Milos Raonic

Wimbledon QF Preview and A Rant

Quarter Finals

1. Murray (3 set R16) v Querrey (5 set R16)

My numerology is fantastic! Everyone who played a three-set R16 match raise your hand. You are going to win your QF match and advance to the SF! Congratulations! This is a conspiracy and we’ve let this one go a little too far. You are all part of a grand chain of events beyond your control. If your R16 match went 5 sets, sorry. Better luck next time!

Actually my Rant is below, but I’m really feeling it right now. Sorry. Thought that pattern nonetheless is pretty funny and does probably work to determine the SF match-ups. Ha ha.

Murray should advance here and wear-and-tear will be a part of that. Plus, Murray has more leverage across the board, starting with he’s a better tennis player. But the intangibles are speaking-up, as well. He’s the defending champ at his home major. Lendl is in the house. Murray looks untroubled so far and we know he’s been getting good reps. That RG SF wasn’t all for nought. What’s not to like about Murray?

Of course, Querrey isn’t just an empty pint. Querrey made the QF last year after beating Novak (the supposed beginning of Djokollapse) and lost to Raonic. He can play grass and his big serve makes him relevant (as it does Muller and Raonic and even Berdych). Andy’s ROS will partly neutralize the American’s big weapon, but stranger things have happened. And what’s the status on injuries? I have heard Andy is injured. Novak looked injured today, yet the talking heads around SW19, who have better access than we do, don’t seem to be talking much about any of this. This could be Andy in 3 or 4, but if gets into the land of TB, the contest could get tight, go either way; and Murray, we know, is still chasing that lion. But you have to favor Murray here.

2. Cilic (3) v Muller (5)

These two played a tight SF at Queen’s Club that Marin won 63 57 64. Muller may be rested and feeling really confident from that win over Nadal, so we could be in for another tight match. I have been big on Cilic and I think he over-powers the lefty; at the cilic-wimbledon-2017-wednesdaysame time, the big serve can neutralize a dangerous opponent, too. Can Muller tap into a big day on serve and keep things going for another round? Probably better to surmise that Gilles is pretty taxed, and Marin will continue to march towards another final-four showdown (remember, he was up 2-0 sets on Roger in last year’s WB QF. He had MP at Queen’s two weeks ago in the final. This is a guy with major championship range and he’s probably pretty motivated). Jonas Bjorkman doesn’t hurt either. We like Cilic here but an energized and stoic Muller would be gift for us fans, again (that Nadal match is still ringing in our ears).

3. Fededer (3) v Raonic (5)

Federer is rolling, and Raonic has had a less than good year on tour; but we better understand that Milos will not be an easy match for Federer. Of course, last year’s SF plays into that. But even more so: his run here at these Championships. A win like that in the R16, against a young hot-shot who’s been playing better and more (consistently), has to bring Raonic out of his slump a bit. And the serve is just enormous. We think back to the role a big serve can play on these lawns, even the slower manifestations of the grass. The Zverev match is a big win for the Canadian.

But, the taxman did collect, Raonic needing five big sets (though he breadsticked Sascha in the fifth) to compile the victory. That was a tough battle, so some fatigue would be expected and Federer has been pretty light on his feet, flowing, seems ready for this revenge match.

A reader asked about my commentary last year where I called Roger out a bit for failing to close-out Raonic. I have not re-read my post on that SF, but like most matches, there are a few big moments in the exchange that will determine the big shifts in score and momentum (clutch). I remember that being the case with that match, that Federer, whether it was injury, the Ljubičić-project still in its infancy, who knows, but Federer couldn’t handle the big Raonic at that point. Raonic had a better year in 2016, had McEnroe in his box during the fortnight, etc. He was a better player then.

And Federer has that clear re-interpretation of tennis at the business-end. 2017 Federer, understatement of the era, has been remarkably more efficient, lethal. Before, all of that lethality would dull in those critical breaths of huge games and points. He’s closing now; the BH being a good tangible example of this new approach; but the intangibles seem as palpable, as well. Federer’s variety, sorcery, and talent are now polished with that more efficient gamesmanship, match management, etc. You know what I mean.

Federer should win this (on the 5 v 3 numerology) but also on the arch of their careers (ironically); Federer is looking to continue an historical year, playing well. Raonic seems to be struggling just a bit and might have expended a bit too much getting to the QF.

Lastly, on this match; that serve and ROS equation. If Federer can serve well here, then the Canadian has to have a mammoth day on serve. Federer’s ROS is much better and will, most likely, get a look at some BP – of course, he has to cash-in, unlike Nadal yesterday. But if Federer is serving like he did against Grigor, how does Raonic pressure Federer?

4. Djokovic (3) v Berdych (5)

I will write this analysis tomorrow, but as you can see, based-on my sophisticated numerology, I can predict that Novak will win in 3 sets (follow the pattern there?).

I wrote that sentence yesterday, so another prediction fulfilled! I know, I’m being pretty silly, but the match (I watched bit toward the end) looked off. Novak had a MTO and seemed to be wincing through out his service games. That did not look good. I saw highlights of the first set and Novak looked solid, running Mannarino side-to-side at will; Novak looked to be hitting the ball well. 

But he looked off closing-out the match, unhappy, uncomfortable. After the match, Gilbert and Goodall didn’t say much about the injury. Is he injured? Was that an inappropriate MTO? I’m referring to my back-in-forth with Wilfried in last night’s comments. Novak looked legitimately uncomfortable in that right shoulder/elbow/etc.

As for Berdych, he can play grass and he’s a big boy with a big game. He does struggle playing these top guys; he is 2-25 against Novak overall. But, he’s also 1-1 at WB against the Serb, the win coming in the 2010 QF.

We’ll see. I still don’t know the status of Novak. I’ve been anticipating his return for a few months now. He didn’t really prove too much at Eastbourne, his draw here has been a joke (again, Mannarino looked completely over-matched out there. Looked like a bad ticket to watch Wimbledon), and now he looks to be battling injury with another match tomorrow against a big hitter?

You got me on this one.

Berdych has been playing well this year; I keep going back to the QF at Miami where he played 2017 Federer to a stand-still. He’s under the direction of Ivanišević. But he just played 5 v Thiem and he’s 2-25 against the Djoker. I’m not calling upset though this would not surprise me; would validate this mystery form and health that the shitty draws perpetuate. Instead, I’m calling BS on the Serb – if he’s healthy, and he probably is, he routines the big, tired Czech underachiever (you hear that, Tomás? Prove me wrong, big guy).

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Is there any pressure on Djokovic? You bet there is. He has to prove to someone, anyone (himself, his coaches, Pepe, his fans) that he is in major championship winning form. This isn’t Novak, #1 in the world, with a seasoned box including Wimbledon great Boris Becker on staff. This is Novak, clawing his way out from under the Djokollapse, who’s hired Agassi and Mario Ancic, a decent player back in the early to mid aughts, but left the game to go to law school and become a banker.

Brad Gilbert, referring to Djokovic’s R16 match today getting postponed (and finally moved to July 11), suggested that both Djokovic and Agassi must have been pacing back Agassi_Wimbledon-2017-player-Novak-Djokovic-988952and forth like Agassi used to do during his playing years, anticipating the start of his match (Gilbert coached the American for a time). These two have to be somewhat nervous since there’s a lot on the line – more so than for any other player (an argument I have been making all year, which I started in 2016). This is more important for him than it is for Fedal, Andy, Cilic, Mannarino, yo mama, etc.

Don’t be fooled.

And Agassi is not messing around. He’s doing this coaching gig pro bono. He’s going after people even somewhat critical of Novak, including John McEnroe; according to reports, McEnroe likened Djokovic’s fall to that of Tiger Woods’. Hmmm. We might have to consider the context here like was necessary with his comment about Serena’s relevance on the ATP. Agassi told Johnny Mac to shut-up.

So, from the nervous pacing to the mafia-like public relations, the Novak camp has to know that tomorrow had better be a smooth three-setter.

If you recall, I joked about the upset alert in my last post regarding Djokarino. Instead we got Muller Time (another t-shirt). I don’t think Novak has much difficulty tomorrow, but then again I don’t have much on which to base my confidence in Novak.

I will fill-out the QF preview tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

PS
Djokerfan is suggesting that there’s a conspiracy in putting Djokarino on Court 1 today, knowing full well that they would never get that match in, so moving the match to 7/11 is part of, again, some conspiracy to undermine Nole. Djokerfan is wrong again. The conspiracy, rather, is that this unrepentant mass needed something about which to hiss and piss; it’s not a meaningful tournament unless the Djokergirls and boys are crying. Alas, we have a complaint! Couldn’t cry about the draw. But they got something to piss on, after all. Only the Djokes on them. 😀

PPS
Good luck, Novak. Just play good tennis.
Berdych is waiting and playing like it’s 2010 😉

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The Rant

Folks, you and I read and watch a lot of tennis. The fact that you’re reading this right now makes me very happy, by the way – might even add a little motivation in the morning to get out of bed 😀

I grew-up listening to many of our great tennis narrators add so much layer and depth to matches, tournaments, championships, and their players. I’m getting side-tracked here; this is not a recollection of some of the sport’s great voices – that would be a fun post to write for sure.

This is about some of the garbage out there that I want to say a few quick words about. Indeed, some of the less qualified “voices” in our super-charged social media environment decorate this glorious tennis landscape like wads of senselessness that I guess at least provide some of us fuel for discourse. But you know of what I speak.

Let me paraphrase the sentiment that I have been torpedoing for awhile here lately. It’s pretty much the Djokerfan. Separate this discussion from the discussion about tennis and their hero. He’s an all-timer, one of the very best ever and watching him struggle to get out of this collapse is a little disturbing; I can go into that more later, but let’s just say that the world isn’t quite right when a 30 year-old Novak Djokovic is struggling. As I’ve been saying, get your shit together, bud. Shit or get off the pot. What is this? Seems very personal, emotional.

Of course, Andy last year and now Fedal have moved to fill the void; so it’s not like we’re abstinent from genius competitive professional men’s tennis. In other words, the sport we love is better when people are healthy and playing their best. All players.

Do you hear that, Djokerfans? Your pissing and moaning about the conspiracy against your player is a bad look, a really bad look. You believe Novak has been singled-out because he’s a threat to Fedal, the sport in general, whatever.  You believe others (a vague “they”) perpetrate an historical crime (perpetuated) against Djokovic. If that’s the case, and it is, then the spirit of your complaint implies you would prefer to see bad fortune brought upon others. If you believe there is ill-will toward your player, then you naturally (we all assume this if you’re too dumb to realize this) invite ill-will on your opponents.

You recall my exposé on CindyBlack3 (look her up on Twitter) and that fog horn of fanatical garbage. She blocked me finally when I asked her how her argument that Novak is the greatest HC player of all time jives with Roger’s and Pete’s 5 USO majors, or Lendl’s eight straight USO finals. That’s the land of hard courts, folks, where the men separate themselves from the pretenders. Federer has as many of those titles as Novak, Nadal and Andy have combined. Get your saber metrics toilet paper out of the building. She and her cohorts have all kinds of statistics that argue the corruption of draws designed to undermine Novak, historically.

The Djoker conspiracy around 2017 Wimbledon has finally landed, as of yesterday (tough to bring too much attention to the draw in which their player has played a bunch of top-50 players). I touched-on this extra-terrestrial encounter yesterday, as the alien ship landed only because there was nothing acutely, of note, for them to sink their teeth into until that Muller v Nadal match.

Because Djokarino played today, the scheduling of a Djokovic match is now under protest; the calendar was altered, moved to today because the court it was scheduled to play on yesterday, Court 1, happened to be occupied by one of the great matches of recent memory.

One popular strain of the conspiratorial virus reads along these lines: “They” (whoever the fuck that is) want a Federer-Murray final. They’ll go on to say crap like Federer’s scheduling has never been subject to so much “bad luck.”

The Fan will look past the pure manner of scheduling and the coincidence that Nadal and Muller would play a ~5 hour classic. Are Muller and Nadal in on the conspiracy, too?

Or is it that you want to play on Centre Court? Part of this complaint might be that because the Nadal/Muller went so long, Agassi and Djoker were upset that the last R16 match wasn’t moved to Centre Court on the fly. They were upset, apparently. But can’t you all see how/why that seems a little more complicated than you’d all like it to be? A lot of pieces, quickly, and confusedly, have to move. Sorry to break it to you, but the entire planet doesn’t just revolve around Djokovic. But isn’t that ironic, because you think the tennis planet revolves around Federer (and Nadal?). Actually, clarify that for me; is Nadal part of the bad guys? Is it Djokovic v Federer or Djokovic v Fedal? I haven’t heard if Nadal was upset that he was on Court 1 for the R16. Perhaps we should look into that…

If you’re bummed that Djokovic wasn’t originally scheduled for Centre Court, what’s your point? That your player is being de-valued, you’re insecure that he’s not “liked” or as popular as other players? That sounds ridiculous. But is it possible that there is some truth to that? Would such a sentiment be totally unfounded?

If you can’t possibly see the rationale for Murray playing on Centre Court and/or Roger Federer playing on Centre Court (from a fan’s point-of-view, the role of marketing, the pulse of business enterprise, the growth of the tournament and the sport, not to mention the quality of the match – your draw stinks, Novak), I can only encourage you to keep reading my blog, because I believe that will help.

What about your draw?

If you think the tournament really wanted Federer v Murray, why wouldn’t they just switch Federer’s draw with Djokovic’s? Your QF opponent has a 2-25 record against you. You played a guy today in the R16 that looked way out of his league and the guy he beat in R3 is best known for tanking matches. You get the most favorable draw in the tournament, yet you think we’re all coming for you?

Did you see the move that I made in that last sentence? I changed the pronoun from “they’re” to “we’re.”

Your irrationality does see it as the world is after you. And people like me will come after you because your hysteria taints an ordinarily decent event (Is the sport totally void of corruption? No. But we can certainly utilize our crap-detectors to determine what and when something is really worth some kind of investigative discussion).

The only thing, of course, that will cure this disease is for Novak to start winning; then again, we know humanity well enough to gauge that even that won’t curb the conspiracy enthusiasm. 😉

Carry-on.

Bang Bang Bang (Quick Post – Ka Pow!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Reader Poll!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federer Advances into 6th AO Final

Roger takes down Wawrinka 75 63 16 46 63.

I leaned Wawrinka in this one. He looked a half step behind his mentor in the first set; only a half step as there were rallies such as the one at 2-2 which showcased some nice BL styled OHBH where Stan finally wrestled control of the exchange and over-powered Roger with that monster FH. I thought this kind of tennis would resolve the contest – Stan establishing the upper-hand from the BL, Roger having to come to net or just continue to get out-hit.

But Roger was masterful. This is quite a run for the Express, 35 years and counting, like a man on a mission, delivering packages deep into the valleys of Melbourne Park. How about that massive cut-drop chip-shot that Roger hit, the ball spinning back into the net leaving Stan unable to even touch it. We know this kind of tennis from the Maestro, his own witchcraft, but we’ve come to expect the aging great to fade in these longer battles with younger athletes.

The fourth set saw Stan putting his own stamp on the match, coming-up with several brilliant pieces of hitting and at 4-4, the Stanimal got his break and served out the equalizer. Although Wawrinka continued to look solid in the fifth, he pretty much gifted the break and Roger was able to serve it out.

I stand and applaud Wawrinka. I had him winning this and pretty much wanted to see him advance to challenge Nadal, but I’ve come to see that as a flawed way of understanding this last table, this four-top at the 2017 Australian Open.

Roger has advanced and why in the world would anyone not want to see this man, playing this well, reach the final of the AO, his sixth, at this point in his career? I guess if you’re a fanboy of some other player, you’re mad. Well, let me break this to you: even if Roger loses the final, there are a lot of people who understand that his genius is pure, unadulterated and timeless. He won his first in 2004. It’s 2017, folks. This is his 28th major final.

We’ll have more time to reflect on this run, obviously (hint: I will reflect); but let’s now look ahead to tonight and toward the final.

I have already, as have many I am sure, rapped about the second SF and the likely F involving Fedal.

Does Grigor have a chance?

Nadal has Dimitrov 7-1 in the H2H. Their last match was in October in Beijing, where Dimitrov got his first win against Rafa 2 and 4 in the QF. If you look at their matches back through the years, the Bulgarian has always played Rafa pretty tough, even as an 18 year old back in 2009, in Rotterdam. Played him tough on clay, even.

But obviously this is different. Or is it.

Can the enormity of the match really give the Spaniard that much of an advantage? If Nadal continues to raise his game in Melbourne to a level that takes-out both Grigor and Roger, you have him making another installment as one of the most clutch athletes of all-time, despite his weaknesses. His tennis has been pretty average over the past few years. He didn’t finish 2016, lost pretty early in Brisbane. . . but here we are.

He has to outplay (to some extent) Dimitrov. He can not wave his little wand and the Bulgarian goes poof. Head games and bullying intangibles can have an effect. Hopefully Grigor has been counseled, coach Danny has clarified the stakes and this amazing opportunity.

Hopefully someone has told him that Mchshow Tennis Blog had him in early and often!

This second SF is not over yet. On paper, Grigor is playing better tennis. According to the eye-test, Grigor has a chance.

But we are (I’m guilty as well) putting so much stock into Nadal’s superman cape that he wears deep in the draw at majors. This would be a remarkable outcome: Nadal finishing-off both of these guys when he’s been so far from that kind of form for so long. I am not making any insinuations, honestly.

In other words, I have to see it to believe it. I think we have been thinking more about the legend of Rafa than the 30 year-old. Raonic is so flawed himself. Like Kei, he’s awkward and injured. Rafa did what he needed to do. He got through to the final four.

The Lost Generation is all over this draw, but Grigor is a different cat.

One match at a time. Enjoy the second semi final.

Nadal Cruises, Raonic Looks Lost in AO QF

Nadal is Back

Here’s what I wrote yesterday, previewing last night’s QF between Nadal and Raonic:

“The big question is what happens in the Raonic v Nadal match tonight. Raonic should win that match. Nadal, physically, doesn’t have enough to go deep with a big serve and hitter like Raonic. I am not even crazy about Raonic’s overall game, but he made the SF last year and so long as he’s rafael-nadalhealthy, he should dispose of the Spaniard. He even beat Nadal a couple of weeks ago in Brisbane, in 3 sets mind you, but still. Raonic is 2-2 H2H vs. Nadal in their last four meetings (Nadal is 6-2 overall). In the end, if Raonic can keep his body intact, he should advance.

But the witchery of Nadal could rear its ugly head in this last QF match. . . .

Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is Raonic in a steamroller. This one, as long as Raonic is healthy, is all mental. He has to put-up with the idiosyncratic Nadal on a huge stage where Nadal has support and momentum. Nadal, like most of these guys, is feeling pretty excited about the chance to steal a major with #1 and #2 gone fishing. How much does the Moya factor play into this? Should not. Raonic needs to S&V and hit those little pink lifts Rafa calls shoes off the court.

But we can expect some complication in that endeavor.”

I think everyone agrees with me that Raonic, hovering around #3 in the world, should have beaten Nadal last night. This had to be part of any preview of such a match. He had beaten him in Brisbane, and in Indian Wells in 2015, so the trend should’ve continued, especially when you consider the trajectory, supposedly, of each man’s career.

But in the above excerpt you can hear me hedging, talking about the caution one should have in picking the Canadian. Nadal’s witch-craft, indeed, reared its ugly head. How you ask? Some of this is just Rafa, his OCD, his competitive insanity. And some of this is the Moya factor. We do not know exactly what their game plan was against the large, awkward Raonic. But anyone watching could see how much Nadal’s court positioning during Raonic’s serve affected Milos.

Nadal was inside the baseline on first serves, blocking 135 mph missiles back in play (keeping the ball in play remained one of the Spaniard’s critical strategies). He’d drift deeper during second serves. This change in Nadal’s positioning flustered the Canadian. Nadal got in Milos’ head early and often. This had to be Moya, another voice in his camp that people have been wanting Nadal to invite for years. Not only was Carlos a new voice, but he was Raonic’s coach last year! There was even talk last night on the broadcast that suggested Carlos had told Raonic he didn’t want to travel as much, wanted a smaller role or none at all, only to turn-around and begin working full-time with Nadal. This might have upset the Canadian? He spent parts of this match yelling at Krajicek, his new coach. This wasn’t a pretty picture, at all.

Either way, Nadal’s team had Raonic’s number.

Indeed, I showed some hesitancy in my post toward Raonic, sensing a Nadal uprising, but as the match drew nigh, I got more and more certain Nadal would win this match. As Nadal then proceeded to easily seal the victory (sure the second set had some tension, but even if Raonic had broken, I didn’t see him winning the match), I thought, who will beat this guy, this machine who puts every ounce of himself into every point?

I mentioned yesterday that a factor would be “Nadal’s deliberate, violation-ridden, snail-paced tennis routine [that] could probably bore the heavens into submission.” This is part of his witchcraft. In last night’s match, Nadal did receive a warning for too much time on a critical serve at either BP or 30-30; it was a huge point and Nadal sucked all of the air out of the place (per usual) and was successful on that pivotal point (despite receiving the violation). A guy like Federer would have seemingly rushed the serve and perhaps dropped the point. Johnny Mac said Raonic should have backed-off and made Nadal begin again his routine with this violation in tow. The Spaniard continued, uninterrupted (other than the umpire’s inconsequential reprimand) and delivered the critical blow, going on to hold serve in a very tight first set.

We can criticize Rafa for many things, but one thing remains: he is one of the hardest charging, most deliberate and determined players, with a seemingly flawless style of execution under the big lights. Most players blink or wilt under the pressure of the moment and this Spanish opponent. He seems to have that intensity back and just enough on those ground strokes to get this done. Not to mention his play at the net is very underrated.

I think Nadal will be tough to beat at this point. I have seen this too many times.

His form has been garbage for about two years. There is no mistake in saying this. He has been very flawed and beatable even in this tournament. But a teenager, a loony Frenchman and an unproven 6’6″ Canadian guy who’s more at home in his “lost generation” than he is in a grand slam winner’s circle is the kind of draw, apparently, to get the Spaniard where he needs to be psychologically and physically.

He looks capable of going five the hard way, if need be. Moya’s presence seems a clear advantage, as well. Again, this guy is so efficient right now. I was pretty much watching what seemed like younger Nadal and this has to put a bit of a scare into the other three remaining players.

The Semi-finals

SF 1: Federer is the favorite because of the history and their relationship. But Roger has to play brilliantly. Does he have the strength to hit with Stan or Rafa for that matter?  The longer this match goes, the more it favors Stan. I’m giving the nod to the Stanimal.

SF 2: Nadal seems to be expanding as we speak. How much is this the 30 year-old Rafa? How much of this is the legend of Rafa? He seems destined for the final because of his experience, histrionics and the infusion of coaching and bit of fortune in the draw.

stan_aoAt the same time, I’m hoping, for the sake of our enjoyment, we see Dimitrov go to that next level. Nadal in straights or even four sets would be anti-climactic. Dimitrov might have regained some of that form and confidence against Goffin, but he’s in a major SF, so this is a tall order.

A Stan v Rafa final is probably the case.

I will add: Roger out dueling Stan only to get demoralized by Nadal in the final would be too predictable and diminish the quality of this major. We wanted surprise and dramatics in Melbourne. We have gotten plenty of that so far. Think of the irony of Nadal beating Federer in the final.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. . .

QF and SF Action at the AO

Do I wish I was sitting court-side for many of these matches and interviewing, reporting and analyzing the action daily, hourly? You bet your life I do. But I have a damn job (that I love) and a small family (that I love and keeps me honest), so some of my commentary gets delayed a bit. My bad, but you understand.

There is so much to discuss with regards to some of the developments in the 2017 Australian Open. I have to postpone some macro analysis of the sport that actually has me pretty excited. The collapse in the 2017 AO of Murray and Djokovic resonates historically. Having guys like Johnny Mac call matches involving guys like Mischa Zverev resonates historically and culturally.

Stay-tuned. I will soon, as promised, put a wrap on the HRFRT series, and will then advance another argument involving much of these same players  – of this massively misread era we’re smelling the end of.

AO QF Play

The big question is what happens in the Raonic v Nadal match tonight. Raonic should win that match. Nadal, physically, doesn’t have enough to go deep with a big serve and hitter like Raonic. I am not even crazy about Raonic’s overall game, but he made the SF last year and so long as he’s healthy, he should dispose of the Spaniard. He even beat Nadal a couple of weeks ago in Brisbane, in 3 sets mind you, but still. Raonic is 2-2 H2H vs. Nadal in their last four meetings (Nadal is 6-2 overall). In the end, if Raonic can keep his body intact, he should advance.

But the witchery of Nadal could rear its ugly head in this last QF match. We know the differences between guys like Federer and Nadal. Nadal’s deliberate, violation-ridden, rafael-nadalsnail-paced tennis routine could probably bore the heavens into submission (Lendl, on the other hand, would have walked stoically around the net, kicked Nadal’s bottles aside and slapped the bulky bloke in the side of the head had he had to wait for some of this awkwardly twitchy tennis to resume between points and games). Roger’s quick, fluid tennis offers so much more to the tennis population and universe for that matter. Roger’s form has been, per usual, a thing of beauty (at 35 there is so much to say about this development, as well, but you should see that I have been purposefully quiet about the Maestro’s run to another major SF).

Nadal could beat Raonic simply because he has the will and the stamina to go five (though you and I know he’s not the same beast he was) and make Raonic miss enough trying to swat at those slices and Nadal’s crafty mix of weakly short and still dangerously deep ground strokes with an accompanying net play that even S&V folk respect, from a distance.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is Raonic in a steamroller. This one, as long as Raonic is healthy, is all mental. He has to put-up with the idiosyncratic Nadal on a huge stage where Nadal has support and momentum. Nadal, like most of these guys, is feeling pretty excited about the chance to steal a major with #1 and #2 gone fishing. How much does the Moya factor play into this? Should not. Raonic needs to S&V and hit those little pink lifts Rafa calls shoes off the court.

But we can expect some complication in that endeavor.

Dimitrov v Goffin should be an interesting match. Good on the Belgian for this run to a potential SF at a major. I only saw the beginning of his match with Thiem, but we called that a toss-up at the time. Dimitrov looked in trouble against Istomin.

My inclination is to see the Bulgarian face the winner of Raonic v Nadal. Again, what seems pretty clear for anyone to see is the fact that Nadal can have is way mentally over both Raonic and Dimitrov. I find that very hard to fathom, but already this seems to be a bit of circus down in Melbourne. A Fedal final would be, quite simply, incredible.

First SF

Stan looks good, if you ask me. He’s kicking ass, with his customary scowl and playground antics in fine form. All of that aside, watching him turn the switch in these TBs is a good sign. Then again, Tsonga continues to disappoint. In that second set when Jo finally got the break, serving 4-3 but then lost his serve at love and the set 4-6, that was a wawrinka_getty1French white flag. I have never quite understood his lackadaisical tennis. He has so much raw and natural talent and game to beat anyone, on occasion at least, but this was just another chapter of the story of Tsonga. I was pulling for him, but the Stanimal may have just found a table, eaten Jo-Wilfried as an appetizer and awaits his two course entrée (SF and F) at the Melbourne café.

The odds makers have Roger over Stan, I’m pretty sure. The H2H is 18-3 and all of Stan’s wins have been on clay. Be that as it may, the power of Wawrinka and his 3-major confidence have to suggest that he wants this mentorship to take a break while the getting is good. Stan would have been dangerous against either Murray or Djokovic. Indeed, Stan continues to fly under the radar, a bit, but he has proven he can be unplayable deep inside these majors. Maybe Roger is a worse match-up for the younger Swiss.

I think we know how to read this: if Roger is hitting his passing shots like he was against the S&V of Zverev, continuing to hit those lanes and lines consistently, serve well, maintain that masterful footwork and avoid the run of errors from both sides, he should win, given his mental edge.

But I have been quiet on Roger’s run so far because to string together this many solid matches, coming off of an injury especially, seems a bit much for the old man. His match against Zverev was a master class. I’ve been watching a lot of tennis, so perhaps we can come back to some of these matches later; those of you who saw that QF, saw some pretty remarkable tennis.

I still do not like some of his rushed FH and the BH, though pretty solid at this point, seems a match or two away from going awry. He’s been pretty impressive, for sure.

Are the upsets and his form part of an “event”? We’ll see. The Wawrinka match is big. If he straight sets Stan like he did at the 2015 USO SF, think of the hype rolling into the F. But keep in mind how confident and fit Stan has become under the guise of Magnus. If you get Stan down, you better finish him. He has the five-set resilience and heavy artillery to take anyone out in devastating fashion.

Roger better be on his game. That’s all I’ll say.

So much more to write about given some the various story-lines from some of these individual matches. Like I said, there are some bigger story-lines, as well I look forward to getting my teeth into soon.

Enjoy the tennis!

The 2017 Australian Open Draw

Let’s get it on.

Murray: In the top half of the draw, the Scot has a tough route for his quest to win a fourth major and first Australian Open. Here’s how his quarter should play-out.

australian-openHe opens with Illya Marchenko, a Ukrainian who made the AO 2nd round in ’10 and ’11. Murray gets a breather in R64 and then he should see Querrey or the young Frenchman Halys in R32, Pouille/Isner in R16 with a potentially big QF v Nishikori, Berdych or Federer.

Looked at from the bottom of that quarter, Federer should see Berdych in R32. Chew on that. Those two played in the QF last year, but
with Federer’s deserved 17-seed, he needs to slide into form early or he’s out. You and I like his chances against Berdych, but this is no easy draw for the 35 year-old. The winner of that match gets Nishikori in R16, the winner to almost certainly play Murray in that top QF.

So, Murray has Pouille, Federer, Berdych and Nishikori as big threats.

Wawrinka: The Swiss 4-seed has a fairly lighter draw, compared to Murray, but then again with such draw mystery and Stan’s unpredictable form, who knows. He certainly has potential fireworks in a R16 match with Kyrgios who’s lurking as a 14-seed with a lot to prove and seemingly comfortable playing at home. Cuevas, Troicki, and Johnson are in that bracket as potential spoilers; that aside, we hope to see Stan finding form as he squares-up with the uber talented (ill-mannered) Aussie in that match to decide one half the 2nd QF.

The other half of that quarter will see Cilic attempt some semblance of respectable tennis, the kind we know he has in him, sorta, we guess. Looks like he’s in like-minded company with the guys such as Tsonga and Tomic in that draw. All this means is there are guys who can rise-up and be very difficult outs. Tsonga, on a downward trajectory, might have one or two big runs in him left, and Tomic, like Kyrgios, could keep his shit together, act like a man and be a dangerous opponent for anyone in Melbourne.

Beyond those three musketeers, this bracket has some other threats: Jack Sock is looking to close-out his win in Auckland in that AO warm-up, looking pretty good despite the warm-up talent there, but still: he’s maturing, has a solid serve, huge FH and works to develop that BH along with his Bo5 fitness. He can be dangerous. Along with Sock, speaking of AO warm-ups, the British former (or occasional) squash player Daniel Evans is closing-in on the crown at the Sydney warm-up, the APIA International. He plays big serving Gilles Muller in the final.

We’ve talked Evans here before, from him holding MP vs Stan at the USO last September to Federer looking good in a victory over the Brit at the Hopman Cup a couple of weeks ago. As I said then, it was a shot-making clinic, the squash player’s ability to shape the ball a nice complement to some of the Maestro’s touch.

Cilic has Evans in R64 and that’s if the Croatian 7-seed can take care of Jerzy Janowicz, a guy who’s big game has seen the 3R at the AO as recently as 2015. In other words, Cilic will be tested early and often.

People want to say the QF here is Wawrinka or Kyrgios v Cilic. Kyrgios is a sexy pick given the context but that guy could easily implode in a match against Wawrinka, especially since a good Stan will probably take you, at least, into a 5th and decider. A lot of opportunity for Nick to counter his explosive tennis with some explosive immaturity (big stage, big stakes, big lights, potential 3-4 hour match. . .). Again, may seem like a straight-forward bracket, but there are a lot of players in here with no one who seemingly has the consistency to really stand above the throng.

Raonic: This is the weakest bracket in the tournament. Raonic’s huge serving professionalism will get him into the R16 vs Zverev, Monfils or Nadal (I suspect) and onto the QF, most likely. You probably know where I stand on Monfils and Nadal. I don’t trust either one (the former because of his Kyrgios-like instability and Nadal because of his form). Zverev is still quite young so you have to factor that in, but he should beat Nadal in that R32 show-down.

Outside of that, what else do you see? I guess Bautista Agut could give Raonic some difficulty (or Simon? Not). Raonic fell in Brisbane while the 13-seed Spaniard continues to show-up and find victories, winning Chennai last week. Has Raonic’s coaching changes perhaps affected him poorly? We suspect he’ll be fine in this format, on this surface.

Seeing Zverev emerge from the top would be a good development though I know a lot of people would like to see Rafa make a run.

Djokovic: This doesn’t look like a tough draw at all. People could get their panties in a bunch regarding his first round “re-match” with Verdasco, but who thinks the Spaniard really has a chance in this match? Sure the Serb has a habit of starting slowly in tournaments, but this certainly should wake him up. He’ll want to punish the dangerous Spaniard for his insolence in Doha. Of course, you and I both know the poetic justice here would be the Spaniard “setting the record straight” against the sneaky Serb who escaped FIVE MPs in that Doha SF 😉

But the defending champion here should clean-up his act against Fernando and move-on.

Of course, there’s a 3R match, Djokovic vs. Dimitrov, that makes this blog ring again with its steady prescience. Too much to ask from the Bulgarian I suppose, but I certainly hope he’s on his game. If that BH is working along with the rest of his arsenal, he’s moving like he does, keeps his head in the match (fortitude), could be a classic. I love it. Especially since that’s the title of a recent post that I penned (almost) jokingly 😉

Thiem? I don’t see it. Hopefully he’s in better form. Watch the difference in style between Thiem and Dimitrov, both OHBH practitioners. Dimitrov has so much more behind the shot, meaning his movement and versatility. Thiem’s execution is too slow, or was in 2016.

Goffin doesn’t concern me (prove me wrong) and I don’t necessarily guarantee Thiem reaching the QF. Which means that’s a shitshow, pretty much.

Djokovic v Dimitrov is (hopefully) about as good as it gets down there.

One player who could upset the Serbian-Bulgarian tilt is Gasquet. I could see him beating Dimitrov, which would be a disaster as the vacillating Frenchman would then retreat to the loo for the remainder of the tournament. Give me Djoker v Grigor!

Seems fairly likely a 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 semi-finals plays-out. But it’s tennis and the winds of change are always blowing. Stan seems the likely uncertainty, Murray perhaps the most certain to reach the final four. What say you, dear reader?

Many many interesting storylines.

Stay tuned.