Yesterday’s Part I simply clarified that this year’s U.S. Open gave us another rendition of tennis in the Djokodal era. Who gets the better draw (who gets Federer — which in these Bo5 tournaments, other than WB, means less and less)? Who has the most health?
The history of tennis in the 21st century involves the first decade of dominance from one Roger Federer, what we’ve come to call Federera.
From 2000 to 2010, Federer won 16 majors.
By 2010, Nadal had 9 majors, but his winning off clay really started in 2008. From 2008 to 2010, Rafa secured four majors (two WB, an AO and a USO). That’s 2008, the tail-end of that first decade of Federer’s dominance. Rafa certainly made himself visible at the French, as early as 2005, but not until 2008-10 did he start to realize his talent.
Federer, again, had 16 majors by 2010.
By 2010, Novak had 1 major: the 2008 Australian Open.
16, 9, 1.
If anything, we can see that Nadal is sandwiched a bit in-between these eras, if you will, but what complicates Rafa’s tenure, of course, is the role that clay plays into his success.
Only Rafa fans will argue this shouldn’t really affect the legacy. They may have a point, actually. In the end, people count the trophies and we can’t blame Nadal for winning all of those Les Coupes des Mousquetaires.
Above underscores my argument in yesterday’s Part I. Federer is from a different era, really. The numbers (all of them) bear this out.
We’re in the Djokodal era. At the 2019 U.S. Open, Novak came-up limping, so Nadal (with the aid of his oft-soft draws and his relentless, cut-throat gamesmanship) won the title.
Imagine 2018 Wimbledon or 2019 Australian Open (as just two recent examples): Novak, per their storied rivalry, kept the surging Spaniard at bay.
I could add another point to this series of thoughts/posts post-U.S. Open with regards to Rafa’s physical presence, the factor his physical strength plays in all of this. The irony of his oft-injured body preventing him from competing more consistently throughout his career, the wear-and-tear on hard courts, etc., is the fact that his physical strength, best exemplified by his sleeve-less muscly semblance and his success in those longer five-set wars, has clearly helped him sustain this run, looking to climb further up this GOAT mountain-top.
I referred to the Medvedev vs Nadal match earlier as The Robot vs the Primate. Rafa’s tennis, objectively speaking, is more primal, raw, based more on pure physical effort and brute strength. I’m one to quickly acknowledge his touch at the net (volleying or digging and putting-away a drop-shot), but this guy is an animal, so to speak. Catch my drift.
Indeed, he’s a physical beast; anyone coming face-to-face with his or her long, slow physical decline has probably been told of the importance of physical strength, lifting weights, maintaining muscle and bone health in the aging body.
Rafa’s continued dominance has to be seen as an example of this principle.
Federer, at 38, is clearly breaking-down and Novak, despite being the youngest of these greats, appears to be having some continued physical challenges.
The Competition Crisis on Tour
What about the challenges to Djokodal from the rest of the field? That’s what we wanted to talk about in this post. One can see there is quite a bit more to my Part I discussion, but this one here, the absence of any viable contender from now multiple generations, in the face of this Big 3 dominance, has really been quite the shit show for a while.
The media and the childish fanboy and fangirl culture of celebrity that breathes deeply in stupidity and hatred (see the U.S. Presidency as a case in point: this is not just an ATP problem) all have a hand in this, but we have to put this on the players themselves, and the tour of which they are a part (another discussion referenced here of the lack of player development on tour, on lower-level tours, etc.).
But dear God, boyo (lost generation participants), pack a bigger lunch, wear some sturdier sneakers.
Watching these youngsters get beaten by the good old boys is beyond redundant and tiring. This is bad.
I wanted to write another U.S. Open Finals preview that argued for the importance of Medvedev winning the match and the title. You all know I’m not keen on Rafa’s tennis, and this hypothetical post would have seemed like I was trolling Rafa and his fans more: but I am dead serious here. The tour really, badly, needs a new face of major championship tennis.
You know the numbers as they’re flaunted by the Big 3 media blitz at every opportunity. The TSQ (tennis status quo — more Mcshow nomenclature), the mainstream media shit wagon, loves the Big 3 dominance. You do the research here: they’ve won the last 12 Majors, right? Murray and Wawrinka won 2016 WB and USO, so that means 2017-2019 has been straight Big 3 Major dominance. But the dominance, as we know, goes back years, decades. It’s embarrassing. Enough said.
— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) September 10, 2019
We won’t get into the style ushered-in and entrenched by Djokodal, but that has had an effect on their continued suffocating ascendancy, for sure. I’ve discussed this problem several times.
And there’s really no need to get into picking-off a bunch of pretenders from these subsequent generations in their failed attempts to even dent the impenetrable fortress of Djokodal.
But we do need to address this pattern of failure.
We see guys like Thiem rise-up and go away. Tsitsipas looks formidable, then playing hide-and-seek. Interesting to see Dimitrov make an appearance in the final four of this year’s U.S. Open. You saw my commentary: predicted in my preview that Medvedev would “strangle” him. Easy money.
In a somewhat melancholy tone of voice, I said Dimitrov would probably “go away” now, but like an awkward high school reunion, better than nothing, I guess.
The lost generation . . . what an utter disaster. I think I’m right on the “multi” prefix I’ve added to that term. We are still here, lost. Djokodal has become the abyss of men’s tennis.
So, to clarify my point, I want to end with this:
The Medvedev loss is by my estimation a continuation of this disaster that is men’s pro tennis.
The sport needed him to win here (please pretend fangirls and fanboys don’t exist for a second). The way these younger, seemingly dynamic tennis talents come to the stage to face one of these warriors and get turned away in similar fashion rots the game.
Other than some pathetic fanboy/girl or a media type who knows their business depends really on Big 3 dominance — the images, internet clicks, the apparel, the interviews, the rivalries, their good looks, blah blah blah — this inability for a younger talent to break-through and win a major (and for sport’s sake sustain some kind of dominance himself) is rotting the sport.
The numbers are very unhealthy.
Laver, Borg, the throng of 70s and 80s gents and even Pete left the game in good shape, with some raising of the bar, with some reasonable sense of discourse, etc.
Federer ruined the sport. And the two monsters he created are absolutely bludgeoning this past-time into submission.
Chew on this: Medvedev may never do anything else.
How can you say that?! You don’t know tennis!
That’s something Brad Gilbert would say — in italics — as he blows very uncomfortable smoke up Nadal’s skirt. Gilbert is the worst, because he seems old school, seems dialed-in to the history and competition, etc. He is a full-blown fan clown.
And this is killing the sport.
By the way, in that second link above, to my “Why Men’s Tennis is No Longer Worth a Shit” post, I said this (over a year ago):
I suspect the only names of real interest are Medvedev, probably Tiafoe, and Tsitsipas who actually added his name to this missing list today.
This will be a monster theme moving forward on this blog. The lack of talent (championship talent) is shocking. You think it’s okay, the way it is, one of the effects of that oversized Golden Labrador that’s buried any of your tennis common sense.
Again, this isn’t the lost gen. This is the multi-gen dumpster fire.
But at least we have those fangirls to sing us to sleep, as we’re carted-off in our complacency pajamas to dream of the Big 3 and their miraculous greatness.
Thiem losing that match to Nadal was devastating for him (I don’t give a shit about his fans). I believe that winning that match (who knows how the SF or F go from there) would have put him in an entirely different place from where he is now.
To be fair, since then he won 2019 Indian Wells in really solid fashion, beating Federer. He made some more noise on 2019 clay, beat Djokovic in a bizarre RG SF (big kudos even though the playing conditions were a joke) and made another French final.
That’s not enough, folks. Thiem is no where to be found at this point and do you think he stands much of a chance against Djokodal at the French next year? At AO, WB or the U.S. Open for that matter?
Medvedev needed, for his sake and the sport’s sake, to win that match.
God forbid that he ends-up like the rest of them, in a line of bridesmaids waiting for a kiss with a triumphant Djokodal.
I saw a tweet after Sunday’s final from a popular tennis commentator calling Medvedev a legend. Are you kidding me? Everyone’s a winner? Get the fuck out of here.
He may NEVER win a major. Am I saying he won’t, guaranteeing he won’t?
No. Don’t be stupid.
But these losses are costly, on both ends. The numbers are ridiculous, on both ends.
Nadal leads Medvedev on title count 19-0.
Let me reiterate if no one heard me: Medvedev’s loss is a critical blow to his development. Just is. Will he not grow from this? Of course he will. But missing these opportunities just maintains the status quo and these legends continue to grow, become more and more difficult to beat (and beating them, as I have argued, when they’re shells of themselves will not be the same — besides, they’ll have 26 majors by then).
Part III will come probably tomorrow or the next day, whenever I have a little time to tap these keys a bit and sip some espresso.
Cheerio, tennis faithful.