again, I don’t want to belittle Berrettini — the guy did win a 250 on grass and almost made the Halle final). Novak’s win in this match was just as clinical as Roger’s if not more. Watching Novak raise his level just enough to secure the break illustrates the control in this man’s game. He’s as steady and deadly as they come. Federer can be quite deadly, but there’s a bit of that feel of the exhibition, the flair, the genius. Novak is the Dark Knight. Some might perceive a slightly villainous visage, but this gentleman, trust me, fights evil.

He reflects a bit on his relationship with Goffin in this interview. They know and respect each other well. Have practiced a lot together. They’ve never, however, met on grass. David is playing well and one would like to think that this tennis savant has the goods to play a great match and upset a top player. But Novak looks quite good, quietly, as his smart fans will recognize (and not somehow turn that into a slight against him).

Novak should cruise into the SF though we wouldn’t be totally shocked (just a little) if the Belgian puts up his dukes and goes after the Serb. The courts should help Goffin and we know his ability to go to either corner from both wings (especially the BH) could make this a baseliner’s wet dream.

.      .      .

Nervous Nelly

Rafa is the most nervous guy on tour (of all time). This adds to his brilliance because he is on absolute edge. Every point. He defends as if his life depends on it. If his opponent burps, Nadal pounces. Every little inch of existence this guy sweats out like he’s about to get a beating (from Uncle T), or about to get exposed, or whatever. His tennis is nervous just like this interview.

Some people call him-out on his modesty. They say it’s bullshit. I think he tries to intimidate, but the awkwardness of this half modesty, half Spanish bull spells an agitation. Again, he’s on edge.

In this interview, he downplays the Big 3 phenomenon. He dismisses the interest, the analysis. He barks back at a reporter who wondered if Nadal and Sousa should have been on Court 1 and Barty on Center Court. In short, he says why shouldn’t I be there, I’m #2 in the world and have 18 majors!

Folks, that’s a bit much from a guy of his stature. He’s nervous.

And don’t look now, but he’s on Court 1 tomorrow against Querrey. This could be an interesting match. If the courts are alive to the American’s big serve, he has the goods to not only reach the SF, which he did in 2017, but also beat Nadal, which he also did in 2017 though that was in Acapulco.

I remember Acapulco that year. Kyrgios made a run, had beaten Novak in the QF before running into a rampant Sam Querrey.  In the final he beat Nadal in straights.

We’ll see how this one goes. Nadal has the mental chops to simply play the percentages and wear Sam down (nervous or neurotic types often out think their counterparts, which very much defines Rafa). If Sam can remove the racquet from Nadal’s grasp, different story, but I see Nadal surviving.

Another interesting take-away from that Nadal interview involves his discussion of sports, in general. His interest in sports. A reporter asked him if he ever takes time-off from playing or watching sports. Nadal practically laughed at this guy (I’m with you here, Rafa). Rafa goes on to briefly underscore his love of sports, playing obviously, but watching. He illustrated with his weekend cuisine of golf and women’s World Cup soccer.

This adds to his genius on the court, his absolute commitment to the point. He’s obsessive (an almost pathological nervousness) and loves sport.

Folks, I know I am very critical about Nadal. I don’t like his tennis. But I love his passion for the win, his commitment to sport. How does the saying go? We often criticize in others what we don’t like about ourselves. Perhaps I’m a bit guilty of this with Rafa.

Either way, watch the videos and the tennis tomorrow.

Pella vs RBA. We like RBA here, the baseline machine who’s passion and ball striking carries a ton of class. Still, what an odd SF opponent most likely for Novak.

If one of the Big 3 loses, who falls? Federer or Nadal. Of course, we’d like both to advance so we can see that. No?

Talk to you on the other side.

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