Story-lines of the ATP Finals

These story-lines reach beyond this season finale in London.

Of course.

1. I guess you see what you want to see. I never fell in-line with the Medvedev mob, those loving his tennis and/or his edginess (though I do respect his willingness to give people the finger). He became more and more of a threat in 2018, building nicely on this competitive nature throughout 2019. We have tracked him pretty closely. The resistance he showed Djokovic in the AO R16 proved especially predictive.

But even after the hard courts run into NYC this summer, culminating with his epic clash with Nadal, left me not that impressed. Again, I like his grit, his maturity. The guy has one coach, one bag, his wife and one goal: to be a threat on the tennis court. \

But I do not like his actual tennis. I have written a bit about this, even recently when I acknowledged that style (an element of the game I value tremendously) becomes practically subordinate to competitive brilliance.

After his loss to Nadal, I remained quite unimpressed, ultimately, with his game. The surliness can actually be defense mechanism, distracting the discussion.

He stands fifteen feet behind the BL and moves pretty well. His BH is quite effective and his serve can be lethal, especially when he’s pissed or desperate (think ’19 Cincy v Djokovic). He can play. But after the Open people called him “legend,” etc.

I responded he may not win a major. Take it easy. He choked against Nadal in NYC. Period. And missing-out on that, I argued, meant he may never win a major. He went on to win Shanghai.

But what is it that you like about his game, other than is attitude, his edginess?

The sport will open-up when the oligarchy finally fails, and perhaps several even lesser talents will have a chance to then reach what has been no-man-not-part-of-the-big-3-land. Medvedev could certainly win a major or three.

But I’m still not buying his tennis. What is Medvedev’s weapon of choice? He fights, he’s a grinder and at 6′ 7″ you could reach for his height as a kind of weapon.

His flat BH? Nah. I don’t see it.

Today’s choke against Nadal I didn’t see either. I actually watched the tie break. Medvedev doesn’t scare me at all. Sure he could be burned-out, from such an extended level of play, months of brilliant no-nonsense tennis.

He choked in NYC and he choked here in London. His mouth is going to end-up getting him in bigger fights with better players that he can’t beat. Have a good off-season, Daniil.

2. Nadal looks just terrible indoor. His exaggerated top-spin, especially from the FH, is unmistakably bad. It’s what changed the sport (the racquet and string material) and what continues to lower the form of so many players who choose to emulate this grinding, defensive garbage.

As for what weapons does Nadal have? He has several. His fitness is remarkable, his focused competitiveness, his FH that on the clay and other outdoor surfaces is actually a very offensive weapon, one of the best, his net play is fantastic, his BH brilliance comes and goes, etc. He’s a genius. He’s a million times the player that Medvedev will ever be.

But watching the Spaniard on the indoors can be tough to stomach.

3. Thiem and Tsitsipas are perhaps our ATP Finals Final, unless Djokovic responds, or someone else gets hot. These guys have been and continue to be the real class of the younger generation though Thiem isn’t exactly Next Gen.

But the OHBH genius of these two is simply what this sport needs. The two-handed garbage out there is such a sad commentary on the sport. Watching these two rise-up in this company and win in this fashion speaks eloquently to the future of their tribe. I hope younger players find inspiration in these gents, decide to take their games in that direction, playing an attacking style of tennis with the OHBH leading the charge.

Thiem’s dismissal of Federer seemed more about Federer: he looks terrible. But the match yesterday vs Djokovic is one for the ages. Watching an in-form Djoker get hit off the court is mesmerizing, by a one-hander! This is different from the 2016 USO final vs Wawrinka where Novak was breaking down, getting ready to hibernate for a year and a half (perhaps this was more like the 2015 French against Stanimal).

Thiem’s attacking tennis is unbelievably watchable. His flat DTL BH is as lethal as the Wawrinka or Federer version, or more (flat is all that). No, I’m not drunk. Flat . . . over the high part of the net? GTFOH. He did that a bit in Indian Wells this year. He did that in NYC in 2018, the QF against Nadal symbolizing a definitive evolution of the sport, I wrote. Here is a kind of sturdy, almost defensive one-handed game that can move to offense in the blink of an eye.

Here’s the evolution here in London 2019: if Domi can hug the baseline like he has, continue to develop that court position, that confidence and speed, he will win 4 or 5 majors.

He hit the best player on the planet, who is playing well, off the court.

4. Federer v Djokovic tomorrow is Federer’s only chance to find revenge for Wimbledon 2019, to make-up for that massive choke. Am I over-playing tomorrow’s final RR between these two?

Think of what is at stake. If Djokovic wins (which probably happens), he probably wins the ATP Finals. He will have won his sixth ATP Finals (tying Federer) and will have secured his sixth YE #1 (tying Sampras — although Sampras did it in six STRAIGHT years). Again, if Djokovic beats Federer tomorrow, he continues to claim all over Federer, continue to almost embarrass the Swiss great. When we step back at the end and take inventory on these greats, more perspective will be had. But in this time and place, Djokovic will have simply continued to walk on Federer’s grave with a win tomorrow and a likely surge to the title over the weekend.

If Federer wins, he prevents all of that from happening. It’s that simple. With the Thiem win yesterday, a Federer win tomorrow sends Novak home, without the title, without the YE, etc. What Novak did to Roger in London in July was truly humiliating. But beating Novak tomorrow can help with the therapy, with the record books, with the legacy.

Sure Nadal gets the YE, but that’s a different puzzle, believe me.

Tomorrow’s Djoker vs Maestro is massive and from the looks of things, Novak will march-on to the SF.

Or not.

One thought on “Story-lines of the ATP Finals

  1. Pingback: Tennis of Consequence – Mcshow Blog

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