The 2021 Australian Open didn’t really get me all fired-up as we welcomed 2021 and read about athletes making their ways to Melbourne for some dramatic quarantine protocol followed by some warm-up events to bring us to this first major of the year.
Part of this is what we have going on, world-wide and here domestically in the states. Covid continues to affect us all in different ways and the inglorious U.S. has had to deal continually with this national, political cult that’s overwhelmed people with low morals and even lower IQ.
My radar on the sport of tennis is not giving me much to be very excited about either, other than I want to watch good competitive sport. European soccer has been doing the trick the last several months actually and nice to see we resume Champions League play tomorrow.
I am not even going to try to point my finger at a particular reason why tennis is not getting me very excited. Actually, I will point my finger: the same issue has been eating away at my patience for several years.
How many of you would be upset of the AO final is Djokovic vs Nadal? That’s probably the most logical outcome here. #1 vs #2. The best Bo5 practitioners in the business. 37 majors between them. Lol.
In this context, you should see where I was coming from in my last two posts about Thiem. The first written right after the Kyrgios match. The Austrian took a while to get going, but then we were rewarded, so I felt buoyed in my tennis interests. Then Dimitrov and the second post, in which I questioned Thiem’s viability as a real contender for majors. Seriously, he might be a 1-3 major bloke, which probably doesn’t surprise many of you; you might agree with that. I find that quite the disappointment.
This reality just occurred to me, recently.
His collapse at the 2020 WTF and now this effort at the 2021 Aussie is a very bad look for the #3 in the world.
Perhaps he’ll wait until the Big 2 are gone, but he might have to wait a while for that. And there might even be aggravating circumstances for the 27 year-old.
Let me recall a little thought I uttered in a recent post. I said by the end of 2021 the two best players in the world could be sporting OHBHs. Of course I was referring to Thiem and Tsitsipas. But that is a long way off, I qualified, and rather subjective since this site is the home of OHBH reverence. No, I am not kidding. My bias got the best of me, a bit, maybe.
Seriously: the Austrian and the Greek have pushed for a right to be at the top — there is more than enough reason to feel so optimistic about those two players. Be that as it may, I am being very honest about my concerns surrounding Thiem. He looked cooked at the Fall French in 2020 (probably as a result of his USO title run), and you know my thoughts on his WTF result. And we’re also still holding memories of other near misses with Thiem. We’re quick to rationalize that he’s playing in this age of utter dominance by three players, but at the end of the day you have to be honest. Thiem, like Federer, might just be guilty of having some of the most aesthetic play, but likewise they’ve been prey to the more barbarian two hander (though it’s tough to put Federer too deep in that hole).
The sport is still, as we speak, controlled by Novak and Rafa. Nothing can suggest otherwise.
The way we’re going now, at this current major, we will have another Djokovic vs Nadal final.
Djokovic vs Zverev is tonight. Late, late tonight but this may be the best of the QF matches, unless Djokovic is really hurt. Zverev could and perhaps should find this opportunity to finally put together three sets on a stage like this, but we’re talking about Djokovic, #1 in the world and for many the most dominant player on the planet. Health will likely play a role tonight, which gives rise to the whispers that this will be Zverev’s time, the German’s chance to get past the king of Melbourne.
We should mention the speed of the courts since that’s been a bit of the talk around the tennis Down Under. Certainly these quicker courts did not play into Thiem’s hands (though he appears to have other issues). Djokovic prefers a slightly slower court, too, but we suspect he can adapt. If Zverev is serving out of his damn mind, that’s a start. But really, Novak almost has to be compromised health-wise for this to go Sascha’s way.
Not crazy about Novak’s forecourt enterprise, so he does need both wings from the BL. Zverev might be smart to bring the Serb in. He should definitely mix it up. Recall the 2018 ATP Finals (WTF). Zverev used a full-court display to discard Federer in the SF and Djokvic in the Final 3 and 4. But Novak knows what’s at stake. Can you imagine the Djoker-fan club’s panic if Novak doesn’t grab #18 here? Look for Novak to eat Zverev if he has to.
The first match tonight is the other QF of the top half: Dimitrov vs Karatsev. This Russian bloke — he’s like the terminator, Putin’s secret weapon. I look forward to watching this match, will cheer-on the one-hander, but nothing would surprise me here. Nothing.
Tomorrow’s QFs look pretty appetizing.
I might write on them tomorrow, but I really just wanted to address one point today (ha ha ha). Nadal’s form.
In the Russian on Russian crime QF, this should be closer than a mere Medvedev straight-set execution. Rublev is the junior in this comparison, seems almost little brother-like. But we know Rublev has made big strides. I think he’s undefeated in the young year and played very well last year, won a lot of tournaments, if I’m not mistaken. He’s certainly gotten over a little hump here, can hit right through his opponents. He’s another example of that quasi-bullying personality one needs, seemingly, to finish opponents. He’s not in Thiem’s class at this point, but a guy like Rublev isn’t far behind. Again, just a nod to the Austrian; we wish him well.
Tough to see Medvedev go down, but this probably is closer than we think. Medvedev is on that level where he is learning how to win the bigger events. Big matches, big opponents, finding ways to win. He’s still learning the Bo5 and his tennis is flawed, which we’ve discussed and will continue to discuss. He should be Rublev. He should be a huge challenge to Nadal/Tsitsipas. Medvedev is among the top five guys in the world who should have a decent chance to win these biggest events.
But he probably does have a test tomorrow.
As for Nadal, I think he’ll be tough to beat, to be honest. He has to feel pretty much on top of the world right now (even though he lies about his health). That ATP Cup injury was pure bullshit, pure lies. He had a major in about a week to stay healthy for, etc., and he did not want to get smoked by Djokovic. Just my 2 cents.
But he looked good yesterday vs Fognini even though the Italian can easily become a light entrée. What seems very difficult for Nadal’s opponents is getting this guy to succumb. He can return almost anything, his low-risk push/topspin makes him an amazing defensive mountain out there and he has some of the most offensive ground strokes in the business, not to mention he’s very very good at the net, and elsewhere, running around manipulating and improvising a point, clutchness to boot, to go in his favor.
He’s a nightmare. Granted, if a guy is hitting him off the court and/or the surface is too fast for him, he’s in trouble. But rarely is he having a bad day, or a bad point, seemingly. He’s all coached-up, healthy as an ox, can run for months, plays the safest game in the world, and has some devastating put-away shots.
Of course I’m looking for a rise in Tsitsipas’ quality, and his height does likely mitigate some of the devastation of Nadal’s attack on the one-hander, but let’s be real. Nadal is 6-1 against him, I believe, and this is Nadal’s playground, the business-end of a Bo5.
What we do like about Tsitsipas is his fight. This is a big reason for my lumping him in there with Thiem as two of the best in the world, especially a year from now. Exhibit A on his fight comes to us from the 2020 French Open, there in the SF against Djokovic. The Serb jumped out 3 and 2, looking to finish the match in three and get ready for Nadal in the final. But I recall watching that match and Stefanos elevated his play big-time, taking the 3rd and 4th sets 5 and 4. He beat the Serb down, over powered him to breath all kinds of uncertainty into that match, that tournament.
We’re on quick hard courts now, probably a bit of an advantage for the Greek against the Spaniard. Of course I want at least four sets, rife with fear, strain, desperation and anxiety.
Tough not to see another Nadal vs Djokovic final here. But we still have a bunch of tennis to play.
Enjoy and thanks for reading.