The ATP is Drunk

Not sure who exactly is in charge of what (marketing, draws, doing the laundry, etc.), but the ATP (is that Chris Kermode?) is a mess.

I’m just pointing to two things: that Next Gen opening ceremony disaster – how dumb was that?

Kermode_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8But I have dumber: the Nitto ATP Finals group drawings. I said at the beginning that Nadal had an easier group, compared to Federer, but this is ridiculous.

Dimitrov just waxed (a depleted) Goffin 0 and 2. I seriously forgot who the fourth player of that group is for a second: oh yeah, Thiem, another depleted fellow.

Dimitrov had trouble with Thiem, so we’re not yet calling his tennis upper-class.

Meanwhile, the Becker group is large and in charge. We’ll see how this Zverev v Sock plays-out, but I don’t think you want to be playing Sock right now, unless your Roger. Is Sock’s break-through win against Cilic going to cost him? Will he be too “depleted” to put-up much of a fight against Sascha? That’s how this story goes with these ATP middle-class blokes. Keep riding high, Jack.

On the other hand, group Sampras (thanks for throwing shade at that esteemed name, ATP wonks) will likely offer up for the SF a seemingly in-form Dimitrov and a winner of Goffin v Thiem?  Carreno Busta is, of course, on the premises, but that group, to be clear, couldn’t be making my point more emphatic.

Pull your shit together, ATP.

Nadal and My Stream-of-Consciousness

I’m in the business of trying to explain myself. That’s how this works, this blog at least.
My last post was all over the place, but still an impressive piece of stream-of- consciousness. No? Well, let’s just agree to disagree on that one. 😀

Thanks again to Wilfried for his article on top players’ connections to Paris-Bercy. As I said a few weeks back, I would like to build a little staff of contributors that will only add depth to this greatest tennis blog on the planet. I like the idea of variety since this could discourage you all from getting, perhaps, too tired of my crazy (genius) tennis imagination 😉

We need blogs like this one here more than we can imagine, I’m afraid. Obviously, I write about tennis, but you’ll probably see a move to address more topics and conversations as this lovely world of ours continues to seemingly spin out of control.

On and off the tennis court, what in the hell is going-on?

To stay off-court for a second here (pardon the social commentary), the “world” and its mainstream media are ill, have been plagued with greed and other deadly sins (hence the importance of “other” media even if many social media are, in fact, obnoxious and, as we’re learning more and more, actually a terribly effective sociopolitical tool used against our better judgment, both personally and politically).

America, my home, seems to be leading the way on this theme park-like ride of crazy and reckless political and social themes. I am ashamed of so much of this recent political swill that we’ve all been forced to consume. Politics, from my limited perspective, has always been a corrupt kind of incomprehensible world of people pursuing power often saying almost anything to get votes, more power, attention, people scared, sympathetic, etc. At this point, people are angry, confused, defensive and scared.

With my little voice, I apologize, on behalf of my America. At the same time, we’re definitely not alone in running this horror show, but we have, for awhile, maintained a strong leadership position in this very threatening government-by-the-financially-powerful (which seems inherently greedy and disinterested in living and breathing species and their environments – schools, the actual environment, food, etc.).

To be fair, the system is really the issue, so even Trump, in my humble opinion, in the end, signifies just our latest messenger, or by-product (the horror). In other words, the illness is much bigger than the clown-like, narcissistic orange man who sits in the White House. But enough of this dreary and depressing discourse that almost no matter what you or I say, or how we say it becomes, for readers, a kind of diatribe rife with personal politics, ideology and defensive dialogue disguised as thoughtful debate.

Back to tennis.

Nadal is out in Paris due to injury, the right knee still the issue.
Yes, the old right knee, the one I documented here in Shangahi:

After Shanghai, he didn’t play Basel because of the knee. The knee appears to be what’s kept him out of finishing Paris (unless he suspected the draw would finish him off).

What about London? Curious why not, if the knee was that bad, sit-out Paris and give himself over three weeks of rest to prepare for what is the WTF, where the best-of-the-best square-off. We can defend Nadal until we’re blue and long in the tooth, but this decision to play Paris and put London in total jeopardy (not sure how he can conceivably play London if the knee is that bad that he can’t play a qualifier in Paris QF) seems a bit suspicious.

You can hear the voices: Is he dodging Federer?

Given he only needed one win at either Paris or London to consolidate the YE #1, is that what he did in Paris? I guess that’s a smart move if he’s too hurt to play a single full tournament. Consolidate #1 and call it a year. This has to be what he’s considering at this point. Why even go to London at this point?

How you feel about this set of circumstances depends on who you are. Some will find his move here practical; even the likes of Guy Forget think Nadal was professional in his decision to play Paris (at least a couple of rounds). Some will consider the #1 well-earned, the fruit of a remarkable year of tennis from AO through to the USO, winning 2 of 3 majors, making the final in a third, dominating clay, in the end doing enough to accumulate the most points needed to reach YE #1.

Others will call him out and say he got lucky and that this effort here, skipping Basel, bowing-out of Paris and skipping London is not a very stout representation of world #1.

Hopefully, you consider both viewpoints, and the several in-between, that your position is thoughtful and complicated because this situation is pretty complicated.

#1 is a huge achievement. Nadal and everyone around the sport knows this.

Despite however I feel about the knee and his finding #1 almost by default (although I will clarify Federer’s role in this in a minute), I have to eat a little crow on Nadal and say to everyone out there that apparently ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Are you familiar with my criticism of Nadal? About a year prior to that criticism, my critique of the flawed Fedal H2H hit the newsstands.

Referring here to the articles in which I explained my coined “Nadalism,” I was very tough on Rafa. These were penned in the winter of 2016, where he was still struggling to even be taken seriously on the tennis court of the time. 2015 represents a really low point for the Spaniard, so I had all of that informing these February articles/posts. He was embarrassing. Here’s a quick glance at his 2015, but remember that these numbers, like most statistical analysis, often do not tell even half the story; the eye test almost always proves to be the best discovery. His shot from both sides was short, impotent and his usual on-court aura of intimidation and confidence, gone.

Of course, I remember having a similar thought in 2012 about Rafa: he’s done.

And then we recall 2013.

But 2015 and 2016 were bad and given that the guy was getting into his 30s, I had had enough of the ever-injured, always volatile, always clay Rafael Nadal.

So, I have to be absolutely humbled by the tennis of 2017, no? Yes and no. The resurgence of Fedal has been quite the narrative, one that I have documented consistently on this old blog (#2017Fedal). His Australian Open run was truly incredible and he had the break on Federer in the 5th. He seemed to “normalize” a bit after that on the spring hard courts, leading into clay. And then, of course, he went berserk. We know how this season has panned-out for Nadal. We will always look amazed at his USO draw. But that’s not his fault. The numbers don’t lie.

Watching his run unfold throughout the year, I am not that shocked by #1. Watching the tennis in real time, we were able to see the campaign unfold before our very eyes.

Taking a step back, however, and not hiding from anything I’ve said on these pages of this blog, I am quite shocked how the tennis gods facilitated the rise of a 31 year old Nadal to #1 in the world. I have to acknowledge my very critical commentary on the crafty lefty. Even if you aren’t going to call me out, there you have it.

But as the season winds-down, we also have to acknowledge that this hasn’t ended all that great for the Spaniard (how in the hell do I say THAT after he reaches YE #1 for a 4th time in 2017, tying Johnny Mac, Lendl, and Novak. Remarkable stuff!).

Word is he’s probably not even playing London. We’re still in the land of speculation, but that’s almost certain to materialize in the next few days. More hard courts, along with the top eight players on tour, including one very hungry and motivated five-time WTF champ.

I stand by my assertion that we will know who is truly POY after Paris and London. Roger got that disturbing Basel title out-of-the way and has skipped Paris to prepare for London. Why? Because the WTF is the fifth major, folks. WTFs and YE #1s are practically a combined reward for a season’s dominance.

As I’ve said, Nadal is the player of the year as we speak. Points, No. 1, two majors, a third final. . .tough to argue.

But if Federer wins the WTF, his case will be equally impressive. Look at WTF and YE #1s. They’re quite the parallel, practically synonymous. I thought Nadal would be healthy enough for this ever-important end-of-the-year test after his self-inflicted right knee injury in Shanghai 😉  I thought he’d make London a priority.

At the same time, he’s still #1. . .

To be continued. . . tomorrow, where we qualify 2017, aka the Murkovic disappearance and ATP field implosion, and how a 36 year-old ended-up really playing like a 36 year-old, including his God-forsaken racquet!

Stay-tuned. We have a lot of work to do!

I Juan You to Cheer for Del Potro

ao

Folks, a post is coming later today/tonight to get us caught-up. The boys have been in full flight since, after all, London’s Calling . . . “to the faraway towns / Now war is declared and battle come down. . .”

That intertext was a no-brainer.

Do you Juan to know another no-brainer?

Root for the Argentine!  Or I rescind your Mcshow membership (whatever that means).

We need DPo in London, which is about as likely as me getting a writing staff together to avoid these unfortunate lapses in Mcshow Blog content creation. Despite my proposal, all is quiet on the western/eastern/middle eastern/far eastern/southern hemisphere front.

Your patience, then, is much appreciated.

Talk to you later today/tonight PST.

ATP Youth On the Rise

The complicated discussion of the ATP youth took a more positive spin last week (for which I will provide a more positive spin), which naturally follows from play earlier in the year and is actually part of a basic cycle of life: the young grow, mature, become stronger and more refined in order to overcome their elders. However (and this has become pretty redundant over the last ten years or so), the this discussion has been suffocated by the delayed/nonexistent fulfillment of the youth (the lost generation) on the ATP.

This is really a discussion/essay/thesis all to itself. What the fuck has happened to the younger generation of players who should have been poised to make more headway into the Masters and major level tournaments? Most will say that’s because the big 3 (or 5) have been just too strong/great/wonderful/heroic blah blah blah. But that doesn’t excuse a more genuine effort from players not named Fedal or Djokeray or Wawrinka. The emptiness of challenge from the field against these top dogs as been bewildering.

We saw glimpses of the Dimitrov talent in January where he swept a solid field at Brisbane and then made a solid run in Melbourne, finishing with a stand-up effort against Nadal in that classic AO SF.

But it wasn’t just his results. I wrote a bit, excitedly, about his all-court game showing so much promise early-on. He’s baby-Fed for a reason, but does have his own style and it’s an ascendant style that should frighten the stationary, defensive status quo of the tour. But he’s failed to break-through, whether that was in Melbourne vs. Nadal or afterwards, at IW, Miami, on clay or even the lawns of SW19 where he gave the tennis world all sorts of hope back in 2014 when he made the WB SF, losing to Djokovic in a tight four-setter 64 36 76 76. This is merely trivia at this point. His consistency has been an issue certainly, but his loss to Federer at WB this year seemed to really expose the Bulgarian’s glaring weakness: his serve. At 6′ 3″ he should be much more imposing on that feature of his game.

Nishikori makes perhaps the best case of this era’s “youth,” but despite this rumor based only on consistency (ironically, given his investment in injury), he’s without a Masters title, and only one major final appearance (’14 USO). This we’ll find pretty much describes most youthful candidates.

Raonic? WB final appearance, some major SF appearances, as well. But I’ve never thought he was much of a challenger beyond a big serve.

Cilic and Del Potro are perhaps the two that really do symbolize this group’s short-comings. Cilic captured his one major (’14 USO), but has had massive consistency issues since (though has looked quite good at times this season on multiple surfaces deep into draws). Del Potro is just a sad story. Hopefully he can rebound in the near future (saw signs of an improved BH), but by winning his first major at 20 years of age, and showing all kinds of character in big matches against the big 3 early-on, this legacy will have tennis fans scratching their heads, and mumbling the shoulda coulda woulda eulogy in their tennis dreams.

There are just too many Dolgopolovs and not enough Del Potros.

But there’s a new era in town. It’s about time, right?

This youth includes these gents:

Dominic Theim – 23. He looks poised, especially on clay. Some strategic changes to his game will open-up success on the other surfaces, as well. We have followed him closely. His heart is in the right place; he wants to play, compete and win. It should be just a matter of time.

Sascha Zverev – 20. Has a Masters (Rome), comes from a good tennis family and added a coach (Ferrero). He’s the most serious, it seems, with a very serious game, big ground strokes, serve and mettle. Will continue to get better and at 6′ 6″ we have our Del Potro second-coming.

The Russians – Andrey Rublev (19), Karen Khachanov (21), and Daniil Medvedev (21). Khachanov has made the most noise, perhaps, but Medvedev has challenged all year and Rublev won Umag a few weeks ago, his first ATP title. Lots of potential here.

The Australians – Kyrgios (22), Tomic (24), Thanasai Kokkinakis (21) and Jordan Thompson (23). The first two are well known, and we’re getting to know the other two. We can delete Tomic based-on his continual failure in the professional ranks. Kyrgios has been documented by us all, in terms of his talent and his emotional instability. He’s arguably the most talented/gifted of this next class, but he has to find some deeper draws, some finals and some titles. He needs to keep growing along the lines of the commitment shown from Zverev.

Kokkinakis has all kinds of potential. He made the Los Cabos final last week after beating Berdych. A fine run from this youngster who’s been battling some injury the last couple of years.

I enjoyed watching this highlight between Taylor Fritz and Kokkinakis as this is potentially what the future of the tour could look like. This is a QF in Los Cabos.

This is a close match, especially that first set which more or less is decided on a ball hitting the top of the tape. Good stuff.

The Americans – Taylor Fritz (19), Frances Tiafoe (19), Jared Donaldson (20), Reilly Opelka (20), Ernesto Escobedo (21), Tommy Paul (20) and there are a few others like Frantangelo (24) and Mmoh (19). This is a good group, a lot of youth here. But, we’re seeing a lot of inconsistency (naturally) and/or just the lack of experience (strength) to muster a significant breakthrough.

For instance, I was really looking forward to a Tiafoe v Kyrgios Montreal 2R, but the American lost today to the Lorenzi 67 60 26. That just seems a lack of focus. This may be the brightest of the group, with some nice showings over the last couple of years (he played Federer pretty well in Miami ’17 early rounds losing 67 26). He’s an athlete at 6’2″ and, again, only 19.

Fritz has seen the most press given his small pedigree from Juniors and he has some tennis in the family. He became the youngest American to reach an ATP final (since Chang) with his run at the 2016 Memphis 250. He lost to Nishikori in that final. This showed all kinds of promise. He’s backed-off that a bit with some untimely losses, lack of consistency.

Donaldson beat Pouille in 1R play here in Montreal, but it looks like Pouille is having a bit of a sophomore slump. Either way, the kid Donaldson does have some fight in him and he gets Paire next.

Indeed, Pouille is having a tough time against these younger Americans. As I pointed-out in a recent post, Tommy Paul took care of him in straights in D.C. Tommy Paul has some pedigree as well from Juniors, which I clarify briefly in that previous post. He’s a clay courter by way of American east coast tennis where he grew-up playing on mostly clay.

This translates into a lot of top spin, but speaks to his ability to chase balls, keep points alive and use some of that athleticism and stamina to challenge and beat an opponent. I saw a lot of him from last week. After beating Pouille, he was asked about his next opponent, Gilles Mueller, who spanked the American in Atlanta the previous week. Paul hadn’t even been looking at the draw, didn’t really care. The demeanor was a very good look. He was brimming with confidence, which he explained grew as he found his feet and the longer rallies against these higher ranked players. A bit of that defensive tennis mentality but overall just a way to build confidence: stand your ground; get the ball back in play.

He had three MP against Nishikori in the Citi Open QF. He beat Pouille, Mueller and then had Kei at MP in the second set. The Japanese player looked fragile, actually played a bit of gamesmanship, apparently, as he looked at the end as the young American tried to close the door (Kei was not at the end). But, imho, that loopy clay-groomed top-spin came back to bite him; Paul has a ton of game and the future looks quite good for this guy, but he needs a flatter ball on this surface. At least so he can hit through the court at those critical points in the match. Three MPs.

Still, a solid week of work for the youngster.

The Rest: Canada’s Denis Shapovalov (18), Croatian Borna Coric (20), South Korean Hyeon Chung (21), France’s Quentin Halys (20), and, of course, Canada’s other bright youngster, 16 year-old Felix Auger Aliassime. Among others, of course.

As these veteran greats take tournaments and parts of seasons off, opportunity becomes rich for one or two of these youngsters to rise-up. We all want to see it. Believe me. Even if one of them beats your hero, the sport needs this young blood in a bad way.

Did I miss anyone or anything?

Another discussion that bounced high amongst the tennis crowd was the discussion of court speed. We’ll take this up in another post, but D.C. pretty much blew some minds as the center court and the Grandstand 1 court (especially) measured off the charts fast. Jim Courier weighed-in on this information and some overall views he has on court speed.

Hope you’re enjoying the tennis and the discussion.

Notes on a Wednesday

The grass continues to befuddle a few of our higher ranked players and, in fact, as you know, London this week has become a kind of journeyman’s journey.

The top three seeds are vanquished at Ageon Championships with Murray getting beat in straights by lucky loser Thompson from Australia, Raonic getting over powered by Aussie super boy Kokkinakis, who has yet to live up to the youth hype of his countryman Kyrgios, and Wawrinka falling to grass veteran F.Lopez, which we probably don’t even consider an upset; Lopez is playing well and likes the grass, a finalist last week in Stuttgart.

Nice to see the young Kokkinakis rise-up, but we need to see a lot more from him before we start putting him in the same sentence as his better half: Nick Kyrgios. Speaking of, he looks to be dealing with some hip trouble, extending from the clay, and was dismissed via retirement down a set to American Nick Young, who had some nice showings on earlier hard courts.

Winner last week in s-Hertogenbosch Gilles Muller just beat Tsonga in 2R (R16) at Ageon, so he continues to use his solid serve to advance (that final v Karlovic was an ace factory, probably not a match enjoyed by our clay court fans).

Other notable play in London is to see if Dimitrov can find some form pre-Wimbledon. He’s down a set now, so we’ll see what happens there. Cilic should be able to find some deeper draw this week in London and I’m a bit interested in watching how this young Canadian Shapovalov fares vs. Berdych today. This kid, unlike the two Australian super boys who are now 21 years-old, is still a teenager. Looks like he can play. Good test today against Big Berd.

Murray’s loss is not a good look, like the loss from Federer last week. Federer has this week to find some rhythm, but Murray has to just get his shit together at this point. Murray should be able to outlast many an opponent in the Bo5 format and probably gets Andy-Murray-819267a decent draw from the top, as the no. 1 seed. He looked like he’s looked most of the season yesterday, sluggish, defensive, uninspired. His tennis in the RG SF vs. Wawrinka showed signs of the more offensive Murray, which, combined with the world-class defense, becomes a fairly potent brand. But simple defense won’t cut it. He has to raise his level, starting confidently in a couple of weeks.

Federer should get tested in Halle. Zverev the elder might help the Swiss groove that S&V a bit. Down the draw there are some other potential interesting matches for the people’s Wimbledon favorite. Looking forward to watching some of these Halle contests with the likes of Pouille continuing to build (though he has a difficult one next with local grass authority Mayer), Khachanov, Zverev the younger, Thiem, et al.

A nice counter-point to my Djokovic post yesterday about his fall, that in my sportsman’s mind seems among the tennis intelligentsia such a whisper at what amounts to the gates of hell, would be a little commentary on the Federer milestone, upon posting his 1R Halle win against the unlucky loser Sugita: 1100 wins.

That list puts a lot of tennis history into perspective. Makes you almost want to open the door on the statistical arguments that really persevere through time and space.

When you enter the discussion of greatness in anything, you are taking for granted to key elements: genius and time. The craft of greatness has reached a highest level and this level has been maintained over a period of time that we can define in various ways, depending upon the craft.

In tennis, Federer’s career consistency is incredible. For one perspective on that, see my comparison of Federer and Nadal in terms of their 2017 level. Federer’s level is consistent with his level over the last several years. With Djokollapse (and Ljubičić, the improved BH, etc.) he has made quite a move to the winner’s circle, but the level has been high for years. Nadal’s level in 2017 is more of a surprise. Period.

This is the context of my concern for Djokovic.

Speaking of which, let’s see how Eastbourne treats the Serb. I am certainly rooting for his improved form and confidence.

French Open 2017 Aftermath

Are you all ready to move-on to grass? Wasn’t the French terre battue quite the scintillating high none the less? Let’s not get too used to these sorts of fireworks; let’s truly appreciate what is going on here. How long can these “farewell tours” last, after all?

The continuation of this story starring Fedal and their seige of the ATP tour continues to boggle the tennis imagination: their assault on the supposed top of the tour and the lost generation, which we can only hope doesn’t extend to nextGen, as these poor teenagers, like their slightly older siblings, have to be still staggering from the highs and hangovers of Melbourne and Paris.

Seeing these two elder statesman dominate like this is at first brilliant; their tennis styles and qualities are historical, perhaps the best the sport has seen.  Any doubt of this, including the consideration of other players into this specific wing of our tennis pantheon, seems to have been eclipsed by the reemergence of the Fedal comet, which was first seen in 2006-7. Hell, it’s 2017!

My playful “#2017Fedal” still stands, of course, but it’s significance has to be more closely examined, especially in light of this past couple of weeks. To the point: RG 2017 brought the tennis planet again to a searing celebratory high; but perhaps this is a cause for concern about the rest of the ATP (the history and future of the game). It’s almost embarrassing, referring specifically to what happened in Paris last week.

In other words, this is my now more thoughtful and honest takeaway from the French Open: what the fuck was that?

Seriously, what was that?

We were certainly caught-up in the matches, the different narratives (Thiem, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka), the main one being La Decima, and you and I know exactly what happened: each and every narrative was obliterated by Nadal’s conquest. What I mean by “obliterated” concerns the realization that no one, in no conceivable way, stood a chance against the 31 year-old.

What’s your take on Thiem now? Ha ha. What about Djokovic? Maybe a different surface, pal. The rest of the tour and tennis universe have returned to the worship of the Spanish clay immortal. This 2017 clay campaign seemed destined, appropriate and truly historical. This is a fair assessment. But by the conclusion of RG, everyone is trying to stay upright: Nadal has confirmed his position to challenge Wimbledon, the rest of the calendar and finish the year #1.

You and I might be quick to point to surface and style elements that complicate the above statement, but the sea change that Melbourne foreshadowed is pounding the shores of our beloved sport. We owe it ourselves to put this year into more perspective.

At least that’s what I’m going to (continue to) do.

Nadal’s run in Paris was, as we know, as dominant as he’s ever been. The only more dominant run at Roland Garros is, still, Borg’s run in 1978. Nadal lost 35 games at this year’s French whereas Borg conceded only 27 that year. Go look at the scorelines of Borg’s matches. The American Roscoe Tanner was responsible for 12 of those 27 games in the 4R. The rest of the contests are cute little baskets of bagels and breadsticks, your typical impeccable French bakery products.

(Interesting reminder of the ever-so-flawed GOAT debate: the Swedish former no.1 retired when he was 26 years-old, despite accomplishing so much — 11 majors; and more to the point, there are some of his seemingly ancient records that even the great Nadal can’t quite eclipse.)

The Spaniard’s tennis couldn’t be touched last week. Nadal’s SF and F were the real eye-openers, as his draw was fairly (or unfairly) barren. Thiem and Wawrinka were both embarrassed; or, to be fair, made exempt from any embarrassment by how dominant was Nadal. How can you blame or hold at all responsible these players in light of this absolute peak Nadal?

Truly stunning stuff. He didn’t miss. His ground strokes were nearly unreturnable; forget his ability to retrieve or  his enhanced serve (Moya’s influence seems effective); his defense was offensive. These matches weren’t even worth watching there was so little competitive balance. I was the one a bit embarrassed. Seriously.

I guess what’s so insane is the actual level of Nadal’s French Open tennis. Again, this tournament was a continuation of 2017Fedal, where two greats met in the AO final, and again in the Miami final (Roger dominated the early HC like Nadal dominated the clay). We coined #2107Fedal then, so to our credit, the theme was indeed a real development of the sport. This read on the tennis coincided with the read on Djokollapse. We made sense of this all winter and spring.

Consequently, we were reading the result of Roland Garros back in January – March.

But I have to admit that this French Open, in the end, is just bizarre. Although I just explained how we weren’t that surprised by the Nadal run in Paris, the level at which it occurred, especially in the final two matches, caught-us off-guard a bit. Of course, this was La Decima: he’s owned the venue, loves that court, the history, his success, etc. Should we be surprised by his French dominance?

We return to the discussion of confidence. Nadal has his confidence (and health) back; with the Spaniard, health has been a real issue throughout his career, partly from that style of tennis. Taking the time-off in 2016 (he’s taken time-off throughout his career) seems to have helped him get right. But I have a hard time reconciling the Nadal form of 2015 and 2016 with this past couple of weeks. It’s so so different.

Shouldn’t I say the same thing about Federer’s win in Melbourne, that it was as bizarre? Besides, he’s actually four years older than Nadal. Shouldn’t his #18 be considered a bit of a surprise, too? Sure. Federer’s run there is for the ages, remarkable, genius. I’ve included Nadal in this run as he’s risen to the challenge, played some inspired tennis, as well.

The French, then, was simply a development of this early run from Nadal; but, I didn’t quite expect the level at which it was played, the juxtaposition of that with his 2015-16, along with his age. You and I even discussed throughout the tournament the prospects of Rafa being challenged. By the eve of the final, most if not all of you had gone belly-up, conceded your man/womanhood.

Here’s why Federer’s 2017 run isn’t that surprising. Just looking at majors, let’s go back to 2014, to see how the Swiss generally played throughout the year:

2014:
AO – SF
FO – 4R
WB – F
USO – SF

2015:
AO – 3R
FO – QF (to Stan)
WB – F
USO – F

2016:
AO: SF
WB: SF
Then Federer was out the rest of the year due to injury, his first extended leave from the tour (missing the FO that year broke his incredible streak of consecutive majors).

2017:
AO: Win

Prior to the 2017 Australian Open win, Federer, dating back to 2014 was in the final four 7/10 majors, three finals.

Nadal over the same period:

2014:
AO – F
FO – Win
WB – 4R
USO – DNP

2015:
AO – QF
FO – QF
WB – 2R
USO – 3R

2016:
AO – 1R
FO – 3R and W/O, taking the rest of the year off due to injury.

Prior to the 2017 season, Nadal, dating back to 2014 was in the final four 2/10 majors, but this included a final and a win in 2014. His 2015 and 2016 seasons were pretty bad.

Federer has been consistently good on tour. Some of his “consistency” records are hallowed and, as I have argued pretty thoughtfully, have hurt him as he’s always been “there” and often facing an opponent who happens to be in a rarer peak form. Do the math.

The 2017 AO win is in line with a consistent string of deep draws and near misses from Federer. I think Novak benefitted legacy-wise (listen to the Djokerfans) by facing a 34 year-old Federer, as the Swiss still carried massive appeal/credibility.

Nadal’s career doesn’t arch that way, nor has it really ever. He’s been very up-and-down in form. We know this.

All I’m doing is putting this 2017 French Open awkwardness into perspective. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Nadal’s tennis continues to strike me as a bit odd. And this is not the case with Federer. Do not confuse the two.

We’re also talking about the very popular current topic of tennis slumps. We’re in the midst of Djokovic’s slump.

People are putting that into perspective by comparing his to other players’ slumps.

Federer’s 2013 is his “slump.” His back in 2013 caused him all kinds of trouble. He made a SF in Melbourne that year, but otherwise was pretty much a third or fourth round exit. Otherwise, Federer has been pretty consistent in his dangerous form, though age has certainly been a factor. in 2013, Federer was 31.

Nadal’s most recent “slump” (he has had several), of really half of 2014 -thru 2016 takes place when he’s 28-30 years-old.

Djokovic’s current “slump” occurs in his 29-30 years of age.

Do the math: Djokovic has time to rise, based on the Nadal model. I think they are similar in style, so this might continue to track a kind of similarity. I think Novak does find his form again, but my concern has been time. He is definitely working against the calendar at this point. The comparisons to Agassi and Wawrinka, on the other hand, don’t work. Nor does comparing Djokovic or Nadal to Federer really work. Agassi was practically out of the sport, had a very inconsistent career and Stan is simply the Enigma (late bloomer, rarified form, etc.). Federer has an historical consistency really beyond reach.

Nadal’s form at the French was simply surprising, for me. Is La Decima surprising? Not at all. But the level at which he played, based on his track record is.

Back to confidence: you might want to say this is Nadal at Roland Garros, on the Court Philippe Chatrier, a place that simply inspires a kind of dominance over his opponent that only history can explain (his record a the French is 80-2 and the score lines are graphic).

But it’s been almost three years of ordinary and less-than-ordinary tennis from Nadal.

All this means is that his historical feat of the La Decima, at 31, in the manner with which it was done, is insanely remarkable.

And for the record, I am not surprised, necessarily, by #10. He’d won 9. This isn’t the surprise. Moreover, for me, this doesn’t add much to his clay legacy. His record indicated prior to this that he is the clay GOAT. So #10 doesn’t move that needle.

It’s his championship tennis bedside manner that has many people aghast. Me especially.

Is he the favorite now going into Wimbledon? We will turn our attention to some of that next, have a few things to say about Roger’s “no more breaks” comment (sounds like he’s nervous) and keep pushing for that highest form of commentary ever made. 😀

To be clear, Part II of this post follows later, this evening, Pacific Standard Time.

Peace.

Miami 2017 Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks like ATPmedia blocked this video.

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

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

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

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

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

Then again, he completely controls the crowd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon.