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.

Federer Routines Cilic for Eighth Wimbledon Title

You probably watched the final, at least heard about what happened or didn’t happen.

We could blame the blister, I guess. Quite unfortunate for the aspiring ATP threat with one major and one Masters. Cilic looked solid through the first four games, had the BP, 42433FF000000578-4690146-image-a-45_1499880580015missed, was broken in the next game, lost the first set 3-6, went down 0-3 in the second set, called for a MTO, broke-down emotionally, actually cried, lost the second set 1-6, still couldn’t get anything going in the third set, Federer stayed true-to-form and that pretty much synopsizes this gentlemen’s final.

Cilic’s serve never showed-up, which could have been a huge factor on the grass (he came into the match with 130 aces), and then his vaunted groundstrokes took-off to see a play in Stratford-upon-Avon; hope they had fun. Just a “cruel” (as Federer reminded us in his post-match address on-court how these finals can treat a particular player) set of circumstances for the 28 year-old Croatian.

In the end, as we, our kids, their great-great-grand kids and anyone else interested look back at this match, Federer won. Sure, there are these kinds of circumstances that should be clarified, thus qualifying the win, perhaps; but we all know how tough this tour can be, how “unfair” it may seem at times. Whether we like it or not, these results tell a pretty  convincing story.

For this match, we should start with the numbers. In this case, the number 8. One of the interviews pointed-out that he was born on the eighth day of the eighth month and today he claimed his eighth Wimbledon, beating Marin Cilic 63 61 64 (3 + 1 + 4 = 8). I know, that’s corny, but the lighter, softer lob is used here as I move to another storyline that I neglected in my post yesterday about match themes for this gentlemen’s final: Revenge.

This topic came-up in our lead-up to the match, in even the comments from the “Storyline” post. I smell insight, another perspective on what we’ve been tracking as far as the 2017 Federer is concerned. I mentioned in the comments of my “Storyline” post that there was another obvious theme I neglected to mention. This was in reference to the idea that someone beyond the Big 4 could win a major, a discussion growing more and more surreal as these guys get into their late thirties (at least one of them).

But “revenge” is, indeed, a neglected storyline that I was hoping you all would help me find (in addition to several others). Hence, the richness and multilayered landscape of a deeper discourse that I endeavor daily to render here at Mcshow Tennis Blog.

Please be aware that if you watch a particular sport with keen interest, you might have a particular favorite player or players with whom you identify. What happens here is you develop a bias toward this player. When you venture, then, toward discussion and any level of analysis or insight, your point-of-view is potentially (likely) skewed. That’s fine; in fact, it is so common, you might think I’m being melodramatic to bring to light this so obvious flaw in our rationality.

This really comes into play when we hope to analyze a given event (let’s get back to tennis here). If one endeavors to analyze legitimately, bias can and will strangle one’s credibility (I have to admit, however, that sometimes a crazed, lunatic obsession can yield some pretty interesting insight, at times, given the gigantic energy of interest).

The latest Federer run, as you probably know, has pushed some “fans” to some typical kinds of “analysis” that lose any lasting resonance because of the bias stink that distracts and undermines. It’s reactive, unreasonable, too emotional, half-witted, has a short half-life.

For example, Wimbledon was rigged (see my Rant) and/or Federer is doping. I will take-up the latter point (the spirit of that hysteria) in a post this week.

That’s the “analysis” of some of these “fans.” If you are reading this and you have fallen into that kind of poop in your pants, I am glad you’re reading this. If you want to be taken seriously, I suggest challenging yourself to a deeper deconstruction of the tournament or the year/career of Federer (the conspiracy garbage is laughable, seriously). Perhaps move your writing toward story; try to make sense of your calamity by offering a new way to digest the match, the context, the patterns; feel free to include some inference where you identify patterns or context that people perhaps haven’t considered. Try to earn an A for effort, at least.

If you’re just Tweeting or texting or you have a silly fanblog, by all means, knock-yourself-out. Admittedly, such naiveté and foolishness can evolve; but until then, remember that you sound like a party to a playground quarrel. It’s cute, annoying but hopefully leads to a teachable moment (I can go on and on, and will, later).

Revenge

Juxtaposing the all-white adorned and adored Swiss tennis star and the royal box and general class of the Championships is a darkness that fuels this 2017 Federer.

When Federer made his rounds today with his trophy, connecting personally with his fans, though still from a distance, but more intimately with the celebrity contingent inside the club facility where all had gathered to pay their respects to this real gentleman of the game, he had an extended visit with Edberg. They spoke, Stefan whispered something to Roger, and Federer even let the Swede great hold the Cup.

This only reminded me of an insight that you know I attribute much in my understanding of 2017 Federer (2016 was half-baked, so to speak, with injury and an extended leave).

Federer, I have no doubt, is benefitting tremendously from the influence of Ivan Ljubičić. I honestly wasn’t quite aware of Roger’s and Ivan’s friendship, that such a trusting and serious relationship could develop from their acquaintance. Ljubičić, I knew from the moment I read the news, could (possibly) give Federer what he so desperately needed: a winning nadal-federer-mailbag-leadugly mentality, a kind of nastiness. I knew that’s what he needed, what he lacked. What Connors and Johnny Mac, Pete and even Andre and Jim had – a bit of that “F U” mentality, some more than others. Those, of course, are my American forefathers that I grew up watching. Lendl and Becker were schooled in the nasty. We know Lleyton Hewitt had “attitude,” and, though Roger had a temper as a youngster, he grew into a more refined on-court demeanor though he could definitely show emotion. Of course, Nadal and Djokovic brought that very tough, relentless grind that contrasted the gentlemanliness of Federer. We probably attribute most of their success against Federer to this darker side that they’ve used to almost bully the beauty and brilliance of the Fed Express.

Obviously, Roger has done just fine in his career (the results speak for themselves), but the point here is that his hire of Ljubičić was a kind of recognition, perhaps, of this dearth of necessary darkness.

Am I overriding this a bit? Probably.

But underneath this lovable (hatable) refinement of Roger Federer, there’s a kind of tour de revenge that’s happening, that speaks to this dominance of 2017. Five players come to mind upon which Roger has enacted a spell of revenge.

Nadal has seen his fair share. What happened in Melbourne and on the Sunshine Double speaks to nothing but a stroke of revenge (Federer has seen more than his own fair share of cruelty and death at the hands of the Spaniard) though you might want to include that he was simply playing brilliant offensive/defensive tennis. That was career/legacy altering stuff on those early hard courts. What’s happened at Wimbledon is almost additional salt on the Melbourne/Cali/Florida wounds. Federer took a pass from possibly getting anymore trouble from the clay rampant Spaniard (notably upon advice from his tall Croatian mastermind coach); the revenge tour resumed on European grass.

In Miami, Kyrgios got his taste of Federenge or Revederer 😀
The Aussie had beaten Federer in Madrid back in 2015, of course is your basic malcontent into which any one of us elders might want to slap some sense.

That Miami SF was a brilliant match, heated, chippy. Federer served it up on the surging Kyrgios: Revenge.

Next was another one of our tour’s future: Sascha Zverev. The 2017 Halle final was a blow-out: 1 and 3. Zverev beat Roger in last year’s Halle SF in three sets, as a 19 year-old. This year’s Halle meeting was a beating with meaning. Pre-Wimbledon. Future is tomorrow; 2017 Federer is now.

Raonic got his dose in this year’s WB SF, as a result of his win over Federer in last year’s WB SF. Raonic did not play poorly in this year’s SF, mind you. None the less, that was straights, a definitive pressure cooker from the 35 year-old.

Lastly, Cilic got his today; GRANTED, the blister, you might say, undermines this pattern of revenge on this example. On the contrary, there’s too much evidence to ignore. Even sans blister, Marin, unfortunately, wasn’t quite in that 2014 USO form. The struggle he had with Muller (as we said) wasn’t the best look, nor was the relative struggle he had with Sam Querrey, who, let’s be fair, should have been ripe for a more convincing victory.

Federer is on a mission, folks.

One of my readers/commenters caught the prediction I made on Twitter a day or two before the match. Sure, Cilic seemed primed for a big move here (I made this case, I think, pretty well); but the magic and revenge are strong with the Swiss giant in this time and place.

Don’t let the silky smile and fashion icon handsomeness fool you, folks. Federer is blood-thirsty. He seeks revenge and has no one more to thank than the man, the myth (in his own right), Ivan Ljubičić.

I have a lot more to say, as I’m sure you do, as well.
Sorry – a bit punchy at the moment. Stay-tuned, be well, and get ready for hard courts!

😀

Follow-up to Wimbledon Draw Analysis

This is my competition. There is so much wrong with this kind of commentary. The premise is Roger will struggle to win this because of his age, the tournament is tough on +30 year-olds, etc. He provides some history, including the Ashe upset of a monster Connors (age 22) in 1975. Ashe was 31. That’s about the extent of an older tennis player winning WB. Federer did win when he was 30 in 2012, but the author’s point, I guess, is that if one is north of 30, forgetaboutit.

He says Federer will see difficulty from two primary sources: the power brokers (he mentions Cilic and Raonic as examples) who can over-power Federer, disable the Fed Express, so to speak.

The other source concerns the danger from “lower-ranked players who excel on grass and look to be in fine shape.” His example here is Feli Lopez.

I guess I’m calling-out this writer on his word-count. Do a little more with your evidence, perhaps even your argument – Federer’s biggest challenge is probably from the top seeds as this era’s oligarchy continues to reign and suffocate the aspiring youth.

Back to this writer’s examples, what render his entire argument inadequate. Federer can not see Cilic until the final. So why bring-up Cilic? That’s a stretch. Federer could see Raonic in the QF, a better example, but you might point-out that the Canadian is struggling fiercely and Roger, at this point, should survive a Bo5 v Milos. Poor examples of power-tennis that can hamper Federer’s run.

The Lopez example is even worse. If Federer faces Lopez, that means the Spanish S&V threat beat Djokovic in their 4R match. Federer would much rather face Lopez than a surging Novak, believe me.

Soft.

Federer could be threatened by Zverev the younger in their QF, but so long as the tennis goes according to form (Bo5 usually safeguards to prevent most tennis “accidents”), Federer will see much more threat from a more confident Djokovic (granted, that he is winning in convincing fashion in his dream draw). Or from one of the big boys in the top half. And sure Cilic could be that guy, but that means Cilic beats Nadal and Murray/Wawrinka.

Anything can happen. That’s why we play the game. But this writer seemed not to have followed through on his thought experiment.

Let me cut to the chase on why Federer has a much more difficult time than many of you think of winning this major. Keep in mind, his 2017 has been marvelous and the changes to his game, though subtle, have been dramatic and the results only confirm this, with still half of the calendar still to play.

First, I am still somewhat unconvinced he has found/maintained that early HC form he found and used to demolish a much younger ATP, including his career nemesis on three Roger Federer Wimbledon 2014.640x460glorious occasions. I am not convinced he’s in that kind of zone. Murray and Djokovic have been down during this Federer run, so one has to almost assume that for Federer to win, those two have to continue to struggle; of this we are unsure.

Secondly (now you’re peering into my soul), Federer can’t win this tournament. Why? Because the men’s tennis debate would be over; and sport debates more often than not continue because that’s the way sport and athletes interact.

Rarely is there a clear-cut ruler of a particular sport. A Federer 2017 Wimbledon title would raise holy hell and pretty much undermine so much healthy and heated tennis discourse. There would be hysteria, a crazed tennis humanity on both ends of the spectrum.

Sorry to break this news to you now, before even the first blade of grass has died.

I felt like I owed it to you. Seriously.

Cheers.

Federer’s Withdrawal Revisited

The mess of the clay has without a doubt affected the quality of my blog of late. Sure, you might not have noticed since the form here, as you know, has been “the highest level ever played.” 😀

There have been some choppy posts, but I’m going to attribute this, naturally, to the chaos of the clay. At the same time, some of the blame goes to the circus at the top of the tour: a 35 year-old wins the first three big HC events of the year, and then a 31 year-old (he turns 31 on June 3) practically sweeps the clay schedule and now is the favorite for

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the year’s second major (see: 2017 Fedal). Meanwhile, nos. 1 and 2 are searching for something, anything –  and this is where some real inference and analysis (my two favorite cups of tea!) come into play. In the end, we’re fine here at Mcshow Tennis; please be assured of that.

None the less, the mess, to which I’d like to add a little clean-up, focusing on the Federer withdrawal from the French Open.

In retrospect, the withdrawal makes sense. Certain media members have found quotes from reputable sources (current and former players) that confirm his decision to skip clay is smart because of his intentions and expectations on the grass. Sure, I’ll drink some of that, but I’m rather conceding it’s smart because he has no recent clay play to get him ready for Roland Garros. Nadal said something to this effect, which makes the most sense. Federer didn’t play any clay tournaments, so it’s only logical he pulls-out of the French.

In addition, we can all see the possibility that the unevenness of the red dirt could play havoc with his 35 year-old knee that put him on injury-out for most of 2016. So, I should have known better.

I should have done my homework; there is a history of tennis that goes beyond Federer-Nadal-Djokovic, which I remind readers of regularly. Presentism is a lethal intoxicant that can make you sound pretty uninformed. Federer ruined tennis. Remember?

Is skipping the French unprecedented?

As Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times reminds us, “Skipping the French Open to improve one’s chances at Wimbledon was more common in the past, especially among Americans. John McEnroe played Wimbledon after skipping the French Open five times; Jimmy Connors did it six times. Martina Navratilova played at Wimbledon after missing the French Open 10 times, doing so in two five-year blocks, 1976-80 and 1989-93” (NYT).

Indeed, years ago, believe it or not, the tour was vastly different. Equipment, surfaces and scheduling were of a different order. I explain this in my series HRFRT although most of you probably understand this historical complexity already.

One of my all-time favorites is the fact that Bjórn Borg played the AO once, in 1978. In his nine-year career, he played that major one time.

Jimmy Connors’ career spanned roughly twenty years. He played the AO twice. He won it in 1974 and lost in the final in 1975. That’s it. Twenty-year career. Twice. Do the math, people.

Two of the sport’s greats could have added several majors to their totals. Connors skipped, as the quote above says, six times. Different time, different sport all together, really.

Lesson: don’t forget your history.

This would have helped me rationalize the decision by Federer, who, again, ironically, ruined the sport according this guy right here. I should have known better. If it was a snake, it would have bit me.

Ultimately, here’s my problem with him skipping the French. The draw needs more significant quality for the second week. I think the way the clay build-up went, we have some real deals in Goffin, Thiem and Zverev to add depth. Others will hopefully make their case. This tournament has a favorite and its #2 seed will be an interesting watch, as well, as he looks to defend with his new coach. But beyond that, this tournament is fairly wide-open.

I assumed this would be the case weeks ago, which is why I was encouraged to see Federer play. Nothing to lose, rested – if you go out in the 3R, who cares. His withdrawal, initially, denied the sport that mystery, especially given his form in 2017.

Moreover, I connected the decision to his impending retirement. I thought of those comments he made at the Australian Open trophy ceremony (slip of the tongue?).

My logic moved immediately to he’s skipping the French to devote entirely to WB and then the U.S. Open, his two most successful venues. He’s going to get while the gettin’ is good. This is indeed his farewell tour, which makes some sense given the idea of a great going-out on-top.

Consequently, his comments about seeing his French fans next year make no sense to me. Why would you play next year at 36 1/2 years-old? That would point to the knee.

Of course, don’t you have to second-guess any retirement propositions given that he just won the AO and the sunshine double? It’s a tough read, which is why I wanted to revisit this just for a bit. What a perplexing year of tennis, no?

He certainly has our grass attention. Certainly looking forward to that stretch of tennis culminating at The Championships.

While I have your attention, tune-in tomorrow (I wanted to add another discussion here tonight, but that’s probably a bit messy 😉

Tomorrow I will explore this war of 2017 between the current King, Djokovic, who’s lost his way, who’s Kingdom has been cracked and pillaged first by a brawny Brit (Scot), and secondly, and even more ruthlessly by the two Kings of old. The Serbian great must now gather himself, and replenish his armaments, prepare for a war the likes of which we may have never seen before.

Cheers!

Miami 2017 Finale

I hope this post isn’t as anti-climactic as Sunday’s final. Here’s how I began my preview of the Miami final a few days ago: “The Fedal final tomorrow is a bit anti-climactic to be honest. If you’re caught-up in the Fedal rivalry, you’re probably a bit confused. If you need any clarity on that, search my blog under Federer v Nadal H2H.”

I had Twitter lined-up, streamed the match on my computer, in case other “discussions” surfaced and needed any attention, and the quality of the picture on my Mac surpassed the quality of Fedal XXXVII.

The first set was certainly competitive, with Nadal actually establishing some control, pushing forward, letting Federer know that this could be a classic. Through 5 games, Rafa had seen 3 BPs to Roger’s 2. My notes clarified “nothing too spectacular,” as the guys maintained pretty uneventful exchanges, Roger came to net effectively, Nadal held his nadal-federer-indian-wells-2017-miami-reactionown, especially on serve and as Roger even pointed-out later, saving some of those early BPs was critical to the match. Nadal pressed Federer in that first set, but somehow (like the mettle Federer displayed in the QF and SF) the Swiss held and added pressure to the Spaniard’s Miami title drought.

Federer ended-up 1/6 on BPs in the first set; Nadal settled for 0/4. The break came and went and the first set went to Federer; the writing was on the wall. Nadal’s sweat drenched kit vs Federer’s wind-blown mane seemed to reiterate this Miami final graffiti.

The second set became almost tough to watch. You can see in my Twitter feed how critical I was of Roger’s game. He seemed to take points off, handle Nadal SS like a weekend warrior – the match lacked energy and intensity by the second set. I reported that Nadal was set to break and assume control, so long as he kept his serve. Roger’s nonchalance spoke volumes, in the end.

What explains this seeming lack of effort on Roger’s part? Mind you: I am not saying he didn’t put forth a championship effort – that would be wrong and foolish to suggest. But the tone was palpable: Federer was in complete control here; he didn’t appear troubled much at all. We are used to seeing Federer tangle with opponents professing such control and nonchalance, but the problem with this explanation is that two nights earlier, this same poker-faced tennis elder showed all kinds of emotions and intensity vs. Kyrgios. That was a match for the ages; the final vs. Nadal seemed more like an exhibition.

To say that Federer’s difficult draw may have qualified this championship match seems fairly reasonable; indeed, Fedal37 may have lacked the level of his previous two matches, so the Swiss simply flew with the punches.

Federer assumed control in the second set, especially late as he again found the break and served-out the match, securing his third Miami title, third tournament win of 2017 and third win vs. Nadal during this calendar year.

His 63 64 victory spoke volumes of his form and the current 2017 run he’s on, as well as the bigger picture that I have written so much about on this blog regarding the flawed (failed) analysis of these players’ H2H. I am not fact-checking this, but I am almost positive that Sunday’s victory brought the players’ HC H2H to 10-9 Federer.

The talk of Nadal’s excitement and comfort on the up-coming clay reminded me of more of these observations I made last year (or late 2015) when I dug into the H2H and what I called “Nadalism.” At one point I wrote a post discussing Sampras and Nadal, both of whom have 14 majors.

My main point (from what I can remember 😀 ) was that Nadal does not belong in the company of Sampras. I said something to the extent that Nadal would be remembered, mainly, as a great clay court player, the clay GOAT.

I don’t think I ever have to or want to get into those discussions again (unless I’m forced to): I respect Nadal and actually miss his dominance. Do you know how many AO and FO matches I stayed-up to watch, or woke early enough to see the first (or second) ball toss in many of those great Fedal matches? Take it from me: Nadal had his way with Roger, which we know is tennis lore.

This brings-up an important point with regards to Federer having this kind of dominance over the declining Spaniard. There is a balance in life. Some call it karma, balance, the truth and even life. I, and probably many others, feel somewhat sorry for Nadal, coming-up short like this, not finding that peak physical monstrosity that defined his tennis back in the day.

Miami on Sunday really underscored his shortcomings. He’s never won Miami, his decline seems pretty definitive, and Federer has found a game (at last) against which Nadal really can’t compete. The journalists around the world are especially echoing this last point: as much as Federer couldn’t figure-out how to play Nadal through much of their past encounters, Nadal seems the one lost now.

As we turn to clay, Nadal perhaps can locate some of that advantage we grew to expect, but this seems a bit of an uncertainty, as well. We’ll save that discussion for another day; I will add that I look forward to this clay season and watching 2017 Nadal bring this year’s confidence to defend his dirt legacy.

On the other hand, Federer will be skipping the clay, working-on his recovery – as many are now aware, as he told Brad Gilbert and certainly others this news following Sunday’s victory. But this has been in the works for over a year.

When Ljubičić was hired, this reduced (removed) clay season was part of this campaign’s agenda. Here’s part of that post I wrote back in December of 2015:  Ljubičić is going to help Federer, I believe, with some in-match mental fortitude. How to convert a BP, how to withstand an opponent’s surge, how to just play a little smarter when that is absolutely paramount. Federer’s beauty pageant is over. He needs to start winning ugly, getting the job done, with or with out the stunning pirouette that dazzles the crowd. If he has any hope of continuing to remain relevant and/or win another big tournament, he needs to listen to the big Croat, Ivan the terrible, and come-away with a more sustainable game plan.

Here I want to talk about Federer’s much diminished clay schedule. I am attributing this to Ljubičić. Here is another competitive strategy, a little more macro than the in-match help he’ll give the Maestro.

This will help Federer continue to ruin tennis. You are sick of hearing me reference this volume of essays that puts this golden era in perspective. My argument, as articulated in this series of posts, it that Roger has ruined tennis. This is both satirical and serious. I waited to write the Djokovic chapter; my patience has paid off since we are in a very interesting stage of the Serb’s career.

I referred to balance above. Almost certainly, Novak will rebound and find his confidence again. Does the resurgence of Fedal complicate this rebound? Most likely. This is another reason why the clay is a much anticipated schedule, even without Roger. Novak (and Andy, of course) will return to fight for their confidence, their tour points (both have several to defend and are both already free fallinIvan_Rogerg in the 2017 tally).

But the Novak chapter will be interesting. As will the essay that explores 2017 Federer, that phenomenon that few saw rising from the ashes to reclaim such dominance. I can’t tell you how much I believe that Ivan the Terrible has much to do with this. Federer has such a quiet confidence –  perhaps more it’s an assassin’s cool.

The manifestation of this is a much better BH, a more offensive court positioning, better ROS, insanely steady S&V (btw, did you see the point where Roger comes to net to meet a 118 mph Kyrgios FH that Federer softly forwards to the open court? I will search, find and post this point). Here’s the point. Scroll to the 9:20 mark to see this lethal FH from Kyrgios meet Federer’s insanely steady grip:

Looks like ATPmedia blocked this video.

It’s these physical improvements that SEEM to define 2017 Federer. But I argue it’s mostly mental. People, from Chris Everett to fanboy and girl bloggers alike, ask where did this Federer form come from? How is he doing this?

The fanboy will say it’s Djokovic’s slump. To be fair, we can’t say how Djokovic would factor into this run because he’s been dismissed from each draw he’s shared with Federer.

Ljubičić is at least part of the common denominator. If you never watched Ivan play, you have little to go on here, other than taking my word for it. He got to #3 in the world and certainly one career highlight was winning IW in 2010 where he beat Djokovic (4R) and Ivan-LjubičićNadal (SF) before taking down Roddick to claim that prestigious Masters title. He lost to Roger in the 2006 Miami final in three TBs. He has been critical of Nadal for taking too long between points. In short, Ivan knows his way around this golden era tennis court, so to speak, and his level-headedness and business sense, in my humble opinion, have been critical in this resurgence of Federer, in 2017 Federer.

Lastly, people are crying about the crowds again. The last big incident (at least that I caught wind of) was US Open final 2015. Both, interestingly enough, involve Federer.

I said it then and I will say it again: Federer can not control the crowd (though his whistling wife could be asked to shhh).

Then again, he completely controls the crowd.

With regards to NYC, if you win the US Open five times in-a-row, you will have a favorable reception. Granted, Federer’s fandom is well-documented, and a bit fanatic. But that kind of success breeds that kind of following. Folks, five in-a-row. He is beloved in NYC and elsewhere. People appreciate consistency, integrity and victory. These have defined his legacy. His genius is well received, one would think. I recall pulling for Agassi in the USO final 2005. To no avail. The Swiss giant had begun to spread his wings. Tough for people to disregard or deny that kind of “entertainment.” Pretty much what you see is what you get and people really like this kind of tournament-in-and-tournament-out brilliance.

On the other hand, Kyrgios is a complicated cat. I said recently that people need to keep their thoughts to themselves during those kinds of heated matches (though this is tough to control – I talked about seeing this in IW two weeks ago). But there are people saying that Roger cheated somehow, or his win over Kyrgios was unfair because of the crowd. That’s sour grapes or incapacity. My goodness that’s a weak argument.

Blame Mohamed Lahyani, the esteemed umpire. He did seem to provide some council to the animated crowd, but, I suppose, to no avail. Either way, Kyrgios is going to have to earn his reception. Roger, like many before and after him, developed that kind of support because of a certain kind of legacy.

I defended Kyrgios, but I have been very critical of him. He has done some deplorable things on the tennis court. Fans, who pay and support these players and their sport, do not easily forget this kind of lack of character. I have faith in Kyrgios. He will earn his stripes.

But again: if you are complaining about Federer’s popularity at this point, you’re a clown.

Look around. There are some things we have to accept. I am, as you all know, not a Fedfan. But I really appreciate great tennis (I still want to see Sampras ’96 v Federer ’06 😉

Thanks for sticking around and reading and enjoying this insane early season of ATP tournament competition.

Talk to you soon.

Miami Final Starring 2017 Federer

Folks, my Miami post is coming; I just wanted to mention the delay is work, my job (I have an excuse); I will get a chance to write this afternoon or late evening PST (California). Sorry for the delay.

We will talk a bit about the match, I will toot my own horn about HRFRT (folks, I wrote that a year ago – ha ha), Nadalism (though I respect the hell out of that guy) and then attack some myths about crowd interference and Federer’s level. Oh, and I’ll toot my horn about my Ljubičić discussions, that were written over a year ago.

With out the likes of Caligula and his ilk to temper my inflated sense of self, I’m out of control!

Of course, I am pulling your leg, sorta. 😀

Stay-tuned. And thanks for reading!