2017 Federer

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.

Coupe Rogers Semi-final Saturday

What’s the more interesting storyline here?

2017 Federer ?
or
ATP Youth On the Rise?

😉

The second SF is rich, very rich. Sure, the first entails Federer’s continued 2017 epilogue, which is nothing short of spectacular, but that’s a known quantity, a known quality, if you will. We don’t want to discourage any hype surrounding the Federer v Robin Haase SF.

But, folks: you know where we come-out on this. Before any of this Montreal business-end genius even hatched, behold our nod to the tour’s youth in pre-Montreal fashion which has given-way to fucking big bird!

Two big birds.

Zverev v Shapovalov

I’m so geeked for this match. To be clear, I missed the Shapovalov v Mannarino QF, but will catch it later tonight. I know one thing having not even watched a second of the match. It’s brilliant. We needed this. Badly. He’s the youngest Masters semi-finalist ever, I’m willing to bet. 😉

Either way, the youth has risen. Let this truly be the harbinger of a new era. New characters, new legacies.

You know what this really boils down to, right?

The one-hander vs the two-hander. And you know who I like in this match, right?

A primary point of Federer’s dominance is his style, which we’ll define as that which encompasses all of his skill, talent, etc. He is a handful for most if not all of his opponents, which seems a fairly obvious observation. Are you with me? But the point here about his style concerns his sustainability, his longevity, his relevance.

He isn’t playing very well this week, though he is starting to find some rhythm, consistency, and urgency (the business-end necessity). But he can still win despite this kind of drop in form. Nadal, on the other hand, though he had a tougher draw perhaps, has to play at absolute peak to win (on non-clay). His “vamos” style is based-on a massive sense of momentum, which he masterfully finds and manipulates. I might say that Djokovic is similar in this regard. He has to be teeing-off on his opponent, rampant to a certain extent.

Federer has been able to reach SFs and Fs throughout his career, in winning form or perhaps not so much. He has so much game, so many weapons, such a fluency of the language – that’s his genius.

Part of this is his OHBH.

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I am partial to the one-hander and even tend to think many of these players who use it have a bit of an advantage (bias perpetuates deception 😉 ). Sure there are many other factors in players’ success, but the one-hander is such a marvelous element of style.

Let us observe this great debate in tomorrow’s second SF. Among other things.

Here’s to two brilliant matches to set-up a North American hard court Masters final.

Cheers!

Djokovic’s Highest Form Ever (DHFE)

The summer is a glorious time of year on the ATP since we get a chance to see the year’s strongest athletes outlast those weakened by the long and arduous season that began in early January (or the ones who’s games just tend to wilt on this most even and rigorous surface). The firm quickness becomes more unforgiving, speed presses the point, each exchange more a test of skill and weaponry than of one’s fluency toward the idiosyncracies of a particular surface; and the air temperature rises along with its seasonal bosom buddy, the humidity. Indeed, the North American summer hard courts offer us a candid look at the tour’s best playing on the surface that showcases the best and exposes the rest, I’m afraid.

I think a good place to start with this DHFE is recalling when we tackled that quasi-related claim that Federer won 2017 AO because Melbourne played significantly faster this year (part of the grand conspiracy) and (get ready, I’m warning you, this is an argument advanced by Djokerfans) Novak doesn’t play as well on such a fast surface? Why would one ever make such a claim about their hero? That’s undermining Super Novak, novak_djokovic4_1359023691_540x540pointing-out a flaw in his game (a big flaw if you ask me). Novak’s 2-5 USO finals record and his inability to win Cincinnati (the one Masters he hasn’t won) speaks to this difficulty on the quicker courts; and making this shortcoming into some kind of strength doesn’t bode well; or arguing that his hard court record overall is the best-of-all-time, where the fanclub refers to him as HC GOAT. These we might suggest are Red herrings, squandered on the breach.

As we turn here to the summer N.A. HC swing, all of this bluster about Novak’s HC greatness takes quite a hit. And if you’re going to argue that he has shown the HFE on a tennis court, personally, I would start my argument with NYC HCs to support such a statement, then probably WB, before any sort of legitimate argument about HFE is made. Looking at the competition would be the other factor, or even the people who are making this claim. Many of these Djoker “representatives” are belligerent, of course, but I even heard mainstream media mouth-pieces get a little carried-away, as well, especially back in 2015-16.

I was fairly frank about Novak’s dominance at the time. I had no problem saying that this was an historical run, and that I didn’t quite see the end of it, with Fedal sailing out to sea, Muzzard typically muzzled, etc., yes, thought the competition was pretty poor (argued that Roger – at 34 – gave some of the Serb’s majors added/needed weight since beyond the Maestro, and perhaps Murray, what was really left?). Never did I step into that pile of HFE, however. Too much evidence to the contrary, especially if you’ve been watching the men battle for decades now and you’re not afraid to watch and re-read the history of this great sport.

Before we go any further, might I bring to everyone’s attention that articles like this  aren’t composed, perhaps, if such vehement (and vitriolic) subjectivity toward our fair sport isn’t strewn all over the place like debris after an ill-advised engagement or wedding has occurred. DHFE is a rival faction against all sensible tennis fans.

And how apropos that we’re here, on the eve of the run toward NYC.

The NYC HC, I would argue, is where the best pure tennis is played. NYC has gobs of evidence of this kind of greatness, more so, I will argue, then the other HC major – AO. Part of this is the AO snub from a few greats (Borg, Connors, McEnroe, et al.). Plus, the USO is simply an older tournament; age, location and history all play into suggesting that the USO determines a more significant title that, by the way, builds a more significant legacy than an arbitrary claim about form. One should play best where the best is played.

Indeed, I am saying that one’s form at the USO should be a big part of any argument for HFE (which is so subjective). Saying the USO is more prestigious than the AO because of its history and speed is not arbitrary.

Why haven’t FO champions, before Nadal, ever sniffed the upper echelon of such arguments (careful with Borg as he never won the USO and went away too early)?

Speed kills. The USO has that relentless call for a highest level of fortitude and execution on the tennis court. Quite a cocktail when you have all that history, those brightest lights, the concrete jungle and the lethal speed and precision of the razor’s edge.

As we undermine this DHFE claim, we have made a bit of a suggestion, then, that the USO (even Roger’s Cup and Cincy) should be a part of any discussion of HFE since this is the surface and the venue where such a boisterous and preposterous claim might find its footing.

Fans have been claiming the DHFE since he began his 2015 run (or even before that most likely) and the 2016 Doha final v Nadal gave them a little added lift. Here’s Nadal’s analysis of Djokovic’s form in that final – the Serb pummeled the Spaniard 6-1 6-2.

Two things: This was a tune-up for Melbourne, a minor tournament in early January, a 250; and Nadal wasn’t exactly playing very well. Do we need to recall Nadal’s 2016 results? He was still shaken from his absolutely dreadful 2015. He shows-up at Doha as Novak is still screaming from his 2015 – two players in completely different career points.

Nadal went-on to lose in 1R at Melbourne. All this to say, don’t use this eye-witness (who probably has more credibility than anyone making such a claim) as evidence for DHFE.

To be fair, the Djoker went-on to win 2016 AO, the Sunshine Double, Madrid and then the FO before the wheels came off and he spun into the Djokollapse.

We actually see here the culmination of the case for DHFE. He wins 2015 AO (Murray), WB (Federer), USO (Federer), 2016 AO (Murray) and 2016 FO (Murray).

The sheer amount of success (Novak Slam) in which he’s pretty much unfazed by his competition anywhere (his majors won by beating the perennial ATP bridesmaid and a 34-35 year-old Federer) concocts the rumor that this is the HFE. Many arguments were made about Djokovic’s 2015 being the greatest season of all-time. His numbers that year were staggering, for sure. Therefore, he played the HFE?

But based on what exactly? His W-L record?  This article shows the greatest seasons ever based on W-L:

1. John McEnroe — 1984 — 82-3 (.965)
2. Jimmy Connors — 1974 — 93-4 (.959)
3. Roger Federer — 2005 — 81-4 (.953)
4. Roger Federer — 2006 — 92-5 (.948)
5. Bjorn Borg — 1979 — 84-6 (.933)
6. Novak Djokovic — 2015 — 82-6 (.932)

If we’re basing the HFE on W-L, then DHFE is a stretch. Remember though: the Djokerfan will levy the level of competition tax on our ears. Djokovic was unbelievable, the argument goes, against top-10, top-5, etc. His case here with W-L becomes more formidable.

So then we’re into the level of competition factor of this equation. Which the Djokerfan doesn’t want any part of, I’m afraid. Spanking a trained Murray and a waning Federer doesn’t crack the whip. Throwing around seeds and top-5 opponents, etc., needs more context since this can be quite misleading.

So, is it the play he manufactured on the court? Along the lines of what Nadal said after Doha, a Nadal who had little leg on which to stand?

Ahhh, the 2015-PF argument (2015 Peak Federer). If we can argue that Federer was at his peak in 2015, with Djokovic handling him fairly easily in two major finals (WB and USO mind you!), and Federer is, by many, considered the GOAT, then by simple logic, if we’re beating the greatest at his peak, we’re the greatest!

Doesn’t that sound absurd, especially the use of that pronoun?

How about some 2005 Federer, folks (this is probably two years before his absolute peak when, in fact, he beat Djokovic in straights in a USO final).

This is Federer v Agassi 2005 USO final we’re going to see. Look at the depth and disaster on Federer’s racquet. This is complete bedlam. Agassi is playing well here, even though he’s at the end. I would say this helps us see my point about this surface showcasing the greatest tennis, the purity and cleanliness of the shot, the athleticism, etc.

Look at Federer’s FH and BH. And listen to some of the commentary. Early in the video, McEnroe (at 1:05) points-out that Agassi has the “greatest ROS in the history of the sport.” I remember explaining this truth to a big Djokerfan who didn’t grasp Agassi’s ROS prowess (which undermines much of this “tennis expert’s” understanding of the sport). And remember: Federer wasn’t exactly hitting Andre off the court since the American great had done years of battle with the GREATEST SERVE IN THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT. As I’ve said a million times, give me Novak on Pete’s serve; granted, Novak is supreme in the ROS department, but don’t overlook the rest of the history of the sport, folks. Andre could hold his own, which he does in this match, a bit.

But Federer is simply unplayable, from both wings, on serve, etc. Watch.

Here’s some of the Djokovic v Nadal 2016 Doha final

Ladies and gentlemen, if one goes to the HFE argument, we need convincing evidence, narrative, numbers, etc. 2016 Doha is not getting it done, a 250 in January against a morbid Nadal.

We’re on the eve of the big run-up to the last major, what some would argue is the grandest of the grand slams. I think it’s fitting to approach any talk of HFE by referring to the USO.

Djokovic can play tennis with the best of them; he has a great case as one of the best players of all time. No question. But the HFE argument is just ignorant, lacks context, evidence and is, like many of these GOAT powwows, another instance where one’s bias has him by his ass.

Some of the esteemed readers of this blog have made some great points in the previous post’s comments. Some of this entails the massively flawed 2015-PF claim. If you look at that 2005 footage, search some 2006-10, you’ll probably see a pretty strong game from Federer that subordinates anything from 2013-16, a time in which the man was reaching his mid thirties, playing a brutal schedule and not really adding much to his game.

You know what I think of the Ljubičić hire, how this breathed confidence and execution back into the Swiss’ game plan, along with a very real sense of revenge (which probably best illustrates this fresh breath, this deliverance of Roger Federer in 2017). He had the injury break and the time to tweak his game for this specific run in 2017.

But, but, but. Go back to the 2005 USO final video above. The reason it’s probably easier to say that Federer has a better case for HFE than does Djokovic revolves around the simple eye-test. Ljubičić has been instrumental, but Federer already had some decent tools to work with.

Federer has so many weapons. His BH in 2005, in that video, is so offensive it’s silly. The confidence and execution there make for an insanely formidable day at the office for his opponent; and it’s more fearsome than the 2017 version. The FH is then THE most deadly weapon in the gamd. He’s CC and DTL at will, deep, his athleticism organizing each shot. His serve is, as we know, a massive weapon.

At 4-2 in the first set he delivers two aces in particular here. One is 112mph down the T; the other is 124 out-wide, both from the ad side, both unreadable from one of the best “readers” the game has ever seen from the ROS.

Of course, he finishes points at the net (almost) as well as anyone. Agassi, like so many of his non-clay opponents of this era, has very little chance. That’s four point-ending weapons.

Federer’s real peak has all of this in full view with a much more youthful, threatening persona that few could deal with.

This DHFE pertains to the masterful baseliner, with a brilliant ROS, great court-movement to buttress his great FH and BH. His serve got better under Becker, but it was never in that Federer class, let alone other greats.

I am going to close and say that if you are going to make this HFE claim, you better include in your calculations the prospects of longevity, of one being able to sustain it since “highest” or “best” is only so if one can sustain such form.

And that will be the final chapter here with Djokovic, with DHFE, Djokollapse (and his legacy in general, something I will deal with in the HRFRT eBook).

His is a form that will be tough to sustain, imho. Watching Nishikori today in D.C., I thought about Djokovic. This is such a physical style of tennis, one that requires a long,  defensive stance.

Finishing points becomes even more critical as a player ages.

How does Djokovic finish points? This will be most telling. Nadal, as we saw throughout clay this year, was very aggressive, the FH ending points before anyone could even figure-out what was happening. And Nadal has a great net game, as we’ve mentioned many times before.

But the argument with Nadal has been longevity, as well. Does he have enough for the HC this summer? We shall see.

We’re bound to carry this conversation on throughout the comments and in several subsequent posts.

As I’ve made quite clear, the tour needs a healthy Djokovic and we wish him the best, deepest and quickest recovery. But his fanatics need to clean-up after themselves with regards to much of this unnecessary and unrealistic zoology (GOAT experiments in particular).

This stream-of-consciousness DHFE discourse ought to have woken me from slumber. Thanks for reading.

Looking forward to talking about some of the tennis tomorrow. D.C. is in full tilt.

Cheers.

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!