Thoughts on the U.S. Open Final

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Some quick thoughts on tomorrow’s U.S. Open Final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev.

First of all, there is a women’s final today and we (of the Mcshow clan) are flying the Canadian flag outside our home on our titanium flagpole. I recall seeing Bianca Andreescu’s run to the IW title back in March. She won Toronto this year, as well. That’s two premier events on that wilting women’s tour. They need someone like Bianca.

She’s 19 years-old.

Serena, wouldn’t you know, is playing out of her mind. She looks rampant, peaking and almost certain to give Americans, bandwagon feminists and clueless tennis fans alike a giant orgasm with a win today, what would be her seventh U.S. Open title and her 24th Grandslam title, tying her with Margaret Court.

Yay.

Let’s just see the 19 year-old go big here.

At the same time, a Serena/Rafa double at the 2019 U.S. Open would be perfect, in a way; such an outcome would almost certainly inspire me to write quite an alleluia for these two champions.

Al – le – lu – ia!

From the titanium flagpole in my front yard (flag would be at half-mast) to the vaulted ceilings of the halls of Mcshow: Al – le – lu – ia!

Willial (or Nadilliams) are set to be crowned in NYC! What a year of professional tennis!

Anyways, we’re naturally rooting for Bianca.

If Bianca does win, what sinister bullshit would Serena have up her sleeve for this loss? All I remember about last year is Serena getting an umpire virtually banned and making Osaka cry. Brilliant stuff from the American!

On the men’s side, this looks (has looked) like #19 for the Spaniard, Nadal’s 4th U.S. Open title. Certainly an impressive number for the NYC hard courts. Rafans get all excited about how this mutes anymore discussions of Nadal being a clay court specialist. Unfortunately, this will never be the case. Nadal’s fitness and fight, along with his competent hard court tennis, have put him in these positions to win on these particular hard courts; this hasn’t happened in Melbourne, but NYC has certainly obliged.

Without going too much into that, these courts have slowed tremendously. These play more along the lines of Indian Wells, with a stickier, slower surface and a higher bounce. Melbourne has kept the courts more true to hard court’s characteristic speed and lower bounce. This reflects most of the more authoritative reads on these courts more recently.

Everything has slowed seems a broad generalization about ATP surfaces, but one that many tennis aficionados make clear.

In addition to this surface dynamic, the draws have just been bizarre in NYC. We’ve already (as have others) discussed this clown show of a draw. Nadal’s 2017 and 2019 draws are just incredible.

To be fair, Djokovic’s 2018 draw was pretty weak whereas Nadal’s was not, hence (perhaps) that result (Sometimes draws breakdown despite starting-out pretty stiff. Djokovic did have Federer and Kyrgios in his bracket, but the former is clearly untrustworthy on these courts, this time of year, and Kyrgios is Kyrgios).

This of course means that draws DO matter; and Nadal has been particularly blessed in this regard.

So, again, unfortunately, this doesn’t mute or silent those clay court specialist remarks. On top of everything, the field is a joke. The Big 3 have continued to rack-up titles because the men’s field is just a giant embarrassment at this point. Massive. Catastrophic.

Ageism is an interesting point to all of this, as well — a huge plot point of this dark era of tennis (“golden age” is satirical at this point — more appropriate for a South Park episode that explores this Big 3 era, referring to it, comedically, as a golden age. Ha ha!)

Historically, Pete won his 5th U.S. Open in 2002 at 31 years old and that was the last tournament he played, ever. He retired following that win. He was a 17-seed in that 2002 Open, which meant that he was barely keeping his tennis career afloat going in to that year’s final major.

Think of that change in culture. Insane. Borg retires at 25, Pete at 31 . . . I’m just using those two pillars to illustrate that the history of the sport, reflecting on where we’ve been and looking at the sport today: different sports really. I discussed some of this in one of my HRFRT pieces, which will be developed, of course. 😀

This tour today is not even in the same solar system as the tennis of yesteryear. Part of that is the talent and competitiveness of the Big 3 and part of that is the effects of certain cultural developments, traditions, mores, ethics, etc.

Yesterday’s SFs played according to how we previewed those matches. Nadal NOT winning this title would be a huge choke, so his straight-set win over the Italian was expected, by even my dog. Berrettini made a wonderful push in that first set, got eyes on the prize in that first set TB, but folded, in classical fashion.

Medvedev indeed “strangled” Dimitrov. There was a hint of a Novak vs Roger in that match. Good for Grigor to make such a run, but he’ll probably take another extended break.

We wish him well. Seriously.

We can’t look at tomorrow’s men’s final and not think of the Montreal final, about a month ago.

Nadal drowned Medvedev 3 and nil.

Wasn’t a tennis match; it was a match between Man City and Watford.

No contest.

There are two thoughts on this: either the match-up is very poor for the Russian.

Or

Medvedev hadn’t yet spread his wings (evolved).

Built into these two possible scenarios is the hero-worship or deification that occurs on this tour with younger players peeing themselves in opposition to the Big 3.

Bad match-up with Nadal and the young Russian was star-struck.

Medvedev had yet to fully peak/realize his championship character and he went deer-caught-in-the-headlights against Rafa and got run-over.

This very well could be a bad match-up for Medvedev/a good one for Nadal. This final could go straights in even more routine fashion than Nadal’s QF or SF matches, where his completely over-matched opponents feigned even a semblance of resistance before going belly-up.

This wouldn’t really surprise me or you. Nadal could raise his level, Medvedev run-out of gas, both recall the Montreal kiss they shared, and lights-out, Nancy.

Or Medvedev is a different player from that Montreal encounter.

Here’s some thought on this latter scenario, which really just amounts to this simple read:

He has been playing really solid tennis for awhile. We’ve already shared the thoughts we had on the Djokovic v Medvedev R16 in Melbourne.

We link those thoughts in this Cincy recap.

Medvedev has been for real for a long time now, on bigger stages against bigger opponents.

Here’s just a glance at his 2019:

Final at Brisbane (def. to Nishikori)
R16 at Aussie Open (Djokovic, who won the title)
Wins Sofia Open
SF at Rotterdam (Monfils)
R16 at Miami (Federer, who won the title)
SF at Monte Carlo (Lajovic)
Final at Barcelona (Thiem)
SF at Queen’s Club (Simon)
Final at Washington D.C. (Kyrgios)
Final at Montreal (Nadal)
Wins Cincinnati

Losing like he did in D.C. and then Montreal, both finals, with the loss to Nadal in quite the one-sided affair, he’d perhaps had enough, began to develop and focus on that much tougher, deeper drive that we’ve seen since Cincy (if not well before these particular matches to which we’re referring).

The win against Djokovic in the Cincinnati SF has two points of interest: Medvedev, en route to another straight-set loss to a Big 3, turned that second set around completely, marked mostly by his decision to use two first serves on practically each point and become much more aggressive during the rallies, in trying to finish the point.

His tennis has been (continues to be) characterized by his willingness to get into extended rallies, use his above average movement (for a 6′ 6″ guy), stay fairly deep in the court, defend well, and use his opponent’s pace and patiently keep the points alive.

I remarked earlier that if Kyrgios had this kind of patience (maturity really), he’d be unplayable.

Medvedev already has this natural ability to stay in points, not come apart playing risky tennis. He can fetch many an opponents’ shot, which can begin to wear on said foe.

In the Djokovic match, we see a wrinkle in this poker player’s visage, where he showed definitively his desire to change the course of a match, adopt a different strategy and evolve as tennis player, to become a championship caliber tennis player.

He’d had enough. This would be the logic of a win tomorrow, if he were to overcome Nadal.

The other point of interest of that Cincy SF, to finish that thought, concerns Novak’s apparent injury — but that’s neither here nor there at this point.

The primary point is that Medvedev evolved in Cincy. I argued, counter to much of the mainstream junior varsity journalism, that he was benefitting strikingly from all of this tennis, all of these deeper runs he’d made, really, throughout the year, but especially post Wimbledon.

This is from that previous commentary on this very point, taking a different line-of-reasoning from some more popular tennis pundits:

Some thought he won yesterday despite playing all of this tennis, that he must be on fumes, etc.

Sorry: he won yesterday because of all of that tennis he’s played (with the help of some rampant serving and ball-striking, backed-into-a-corner).

Guys like Thiem and Medvedev are getting better on this tour, more dangerous for even the Big 3, because of their rampant schedule.

As an aside, look at his success (see “glance at 2019 above”) on all three surfaces. Bodes quite well for this 23 year-old moving forward.

From Cincinnati, then, do we have a different, more evolved Medvedev that will pose quite a different challenge for the outrageous favorite in tomorrow’s final Nadal?

This is the question at the heart of tomorrow’s U.S. Open final.

Medvedev has seemed unbeatable since that Cincinnati semi-final win against Djokovic.

He’s marched through his draw with a controlled, winning tempo, playing a few four setters against some tough opponents, from Feli Lopez to the young German Koepfer, on to Wawrinka and then through an apparently revived Dimitrov.

The first set against Grigor yesterday might be a good microcosm for this evolved Medvedev. Grigor outplayed the Russian in that first set. Really all of the significant numbers (statistics) were in the Bulgarian’s advantage. If you watched that first set, the eye-test told a similar story. Grigor had a look at that set, especially in the TB. Not that this would have decided the match, but the Russian looked vulnerable, began barking at his tiny box; his tennis looked limited, finally.

But he pulled-off the set and proceeded to move matters to his first Grandslam final.

We haven’t mentioned a key ingredient or development of this evolutionary process: he’s embraced playing the archetypal villain.

His tennis reminds me quite a bit of Djokovic. The patience, the steady and deadly BH, the ability to play some points more assertively than others (big points), and that potentially unlikable persona.

I’ve already addressed this some: tennis fans are morons, mostly, as well.

But these two, Novak and Daniil, play the part, which becomes part of their success. No question.

Does this evolved Russian have one more stage of metamorphosis to show us in tomorrow’s U.S. Open final against the sport’s version of a tennis primate?

The Russian robotic villain vs the Spanish (fierce yet adorable) primate.

The new vs the old. The future vs the distant past.

You have to admit: that’s funny.

And on the money.

As for who wins this match, this final major of the year, where’s your money?

PS
Don’t forget where I had my money.

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