Montreal

Montreal Final: Federer v Zverev

Even if Nadal had survived Shapovalov and then beaten Mannarino, his hypothetical SF v Zverev could have been a loss, as well. Zverev is into his 6th final in 2017. Along with Federer and Nadal, the class of NextGen has clearly been one of the year’s brightest lights in these darkened days of the end of this golden age. For a year and a half he’s carried the torch for this future of tennis atp-montreal-zverev-edges-shapovalov-to-set-the-final-clash-with-federerwe keep talking about now. The Shapovalovs of the world are great theatre (and writing material), but the  future of tennis, right now, is Sascha and everyone else. For us to truly Beliem in Thiem, for instance, the Austrian needs to find his HC and grass feet (especially HC). Sascha won his first Masters title on clay (beating Djokovic in the final) and he continues to find the business-end of the draw in almost every tournament he plays.

Overcoming the Canadian teen, to be fair, was no easy task. That match was tight and the second set, highlighted by the TB drama was tremendous championship tennis. Tense, guys surviving MP and SP, rallies that you rewind to watch again because of the shot-making, the beauty and power of the game on full display. I might watch the second set (especially the TB) again before I hit “delete.”

The diagnosis most of us gave Shapovalov earlier still stands: a tennis that’s raw and a little reckless. But put yourself in his coach’s shoes: isn’t this what you want in your young charge at this point? Despite these shortcomings, he’s getting by some tough opponents, finding the experience people need to improve, and fine-tuning his game.

maxresdefaultAnd if you’re only looking at the stats, at the almost 50 UE, and only recalling those crucial rallies where he clearly overcooked the FH way wide, then you’re missing the meaning of this story. His ability to hang-around, save a MP or two, reach a SP in that TB, what would have been huge momentum shift, almost surviving to a third and final set. . . there was a ton of brilliance in that match still from the tennis of Denis.

A hearty standing ovation on the kid’s run here in Montreal. And like I said on Twitter, I think his game will translate well to Bo5. Let’s hope he finds the main draw in NYC, which sounds like a reach. I hear his ranking will keep him out of the qualifying tourney, so he probably needs a WC.

And I’m sure many want to see how he does with a more neutral crowd. Clearly the Canadian 18 year-old was advantaged in the hustle-and-bustle of Montreal. Indeed, lots to look forward to from this youngster. At the very least, his play, along with the likes of Tommy Paul’s play in D.C, and Kokkinakis’ in Los Cabos signal to the rest of this aspiring class of NextGen stars that the time is now. Get your games in order and take some swings at this elderly ATP!

We’ll see how Zverev fairs against one of these elders today.

Federer looked good against Haase yesterday, his form improving upon each successive round.

This is Sampras-Djokovic-like, almost stumbling through the draw, yet getting more dialed-in as the stakes rise, the opponents’ levels rise. Haase didn’t play poorly, but Federer is just finding his feet and controlling his shot more effectively. The players have mentioned that the conditions, among different elements, are causing the ball to fly, making the ball a bit difficult to control. Federer, in one interview, mentioned he was finding it the case where he needed to almost target the ball at the top of the net, or just below, for it to find his opponent’s half of the court.

Like any tournament, surface or era (extend this to different equipment, as well), players have to adjust. Those who adjust the best are the best. Sorry to oversimplify here. But again, this brings me back to fans saying that the 2017 Melbourne courts were too fast for Djokovic – don’t say that out-loud.

Federer had to bag his S&V at WB for years as the courts slowed and chunked-up the tennis. He didn’t necessarily complain: he has eight of those. Adjust to the conditions.

That’s what Fed has done in Montreal.

He should beat Zverev today.

Talk to you on the otherside.

Coupe Rogers Semi-final Saturday

What’s the more interesting storyline here?

2017 Federer ?
or
ATP Youth On the Rise?

😉

The second SF is rich, very rich. Sure, the first entails Federer’s continued 2017 epilogue, which is nothing short of spectacular, but that’s a known quantity, a known quality, if you will. We don’t want to discourage any hype surrounding the Federer v Robin Haase SF.

But, folks: you know where we come-out on this. Before any of this Montreal business-end genius even hatched, behold our nod to the tour’s youth in pre-Montreal fashion which has given-way to fucking big bird!

Two big birds.

Zverev v Shapovalov

I’m so geeked for this match. To be clear, I missed the Shapovalov v Mannarino QF, but will catch it later tonight. I know one thing having not even watched a second of the match. It’s brilliant. We needed this. Badly. He’s the youngest Masters semi-finalist ever, I’m willing to bet. 😉

Either way, the youth has risen. Let this truly be the harbinger of a new era. New characters, new legacies.

You know what this really boils down to, right?

The one-hander vs the two-hander. And you know who I like in this match, right?

A primary point of Federer’s dominance is his style, which we’ll define as that which encompasses all of his skill, talent, etc. He is a handful for most if not all of his opponents, which seems a fairly obvious observation. Are you with me? But the point here about his style concerns his sustainability, his longevity, his relevance.

He isn’t playing very well this week, though he is starting to find some rhythm, consistency, and urgency (the business-end necessity). But he can still win despite this kind of drop in form. Nadal, on the other hand, though he had a tougher draw perhaps, has to play at absolute peak to win (on non-clay). His “vamos” style is based-on a massive sense of momentum, which he masterfully finds and manipulates. I might say that Djokovic is similar in this regard. He has to be teeing-off on his opponent, rampant to a certain extent.

Federer has been able to reach SFs and Fs throughout his career, in winning form or perhaps not so much. He has so much game, so many weapons, such a fluency of the language – that’s his genius.

Part of this is his OHBH.

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I am partial to the one-hander and even tend to think many of these players who use it have a bit of an advantage (bias perpetuates deception 😉 ). Sure there are many other factors in players’ success, but the one-hander is such a marvelous element of style.

Let us observe this great debate in tomorrow’s second SF. Among other things.

Here’s to two brilliant matches to set-up a North American hard court Masters final.

Cheers!

Montreal Masters at the QF

The youth has risen!

Timing is everything. The timing of Shapovalov’s upset of Nadal gets us deeper into this discussion of youth that I started a few days ago; glad I slid that under the door and into the press in the Nick of time. . . 😀

Indeed we have seen a bit of this youth’s gunfire in Montreal. How good, again, is the timing here? U.S. Open Series is well underway, and we have the Montreal business-end to digest along with Cincy on the immediate horizon. NYC is in the distance. . . can you see it?

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Let’s skip through some highlights of a few matches that are helping to define Montreal, a potentially significant turning-point in competitive balance and hierarchy. Time will be the best judge on much of that, but shrewd analysis can help clarify and interpret the narrative.

Let’s start with Roger. I watched most of his first match v Polansky. He looked sloppy, bad at times and still breadsticked the local cuisine 2 and 1. He won one of his service games in less than a minute, literally :58 seconds it took to win a game. Looking at the scoreline, however, did not give one any indication that he may struggle a bit vs. Ferrer in his second match.

He looked old against Ferrer, who’s about equal in age to the Maestro. David hammered Federer’s second serve, kept the 2-seed off-balance, used his relentless defense to attack a seemingly tired Federer. As I said on Twitter, Federer looked hungover; he was sluggish and even grumpy, at one point smashing a ball deep into the stands upon missing a fairly routine overhead smash.

But he got his wits about him, held serve enough to win the second set and won going away in the third. Sure one sees him still a favorite to win this, especially given the draw, but he doesn’t seem overly eager, nor his tennis very urgent in advocating for the title.

In his pursuit of #1, I suppose we could be a little surprised by his lack of form here in Montreal; at the same time, though, with with Cincy, USO, fall hard courts, and WTF still on the schedule, there is plenty of time and opportunity.

Dear Jack Sock, I did not include you in my ATP Youth On the Rise article – and you’re only supporting this editorial move. At only 24, he should have, perhaps, been included along with the rest of the even younger American youth contingent; but he wasn’t. And his tennis (attitude) seems more in affiliation with the lost generation. We’ll see how the year transpires with him, but his D.C. result (granted, he did run into the hot Anderson there) and this loss to Ferrer has to sting.

The tennis of that next little bracket, of Nishikori, Monfils and RBA, has been quite dramatic. To be honest, I did not catch much of any of this; the tennis of Kei and Gael doesn’t quite secure my study (I probably shouldn’t admit that).

Monfils, of course, had one marathon win in him, overcoming Nishikori, but the gritty RBA out-lasted the quirky Frenchman yesterday, setting-up a potentially tight one against Federer today. The Spaniard could be empty from his tilt with Kei, but he usually gives the audience value and looking at Federer’s tennis at this point, today’s QF between Federer and RBA could be a decent contest.

Ahh, the Thiem v Schwartzman match. I saw the last part of this, when Dominic was serving for match at 5-4 in the third. To make a long story short, two things about these players reiterated their clarity: 1) Diego is a tough out, a feisty retriever and ball striker who can certainly go the distance with almost anyone, especially on clay; and 2) the clay game has some trouble on the harder, faster surfaces. Watching Thiem try to finish the Argentinian the other night was torturous. He couldn’t hit through the court, was rendered offensively almost impotent. This match with Schwartzman was like watching a match on clay. Long-winded rallies, players running out of patience, the survival of the fittest and the player with the biggest margin on his ground strokes. Not the most interesting kind of tennis unless you want to see players stagger to the ends of points, the business-end of the match looking more like a couple of buddies hitting in the desert, playing for a couple of cold beers.

Sorry about that – got away from me. Thiem needs more offense: memo to his coach and him. You are too good to only excel on clay. Looking at Shapovalov’s stroke, there’s no reason Thiem’s game, including the classic OHBH, can’t transfer. This loss was disappointing, mainly because he had the match on his racket, needed to end this affair, but couldn’t. . .as it kept on going, and going. . .and one could see the Austrian begin to wilt as much in confidence as in fatigue. Take care of that deficiency, Dom.

To Diego’s credit, in yesterday’s R16, he next went down a set to American NextGen Donaldson (whom I did include in that previous post) 0-6 before mustering his trademark grind to outlast Jared 7-5 7-5 in final two sets. Good for Schwartzman. And to be fair, he is only 24, so perhaps he’s merely getting back at me here, taking-out #BeliemInThiem and my fellow American youngster for good measure. You officially have our attention here in San Diego, Diego! 😉

Anderson clearly remains on the rise. He made the final last week in D.C., beating a string of tough opponents, and continues here in Montreal to feel confident on these hard courts. Disposing of Querrey yesterday was a good look from the S.African who now gets a rematch with Zverev. That could be a very competitive match.

Speaking of Zverev, good on him for taking care of Kyrgios in routine fashion, but it does look like the Aussie is hurting. The announcers spent as much time talking about the match as they did imploring Nick to get his shit together. This means the general maturity along with getting healthy, which is part of the preparation and professionalism that the best master in this brutal sport. Whether it’s throwing a match emotionally or never quite getting healthy to play 100%, the effort is wasted. That was the message from the call and from anyone continuing to watch this talented bloke come-up short.

Part of this conversation entailed the natural comparison to Zverev; not to jinx the German, but the point was made that he maintains his health. I mentioned in my previous post how serious he is, seemingly the most mature of the entire NextGen class. He’s winning more, more impressively and he’s even added more expertise to his box with the hiring of Juan Carlos Ferrero. Listen to Zverev speak (listen to his D.C. champion address from last week): maturity. Even his happy birthday wish to Federer was measured and echoed the maturity of which we speak (look at my twitter feed for that tweet containing the messages to Fed from several players).

How about that Zverev v Gasquet match? I suppose the signature point was a Gasquet MP that lasted 48 shots, won of course by the young German. The noted criticism of this rally and probably of the Frenchman, in general, is something we just mentioned with regards to Thiem: not enough risk or offense in his ball striking or point strategy.

Do we get a Federer v Zverev final? Something tells me no, based on the element of surprise that has grown legs and developed a mind of its own.

I mentioned in my Montreal preview that Raonic has struggled but I thought he might be one standing in Rafa’s way (the top draw has been more difficult than Federer’s half). So, Raonic does continue to struggle, not surprising from my end as I am not a fan of his tennis whatsoever and Shapavolav’s game reiterates this point which I will clarify in a moment.

I made a small mention that Mannarino has been playing well, going back to his finals appearance in Antalya, his R16 run at Wimbledon, and QF run at Los Cabos last week. He took care of Raonic and the tough NextGen Chung, both in straight sets. With the emotional high that Shapavolav hit last night, Mannarino could very well be the antidote that none of us wants, especially the young Canadian and his inspired local support.

Shapovalov’s win is certainly inspiring. We brought him up in our look at the youth, but we certainly didn’t predict anything from the outset. However, in yesterday’s comments, Clint and I went back-and-forth a bit about this guy’s moment of opportunity and his game in general.

To my point about Raonic (not a fan of that awkward stoicism – though it does speak pretty meaningfully to a professionalism that has seemed to have benefited the giant): this youngster has “panache.” This is important in the Canadian’s or any of these youth’s rise and separation from the pack. Denis let the crowd get involved; he encouraged it, along the lines with what a player like Nadal has done his entire career. Roanic, I doubt, would have done that. That’s just not Raonic and speaks to his quality.

We talked yesterday about how the crowd could be a factor in this match, but I did concede that I was hoping that the Canadian would simply “resist” the 1 seed. I followed this up with the point that Nadal, in my humble opinion, “is inherently vulnerable on anything but clay, but he’s riding pretty high right now, sure.”

You know from reading this blog that I have always been underwhelmed by Rafa’s overall game. Granted, he’s the clay GOAT. But that style of tennis isn’t as potent on the other surfaces, especially HC (grass was slowed significantly since ~1997). No, I did not envision Shapovalov’s upset of Nadal. But I am not as stunned as someone like Ben Rothenberg.

Look at how far back Nadal is in this match last night. That defensive posture, massive top-spin and a less than lethal serve puts the opponent in play, often.

1297981562632_ORIGINALBut let’s be clear: Nadal’s opponent last night has massive offense (see discussion of Thiem above). The tennis of Denis is offensive, has flair and the guy can not only handle the big moment, but he might seek it (similar in character to Zverev). This is the separation, what we can look for in these youngsters to determine the contenders from the pretenders.

For instance, what happened to Dimitrov in that third set vs Haase? Sure, the game is tricky and anything can happen in a match (and Haase is playing well), but my point is that for some of these guys trying to find room at the top as a the Big 3 (or 5) continue to graze glutinously, they need to be there mentally as much as physically. Sure, stating the obvious here, but that’s what last night’s match might have clarified more than anything else.

Two things, actually.

The tennis from Denis Shapovalov or any top-of-the-tour contender must evidence championship character (panache/flair/guts) and have enough offensive skill to finish the kill.

I won’t say he must, as well, have a one-handed BH, but this doesn’t hurt 😀

Indeed, brilliant stuff from a teenager who’s moving the needle.

Enjoy the QF action.

Rogers Cup 2017 Draw

Good evening/morning/day: I had hoped to post a broad write-up on the tennis I saw from D.C. and Los Cabos. Myriad story-lines and thoughts about players, court speed, Fedal 2017, the US Open, the loss of Stan to add to the plague that’s hit the ATP, etc. But that will have to wait – not going to waste the few notes I scribbled and the links to highlights I bookmarked.

rogers-cup

But the Rogers Cup is already underway, so let’s just make a few quick remarks about this tournament.

At the top is Rafa’s half and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he has a tougher draw than Federer; then again, the matches have to be played, so a draw’s difficulty on paper is often not what it turns-out to be. Nonetheless. . .

Nadal most likely gets Coric in R2, DPo in R16, QF with the likes of Raonic, Goffin or Mannarino, who has been playing well (Rafa should get Raonic though he did flame-out in D.C. to Jack Sock in that QF round in straights). The SF match is against the winner of the quarter from hell. If Rafa survives his quarter, he will get the winner of Sascha/Kyrgios/Khachanov/Anderson/Querrey/Tsonga.  That is a loaded bracket right there.

Naturally, we like Sascha who’s growing before our very eyes, but Kyrgios, I guarantee, will play much more to his early 2017 HC form here. He’s a softie (is there word his girlfriend left, which left his game abysmal the last month?). Tough to keep track of these soft Aussies; but Nick’s game is treacherous when he’s dialed-in/pissed/whatever turns him on. Remember that in both Indian Wells and Miami Kyrgios handled Sascha fairly well (IW was really one-sided). In other words, as well as the Younger is playing, Nick’s game is remarkable when he’s “feeling it.” Unfortunately, that’s a mystery.

Anderson, of course, is playing well, having reached the D.C. final last week, playing some very solid tennis and Querrey doubled-up his Mexican stash (winning Los Cabos to go with this title in Acapulco earlier in the year). Tsonga is probably due for a little run and we know Karen’s game has some depth.

With the news of Murray not playing this week, Nadal has a real shot at claiming the ATP #1 rank, which would be quite an accomplishment for a guy whose game was in the toilet two years ago. But that’s Nadal. I remember thinking in 2012 he was done.  .  .

Roger’s draw looks like this:
R16 (if he makes it) should be Sock or Edmund, QF with Nishikori/Monfils/RBA and SF with the survivor of Theim/Zverev the Elder/Dimitrov. Again, matches can swing a different way, so the match-ups could change, prove more difficult/favorable; we’ll have to see how this plays-out.

Indeed, this really is all about 2017 Fedal at this point. Tough to imagine this when we started the year – though Djokovic was spiraling, Murray was exhausted from his 2016 run, and Stan we never can tell anyways when he’ll make his presence felt. So, sure surprising, but the plot points for this had been planted as early as late last year. Of course, Cilic is missing from the Montreal draw, as well.

Federer has never won this title in Montreal, though he’s been contradicting all kinds of trends this year. I just don’t see much in his draw that could really trouble him; Dimitrov has not found that form from January, and the likes of Theim and Nishikori don’t appear to have the HC balls to overcome Federer. So unless he really has some kind of allergic reaction to the tennis of Uniprix Stadium, he should reach the final.

Nadal must have all kinds of motivation to bring his A game. I believe I read where if he makes the SF he claims the top spot of the sport, but correct me if I’m wrong. Still, if Raonic is finding some HC form, he could be tough as could the winner of that quarter of death (Sascha, Kyrgios, et al.).

Let me know what you think.

I’ll get that other post off tomorrow, looking back at last week’s tennis, for instance the play of Tommy Paul (I brought this to your attention after his win v Pouille and he made a bit of noise beyond that – hope you caught some of his play) and a few other thoughts – there was a lot of good tennis discussion just from the D.C. play.

Certainly another theme to track right now is the play and somewhat encouraging rise of the youngsters. Can they continue to make way (Kokkinakis, Kyrgios, the Americans, of course Zverev, et al.)?

The time is now, especially with a depleted veteran troop this week in Montreal.

PS
Happy Birthday, Roger Federer
36 on 8/8/17