2017 Fedal

A Word on 2017 Fedal

Fedal-2017

 

Australian Open 2017

Federer’s Draw:
Melzer
Rubin
Berdych (10 seed)
Nishikori (5)
M.Zverev (def. 1)
Wawrinka (4)
Nadal (9)

French Open 2017

Nadal’s Draw:
Paire
Haase
N.Basilashvili
Bautista Agut (17)
Carreno Busta (20)
Thiem (6)
Wawrinka (3)

Wimbledon 2017

Federer’s Draw:
Dogolpolov
Lajovic
M.Zverev
Dimitrov (13)
Raonic (6)
Berdych (11)
Cilic (7)

U.S. Open 2017*

Nadal’s Draw:
Lajovic
Daniel
Mayer
Dolgopolov
Rublev
Del Potro (24)
Anderson (28)

*Since this draw is so unbelievable, for clarification, Nadal could’ve faced:
Gasquet (26) R32, Berdych (15) R16, Dimitrov (7) QF, Federer (3) SF and a host of other players in the final. But that’s tennis; you can only play the survivors of your draw.

With Nadal’s 2017 U.S. Open title, 2017 Fedal at the majors is complete. What started-out as a shocking development down-under in Melbourne, that continued through the sunshine-double, that became La Decima, Federer’s 8th, and Nadal’s consolidation of his rise to #1, by winning his third U.S. Open: these two legends have undoubtedly added considerable weight to their already mammoth legacies.

They’ve cemented further their own association, the use of the obvious portmanteau, Fedal. Has this amazing year of legendary tennis benefited one over the other? How can it when they split the four majors of 2017? I would probably lean Federer because of the victory over Nadal in the finals of 2017 AO, IW and MI and because this year adds more meaning to Fedal. Prior to 2017, most might see the association as reference to that ironic comparison of Federer having the most majors, Nadal second, but the Spaniard ahead in that lopsided H2H.

Now, after all of this, 2017 adds quite the embellishment to this complicated duo; there’s even more to the story.

But the year really belongs to both, and right now, we might actually lean Nadal on the way the year is shaping-up because of a very simple reason. The significance of the No. 1 ranking is for real, and exists almost separately from the consideration of majors and other accomplishments in the sport (the mark carries a lot of clout).

Federer has spoken several times of the importance of this achievement, speaking specifically here of the year-end No. 1 and his desire to accomplish that feat in 2017. I have written about this mark in several posts, in several contexts. Pistol Pete leads that race with 6 year-end No.1s. Federer and Connors are next at 5, followed by Lendl/McEnroe/Djokovic at 4, and Nadal alone at 3.

Think of the race for the 2017 year-end No.1 we have before us. Both Nadal and Federer can make waves on that legacy front, obviously. Nadal is adding to his overall weeks at No.1, as well.

This is exceptional work from both players, which is just mind-boggling when you consider where we were a year ago. I watched a few sets of the 2016 U.S. Open final yesterday, as a matter of fact.

Wow. It was weird watching Djokovic play. I almost forgot about that guy (kidding aside, it was odd, a blast from the past). He still had glimpses of the Novak Slammer on that September early evening, that diabolical baseline witchcraft still going strong (comparing his ROS position to Nadal’s. . .the courts were faster in 2016 and Novak is still returning from atop the BL; not 18 feet back).

Djokovic you can see is really starting to breakdown in that match and still he was a witch with the stick. Stan found that dominant animal spirit, as we recall, and proved way too much for Novak that day, but that was still Novak’s tour, the Djoker still holding-on to that No. 1 ranking.

Then Murray makes his run in the latter part of the year (post-USO) while Djokovic gets-up off the mat and tries to hold-off the challenge. However, Murray is able to finally wrestle the top of the tour for good from the Serb at the WTF.

We moved to the off-season with anticipation of those two re-kindling their fight the following season.

And lo and behold: 2017 Fedal.

What a nutty ride.

Still so much to discuss and still so much tennis to play.

Beautiful stuff, no?

Day 10: Destiny v Reality

The bottom half SF is set with Anderson v Carreno Busta. Yikes. I did not see the death of Schwartzman yesterday, but did watch a bit of the night match. Querrey looked weighted down by expectation or something. He looked awful with no urgency on his ground stroke, his second serve coming in around 100 mph, etc. Not a good look from the American. Even the crowd wanted to get behind their guy. But he was flat. No visual energy, body language, and his ground strokes were sitting up, short, safe which the S. African destroyed.

Between his monster serve, his attack of Querrey’s second serve and his missile-like ground strokes, I joked that he’s playing the best tennis ever. He pumped his fist after EVERY won point, pep-talked himself constantly. . . the difference in energy alone was massively one-sided, like the tennis.

Even Querrey winning that second set TB couldn’t get the American rolling, losing the next set 2-6. To open that third set, coming off the dramatic TB, Querrey had looks at a BP, which could have really propelled him in that third set. Didn’t happen.

Huge difference between that and his demolition of an in-form Zverev. One win from a SF with Carreno Busta. Either of these boys last night would be favorites against the Spaniard, meaning probably a trip to the final with a win. Anderson played like he knew the stakes and knew the lifetime opportunity. Querrey shrank.

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The way the top-half of the tournament should play-out is a good HC player should survive. Nadal, as discussed, looks uncomfortable even though the surface has been slowed quite a bit. As slow as AA is this year, the flatter more versatile player should still advance.

Federer has his hands full if Del Potro is healed. That was an amazing match v Thiem; he should have been dismissed, but simply rose to the occasion and put it to the young federer1-master675Austrian. Brilliant tennis. All of you (probably who don’t read this blog) who advocate some kind of Bo3 in the majors, should back away from whatever’s causing you this lunatic garbage. Go get your brain restrung. Del Potro, like I said, is such an inspiration.

I’ve been wanting to say this for a few days: I don’t trust Federer’s back. As clean as these last two matches have been, he just doesn’t seem quite right. The MTO after the second set against Kohlschreiber wasn’t a good look. He’s playing it off, but he just seems a string or two off.

This QF and SF will test the back. I think reality could set-in here; that’s a big ask: to beat Delpo and Nadal back-to-back. If he’s not bothered by the back, he should be too much for anyone, but his next two opponents are the type to really test his health. Delpo and Nadal will go five sets fighting until death. The reality of Federer’s back will be determined now.

Nadal should be way too much for Rublev despite the youngster’s form. Or is he on some kind of historic run? I watched a little replay of that first set of Rublev v Dimitrov. Dimitrov should have been many people’s dark horse here at the USO. He served for the first set at 5-3 against the young Russian and lost that set 5-7 (and the next to sets). Pretty remarkable, really, even if Grigor is a bit of a wanker.

No way should Nadal lose this match. Question: how many matches has Rublev played on AA? I would love to see a good match, but suspect this could be a similar to the Dog match. Nice draw for the No.1 seed, no?

Is it destiny, folks, for Nadal to finally face Federer at the U.S. Open? Or will reality set-in on one’s aging body and the other’s surface difficulty?

I’ll be keeping watch on the teenager and then the back as the two factors that could crack the case. You have to think tonight’s match should be massive tennis theater.

Get your popcorn ready.

PS
Of course I see what’s happening on the women’s side. Will it be four Americans in the SFs? The Vandeweghe v Pliskova match today should be a doozy as I think they don’t like each other, Pliskova defending her No.1. Sounds good to me.

U.S. Open Early Observations

I didn’t weigh-in on Federer getting put into that top half, but I suppose I did mention the draw was a joke. Murray’s pull-out highlighted the stupidity of the draw; it was lopsided US Open Tennisand a joke even before Murray’s exit. I think we’re all pretty skeptical of there being some kind of objective draw. I am not part of the big “fix” conspiracy, but we know match-ups are desired for the paying audience. This is a business. People cry about draws all of the time, especially when they feel like their player got a bad one.

Why in the world wouldn’t the U.S. Open want a possible Fedal final? They’ve never played in NYC, the tournament is pretty much all about their fate, their race to #1, their rivalry, etc.

Perhaps the tournament thought: let’s put them in the same half so no one can accuse us of playing favorites, doctoring the draw, etc.

Instead, USO, we’re accusing you of being fucking morons. Yeah, the obscenity is needed here because what they did (the Murray scratch only clarifies – the fuck-up was already made) is a terrible dis-service to the sport.

The SF could be epic, if both make it that far, but this makes no sense, at all.

In most tournaments, the 1 gets the 4 and the 2 gets the 3. Does that make sense? Of course it does. If you are the No. 1 seed, you get to play the lowest of that top four. You earned that. At least that’s how most tournament seedings and draws work.

Either way, the draw sucks.

I have seen a bit of tennis, so let’s jump around and have a look.

Couple of things from our Preview:

“Federer:

R1 American Frances Tiafoe, a 19 year-old we’ve talked about a lot; you know we’re excited about this guy.”

This was not as shocking as everyone wanted to say it was. Tiafoe is for real, played Roger tough in Miami in March, beat a flagging Zverev in Cincinnati and basically has the goods to be a very dangerous player on this tour for years to come.

His athleticism, serve and FH jump-out as game changers. Not sure if it was the back, but Roger let go of several of those CC FH from the American.

As I echoed on twitter, we will forgive Federer from going five with this talent, but getting broken at 5-3, serving for match in the fifth? That was abominable. However, Federer breaks back to take the match 6-4. You got me, Roger. Pretty ugly, but a win is a win. If he serves-out at 5-3, the match is almost exactly 2 hours and 30 min. Not a back breaker if you know what I mean.

Even blowing that and having to break Frances for the win didn’t make this the marathon that a five-setter might sound like. This match was good for Federer though he better tighten-up the serve and everything else. It’s now or never for the Swiss king.

Federer will not have Kyrgios in the 4R; the Aussie lost today, which, again, is not a big surprise. I said this about Kyrgios in my preview: “I am not positive that Kyrgios will be in as good a place as Dimitrov, coming off the Cincinnati final.”

Conversely, Dimitrov cruised through R1, but still has to play well, and take care of business in order to find that QF with the Spaniard.

Preview: “Dimitrov, ladies and gentlemen, is the Cilic of WB 2017. Where Dimitrov lands would have been my biggest interest or concern. Think of the context of such a QF [vs. Grigor+Dimitrov+2016+Open+Day+2+ssHYrGqCPWelNadal] given their 2017 AO SF. Dimitrov should react very favorably to the Cincy win, his first Masters title. Given his experience, his early 2017 HC run and his coach, I would not want much of any of Dimitrov in NYC.”

That win in Cincy was big for the Bulgarian. Glad to see my stethoscope is still working.

As for Nadal, I watched some of his match with that Serbian. What did I say there: “R1 with a Serb. . . who looked dangerous vs Federer in Wimbledon, as they went to a first set TB. Or so I heard. Or not really.” Okay, it was a fairly routine match, but it did actually resemble the Federer match at WB quite a bit. A first set TB and then a one-sided affair.

But here’s my concern with Nadal. First, his tennis is not made for this surface even though the main stadium has apparently been slowed-down this year – a travesty if the rumor (from Brad Gilbert) is true.

He’s not as comfortable and secondly, he doesn’t like the roof. Have a look around to find his comments about the roof and this was apparent if you watched the match as he paused and stalled often on serve and at other times, looking at sections of the seats, looking pretty aggravated.

When the roof is closed, aside from that cleaning-up the tennis, the acoustics apparently drive any crowd noise down onto the court. In other words, it’s loud in there. Nadal was quite bothered by this factor.

As for the tennis, his straight-set victory was only slightly marred by a wayward FH, but we won’t read much into that as it’s the first round.

Lastly, I thought it was pretty funny when a reporter asked Nadal and Federer about facing each other in the SF. Federer, ever the buttoned-up PR machine, said he would love to play Rafa in NYC since it would be great for the sport and they’ve never faced-off at the USO, etc. etc. What did Rafa say? Ha ha. I love the honesty. He said he would rather play someone “easier.” Priceless stuff from Nadal.

So, I think he’s a bit uneasy as he normally is this time of year. I still have my eye on that Berdych R16. We do not get the Tommy Paul R2 match as he faded drastically to the Japanese Taro, losing 26 26 in the 4th and 5th sets. WTF. Nadal looks unchallenged until that Berdych match, if the Czech big-man can take care of his end.

As for Nadal’s potential QF with Dimitrov, obviously there is a lot of tennis to play. And Dimitrov actually has some potential difficulty in his next match vs. the 19 year-old Russian Rublev, and then a potential R16 match with Monfils.

Back to Federer really quick, he now has Youzney, a Spaniard (Verdasco/Lopez) and then whatever comes-out of that Kyrgios section, headed now by Kohlschreiber.

Like I said in my Preview, I thought Nadal had the tougher draw on paper because of his potential match sequence of Berdych, Dimtrov and Federer. Federer had a tough R1, but things have opened-up a bit.

Again, lots of tennis to play.

In the bottom half:

Although Zverev seems to have a half of the draw to himself (many picking him to win the U.S. Open), he’s got trouble including right now, down 2 sets to 1 to Coric, in the 2R. If he can pull himself out of that hole, he gets the winner of Anderson v Gulbis (Anderson serving for a 2-0 sets lead). Zverev has his hands full.

Like I said in my preview and I’ll say again now: if Cilic is healthy, he’s going to be very tough, obviously his history here in NYC playing a role the deeper he goes.

I will say the Pouille v Cilic R16 (if that transpires) could be a big match (remember last year when I called the Nadal v Pouille as the potential match of the tourney? And it was? haha).

I just watched Pouille survive the American 20 y/o Donaldson in five sets. Donaldson went down 0-2 and came back to force the 5th set.

But Pouille is finding his stroke. Some big hitting at the end of that match. I hope Pouille can keep that bracket honest down there and reach and represent in that potential R16 monster against the 2014 champ. Keep your fingers crossed.

The other player I’m keeping an eye on is the young Brit Edmund. He spanked Haase in R1 and now looks to be doing the same vs. Johnson right now, going-up 2 sets to zip.

Everyone tune-in tonight to watch Jo-Willy v Shapovalov. The one-hander seems to love the big stage and he’s on the big stage tonight. Look for Tsonga to put-up an early push to crush the youngster. I like the Canadian to stay in the match and feed off the NYC zoo.

Hope you’re enjoying the tennis.

Western & Southern Open QF Setting

Incidentally, the last R16 match is still undecided, Nadal v Ramos-Vinolas.

Kyrgios-Cincinnati-700x450

But Kyrgios just closed-out Karlovic, so the winner of the Spanish duel will get the volatile (and injured) Aussie in that QF, which actually gets played later today; yesterday’s rain delay gives Kyrgios and his QF opponent quite a Friday workload. This could prove pretty taxing for Kyrgios, who is still battling injury.

Nonetheless, if Nadal survives this current match, most of us want to see Nadal v Kyrgios. That winner will get the Thiem v Ferrer QF.

Down below, the Isner v Donaldson winner will square-off against the Dimitrov v Sugita winner.

Isner out-maneuvered Tiafoe yesterday, unsurprisingly, 76 75. This is the Isner scoreline; the better players end-up on the good side of that score, but a guy like Tiafoe is a step or two away from that. Still, this shows how close is the 19 year-old. I watched a bit of this match and he threatened John on a few service games, but just couldn’t quite muster the break.

Keep your eye on this guy. We’ve been fortunate to see some glimmer of form from the youth these last couple of weeks. Paul, Shapovalov, Tiafoe, Donaldson (into the W&S QF obviously and continuing to outpace his entire class), Kyrgios et al. Unfortunate that Khachanov couldn’t close the deal after bageling Sugita in that first set TB.

Hopefully, next week will give USO competitors a chance to find as much health as they can for the brutal test the following week in NYC.

Who are the favorites in this year’s final major?

Is this question dependent upon the health of Federer’s back? What if Roger can find enough form, even with a slight twinge in the back? What if he is ruled 100% healthy? Is he the automatic favorite? Or is Nadal, the new world #1, the favorite at the USO?

If we take the field here, everybody else, this could be an interesting discussion. With the vacancies provided by Murray, Djokovic and Wawrinka, especially, isn’t this Fedal against the field?

Three times in the last thirteen years has a player outside Federer/Nadal/Djokovic/Murray won the USO. Isn’t this year likely another one of those?

With Nadal going toward a first-set TB against his countryman as we speak, and his general struggles on the non-european clay; there certainly shouldn’t be that great of case for Nadal in NYC. Then again, he and the Bo5 do like to party, which should be taken into account.

All this to say, tough to say Roger or Rafa are a lock to win the final major of the year.

So, who looks good?

Federer isn’t getting any younger and Nadal standing about fifteen feet behind the BL on 1st and 2nd serves are not a good look from our 2017 forefathers.

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With regards to yesterday’s “Mailbag” post: no, actually there isn’t a mailbag feature on this blog.

This does bring-up some of what I am probably going to introduce, in order to give me a bit more of a schedule and readers a bit more anticipation and expectation. Two features I suspect will make solid contributions to this blog are: 1) one historical post a week, about any interesting topic/match/player/argument regarding the past, the history of the sport. Of course, I feature a bit of this perspective anyway, but a more focused article that takes us back to a specific story will be a great option.

2) Reader inspired discussion. This is not quite a mailbag feature, but instead anything from suggestions about certain arguments/topics that can be discussed to guest posts.

In summary, one historical piece per-week and one reader inspired discussion per-week. Content. We want more content.

Lastly, I lashed-out at my hypothetical critic yesterday when I brought-up Sampras’ six year-end No. 1s (that ran him into the turf – probably along the lines with what the Novak Slam might have done to Djokovic). No need for me to get so hypercritical about the hypothetical. And my invented word was very uninspired. Weak stuff on my end.

Back to the point here: who’s taking their HC form to NYC for a legit run at that championship which has been left fairly exposed by the vaunted old-guard?

And what do you think of those features for this blog? More history and more reader contribution?

PS
Nadal survived the first set TB and is working to hold his serve in the 2nd, down 0-1.

Next up there: Kyrgios.

Cincy 2017 Downgraded to ATP World Tour 500 Event?

Of course not. But the draw is missing: Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Cilic and Nishikori, at least.

So, let’s see some of these young lads take-up the slack.

We’ve already begun this discussion, previewed the younger field briefly, ahead of schedule. We’re ahead of schedule at Mcshow Blog.

The biggest hiccup in all of this is the loss of Federer, not just his loss to Zverev, but the suddenly very real possibility that he is feeling a bit the wear-and-tear of this 2017 affair.

Wrote this last week: “Let’s start with Roger. I watched most of his first match v Polansky. He looked sloppy, bad at times and still breadsticked the local cuisine 2 and 1. He won one of his service games in less than a minute, literally :58 seconds it took to win a game. Looking at the scoreline, however, did not give one any indication that he may struggle a bit vs. Ferrer in his second match.

He looked old against Ferrer, who’s about equal in age to the Maestro. David hammered Federer’s second serve, kept the 2-seed off-balance, used his relentless defense to attack a seemingly tired Federer. As I said on Twitter, Federer looked hungover; he was sluggish and even grumpy, at one point smashing a ball deep into the stands upon missing a fairly routine overhead smash.”

The final the same kind of slop. I wrote he’d found some comfort between then (^) and the final, but he really hadn’t. Part of this is the difficulty of his draw (or lack-there-of). I wrote in my preview that Nadal clearly had a more difficult draw (Shapovalov aside). Federer played his draw on one leg. What gave away his trouble throughout was his visible frustration throughout. He looked irritated, tired, hungover (I tweeted this during Ferrer match). In reality, he was bit of a mess.

I imagined a rise in the SF because of a bump in efficiency; he looked more in control. Most of us were a bit deceived as well by his is 2017 form in general, which has been odd, to say the least. His dominance. Other than those 2 losses prior to Sunday (themselves bizarre against Donskoy and Haas), has Roger broken a sweat in 2017 other than some mild perspiration in Melbourne?

In other words, I was a little surprised by Zverev’s dominance. The second serve and FH were too much, especially for an ailing Federer. Zverev’s second serve averaged around 115mph and he had one DF. Good luck with that.

But the injured Federer didn’t give us much of a look in the final at a chance exchange with the strong 20 year-old. A healthy Federer maybe turns this final into a classic? How bad is the injury? When exactly did it surface? Again, I say he looked less than 100% all week (if he was disengaged, not wanting really to press – why play?). We’re left with a few questions.

Some are surmising he should have sat Montreal and come-back for Cincy. I say, if he’s injured — it’s probably not devastating — now he can rest for NYC with some good HC reps under his racket. If he’s hurt, he’s out. Pretty simple and an elderly injury will stand-up to this tour like the final went yesterday. Even worse for an injury, Bo5 September hard courts is tax season.

Good for Zverev, picking-up his second Masters title. I am more interested in the youth development at this point. We need deeper and deeper fields with more danger, more parity.

That Federer and Nadal were advertised as fighting for No. 1 going into Cincy is almost absurd.

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I’m pleased that Tommy Paul beat Donald Young today. Isner next with a chance to play Sascha. In fact, Sascha plays hopefully Tiafoe, who’s up a set now.

Here’s a highlight of the Paul v Young match. DY comes to play usually. This is a physical match. Paul commits errors but has enough serve and athletic tennis in him to beat some decent competition. Good news.

Indeed, how will my American brethren do here.

Maybe that’s really how to grow this blog, become a fan blog. Seems to be the trend, folks. Sure, I have a nice loyal little readership that spans the globe (best part of my audience). But I want to build threw the roof.

And those corny fanblogs do that. Part of that politicized global culture, I suppose. People are going crazy. I suppose my blog should be crazzier to tap into this madness. Sad.

Oh yeah, back to the tennis. Nadal has a tough draw with Gasquet and probably his buddy Gilles Muller next. Then more HC athletes will await the Spaniard’s slightly over-valued chase for #1.

More on #1 later, when I feel crazy enough to write a crazy post about that crazy #1 ranking.

Rogers Cup 2017 Draw

Good evening/morning/day: I had hoped to post a broad write-up on the tennis I saw from D.C. and Los Cabos. Myriad story-lines and thoughts about players, court speed, Fedal 2017, the US Open, the loss of Stan to add to the plague that’s hit the ATP, etc. But that will have to wait – not going to waste the few notes I scribbled and the links to highlights I bookmarked.

rogers-cup

But the Rogers Cup is already underway, so let’s just make a few quick remarks about this tournament.

At the top is Rafa’s half and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he has a tougher draw than Federer; then again, the matches have to be played, so a draw’s difficulty on paper is often not what it turns-out to be. Nonetheless. . .

Nadal most likely gets Coric in R2, DPo in R16, QF with the likes of Raonic, Goffin or Mannarino, who has been playing well (Rafa should get Raonic though he did flame-out in D.C. to Jack Sock in that QF round in straights). The SF match is against the winner of the quarter from hell. If Rafa survives his quarter, he will get the winner of Sascha/Kyrgios/Khachanov/Anderson/Querrey/Tsonga.  That is a loaded bracket right there.

Naturally, we like Sascha who’s growing before our very eyes, but Kyrgios, I guarantee, will play much more to his early 2017 HC form here. He’s a softie (is there word his girlfriend left, which left his game abysmal the last month?). Tough to keep track of these soft Aussies; but Nick’s game is treacherous when he’s dialed-in/pissed/whatever turns him on. Remember that in both Indian Wells and Miami Kyrgios handled Sascha fairly well (IW was really one-sided). In other words, as well as the Younger is playing, Nick’s game is remarkable when he’s “feeling it.” Unfortunately, that’s a mystery.

Anderson, of course, is playing well, having reached the D.C. final last week, playing some very solid tennis and Querrey doubled-up his Mexican stash (winning Los Cabos to go with this title in Acapulco earlier in the year). Tsonga is probably due for a little run and we know Karen’s game has some depth.

With the news of Murray not playing this week, Nadal has a real shot at claiming the ATP #1 rank, which would be quite an accomplishment for a guy whose game was in the toilet two years ago. But that’s Nadal. I remember thinking in 2012 he was done.  .  .

Roger’s draw looks like this:
R16 (if he makes it) should be Sock or Edmund, QF with Nishikori/Monfils/RBA and SF with the survivor of Theim/Zverev the Elder/Dimitrov. Again, matches can swing a different way, so the match-ups could change, prove more difficult/favorable; we’ll have to see how this plays-out.

Indeed, this really is all about 2017 Fedal at this point. Tough to imagine this when we started the year – though Djokovic was spiraling, Murray was exhausted from his 2016 run, and Stan we never can tell anyways when he’ll make his presence felt. So, sure surprising, but the plot points for this had been planted as early as late last year. Of course, Cilic is missing from the Montreal draw, as well.

Federer has never won this title in Montreal, though he’s been contradicting all kinds of trends this year. I just don’t see much in his draw that could really trouble him; Dimitrov has not found that form from January, and the likes of Theim and Nishikori don’t appear to have the HC balls to overcome Federer. So unless he really has some kind of allergic reaction to the tennis of Uniprix Stadium, he should reach the final.

Nadal must have all kinds of motivation to bring his A game. I believe I read where if he makes the SF he claims the top spot of the sport, but correct me if I’m wrong. Still, if Raonic is finding some HC form, he could be tough as could the winner of that quarter of death (Sascha, Kyrgios, et al.).

Let me know what you think.

I’ll get that other post off tomorrow, looking back at last week’s tennis, for instance the play of Tommy Paul (I brought this to your attention after his win v Pouille and he made a bit of noise beyond that – hope you caught some of his play) and a few other thoughts – there was a lot of good tennis discussion just from the D.C. play.

Certainly another theme to track right now is the play and somewhat encouraging rise of the youngsters. Can they continue to make way (Kokkinakis, Kyrgios, the Americans, of course Zverev, et al.)?

The time is now, especially with a depleted veteran troop this week in Montreal.

PS
Happy Birthday, Roger Federer
36 on 8/8/17

What is the Biggest Surprise of 2017?

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For starters, we might say there a few surprises to this tennis season, beginning with #2017 Fedal. That these ATP elder statesmen have, combined, won every major championship and every Masters level tournament, minus Rome (that’s 3 majors and 4 Masters tournaments between the two) is a bonafide trip down memory lane.

To round-off the 2017 “headlines,” Djokovic is still struggling since going-out in the 2016 WB 3R and Murray, after chasing-down the #1 ranking from the 2016 Djokollapse, has really failed to maintain that sparkling form since the start of 2017. Whereas a year ago we were talking about the Djokeray combat that would resume and reach perhaps new heights in 2017, Fedal have emerged as the new tour dons (“new” seems like an odd term to use here).

We’ll focus our discussion on these guys, the top of the tour, the “Big 4,” though I am happy to say that a few other developments that have probably not surprised too many of us, but have certainly been promising, concern the play of Thiem and Zverev (both brothers actually though Sascha’s first Masters is great news), the emergence of Khachanov and even a glimpse finally of Thanasi Kokkinakis; and speaking of young Aussies, Kyrgios’ play in February (Acapulco) and March (Miami) was quite fortuitous. The Brisbane/Melbourne of Dimitrov squared gave us all a bit of a thrill, as well.

Of course, there are other interesting stories being told on tour this year, but we’ll put that top-of-the-tour back on the table here and have another look.

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Federer

Let’s start and actually focus on the surprising rise of Federer, who sits currently at #3 in the world, but who, along with Nadal, looks to be battling for year-end #1.

You probably know where I’m going here:

Federer’s 2017 dominance is not very surprising.

If you disagree with this statement, please feel free to field an answer in the comments:  what is so surprising about his dominance?

Here’s a summary of his year and the “surprise”:

  1. Most people point to the injury of 2016, how coming-off a six-month leave of minor surgery, rehab and rebuild to win the first major of the year is unreal, supernatural, is suspicious and shocking – beating 4-5 top-ten players, all of those five-setters and beating Nadal in the final, down a break in the fifth, as a 17th seed.
  2. He then goes-on to win the Sunshine Double, beating Nadal two more times, both times in straights, decisively, including the Miami final.
  3. He sits-out all of clay and returns to win Halle for the ninth time and Wimbledon for the eighth time.  He has, meanwhile, returned to the top-three in the world rankings and along with Nadal, has his eyes set on world #1.

How did all of this happen? Why should we not be very surprised by this?

If you read my blog, the seeds of my disagreement with the TSQ (Tennis Status Quo) should be pretty apparent. I will generally be 2 to 3 steps ahead of the mainstream. I hope you’re starting to believe that, will spread the word, and keep reading.

Federer’s History

Melbourne 2017 has Federer in the draw, as a 17 seed. We’ve gone over this before, but what are out expectations of Federer at a major? Naturally, we go to recent history and see some pretty clear patterns.

Before the injury exit, he made the 2016 WB SF and lost a five-setter to Raonic, in which he was up 2 sets to 1. He missed the 2016 French because of the lingering injury he exacerbated at SW19; this was the first major he missed in his entire career. Did you get that? 2016 French was his first miss at a major tournament. He started the year at the 2016 Australian Open where he made the SF. Of course, he took his leave after WB in 2016, so he missed the USO. In 2016 he was 34 years of age.

Mid-post quiz: how many majors has Federer missed in his career as of today?

2015: AO-3R RG-QF WB-F USO-F (33 years of age)
2014: AO-SF RG-4R WB-F USO-SF (32 years of age)
2013: AO-SF RG-QF WB-2R USO-4R
2012: AO-SF RG-SF WB-W USO-QF

Looking at those results, all things being equal, does it surprise you that Federer made the final at 2017 AO? That he went so deep, is this a shocking development? The answer is no. He may not have been closing the deal in 2014-2016, but he was getting into the business-end of the draw, per usual.

As for the time-off, and people having trouble grasping his return at that level? Well, it’s new to the Federer program, this leave of absence. You nor I have experience watching Federer come-off an injury-leave like that. To say you’re shocked or this is somehow unbelievable, suspicious, etc., is an overreaction. You, I’m afraid, don’t have a clue how he comes-off injury.

Actually, I take that back: prior to his 2017 return, he did come-off one missed major (some considerable time-off), which was 2016 Roland Garros. What happened after that? He proceeded to reach the WB SF where he was a set away from reaching the final to play his pal Andy Murray. In other words, Federer had come-off injury prior to 2017 AO and he did pretty damn well.

So, throughout the summer and fall/winter of 2016 he gets a real chance to reconfigure his game, rest, get healthy, scout and get prepared for Melbourne and what-do-you-know: he absolutely ruins the return of the tour in 2017.

But his deep run, itself, at Melbourne, should NOT be a surprise at all. That’s what he does at majors, what he’s always done.

Ivan Ljubičić

We’ve been over this a lot lately. The Revenge of Federer was not the title of that post, but that’s what the WB final amounted to: the latest installment of the Maestro’s deadly return (Nadal, Kyrgios, Zverev, Raonic and Cilic all got taxed big-time). This clutch professionalism is the result of some kind of renaissance. I and I am sure many others wondered why Federer seemed to take points, games or even sets off even while advancing to major final fours (really throughout much of his career). Of course, this lacksidaisical tennis seemed more apparent on the big stages against Djokovic or Nadal. With your skill, Federer, what in the world are you doing not serving 85-90%/70% 1st/2nd, converting that absolutely critical BP? Are you afraid? Are you a choke?

Tough to call a guy with 17 majors (at the time) a choke, but you all know what we’re talking about here.

Bits of 2016 ( two majors played, two SF appearances) and 2017 look like a revamped mental approach – and the common denominator is Ivan. He was a bad ass, a guy without a lot of talent, certainly a more blue-collar player, and what do you know: Federer is playing some blue-collar tennis (it doesn’t look blue-collar because he’s the one swinging the racquet, but you better believe it’s blue-collar).

The revenge is telling of this kind of ethos, as is his latest run at WB, which you know had to have been #1 on the 2017 agenda: and the plan worked. He didn’t drop a single set. That’s professional. He did not fuck around (I am going to find some footage of that 2010 Indian Wells run where the Croatian, as a 20-seed, beat Nadal and Djokovic on his way to beating Roddick in the final).

Federer is healthy; that’s a big factor. On top of that, this no-time-to-waste, blue-collar work ethic spells the run of 2017. The team has him primed; his serve (1st and 2nd), ground strokes (BH is exceptional) and closing-awareness are sharpened. SABR? That’s 2015, pre-Ljubičić. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that made the final cut for Ivan the terrible’s “Federer’s winning form.”

Even the clay abstinence is an Ivan innovation (we’ve detailed this several times). I was still critical of his 2017 implementation, but that was Ivan’s insistence, I suspect, since he said such a pattern would have benefitted Federer earlier in his career.

Nadal

Are we surprised that Nadal is playing so well? This is more surprising than Federer, actually, because he fell-off the face-of-the-earth in 2015. He looked gone, adios but given his injury-plauged career, this would not have been much of a surprise for him to make a kind of come-back (I wrote him off, admittedly. But I can’t deny the pattern. This is what Nadal does – so don’t be surprised).

Where Federer had missed two majors through 2016, Nadal had missed ten. He has done this throughout his career, taking time-off and coming back strong.

When they met in the AO final, I tried to clarify how, despite the one-sided H2H, Federer could very well win (this should be very close), given their recent form. Federer back through 2014 has been at the top of the tour, especially in the majors. Nadal has been MIA often and even coming into Melbourne this year he was one of the first to see the 2017 Djokollapse, not having to see him on that side of the draw. Nadal’s appearance in that AO final was much more surprising, but we have this kind of pattern from Nadal and we’ll have to ask Novak about his role in this, as well.

The point is Nadal’s 2017 hasn’t been that surprising other than we probably didn’t see the absolute maniacal form he found on the clay.

Djokovic

We have to attribute some of the Fedal re-emergence to the Djokollapse. This has been severe and tragic. I have documented this since 2016 USO (here and here, but there’s a lot more, as I hope you know).

I am surprised by the severity of this decline, but this is not out-of-touch with the Djokovic career arch. We’ve been over this, as well.

First major in 2008. Next major in 2011. 2011 is huge, but the 2012-14 period amounts to only 3 majors. 2015 is massive and he wins the first two majors in 2016, but it’s been a free-fall since. So, this fall, then, is not that surprising.

You get the pattern, the argument, folks?  There is NOTHING surprising about 2017 – though the Fedičić formula has been pretty stealth, pretty remarkable.

Murray

Murray’s 2017 isn’t that surprising either as his career zenith was 2016 where he grabbed  #1 finally, in large part because of Nover-the-falls, but he hasn’t defended this honor much at all, nor has he been much of a #1 in our collective tennis imagination, either.

Folks, not very surprising. Don’t let the mainstream media fool you. “Oh my gosh, how did Roger do it? Incredible? Unreal?” Not really, actually. He’s continued to play pretty dominant tennis (as is the case with his massive variety and fluid form that does not beat him up), and there have been some other factors, too, such as the continual roller-coaster ride that is Novak’s tennis career.

Thoughts?

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The Blog

I am in the process of trying to revamp my blog, make it a lot more dynamic, efficient, brilliant, etc.

One of the first items on the agenda, for which I do need this upgrade, is to finish and package HRFRT. I am going to polish it, and sell it as an Ebook. Sure, this helps fund this blog and the work I want to do, but I think it will be a particular artifact that really speaks to the essence of this blog. I have other arguments/narratives too that I’d like to curate a bit more thoughtfully.

Many/most/all of you might tell me to go to hell on such a venture, but I’m willing to risk that. This will push me to polish and develop some of the commentary, which I think you gather is pretty much written on the spot, in a couple of hours at most, each. I have other ideas too for generating some revenue (random ads do not appeal to me, by the way).

I do know that this blog/venue is nothing without you all. The core group is brilliant (you know who you are). I encourage more of you to chime-in and give the tennis some chatter, give some of my long-windedness some feedback 😀

Continued thanks for reading and responding.

Cheers to you all.