Dominic Thiem

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.

Nadal vs Wawrinka Roland Garros Final

Nadal is up two sets to zip over Thiem as I begin this post, 63 64. I’ll have to re-write this if Dominic comes back and makes this really really interesting. But I really doubt that’s going to happen (the match has thus ended, as I edit this, with Nadal closing out the final set bageling the apprentice).

Nadal is giving Thiem a clay lesson on the Court Philippe-Chatrier at Roland Garros today. Not sure many of us saw this, which is almost like the Djokovic Thiem Rome SF a few weeks ago. There were a few short breaths of competitive tennis in the first two sets NadalTELEMMGLPICT000131440595-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqajCpFXsei0OXjDFGPZkcdBPsSdN2iVSnX82MOhj5HpAtoday (I didn’t eve watch the third set — it’s taped 😉 but the early advantage in both two sets pretty much set the tone, a clear irrefutable tone. Rafa has out-played the youngster throughout. Even from the baseline. We have seen Rafa come to net, but really this is actually more a part of his game than people think; I just thought he might need to do it a little more given the Austrian’s strength from the baseline. But the 9-time French Open champ hasn’t needed to as he’s out-hitting the Austrian from the baseline.

The summary is Rafa out-hitting Thiem (out playing him really in every way) and Thiem coming apart due to over-hitting, over-cooking his shots (too often and at that wrong time, which is pretty much saying the same thing. The apprentice needs patience like all of us apprentices need). He needs to take something off many of those ground strokes, play more maturely. A pretty obvious observation, sure.

This was the same formula in the Wawrinka match early on. He was so intent on finishing the point with his big Stan muscles that he got pretty embarrassed in that first set; for a brief moment he had a serve for 5-2. Lost the set in a TB, a set rife with Wawrinka over-hitting and error committing. Murray looked the steadier of the two.

The way the match developed, and to temper some of my criticism of Stan, is Andy played some very good tennis, very good major championship tennis. With his over-lord lording over the proceedings from the player’s box, Andy is a legitimate major championship men’s final four ticket; he’s worth the price of admission despite his tendency to chirp and bitch at the tennis gods (he should just look obediently to Lendl’s shade-covered glare between points and download the appropriate program – as Lendl is to Murray’s tennis as God is to this imperfect world of humanity).

Murray seems to have gotten his tennis going in the right direction. I suspect he will be quite the factor at The Championships at Wimbledon.

The Brit did bring that “defensive brilliance” I mentioned in my caveat to the prediction in my preview, but more to his credit: he out-hit the Swiss at times, showing some comparable offense and just gutsy tennis during critical moments of the match. Maybe I’ll post some of my tweets later, as I was chirping a bit.

So I have to qualify my criticism of Stan because Murray played valiantly, only finally going away in the fifth, 1-6. Murray is fit, but Stan is a tennis bully in these big matches over the last few years. Incredible really. He did this at the 2016 U.S. Open, where throughout the draw he would come-out slow, lose a first set, likely. Then wear-out his victim. Brutal tennis.

I don’t think he had his “A” game at all today, however. He needed that fifth set in a bad way.

Indeed, this first SF was a roller coaster, in the end Wawrinka surprising me as I had doubts midway through the match as the Swiss 3-seed decided it was time for an unforced error harvest, in June for God’s sake.

I lost count of UE when he had 70 (to Andy’s 30) in the fourth set.

Wawrinka is an enigma, to say the least (an entirely advanced discussion for another time). He stumbled and bumbled through this until late in the fourth and the fifth. I was Stan+Wawrinka+2017+French+Open+Day+Five+YIJcvjTM5PNlnot overly impressed though from a point-to-point read there was some truly magnificent points where these warriors showed real character and tennis genius.

We have the final that we predicted and wanted, so no one’s really complaining over hear: Nadal vs. Wawrinka.

I’ll push myself and write-up a little preview later, but I’m afraid there’s not much to say (of course, I will find something to say).

Lastly, in both matches (in both cases), here’s one of the thoughts I started to grapple with: the one-handers are posing an interesting philosophical question about the existence of a dominant one-hander on clay. Is it simply not to be?

We had a nice little offense-first one-hander vs. the classic two-hander defender parallel in both matches.

Like I said, what adds to this parallel is that Stan and Dom suffered a bit of what may be inherent to the one-hander – a riskier brand of tennis that has trouble sustaining and surviving in these clay street-fights that can go on and on and . . .

Stan and Dom, we all agree, have the brand that will sell a championship level tennis at Roland Garros (Stan has already proven this). But both styles made me nervous today.

Nadal looks absolutely in charge. Wow.

Actually, I do look forward to exploring this final a bit later.

And sorry if some of this seems a bit wayward – I’ve had about 3 hours of sleep, am fighting an addiction to tennis and am writing these before the last ball has even scurried into the net.

Talk to you again soon. Ha ha.

RG 2017: QF Wrap and SF Preview

Djokovic

Hopefully you read my reaction to Thiem crushing Djokovic’s dream of a return to the kind of championship tennis we saw from Novak back in 2016. To be clear, not that any of you are not aware of my general concern for all things men’s tennis, this slump/collapse/decline of Novak is fairly troubling. Though I am not a big GOAT guy (although I am more than happy to chime-in), I do look at the top of the tour in that

djokovic-madrid-2017-player-party

2017 Djokovic. . .

grand historical context. What has happened to Novak, such as losing control of his reign mid-year 2016, losing the USO final, the WTF and his #1 ranking at that point was practically careless. Big picture tennis says you have to close the deal on 2016 there, at least win the WTF and maintain #1. If that wasn’t bad enough, the slide has continued (gotten worse) in 2017: the tennis, the health of his tennis family, etc. What a disaster.

This, as I have been arguing throughout, affects massively his prized tennis legacy. Hearing his fans come forward with all of these claims of most rigged draws, best results overall on all surfaces, etc., is too little, too late (and too lame). If he doesn’t lose his way in 2016 and continue that decline in 2017, he’s in an entirely different place.

We have wanted to give Novak the benefit of the doubt, suggesting he would have enough perhaps to get by Thiem in Bo5, for instance, rely at the very least on your fight to survive and advance in that great Djoker fashion. But he’s, clearly, in so such place.

The slide continues and no one knows what will happen to this tennis great moving forward. No one. He is searching, wandering almost aimlessly it seems.

His tank of the third set was startling and definitive of this lost cause that is Novak Djokovic. Agassi gave him a bump in form, motivation, but to battle deep into these draws and withstand the kind of competitive savagery that is a Stanimal, Nadal or Thiem, not to mention a Kyrgios or a Federer this summerer (ha!), Djokovic needs stability and confidence. Where in the hell did that go?

We have discussed these slumps that are characteristic of Novak’s career. He won his first major in 2008 and the next one in 2011. Following the 2011 masterpiece, he struggled to get to 2015-16. So this is not necessarily an unprecedented drop in form from the Serb; but, at the same time, this is different.

Glance about the court during that QF with Thiem. Djokovic’s box is barren, but for his seemingly perpetually disgruntled parents, the well-behaved younger brother, the sinister wife (sorry, calling it like I see it) and the odd, creepy or dopey (depending upon your view) character that is Pepe, a caricature of some kind of new age spiritual leader, meaning Djokovic is on some kind of spiritual pilgrimage?

Move your eyes to the court and there you have Novak gifting the match to Thiem once he’s fully realized that his dream is crushed, which is probably a good move here in the QF with Rafa and Stanimal (maybe Andy) waiting in two future octagons.

This is sad, folks. I’d welcome the task of resurrecting Djokovic: firing his parents, the wife and her pet Pepe, and putting together a solid coaching and support staff (that he probably shouldn’t have fired in the first place).

Unfortunately, I’m not in that position. Good luck, Novak. Watching you tank the match like that was pretty piss poor. The last impressions I have of the Serb are informed by those two images above.

Semi-finals

Did you see the Wawrinka v Cilic QF? I thought Marin might put forth a bit of a fight, despite the brutal H2H with Stan and the Man’s recent run here at RG. But this was a man playing a child. Everything about this had mismatch written all over it.

Stan’s huge serve (closing-out the first set with a booming ace, for instance) and FH right now are the bread and butter of his dominance and always have been. The problem for his opponents, especially those unlucky to play him in a major final, concerns his adding the BH (blooping and assaulting CC and unplayable DTL) to this hearty fare of bread and butter. Stan keeps things pretty simple and it’s a devastating brand of tennis.

But again: when he’s got both wings going, hitting lines and serving well, he is a mature, potentially angry and punitive sort of opponent.

Nice to see Andy get through the beatable Nishikori; dropping the first set and coming back to win definitively has to bode well for the Scottish no. 1 seed.

So who do we have here? At this end of the draw, we’re in near coin-flip mode. Never the less, Stan just seems so stable and destructive right now. He hasn’t had to work very hard in these wins, meaning he hasn’t dropped a set. However, this is a guy who’s pretty comfortable going 5. He’s fit, which has generally been the case under Norman, who was always one of the fitter guys on tour.

The ball striking seems so pure and powerful – and he wants to avenge last year’s SF loss to Andy. We’ve come to know this version of Stan and believe he’s probably the one to advance from that top half of the draw.

The only qualification would be Andy’s most brilliant defensive tennis showing-up to go along with some flatter ground-strokes that can hurt Stan. If Murray is going to sit back there and lob short balls at the Swiss, he’ll get pummeled. But if Murray can play backboarFrench-Open-2017-results-Andy-Murray-Stan-Wawrinka-813140d and frustrate with some deft use of the drop, effective serve, etc., who knows. I think we’d have to see, in other words, a bit of a drop from Stan. I feel like I’m wasting words here a bit. Wawrinka looks finals-bound.

Think about how this tournament has unfolded:

SF #1 Murray v Wawrinka. (1 vs 3)

SF #2 Nadal v Thiem. (4 vs 6)

All four of these players call clay home (Murray’s welcome mat is only somewhat newer). This is the most ideal final four we could think of, perhaps with Goffin replacing Thiem for those fans of the Belgian out there. But Thiem’s rise has been more dramatic, as he’s younger, has a fantastic style (old school, brash), a tremendously gifted game, especially for this surface. Murray has risen to defend his ranking, finally. Wawrinka finally shows us the goods, which usually does occur when the stakes are highest.

And in this year’s version of the French Open, we get what has to amount to the glorious swan song of Rafa, at his favorite venue, coming at the close of a throw-back and amazing clay court season. Seems like old times, right?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is called — as I would hope you know by now — 2017 Fedal.

Rafa’s run has been obscene. The scorelines are scary. We know this. He’s marching toward La Decima. We know this, as well.

What we do not know is how this SF vs. Thiem is going to play-out. Lets’s cut to the chase.

Nadal is favored and should be. His magic around this court, his experience and incredible mastery of the competitive landscape is legendary. In other words, for all the brilliance and youth that Dominic will bring to this battle, Nadal will probably find a way.

He will need to use the entire court, which is fine since he’s become one of the better all-court players, to be fair. He will need to come to net, actually, vs. Thiem. These will be Dominic-Thiemopportunistic attacks. Watch how this plays-out. Djokovic was dead in the water sitting back there trying to predict and counter the Austrian’s big artillery. Nadal will move.  I am almost certain of this. He has to come to net, keep Dominic off-balance and finish points earlier. Federer will find much pleasure in watching his friendly rival battle this young clay master, using this more mature style. This has been part of my criticism of the Serb: his game, wait for it, is limited. Tough to age in this sport sitting back and retrieving all day.

On the other hand, the Austrian has a bit going for him. He has now, attribution here goes to one of the TV commentators, scalped all 4 of the big 4. He fears no one. He beat the Spanish King in Rome a few weeks ago, in straight sets. This came from a series of matches with Nadal in which he made small adjustments that enabled him to close the gap and finally break-through.

You have seen my take on his use of the DTL. This is CRITICAL to Thiem’s outcome. If he can successfully employ this variety in his monstrous baseline attack, Rafa is in for a long and bumpy ride.

What is the most devastating aspects of Stan’s one-hander? DTL. Roger’s? DTL. The CC shot is obviously effective. But Thiem has to mix-in the DTL, which only finishes most points since he’s probably pushed his opponent off the court wide on the deuce side (speaking of his BH DTL). This is true of his FH DTL. CC is great, and necessary, but he has to use the DTL to wear-out Nadal. Keep your eye on this dynamic.

I don’t have the stats in front of me here, but Thiem is hitting the ball and spinning the ball harder than anyone else at this point, even Rafa.

To summarize, Rafa needs to employ the variety of a more full-court game-plan. Dominic needs to employ the variety of his groNadalGettyImages-692153554_1920x1080_959987267790und-strokes DTL.

Sure there are many many more factors. The serve will be critical. The ROS could be a deciding factor, especially if Rafa can get into Dom’s service confidence. A break of serve here and there could decide this.

And of course many of you are probably saying Rafa will just pound Thiem’s one-hander. Could be. But they’ve played recently. Adjustments have been made. Still, that will be something to watch.

Lastly, although this has been implied throughout this post, the mental framework of this match between Nadal and Thiem will be interesting. Thiem caught a break in the QF because Djokovic is broken and the Serb quit in that match (this is quite disturbing for many out there – that he would tank like that); Nadal will not resort to such a thing. No way. The Spaniard will be a nightmare, mentally, I suspect.

Can Thiem keep maturing before our very eyes? For instance, he has to pick the right times to hit DTL. Not when he’s getting pushed back and trying to stay in the point. He has to be smart in how he employs this variety and his approach in general.

The mental strength of these players, all four, will be on display in these next two matches.

Obviously, there is so much more to consider, but I’ll leave it there for now. Let me know what you think of the matches. I’m afraid to say that my gut tends to side with the tennis great here, so I see Nadal surviving . . . and playing Stan in the final. Holy shit that could be good.

Then again, we have a phenomenal final four (Thiem could be defining his rise to that stature this weekend). The tennis stoke is strong with these four, and with this tournament, which I hope you’re feeling with the help of Mcshow Tennis.

Let’s get it on!

Dominic Thiem Ends Djokovic’s French Dream

This was an historical match as the 2017 tennis continues to chart the catastrophic Djokollapse. Yes, we have been charting said collapse since the summer of 2016. Yes, there have been signs of recovery; and yes the future looks pretty dim for Novak as the tennis continues to lack championship quality and consistency.

Like I said after the 2016 U.S. Open, where does he go from here?

Many of you know the foresight of this blog, some of which must be attributed to his majesty (one of many brilliant readers/commenters over here at Mcshow Tennis), the comic genius who goes by Caligula. Read his first comment on my QF preview. Sure the tone might distract you, sound somewhat hyperbolic, sarcastic, etc.; but you’d be wrong, even before the match not to take him seriously, which is true genius – coating the insight (and supplementary disgust) in a more palatable humor. Bravo.

We have been seizing the opportunities to identify trouble in Djokovic despite his slow improvement throughout the clay season, which had continued seemingly at Roland Garros. Be that as it may, Caligula’s reference to a “revenge” from the Austrian speaks to the depth of his read on the Serb (which I have written about at length as well); Novak’s antics have continued to evidence trouble in Djokoland with a real sense that his ship is capsized and there’s a tale of karmic and cosmic storm to explain Novak’s tennis miscarriage.

The match seemed very much destined for revenge. I woke from my nap at 3:30am here on the U.S. west coast to catch the match at 4-4 in the first. I missed the early theatrics of the first set, which I will watch later, but I watched the duration with eyes-wide-open.

See the point at 4-4, 15-30, Thiem serving. Novak wins the point to purchase two break-Thiem_581615-dominic-thiem-french-open-2017-reuterspoints which we know would have amounted to set points. He let’s go a defiant roar reminiscent of his Rome SF antics that were accurately described as “every opportunity to inflate his declining ego against a young player who looked petrified and yet was polite not to point out the blatant frivolous indulgence that Chokovic (see Rome finale) was harnessing at his expense.” Again, well said, my lord.

Thiem reversed those breakpoints, held serve and the two players moved to settle this critical set in a TB. The TB saw Djokovic get tighter and less committed to this match and sport. He looks like half the man of 2016. What does that tell us? Either he is having massive marital problems or he was on some kind of performance enhancing drug. Some will say his win at the French last year, fulfilling a life-long goal, along with the Novak slam left him without much desire to continue on, as if he’d conquered the sport, ala his fangirls and boys’ favorite flavor ice cream. What a difference a year makes.

He is a mess. Throughout the Djokollapse, I have tried to bring people’s attention to the crisis of this tennis great, throughout several posts. Going into the 2017 season, I essentially argued: Djokovic better win the AO because the road gets more narrow, and the titles more difficult partly because of the real No. 1 seed: father time.

I will just make a quick reference here to some of my preview, which played-out to perfection. Most agree, other than Caligula, that the Serb was a relative favorite. There’s too much on the line, he has too much at stake (along with his familiarity of Thiem) not to see him as a guy massively motivated to face Nadal and defend his French Open crown.

But there was this caveat, along with my “Beliem in Thiem” t-shirts that are on order for the faithful and fashion-conscious readers of Mcshow Tennis:

“But if Thiem can continue to murder the ball from the baseline, with his added dimension of more DTL, Djokovic could be in for a long brutal match. Look at the highlights of Thiem’s Zeballos match, for instance. I am sure that his camp worked on more DTL from both wings. The inside-out FH, and the more unpredictable direction of the shot, along with his big serve and decent mobility all add-up to a player on the rise in this sport.

I beliem in Thiem, but he needs a bit of that Chokovic to show-up, become angry and errant to advance to a date with Nadal in the SF.”

Thiem was a bit reckless in this match, errors coming from some of those huge ground strokes, some of which were too much, too soon. But his change in strategy to set-up closer to the baseline, keep that more offensive court position as much as he could, and implement more down-the-line BH and FH assaults kept Djokovic totally off-balance, on the run and more and more desperate.

This Austrian’s offensive game is fearless and violent. By adding more DTL, he became almost unplayable.

And the Djoker’s errors started adding-up. I believe he had close to 35 UE.

Add to that Thiem’s big serve, the big kicking serve to the ad court, or the 130+ up the T, and his mobility – he embarrassed Djokovic at the net – and you have a very unfriendly and maybe unplayable opponent in Thiem.

I don’t think Nadal wants to play Thiem at all – Mary was right, perhaps, in her back-and-forth with McEnroe a few days ago. But one has to still favor Nadal. Like in this QF match with Djokovic, Thiem has to prove he can knock-off (on this stage) these tennis giants.

In other words, how much do you beliem in Thiem?

What this match today tells about Thiem is he does make adjustments. But we should have known this from the last month of clay. In Barcelona, Nadal pretty much dismissed Thiem 64 61. A few weeks later in Madrid, the difference was less, Nadal prevailing 76(8) 64. Only a week after that the Austrian overcame his clay master, winning their Rome QF 64 63.

We all remember the Djokovic v Thiem Rome SF. It was embarrassing for Thiem because of his annihilation 16 06 (and embarrassing for Novak because of the way he mishandled that lopsided scoreline – underscored by his retreat in the final against Zverev). Thiem made adjustments following Rome and this Roland Garros QF goes down in history as another big step forward for the 23 year-old Austrian; and another part of this bizarre decline of the Serb.

I will have much more. . .

Roland Garros QF Preview

Let’s keep this party bus rolling into the business-end of the tournament. We have big-time top-seeded match-ups as we’ve reached the final eight.

Murray v Nishikori

This leans Murray because he’s gaining confidence, having survived his draw. I would call his a decent draw with the Klizan FH, the gentle giant DPo and a rising talent in Khachanov who we love to see make a R16 in a major at 21. Murray’s isn’t the most compelling argument, but he’s here.

Nishikori has to be feeling the wear-and-tear of the clay. He survived a five-setter in R3 with the help of a rain-delay, but was able to bounce-back and beat the dangerous Verdasco in R16. If Nishikori has all of his weapons in tow, can find the energy and Chang’s winning words of wisdom, we might have a classic. Nishikori, as we know, has potential; his tennis can be lethal.

But we’ll go with the more reliable Brit who appears to have found that bridesmaid outfit (make me eat those words, Murray!).

Wawrinka v Cilic

The easy pick here is Stan, because of his game (though he looked a little troubled by Monfils), his history deep into major draws, his history on clay (a Masters and a major) and his H2H v Cilic: 11-2. Stan seems the obvious pick.

However, Cilic looks fit, getting up well to the too-common drop-shot and defending better (ROS). We know of Cilic’s unplayable, rampant form. Could this be another case of that rare bird?

The problem with this match-up is if Stan, at worst, just stays in the match, he has the fortitude to go long and nasty. Marin’s best chance is probably to hit the Swiss off the court. A tall order. Both seem to have a lot in the tank, so this should be entertaining with Stan continuing to fulfill our dreams.

Nadal v Carreno Busta

Pablo has beaten Dimitrov and Raonic along the way, but this should be a clay clinic from Nadal_hi-res-f6b9bb876bc995a1b88e9fefc63185eb_crop_northhis countryman, a raging bull who seems to have his eyes on a much bigger prize than even La Decima. Nadal is aiming to get off the court, to destroy and bury the evidence. He’s probably respecting his opponent here as he says he respects them all, but even the clay king is susceptible to a little peak behind the curtain (at the looming semi-final).

Djokovic v Thiem

The smart pick based on experience and legacy, on H2H and recent play is Djokovic. I would call this a bigger upset if Thiem wins than if Djokovic beat Nadal. Djokovic is going to be a very difficult out especially if he’s hitting the ball well. If his unforced error numbers are down, look-out.

But if Thiem can continue to murder the ball from the baseline, with his added dimension of more DTL, Djokovic could be in for a long brutal match. Look at the highlights of Thiem’s Zeballos match, for instance. I am sure that his camp worked on more DTL from both wings. The inside-out FH, and the more unpredictable direction of the shot, along with his big serve and decent mobility all add-up to a player on the rise in this sport.

I beliem in Thiem, but he needs a bit of that Chokovic to show-up, become angry and errant to advance to a date with Nadal in the SF.

Bottom-line is this could be a whale of a match. Let’s hope so.

Stay-tuned!

Roland Garros Quarter Finals

In tomorrow’s matches, Murray will beat the 21 year-old “Special-K” (Karen Khachanov) but what a nice run from the Russian who beat Berdych and Isner en route to his R16 date with the no. 1 seed. Murray looks like he’s finding some energy and stronger form with Lendl looking on and the stakes terribly high. Needlesstosay, Murray losing here is rich failure.

Murray will play Nishikori in that top QF, meaning the Japanese guy who survived his match with the 21 year-old South Korean, Hyeon Chung, will beat Verdasco in that R16 andy-murray-cropped_40e0pw88ma4l1ormc5muwl1htmatch tomorrow. That I am picking Nishiouchi means I am insane, but this is all part of the contradiction of me when I called the top half the least reliable draw in the history of men’s underwear.

In fact, I should stick with Fernando here. The only reason stems from Kei’s likely inspiration in pulling-out that 5-setter. He’s probably injured (which again makes the Verdasco call smarter).  Just win the match Nishikori; quit bullshitting everyone.

Stan will play Cilic in that other QF because Stan has no patience for a guy like Monfils and Stan does look deadly with this FH on serial killer mode. Even his exhibition match with Fognini gave him great hitting practice. He seems to be dialing-in his Stanimal zone. God forbid Monfils provides any sort of antics resembling some of his other tank-jobs. Stan gets impatient when an opponent requests medical. He should deliver a solid beat-down to the Frenchman.

Stan+Wawrinka+2017+French+Open+Day+Three+Q5496lgplz6lCilic is rampant like he was at Wimbledon and Cincinnati last year. We won’t bring-up USO 2014, but we have seen Cilic like this before. He can flatten the ball, hit big, and he’s returning serve well. He won the 2005 French Open Boys’ championship. He can play clay for his size; he looks comfortable.

Of course, Anderson has game, too. He beat Kyrgios and Edmund, both young, both big strikers. I just like Cilic, which, like Nishikori, makes me want to take a cold shower with a stiff drink.

The QFs are set.

As for what happened today, I watched most of the Djokovic victory. He looked good today and clean in beating a tough clay courter.

The first set TB, of course, played a big role in this match and the Spaniard got very close to taking that first swig of momentum that could have made this a very different match. He was down 0-4 in the TB before bouncing back and making things quite tense for the Djokovic camp. After securing the TB at 7-5, the Serb was in control.

The one caveat I’ve had with Djokovic through out this slump has been how he handles adversity. He hasn’t handled it very well. Schwartzman doesn’t have the tennis to close-out Djokovic despite leading 2 sets to 1. And that Schwartzman match probably did give Novak more confidence, winning a 5-setter (he said this in his PC).

Deeper in the draw that will be more difficult. Even a guy like Ramos-Vinolas would have been quite the menace had he won that first set. His FH was making the Serb work and his fitness and clay comfort were real factors.

But Novak’s ground strokes from both sides got deeper and cleaner as the match wore-on, partly from the relief of winning that first set, I suspect. Still, the Serb’s chances here boil-down to the obvious, whicNovakhi-res-6490899e4f9264d4e511a9d7939fc512_crop_northh is evidenced in the matches: is he playing into peak; or is his tennis still too inconsistent and given match difficulty, will his emotions get the better of him?

It was interesting to hear McEnroe and Carillo call the match. The commentary is pretty abundant. They talked about how Djokovic’s own antics and unpopular behavior should be seen as an extension of his family’s, which is well-documented. I have pointed to this quite often, mainly to call bullshit on the Nolefruitcakes out there who are at a loss as to why people don’t “buy” Nole (will Lacoste become a more popular brand?).

More to our concern was an exchange where Mary suggested that we ask this question, at the QF: who would Nadal rather face: Novak or Thiem? Mary said she’d caught wind of Nadal’s camp and claimed that the Nadal camp is more concerned with Thiem. Johnny Mac immediately chimed-in: No way. Mac clarified his view that Novak is a much bigger threat to Nadal here at the French.

I’m with Mac. We will never know exactly because Nadal will only play one of them. Despite Thiem’s win over Rafa at Rome, Novak is playing into form here, it appears to me, and in a SF, if Novak takes care of Thiem in the QF, Nadal will have his hands full.

The experience alone says Novak is a bigger threat.

I think with Rafa’s unbelievable run throughout the spring clay and especially here in Paris this week, he’s become a huge favorite (his match score lines, his confidence, La Decima, etc.). Many people think the championship is on Nadal’s racquet.

Which means Novak is an underdog. He is an underdog, should be the underdog in a potential SF. But with his direction of play ->> toward peak and Nadal trying to hold-on to this astonishing level . . . very interesting.

And I am not forgetting Thiem. Of course we recall the beat-down two weeks ago in Rome at the hands of Novak, but this is a different context and the Serb has shown some up-and-down form from match to match.

You know we beliem in Thiem, but the Serb, as we have been predicting over the last few days, might be finding a necessary peak. Necessary for two reasons:

  1. We find it necessary that he continues his climb in form and consistency to overcome his slump demons and his opponents (some of whom are playing at a very high level) for any chance to win this major.
  2. We find it necessary that he find this peak because winning this major (as I have argued since his USO loss) is critical to his legacy. A loss would extend the slide, imho.

The second week of the French Open is here, ladies and gentleman. Enjoy.

Roland Garros R16

The Murray Del Potro match transpired as we’d hoped. No one wants to play DPo. But you have to, Andy. Don’t disappoint us, Murray.

Wawrinka has a good draw to the SF. Fognini all the way down to Cilic in that quarter don’t belong on the court with Stanimal when he’s hitting his FH like that, keeping everyone nervous with the BH, big serve. Stan not making the SF would be a bigger loss than Murray not making the SF.

rafael-nadal-french-open-second-roundNadal is outrageous. Happy Birthday, clay GOAT. His match today was vintage Rafa. The magic he has on clay that went on display in Monte Carlo is looking oppressive. His game is flying. Tough to think someone will have the focus and the tennis to beat him in Bo5.

Novak got a little scare today against “the tough but diminutive Diego Schwartzman, who loves the clay.” Not a good sign, but I said that in my last post because I’ve watched the little guy win on clay. Novak getting into so much trouble on his serve has to worry the club. Becker developed Novak’s serve and all-court awareness. Agassi will focus on the Serb’s baseline bludgeonry.

Saw some interesting discussion on Novak’s BH and general movement. Way down.

Can he find the magic? That’s what he’ll need to exchange with the GOAT.

French OpenHowever. I’m holding serve on Thiem. I beliem in Thiem.

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Cheers.