2017 Barcelona Open: Otra Décima

On a court bearing his name, Rafa cinched his 10th Barcelona title, matching last week’s la decima down in Monte Carlo. He beat Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-1 in the final.

The trend continues: 2017 Fedal. Although Federer had the spotlight early and for good reason, winning the year’s first major and first two Masters, Rafa has been virtually right next to him all along: don’t forget that. Nadal played Federer in two of the three finals. Tennis - Barcelona Open FinalNaturally, on the clay Rafa has found his true comfort zone and the confidence and clay dominance are becoming magnificent, which I’d say captures the mental, nasty and efficient tennis of his dirty highness.

We have much clay still to play, much story-line to read and drama to digest, but Nadal is looking pretty strong heading into the next two Masters (Madrid and Rome) and Roland Garros in late May, early June. Like I said earlier, if I were in his camp, I’d call for an early exit at perhaps Madrid and then bring the armada back to Rome heading into war in Paris.

He’s pillaging the clay season and given his appetite for dominance (with his cousin Roger already sitting quite comfortably on his Swiss mountaintop), he will most likely want to press on, continue to damage the field’s hopes, remind one and all of the kind of clay court carnage for which he is best known.

That’s a lot of physical tennis heading into a major (Bo5). Then again, we seem to be reaching that point of no return for the rest of the field: someone ( I think it was Gimmelstob) said again recently: the toughest thing to do in tennis is beat Nadal on clay Bo5. Rafa is absolutely cruising right now. Everyone knows this. If you don’t, you must be an hysterical Fankovic (they are reaching new heights of misery); more on that in a second.

Let’s first give a nice steady applause to the young Dominic Thiem. He’s got a nice game, the style of which makes those of us who know and appreciate style fairly impressed.

But now the Austrian is dead.

Dominic+Thiem+Barcelona+Open+Banc+Sabadell+N1Z2-83p5zvl-1

Though quite short, his was a brilliant ATP stint, if you ask me.

Seriously though: he hung around for those first nine games, played the Spaniard tough, even had game point to go 5-5 in that critical first set. Then el destino (la decima), a wise (tennis) old predator fowl drew its ominous shadow across the clay, an usually cool Barcelona breeze ruffling the patrons’ whispers before the young Austrian was predictably sacrificed.

In almost ceremonious generosity, the youngster was given a breadstick to snack-on in the afterlife. Godspeed, Dominic. Rest-up and bring your bracket wrecking havoc to another clay tournament soon. I saw his championship edge in R1. Of all the youngsters, I enjoy watching him the most at this point. The OHBH, the fury from both wings, his precociousness on display more often than not. Nadal just wasn’t going to have it.

Here’s where we stand with Madrid beginning in a week: Nadal has complete control of the draw on clay. Murray did not fare well in either MC or Barcelona. Though beating Ramos-Vinolas in a tough three-setter in Barcelona (a match that saw him escape death a couple of times, holding serve at 0-40 4-4 in the second set, etc.) seemed to suggest a breakthrough, he was handled pretty easily by Thiem in the SF, only an odd drop in form from the Austrian prevented a routine Thiem victory.

Murray continues to struggle.  There is no way to deny this. Lendl is missing from the box, the Scot is berating the box, looking like the awkward Andy: bridesmaid by birth. He’s ringing again of that less-than-championship quality and character. Add to that my insistence that people not forget that his run last year, despite the incredible consistency and success, was minus Federer (injury), Nadal (injury) and Djokovic (Djokollapse), and you have a less than legitimate contender for RG (and maybe beyond).

Indeed, the Murray campaign is sputtering.

The same applies to Djokovic, I’m afraid. I have documented this quite well. My theory goes all the way back to the fourth and deciding set at Roland Garros 2016, where Novak eventually closed Murray out. But that was almost tough to watch. Novak, we might surmise in retrospect, was starting to collapse.

Scroll to about 02:35:00 where he completes a second break of Murray to go up in the 4th set 5-2, serving for championship and Novak Slam. We can give the guy a break – a lot of pressure had built to this point. But he barely hangs on here. Immediately, following this match, we now know, he’s in a free fall as far as tennis form is concerned.

You and I know how the Fankovic tribe speaks of the hostile crowds that Novak is subjected to (this boggles my mind since most of these clowns are European, internationals of some distinction and fan rowdiness and even hooliganism is a kind of staple at many such sporting affairs): this crowd was massively pro-Djokovic.

Great Mary Carillo line: “He was similing at the 5-2 changeover, but he wasn’t smiling at this 5-4 changeover.”

Some very safe tennis here from Novak. Look at him work the crowd, especially at 40-15, double championship point. Can you imagine if Nadal or Federer did that? Ha ha. The Fangirls would implode. Djokovic doubles on first CP. Then deuce. Then he pulls it off on third CP. Novak Slam. Indeed an historical achievement. But Murray ran out of gas.

The Djkollapse had begun.

Fast forward to now: both Murray and Djokovic are hurting. The question I ask you is are we at a point of no return yet with Nadal on the clay? He did look a little vulnerable here and there, even against that young South Korean “nextgen star,” Hyeon Chung.

That is the question. I like Federer rested in Paris right now more than I do the #1 and #2 players who are reeling and have been reeling for quite some time.

What a remarkable year, with Fedal resurfacing with a vengeance against this lower tier.

My last post insinuated Murray and Djokovic are taking a beating. Indeed, that is the case on the court.

What’s happening off the court with respect to this downfall? You might have caught wind of the Djokofanclub raising hell with respect to their idol.

Our friend CindyBlack3 is back at it with her “Nole Stats.” Her latest has the Serb statistically verified as the best all-around player (most success on all surfaces, in a kind of pound-for-pound subjectively bullshitter high pitched squeal). This is simply awkward. Not a good look, CB3.

I posted her last “homework” assignment (her audience far and wide love, as do most farm animals, stats) in a post about the peanut gallery at Indian Wells when this throng of flare-ups hissed about the Serb’s draw.

As I said in a recent comment, timing is everything: these folks are seemingly trying to 2015 Australian Open - Day 14write the Serb’s obituary, meaning the timing of this advertisement of Djokovic’s career accomplishments as their sugar daddy is struggling to find his racquet in 2017 is just bizarre and boney (we like meat on our bones at Mcshow Tennis). It’s a bad look.

“Novak is the greatest!” Meanwhile, David Goffin is handing your guy a pink slip.

Oh, and CindyBlack3 and the gang’s arguments, supposedly supported statistically? Novak is the greatest HC player of all time? I’ll take Lendl over Novak in a Bo5 format (I might also take McEnroe, Pete, Federer and Conners for that matter – the common denominator here is Flushing Meadows, folks).

Let’s just say that Slovak Slowcourtovic and HC GOAT don’t really work. If you think the USO is anything but the HC Taj Mahal, relinquish your tennis fan credentials immediately. One can not be 2-5 at the USO business-end of the draw and make such a claim. Of course, Novak isn’t making this claim.

It’s your favorite fangirl blogger and this CindyBlack3 who lead the charge, but there are others just as rabid, just as nonsensical, wailing away about this historical greatness.

Think of the irony, again the timing: Federer and Nadal are making big tournament runs here in 2017 that raise this bar to which these fans refer – and they’re trying to talk about their guy’s greatness. This kind of logic is similar to saying the courts were too fast in Melbourne. Shut-up! I can make a better case for Novak than you can. Let me do the talking.

Of course, CindyBlack3 blocked me on Twitter because I questioned her methods, refused her bouquet of bullshit.

Give her hell, folks!

Sorry to bring-up this garbage, but as the Eye of Sauron here in southern California, writing an international tennis blog, I have an obligation to bring to your attention this debris that might distract, or clutter your view of the glorious competitions. You understand.

We actually root for Novak to return, and Murray as well. This would only be good for the sport. These “fans” don’t understand that kind of logic

Fedal 2017. . .Reader Poll: is this trend good for the sport?

😀

Djokeray Can’t Catch a Break

With the build to Roland Garros officially underway, the sport’s pundits (I assume they follow tennis and are more than just Fed, Rafa or Djoker fans) are all excited and really want to start talking about Paris. I suppose they became swept-up in this perfect storm of a slow news day: Roger is off, Djokovic is waiting for Madrid, Barcelona lacks the jazz in the early rounds, so Tennis.com came-up with a doozy, as in a huge turd they can’t flush down the toilet, so we all (if one visits the interwebs in and around such publications) get to smell it.

Indeed, said website has this flashing across their homepage and it surely has readers and even “writers” all excited, I suspect:

TOUGH CALL: WHO HAS MORE AT STAKE AT ROLAND GARROS—MURRAY OR DJOKOVIC?

I believe they provide a “panel of experts” to weigh-in.

This is profoundly naive (I suppose is a nice way of putting it).

I wrote a post after AO and asked a similar question. But I wasn’t asking readers for their opinions (of course, one could certainly comment and offer one). I was continuing to track the Djokollapse, arguing that his loss at 2017 AO (like the collapse in 2016, the loss of #1 and the WTF to Murray) was pretty much dismal for the Serb, catastrophic (I’m happy to elaborate again if you’d like). Djokovic’s AO disaster, my post went, was much worse than Murray’s loss to Zverev in Melbourne. No debate.

This is all much much more about Djokovic.

I’ve shared the run-in I had with the South African spaz who claimed the 2015 USO final was more important to Federer than it was to Djokovic. Wrong again. Folks, see the history. Be the history. This is Djokovic’s time to define. He and Becker getting the silky base-liner to 12 majors has been insane, as in historical. He’s still on the clock.

I am having a hard time believing serious pundits are actually weighing-in on for whom the FO next month is more important.

This article on Tennis.com does seem to suggest (read between the lines here, folks), adding to other parts of these players’ parallel lives (the real rivalry dating back to 2012 – two of Murray’s three majors are wins against the Serb) that Djokovic’s legacy may be aligning more and more with Andy Murray.

And the irony of Fedal reemerging in 2017, cementing their conjoined legacies.

I wrote about the Murray and Djokovic narrative back in November, as well.

I’ve been tracking this and Tennis.com and others are, from my point-of-view, only adding another layer to this headstone.

There I go again. . .

Not to change the subject, but join me in fancying a big run from Dominic Thiem in Barcelona this week. Watching some of these guys hit the ball with such vicious intent (only the ball bounces short, and is easily tracked), is quite the spectacle that is clay.

Thiem is murdering the ball and his match today with Edmund showcased some of this go-for-broke tennis.

Enjoy.

Monte Carlo Midweek: Djokovic Still Struggling and Dimitrov Succumbing

The title above pretty much covers the biggest news thus far at the Monte Carlo Masters where we’re into the R16.

I watched the Djokovic match with Simon and the only thing that might undermine my inference (and my title) is if Simon turned-out to be playing an even higher-level of his unusual brand of (awkward) defensive tennis.

Djokovic and Simon looked like a mirror reflection throughout the match. The only thing separating was when Djokovic found a bigger F or BH that proved too much for the underwhelming Frenchman.

The UEs from Djokovic spell concern (still) and the aura of confidence continues to elude the world #2. This has been the same story from the Serb since last early summer. He’s struggling. I don’t know what else to say about that. We talked about his personal life, his coaching change (can we get an update on Pepe?).

I made very clear that if you happen to watch him play (this was glaringly apparent at the US Open), you should see the physical decline, but I suppose this could be injury. People forget how much tennis he’s played, how much big tennis, long matches, grinding from the BL, effectively sacrificing himself for the glory. His is an exciting style when he’s in form and boring (with lower risk more consistent ball striking) or constricting his opponents to death. He’s an Agassi with a little length.

When he’s not in form, lacks confidence, etc., he’s more of a Gilles Simon with a bigger heart and better nerves.

No doubt his nerves got him through that match. Simon served for match in the third. . .

Along with our clarification last summer, mind you, of Djokovic’s physical deterioration, we then moved on our next bit of analysis: 2016 will be remembered as the Djokollapse (did you miss our discussions of Slow Courtjovic ((aka Slovak))?). Ah yes, what fun we have over here at Mcshow Tennis.

In the end, until evidence contradicts our current findings, the struggle continues for Novak.

The clay got the best of Dimitrov. He is a classic clay casualty. The clay reduces his athletic all-court game to a mud fight. This clarifies my continual warning with clay court tennis. Dimitrov fell in Marrakech early, as well.

Zverev_ClayLooking to the next round, we’ll see if Nadal’s three setter vs Edmund is a sign of concern: he gets Zverev next, who has been drowning opponents in the dirt. He smacked a couple of vets off the court (Seppi and F. Lopez) with some bakery items. He continues to show, for me, a real Del Potro-like guile and
sophistication. By the way, Zverev turns 20 tomorrow (4/20), meaning he’s still a very young big guy who can hammer the ball on all surfaces.

Wawrinka v Cuevas could be an interesting watch. If Stan doesn’t destroy, Cuevas will likely triumph in a cloud of dust.

Goffin and Thiem should be a good match, as well. Let’s hope (sorry Belgian readers – especially Wilfried) Thiem gets a shot at a match with Novak in the QF.

We’ll see, as well, how Andy consolidates his tough win over Mueller – an underrated player if you ask me. Andy should find that top SF.

Novak’s next test should be a Thiem QF (followed perhaps by a Nadal SF; but again, he could end-up playing someone with the tennis skill of Donald Trump – only this is clay, so such limitations can be rendered negligible).

Have a good one.

Monte Carlo

Greetings.

Are you ready for some dirt balling along the French Riviera? Seems a bit of a contradiction. I have already written much about my opinions of the clay, yet here we are on the eve (play is underway obviously) of the European dirt harvest.

Congrats to Steve Johnson for taking the U.S. Clay Champs last week in Houston.

In the other season opener last week, 20 year-old Borna Coric got his first title in Marrakech.

Look for unpredictability to rule the court in the coming days, hopefully with top guys finding their feet and their Roland Garros form. Of course, I am speaking mainly of Murray and Djokovic.

Djokovic’s draw includes a match against Simon tomorrow (today), Carreno Busta and then Thiem or Goffin with a chance to face the winner of the Nadal/Dimitrov quarter that includes Sascha Zverev who steam-rolled Seppi, and RBA. But, again, it’s clay so anyone can win at anytime.

Seeing Djokovic have to play Thiem and then Nadal could be interesting, if the bracket holds. This should give us a good idea about where Djokovic is following his Davis Cup success. People have brought-up the Serbia 2010 Davis Cup title, the country’s first, as a context for Novak’s amazing 2011 run. Could we see a similar cause-and-effect in 2017?

Murray should face Wawrinka in the top MC SF, but, again, who knows.

monaco-2016-airCertainly, the most interesting subplots here involve Murray, Djokovic and Nadal. Nadal would absolutely love to finally cash-in on his solid start to 2017. Federer has eclipsed the Spaniard’s incredible early season form. A win would mean a lot as he prepares for Paris.

Djokovic has everything to lose on the clay, in my humble opinion. He has to get his game together. Between the three big clay tournaments prior to Paris, he should be able to find some confidence, but that means he has to start finding some confidence.

Surely you do not follow me on Twitter, but I did recently point-out there that Djokovic recently said he has not been at his best. This flies in the face of the Djokovic fan club saying his form was back but he was simply the victim of outrageously difficult draws. I detailed some of my exchanges with fans here on this blog, trying to clarify this reality for them; hopefully his own admission helped clear things up. He has not been very solid since Paris last year (he did win Toronto, however). Again, Doha was ugly and the rest of 2017 has been an extension of the second half of 2016.

After the clay, he will have Federer, Murray, Wawrinka, Zverev and Kyrgios, et al at the top to deal with. A victory in Paris would be just what the doctor ordered for the Serb. We shall see, starting with some of these early matches with the likes of Simon, a potentially dangerous Spaniard and possibly Thiem before the stakes steepen in MC.

Murray is another question mark. We need to see some tennis before too much is said. The clay, I suspect, will help Murray find his form, giving him more than enough time to camp along the BL and use that solid defensive tennis of his.

Cheers.

Reader Poll

Is the Murray loss more of a statement about his game, or it a little more evidence that attacking (S&V) tennis is coming back?

If you haven’t sensed my predilection on style, the attacking, all-court game is a more Vasek_Popsisil-APclassic (classy), sophisticated, and superior form of tennis. The games of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray (and their cohorts) that rely on bigger equipment, perhaps slower surfaces, etc., are a more modern style that has come into prominence with the bigger racquets, slower surfaces, etc.

Disagree?

Two things on the Pospisil upset of Murray: it’s about time the Canadian does ANYTHING in a singles bracket. The guy has done well with Jack Sock and others in doubles (they won WB doubles in 2014); he’s big, has a big serve, can come to net, etc.  Like me, you have to have been wondering why he’s not more effective, along the lines of what Sock has done – top 30 player at least.

Secondly, Murray looks awful against this kind of attacking tennis. This was the Mischa Zverev match at Melbourne all over again. The Scot had no chance. I watched the second set. The Murray top-spin FH that either lands like a ripe, delicious apple for his hungry opponent, or the hail-marry lob just doesn’t pose a threat to the likes of . . . Zverev and Pospisil. I mean, if you’re going to play Murray, work on that S&V, mate.

Anyways, wow. I will be heading down to Indian Wells next weekend for the men’s SF matches. Who comes out of that top half?

The Tsonga loss is another reminder of the other-side-of-the-coin with that waste of talent. You should know now how big of a fan I am of his form, but losing to Fognini? Can you imagine being in his box? Maybe his entire camp is sloppy, a collective who-gives-a-fuck.

I hope Wawrinka or Thiem can represent the top, but I’m not holding my breath.

Have we reached that point now on the ATP where no one is safe? We talked about the take-aways from Acapulco and Dubai (and even Melbourne where  a 17-seed won). . . .revolving around parity.

Indeed, parity and attacking tennis are your leaders in the club house. Oops, wrong sport. Some of you might, actually, not even recognize the sport we’re talking about. Bring on the attacking tennis, the serve & volley, the creative all-court mastery of the game. Give them all wooden racquets! Okay, I’m not going there.

But the point is: some games are very limited, and we’re getting a really good look at this reality.

Last on This Draw Hysteria

In the end, no one knows for sure what goes into a draw other than presumed tradition and objectivity with some minor manipulation, as I have seen mentioned. When you start throwing around words like “fixed,” or “rigged” you sound like a fanboy. That’s just the way it is. This is very much a matter of perspective. People are always looking after their guy, which is a source for these kinds of discussions in the first place.

Here’s five bottom quarters from IW ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’17 and Miami ’16:

2 31 24 16 9 21 25 6 (IW ’14 – #6 Del Potro withdrew from the tournament; James Ward got a LL spot in that bracket)

2 30 33 15 9 21 27 7 (IW ’15)

2 32 24 13 12 17 29 6 (IW ’16)

2 31 18 15 9 24 26 5 (IW ’17)

2 26 23 16 9 17 27 6 (Miami ’16)

Nothing at all alarming about this year’s “quarter of death.” Everyone (meaning the popular media and their herd) is freaked-out about the names, perhaps, but as far as seeds go, the IW 2017 draw is pretty much business as usual. When the star commentators even sound some alarm, this, again, is in reaction to the names in-front of those numbers.

Kyrgios and Zverev are still unproven, unequivocally, despite what you want to think; Del Potro is trying to play himself back into the rankings; Federer is coming off an injury plagued year (he was #17 in Melbourne); and Nadal is the 2017 version of Rafa.

If you analyze several of these kinds of draws, I’m sure you can find this or that oddity or exception, for instance the #31 seed of Del Potro doesn’t seem very appropriate (but that coincides with his ATP ranking). Blame Del Potro.

That “insight” from CB3’s graphs is also flawed. Read Wilfried’s comment on my last post and think about the whole discussion and how difficult such an analysis is – to be definitive about this massive indiscretion or conspiracy. I pointed-out to CB3 how in Federer’s case, being #1 for so long will definitely affect the seeds he faces in a tournament. Not to mention he’s 6 years older than Novak.

And then you have, as Wilfried points-out, the fact that certain players with the same rank in different years add difficulty to this kind of comparative analysis.

From Wilfried himself: “Remember my comment about the ranking points of players ranked top 10, top 9 etc a few weeks ago ? I didn’t say it explicitly on that occasion, but a knowledgeable reader would or could have concluded it from my comment: the ranking points that go with a certain ATP ranking, are themselves distributed according to a distribution which fits into the normal distribution, if we observe the behavior of those ranking points over a certain period of time. This implies that one player ranked nr. 10 in the ATP Emirates rankings is not necessarily comparable with another player ranked nr. 10. Or would you treat Roger Federer, currently ranked number 10 with 3,305 pts, on equal terms with Nicolas Almagro, ranked nr. 10 from July 25th 2011 till august 8th 2011 with only 2,165 points?”

Playing a #10 player in 2011 might be a completely different reality compared to playing one in 2017. Obviously. Failing to recognize this, or the age difference between Federer and the rest of that group, or that Federer spent over 300 weeks at #1 . . . this whole conversation is rendered lost, hopeless.

This is an interesting article – Wimbledon: Novak vs Mayer in R1; Andy, Roger, Rafa all in bottom half  – in light of this IW controversy, regarding the 2013 Wimbledon draw: 

From the article:

Novak’s potential rivals in the later stages of the tournament:

Third round: Jeremy Chardy (FRA, 28), Ryan Harrison (USA)
Fourth round: Tommy Haas (GER, 13), Gilles Simon (FRA, 19)
Quarter-finals: Tomas Berdych (CZE, 7), Richard Gasquet (FRA, 9)
Semi-finals: David Ferrer (ESP, 4), Juan M. del Potro (ARG, 8), Grigor Dimitrov (BUL, 29)
Finals: Andy Murray (GBR, 2), Roger Federer (SUI, 3), Rafael Nadal (ESP, 5)

Folks, if you look for something, you’ll find it.

Looking forward to the 2nd round where we can start to see some good matches.

Cheers.

Nuts.

Folks, I might be burned-out on tennis. Okay, not really. But, what in the hell happened last week? Happened quickly. Is everyone okay? I sense people feel a bit trampled upon, feelings were hurt, confidence compromised, doubt perhaps deflating some of that late winter/early spring hope that had started budding on those flimsy limbs.

A bit dramatic?

Acapulco and Dubai 2017 were like too little circuses that rolled into town and a bunch of crazy shit happened. Sure, the tennis was great; there were upsets and confirmations; the rise and fall of several tour regulars and virtual rookies. That’s tennis, right? Still, I’m gassed, need a few days to recover. . .

My last post, I guess, tried to make some sense, but that was before the Acapulco final, which I thought could be interesting if Sam kept it in, kept it coming. I watched the highlights and heard Nadal’s few choice words afterwards. Querrey was, essentially, unplayable. That was the case in the Kyrgios v Querrey match, as well, which I mentioned. Kyrgios was completely out classed in the 2nd and 3rd. To think that Kyrgios was out-of-reach for Djokovic. Just some nutty circumstances.

Del Potro and Tiafoe. . . then the Slovak/Gentle Giant rematch. Kyrgios incinerates the Serb and then gets dismissed by the Californian, who happens to, on his march to the finals, make short work of Goffin and Thiem. Then he beats Nadal in the final. Are you kidding?

The Federer loss in Dubai is only surprising given the way he failed to close. There’s just a lot of talent out there, so such a high flier isn’t that surprising. But still, several MPs, giant leads in sets, in TBs. . . not sure how this plays-out for Roger in IW. I suppose the lesson we learned last week is don’t be surprised; keep your expectations in check.

andy-murrayI did touch on this one huge point, so let’s reiterate, especially in light of the circus metaphor. The one champion left standing, the leader left unfazed by all the madness, after last week’s heroics and melt-downs, is the world #1. To reiterate, again, this is what we needed from Andy.

Big tennis is on the horizon. Given the train wrecks (multiple) of last week, the survivors are scrambling, getting cleaned-up and readied again for a battle royale, in the desert, Indian Wells, to be exact. Some are coming with desperation in their eyes – what you can see; and fear in their hearts – what you can’t see.

And some players are just excited to be on tour, playing in this golden hour of a golden age, amongst the winds of change, where hope and youth arrive hand-in-hand.

You’re at the helm, Andy. Godspeed.

So, pick yourself up, reader. Last week was nuts. But next week is Indian Wells. Indeed, wake-up.

Speak-up!

(Now you know what I sound like talking to myself)