The Palantír: Chaos, Chaos and Andy and More Chaos

A palantír (sometimes translated as “Seeing Stone” but literally meaning “Farsighted” or “One that Sees from Afar”; cf. English television) is a crystal ball, used for both communication and as a means of seeing events in other parts of the world or in the distant past (Encyclopedia).

You might recognize the reference from J. R. R. Tolkien, as well.

Are you following the transmogrification of the game? If you are not twisted and spun, or spinning-out-of-the-bowl, as we might say, listen-up.

Professional tennis is under siege. Such a series of events could drive any (wo)man crazy, but I assure you: we will survive. The civilized game will chart and lead us toward Big4_38f19160e1fbed1175906d2db43101a3greener pastures where our confusion will subside, though perhaps only temporarily. These are trying and concerning times on the tour; imbalance and epiphany fight for the throne while we can only wait and watch, calmly, and reasonably the struggle to understand the headless leadership whose stewardship repairs a system flawed beyond repair.

I confessed my church attendance following the Roland Garros massacre. Indeed, I sought council for the mess I had yet to fully comprehend.

Meditation and the blog, literature and great match replays have afforded me perspective and rest from the 2017 ATP chaos that we somehow must represent, explain, only to lessen the crazy and the crying. Even the shame.

The Federer loss today to Haas is not, by itself, a calamitous event. But there is commentary and foreshadow in the 2R Stuttgart result. I have plainly submitted that this is very much a result of his decision to skip the entirety of clay. Just a bad move that contradicts the fellowship’s ethos. To be clear, just a dumb move.

Such a decision is quite questionable for three reasons:
1. It’s arrogant. I think clay is inferior and still I wouldn’t skip the entire schedule. He has to respect the venues and crowds and players enough to report and play even a few matches. He’s too good for clay? I have entertained the injury excuse long enough; he did mention his concern for the knee, the unsteady court, etc. But you have to compete even symbolically, remind the boys you’re still there, still in all of that glorious form with grass on the horizon, so actually this or that match doesn’t mean a whole lot, but I’m here to play and keep you guys honest, especially you, Rafa. How’s it going, pal?

Instead, Rafa can go take care of his La Decima, devour the clay and continue to build momentum? no worries?

Maybe he is that confident or indifferent. Who knows.

He could have played cautiously and as if he had nothing to lose. He could’ve developed his game, deepened his familiarity with the tour, stayed in-touch. Nope. Federer is off to train in the clouds with the seraphim and other angels. Very bold move.

When Ljubičić publicized the idea of a reduced clay schedule back in 2016, upon his hiring, I suggest that was in retrospect, certainly an idea to consider, but perhaps something that might have made a difference in your career in the past, Federer. Sitting-out so much tennis at this point is probably not advised. You missed two months of tennis, which is different from practice, as you know; this acknowledgement in your statement recently hinted at perhaps a tiny admission that you’ve been away for too long. As we age, what’s the most important thing we can do physically? Keep moving. Utterly paramount. Playing competitive tennis is “moving” for a player who wants to compete at the highest level.

You had so much form early, so much momentum. Why throw all of that away?

2. It’s inviting too much pressure. Federer: Forget about the clay and the French; I’m pinning all of my hopes and dreams on Wimbledon. You all can have that entire season of competition: I am going to focus all of my training and preparation on this fortnight in July.

That’s crazy.

3. It’s scared. Again, if Federer is injured, rest, take a break from the phenomenal first three months of the season (a major and sunshine double). But the complete abstinence is too drastic, almost telling in a way. Why not play one of the Masters, or one of the smaller events, just to stay fresh, add some points, keep it real. Nope. He wanted nothing to do with the clay. Nothing! He was a clay abolitionist.

This might be the greatest of all examples of the intimidation of Rafa.

At least you’re keeping us guessing, Federer. After the loss today, I argue Federer is anything but a sure bet for Wimbledon. He’s almost 36 years-old. His year is teetering, if you ask me.

Adding to the chaos is Nadal, who you watched destroy the 2017 clay, including his RG La Decima that I have already married and divorced several times on this blog: it was beautiful and disturbing. His form is monstrous, scary, and seemingly as dominant as he’s ever been. Go figure.

2017 Fedal has been just a bizarre development, splitting the first two majors and first four Masters. They’re pretty much #1 and #2 in the world based on 2017 projections – Nadal is currently #2 while Federer currently is #5. They’ve shaken the entire tennis planet.

But just to be clear about the current chaos: Nadal’s freak-mode coming out of Paris is ironically unstable (which is so surreal) and Federer, though dominant before the clay, suddenly has a bit of a concern with only one 500-level tournament to play before The Championships.

Questions abound concerning these two since Nadal’s apprehension of grass has reared it’s head by skipping the London warm-up this week (per “medical” advice), and people wondering if he can transfer his manic clay recipe to grass; and Federer is finally returning “home” like the prodigal son, who seems, naturally, disoriented.

The whereabouts of Djokovic are unbeknownst, especially after Paris. We’ve charted this ad nauseam. What are one’s expectations for the Serb?

Wawrinka might still be partying, trying to postpone his French final hangover. Grass is not his surface, but he did, apparently, hire the celebrated Paul Annacone to consult during the grass campaign. Still, questions and chaos surround Stan the Man.

murray_grin2_976Of the top 5 guys, Murray may be the eye of the storm. This is not a betting site though I have been propositioned by several sports betting entities. Here’s my own advice: bet Murray to emerge throughout the fortnight (still awaiting confirmation from Fedal).

One could say I’m tempting fate here, as many may see Federer, in the end, rising to stake claim to his most cherished prize. Others might see Nadal forcing his way into the business-end of the draw with a suitable grass attack.

However, Murray, who might have escaped real damage in Paris, is perhaps the cleanest, the clearest and safest bet to steady his nerves and game for a defense of his Wimbledon grass.

What’s missing from this discussion and from most “betting” prospects? The younger future. Dimitrov (not exactly green) began 2017 sharp, with a renewed confidence. He’s suffered some tough losses and seems to be in retreat. Thiem and Sascha Zverev continue to blossom, yet both have yet to convince us of their Bo5 credentials. Then there’s Kyrgios and Raonic who seem to have the kind of game for SW19. The sport needs them to rise and ignore these giants banging around and creating such a mess.

This we will continue to follow and analyze: the carnage of the tour, seen quite clearly now in the aftermath of the early HC and Euro clay. Of course, I see this as nothing more or less than HRFRT. That’s more or less what we continue to observe here on this blog concerning these courts throughout the tour, for instance with Fed winning #18 and then Nadal winning #15. You realize how absurd this is, right? The sport is, one could argue, getting so far out-of-reach we’re in the throes of a kind of crisis, a little pandemonium, perhaps.

Bring it on.

More to come, thanks for reading and cheerio.

Federer is From a Different Era

No, I am not getting all starry-eyed on Federer. When I say he is from a different era, I am not making some mystical reference to his celestial origins, as if I think Federer’s game is just “out-of-this-world.” Ha ha.

You all know that I don’t waste the space on fanatical rants or emotional poetries. I have celebrated and berated them all.

What exactly do I mean when I say Federer is from a different era? I mean: Federer is from a different era.

He predates Nadolovic. This observational fact complicates the discussion of the golden era/Big Four even more. What makes 2017 Federer such a phenomenon is the idea that he began in a “different,” earlier era, has played through Fedal, developed a real rivalry with Djokovic and now, at least for a few months it seems, he is playing beyond this era.

Obviously, one has to stop there and remind himself that Djokovic is far from finished. He has had a bit of a burn-out, we suppose, his Young_FedererNadallevel has dropped from that ’15-’16 reign, and injury seems to have hampered his game, as well. We suspect Djokovic to gain confidence and form throughout the clay and make a valiant run in Paris to defend his 2016 title, and accomplish the career grand slam double (win each major twice). Djokovic can re-insert/assert himself back into this discussion very quickly and powerfully with a great clay run here in the next couple of months.

But the fact remains that Federer started dominating tennis, winning majors, etc., well before Nadal and Djokovic were doing much of anything on tour, played throughout this golden era and, as the story goes in 2017, has vanquished his greatest nemesis, which seems to mean he is winning (dominating) beyond the Spanish clay GOAT’s time. The ramifications of this development could be pretty significant. But the story isn’t over.

Just as Djokovic is far from done, Nadal could rise-up even more (his 2017 campaign has been very impressive, as well) and win his 10th FO. The story lines will continue to be written by the athletes battling for these precious championships.

Another thing to recall here is the absolute center-piece of my HRFRT thesis: Federer’s tennis created a context that inspired/facilitated the championship/title frenzy that has defined this golden era. The historical context of players is a critical element in the consideration of legacies and eras. As I have already argued, Sampras obliterated his historical standards. There was nothing left for him to climb, really.

Even his clay omission can be explained in this historical context. The French Open before and during Pete’s era was almost a minor key in the men’s professional tennis theme song. Borg and Lendl are more outliers of that era, winning the French multiple times (Wilander did, as well). This was a tournament generally reserved for the clay court specialists. If one disagrees with that assessment, then tackle the other end of the discussion of majors, which argued that Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were, essentially, the ultimate tennis crucibles, where the greatest champions triumphed. Sampras owned each venue historically.

So, the current version of this historical influence is that 2017 Federer will inspire Nadolovic again.

We’re not saying that Nadal and Djokovic have come and gone. But the recent moves from Federer to return, dramatically, to this championship winning form is fairly remarkable, historically I am arguing.

The clearest illustration of this argument that Federer is from a different era? (other than I just explained it to you 🙂

What were you doing in 2008? Think back for a second. What was happening in men’s professional tennis at that point? You have already thought about the Wimbledon final, where Nadal, on his third try, up-ended Federer to claim his first Wimbledon.

The year is 2008.

Federer already has 13 majors to his name.

Nadal has 5.

And Djokovic has 1.

A lot has happened since then, no doubt.

And this is part of what is so remarkable about 2017 Federer. Historically, this shouldn’t have happened.

But it is happening.

How?

His athleticism and his new coach. I have argued a bit of both and will continue to take this on next.

Cheers!

Federer is Ruining Tennis

I wrote a series of posts last year arguing that Federer’s role in this golden era, in the history of tennis for that matter, has been very consequential.

Introduction. . .Tour Structure and Numbers. . . Federera. . . Roger Created a Monster (or Two).

I left-off needing to deal with the Djokovic effect, his role in this era (again, Roger being the cause of the Serbian serpent of lithe lethality).

federersmoke1My plan now is to figure-out exactly what more I need to write to finish and package this short E-book of sorts. This could be extended into a longer, more traditional book format, as well. Do I want to sell it? Sure. But for now, I am just writing, watching, writing, watching and reading this glorious game.

But what I want to touch-on briefly here are some of the ideas people have about Roger playing his greatest tennis now, at 35.

Let’s say I concede this point and say Roger is playing his greatest tennis at 35.

Ha ha ha.

Okay, I’ve gathered myself. We hear the point being made that players’ careers are being extended into their 30s, that there is a kind of late blooming in the men’s game. Wawrinka, Lopez, Karlovic, et al, are proof positive that this trend is rampant and the arch of a player’s career will extend beyond the “wall” that has been the late 20s and early 30s. Using, then, just a bit of playground logic, this means that other players like Djokovic and Murray (tough to say Nadal’s tennis is on the ascent) could/should/might play dominant tennis in 3 or 4 years? That would still keep them shy of Federer’s 35 going on 36, but I’m willing to play along here. 😀

Djokovic will be vying for #1 in the world, winning a major or two, Masters tournaments, etc., in four years?

Where’s Andy in 3-4 years? Dominant?

First of all, I don’t need to argue here that Federer is NOT playing the best tennis of his career right now, in 2017. Just on the surface that’s ridiculous. But we’ll look at this with more depth in the coming weeks (as I find time to delve in given our week-to-week coverage of ATP fireworks).

No, that argument can be clarified later, and needs to be since bloggers and even guys like Brad Gilbert are under this spell of Federer’s ruination.

Instead, just think about what you’re comparing, making a huge leap to this vague notion that players are peaking later in their careers. Djokovic in 4 years (which only puts him at 34, by the way) is having a similar kind of significance on tour that Federer is now?

Or the likes of Dimitrov, for instance. In 10 years he will be 35. You think Dimitrov might be part of this rampant late-bloom of professional tennis talent?

Folks, this is some seriously flawed reasoning: because Roger is dominant at 35, and players do seem to be playing with more relevance later into their 30s, we can expect this trend to continue and argue, in fact, that father time has massively reconsidered his identity and meaning in life? Ah, that’s a great title for some of this discussion/argument: The Identity Crisis of Father Time (or Mother Time, either way). 😉

The point, of course, is Federer is ruining tennis! I use the exclamation point not to soften that statement with some kind of sarcastic tone, but to emphasize, announce with more force, the point of this phenomenon.

As I think to finish that series of articles (HRFRT), think of what 2016-17 will do to this argument?

Today’s post is a brief reminder, as you begin your weekend, that this 2017 Federer is not as much about the men’s game (as many will have you believe – that today’s nutrition and technology and science will have players peaking into their 30s). No no no. This is about Federer. He is a singular talent.

What bothers me is how his success (because of his talent and love for the sport) wasn’t able to affect other players. Like Sampras. Sampras was burned-out by 31. He’d climbed the Mt. Everest of tennis by then. Federer would have changed that (Federer created monsters). Federer changed the entire narrative and expectations of the sport.

But now we have a possible epidemic on our hands of unrealistic expectations. Thank Federer for that.

We’ll eventually move to a more specific comparative analysis of the younger and older Federer, the athlete.

Happy Friday.

Miami 2017 Finale

I hope this post isn’t as anti-climactic as Sunday’s final. Here’s how I began my preview of the Miami final a few days ago: “The Fedal final tomorrow is a bit anti-climactic to be honest. If you’re caught-up in the Fedal rivalry, you’re probably a bit confused. If you need any clarity on that, search my blog under Federer v Nadal H2H.”

I had Twitter lined-up, streamed the match on my computer, in case other “discussions” surfaced and needed any attention, and the quality of the picture on my Mac surpassed the quality of Fedal XXXVII.

The first set was certainly competitive, with Nadal actually establishing some control, pushing forward, letting Federer know that this could be a classic. Through 5 games, Rafa had seen 3 BPs to Roger’s 2. My notes clarified “nothing too spectacular,” as the guys maintained pretty uneventful exchanges, Roger came to net effectively, Nadal held his nadal-federer-indian-wells-2017-miami-reactionown, especially on serve and as Roger even pointed-out later, saving some of those early BPs was critical to the match. Nadal pressed Federer in that first set, but somehow (like the mettle Federer displayed in the QF and SF) the Swiss held and added pressure to the Spaniard’s Miami title drought.

Federer ended-up 1/6 on BPs in the first set; Nadal settled for 0/4. The break came and went and the first set went to Federer; the writing was on the wall. Nadal’s sweat drenched kit vs Federer’s wind-blown mane seemed to reiterate this Miami final graffiti.

The second set became almost tough to watch. You can see in my Twitter feed how critical I was of Roger’s game. He seemed to take points off, handle Nadal SS like a weekend warrior – the match lacked energy and intensity by the second set. I reported that Nadal was set to break and assume control, so long as he kept his serve. Roger’s nonchalance spoke volumes, in the end.

What explains this seeming lack of effort on Roger’s part? Mind you: I am not saying he didn’t put forth a championship effort – that would be wrong and foolish to suggest. But the tone was palpable: Federer was in complete control here; he didn’t appear troubled much at all. We are used to seeing Federer tangle with opponents professing such control and nonchalance, but the problem with this explanation is that two nights earlier, this same poker-faced tennis elder showed all kinds of emotions and intensity vs. Kyrgios. That was a match for the ages; the final vs. Nadal seemed more like an exhibition.

To say that Federer’s difficult draw may have qualified this championship match seems fairly reasonable; indeed, Fedal37 may have lacked the level of his previous two matches, so the Swiss simply flew with the punches.

Federer assumed control in the second set, especially late as he again found the break and served-out the match, securing his third Miami title, third tournament win of 2017 and third win vs. Nadal during this calendar year.

His 63 64 victory spoke volumes of his form and the current 2017 run he’s on, as well as the bigger picture that I have written so much about on this blog regarding the flawed (failed) analysis of these players’ H2H. I am not fact-checking this, but I am almost positive that Sunday’s victory brought the players’ HC H2H to 10-9 Federer.

The talk of Nadal’s excitement and comfort on the up-coming clay reminded me of more of these observations I made last year (or late 2015) when I dug into the H2H and what I called “Nadalism.” At one point I wrote a post discussing Sampras and Nadal, both of whom have 14 majors.

My main point (from what I can remember 😀 ) was that Nadal does not belong in the company of Sampras. I said something to the extent that Nadal would be remembered, mainly, as a great clay court player, the clay GOAT.

I don’t think I ever have to or want to get into those discussions again (unless I’m forced to): I respect Nadal and actually miss his dominance. Do you know how many AO and FO matches I stayed-up to watch, or woke early enough to see the first (or second) ball toss in many of those great Fedal matches? Take it from me: Nadal had his way with Roger, which we know is tennis lore.

This brings-up an important point with regards to Federer having this kind of dominance over the declining Spaniard. There is a balance in life. Some call it karma, balance, the truth and even life. I, and probably many others, feel somewhat sorry for Nadal, coming-up short like this, not finding that peak physical monstrosity that defined his tennis back in the day.

Miami on Sunday really underscored his shortcomings. He’s never won Miami, his decline seems pretty definitive, and Federer has found a game (at last) against which Nadal really can’t compete. The journalists around the world are especially echoing this last point: as much as Federer couldn’t figure-out how to play Nadal through much of their past encounters, Nadal seems the one lost now.

As we turn to clay, Nadal perhaps can locate some of that advantage we grew to expect, but this seems a bit of an uncertainty, as well. We’ll save that discussion for another day; I will add that I look forward to this clay season and watching 2017 Nadal bring this year’s confidence to defend his dirt legacy.

On the other hand, Federer will be skipping the clay, working-on his recovery – as many are now aware, as he told Brad Gilbert and certainly others this news following Sunday’s victory. But this has been in the works for over a year.

When Ljubičić was hired, this reduced (removed) clay season was part of this campaign’s agenda. Here’s part of that post I wrote back in December of 2015:  Ljubičić is going to help Federer, I believe, with some in-match mental fortitude. How to convert a BP, how to withstand an opponent’s surge, how to just play a little smarter when that is absolutely paramount. Federer’s beauty pageant is over. He needs to start winning ugly, getting the job done, with or with out the stunning pirouette that dazzles the crowd. If he has any hope of continuing to remain relevant and/or win another big tournament, he needs to listen to the big Croat, Ivan the terrible, and come-away with a more sustainable game plan.

Here I want to talk about Federer’s much diminished clay schedule. I am attributing this to Ljubičić. Here is another competitive strategy, a little more macro than the in-match help he’ll give the Maestro.

This will help Federer continue to ruin tennis. You are sick of hearing me reference this volume of essays that puts this golden era in perspective. My argument, as articulated in this series of posts, it that Roger has ruined tennis. This is both satirical and serious. I waited to write the Djokovic chapter; my patience has paid off since we are in a very interesting stage of the Serb’s career.

I referred to balance above. Almost certainly, Novak will rebound and find his confidence again. Does the resurgence of Fedal complicate this rebound? Most likely. This is another reason why the clay is a much anticipated schedule, even without Roger. Novak (and Andy, of course) will return to fight for their confidence, their tour points (both have several to defend and are both already free fallinIvan_Rogerg in the 2017 tally).

But the Novak chapter will be interesting. As will the essay that explores 2017 Federer, that phenomenon that few saw rising from the ashes to reclaim such dominance. I can’t tell you how much I believe that Ivan the Terrible has much to do with this. Federer has such a quiet confidence –  perhaps more it’s an assassin’s cool.

The manifestation of this is a much better BH, a more offensive court positioning, better ROS, insanely steady S&V (btw, did you see the point where Roger comes to net to meet a 118 mph Kyrgios FH that Federer softly forwards to the open court? I will search, find and post this point). Here’s the point. Scroll to the 9:20 mark to see this lethal FH from Kyrgios meet Federer’s insanely steady grip:

Looks like ATPmedia blocked this video.

It’s these physical improvements that SEEM to define 2017 Federer. But I argue it’s mostly mental. People, from Chris Everett to fanboy and girl bloggers alike, ask where did this Federer form come from? How is he doing this?

The fanboy will say it’s Djokovic’s slump. To be fair, we can’t say how Djokovic would factor into this run because he’s been dismissed from each draw he’s shared with Federer.

Ljubičić is at least part of the common denominator. If you never watched Ivan play, you have little to go on here, other than taking my word for it. He got to #3 in the world and certainly one career highlight was winning IW in 2010 where he beat Djokovic (4R) and Ivan-LjubičićNadal (SF) before taking down Roddick to claim that prestigious Masters title. He lost to Roger in the 2006 Miami final in three TBs. He has been critical of Nadal for taking too long between points. In short, Ivan knows his way around this golden era tennis court, so to speak, and his level-headedness and business sense, in my humble opinion, have been critical in this resurgence of Federer, in 2017 Federer.

Lastly, people are crying about the crowds again. The last big incident (at least that I caught wind of) was US Open final 2015. Both, interestingly enough, involve Federer.

I said it then and I will say it again: Federer can not control the crowd (though his whistling wife could be asked to shhh).

Then again, he completely controls the crowd.

With regards to NYC, if you win the US Open five times in-a-row, you will have a favorable reception. Granted, Federer’s fandom is well-documented, and a bit fanatic. But that kind of success breeds that kind of following. Folks, five in-a-row. He is beloved in NYC and elsewhere. People appreciate consistency, integrity and victory. These have defined his legacy. His genius is well received, one would think. I recall pulling for Agassi in the USO final 2005. To no avail. The Swiss giant had begun to spread his wings. Tough for people to disregard or deny that kind of “entertainment.” Pretty much what you see is what you get and people really like this kind of tournament-in-and-tournament-out brilliance.

On the other hand, Kyrgios is a complicated cat. I said recently that people need to keep their thoughts to themselves during those kinds of heated matches (though this is tough to control – I talked about seeing this in IW two weeks ago). But there are people saying that Roger cheated somehow, or his win over Kyrgios was unfair because of the crowd. That’s sour grapes or incapacity. My goodness that’s a weak argument.

Blame Mohamed Lahyani, the esteemed umpire. He did seem to provide some council to the animated crowd, but, I suppose, to no avail. Either way, Kyrgios is going to have to earn his reception. Roger, like many before and after him, developed that kind of support because of a certain kind of legacy.

I defended Kyrgios, but I have been very critical of him. He has done some deplorable things on the tennis court. Fans, who pay and support these players and their sport, do not easily forget this kind of lack of character. I have faith in Kyrgios. He will earn his stripes.

But again: if you are complaining about Federer’s popularity at this point, you’re a clown.

Look around. There are some things we have to accept. I am, as you all know, not a Fedfan. But I really appreciate great tennis (I still want to see Sampras ’96 v Federer ’06 😉

Thanks for sticking around and reading and enjoying this insane early season of ATP tournament competition.

Talk to you soon.

Miami Final, Fedal and 2017 Federer

That’s a lot of Fs, if you know what I mean.

We have another Fedal final, this time in a Masters tournament, so the past keeps coming back to haunt the tennis world in a worst-nightmare kind of way (if you fail to see the historic brilliance).

First, obviously, we got the AO Final that capped all kinds of upside-down tennis discussion. Indeed, if you can’t see said brilliance, you end-up thinking and talking like someone watching a different sport, which we may start calling “hero ball.”

Here’s what entails some of that madness:

The courts are faster!

Istomin was unplayable!

Andy is burned-out!

I have written about this but no need to link these discussions since you all should know your way around this place by now. In short, Djokomiami_open_federer_nadal_compvic has dipped big-time, dating back, I might say, to the FO final when he limped to the title in those final games against Andy. The free fall really started at WB and has continued throughout the end of 2016 through to IW/MI 2017.

Those who disagree that Novak has not been in a world of hurt, since May/June last year, point to one match that stands-out as a Novak-is-back example. Let me do you a favor and say that the Doha final was all kinds of complicated (see my write-up on that) and to go back further to the WTF SF vs. Kei, that was Kei laying an egg, which more or less defines Nishikori’s career. Again, let me know if I missed a moment of DjGOATovic since FO 2016. You should see that his matches recently involving Del Potro and Kyrgios, though they show signs of Djokovic’s championship fortitude, are more examples of a dip in form. Besides, one should see the limits of the Argentinian’s game right now.

Andy’s demise has been a little more of a corollary between his 2016 run to #1 and a bit of a drop in level (burn-out, etc). Having said that, the hurt that Zverev and Pospisil’s S&V put on the Scot has to count for something. Uh oh, we’re back to the speed of the court argument!

But the other thing that’s happened, obviously, is Nadal and Federer are playing very well. Nadal has an incredible highlight reel for 2017 already. Nadal has and is gaining confidence, no doubt.

2017 Federer is the hashtag everyone should use to designate this particular trend, movement, phenomenon, etc. The Swiss champ has taken the tour by storm. I, and others, have written already too much about this form that is really too much right now for anyone to deal with.

For the Djokovic apologist, his win over Del Potro, fairly dismissive, and his epic clash against Kyrgios yesterday should subdue this fan club’s hysterics, momentarily.

As I said in a tweet recently: I really miss Djokovic, but I do not miss his fan club’s myopia. We need the Serb back on track, but his fans retard the campaign. I bet you anything he finds 2017 Federer quite inspirational.

Back to the Fed Express.

A few numbers that have popped-up in the last few days. Here is 2017 Federer by some numbers:

He is still holding 90% of his serve, about 5% better than opponents (if you add-up all of these small percentage advantages he has against his opposition, you can easily see how the Ws keep compiling). He is #1 in first serve winning %, #2 in second serve %.

His 2017 BH is 3mph faster on average.

He’s used, in the past, the slice BH 38% of the time; now that happens 29% of the time during a match. Everyone’s been tracking the Federer BH.

He’s converting BP 50% of the time in 2017 vs 38% in the past.

On his ROS, he’s breaking his opponent 29% vs 24% prior to 2017. 

These last two stats above (in bold) are, imho, big-time Ljubičić effects. We’ve talked about the BH a lot, but the killer instinct or “win dirty” mentality is, theoretically, a result of some choice words between Ivan and Roger. This is aggressive tennis. From winning the first set against Nadal in their AO final, to winning pretty convincingly in most of his matches, he’s up early and often, pretty much suffocating his opponent from the word “go.”

These are just a few numbers that Cahill and Gilbert (among others) have divulged, in light of the streaking Federer, 2017 Federer.

He is backing-up his 2017 performances, which makes this a form, a level of talent the tour, minus Novak and Andy, has trouble dealing with. We saw this early, starting with his solid form at the Hopman Cup, backed-up by his 5th AO title; despite the dip in Dubai (pretty shocking the fashion of that collapse but Donskoy is no donkey), he wins a 5th IW and here we are in the Miami final.

Please tell me you watched the Kyrgios SF. This was the match we anticipated seeing in IW, but was postponed to yesterday. Kyrgios has been “unplayable,” flashing his talent all over the court, beating just about anyone in his way. Though he had the loss to Seppi in AO 2R, Querrey in Acapulco, and the W/D in IW, he has been playing an extremely lethal brand of tennis, serve, BH defense, FH genius and all.

The people (Djokovic fans) saying Nick is a serve bot are not the savviest of tennis aficionados (the nicest way to put that). That’s bias smeared all over that pretty face and stinks of a bitter beer that I actually enjoy, as if I’m drinking their tears, not because I wish ill-will or flaunt my own bias: I just like to expose the thin and emotional tennis “intelligence.” That’s not analysis, fanboy or fangirl. That’s banner waving hooliganism. That’s the likes of what I saw in IW, that I already described, of a Fedfan yelling, more or less, in the ball toss of his opponent with Fed up 5-1. That’s garbage.

Which brings me to this: Listen up: give Kyrgios a break, especially if you are in the stands. The belittling of a 21 year-old who is playing supernatural tennis, who may have more tennis talent and intelligence than anyone, ever, is just poor. Many many great players have shown a bit of a temper on and off the court. I advise people (these are not tennis fans) to back the fuck-up on their hatred for Kyrgios. You are embarrassing.

Sure I’ve called him out, as has the ATP. Tanking matches, or saying something disgraceful about another player, etc., is uncalled-for. He was suspended by the tour toward the end of 2016 and required to attend counseling. This is a brilliant tennis player with unreal potential. If you are at a match, rooting against the youngster, keep it to yourself.

Deal with him the way that Federer dealt with him. That match was tense and emotional (from both players) from set 1, game 1. Unbelievable tennis match, folks. The shot-making, the clutch serving, passing, drop-shots, BH, volleys. . . I could go on and on. This was an epic. The call compared this match to the Dimitrov v Nadal AO SF, which means the tennis was at such a high level, only barely (or not) surpassing the level of competitive spirit. This was a war.

Federer and Kyrgios have played six sets and all six have gone to TB, several of which extended beyond 7. This is monster tennis, ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday was the past and present against the future.

To be fair, this was similar to the Berdych Federer QF, in a way. Federer got a little lucky to survive Berdych; likewise, I’m not sure how he survived Kyrgios. The only problem with this “luck” description/theory is that Federer’s involved.

His play continues to just baffle the audience. His return of serve yesterday was a bit incomprehensible. He beat the biggest serve in the game yesterday and Kyrgios, along with the serve, does not lack for clutch. He saved multiple SPs, a few MPs and breaks throughout the match. Unreal nerves from the young Aussie. So impressive.

The 10th game of the first set, Nick serving for the set; Roger breaks back to even the set at 5-5. In that game, Nick made 3/4 first serves. Monster break, folks. The tension was thick as old honey.

In the first set TB, they’re at 9-9. Kyrgios goes to second serve. He unloads a ballsy 123 mph SS. Double fault. Federer serves it out, takes the TB 11-9. Courageous stuff out there for three hours. Rest up, Federer.

I followed the match on Twitter, tweeting my thoughts throughout the match. There’s a bunch of stuff over there. As Nick closed-out his consolidation of that break in the first set, he went back-to-back first serves 139 and 141 mph. This kid has a very very high ceiling. Calling him names is like you’re smelling your underwear. You look/sound incapacitated.

Fedal XXXVII – Miami Final 2017

The Fedal final tomorrow is a bit anti-climactic to be honest. If you’re caught-up in the Fedal rivalry, you’re probably a bit confused. If you need any clarity on that, search my blog under Federer v Nadal H2H.

Here’s how a tennis fan sees the final tomorrow. Part of you wants to see Nadal win Miami, something he’s never done. This is a tournament that suits him, from the surface to the climate and the character of the fans. He has admitted all of this.

Fedal has quite a history here. They met here for the first time ever in 2004. Nadal, who was about 10 years old at the time, beat Federer in the 3R 3 and 3. Federer beat Nadal in the 2005 final coming from two sets down (remember, they used to play Bo5).

By the way, speaking of Kyrgios and people critical of his immaturity, racquet smashing, etc., scroll to the 39th minute of the video below, their 2005 Miami final. You’ll see a bit of temper there. Also, see at the end of the match, how tired Nadal is. That’s an obvious affect of that reliance on the BL-defensive style of tennis. The ball-striking, which seems like vintage slower court tennis (ha!), is superb. Enjoy.

A Nadal win would be rich in tennis history along with reinforcing this 2017 run by the two tennis greats, who are way past their primes.

Federer has beaten him twice this year (people point-out 3 times in a row!), but, again, this refers to the H2H, a flawed analysis. 2017 Federer continues to make my case regarding the level of these men’s games. Federer has so much to offer an opponent. He should beat Rafa tomorrow. But this is tennis, and Rafa is playing very well.

What about 2017 Nadal? I agree – I’m glad you asked. Indeed, he has been quite good. His run at AO, for instance, on the way to the final, went through Sascha Zverev (5 sets) and Grigor, who was surging back then (5 sets). Nadal played Federer pretty even in the final.

He made the Acapulco final but was overcome by a rampant Querrey, who pretty much spanked Kyrgios in the SF. Then he lost to 2017 Federer in IW. In other words, he’s been playing well all year and continues to play well. I thought Sock would put-up a better fight in their MI affair, but this was not the case. He’s playing that efficient, heavy-handed BL game with an under-rated net presence. If you get loose against Nadal, he will make you pay.

Nadal is due tomorrow. The only reason I see Federer winning is the reason I saw him beating Kyrgios or Del Potro here at MI. He has so much for an opponent to overcome. The ROS is becoming a big talking-point of the 2017 Federer phenomenon.

At the same time, we’re waiting for Federer to hit the wall. His age and his consistently high level says a wall is coming. I would easily describe Nadal as a wall. I thought Berdych was the wall. Berdych played very well, should have beaten Roger. Kyrgios had Fed on the ropes in that third set TB. He was up 5-4 in that TB. Roger won the last three points, which included a double-fault from Nick. Berdych double-faulted MP.

Is that luck? Does Roger need a bit more of this favorable bounce to get by Nadal, overcome another wall? Does a win tomorrow by Federer absolutely obliterate the ATP?

Do you sense another chapter to my HRFRT? I penned the first few sections in the spring of last year; that time of year is upon us, so the story will continue (I have to write the Djokovic essay and looks like 2017 Federer is a kind of epilogue).

Enjoy the tennis, folks.

Behave yourselves! Which means root for the match, the sport and keep reading Mcshow Tennis Blog.

Cheers.

Miami and the Blog

We’re into the draw in Miami, so a few thoughts on that along with my continuing exploration of how to get this blog to blow the hell up and become a bigger part of my and your life (I am not kidding).

Quick thoughts on Miami. Nothing too startling. If you were caught off-guard by Pella beating Dimitrov, certainly that’s an upset – but I have to say that I don’t expect too many dramatics at the Miami Open. And this really isn’t that upsetting.

The field is depleted. Missing Murray, Djokovic and Tsonga for starters (especially the first two since the story-lines are pretty intriguing) hurts the top depth. I don’t expect Nadal to win this tournament, nor I am particularly high on Federer, but another IW/MI double from the old Swiss gent would be pretty demoralizing for the rest of the top guys. The points race is a fairly interesting story-line all by itself.

Federer will likely take-in a bit of rest during the clay season as that’s what I’ve heard from Federer in interview and Ljubičić said as much back in early 2016 when he joined Federer (if you remember, we loved that idea and said such a strategy would have aided his tennis self-esteem from 2008 on as the clay is where Nadal gained so much dominance over the rest of the tour, which he carried into non-clay events. There is no question in my mind that this dynamic hurt Federer and alternatively emboldened Nadal’s overall game. However, how do you tell Roger, the 2nd best clay courter in the world during this stretch to sit it out? Exactly. Tough call). But expect Roger to rest a bit during the 2017 clay as he anticipates a run at WB.

Having said this about Roger’s clay abstinence in 2017, this might give him a little extra motivation to try to pull-off the double in Miami. Again, this would absolutely rock the rankings/points race and add to the confidence of Federer, which has to be already sky high. But this is a tough tournament, with slower, wetter conditions, so he has his work cut-out and his draw has big-time resistance.

He gets Tiafoe today, a tough, athletic player who could give Roger a little run; then again, the kid is 19. But I like his game. After Tiafoe, Roger should get Del Potro. I suspect the Djoker fan club has their eyes on this match. Knowing how these folks think, they would use a Del Potro win as a massive boost to their flagging tennis egos. We’ll all have our eyes on this. If Federer is in form, I can’t see this as a very competitive match. But we’ll see.

Then the likes of Querrey, Thiem, Kyrgios, Zverev and Stan could meet a charging Federer, if that’s in the cards.

In the bottom, the likes of Nadal, Raonic, Nishikori, Sock, or Verdasco (seems like a guy who could flourish in Miami) could emerge.

Regardless of who is missing from the field, the tennis will get quite entertaining over the next week.

As for a nice transition from my brief (and superficial) notes on Miami to the discussion of my blog, you can go to the search bar on the top left of my home page and type in “Pella” and see what I have written about this Argentinian workhorse. His #158 in the world will Pellafool you. I have watched him play a number of times and have often been impressed with his athleticism and fight. At 26, he’s perhaps been moved by the same spirit that moves his slightly older compatriot, Juan Del Potro. Dimitrov ran into Pella. According to what I’ve already seen and written, not as big of a surprise as it might appear.

I think we’ll see Dimitrov hopefully find his form for the grass and summer HC. Sure he will continue to compete and do damage on the clay, but his all-court tennis will shine as the weather warms and we set sail for England.

Two more thoughts on young American prospects: Taylor Fritz continues to show almost remarkable ways to collapse in matches he’s got on his racquet, breaks in hand, etc. He was up 5-2 in the third against Kohlschreiber, only to lose in the decider’s TB 4-7. This has been a pattern from the young American. Sure he got a win over 6-seed Cilic in IW, but Marin is an absolute tennis turd stain right now. He’s out in Miami R1, as well. Horrible.

The other American, not as young as Fritz, is Donald Young who continues to show decent form. In IW he beat a tough Sam Querrey, who was playing well, coming off his Acapulco title and then Young just routined Pouille, who has shown all kinds of trouble on tour of late, compared to the flashes of brilliance he showed in 2016. The year is still quite young, so we’ll keep our eye on this Frenchman, but good for D. Young. He continues to play well.

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This blog is a healthy discussion of tennis, which I can only say because of the contributions of readers. I am so grateful for this chance to interact with the variety of readers I’ve had over the almost two years that I’ve been really pushing the tennis analysis and conversation.

There will be some changes to the blog, as I have to make efforts to build a stronger tennis empire 😀 , provide more coverage and commentary, offer more “products” or production, i.e., make this a better experience for tennis fans.

One thought I had was in simply changing the name to “Mcshow Tennis Blog International.” This might be a bit redundant, stating the obvious, only in that tennis is a massively international sport and culture. But this has been probably my favorite part of the growing readership – you all are from all over the world. This is not an American tennis blog by any stretch of the imagination. I even put the Google Translator on the homepage, to enhance this multi-cultural element (I understand that people can make this move on their own: I just wanted to underscore this value). Again, thanks for reading, folks.

I sense that some people build their site’s “strength” by offering some kind of news letter, which readers have to purchase. This seems a bit bold, but I wonder if it would make sense to make people at least become a “follower” in order to access the posts, etc.  I have to continue to explore WordPress to see what kinds of minor, but effective changes I can make.

As the readership grows, you will see things like a Mcshow Tennis hat or t-shirt. You laugh? Look: I want one, so I may as well make a couple of extra to see if they’ll sell. Indeed, I am going to be a bit bolder on some of these fronts.

I have been bold with my tennis commentary. Do you remember what I did to the Nadal/Federer H2H? Search that on this blog. How has that played out?  Not in the actual numbers, but in terms of the legacy, the argument that this weak statistical marquee is unbelievably flawed. It’s embarrassing.

How about my HRFRT series, which I am going to finish very soon (though I may have to continue to update this “book”) and compile in a more complete “package” for readers to enjoy. How has this played out? He is continuing to ruin, smash, destroy and ridicule this glorious sport of ours ;D

What about my Djokollapse argument last summer?  He does recover, I believe, but time is running out on his “harvest,” if you know what I mean.

These are all bigger arguments, chapters 😉 , compendiums, volumes that I need to compile for a more coherent read on these narratives or debates.

In other word, I will continue to be bold in my analysis and commentary. I only want to strengthen the infrastructure, the community and the commitment to Mcshow Tennis International.  Ha!

Continue to enjoy Miami, which looks a bit like Stan’s second 1000 title. 😉

Thanks again for reading.

2017. . .Here We Go

It’s December 31, 2016. I have a couple of weeks to dial-in some ATP action as the athletes get their shits together for some 2017 tour action and subsequently some 2017 Australian Open form!

Hope you all had a great holiday/are continuing to celebrate whatever holiday you’re all about.

Let’s take a quick look back at our predictions from last year and make some wildly inaccurate predictions for 2017 since the place (the tour) looks a bit like a mad house.

What we said about the top 5 (at the time).

Novak: “In other words, I see Novak being particularly sharp early in the season, peaking for the FO. You and I know he has to win RG. The greatness discourse includes absolutely the career grand slam. He knows it, we know it; this is a must for 2016, especially given his terrible luck (we’ll call it) at that tourney. Think of the upset at the hands of Fed in 2011 (remember that? was that not a choke?), or his inability to beat Nadal in such closely fought matches more recently, and then the Wawrinka stunner last year. Nole has to hoist the trophy at RG. Must. . . .

From there, I am not so sure what Novak does. A win at the FO might put WB a bit out of reach, yet he is now the king of that surface, more or less. We are waiting for a lull from the Serb and I’m calling for some success early, through the FO and then a lull. He may want to play well at the OG and then the hard courts where he needs to win Cincy for his career Masters quiver, then the Open, and a finish where he can equal Roger’s 6 WTFs.

So, I’m calling for a lull on the grass from Nole. . . .”

Not bad! Put it down, roll the dice. You can read the rest of the post/prediction, but the essence there is pretty much on the spot. Should I have said “collapse” instead of “lull”? Probably.

Federer. “The new coach is interesting at the very least because the change shows he is still trying. Having said that, we could see a significant drop this year as he nears his 35th birthday.”

Not many saw an injury plagued year, but I was not keen on a big year from the old man. He’s now been on a farewell tour for 2 years and counting.

Andy. “He’s a factor, for sure. If he can keep his wits about him, keep developing his game, he’ll continue to threaten at these big tournaments. Of course. But the coaching situation seems less than ideal (Mauresmo back, Bjorkman out). And he just doesn’t seem to have the make-up to deal with the top 2-3 in the sport. He’s an outside chance at AO and maybe the hard courts? I just don’t see his level good enough to beat even a peaking 34 year-old Fed. Stan is coming, Nadal is probably hanging around and then there’s Nole. Even if Murray survives those early rounds, he’ll have to beat his old nemeses, which he’s been unable to do.”

Aha! I was dead wrong about Andy and dead-on right in that his coaching situation did stink. I did not account for a return from Lendl (aside from not considering a bigger lull from the Serb or, what will be called here and now, the Djokollapse). Lendl changed everything. Nadal circling the drain, Federer getting fitted for a cain, and Novak experiencing a lull. . . I should have seen a bit more of a chance, but you and I both know Lendl is a MASSIVE GAME CHANGER.

Nadal. “I know a lot of people see him coming. I don’t. Will he be better than he was early in 2015? Probably. His form and results at the WTF were laudable, but I still think he’s a shell of who he was. I may be proven wrong. If we wins the AO or the FO, I call for an investigation. Seriously. He’s done. Having said that, he will come hard for his 10th FO. This would be a nice way to wrap-up a great career. Nole probably prevents any of those theatrics.”

I nailed this. His withdraw from the FO as he was cleaning-up the bracket is bizarre. Any theories on that? He saves himself for more important tournament play? What? Makes no sense. Play for La Decima at the FO and then call it a year. Look at his results prior to the retirement. Suspicious. Or just dumb. That was his little window, closing.

I threw a few question marks around Stan‘s name. Which is usually the case.  His work at  the 2016 USO was marvelous and as we look now to 2017 and come-up with some precious little (wildly inaccurate) predictions, let’s start with Stan.

Tennis Channel has been, per this time of year’s typical programming, replaying some of the big matches from last year’s majors. I watched a bit here and there, but the USO final, especially the first three sets, really is must-watch. The Stanimal is something to behold, especially against the Djoker, given their little history at the majors (AO 2013 and 2014 and FO 2015, for example).

Take aways from that match that might be relevant for 2017:

First of all, Stan‘s strength is simply unmatched in terms of all-around power: from both wings, his serve and his endurance. If you watch that final, Stan’s imposing strength is predominant through-out, from ripping ground strokes to running off the court after a hold, which was used to contrast/intimidate the flagging Serb. Remember Stan’s draw, too. He faced MP vs the Brit Evans, and still had to play Del Potro and Nishikori. And in both of those last two matches he simply wore down his opponent. Against both Kei and Novak, he lost the first set, but then reeled-off the final three, with his opponent going away big-time in the fourth. Stan is a beast. You don’t want to play Bo5 agains that guy, especially if it’s a GS final.

We haven’t even discussed his shot-making. The forehand is more imposing than the BH, but the latter is the most beautiful shot in the sport, no question.

Watching Stan trade ground strokes with Novak was really fun to watch. And it reminds you, especially when you consider the affect of that OHBH, why Federer really has no shot at beating a top player in best-of-five, unless he serves his ass off and wins in straights I suppose.

Federer’s BH is not in the same book as Stan’s. The older Swiss’ vulnerability here ends any discussion of Fed’s relevance at the end of big tournaments unless, like I said, he serves and volleys his ass off.

Indeed, Stan’s got the kind of power and ascendant dominance to do a lot of damage on the tennis court, especially in those big matches. His mental game can be almost as devastating as his physical game.

Watch the first set of that USO final. Unreal how he sticks around at 0-3, 1-4, 2-5. Then he loses the TB pretty quickly, but comes back and spanks the Serb in Stan fashion.

But what I perhaps like the most about Stan that overcomes, in my book, many of the other players of today’s game (reminds me of Sampras): his glares, body language and almost verbal intimidation of his opponents. In the third set of the USO final, his “Come-on”s as he’s arresting control of that championship are just the tip of the ice-berg. His glares at Novak when the Serb starts to “nurse” the injury are all-time. The guy’s overall composure (fitness and fortitude) is a compelling watch. Throw-in the actual tennis and you have a master class in power tennis.

How old is Stan? For that matter, let’s look at the ages of the leaders.

Novak 29 (5/22)

Andy 29 (5/15)

Rafa 30 (6/3)

Stan 31 (3/28)

Roger 35 (8/8)

We’ve talked about age many times on this blog and the sport’s audience should have some context for this factor. Let’s talk for a second about Stan.

He turns 32 in March, as we can see. So what about that? That’s old in tennis years, as you know. We’ve been reminding everyone of the Serb’s big birthday in May that puts him in the dark, in tennis years. But we know this calculus is anything but absolute; history, none the less, has a big say here and age, in the end, is undefeated.

But recall our discussion of Novak’s age, how he turns 30 in May. I have made the argument, pretty emphatically, that he’s an old 29 (soon to be 30). Think of the wars this guy has fought. He has a lot of mileage on that body and his style is anything but Federer-like. Novak is tired. Nadal’s 30 might look fairly young, too; but he’s quite old in terms of tennis years. Those guys have played their baseline-loving asses off for a long time.

The look of a 31 year-old Stan at Arthur Ashe last September did not look that old. He’s had quite a different tennis life from that of the 29 year-olds Novak and Andy, and the 30 year-old Rafa, for that matter. Stan looks like he can play well for another couple of years. And when I mean well, I mean as the guy who can take the racquet out of anyone’s hand.

Last word on Stan: as we know, he only needs a WB for the career GS. That’s probably a bit much to ask, but we can look forward to that build-up and we know he’s good for one big surge at at major per year, a surge that no opponent can handle. That’s really the only thing to say about Stan. He’s tough to call, until perhaps late in a tourney.

The point here however is that he is very relevant for 2017; he’s won a major each of the last three years. Does this late-blooming tennis genius have a grand plan for the almost Agassi-like career GS? Look for him to make some noise, hopefully a lot of it. The more Stan and Magnus we get. . . the better.

By the way, the career GS has only recently become a huge deal and with the homogeneity of the surfaces (they’re all about the same actually, speed-wise), it’s an over-inflated stat. I’ll carry-on that discussion in the future: the true mark of greatness is consistency and longevity and, most importantly, dominance at the most prestigious tournaments. Period. Winning at all four is tremendous but it’s really just another part of that argument I have yet to finish: How Roger Federer Ruined Tennis. 😉

Back to our predictions:

Novak Djokovic‘s 2017 should be fairly productive. You might think I’ll say he’s going to get skunked at the majors. Sure I have made pretty clear that his 2016 drop in form shouldn’t be very shocking given his age, mileage and style, but he’s still up at the top of the sport, more or less. The personal and family issues could be brought-in to play here, but everyone has those and they’re too tough to calculate, not knowing exactly what’s going on. Certainly no Becker will be an interesting new paint-job to watch roll down the 2017 road; but, again, Novak has 2011 and some intermittent brilliance in ’12 and ’13 to remind himself that he’s succeeded without the German before.

The Australian Open in two weeks is huge for the Serb. If he wins in Melbourne he’s right back in control of the tour and of history. His collapse at the end of 2016 is still very costly, but if he wins his 13th major in about a month, regains #1 and all of his intimidating form, he’ll be in pretty good shape for 2017.

I will go-out-on-a-limb here (not really) and say that 2017 is Novak’s last really good chance to “dominate” tennis. Forget the burn-out or exhale or whatever you want to call what happened after Roland Garros – he’s tired, folks. Again, he’s played a lot of tennis.

One of the reasons I say AO is so important is that the FO, WB and the USO are going to be more and more difficult for him. They always have been, but we know these will only get more difficult. Grass is not his ideal surface (venue) though as the best in the game and really with no other immovable force to contend with, he snagged the back-to-back in 14-15 to give him three WBs. Roger’s inability to win in 2014, especially, is a tough pill for Fedfans to swallow although they do have seven of those to boast.

But there was no one to challenge Novak on the grass then. Now Murray is rolling and has two WBs, Lendl is going to be in-charge, still, and the likes of Raonic, Cilic, perhaps Stan, and even Pouille will be difficult, not to mention anyone with a big serve (like Querrey). WB is going to be tough especially only a few weeks after RG.

The French has been tough for Novak to win, as well, of course. He got it done in 2016, completing his incredible Novak Slam, but that’s certainly a tough major. It follows the early hard-courts and the spring clay.

Really it’s almost as if Novak would be best built to conserve until spring clay so he can be in much better shape to perform at the FO and at WB. I know this may sound lunatic, but he will have a tough spring summer if he’s all-in at the AO and looks to defend IW and MI and then play well on the clay.

But he has a lot of points to defend, too. That’s what makes AO so additionally important. He has those 2,000 points and many more to defend early in the tennis calendar. To be clear, he has to get his 9th AO.

Lastly, the late summer is always tough on him, historically. He has yet to win Cincy and his USO record (although he has been to several SF and F) is over par. Nothing new here in terms of the history or commentary. Novak has a lot of work to do, really. A lot of points to defend, a lot of confidence to build and the clock is working against him.

Andy seems a tough and easy one to pick. He will be battling for #1 all year. He established himself pretty definitively at WB (he was in the AO and FO finals as well) and through out the summer and fall.  Hell, he’s #1. AO has to be big for him, as well. He has a one-on-one with Novak going at this point. Unless someone else steps-up, this is all about Novak and Andy in 2017.

I have heard Andy wants the FO badly. Interesting. Suffice it to say, Andy will be amongst the favorites at every tournament he plays, especially every major. His strength at this point, just his ability to defend and return serve, his solid movement and good overall game are a tough match for anyone. Would have been interesting to see Roger play Andy late in 2016 because of Roger’s solid H2H with him. Roger seems to have his number a bit, but the Brit is just going to be a tough out on every surface.

Andy and Novak have really very similar outlooks for 2017, but I think the Serb has a little more urgency (perhaps a bit of desperation) given the history he’s playing against and his recent Djokollapse.

Would be safe to say that these two split the four majors, but I see another one or even two players sneaking in.

I want to say Andy wins AO and Novak finally finds some form at the FO, defends his title there. They’re the favorites early, but I think we’re all wondering how Novak comes out here, hopefully not at all like Ronda Rousey’s return to the UFC last night. :O

As for Rafa, I see a similar year to last. I see that he’s brought-on former #1 Carlos Moya who actually should be credited some for helping Raonic move-up the ranks and develop his game. I have a hard time thinking this will do much to change the outlook or the prospects of Rafa since Moya is not a magician who can turn back time. Besides, I think it was Moya, who at the near height of his game, who also hails from Mallorca, was getting his ass kicked by a 12-13 year-old Rafa on the practice courts. With Toni still around and Carlos not a Lendl or McEnroe presence, Rafa will still be Rafa though a bump in his performance and results would be a nice addition to the drama of the 2017 tour.

Roger is going to be 36 years old in August. He is all rejuvenated, playing with impressive form in Dubai, etc., blah blah blah. Roger won’t win #18 only because the tennis gods won’t allow it; besides, Roger doesn’t have the game anymore.

Like I said earlier: while watching the USO final between Stan and Novak, you could just see where Roger doesn’t have the game to stay with Novak. Roger’s BH is so suspect, especially for a Bo5.

As we look back and say wow he was so close at WB in 2016, I said then what I’ll say now: his ability to beat Cilic was pretty remarkable, maybe brilliant, but his inability to beat Raonic, choking here and there, only to see Murray just play with Raonic, the verdict was clear: Andy’s more youthful and potent form, despite the lack of style, is too much for a 35 year-old Roger. Roger’s style, though immense and legendary, is almost a dog and pony show at this point. Instead of being just a solid old guy like Karlovic, he’s Roger, so the cameras and everyone and their third cousin flock to see the guy perform. And there’s a few fist pumps and “come on!”s, but as far as collecting hardware, it ain’t happening.

I would love to be wrong here, wrong about his aging process, that last year’s extended down-time preserved some of that winning formula, but I’m probably not wrong.

For what it’s worth, AO might be a good time for him to sneak-up and catch some people sleeping.

Either way, good to have him back. He begins play at the Hopman Cup tomorrow.

The post is too long at this point. We’ll have to catch-up on some other ideas for 2017 a little later.

In closing, players were very interested in watching develop in 2017: Pouille (lots of pedigree, meaning already some big matches under his belt), Thiem, Alexander Zverev, and some of the rest of #nextgen (Coric, Fritz, Tiafoe, Donaldson, Khachanov, Chung, Rublev, Halys, et al.). Of course, there are others.

We have to say that Cilic and Raonic have certainly emerged as the best threats to Novak and Andy (other than Stan). Nishikori is here to stay, but I just can’t take his sustained form seriously. He’ll play a great QF and knock-off a favorite before laying an egg.

And what about Del Potro!  Taking the AO off, but he’ll be back.

Wildly inaccurate predictions:

AO – Andy

FO – Novak

WB – Stan (lol) or another Swiss player or Cilic or Andy or who the fuck knows

USO – Andy

No need to request comments since you’re all just strictly readers at this point (other than Caligula, Nambi or RJ – thanks fellas!).

Some thoughts on Brisbane, Doha and Chennai next. The tennis starts tomorrow, so I better get busy!