Clay

Day 6 at the U.S. Open

The carnage and chaos continue. There’s some of this to expect in such an unpredictable sport.

I’ve done some light investigative work (part of which is simply looking at scores) and seeing that the HC of NYC have been totally fucked-with. Before the tournament even city-of-richland-sand-court.3began, people on-site said the tournament had dumped a bunch of sand upon resurfacing Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong. This info is a bit hit or miss, but the courts have been playing pretty slow.

“Mcshow, you’re complaining about surface speed like all of those dumbshit Djokovic fans complained during and after AO 2017.”

Wrong. Hard courts are supposed to be quick. NYC is especially known for speed, so anyone thinking this (and not bold enough to leave a comment), take a deep breath and ask someone for a hug.

In a way, the deeply depleted draw here this year has pushed us to start to think out-loud about the state of the game. I’ve already argued that the injuries to all of these top players actually coincide with age and some of this injury is simply coincidence, as well.

Almost as troubling as where the sport is now is some of the reaction. True tennis historians are talking about changing majors to Bo3, etc. I’m not that mad at these simpletons because A) match format has been changed before at the USO – these change agents, then, have some history so support their fragility; and B) we’re all human and can think and say things that really make no sense.

LOOK AT MORE SIGNIFICANT FACTORS AND CAUSES THAT COULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SPORT’S ILLNESS.

Proposing changes to a sport at the expense of the competitive spirit is political — and politics are insidious: financial and shallow.

A more thoughtful exploration of change includes honesty, difficulty and complexity. Players are injured? Let’s make changes to the biggest and best tournament of the year? I understand this same change was made back in the 70s, almost 50 years ago. But FIRST look at some other factors that show that you have a brain and a heart and actually care about this sport — which revolves around history, competition and fairness.

Back to the surface at the NYC venues: tough to nail-down exactly what’s happening on each court in terms of the speed (if you have any insight on this, share it with us), but some of the results are staggering.

The Schwartzman victory over Cilic yesterday is chilling. I am not a big Cilic guy, but the fact that the 5′ 7″ dirt devil destroyed the guy with NYC and Cincy titles should raise a few more eyebrows. They played on Grandstand, I’m pretty sure, and Cilic has been fighting a bit of an injury – but all players are. I know Schwartzman made the Montreal QF; he’s undoubtedly a fierce competitor who’s raised his game this summer, but beating Cilic like that in NYC seems a bit odd.

Let’s just hear some people other than Pam Shriver and Brad Gilbert on Twitter talk about the slowing of the courts at the U.S. Open. Why isn’t this more of a discussion?

Now, to be fair, the sand allegedly wears-off through the second week of the tourney, so perhaps the conditions will quicken; we can only hope this is the case.

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As for today’s matches, Dolgopolov has made straights out of Troicki already (I mentioned on twitter that I’d entertain action on the Dog v Nadal affair – I say the Dog rolls-over, after tearing-up the bracket. He’s had his fun. Look for a head-first dive in that R16).

Thiem turned his match around v the dangerous 2017 Mannarino and looks to go up 2 sets to nil.

Should be interesting to see who’s got real 2nd week form from some of these top-half contenders playing today.

Most are interested in Nadal and Federer and how can you not be curious. Federer v Lopez will be the night match on AA. I do find Federer’s-back to be a tremendous mystery. If one has a back issue, I don’t think one can play at all at this level. If you’ve had a bad back, you know. Tennis might be the most physically grueling sport on earth — a bad back is . . . debilitating. How would he “hide” such an injury? A bad back just doesn’t work here, despite the fact that his tennis does look hobbled. In other words, I don’t think you can play even at diminished capacity with a bad back. This type of injury would force you to call it quits, done, buh-bye against these kinds of opponents, on this kind of stage (hard courts, Bo5).

Nadal should be fine given his draw, but the upset virus in among us, so no one is safe. Sarcasm alert: One benefit that Mayer may have is that all of his preparation for this match has been clay, so he’s probably in peak condition for a day match on AA. Of course, he’s playing the clay GOAT, so good luck (Taro Daniel was also a clay specialist, which has to make your head tilt, a bit).

My ATP Youth On the Rise post several weeks back continues it’s surge. Let’s see this whole updraft of youth save the face of this tournament. I mentioned in a comment that  a Thiem v Shapovalov final wouldn’t be at all unappetizing. Or Rublev v Pouille. Ha ha. I like it.

Did you see Zverev the Elder v Isner last night? If you are not a fan of S&V, turn-in your membership to club Mcshow and have a good one. This is such a refreshing, old-school style and game. He frustrates the crap out of these “top guys.”

Watching Mischa hog-tie Murray in Melbourne and Isner last night on AA is right up there with my other favorite dishes. Tennis offense. Of course he’s at the net almost every point. Maybe Federer should polish that tactic. So far, Fed has looked lost going to net. But on these courts, especially, if you’re not moving and striking all that well, finish the point early already.

Talk to you after today/tonight’s tennis. Enjoy!

Madrid Final and Rome Draw

Madrid 2017

The SF and F matches went pretty much according to form. Though Cuevas played well, knocking-off Zverev in the QF (playing well of late, generally), we figured the future of clay would advance. Though a lot of people are critical of Thiem’s scheduling, he’s been learning how to win for a few years now, so these deep runs are becoming more and more common place. He belongs. He’s podium material.

I only saw highlights of the Nadal v Djokovic SF. My own scheduling got in the way here. However, his tennis is not “moving” me; I’m not really looking for a Djokovic match these days. 14nadal1What I tell people often, who are trying to reach an audience: if you don’t feel it, nor will your audience. Djokovic is only going through the motions. But we knew this going in. Those who think Djokovic made things difficult for the Spaniard to close. . . come on.

I don’t trust Djokovic right now because I don’t trust him under pressure. He had nothing to lose down a set (2-6) and looking at the shower and an early flight to Rome. He has to play well to see adversity. He isn’t playing well enough to see any real drama in a match. Nishikori went running (Djokovic needed that match), so he had, really, no chance in the SF. Djokovic is all smiles. We need the madman.

Thiem, on the other hand, played brilliant today. How about some progress on a week-by-week basis? Last week, he crumbles at 4-5 in the first and the match is gone. Today, he’s at 4-5, down 0-40 to Nadal – three set points!

The Austrian fights back to even it at 5-5. The TB is even better. Nadal saw a total of 5 SPs before finally closing. The Dom is pop corn pop-star stuff. He got another clinic from the master today, but showed much improvement. The TB got to 5-3 Nadal, looking pretty grim for Thiem, but he fought that off, got it to 5-5. Just brilliant stuff from both players.

The actual tennis analysis takes us straight to, as I said in my last post, court positioning and ball depth. Thiem likes to play from the men’s locker room, scorching one-handers and his big (fallible) FH like a street-fighter from about 100 feet behind the BL. He actually got more offensive today, moved in, enabling him to engage his BH eaNadalandThiem-1rlier (ala Federer) and pin Rafa a bit to his own BH. That’s how these guys try to escape Nadal attacking their one-hander: feed his BH. Thiem went toe-to-toe with the clay GOAT today. Much growth in the young man. Back-to-back finals on the red clay vs. El Rey de la Decima (sure Madrid wasn’t a 10 spot, but you know what I’m talking about).

Of course, kudos to Nadal. What a throw back. Watching Thiem and him battle today was a bit of that Federer v Nadal of old – work with me here. Thiem has a bit of that raw offensive big serve/first strike/one-hander attack to counter-balance the soccer mid-fielder’s strength and athletic pitch mastery of Nadal. One of the biggest take-aways from this month-long clay master-class from Rafa is his court fluency, how to read and execute the drop shot, or the nasty BH, running around that short ball to end the point on his inside-out FH. He’s the chess master. Have always been perplexed by the fact that I truly believe clay is a less sophisticated surface and game, yet the king of clay is perhaps the smartest guy out there in shorts and tennis shoes. Bravo. Much respect to Rafa.

2007 or 2012?

We’ve been relishing this 2017 Fedal phenomenon since January. What a remarkable season thus far. As if we’re in a time machine. I said something to the extent of how ironic: Fedal is on top of the sport and there is no sign of the Djokovic-Vajda project. As Djokovic bid his ~10 year-old box good-bye, Roger and Rafa are destroying the tour. Flash-back to 2007, right?

Or is this more like 2012? What’s the connection? Well, Rafa did win FO and Roger did win WB, but the bigger deal was the massive drop in form (relatively speaking) from Djokovic. 2011 many will argue was peak Novak, where he blitzed the ATP for three majors and numerous other titles. The following year, however, other than the AO (which he wins almost every year), he went away. That appears to be the case this year, following his incredible ’15-’16 run. In fact, even 2013 was pretty rough by Novak’s standards.

What explains these giant peaks and valleys of the Serb’s dominance? In other words, we’ve been here before: not only with Fedal taking hold of the men’s game, but with Djokovic almost vanishing. If you think about it, sounds pretty natural: sustained dominance is difficult.

Or is it 2009?

Here are some videos of Madrid 2009. Nadal had the epic SF with Djokovic, which he survives, of course. Federer pretty much routines Nadal in the final 4 and 4. Look at the S&V Federer employs on MANY points. If he’s serving, he’s coming in. Brilliant stuff on the clay. Sure Nadal passes, but that’s pretty relentless stuff from the Swiss.

Thiem doesn’t have the S&V of Federer, but you saw him use it a bit today, which was pretty effective. Watch the Fed/Nadal highlights. Some of the S&V is all-time. Federer goes on to win Roland Garros that year (The Djokers say but he didn’t have to face Nadal. When Djoker won RG, he didn’t either). Compare Thiem today to Federer. Certainly different, but glimpses and he’s going nose-to-nose (new body part) with Rafael.

Lastly, I did want to get another shot off at Nishikori:

Asked what are his plans now, Nishikori replied: ‘I’ll take couple days off, for sure. I will plan to play Rome, but we’ll see. I cannot promise to play or pull out right now. I feel a chance, you know. I just need couple days, I guess, to recover well. But French is more important. We’ll see next couple days.’

It was inflammation‘, Nishikori explained furthermore. ‘Now I think it’s getting better. It was my first tournament. So, you know, I was feeling a lot of little bit issue everywhere. I think that’s little bit causing to get little bit of pain. But I was expecting to have some pain. I tried to get used to little bit of pain. Yeah, hope I can get better.’

Inflammation? Kei needs to find a good spot in the top 20, say 15 or 16 and ride-it-out.

Source.

Rome (link)

Novak has Nishikori again in his Rome quarter. There are a few other interesting names in that quarter that the Djokerfans might not approve of. Yawn.

Nadal has Thiem in his quater. Really? That’s the best you can do, Rome? A Nadal v Thiem QF?

Wawrinka and Cilic have their own little irrelevant quarter.

Then the Murray/Raonic party in the top quarter. Does he even beat Fognini in his first match?

More to come as this plays-out.

I’m in tennis watching and writing mode so stay-tuned and feel free to chime-in. Interesting stuff for sure.

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.

Madrid and the Clay Maze

Nadal, Federer (actually), Djokovic (generally), Murray (hopefully), Thiem and Goffin (stylistically), Stan (if and when), and perhaps a few others make up a short list of guys whose games translate to clay.

Otherwise the analysis of a draw like Madrid is witchcraft. Clay is witchcraft, at best. Otherwise, as I and many before me have argued, it’s a kind of dumbed-down tennis. No question.

That translates to odd-ball tennis.

Your Monte-Carlo and Barcelona villain/superstar Ramos-Vinolas is out to another clay maker Schwartzman. Been watching Murray struggle a bit with this Marius Copil, nice one-hander out of Romania (though Murray appears to be headed toward 5-2 in the second – took the first 6-4).

I enjoyed the end of Cuevas v Bellucci. I swear. Cuevas, like the Romanian, has a nice one-hander to give the tennis a bit more than the clay generally makes available. Thanks, boys. The erratic Brazilian served for match in the third of a typical clay adventure, but Cuevas broke back to go to a TB. Which was another adventure, the Uruguayan going up 6-2 and finally closing-out the set and match 8-6.

Guys like Dimitrov, Kyrgios and Tsonga are fighting for their lives (and our tennis enjoyment) to get through to the next round. Pouille is about to get whacked by fellow young Frenchman, Herbert, a #88 over #13 – standard clay foray.

Sock is out, the Brit Evans is out (not a huge loss but again just the nature of the beast here where the everyman/journeyman/etc is in tremendous “form” on clay).

The sky is blue, the air we breathe, and the clay is uneven.

The draw looks quite similar to MC, as I’m sure others have noticed.

Some interesting match-ups take place in the next few days, so long as any semblance of talent can survive.

Djokovic has a French/Spanish omelette in the next few matches involving Almagro tomorrow and then winner of Lopez v Simon. Djokovic, I suspect, will get a little boost from this mental retreat, the novelty of a fresh start, a lightening of the load, so to speak. But he should be challenged on the Madrid clay here early. Those left at the top of that quarter can pose a threat on clay, as well.

But Djokovic has to go deep, at least show his wares in a SF v Nadal. Djokovic can’t just djokovic-madrid-2017-player-partyshow-up in Rome and/or Paris and dominate the world. He has to start now. We’ll give him a pass on the team turmoil, but he needs to get some work done, now. Good luck to the Serb. As we’ve said, we need him deep in these draws. More on that in a minute.

In the next quarter, we have an ailing Nadal (ear?) ready to go with Fognini, then probably Kyrgios, which leads to a survivor here playing the survivor of all kinds of trouble in Raonic (who showed-up in Istanbul last week in the final), Goffin, and Muller (finalist last week in Portugal).

Top half looks pretty interesting with a power patch in the Cilic/Verdasco/A.Zverev/Berdych part of a quarter to settle things with the likes of Stan and Cuevas (but you can’t, because this is clay, count out Paire and Mahut either. Ha.).

The top of that half has some nice one-handed tennis with hopefully Thiem and Dimitrov finding their showdown in R16. Murray should find his SF, but we never know these days.

The struggles of the top two ranked players continue until we’re notified.

I alluded to the fact that Djokovic could get a little boost from this skin-shedding of sorts, a newness perhaps washing over his box and his tennis. Madrid and the rest of us are all on watch here. How does Djokovic fare in Madrid? Critical.

Please remember: as far as minimizing Djokovic’s concern here in 2017 based-on the logic that he has many years to accumulate trophies and titles, etc., such a flaw is donning a dunce cap.

He turns 30 this month. We have been over the age factor in the men’s game. To summarize, though there are exceptions, and one could try to argue that the game is seeing older players thrive in the advance of technology (and nutrition and motivation) that characterizes this era (with the likes of Karlovic, Lopez, and others having almost second acts in their careers), don’t be fooled.

In the last several years, Agassi proved to be the biggest exception, winning the Australian Open when he was 32 and making a USO final when he was 35.

Of course, Federer has shocked the trend with his AO win this year at 35. But these are exceptions and all-time greats, especially Federer. One might (and should) point to Wawrinka. For sure he’s a late bloomer. He won his third major (2016 USO) as a 31 year-old. He turned 32 in March, so we’ll see if he continues to be a bit of an outlier.

Novak has time not on his side. He could win WB this year and the USO. Granted. But as I have argued, his game is not ideal on these surfaces, especially if the grass turns-out to be “fast.” All kidding aside, there are a lot athletes and games that will come into play on the grass, not to mention the rejuvenated Federer will be lying in wait.

Novak can win the USO, but this has historically been tough from him to do.

So then we’re 30.5 coming around to AO 2018, and FO 2018 when he’s going to turn 31.

The difficulty only increases.

Djokovic, with his Agassi super-coach or not, needs to get to work.

We’ll have more on that story as the details surface and filter.

Speaking of surface, enjoy the tennis!

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?

😀

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.

Monte Carlo QF – The Survival of the Serb

Following the Djokollapse of 2016, we discerned even after a win over Murray in the 2017 Doha final that Novak still had much work to do to convince any of us actual tennis detectives that he was out of trouble. The Djokofans rejoiced, sending him on his merry way to Melbourne for his annual AO crown. He collapsed in the 2R in AO (to an “unplayable” Istomin), only to become a victim of rigged draws where he was again thrown into the “ring” with other “unplayable” talents. Folks, the fanboy/girl BS out there is truly embarrassing.

I am finally hearing as of today that these fanboys and girls understand that Novak is not in form. It’s been about a year, we’ll call it 10 mdjokovic-monte-carlo-2017-tuesday-previewonths since the foundations started giving way. That’s a long time for people to realize that their idol’s hair is out of place.

Djokovic looked pretty bad again today. There are flashes of the Nole we have known, but then this new reality returns. I have written several accounts of this new reality, which is really not that new at all.

He’s going to get a break on the clay, as his game will stay on the BL; he has to out hit and retrieve everyone else. His serve and any semblance of a net presence are diminished; of course, the clay only enhances this part of his tennis reality. He has been pretty shaky in his first two matches.

I suppose Thiem or Goffin represent about the same kind of resistance, but my thought is Goffin is more thoroughly “trained” to die in such a match. The brash tennis of Thiem I thought might present a bit more of a contest. I don’t think Goffin has the heart to take the Djoker out.

But Nadal awaits that winner (unless pigs fly Schwartzman to the promised land) in the SF. Did you see Rafa perhaps set Zverev back a few years. Yep, he turned 20 today (yesterday) yet Nadal might have set the German back a few years tennis-wise. Wow. Sascha will have to shake that off and move on.  1 and 1 at the hands of a confident and malevolent Rafa is a scene out of a horror show. He looks very good around the court.

The guy is such a clay natural. That top spin is just a beautiful thing on this surface. He can get away with the shorter ball a bit, too, only because he can still retrieve with the best of them.

Indeed, this is a hungry Nadal. The writing appears to be on the wall. Do we get a Djokovic v Nadal SF? That would be good. That might be just what Novak needs.

No need to go into Stan or Andy at this point. Stan is the most enigmatic tennis player in the history of the world. I had a feeling, I mentioned so in my last post, Cuevas could advance there. All we do know about Wawrinka is you don’t want him in a major final. Other than that, he’s just a pink Yonex outfit running around the country club.

Murray is a mess. Again.

Let’s get these men to the SF: Cilic v Cuevas to play the winner of Djokovic v Nadal.

All that is left in Monte Carlo: the survival of the Serb.