2020 is Like a THBH

Sure this could be a reference to Nadal’s run here at the WTF.

But a few thoughts first on a few events since the fall French, when we last exchanged pleasantries.

St. Petersburg went to the (once) hottest Russian Rublev. Despite his London loss tonight to Tsitsipas, he still might actually be the best Russian playing as 2020 begins to set. Coric made a little run there in St. Pete, beating some big serves in Opelka and Raonic. Opelka took out Medvedev, by the way, in the first round; the American can play. But again, Coric played some sturdy tennis, reaching that final only to be spanked by Andrey the austere.

Cologne hosted its bett1HULKS Indoors, won by Zverev. The big move here was by our own Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who beat the likes of Cilic before reaching his SF loss the the eventual winner of the tournament. FAA also had a nice showing, losing to Sascha in the final. FAA beat the likes of RBA in his draw. Good looks from the young Spaniard and Canadian. Not surprising to see, like Rublev winning in St. Pete, Zverev come-out on-top in this impressive German metropolis.

Antwerp was next. This is where Humbert rose-up and began playing some real big boy tennis. Nice to see him beat the Aussie De Minaur in the final. I watched maybe a set or two throughout this tourney. Unfortunately, I saw said Aussie get the better of Dimitrov in the SF, who just can’t quite save himself from such a predictable and pedestrian style as De Minuar’s. SMH.

Cologne 2 occurred, another bett1HULKS Indoors. Trying to save tennis amid this terrible pandemic seems to explain this redundancy. Not only was the city redundant, but the champion, as well. Zverev overcame, notably, Sinner (SF) and Schwartzman to advance to the top of the podium. FAA had another decent showing in this smallish, half-baked 250, losing a tough three-setter to Diego in the SF 64 57 64.

Then we arrived in Vienna (I wish). I remember the grumblings going into this one as the deepest 500 field of all time — the 500 GOAT! I think Djokovic talked this nonsense (I will get to more of his “commentary” shortly). This did have some tough match-ups right out of the gate. Look for yourself.

We had the one-hander scuffle as part of one draw between Tsitsipas, Dimitrov and Evans: Evans survived. Medvedev continued to struggle, getting beat by Anderson in the QF.

Rublev beat the defending champ and home town boy Dominic Thiem. I saw a bit of that. Rublev simply has maintained a steady form rife with good one-two punch and practically red-lining his ground strokes, out-hitting his opponents in most cases.

But the biggest news was No. 1 seed Djokovic getting torched by the Italian Sonego 2 and 1. I saw highlights. Nothing really to say other than, as Novak even acknowledged, he got smoked in every phase of the game.

Of course, Rublev beat the red-hot Italian in the final, claiming yet another title.

Which brings us to the Paris Masters. I watched a bit of Nadal’s play and some of the Humbert vs. Tsitsipas match. Humbert’s form clearly carried over from Antwerp. He beat the Greek in an absolute slug-fest 76 67 76. Impressive really. Not a big two-hander fan, as you know, but this guy will stand and throw some punches. Can’t deny the competitive fire in this one.

Good to see Zverev stand-up to Nadal in their SF and good to see Medvedev push-back a little on my crystal-ball account of his career. He defended his 2019 title. And Zverev will continue to let people in and win since he for some reason accepts that kind of careless tennis we see from him, often.

So here we are in London. I watched some of the Thiem vs. Tsitsipas (not much), got a good look at Nadal vs. Rublev and watched both matches today.

Thiem’s TB record is pretty impressive. He looks at times to get ready to throw a game or set, but he keeps that boat afloat. A very crafty guy with huge lumber on both wings. His court position still stinks on ROS and elsewhere, at times, but he’s a class act with the best one-hander maybe ever. Not too many (any) one handers have an inside-out DTL, flat 100+ mph murder weapon.

Speaking of one-handers, today Rublev and Stefanos got into some exchanges, with the Russian staying on the Greek’s OHBH for obvious reasons. One rally saw Tsitsipas simply set his feet and hit 4-5 BHs to BHs with the Russian, finally getting one to bite on a shorter angle followed by his “fuck-you” fist-pump, grunt as the shot was unavailable for return. You had to see it and have that certain aesthetic to really get it: a cosmic win for the one-hander.

Tsitsipas looked like he was choking the match, but the steely Russian turned-out to have too little at the end there in their third set TB. At 6-6 in the TB, Stefanos played two huge points and closed the door on Andrey, sending the Russian out of contention (eliminated by points) and Thiem through to the SF in that the London 2020 Group of Nadal, Thiem, Tsitsipas and Rublev.

Nadal plays Tsitsipas for that group’s remaining spot in the SF.

Looking forward to that.

In the Tokyo 1970 Group, I suspect Djoker and Medvedev will advance.

A couple of after thoughts here: I saw on Twitter that Novak has doubled-down on his preference for all tennis tournaments (including majors — I suspect that’s how the question was worded to him) being Bo3. This is both moronic and mind-boggling, coming from maybe the best Bo5 athlete the sport has seen. Simply STFUP, Novak. Leave that position to dumpy, strangely and aggressively feminist tennis journalists. I consider myself a feminist, but the guy I’m talking about has his entire being wrapped-up in a losing battle that doesn’t really help the cause (another post).

Just put a sock in it, Djokovic. Play tennis.

The other point I wanted to make, referring back to that exchange between Rublev and Tsitsipas today, is how much more superior the one-hander is in this very stylish sport that we all love so much.

This sport is ALL ABOUT STYLE. The history of the sport confirms this; the elevation of the sport’s individuality illustrates this. You can not hide from the conclusion that tennis is entirely about the articulation of style in how men and women move about the court and hit the ball.

The one-hander is so much more difficult, beautiful, potentially devastatingly effective, athletic, artistic . . . we could go one.

Watching Rublev and Tsitsipas today, I realized (again) how much easier the two-hander is to play, with which to become “good.” There is simply a much superior set of skills on the best one-handers. Rublev is not near the talent of a Tsitsipas though they’re about the same age, are 2-2 H2H, etc. They are at about the same “level” in the sport, but Tsitsipas’s game and skill is simply at such a higher level.

The one-hander often comes with a full-court approach that speaks to fluency and eloquence, not to mention skill.

Rublev lost that match today partly because he decided there in crucial points of that match to come to net where he has practically zero command or facility. This doesn’t matter? Because it’s not his style? This is just the tip of the iceberg on this discussion. I can go on and on, my friend.

Look at Nadal. He is an exception, one of the greatest to play. His net game is excellent. But most two-handers, ladies and gentlemen, are simply base-line, postmodern, advancing a kind of incoherence, or worse.

Say what you want, but the two-hander is an inferior and even damaging approach to the essence of the sport of tennis.

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