Roland Garros 2017 Draw

  • The French Open draw is out and it looks like most of the other clay draws of 2017.
  • Wawrinka and Murray in the top half and Nadal and Djokovic in the bottom half.
  • The bottom seems to have more contenders, but this is clay, so you never really know.
  • Tsonga is my guy to shake things up in the top. Sascha Zverev is too easy of a call.
  • Murray, for God’s sake, do something, anything.
  • Oh, you like Wawrinka, who’s in the Geneva final, to reach the SF here? Murray, Wawrinka and Nishikori have to be the most unreliable top seeds in the history of men’s underwear.
  • Nadal has a pretty straight shot to the SF. Sock nor Dimitrov can hang with him for 5.
  • Djokovic, to win the FO, will have to beat Thiem/Goffin, Nadal and then whoever comes out of the top. If he’s flying, playing like he did against Thiem, he could pull-off a great run. If he wakes-up and it’s a Zverev kind of day, uh oh.
  • Mischa Zverev is in the Lyon final against Wawrinka this week. Serve and volley — love the look and feel of his game. Novak could see M.Zverev in R3, Ramos-Vinolas/Pouille in R4, then Thiem/Goffin in the QF.
  • Remember, folks: despite La Decima, this is all about Djokovic.

Thoughts on this avant-garde mystery theater that is the 2017 French Open?

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The War to End All Wars: Djokovic v 2017 Fedal

This is already a crazy year of tennis with 2017 Fedal taking aim at whatever Djokeray had planned for this new year of our Lord. If Nadal wins the French that begins this Sunday, then the shit has officially hit the fan. Really, if anyone other than Murkovic wins the FO, the Kingdom will have officially been ransacked and left for (near) dead.

I think Djokovic will redeem himself, perhaps even play with real purpose, renewed passion and focus at RG 2017. Agassi is an engaging guy, a great tennis mind and one hell of a fighter, so he should be able to give Djokovic a real boost in tennis motivation and its related execution.

Agassi fought and won many battles against seemingly more athletically gifted players. Though as talented as many of his peers, he often seemingly played the underdog role;

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he dominated stretches of his career, beat guys like McEnroe, Becker and Sampras enough to enter the great pantheon of the sport. But most of us in our mind’s eye probably see him standing next to Pete, holding the runner-up trophy, definitively subordinate to Pete’s indomitable rule of that particular era.

Djokovic finds himself in a similar predicament, playing the underdog, looking up, despite whatever his gang of fans want to proclaim.

The Djokovic support groups (NoleFam, FanGirls, FanBoys, BlogBags, et al.) have taken this particular period of the Serb’s career to really bolster their cause of elevating him above the rest of tennis history. From sound bites, to saber metrics, the congregation has upped the ante of their idolatry by solidifying their position that Nole rules them all despite the fact that he’s in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

I have to hand it to them: there is no better way to show one’s support than to bleed the fanatic’s blood in the face of seeming decline.

The Serb himself told CNN recently, published in an article yesterday: “I am experiencing a little bit of a crisis, if you want to call it that” (CNN).

Sorry: here I go again. I called crisis after his U.S. Open loss through which he had the easiest draw since my kid’s 3rd grade two-square tournament at recess. He looked beaten, utterly weathered and at wit’s end despite getting 2-3 W/O, a match retirement or two and then having the honor of facing a disgraceful Monfils in a major SF. He was sacked by the Stanimal decisively in the final. The decline continued through to the WTF where he lost to Murray, lost his #1 ranking and any and all control of his ATP stewardship.

Djokovic hasn’t been his dominant ’15-’16 self since about a year ago (my team of forensic anthropologists have traced the emergency back to the finals of the 2016 FO). His Dubai title in January was misread; his 2R collapse in Melbourne was pretty predictable, etc., etc.

The mob cried rigged draws (Acapulco and IW) when all along he was struggling and actually running into a surging Kyrgios.

The mob began picking-up steam with efforts from Twitterland from a big FanGirl whose statistical analysis declared Novak the best because he has faced tougher draws at Masters and Majors than Fedal, and that the French draws through the years have been rigged against Nole. Another marvel of professionalism declared Djokovic the best all-around player based on his accomplishments across the different surfaces. There are more of these sorts of statistical renderings aimed at elevating Djokovic, whose career, imho, does not need such dramatic and practically contrived research to justify his legacy. Just recently there appeared another “argument” that at 30 years of age, Novak appears, based on some numbers scratched-out on a napkin, to be the GOAT.

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Needlesstosay, this lacks all kinds of historical perspective and context. Indeed, this is presentism running around with his head cut off.

So, I have to ask you as I’ve asked myself: why this surge of “evidence” to support Djokovic’s GOAT candidacy in the face of a year-long slump?  I guess the logic is right there, as a kind of defense mechanism. What better time to support and celebrate someone than when he’she is down.

The timing is interesting and I will still ask why such an effort is being made by, practically, an entire community?

With a player of Djokovic’s magnitude experiencing a slump like this, still relatively young at 30, why not wait patiently for him to return to form? This return could, believe it or not, be as soon as next week when the balls are tossed at RG.

Let me give you my answer to this question of timing.

First, Novak is not “only 30,” “which is the new 25,” something I’ve heard the likes of Brad Gilbert proclaim. We’ve all gone over this before: even if for the first time in ATP history the top-5 are all over 30, or that 30+ year-olds have won the last two majors (Stan and Roger) and that more and more 30+ are playing with viability (F. Lopez, Karlovich, et al.), this age is still a harbinger of decline. Agassi himself seems to have had this late, post 30 run at the majors, but he only won 2 after he turned 30 (which is incredible, actually).

And Wawrinka is a total outlier. He, I would argue, is “younger” (even at 32) than Novak. Novak has massive mileage to contend with. There’s a price to pay for winning 30 Masters titles. He’s been to a lot of Major finals, as well.

His mob is clamoring for acceptance (more so than transcendence, I would contend – they have to know their argument is pretty flawed given some obvious number disparities) because they sense something. They sense a couple of things.

FanGirls and Boys sense there’s an incredible exchange occurring in men’s tennis, as we speak. This has been Novak’s time to shine, since 2015 – the latest Novak peak. Roger is mid 30s and Rafa has been succumbing to his own mile(age). Fedal has been shrinking in Novak’s rear-view mirror the last couple of seasons, presumably getting even smaller as the clock has continued to tick and the calendar talk.

Then came Djokollapse at the mid-point to end of 2016.

Then came 2017. Here we are in what should be the midst of Novak defining his legacy, chasing Nadal and Pete at 14, Roger at (then) 17. Sure, Novak slumped following his personal calendar-type slam, but he’d recover even though Murray had brilliantly taken advantage of this seemingly small window of opportunity.

Melbourne turned into Fedal XXXV. Federer’s win there shook the tennis planet. He won #18, he beat Nadal, he’s 35 years-old, he then won the sunshine double (don’t even need to mention he beat Nadal twice in those title runs). Federer eclipsed 2017.

Then Nadal returned (having already made his mark on the difficult early hard courts) to his dominant clay form.

Here we are on the verge of Roland Garros, Nadal trying to win La Decima, looking as confident as he can at close to 31.

Three weeks after the FO, Federer, if healthy of course, will be waiting at The Championships for his scheduled run for that esteemed crown, an unprecedented #8 and #19. He’s even skipped RG (let Nadal handle that battlefront) to preserve his energies, and await that highly anticipated and prestigious (grass) turf war.

Then the boys are onto the quicker hard courts, destined for NYC.

Re-enter Novak Djokovic. Do you see what’s at stake here? Novak is playing not only for his 2017 form, to maintain his place in the top 2 or 3; he’s battling history here, literally, a resurgent Fedal, who’s legacies Novak, whether he wants to or not, continues to battle in hand-to-hand combat.

The FanClub’s persistence is quite telling of this tennis world war. If Nadal wins the FO with Federer lying in wait at Wimbledon, the crisis will only intensify.

What about Murray, Wawrinka (who looks to be finding a little more form in his defense of Geneva this week), Zverev, Thiem, Kyrgios (whose reaction to Zverev’s win was quite favorable), Sock, and Tsonga, et al.?

Just to clarify: there is panic in the Paris spring air.

As far as I’m concerned, the mob should wait. Be patient. These Twitter and Facebook arguments are trying too hard; most sensible tennis intelligentsia knows better. And most of us are too impressed with Agassi (at least as a tennis player) not to think that Novak does respond positively to this coaching and mentoring.

I’m certainly waiting. Novak, imho, can’t slump much worse. Look for a surge from the waning Serb.

I forbid myself to entertain the predicament of the Djoker if he continues to lose ground in Paris. The road to tennis glory only gets steeper after that.

PS
This is a short but interesting article providing some context to the hiring of Agassi.

Federer’s Withdrawal Revisited

The mess of the clay has without a doubt affected the quality of my blog of late. Sure, you might not have noticed since the form here, as you know, has been “the highest level ever played.” 😀

There have been some choppy posts, but I’m going to attribute this, naturally, to the chaos of the clay. At the same time, some of the blame goes to the circus at the top of the tour: a 35 year-old wins the first three big HC events of the year, and then a 31 year-old (he turns 31 on June 3) practically sweeps the clay schedule and now is the favorite for

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the year’s second major (see: 2017 Fedal). Meanwhile, nos. 1 and 2 are searching for something, anything –  and this is where some real inference and analysis (my two favorite cups of tea!) come into play. In the end, we’re fine here at Mcshow Tennis; please be assured of that.

None the less, the mess, to which I’d like to add a little clean-up, focusing on the Federer withdrawal from the French Open.

In retrospect, the withdrawal makes sense. Certain media members have found quotes from reputable sources (current and former players) that confirm his decision to skip clay is smart because of his intentions and expectations on the grass. Sure, I’ll drink some of that, but I’m rather conceding it’s smart because he has no recent clay play to get him ready for Roland Garros. Nadal said something to this effect, which makes the most sense. Federer didn’t play any clay tournaments, so it’s only logical he pulls-out of the French.

In addition, we can all see the possibility that the unevenness of the red dirt could play havoc with his 35 year-old knee that put him on injury-out for most of 2016. So, I should have known better.

I should have done my homework; there is a history of tennis that goes beyond Federer-Nadal-Djokovic, which I remind readers of regularly. Presentism is a lethal intoxicant that can make you sound pretty uninformed. Federer ruined tennis. Remember?

Is skipping the French unprecedented?

As Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times reminds us, “Skipping the French Open to improve one’s chances at Wimbledon was more common in the past, especially among Americans. John McEnroe played Wimbledon after skipping the French Open five times; Jimmy Connors did it six times. Martina Navratilova played at Wimbledon after missing the French Open 10 times, doing so in two five-year blocks, 1976-80 and 1989-93” (NYT).

Indeed, years ago, believe it or not, the tour was vastly different. Equipment, surfaces and scheduling were of a different order. I explain this in my series HRFRT although most of you probably understand this historical complexity already.

One of my all-time favorites is the fact that Bjórn Borg played the AO once, in 1978. In his nine-year career, he played that major one time.

Jimmy Connors’ career spanned roughly twenty years. He played the AO twice. He won it in 1974 and lost in the final in 1975. That’s it. Twenty-year career. Twice. Do the math, people.

Two of the sport’s greats could have added several majors to their totals. Connors skipped, as the quote above says, six times. Different time, different sport all together, really.

Lesson: don’t forget your history.

This would have helped me rationalize the decision by Federer, who, again, ironically, ruined the sport according this guy right here. I should have known better. If it was a snake, it would have bit me.

Ultimately, here’s my problem with him skipping the French. The draw needs more significant quality for the second week. I think the way the clay build-up went, we have some real deals in Goffin, Thiem and Zverev to add depth. Others will hopefully make their case. This tournament has a favorite and its #2 seed will be an interesting watch, as well, as he looks to defend with his new coach. But beyond that, this tournament is fairly wide-open.

I assumed this would be the case weeks ago, which is why I was encouraged to see Federer play. Nothing to lose, rested – if you go out in the 3R, who cares. His withdrawal, initially, denied the sport that mystery, especially given his form in 2017.

Moreover, I connected the decision to his impending retirement. I thought of those comments he made at the Australian Open trophy ceremony (slip of the tongue?).

My logic moved immediately to he’s skipping the French to devote entirely to WB and then the U.S. Open, his two most successful venues. He’s going to get while the gettin’ is good. This is indeed his farewell tour, which makes some sense given the idea of a great going-out on-top.

Consequently, his comments about seeing his French fans next year make no sense to me. Why would you play next year at 36 1/2 years-old? That would point to the knee.

Of course, don’t you have to second-guess any retirement propositions given that he just won the AO and the sunshine double? It’s a tough read, which is why I wanted to revisit this just for a bit. What a perplexing year of tennis, no?

He certainly has our grass attention. Certainly looking forward to that stretch of tennis culminating at The Championships.

While I have your attention, tune-in tomorrow (I wanted to add another discussion here tonight, but that’s probably a bit messy 😉

Tomorrow I will explore this war of 2017 between the current King, Djokovic, who’s lost his way, who’s Kingdom has been cracked and pillaged first by a brawny Brit (Scot), and secondly, and even more ruthlessly by the two Kings of old. The Serbian great must now gather himself, and replenish his armaments, prepare for a war the likes of which we may have never seen before.

Cheers!

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.

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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?

😀

Indian Wells. . . and the Peanut Gallery

We will continue our discussion of the IW draw, try to add to the excitement everyone is feeling about the year’s first Masters.

But first let’s take-out the garbage.

I love it.

I will pound this blog with ATP insight until the cows come home, out-write and out-think my wealthier tennis punditry in straights; be that as it may, when some of these hooligans from the peanut gallery come sauntering-in from their chic wine bar or hookah lounge haze, like buskers playing their poverty cards, driving their Jaguars or whatever the fuck they wear, playing their bullshit blues about their hero: (fuck off) I have to speak-up.

The peanut gallery has taken the 2017 Indian Wells draw announcement as another opportunity to build their case for Djokovic, the unlucky slow-court specialist who’s been fed to the lions, impaled, starved, frozen, etc.

Let me remind this readership (and any “visitors”) of my unchallenged respect for Nole; read my blog, search “Novak Djokovic,” i.e., stick around so you don’t get confused as I just want to shed some of my own light on this test of tennis intelligence.

To be fair, this isn’t as much about intelligence as it is about argument, specifically logos, which involves the speaker/writer’s confederacy of documentation built to persuade, or what is often merely (unfortunately) the fanatically (fantasized) statistical argument that one purports to complete what could be a fraudulent transaction. 😀

I was hoping to begin tonight’s post along these lines: No one outside of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has won Indian Wells since 2004. Before you come roaring back to say someone other than the Big 3 won the title in 2010, you’ve already been mouse-trapped since Federer and Ljubicic, now, are ONE (If you don’t believe me, read and “watch” this post).

Instead, I have to sit on the wall and defend the kingdom. I guarantee that Djokovic would not (and I repeat “would not”) condone the garbage his fanboys and girls are doing on this eve of IW, a place the Serb has almost called a Masters home. The shit congregations do in the name of their idol. Wow.

So, dig this: I was getting ready for work today, reading and marking-up this and that text when I saw a tweet come across the wire from someone named CindyBlack3. She had some tennis stats, immediately spoke to sympathy for the Serb; so I checked it out. Here are her two graphs:

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Djoker_fangraph2

Sure, you might have seen them on Twitter, or elsewhere, such as your favorite little fangirl’s blog who is spinning like a Tasmanian devil right about now.

You can see in the bottom left of the image this individual’s name. I glanced at the graphs, whiffed that quintessential fangirl perfumey scent and began asking a couple of questions:

Perhaps you can pick-up a bit more of the conversation, which I had to abandon, unfortunately; a guy’s gotta work.

But there you have it. The graph I mean. Seems pretty much an indictment of Federer. And another baptism of Djokovic as the true messiah, the one we’re failing to recognize, who has been shielded from our eyes by the blasphemy of Fedal.

This is not a joke, but it sure seems like a joke.

We know this narrative quite well. And I actually subscribe a bit to its thesis. The peanut gallery says Novak is the unlucky one. They call the draws “suspicious,” even “rigged” against their idol.

I say, indeed he is unlucky: he came to prominence during the time of Fedal.

Of course, here’s the lunacy. They don’t think Fedal is a legitimate source of greatness. Listen to their arguments. Look at their statistical arguments. It’s bananas.

The peanut gallery says he hasn’t been appreciated, that we’ve taken his greatness for granted.

I have actually followed his career fairly well. You probably have, as well. He’s been marvelous. No question. But so have the other two.

What are you saying, CindyBlack3 and the rest of that horde? That Novak is better than Nadal and Federer? Are you just coming after Federer? Is it the GOAT you’re trying to kill, stuff and put on your wall? What exactly is your point?

That the sport is a grand conspiracy to elevate Federer above everyone else?

The graphs above must have involved a little (meaning a lot) of research, I suspect. I certainly thank CindyBlack3 for the work. I would have to spend quite a bit of time checking all of that data to really have a definitive grasp on the accuracy.

Folks, you can spin evidence. Seemingly objective metrics like statistics have all sorts of hidden agendas. CindyBlack3 is dabbling in what we’re calling here in the States a bit of sabermetrics, which is an analytics movement in baseball, derived from the “the search for objective knowledge about baseball” (sabr.org). This is the use of statistics taken to the extreme. There are quite respected critics of this movement, namely “old schoolers” who discount this over-commitment to numbers. These more traditional “analysts” are both old and out-of-touch and quite insightful in their use of the eye-test, crap-detectors and experience. Numbers lie, CindyBlack3.

For starters, look at the Djokovic numbers above. The conclusion is he played more better players than the rest of the Big 4 (“more better” is grammatically correct, I’ll have you know). The numbers tell that story.

The other story? He had to play Federer and Nadal a lot. His draw often had those two who were often seeded higher than he was. You want to bring in the rest of the top-10 and 20 and talk about quality of opponent, etc., etc.? That’s the game being played by this part of the peanut gallery. But that’s less telling than you think it is.

How many times was Djokovic a #3 seed having to play either the #1 or #2 or both? He was unlucky in that he grew-up in a rough neighborhood. He played a #10 and Federer played a #16? Big fucking deal.

I suppose I’ll hear you out on the window that Roger had between Sampras/Agassi and Nadal (then Novak), which he took advantage of big time. But Roger had plenty of success during Fedal and has even won two majors since 2012. Oh, and don’t forget, CindyBlack3 and Fangirl S.A.: Federer is six years older than your boy. You might have overlooked that bit, no? That fuzzys up the numbers a bit there, CB3, et al.

That S.A. bloke threw his favorite little French Open “smear” at the world again today, as well:

Novak_Frenchy

Let me say just a few things about this non-sense. What is the point here? That Novak would have faired better had he been on opposite sides of the draw from Nadal more often?

Folks, I am not a statistician (you probably figured that out). But is there a difference between playing Nadal in a SF and a F? If you’re going to bring-up this concern of having or not having the “luck” in Paris to somehow avoid Nadal for a match or two and say that this is a significant issue, I am going to call you a fire-breathing fangirl carrying a basket of bullshit.

How did Roger benefit from his “favorable” draw (and do comment and tell me if I’m missing something)? He lost to Rafa in RG many many times. Not sure if the draw mattered.

2005 (SF), 2006 (F), 2007 (F), 2008 (F), 2011 (F).

Novak, it’s argued, got screwed in his French Open draws. Look at the graph above. It’s gibberish if you ask me, but I wanted to evidence the BS that the peanut gallery is lobbing into our Indian Wells pre-party.

Novak is 1-6 vs. Nadal at Rolland Garros. Again, please tell me if I’m missing something here, but what is the point of the “facts and numbers”and “Remarks”? That Novak was subjected to a rigged draw where he found himself in a more vulnerable position at the French Open?

Djokovic lost to Nadal at the FO in 2006 (QF – Novak retired down 0-2 sets), 2007 (SF – straights), 2008 (SF – straights), 2012 (F – in 4), 2013 (SF – in 5) and 2014 (F – in 4). So the issue is that 4 of the losses were in a non-final match? What’s the point here, that Novak’s losses are in matches with less significance? Is the argument that he would have been more successful if those non-final matches were finals? WTF.

And as I said before, outside, really, the top-3 (maybe 4), the field was pretty much a bunch of sacrificial lambs. The % of top-5 and top-10 opponents just doesn’t quite move my chain.

Novak did finally beat Rafa in a 2015 QF match, one we all remember. When Rafa was pretty much a mess and a half.

One last point with regards to Rafa and Roger landing in different halves. The Swiss and Spaniard were #1 and #2 (at the French at least) 2006-10 (five years). In 2011, when they were #2 and #3, Roger landed in Novak’s half and beat the Serb in the SF. Is that part of the “law suit”? 2006 thru 2010 was pretty much Fedal, so for Novak to make much noise at all, he had to, indeed, beat some really good players. Nadal and Federer, alternatively, were on top, playing lower seeds by the dozen.

The hysteria surrounding the 2017 IW draw is just the latest “scandal.” The peanut gallery looks for these opportunities to “vent,” or whatever you want to call it.

Here’s an article I found that happens to be ALL IN on the Djokovic peanut gallery. And we all now this man’s work. Talk about over-dosing on the calculator. 😀

The first article (Oct. 2016) ends like this:

Overall there is nothing wrong with Novak Djokovic. Many can make out what they want of his form but he’ll be back; it’s not as if he’s totally terrible with early round losses consistently. Murray might be having great results right now but what will happen when he actually has to play the top guys to win big events? Who knows. Regardless of Murray defending his Olympic Gold (an incredible accomplishment mind you), to say Murray’s year is even comparable to Djokovic’s perhaps isn’t true; one has two Majors while the other doesn’t–that’s the bottom line given Majors are the pinnacle of tennis. The Brit’s consistency this year might well be better than the Serbian’s, but what does that matter when Djokovic is still the one with the better more impressive wins? Not much I’ll tell you that. If Murray does get to become World #1 soon then congratulations to him and his fans, but regardless of anything Djokovic would have still had the better year.

Special thanks to Cindy Black for the Djokovic Murray comparison stats.

There’s our pal, Cindy. 

On a serious note, these veiled attempts to undermine great players, to manufacture dominance via some kind of biased sabermetrics and conspiracy theory are bad for the culture. In passing, this morning, I encountered the mob and lobbed a resistance.

I encourage you to do the same, in your own unique way.

Now let’s start looking forward to some Masters tournament tennis!

February Tournament Play and Early 2017 Contenders

I watched Tsonga get his 2nd set break-of-serve of Goffin up 5-4 in their Rotterdam final, which became a run-away title for Jo-Willy 46 64 61. I was literally thinking, if he loses to Goffin here, it’s over for Jo-Wilfried. That tenth game of the 2nd set was so typical Tsonga. Microcosm of his career. He has the game and set in hand, 40-15, Belgian serving to get the set to a potential TB, maybe a straight-set win, massive achievement for the world #11, a guy who pretty consistently shows-up, but just doesn’t quite have the fire power of the top guys. Game goes to deuce. Tsonga hits a monster FH DTL to find another SP. Then Tsonga hits an inexplicably (characteristic) tired BH into the net. Then another show of brilliance. Then another soft point. He finally wins the game, but it’s just too typical of Tsonga to see this kind of, as I have said many times before, lackadaisical tennis. The 3rd set seems a pretty definitive measure of the contrast of these two tennis talents.

Goffin will continue to show-up and play solid tennis, but really doesn’t earn that distinction as a “contender” on the ATP, and we’re, of course, really talking about the 1000s and majors. None the less, I may be eating these words as back-to-back finals appearances in Sofia and Rotterdam is tremendous work. I am rooting for the Belgian player. I used to have a few Belgian commenters (I see some still read); perhaps they might find some poetic inspiration from the play of Goffin, resident of Monte-Carlo, the tennis capital, apparently.

Tsonga remains a potential threat, or contender, for the 2017 tour. Barely. But we’re always on the look for the underachieving Frenchman to bring some quality to these draws. Good for him to get this Rotterdam title, which had a loaded field.  The mysterious Frenchman . . .

I’m late on this 2017 tournament commentary, but Montpellier, Sofia two weeks ago and Rotterdam, Memphis and Buenos Aires this past week provide some insight that will only become clarified, extended or complicated in the coming weeks as we anticipate the tour touching-down in the desert for the 2017 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the season’s first Masters 1000.

Dimitrov is still surging though he was beaten in Rotterdam last week by finalist Goffin. Dimitrov took care of business in his hometown of Sofia with what looked like a very emotional bit of tennis for the Bulgarian. A much anticipated SF between Grior and DimitrovBH.jpgDominic Thiem came up empty as the Austrian fell to 24 year-old Nikoloz Basilashvili, from Georgia. Dimitrov is on track for sure. Of course, we had that back in the first weeks of January, our eyes on Baby Fed because of his strong finish to 2016. Indeed, this tennis site strives for no surprises.

In other words, as lovers quarrel over GOAT genitalia, we keep our eyes on the prize.

Dominic Thiem continues to make his case for being a contender. Sure he lost early in Sofia, but he was the #1 seed, and followed that up with a great win in 1R of Rotterdam where he got quite the floater in Sascha Zverev, coming off his win at Montpellier, where he dismantled a bunch of locals on his way to another title (Chardy, Tsonga and Gasquet all took the mat against the young German).

Thiem beat Zverev 36 63 64 in a show of big hitting youngsters showcasing the future. Something to keep an eye on: Thiem figured-out the 6’6″ Zverev had trouble with balls below the net; this became an obvious strategy and advantage. Turned the match around.dominicthiem2017australianopenday2pucnqoemiojl Clearly, Zverev is the next Del Potro. Aside from obvious style differences, the comparison is pretty clean though Zverev needs to develop that huge FH. Good early season match-up of future stars we’ll probably reference again.

Worth noting that Zverev and his older brother won the Montpellier doubles. Great work! What genius turn of events Melbourne was – the rise of Mischa among the highlights.

Dimitrov actually had a tough 1R match against Mischa in Rotterdam before his rematch with Istomin. After those two Melbourne throw-backs, Grigor took it on the chin to Goffin in the following match.

What we see in the relevancy of Sascha is the influence this has on Mischa, so we get a kind of two-for-one. Mischa will hopefully remain a strong threat in the early rounds for the lazy or incomplete player.

So far: Contenders: Tsonga (barely but brilliant Rotterdam win, mate!), Dimitrov, Thiem, Sascha. . .Nishikori?

The loss to Dolgopolov is pretty poor. I didn’t watch much of this tournament at all, but there is not concern here, really. I will say this (listen up, Belgium): Goffin’s play puts him just a few steps to the rear of Nishikori. That’s not looking at the last three years, but three weeks, so admittedly Goffin has to continue, to consolidate.  But I’m growing weary of Kei, perhaps more a Tsonga-type than anything: one magical run to a major final, like Jo-Willy, interestingly enough. His collapse in the WTF, his inability to stay healthy. Guys like Dimitrov have so much more game and variety. That baseline “brilliance” made famous by Djokovic and Nadal is beginning to wear-out, my tennis friends.

How about Cilic, our dear friend, Marin. Good heavens he stinks. First match in Montpellier, as the #1 seed, he loses to 32 year-old Dustin Brown, who’s no slouch, granted, but what the hell. Then Marin travels to Rotterdam, again as the #1 seed, only to get hammered by Tsonga in the QF (Cilic survived a 3-setter 1R vs. Paire and a 3-setter vs. Coric to reach Tsonga). Awful, dreadful stuff from world #7, winner of a single major.

Should we include Cilic in our contender category? No.

Let’s get to the big boys.

Raonic? Not convinced. I love his professionalism, but don’t like the athleticism and his professionalism can actually be seen as a try-hard. He forces the ball too often. He does not have the athleticism of a Del Potro or Sascha Zverev. He’s more Isner than those two.

Del Potro. We get some evidence in Del Ray Beach (Florida) this week. How can his play somehow decline from 2016? We will be rooting hard for the Gentle Giant this year.

Wawrinka always. Can’t wait for him to find a few good matches, maybe a good run at one of the clay Masters as a run-up to Roland Garros. We need Stanimal in Paris all pissed off and fit.

Sir Andy should rebound well. He probably wins Miami and will be a handful/nightmare for many this season.

Roger won Melbourne. We’ll have more to say about his 2017, but I think he’s very dangerous. How is he not very very dangerous at this point? His tennis is not as physical as the rest of the gang. He’s got so much experience it’s nauseating. . .to his detractors. His nadal_netfaultserve is big and he may have found the perfect pitchman who doubles as the janitor, just the guy Roger needs in his corner at this point: Ivan the terrible.

Who wants to play Roger, raise your hand?

Nadal may be just as compelling as Roger, for obvious reasons, but with the FO on the horizon, he has to be readying his game for war. Looks like he liked what he saw in Moya: Toni announcing his “retirement.” Finally. Several parallels in the Fedal 2017 campaigns, no?. Moya makes Rafa another unknown quantity, like Federer. Nadal’s Melbourne tactics were very interesting. Look at his ROS court positioning vs. Raonic. Not sure Milos has much for a surging Rafa anyways, but this seemed to be a huge factor. Out of nowhere.

Another show of hands. Who wants to play Rafa?  😀

This spring should be a blast.

Ahh, and then there’s Slowvak Courtkovic, or N(sl)o(w)le. Tell the fan club sniffing the slow court specialist’s gym shorts to shut it down; they’re making their boyfriend look like a Djoker.

Novak is one of the greats. That’s our position we’ve written about from day 1.

But there has been a bit of change in the narrative as of the last 9 months, which has given birth, if you will, to a bit of Serbian crisis.

And, again, no surprises here. The base-line physicality of defense-first tennis has massive limitations. See: age. And the demise of court homogenization?  I have so much to say about a Sampras/Federer kind of universe vs. an alternatively slow court era.

But back to the Serb.

Not enough has been made about the 2016 Djokollapse. Think of the fan club talking now about his clay prowess as RG nears. Comparing him to Roger, talking of his domination of the Spaniard whose level fell off the face of the earth.

Folks, fan clubbers and tennis aficionados alike: the Djokollapse was a disaster for the guy. History is speeding by and the time is now to get “it” while the getting is good. Roger’s early 2000s is of that model, as is Nadal’s FO domination. Novak’s time is/was now. He novak-djokovic-australian-open-tennis_3406915needs to mount that horse in a hurry and get back to business. He hasn’t done enough to become what the fan club desires so desperately.

Most sensible tennis brains have the top level as Laver/Federer/Sampras/Nadal. Why? Partly because of majors and enough of the eye test to say, yes. I actually put Lendl right up there, as well. Nole is essentially in there because he’s not done. But he has to win big tournaments. 2017 AO was huge. So was 2016 WTF and 2016 USO. The man has to get his act together quick.

The fan club says Novak is back on track. The Mcshow Tennis Blog has doubts in that the very evidence that Djokovic is back is flawed. That poor 2nd set in the Doha final about which we were clear was a sign of lingering trouble, not to mention his 2R dismissal in Melbourne suggest he has to prove the reverse of this pattern is reality and not nostalgia.

Obviously, Novak is a contender; if we’re getting to the business-end of the tennis in these tournaments, he should be right there. His big match mettle is all-time. But he needs to wake-up, smell the coffee and get back to his winning formula.

Fedal is rejuvenated and Murray is on his own last crusade. Not to mention Stan is your worst nightmare. Yeah, I’m talking to you.

Everything tennis looks pretty damn good, you all. Sorry for the delay in discourse.
Know that I’m here, defending the wall. Always.

Bring on March.

HRFRT: Tour Structure and Numbers

The structure of the ATP tour has changed much over the years. Not only has the structure changed, but the significance of some of the tournaments has changed, as well. Masters events, the 1000s, for instance, are a bigger part of a player’s schedule than before. There is no question about this, which anyone can determine based-upon looking at numbers, Masters results, changes in formatting, and making some pretty basic inferences based off of this evidence.

We all know the big numbers used to gauge a player’s success (greatness) on tour (in the history of the sport) are Majors and Masters championships. World Tour Finals is a separate category, so we can add those numbers to the mix, as well. But the first two categories are especially important to this calculation of greatness and impact.

Here are the lists that should reflect what most people see these days:

Majors

  1. Federer 17
  2. Sampras 14
  3. Nadal 14
  4. Emerson 12
  5. Djokovic 12
  6. Laver 11
  7. Borg 11
  8. Tilden 10
  9. Rosewall 8
  10. Perry 8
  11. Conners 8
  12. Lendl 8
  13. Agassi 8
  14. Sears 7
  15. Renshaw 7
  16. Larned 7
  17. Lacoste 7
  18. Cochet 7
  19. Newcombe 7
  20. McEnroe 7
  21. Wilander 7. . . Etc.

Masters

  1. Djokovic 29
  2. Nadal 28
  3. Federer 24
  4. Agassi 17
  5. Murray 12
  6. Sampras 11
  7. Muster 08
  8. Becker 05
  9. Courier 05. . . Etc.

The Majors

We make lists because we like clarity (I hope). We make them to organize, for our own assurance, our own claims about those things that interest us. Lists. Lots of lists with statistics and other seemingly authoritative metrics. The big question here is how representative or accurate are these numbers in terms of determining clarity or, in our case with the grand discussion in men’s tennis, greatness.

As we suggested above, the structure of the tour has changed a lot over the years. Different tournaments, even Majors, carry different levels of significance today than they used to.

The biggest discrepancy that affects that first list (this is obvious if you know much about the sport) is the rise of the Australian Open. It used to be played on grass, which changes things even more. But the point here is that this tennis tournament really hasn’t always been on players’ radars, so to speak.

The best example is Borg (sorry if I’m reiterating the obvious). He played the AO once. Conners played the AO twice. McEnroe played AO five times, missing ’78-9, ’82, ’86, which were part of his peak. This excavation could go deeper, but the point is the tour has evolved a lot over the years, meaning that one player’s “numbers” are incongruous with another’s.

The French Open had its issues, too. Conners skipped the major during his peak years, from 1974-78. He was later a semi-finalist there four times. Most interesting point here belongs to 1974. Conners won the other three majors, but, of course, skipped the FO. Can you imagine that happening today? No, you couldn’t. Conners missed a lot of majors (AO and FO) based on our current understanding of this sport.

The other part of the French is the difficulty of that major, how the contrast with the other surfaces made it that much more difficult in the past. Today, the understanding (the reality) is they’ve made all surfaces more similar, slowing down HC and grass, making adjustments to clay, all in order to make the change of surfaces more seamless. That’s part of another change, along with the equipment, nutrition, etc.

Once you open this can of worms, even slightly, you see how problematic it is to compare eras and make broad claims of greatness. In just looking at the numbers, one has to acknowledge these fundamental differences.

This French dis-connection plays massively into the case of Pete Sampras. Here’s a nod to that historical context I mentioned in the Introduction. Pete’s sense of tennis greatness, of dominating the world, did not have to include the FO. His predecessors, when faced with the FO, turned the other cheek, for the most part. Borg is the exception, of course. But Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were, at the time, the biggest venues on the tour. No question. His dominance of those Majors did not make learning clay a priority. And he had an historical argument to support this approach. Sure Lendl won the French, as did Wilander. But Conners ignored it, McEnroe struggled there, Becker and Edberg came-up short there. Keep in mind, Pete had success on clay (and could have revised his game to accommodate this surface; but he didn’t have to, according to that world view, if you will).

In the end, the men who ruled the tennis court in the 80’s and 90’s did not see the French Open or Australian Open the same way that the men see it today. There is no way around this fact. The AO has certainly become more significant, beginning in the 90’s for sure, but the lack of significance in the 70’s and 80’s adds to this incongruity between this past and present of the sport.

The Masters

Here’s a glance at the past, a look at the evolution of the Masters tour: the Pepsi-Cola Grand Prix, The Commercial Union Assurance Grand Prix, the Colgate Palmolive Grad Prix, the Volvo Grand Prix, the Nabisco Grand Prix.

This accounts for the Masters tournament circuit of the ATP up through 1989. The ATP we more or less see today began in 1990, but there have been changes even since then.

In the all-time Masters list above you don’t see the names of McEnroe or Lendl, among other greats. They were playing an entirely different tour in their day. Some of you might even have a problem with my list above. You might find different versions of it, some that do include the tournament wins of the Volvo GP, for instance. But one thing is certain: you will see those same names at the top, our three amigos.

But again, those numbers (29, 28 and 24) reflect a different tour. I hope that is pretty clear.

Why is this ignored? The racquets, shoes, nutrition, court surfaces, tour scheduling, tournament importance – the sport has changed so much through the years.

When we hear someone say GOAT, we should understand that they are actually bleating like a goat.

To take a somewhat closer look at the Masters list above, the case of Sampras seems especially intriguing and, again, a solid illustration of the differences between the tour then (as early as the mid to late 90s, even early aughts) and now (since 2009, especially, when the ATP made its most recent Masters change).

Sampras’ Masters history really begins in 1991 (again, the new ATP was introduced in 1990 though still changes have been made to its overall structure). His efforts are hardly noteworthy in 1991 with several 2R losses, skipping Indian Wells and Monte Carlo though reaching a final in Cincy and Paris. In 1992, he skipped Hamburg and Toronto, won Cincy, but again was pretty insignificant in the other 6 Masters tournaments. In 1993 he got a win in Miami, missed Monte Carlo and Hamburg (again) and was fairly pedestrian in the rest. Having said that, he did win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon that year (1993). Here we see Pete begin his consistent run at the majors, but continue a pretty weak approach to these Masters tournaments.

In 1994 he won WB and AO, but missed four Masters tournaments. At the same time, he won three Masters: IW/MI double and he spanked Becker in the Rome final 1 1 and 2. On clay.

Pete is an interesting case. I glanced at some scheduling and numbers here, but look at the Masters all-time list above. You can see there that one of the all-time greats has less Masters than our friend Andy Murray. You may think that just speaks to Murray’s greatness, the depth of today’s ATP. I think you’re greatly mistaken, if that’s your opinion.

Those Masters numbers reflect two and even three different tours, essentially. Back to the historical context: if Sampras had come into a tour with that kind of Masters accumulation as a driving force of dominance, you’d have seen a different Sampras, I suspect. Ultimately, he was going out in early rounds, or skipping events. But winning majors in those same seasons.

Oh, and another kicker: the finals of these Masters events? They were best-of-five format. The wear-and-tear of the tour was different, and players’ priorities were different. The scheduling, the format and the history influenced all of this.

I think it also helps to see that these draws were anything but thin. Here’s your general seedings for these tournaments in the early-mid 90s. Feel free to take a gander yourself: Lendl, Sampras, Becker, Agassi, Edberg, Courier, Chang, Stich, Bruguera, Ivanisevic, Muster, Krajicek. The late nineties added Rafter, Kafelnikov, Kuerten, Haas, et al.

As we moved to the aughts, the tour evolved. Look at some of the results of the 2000 ATP Masters Series (the name then): Corretja won IW in three; Sampras beat Kuerten in Miami  with this line — 6–1, 6–7(2–7), 7–6(7–5), 7–6(10–8). No wonder Pete was ready to retire. That’s a Masters tournament. Brutal five-setter against a three-time major champion. Kuerten beat Safin in a Hamburg five-setter though Safin did pick-up two wins that year at Toronto and Paris.

That’s 2000 and the tennis is tough both from a competitive stand-point (the field) as well as a tough match format; we know the difference between a Bo5 and Bo3. Can be night and day, especially with a championship on the line. If you think this is like the tour today, sure there are similarities – Ha! It’s the ATP! But to say that our three amigos play the same tour as McEnroe, Lendl and even Sampras is such an overstatement. It’s false, practically speaking.

Federera

We’ll turn to post-2000 and what happened when the Swiss Maestro took the stage and the tour turned, finally, to its most current state-of-affairs.

I hope you’r enjoying the reading. I hope you appreciate the difficulty this proposes in making these broad statements about players and the sport.

Let me know what you think. That’s the best part, inviting more investigation, complication and spirited debate. That’s the point, folks; there is no certainty in trying to declare a BOAT or GOAT. But I admit that the arguments can be enlightening. As I have said before, as futile as this GOAT debate really is, the conversation/argument encourages study of the sport.

With Federera, we’ll see how the shit hit the fan, how the Maestro done messed-up the place.

The shame. 😉