Another Weekend of Grass On Tap

The Halle SF are set. Federer beat the defending champ, Mayer, 3 and 4 and will face the young Russian Khachanov in one SF while the second SF has Gasquet facing Zverev the younger.

Zverev traded TB with RBA in their QF before the German took control 6-1 in the decider. Gasquet’s grass looks fairly potent, so we’ll see how he handles the rising Zverev who looks to find another Halle match with Federer; he beat the Swiss in last year’s Halle SF in three sets, but lost to Mayer in the final.

In London the SF look pretty much like Cilic v Muller and Dimitrov v the winner of Lopez /Berdych (Lopez up a set and they’re in a TB in the second – will update).

Dimitrov looks to have survived his QF, taking the first set 6-3, but losing focus and allowing the young Russian Medvedev back into the match before taking the final set 6-3.  Dimitrov seems to be finding some kind of rhythm though it’s tough to say if he has the legs of that early 2017 hard court form back in Brisbane and Melbourne. He’s still on our list.

Another we’ve been watching who continues to play well is Cilic. His serve, benefiting from his time with Ivanišević, is formidable at this point and if his ground strokes continue to be strong, look out for his grass campaign. The FH, which looked so strong early in his match with D. Young, lost a bit of its snap as that second set stayed close, but the American lost his cool and the Croat simply closed him out 64 75 (Young’s profanity was somehow overlooked by the umpire – not a good look for the American, cursing-out his box after every error).

To clarify, Cilic, WB quarter finalist in ’14 – ’16, is finding his grass slippers just in time, or so it appears. His solid serve will go toe-to-toe with the serve of Muller, winner at last week’s Ricoh Open, where he beat Sascha in the SF there in straights; no one should be overlooking the #26 in the world from Luxembourg, but if Marin wants to build his confidence for WB, I suspect he needs to and should beat Muller.

The Lopez v Berdych QF has gone to a third set.

So is everyone excited about Federer’s form now, consolidating his 2017 Jan – March run?

Yesterday’s R16 with Zverev the elder was good tennis from both men. Watching the S&V pressure players to make shots and be creative is a nice addition to the era of grinders we’ve become used to over the years. As I said back in January, listening to McEnroe the elder call the Zverev v Murray match in Melbourne was quite a treat. The present vs. the past, in a way. A bit like this blog of mine.

Most notably from the Zverev match, Federer looked very focused, sensing the importance of the result, needing more tennis than he’ll have under his racquet when he steps to the lawns of SW19. In other words, there was a shred of urgency to Federer’s game in that R16 match. Zverev held his own and the match could have become quite interesting at 4-4 in the first set TB. Federer held-on in the TB 7-4 and found a break at 4-4 in the second set to seal that victory. Pretty tight.

In today’s win over Mayer, the following seems to be the case here in our tennis laboratory at Mcshow Tennis. Federer looks good, but he’s reminiscent of the pre-Fed_Halle149815148594322017 Federer. The most glaring shortcomings of today’s match (pretty much of his tennis so far since his 10 week break) were in his attacking BH consistency and his BP conversion. He was pretty bad on both fronts today. I want to say he was 2/11 on BP opportunities today, and it was his slice BH that truly gave him the edge vs. Mayer. Sure this is a classic grass tool (slice), but the BH we came to enshrine in Melbourne through Miami was no where to be found, really.

Federer still has his FH and his flick-of-the-wrist creativity that still causes people to lose a breath. His serve is intact, as well. He was up 5-2 in the first set, had several BP (4) on Mayer’s serve to take the set 6-2, but, agonizingly, couldn’t find that break. Then he served-out the set at love (or something to that extent – the serve is very strong, still, which is a big reason he has and can continue to remain dangerous on this ATP). But that’s the 2015-16 Federer. What’s made 2017 so special is his attacking BH and his nerves on some big points. Granted the grass is making things a bit touchy and more difficult right now, but that’s my take-away from today.

He’s playing well, but the vulnerability from the BH and the BP conversion is alive and well.

Otherwise, the serve, the FH, the footwork, the BH slice, the volley magic, etc., are all there. The main thing, back to the point that’s being made in several posts here, is he continues to advance (doesn’t get Haas’ed), gets to play more matches, which he absolutely needs. No doubt.

Roger’s spring break will perhaps benefit him especially late in the season. He will be fresh for the summer Masters, NYC, the WTF. This is undeniable as long as he stays healthy.

But right now I am seeing a Roger who’s missing the pieces that made January thru March so historical.

Ljubičić’s expressions from the box look comforting, meaning he looks a little uncomfortable. At least that’s how I’m reading this: relief in advancing, but a little rough around the edges, for sure. Which we expect.

Lopez has overcome Berdych 76 67 75 to book passage for that second SF at Queens-Club.

I hope you’re enjoying the tennis, as well.

Notes on a Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the context of my concern for Djokovic.

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

2017 Grass in Progress

Stuttgart final four:

French connection of Pouille v Paire
and M.Zverev v Fel. Lopez

Zverev took-out the German sharp-shooter (Haas) 4 and 4 and Lopez took care of Berdych in three after losing the first set TB. Pouille, a WB QFinalist last year, got by Kohlshreiber in three today and Paire beat Jankowicz in straights.

Looking for some patterns to affect the draws at SW19 in about a couple of weeks, Pouille could be finding some rhyme and rhythm after his choppy clay. He has a nice offensivetennis that the grass suits. Zverev’s S&V will be fun to watch match-up with certain players who will struggle with that grass gas. Lopez’s game is a nice change-of-pace from a Spaniard – he’s a graceful grass player who can certainly make opponents earn a win or a loss. Paire is a mystery, decent ball-striker (solid BH) with a terrible temper, who can seek-out an upset.

Let’s look for a Pouille v Zverev final in Stuttgart (to raise the volume on the Zverev grass factor).

In s-Hertogenbosch, the SF:

Cilic v Karlovic
Mueller v A.Zverev

Ahhh, the serve is a factor again. Haven’t seen much of Karlovic this week, but Cilic continues to show some form; the 2016 Wimbledon Semi finalist should surgically impair the Dr., but I suppose he could ace the court right off the Croat 😉

Big serving Mueller shouldn’t have enough to beat Zverev, who continues to grow. We have to like the play of Zverev at WB this year (both of them, perhaps). He had a bad draw in Paris (Verdasco), but got his first Masters, of course, and is really mowing the lawn this week. He got beat last year in WB R32, I’m pretty sure, by Del Potro, so we’ll have to see his draw. But he’s different player this year.

We will continue to watch next week’s WB warm-ups to assess more form and possible contenders at The Championships.

These names jump-out as players to watch, some quite obvious.

Federer
Nadal
Murray
Djokovic
Wawrinka
Raonic
Zverev(s)
Pouille
Cilic
Berdych
Kyrgios
Dimitrov

We hear Djokovic is considering a warm-up in Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon.
Federer, Wawrinka and Murray should be in action next week, as well.
Another note on the Federer loss: he had, correct me if I’m wrong, 29 aces. Up 6-2 and MP in the 2nd set, with a gob of aces. . .no panic in the loss, but in the potential that he’s lost that edge that began the year in all-time fashion.
I might not be back to write untfederer-haas-stuttgart-2016-monday-2il next Tuesday (my son’s soccer team has a big weekend up the road a couple of hours). Then again, I have my phone and have been known to touch the keys from the discomfort of that awful Apple phone keyboard. 😦  I know, get a laptop, pal.
Of course, some of you might want me to take a break anyway. Good luck with that 😀
Wimbledon will be here before you can say “upset!”
Cheers.