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!

😀

Federer and Lopez, Class of the Pre-Wimbledon Grass

Sorry for the delay, my friends.

You know at what season we’ve arrived, what these warmer months entail; friends and family distract unaware of the tennis genius the summer grass attracts, with the history and prestige of these European lawns, green though grooved with the wear and tear of the game’s gentler player, more skilled in the game’s finer truths.

You get my drift.

Indeed the tennis has been quite good. Watching these gents navigate the grass reminds me of my own attempts at finding time to blog in and amongst the various seasonal distractions. I am off to the mountains in a week, but not before I have some comments on Eastbourne’s play and, hopefully, if the information is available, the Wimbledon draw.

Roger Federer’s ninth Halle title is on a lot of people’s minds. I sure hope I can keep this short and sweet, which will enable me to finally get this off, and provide me with a few follow-up thoughts this week as we approach The Championships and all that is on-the-line this year at the oldest and probably most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.

Federer was indeed masterful vs. Zverev and by “masterful” we will assume I am talking about his physical mastery of the sport. However, I am even more impressed with Federer’s mental approach (we’ll call it) than with some of his tennis of this 2017 version of the Maestro, which many are going to say showed-up in the Halle final last Sunday. He did strike the ball more consistently, with equal parts depth and touch, was perhaps even more balletic than he’d been and showed everyone, again, how much skill and variety defines (or possesses) his tennis.

The way he’s mixing-up the points, moving his opponent at will, finding the baseline, the FH looking ever-so malignant, what’s not to like about where he is going at this point?

But just as much as his game mastery was a grass court master class, that final seemed quite similar to a Rafa-like beat-down. The poor kid didn’t have a chance. To be honest, I’m not even sure he had his best tennis on Sunday, and I’m speaking of Sascha. Then again I will agree with the throng of you who will say that Federer forced Zverev into those mistakes, that nervous almost scared form that left the Halle final an anti-climactic mugging. Federer’s brilliance overcame the German. Tough to refute such a claim. But I think the mental approach Roger took was just as damaging as was his tennis. They go hand-in-hand, right?

I have argued all of this on Roger’s behalf before. In the 2015 USO vs. Djokovic, we all pretty much knew what was going to happen before they began that match. So on the eve of the match, after my preview and all that jazz, I wrote Federer a little pep-talk only to encourage a more unpredictable outcome, to give Federer a push toward a more clutch, professionally polished execution that might try to close some of those doors, maintain a little more leverage during those heated negotiations. This is what I wrote. Here’s an excerpt:

Novak will probably have the edge in attitude and this aspect of this match will go a long way in determining the champion.  The images I posted in my previous post, for me, speak volumes.  Everything’s come pretty easy to Roger. He’s (in)famous for his relaxed (classy) style.  When that has translated to victories, this style has helped build the brand, that strong character argument that people use to worship his greatness.  However, those of us who really care and watch closely, we see this attitude or style as a potentially huge hinderance for Roger.  Some call it arrogance and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.
At [2015] Wimbledon, Roger seemed to have this swagger in buckets.  I noticed it as the two made their way to the court.  Of course, Roger’s Wimbledon credentials are historic.  But that was then, this is now.  Get in the moment, Roger.  And when he made a u-turn in the first set (failing to consolidate that break), he crumbled.  The buckets of confidence and nonchalance brought this failed attitude to the ground and below.  Though we might see Roger as having a great poker face, a steadiness in his emotions during a match, this was not the case at Wimbledon and hasn’t been the case often for the Swiss in these big matches.  That’s his style.

This more execution-style (apply both definitions — carrying-out a plan and putting someone to death) seems inherent to the 2017 Federer, as much a part of this run as the BH, for instance. I will continue to study this, but this mental strength is a HUGE factor in this story, a story that has absolutely bedazzled everyone’s tennis imagination, forever.

I attribute so much of this kind of professionalism to Ivan the Terrible, which probably doesn’t make much sense, but it does. The way Federer ran through Melbourne, pulling-off that stunner down a break in the fifth to his nemesis was a plot twist most weren’t quite anticipating, especially in the fifth when things looked pretty grim. He consolidated this new direction in IW and Miami, marching right through the field and Nadal in the process. Sure, the two parts of this 2017 version are inseparable; sure, we need a more holistic view that considers the parts more complimentary, connected, etc. But Federer’s ability to keep his foot on the gas has been a remarkable change that I can’t overlook, or merely attribute this to his “form” or “confidence.” The difference between 2015 and 2017 Federer (other than age) is a more consistent return and BH and this mental capacity to finish.

What I saw vs Zverev last Sunday was a guy with a specific plan against the German who’d beaten him in Halle last year (SF), who has WB on the horizon and the historians fiendishly flipping the pages of these record books as Fedal continues to almost demoralize the field.

The slight nervous energy of the Mischa Zverev match, turned to an urgency vs Mayer in the QF. He maintained and finished a tough, close match vs. the Russian teenager, Khachanov. This urgency, with the footsteps of confidence growing a little bit louder, evolved into a professionalism (assassin-like) in the final. That evolution, itself, was interesting to watch.

To be clear, the tennis, for me, was almost secondary to this attitude of breaking his opponent as much with a fanatical focus as with an improved BH return of serve.

He was 2/12 in BP vs. Mayer. Through the first three games of the first set of the final, he was 2/3. Remember that aforementioned 2015 USO final and Federer’s BP conversion %? It was in the neighborhood of 3/19. The tennis at this level is almost SECONDARY to a ballsy return game early in a big match that breaks serve and tells your opponent “this is going to be a nightmare for you, pal.”

Speaking of nightmares, Federer’s serve does continue to really give him an edge over almost anyone. That Stuttgart loss I criticized? He had 29 aces in that match. And MP. And he lost. So, it’s not the weapon alone, people (serve, BH, etc.). He has to “finish” these points, games, sets and so on.

The more I think about it, the more it’s true, I’m afraid: at this level, the mental game, the ability to rise in those heavier, more meaningful moments will define the match.

That’s what Federer showed me more than anything in the final. He was cleaner. He executed his game plan (which he prepared with his coach) and he executed Zverev the younger, smashingly. The camera work is quite good, going from Federer to Ljubičić throughout. The Croatian is a steadying force, if you ask me.

Both finals last Sunday were won by a . . . (no, I’m not going to say “35 year-old”) one-handed BH. The grass is just a more interesting game (though I am pretty partial to HC, too) that requires players to use more game. The serve is a factor, the entire court comes into play, foot work, touch, the slice, etc.

Really, tennis-wise, the Queen’s Club final was more interesting, other than it’s tough to be more interesting than a Federer run on grass at 35. But Cilic and Lopez put-on quite a show. I always enjoy watching Lopez, the Spanish outlier, a guy whose game is so measured, deliberate and full of S&V class. How does anyone not root for this guy. With Cilic surging  these last two weeks, then going up a set here in the final to the other 35 year-old, most probably wrote-off Feli. But the way he digs-in, plays each point with both guts and grace, on Sunday he completed his task of winning what has been one of his most treasured tournaments, especially after failing in 2014 to Dimitrov where the big lefty held a MP.

For Cilic, this has to burn. I have been writing about his form for a few weeks now. He even looked decent in RG where he made the QF. On grass, his first strike tennis has been very effective. His serve is intimidating and he knows his way around the grass pretty well. What we saw, however, is a clear issue with this FH and probably his confidence, in general. He has some bad spells out there, where his timing and pop on that shot seem to go away.

I was thinking his placement in the draw would be a huge factor at WB (what top seed gets to deal with him in a QF). I still think this revelation will be pretty interesting as the Croat has to feel close to form, he’s played well at SW19 in the past, and his coach Jonas Bjorkman is a WB grass aficionado (SF in singles ’06 and three doubles titles ’02-04).

One theme we often see develop on grass is the presence of a big serve. Cilic shouldn’t hang is head that much as he has weapons to make a deep run at the next major in about a week’s time.

Lopez’s serve will certainly make him relevant, as will this weapon play a big role in the Federer and Zverev WB campaigns.

The grass does this: polishes the game and champions the players “more skilled in the game’s finer truths.”

Some see another developing theme in signs of the sport’s ageism: the older one gets, the better he becomes. Tough to argue with some of the numbers, but I will add that many of those players that we see succeed late in their careers, who persevere, remain relevant, etc., often carry a big serve (Karlovic, Muller, Federer, Lopez, et al). As a matter of fact, those four fine gentlemen have quite a game of grass in their tennis bag to boot (are there 33 year-old baseline grinders out there reaching tournament finals, grand slam  quarters and semis?).

So, Federer, serve in tow, appears to be finding that earlier 2017 form and confidence (the brutality of the BH still has room to grow, however). He himself was a little concerned earlier in the week: “I was doubting myself a little bit, I must admit, because losing [in the opening] round for the first time in 15 years on grass was always going to shake me a little bit and it did. So I’m happy to react right away and let that be forgotten and actually move on and remind myself I actually can play well on grass,” Federer said. “It’s a boost for me personally, with my confidence, knowing that my body is in good shape. Mentally, I’m fresh again and I’ve gotten used to match play” (ATP).

That was all I was talking about after Stuttgart. He needs matches.

Watching him evolve here through some tough matches (Mischa, Mayer, Khachanov) and then reach another level in the final has to be good news for the no. 3 seed at WB.

He appears to have a growing cargo of confidence as he pulls anchor and sets sail for London. So long, Halle (und die neun). Could Federer’s boat (das boot) have particular orders as Britain appears on the horizon?

Is London falling?

Another Weekend of Grass On Tap

The Halle SF are set. Federer beat the defending champ, Mayer, 3 and 4 and will face the young Russian Khachanov in one SF while the second SF has Gasquet facing Zverev the younger.

Zverev traded TB with RBA in their QF before the German took control 6-1 in the decider. Gasquet’s grass looks fairly potent, so we’ll see how he handles the rising Zverev who looks to find another Halle match with Federer; he beat the Swiss in last year’s Halle SF in three sets, but lost to Mayer in the final.

In London the SF look pretty much like Cilic v Muller and Dimitrov v the winner of Lopez /Berdych (Lopez up a set and they’re in a TB in the second – will update).

Dimitrov looks to have survived his QF, taking the first set 6-3, but losing focus and allowing the young Russian Medvedev back into the match before taking the final set 6-3.  Dimitrov seems to be finding some kind of rhythm though it’s tough to say if he has the legs of that early 2017 hard court form back in Brisbane and Melbourne. He’s still on our list.

Another we’ve been watching who continues to play well is Cilic. His serve, benefiting from his time with Ivanišević, is formidable at this point and if his ground strokes continue to be strong, look out for his grass campaign. The FH, which looked so strong early in his match with D. Young, lost a bit of its snap as that second set stayed close, but the American lost his cool and the Croat simply closed him out 64 75 (Young’s profanity was somehow overlooked by the umpire – not a good look for the American, cursing-out his box after every error).

To clarify, Cilic, WB quarter finalist in ’14 – ’16, is finding his grass slippers just in time, or so it appears. His solid serve will go toe-to-toe with the serve of Muller, winner at last week’s Ricoh Open, where he beat Sascha in the SF there in straights; no one should be overlooking the #26 in the world from Luxembourg, but if Marin wants to build his confidence for WB, I suspect he needs to and should beat Muller.

The Lopez v Berdych QF has gone to a third set.

So is everyone excited about Federer’s form now, consolidating his 2017 Jan – March run?

Yesterday’s R16 with Zverev the elder was good tennis from both men. Watching the S&V pressure players to make shots and be creative is a nice addition to the era of grinders we’ve become used to over the years. As I said back in January, listening to McEnroe the elder call the Zverev v Murray match in Melbourne was quite a treat. The present vs. the past, in a way. A bit like this blog of mine.

Most notably from the Zverev match, Federer looked very focused, sensing the importance of the result, needing more tennis than he’ll have under his racquet when he steps to the lawns of SW19. In other words, there was a shred of urgency to Federer’s game in that R16 match. Zverev held his own and the match could have become quite interesting at 4-4 in the first set TB. Federer held-on in the TB 7-4 and found a break at 4-4 in the second set to seal that victory. Pretty tight.

In today’s win over Mayer, the following seems to be the case here in our tennis laboratory at Mcshow Tennis. Federer looks good, but he’s reminiscent of the pre-Fed_Halle149815148594322017 Federer. The most glaring shortcomings of today’s match (pretty much of his tennis so far since his 10 week break) were in his attacking BH consistency and his BP conversion. He was pretty bad on both fronts today. I want to say he was 2/11 on BP opportunities today, and it was his slice BH that truly gave him the edge vs. Mayer. Sure this is a classic grass tool (slice), but the BH we came to enshrine in Melbourne through Miami was no where to be found, really.

Federer still has his FH and his flick-of-the-wrist creativity that still causes people to lose a breath. His serve is intact, as well. He was up 5-2 in the first set, had several BP (4) on Mayer’s serve to take the set 6-2, but, agonizingly, couldn’t find that break. Then he served-out the set at love (or something to that extent – the serve is very strong, still, which is a big reason he has and can continue to remain dangerous on this ATP). But that’s the 2015-16 Federer. What’s made 2017 so special is his attacking BH and his nerves on some big points. Granted the grass is making things a bit touchy and more difficult right now, but that’s my take-away from today.

He’s playing well, but the vulnerability from the BH and the BP conversion is alive and well.

Otherwise, the serve, the FH, the footwork, the BH slice, the volley magic, etc., are all there. The main thing, back to the point that’s being made in several posts here, is he continues to advance (doesn’t get Haas’ed), gets to play more matches, which he absolutely needs. No doubt.

Roger’s spring break will perhaps benefit him especially late in the season. He will be fresh for the summer Masters, NYC, the WTF. This is undeniable as long as he stays healthy.

But right now I am seeing a Roger who’s missing the pieces that made January thru March so historical.

Ljubičić’s expressions from the box look comforting, meaning he looks a little uncomfortable. At least that’s how I’m reading this: relief in advancing, but a little rough around the edges, for sure. Which we expect.

Lopez has overcome Berdych 76 67 75 to book passage for that second SF at Queens-Club.

I hope you’re enjoying the tennis, as well.

2017 Grass in Progress

Stuttgart final four:

French connection of Pouille v Paire
and M.Zverev v Fel. Lopez

Zverev took-out the German sharp-shooter (Haas) 4 and 4 and Lopez took care of Berdych in three after losing the first set TB. Pouille, a WB QFinalist last year, got by Kohlshreiber in three today and Paire beat Jankowicz in straights.

Looking for some patterns to affect the draws at SW19 in about a couple of weeks, Pouille could be finding some rhyme and rhythm after his choppy clay. He has a nice offensivetennis that the grass suits. Zverev’s S&V will be fun to watch match-up with certain players who will struggle with that grass gas. Lopez’s game is a nice change-of-pace from a Spaniard – he’s a graceful grass player who can certainly make opponents earn a win or a loss. Paire is a mystery, decent ball-striker (solid BH) with a terrible temper, who can seek-out an upset.

Let’s look for a Pouille v Zverev final in Stuttgart (to raise the volume on the Zverev grass factor).

In s-Hertogenbosch, the SF:

Cilic v Karlovic
Mueller v A.Zverev

Ahhh, the serve is a factor again. Haven’t seen much of Karlovic this week, but Cilic continues to show some form; the 2016 Wimbledon Semi finalist should surgically impair the Dr., but I suppose he could ace the court right off the Croat 😉

Big serving Mueller shouldn’t have enough to beat Zverev, who continues to grow. We have to like the play of Zverev at WB this year (both of them, perhaps). He had a bad draw in Paris (Verdasco), but got his first Masters, of course, and is really mowing the lawn this week. He got beat last year in WB R32, I’m pretty sure, by Del Potro, so we’ll have to see his draw. But he’s different player this year.

We will continue to watch next week’s WB warm-ups to assess more form and possible contenders at The Championships.

These names jump-out as players to watch, some quite obvious.

Federer
Nadal
Murray
Djokovic
Wawrinka
Raonic
Zverev(s)
Pouille
Cilic
Berdych
Kyrgios
Dimitrov

We hear Djokovic is considering a warm-up in Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon.
Federer, Wawrinka and Murray should be in action next week, as well.
Another note on the Federer loss: he had, correct me if I’m wrong, 29 aces. Up 6-2 and MP in the 2nd set, with a gob of aces. . .no panic in the loss, but in the potential that he’s lost that edge that began the year in all-time fashion.
I might not be back to write untfederer-haas-stuttgart-2016-monday-2il next Tuesday (my son’s soccer team has a big weekend up the road a couple of hours). Then again, I have my phone and have been known to touch the keys from the discomfort of that awful Apple phone keyboard. 😦  I know, get a laptop, pal.
Of course, some of you might want me to take a break anyway. Good luck with that 😀
Wimbledon will be here before you can say “upset!”
Cheers.

5 Reasons Djokovic Fans Should Avoid Sharp Objects; or Shit or Get Off the Pot

Rome Fallout

Zverev Wins first Masters (first guy born in the 90s to win one ((sad))) and Djokovic Confirms Bizarre Form

Sorry for the delay in writing about the Rome final, Agassi, etc. To be honest, part of the delay was due to needing to watch the final on replay (my life, dear friends, is not only watching and writing about tennis 🙂

In watching this Rome final I had to pause (for perhaps hours, along with sipping my deserved adult beverage) to thank the late night forces that drove me to write “Djokovic Bullshit” on the eve of the final. That was as good a prediction as I’ve ever made. Between my pre-view/re-cap of the SF and defending the fortress against the Fangirls, I called bullshit on the whole thing.

I did not buy the semi-final between Djokovic and Thiem. Sure Thiem apparently doesn’t match-up well with Djokovic, which we discussed a bit and has been confirmed by Dominic himself (thanks for the link, Nambi), but Djokovic’s sudden heated animation and aggressive antics to go along with a near flawless tennis was just not quite making enough sense. In other words, if we read the tennis as an argument, a player making this or that “claim” in form or strategy, building a case throughout a tournament, season or even career, we can analyze these different “moves,” “claims,” and the evidence he or she provides to assess the strength or weakness of the argument.

That Thiem v Djokovic SF failed the narrative. Thiem’s position is reasonable in that he doesn’t match-up and he is out-of-gas: the result, from his perspective, was “logical.” That clears-up part of the equation. But why the exaggerated madman antics from Pepe’s pupil? Novak has been struggling; but he’s been more reserved, and classy in his work to regain his confidence and form.

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If you watch the final, Novak seemingly tanks the match. Either he simply had nothing to resist the 20 year-old German’s brilliance, or something is totally rotten in Belgrade (or Monte Carlo). What explains such a rise and fall of the Roman second seed? Just inconsistency? Pretty bizarre stuff.

The end of the match is very much a tank job. The Serb’s joker-like facial expressions, along with the agitated body-language we grew accustomed to last summer, contextualized him hitting meekly into the net or sailing match point sincerely long. In the end, this was a tank job.

So, what do we have here? Send a message to Rafa (Thiem SF) of the Serb’s clay superiority, but then show-up to the final drunk?

The television call of the match (Ted Robinson, Paul Annacone and Tracy Austin), the crowd and even Zverev were at a loss watching Djokovic’s horrific championship display unfold and implode at Foro Italico yesterday.

If I at all didn’t trust my gut on reading the ATP before (which isn’t the case 😉 , I certainly trust it now. I waved all kinds of banners and warnings after that SF; the tennis was incoherent. I don’t trust Djokovic right now on several levels. The final only confirmed my distrust.

Of course, the point of “Djokovic Bullshit” was also to call-out Nolefam. I have been charting this Djokovic crisis for so long now and their inability to see the light is a tragicomedy. This blog will be around for a long long time because I have so many points to make about BH, surface, style, player superiority, the highest level of tennis ever played and on and on.

Question:

Better form: Federer 2017 (let’s take any number of highlights such as his AO run, or parts of his sunshine double, say, for instance in the Miami SF v Kyrgios

or

Djokovic v Thiem?

More on all of that in another post.

This leads me right into the center-piece of this post:

5 Reasons Djokovic Fans Should Avoid Sharp Objects

First let me point-out that I appreciate the great legacy of Djokovic, his remarkable runs through the years, his ability to hold his own and even overcome Fedal on several occasions. If you have missed this, read some of this work as it may give you more of an appreciation for my criticism of him (and others). I am calling it like I see it. Those who write me off as a Djokovic-hater have something resembling only a poor primary school education or are such Djokerfanatic fangirls and boys that even perhaps despite an extended post-secondary education, they’re rendered incapacitated. I am fair and I am honest.

Without further ado:

  1.  The Djokollapse. For more foundational discourse and clarification of this, search “djokollapse” on my blog or scroll through some of the articles from September 2016, which takes us to the commentary following Novak’s 2016 U.S. Open final loss to Wawrinka. The collapse began, of course, after the 2016 FO (I have even suggested that the fourth set of the FO final got a little shaky despite the crowd shouting “Nole!” in unison almost throughout, only encouraged by his seemingly desperate gesticulations). Here’s the real concern here: THIS HAS BEEN DJOKOVIC’S TIME to dominate the proceedings and at 29, he should have. Granted, he did dominate, winning the Novak Slam, winning 6 of 8 – but he has more of that mountain to climb when you look at the sport historically and the discussion turns to GOAT (which it always does). This is an inherently flawed argument, as we’ve said – with the likes of McEnroe, Borg, Lendl and now Sampras getting the short-end of an almost meaningless argument. But it’s still an argument people have everywhere about this glorious sport and this golden-age in particular. When I coined “Djokollapse” I meant to accentuate/highlight the historical significance of this fall from grace at this most inopportune time. He flew too close to the sun, I guess. He lost the chance to add to his year-end #1s (with only Murray to beat), his WTF titles, and his general but powerfully significant position as the tour Don, the one who would still control the draw going into 2017. He lost all of that at a time when he could not afford to. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: this 2016 collapse would have devastating consequences on his legacy.What is important to point-out, however, is that this collapse was not unprecedented from Novak. One of the more decent Djokovic fans I’ve encountered and had several good discussions with about the game is Mat4. He pointed-out early in our discussions, as Djokovic solidified his latest run in 2015, that he believed Djokovic would not necessarily win that many majors, not of that high-teens count at least, because he’d already missed some of those opportunities. I had noticed the same thing, for example his losses to Murray at the US Open (’12) and WB (’13) finals. Losing to Stan in that 2015 FO final was tough, not to mention last year’s USO final. We’re talking about a guy who’s won so many big matches, 12 majors, 5 WTF, 30 Masters, but he’s had some dramatic misses. Some of these are forgivable. But the Djokollapse at the end of 2016, imho, is haunting.
  2. His inner-circle. Something seems off in the land of Novak, and I’m not talking about Serbia or Monte Carlo. I am not here to dig-up some kind of social media rumor garbage. His wife used to have a kind of cute, almost innocent smile that defined her visage; now, she looks sinister. The little brother sits beside her and on occasion we’ll catch Pepe, a few others and then the parents. With Marian and company along with Boris gone, executed, bye-bye, I just think as Annacone says over and over, “His problem is not tennis.” I agree although I am going to qualify that statement below.Folks, firing the entire coaching staff, but keeping Pepe, with Jelena now looking-on with that “I’m not amused” expression on her face, we hear she’s pregnant again and appears to building Novak’s matriarchy.

    By the way, people who wonder why Djokovic is not as popular as Federer or Nadal? Consider how his parents (especially his father) have behaved at matches when Novak was merely trying to compete, and the way Novak himself has and is acting.

    All this to say, the inner-circle seems to have some complication that could be obstructing his clarity and coherence.

  3. Fedal. Not sure how long this is going to last, but Federer and Nadal have arisen from the dead. The year could not have started-off worse for Djokovic. Think about it. Let’s say Djokovic actually does find a way to win Roland Garros. He’ll have survived the most stressful, pressure-packed couple of weeks that another implosion probably ensues. Think of the consequences for Novak (and especially his fans) if Nadal wins the French in a few weeks. 2017 Fedal, with Wimbledon on the horizon, will be in all of its glory.This is a massive by-product of Djokollapse. Finishing last year #1, winning the WTF and coming into 2017 feeling refreshed and ready to continue his charge would have probably prevented 2017 Fedal. But the king was dead, and Andy has clearly not been up to the challenge. The crown has been under siege.
  4. The field. There has actually been some solid evidence that legitimate talent is rising to the occasions on the ATP. They’re fairly young (some quite so) and talented. Let’s start with Nick Kyrgios, not only because he seems to have Novak’s number (under these 2017 conditions, at least). He is going to be (at last) a monster in many future draws. I should have started with Sascha Zverev. He won his first clay 1000, but he’s going to be solid on grass and HC, as well, presumably better given his serve, ball striking and creativity (he was hitting 134 mph body serves at Novak in the Rome final). This youngster is way ahead of the curve. Thiem will continue to grow and hopefully find some adjustments to handle quicker play, certain match-ups, etc. Goffin and Dimitrov will continue to compete. I see Grigor finding that early 2017 form during the second half of the season (hopefully getting over a couple of really tough losses –Sock in IW and Del Potro in Rome.Wawrinka has made a run the last three years. Raonic and Cilic can be dangerous off clay and Nishiouchi has a good match in him every other waning gibbous phase of the moon.

    There is trouble through out the draw now for Novak. We all know this because he has allowed that confidence to permeate the locker room. A year ago it seemed pretty thin at the top. The tour is turned up-side-down in 2017 and Djokovic has a lot of work to do to fight his way back to the top to stay there consistently.

  5. Age. Today, ironically, is Novak’s 30th birthday. We have (everyone has) gone over this age as a harbinger of decline in tennis (that particular age and having kids are the two death knells of the men’s game). Sure, these signs of age have been overcome by certain players, but such cases are still much rarer than otherwise.Sampras was 31 when he won his last major, a U.S. Open in 2002 that was pretty much the stuff of legend, conquering NYC as a 17th seed. Indeed, this wasn’t expected.

    Federer, 35, as we know, was also a 17th seed in Melbourne this year. This wasn’t expected. He beat four players from the top-10. Not an easy task. He’ll have an easier draw most likely at Wimbledon and the USO this year having raised dramatically his world ranking. But this was pretty remarkable.

    Federer won his first post-30 major at 2012 Wimbledon. #17. Then he went dry for almost five years.

    Nadal has not won a major since turning 30.  Although he looks perhaps primed to do so in a few weeks, this still will be a very challenging endeavor, if you ask me.

    Of course, the other name we need to mention in this group is Andre Agassi, who has agreed to work with Novak beginning in RG.

    Andre won 2 majors after turning 30. At 30, he beat Clement in the AO final in 2001 and Rainer Schuttler in the AO final in 2003, as a 32 year-old. He did make the USO final in 2005, as a 35 year-old, where he lost to Federer, but Andre, just to be clear, only has 2 majors past his 30th birthday.

    The argument that this relationship with Agassi is going to magically breathe life into Novak’s post-30 tennis seems a bit far-fetched. He is apparently inspired by Agassi, has been for years while the American has shown interest in Djokovic’s game, as well.

    Here is an unembeddable video that helps illustrate the connection Novak has with Andre.

    Sounds good, but will this pay dividends on court?

    People talk of the style similarities. Look: as great of a tennis player that Andre was, he was limited. His baseline style was a bridge to the future of the game, perhaps, but this, as we all know, is a grinding style of play and at 30 and beyond, you’re getting into some no-man’s land.

    Novak-Djokovic-Andre-Agassi

    And as I have said repeatedly, Djokovic’s style will not necessarily benefit him as he continues to grind this out, hoping to out-hit and out-run his younger and stronger opponents. We know how his tennis fares on the quicker HC. Cincinnati is the only Masters title missing from his trophy case and he has struggled on the HC of NYC in September.

    What if the grass is quicker!

    Becker was right to encourage Novak to come to net to shorten points. It’s advantageous on a few different levels. Although he did absolutely embarrass Thiem in the Rome SF, trying to sit back there and trade ground strokes with the Austrian, or Kyrgios or Zverev will be more and more difficult.

    This similarity in style may not be the match-made-in-heaven that some predict. There are so many other factors. Their careers have been different, their competition different, so a lot of this charming narrative of two distant relatives joining forces is flawed.

    Andre had fairly big breaks in 1995-97 that gave his body a rest from the tour and the grind of that base-line style. 1995 was one of his best years, reaching #1, but he took time-off toward the end of the season, allowing Sampras to pass him for year-end #1. Things got worse in 1996 and by 1997 he was ranked #141 in the world.

    That helps explain his formidable tennis past the age of 30, not to mention that the likes of Becker, Edberg, Sampras, Rafter, Courier and Chang had retired.

    Different set of circumstances for Djokovic and Agassi. And, again, Andre only won 2 majors past the age of 30.

    If Agassi can help Djokovic, this will be more from a mental stand-point. That’s where they are alike: both are brilliant competitors. We hear that the coaching will be quite limited, Andre only visiting Paris for a part of the tournament. But Agassi’s cerebral approach, his knowledge and experience could help calm the Serb.

    I would add, the point of this entire post, hopefully the American can make clear to Novak that the time is now! Taking an entire year to finally find your form is almost amateur; Andre will hopefully get Novak back on track. But it better happen sooner than later.

    Don’t believe the hype, Novak: 30 is not the new 20; Fedal and the rest of the field sense your instability; and, your family, for the sake of your tennis legacy, needs to understand the historical stakes.

    That has to be Andre’s message. In other words, shit or get of the pot.

Djokovic Almagro and Nadal Fognini . . .

Above was literally the title a few days ago where I just wanted to comment on those two matches and a few other things, but never quite got there: but that’s where I was going – to analyze some of this dirty tennis happening in Spain. Madrid.

I had this video all lined-up, thought it told much of the story right now concerning Djokovic; it actually does clarify the general result of whatever is causing this slumpy tennis.

The idea was scroll to 8:40 on the replay. This is where we’re at 4-5 in the second set, Djokovic serving. Almagro gets a look at two BPs. The shortness of Almagro’s shots in this particular game, with the Spaniard about to break and take the set, goes unpunished from Djokovic. Sure it’s clay, but the Serb should have dealt with these shots given his “potential” (at this point), make his opponent pay for this.

The depth of shot is about all you have to look at in these matches, court positioning too, of course. When Nadal is short, he’s even getting beat, but his opponent has to play almost perfect clay tennis to beat Rafa at this point. At least this one axiom is still in play, even in the tennis sandbox that is clay (ha, you all must love my _96001914_djokovic_getty3commentary of the European dirt): “If you’re short, you’re dead.”

That particular stage of the match (4-5 in the 3rd) is interesting because it’s showing the converse of this axiom: “If you don’t destroy shorty, you’re clowning at the top.”

There, get some t-shirts made, put the text in quotes and give me credit – part of my branding strategy.

Djokovic lacks a spark right now that kills the threat of his game. He actually plays pretty well against Almagro and then the match with F. Lopez had some insightful evidence, as well. I think Novak looks generally good on the court and improving (though I need to finish that thought). He’s hitting the ball effectively, serve is improving and there’s a certain lightness in his play, not brooding, being more creative, even on the clay.

I see improvement; however, he has to pass a big test. Nishikori today might have been, but I really don’t trust anything about the Japenese player, who is plummeting in the rankings. He’s just not a healthy guy and can’t finish a lick. Sorry. Bye-bye.

Djokovic now gets Nadal in the SF. We will watch with a magnifying glass. Interesting reality check here is does Novak still have a kind of mental edge at all over Nadal, as Djokovic has really had his way with him over the last few years. I think Nadal will be too much for Novak.

That was the big take-away from the Lopez match. I don’t believe that really tested Novak other than he was forced to be more creative with the points and did show quite well at the net, adjusting to the bigger Spaniard’s serve & volley. I like watching Lopez, always have; but his tennis is a much softer version and Novak needs to be tested by a stronger hitter, a clay rat like Goffin, Thiem, maybe someone like a streaking Cuevas (love the one-handed tennis, folks). Needlesstosay, Novak gets his big test tomorrow.

Again, Novak is turning the corner a bit, but he still appears a little “soft” out there. If you want Novak to succeed, you want to see the madman. The Pepe Imaz influence perhaps has some other benefits, but I don’t “feel the love” in Djokovic’s tennis.

More wins might improve things.

Murray is a mess, as in a terrifying free-fall. This could get ugly, folks. He can’t beat his mom, right now. Talk about no depth, just nothing to offer.

Like the side of Fognini that keeps his tennis midweek. He looked destructive against Nadal early and then simply HANDED Rafa the break-back that just changes a match. Fabio can be a broken string out there, for sure. Too bad. Really an awful bit of terribly errant tennis, literally gifting Nadal huge points, games, a set. . . (when he can easily play with Rafa and beat him).

Well. The Nadal steamroll continues with an interesting match tomorrow. The clay king should survive.

262.924.627Do I need to save these next thoughts for another post? No. I’ll just keep it short: the best watch right now on the clay is Thiem. His match v Dimitrov yesterday was sensational. The Bulgarian was on MP FIVE TIMES in that third set tie-breaker. He was in the same position against Jack Sock at Indian Wells a month or so back: had 5 set points. Grigor whiffed against the American and repeated the effort against the rock star that is our one-handed Austrian who can absolutely control a match (somehow and someway) with his raging tennis. What a watch. Those two played some dynamic tennis yesterday. Loved it. That’s tennis, folks. Fire, style, brilliance.

Unfortunately for Dimitrov, this was devastating, like what happened earlier at IW. He had such a brilliant start to the season, winning Brisbane, the epic QF with Nadal in Melbourne. He had control of this match. That’s what’s so utterly brilliant about Thiem. His in-point focus, a Nadal-like fighter’s fury, dumbs him to his disadvantage, like Nadal. Dimitrov served in the third 4-1. The 3rd set tie-break is a great battle. Thiem’s velocity and angles, from both sides, makes for compelling tennis. Dimitrov battled, too, but faded in the end. Thiem was just too much.

What happened today with Zverev both disappointed me and had me nodding my head. I wanted to see Thiem v Zverev in the QF, but Zverev got mugged and stuffed in a bag by Cuevas.  The one-handers!

I would have liked Thiem in that potential QF (I still like him v Cuevas). Thiem is a clay-courter, a pretty dazzling striker. Big serve, as well.

Hope you’re getting a chance to watch. I can distrust the surface and appreciate the tennis at the same time. These points are not mutually exclusive. This is true with a lot of things.

Monte Carlo Wrap: Same Old, Same Old

The title of this post doesn’t necessarily refer to the Nadal win, his 10th MC title and his 29th Masters title (a new-era metric for all of you tennis “historians” out there who unknowingly build wishful thinking logical fallacies to promote their favorite player).

Nadal continuing to play solid tennis is more the story relating to his win, not that he wins MC again, or that he’s at home on clay (again).

2017 Fedal continues to sort things out at the top of the tour right now and with Murray and Djokovic (and Wawrinka) continuing to struggle, the theme of the ATP has to continue to be delightful/shocking/miserable for diverse tennis fans.

b083fe955fd8187e932d5dInstead, the “same old” refers to clay’s inferiority as far as championship tennis is concerned. The tennis, all the way around, was pretty mediocre this past week, but I am guilty of comparing the tennis to hard courts or even grass (the grass seems to have gotten a bit chunkier and soft in the last ten years or so, as well).

Before I get ahead of myself, I do want to applaud Goffin, who played very well, consistent, quick, beautiful hitting from both sides ( and especially from the mental stand-point, how he was able to stay upright and close-out Djokovic, how he had control of the SF until a chair umpire took a giant doo doo on the red clay of the Monte Carlo Country Club). And applause too to Rafa, who did what he was supposed to do (and let me reiterate, in defense of Nadal: he has been playing well all year, so one figures he should consolidate his quality of play on hard courts at the first clay opportunity he has). Again, bravo to both players.

But the clay tennis just didn’t really take-off, in my humble opinion, which is the same-old. It rarely seems to take-off.

The Nadal v Zverev match is a great exhibit of the dramatic change of surface (change of season) on the ATP and the inferior tennis quality fostered on clay. Nadal buried the 20 year-old in long, exhausting rallies of top-spinning risk-free tennis the German just couldn’t withstand; the images of Sascha standing there in complete dejection were almost bizarre. Again, credit to Nadal for mastering this style, but what a substantial shift in court quality from the truer bounce and style that is the hard court. Zverev looked like many players this week, who seemed to wilt in the conditions (not the heat): the call for uninspired ping-pong-like rallies that go to the fittest player with the best top-spin and clay sensibility.

Ramos-Vinolas is a perfect example of this kind of “specialist.” The balls in almost every rally seemed like those practice balls you can buy that are bigger and lighter, which you can smash, but they don’t carry nearly as far. This makes them great for rallying, for practicing bigger baseline groundstrokes that pose much less threat to the hitting partner.

I didn’t watch every match of Monte Carlo, but Nadal and Goffin seemed to play the most inspired tennis; Goffin was seen flattening-out some shots, looking very confident around the court, and Nadal is, of course, fairly apt at harnessing some depth and weight on his clay groundstrokes.

The bit of the Pouille v Ramos-Vionlas match I saw was unwatchable. Pouille tried desperately to play “tennis,” but was met with this soft-top balloon-ball from the Spaniard that rendered almost a different sport. It was painful. The look on the Frenchman through-out the first set sealed the result of that match. Ramos-Vinolas is a decent player, but come-on.

If you’ve been reading the last couple of days, you saw the comment by my esteemed Belgian reader who posted an excerpt of an interview with one-time clay great Thomas Muster (I put a little effort into finding the actual interview online, but to no avail, so we have to take this reader’s word for it. But it makes sense to me).

The comment reads:

“The following interview on Skysports is worth sharing with you’ll I think .
Annabel Croft: Has tennis on clay changed ?
Thomas Muster: It’s the balls that have changed. They are made now (in comparison with back then) of a different kind of rubber, and have also less pressure (inside is a gaz) than they used to have. As a result of this the current balls don’t take off (the ground) as fast as they used to in the past, which gives the defender more time to track the ball down and hit a passingshot. In other words, the attacking player is now getting punished on volleys that used to be winners in the past; and because it is harder to hit winners, the rallies tend to be much longer (too long in his opinion) than they used to be in the past.”

This only fit with much of what I have seen in the past, but seemed especially apparent this week in Monte Carlo. I know the clay is a different surface, that this kind of diversity of surface is good for the sport, but the conditions seem to be “worsening.”

The defense-first tennis is just tiring; one can see it in the more offensive-minded players and from fans, as well. We have discussed the changes in the sport and we will continue to march to this band or warning: the bigger equipment, softer balls, softer surfaces, better “nutrition,” etc., impede sport integrity and history.

Albert Ramos-VinolasThe other point that evidences my title, that this is clay, that this is the same-old, concerns that ghastly call by Cedric Mourier in the 6th game of the first set of Goffin v Nadal. To put this shot into context, we all have to acknowledge that Nadal was putting massive pressure on Goffin in the game, that even before the controversial call at
advantage Goffin, there had been 4-5 deuce and advantages in this intensely tight game at 3-2, Goffin serving for a pretty firm hold on that first set. Nadal was finding his feet after being really dominated in the first 4-5 games. In other words, this was already becoming pretty tight; one had to assume this was going to probably go Nadal’s way, either way.

But the call was buffoonery. Mourier should have been stripped naked and sent shamefully to the shower or the waters of the Riviera. Get the hell out of here with that garbage. The ball sailed long, the call was made by the line judge and not even Nadal raised an eye-brow, looked at it, or glanced at his box.

Goffin was getting situated to return serve. But this Cedric the Entertainer-type comes bumbling out of his chair to confirm. . . what? That the match is fixed? That you fell asleep, Mr. Mourier?

And because it’s clay, there is no Hawk-Eye; the system hasn’t been calibrated for clay. The rationale stands that Hawk-Eye is not needed on clay because of the mark left by the ball. There have been far too many cases where these umpires have missed. The Hawk-Eye TV determined, like everyone else watching the point, that the ball was long, that Goffin had a 4-2 lead in the first set of a SF v Nadal.

Having said that, as I already pointed-out, the match was tightening, Goffin’s upper-hand in the early stages of the first set was weakening and in no way can we determine that this decided the match.

But it reminded us of the claw (flaw of the clay). Believe it.

Of course, the call drew heavy boos from anyone watching and really affected the play of David Goffin, a top-ten player who was making a big run at a Masters 1000. His play has been pretty solid of late. In 2017, he has reached the AO QF, and finals at Sofia and Rotterdam, before a couple of 4R defeats at IW and Miami.

His win over Djokovic was a big break-through for sure.

The win answered my rhetorical question from my previous post about the survival of the Serb. Said survival was in massive doubt from our end. Did I think Goffin had it in him to put the Djoker out of his misery? I did not and I was wrong.

I figured Nadal would do the trick.

Not sure how the Serb processes a loss like this. The obvious point is he is still struggling, in a big way. Remember, even though Goffin, a solid top-ten player on the tour these days, beat him, he has been struggling with all sorts of players from all sorts of rankings. He is going to have to make quicker work of these earlier round “beatable” opponents in order to control and overcome even more dangerous opponents.

Then again, if 2017 Fedal has anything to tell us: it’s that these great players, who have so many past victories to fuel their impending form and motivation, can recover from these apparent dips in quality.

As I have written, however, on several occasions, Djokovic needs to get back to his winning ways sooner than later. Younger talent is rising, and his game, one of endurance, a huge base-line grind, and steel-nerved BPs doesn’t dominate forever.

We suspect he’ll find more fitness in the coming weeks, but one could see the clay grind and three-set standard taking their toll on the Serb.  With regards to the time violation against Goffin in the QF, Djokovic said, “That’s fair from the chair umpire to tell me that I’m taking a little bit too much time. It was just in a very awkward moment to give me a warning. . .It’s just that sometimes there should be maybe a little bit more tolerance and understanding for certain situations like that one, where it was very long point, at 6-5 in the third.”

The chair got this one right, I’m afraid.