Djokovic v Thiem in Rome SF – Edit

This is the perfect match-up for Djokovic and Nadal fans. Ha ha. Djokovic gets a legitimate test on clay (against the guy who finally did beat the incomparable Rafa), but we still have the mystery of Djokovic’s game against the current French favorite. Note the use of “current” here to leave open the door that Djokovic could use to heighten his chances in Paris with a dominant win over Thiem and then Zverev in the final.

Here we are: the future vs. the present. This is Djokovic’s time, which makes 2017 Fedal so significant. This is not Murray’s time (he got there in the absence of Federer, Nadal TENNIS-FRA-ROLAND-GARROSand Djokovic, which I’ve pointed-out a million times. Andy is a pseudo #1. He was incredibly consistent and opportunistic last summer/fall, but his ascension wasn’t really certified by the powers-that-be).

Can Djokovic knock-off the two leaders of the next generation in today’s SF and tomorrow’s F? That is the second story-line, behind the one that revolves around the Serb finding that peak form he’ll need to win a major.

Djokovic celebrates his 30th birthday in two days, Monday, the day after the conclusion of the last warm-up to Roland Garros, which happens to be a Masters, so this would be a big win either way.

Looking at the Thiem SF that starts in 20 minutes, follow along on Twitter as we watch this match.

First, let’s go back to the QF vs Del Potro. This is a perfect match-up for Djokovic. The Serb’s pin-point BH can simply pin the ailing Argentinian. It’s not even a good watch. Del Potro has ONE weapon: his FH.

Compare this kind of one-trick pony to the likes of Federer who has a dangerous serve, BH and FH, net play mastery, solid defense (5 weapons). Or Nadal, who has the magic (intangible), along with a really balanced game, obviously, the under-appreciated net play, etc.

Thiem will certainly be a bigger challenge for the Serb.

Del Potro plays handicapped with that BH and the fact that he beat Dimitrov and Nishiouchi – not a good look for those lost boys (Grigor will find some rhythm on grass and HC, mind you).

Thiem’s ground stroke game should give Djokovic all he can handle. Both wings. Can’t pin the Austrian. I hope the Austrian can mix-in the volley to affect the Serb’s comfort-zone.

Watching Djokovic play Del Potro exposes the limits (style and longevity) of Djokovic’s game. Most players throwing the kitchen sink at Del Potro’s weak BH will come-in and finish at the net, since some of those weaker slices are like lush grapefruit at a glorious summer picnic. The Serb stays at the BL and finishes. That’s limited play. His accuracy and quickness will continue to diminish. He will have to rely on other weapons. Djokovic is still just a baseline tactician. Even Nadal is more and more coming to net.

We’ll see what happens here in this second SF. Djokovic is going to stay back and trade with Thiem. Let’s see how that plays-out.

Hopefully, both players are at their best.

Can’t you smell the French?

I could see this as a preview to a French SF, with Nadal in Murray’s half.
Just saying.

Edit:

That was cringe-worthy. I said a while ago that the smiling, “happy” Djokovic was not the one who would return to greatness. The “madman” is the Djokovic who can determine the outcome of matches with his aggressive, relentless defense-to-offense tennis. That’s what this was, but here’s the thing.

This match was troubling in that such a stark difference in tone manifested itself from the beginning. This includes his form, his level of play, but it’s the whole character change I’m talking about.

What in the hell was that? Is he really sending a message to Rafa?

The depth of his return (on the BL), the focus of his hitting, his serve. . . I don’t buy these drastic changes. Why play so angry now?

I love all of the talk of Roger doping. Ha ha. The only change we see in Roger is an improved BH, some better defense, perhaps.

But this kind of angry perfect tennis from out of the clouds is just bizarro. Good luck explaining that.

And good luck to Zverev. Angry Nole might eat him, his brother and his whole family.

The Madman is back. Oh where did he go in the first place?

I did follow the match on Twitter, identifying the flaws in the Thiem game: his predictability. If you go back and watch, it wasn’t until the 2nd game of the 2nd set, where Thiem started to add some variety, some loopy FH, more strategic slice. He needs to develop the DTL BH and FH. The cross-court weaponry is great but predictable. This kind of tennis plays right into Novak’s game. Predicting, court positioning, retrieving and hitting safe, defense-first ground-strokes. If he reads you well, the defense-first becomes defense-to-offense.

0 and 1 is an outlier. Unless we have just a bad match-up here. But then again we have the angelic/demonic Djokovic dynamic. Compare the Madrid SF to the Rome SF. Ha ha.

Did he get a new batch of gluten-free tortillas? Did he hire Agassi? Are he and Jelena in a fight? Why you mad, bro?

Indeed, the madman is the Djokovic we know and love. But seeing “it” scare the crap out of Thiem and the Rome tennis faithful was quite the pageantry of tennis “quality.”

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.

2017 Barcelona Open: Otra Décima

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

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

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

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

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

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

But now the Austrian is dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, the Murray campaign is sputtering.

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

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

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

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

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

The Djkollapse had begun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give her hell, folks!

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

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

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

😀

Djokeray Can’t Catch a Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all much much more about Djokovic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There I go again. . .

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

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

Enjoy.

Bang Bang Bang (Quick Post – Ka Pow!)

I watched a bit of the Tsonga v Kyrgios Open 13 SF and was abundantly pleased, expectations met. Tsonga has such a tremendous ability on the court, can raise his level and beat ANYONE in the sport. This potency has waned of late, with age of course, but we are always on the look-out.

Rotterdam in the trophy case, his play in Marseille was perhaps lighter, looser, which generally means better. I wanted to see this particular match as Kyrgios is, as we know, a very curious subject. I felt Tsonga would match-up well, especially given Jo’s playground demeanor on occasion, when a match can become a bit of brawl, where he might take it upon himself to resist the advance of very confident, even arrogant, showman of sorts. We’ve seen this Frenchman turn many away in such circumstances.

Tsonga’s BH was still a liability but there were some big points where he came-up with some BH money. Some less predictabtsonga_open131le inside-out, and I even saw him line-up a one hander that flattened-out as Kyrgios came to net; the pass was splendid.

But it was the epic FH that dictated much of the rallies, along with an efficient serve. Indeed, Kyrgios made this a solid three-set affair, with the two playing very even in the first set up until Tsonga’s serve at 4-4. Kyrgios breaks and has that momentous advantage on serve only to get broken back by the wily Jo-Willy. The first set TB is very solid, Kyrgios and Tsonga both realizing the importance of the first set. JWT prevailed in 7-5 on the force of his solid serve, net play and the intimidating FH.

Kyrgios, rather than fade, won the second set 6-2, but Tsonga broke at 1-1 in the decider and proceeded to win the match 76 26 64. Really good play from both players. Similar styles between these two, both bigger athletes wielding a big FH, both potentially brilliant at net, both can serve. Nick has him on the BH, but Tsonga showed-up, beat the surly squirrel of a talent and went-on, of course, to beat Pouille in the final.
Two decent titles for Mr. Tsonga.

We like to see this in these burgeoning days of the season. There is word he might skip IW and Miami because of an expecting child. A decent excuse especially when he’s double-fisting ATP titles, back to back no less. Good to see Pouille make a little progress, as well. Let’s see how he fairs in Dubai.

You know me, I’m going to blow my horn when I can. This isn’t of the Dimitrov quality call, but I said, in both my last post and in a tweet (I think – uh oh, I’m losing my mind), that Raonic needs the win over Del Potro more than the title. Sure enough, he overcomes DPo and then pulls-out, giving Sock his second title of 2017.

This is a bad look from the Canadian. At the tail end of 2016, you might recall he gave Murray at W/O in the Paris final, which actually solidified Murray’s status as world #1. Raonic did play a week later in London where he almost upset the Scot in their SF match 57 76 76, in one of the longest three setters of all-time. Is Raonic out of Acapulco? Looks to be the case, so perhaps his injury is legitimate?

I saw some tennis commenters bringging-up this issue of a finalist walking, receiving his prize money, etc. Someone was saying the loser of the SF should then get to play in the final in the injured finalist’s place, have a shot at the money, etc. An injury is an injury, but we should suspect that some of this is BS. Again, I think Raonic saw beating DPo as the prize. That was a huge win, no doubt. I like the Argetinian’s chances of bouncing back. Raonic, on the other hand, even with the win, continues to stumble around the court. I have said it a million times: his storky awkwardness has almost zero sustainability. He is not of the Zverev or Del Potro 6’6″ type. I don’t trust the Serbian/Canadian (hell, he might be from outer space, as far as anyone knows).

Dubai draw is out and play in underway. Federer advanced quickly and easily vs. Paire in 1 and 3. He looks to find Murray in a SF, perhaps see Pouille in a QF. We’ll certainly keep our eyes on all of that. Wawrinka is in the bottom half with really just the threat of guys like Rosol (okay, I’m reaching), Istomin (ha) and Berdych. Federer will have to beat Murray and Wawrinka but that, we know, historically, is not impossible.

In Acapulco, Djokovic will probably get Del Potro in 2R/R16. QF is Kyrgios, so long as he can handle that bum Tomic, SF vs Thiem hopefully and then perhaps Nadal in the final.

Nadal has Mischa Zverev in the 1R, Sock in a QF probably and then a SF with the likes of Cilic/Dolgopolov. . .Isner. . . in other words, nada.

The business ends of both ofthiem_rio these tournaments should be good. We’ll be watching.

I wanted to mention Thiem’s win in Rio, as well, his continued success on clay and just how much I like his fighting style despite a little rough around the edges. Like I said in a post or two ago, he beat Sascha Zverev in the opening round of Rotterdam; this will be a reference point for a later discussion. Thiem got bounced in the QF there, but he just won Rio and let’s hope we see him advance to play Djokovic in that SF match in Mexico. As one of my readers pointed-out, the Austrian does overplay certain points, but we all appreciate the competitiveness and, of course, the BH.

Keep your eye on him; however, like last year, has he over-scheduled? Do we have a let-down coming?

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Reader Poll!

Just kidding. I prefer the actual discussion of these questions that websites and blogs often offer their readers. Sure polls and surveys are “fun” and interesting and easy, I suspect. rafa-nadal-acapulco_0But let’s hear what you have to say, rather than “see” what button you push. 😀

  1. Who needs an Acapulco win more: Djokovic or Nadal? The Serb’s late entry smells of some kind of (winning) strategy (or concern/desperation). Some might see the Djokovic WC as ominous for that 500’s field, a nice depth of talent, for sure. What say you?
  2. How much is at stake in Acapulco for players such as Raonic, Thiem, Zverev or Goffin? In a few hours, Raonic faces Del Potro down in Delray Beach for that title. How might these early 2017 tilts be critical for his season, or is he set to wallow around the top-8 all year? Thiem too has a shot at a title in Rio, set to play his SF against Ramos. Is this Abierto Mexicano Telcel all about Novak and Rafa, or do these others have a chance to clarify the narrative here – andy-murray-a-dubai-le-26-fevrier-2015.jpgchanging of the guard or status quo?
  3. How badly does Murray need to reestablish his world #1 form in Dubai?
  4. What does Dubai mean to Federer?
  5. Are we, again, giving Wawrinka a pass here, or is the top of the Dubai marquee just that much more interesting?

There you go, readers: do a little poll dancing 😀

I will wrap the weekend especially after the Marseille and Delray Beach champions are crowned. Tsonga took out Kyrgios is three sets in the first Open 13 SF, so we’ll have a bit on that match; the Frenchman waits for the winner of Pouille v Gasquet – another match I look forward to watching.

And then the heavyweight bout: Raonic v Del Potro in Delray Beach. Something tells me Raonic really needs this win, beating the big Argentinian, more than he does the title; would be a nice two-for-one for the Canadian, but no easy task.

Bonus poll question: How much better is the 2017 tour with a healthy and dangerous Juan Del Potro?