Nadalism

Nadalism/FedFan and the WTF

Nadal-wins-Roland-Garros-2017

This post started as a return to the contemplation and reconciliation of Nadalism.

At the end here, on the eve of WTF, I’m confounded by this contradiction involving Nadal. But the appearance of the Fedfan on my blog broadens this post since Nadalism is this institutionalized bias toward the Spanish great and we all know Fedfan shares this oversized enthusiasm for article-1191415-053FFAE1000005DC-754_634x387their own star (I think I have a lot of Federer fan readers, we are all fans of Federer of course, but my more passionate readers, I think, have the wherewithal to keep their wits about them).  For sports fans, enthusiasm and passion are a huge part of the playing field, so to speak, granted; but I have clarified on several occasions how this can turn to fanaticism and, voilà: you have what can amount to an ideological booger. Mcshow Blog is not a waste bin for your booger, fanboy.

Speaking of fanboys and girls, did any of you catch some of the social media aftermath of Roger winning several awards yesterday? The back and forth concerning, especially, Federer’s sportsmanship recognition is a five-setter on the toilet. This is bottom-of-the-barrel bullshit from people who can’t see the forest for the trees.

Let’s get to work.

Nadal’s rise to #1 is truly astonishing, but is it?

Here’s the contradiction:  I have this impression that Nadal hasn’t been consistent enough throughout his career, year-round, on all the surfaces, at all the “big” tournaments, that despite his clay concentration and other huge accomplishments (H2Hs, majors, masters, etc.), he’s been less of a champion than some of his competitors and historical comps. Part of this argument, by the way, has concerned his style, which might actually be all that’s left when I get done “reconciling” this contradiction. For what it’s worth, that 2017 U.S. Open, where he’s camped 35 feet behind the BL, made my skin crawl. My bad.

So, where does this guy fit into the grand scheme of men’s tennis greatness?

I think I’ve been wrong in my “calculations” and this aforementioned “impression” has, indeed, been part of my own bias. My claim that in 2012, for instance, he was on the proverbial Medical examiner’s table is flawed.

Although the 2015-16 form was truly abysmal (and this, like many of these “things” with Nadal, do add-up), if I hadn’t already lit that part of town with my criticism of Nadal (Nadalism — my bias), I might not even have seen this 2015 and 2016 “sewage” as another episode of the end. From where I was coming from, 2015 (actually might’ve begun in 2014) to 2016 seemed like, again, his run had come to an end.

I might not be so surprised about his 2017 return to #1 (remember, we’ve qualified this already, as well: Djokeray absent, Federer 36 years-old, and the “youth” of the tour a bunch of scared, orphaned kittens).

A post like this is partly a glance at my brain researching parts of a bigger narrative, such as one that I’ve already drafted (HeR FaRT) or others that I have in the works: in the end, this blog is a giant narrative of men’s tennis, hopefully spanning several years. Conveniently, I can just organize some of the pieces into sharper, more crystallized accounts and arguments that better tell the story for interested readers as the time comes and/or the stories manifest themselves.

And I do want to thank that Fedfan for his trouble: he inspired that PSA for the Clown Show; I have a growing assortment of such reprimands or diatribes. Thanks again, fanboy.

For sure, Nadalism is personal: I have to reconcile my Nadal phobia. As 2017 progressed and I watched him play, rise and shine across the men’s championship landscape, his quality did seem almost natural; again, 2015-16 wasn’t that long ago and that latest form failure had been filed amongst the other issues and inconsistencies I’ve seen with Nadal.

Consistency is a huge factor, at least in my “book.” This has been my primary issue with Nadal.

I said earlier that Nadal looked to be fading in 2012. I wasn’t perhaps following as closely then as I am now, but this does look like a flawed account of Nadal that I was writing. Or was it?

Sketch of his rise and fall. . .and rise

As he burst onto the scene in the mid-aughts, he began his initial rise. He was #1 by 2008. This, of course, is the year he won Wimbledon for the first time. He had arrived, establishing this first break from the clay chain. This was his 5th major, adding to his four FO titles.

2009 was an odd year in that he got his first and only AO, but then seemed overcome with injury as he was beaten at Roland Garros, and withdrew at Wimbledon. He did make the USO SF that year, but he got absolutely mugged by the surging Del Potro 2 2 and 2.

2010 was a return to form, especially as the season wore-on. He retired in his QF match with Murray in Melbourne, but then won the next three majors. Back to #1.

Then the rise of Djokovic, seemingly, which complicates the picture. Djokovic owned 2011, winning three majors. Nadal won his customary French title, but relinquished #1 to the Serb.

And this is where I go wrong (or do I?). How can I argue that Nadal was going away when the following events took place:

The 2011 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals were Djokovic wins against Nadal. Nadal is still around, big time.

The 2012 Australian Open, we recall, was the great Djokovic v Nadal final, the Serb consolidating his 2011 ascent in a breath-taking (for many) five-set war.

The rest of 2012: wins RG, loses 2R at Wimbledon, and withdraws from the U.S. Open.

The absence at the 2012 U.S. Open extends to the 2013 AO; he misses two majors in a row, following a 2R dismissal at Wimbledon. That seemed a bit like a ship grounded and listing in the heavy ATP surf that was a charging Serb, Murray still growing, and Grandpa Federer always lurking.

Then the iconic 2013 FO SF between Djokovic and Nadal, Nadal prevailing in the fifth 9-7. Imagine that going differently? That was his big comeback from the dead. So, in a way, I was right that 2012 and even early 2013 seemed like the Spaniard was sputtering.

He follows his eighth FO with a 1R dismissal at SW19. Again, that Nadal rollercoaster. And it gets better. He wins his 2nd USO that September and goes on to finish #1.

His journey from 2010 #1 to 2013 #1 was a mess. He remained, I will argue, buoyed by that red clay and took enough time-off here and there to make some significant runs at majors not on clay, really the 2010 grass and N.A. hard courts and 2013 N.A. hard courts. We’re not looking at Masters titles in this time-frame, but his summer hard courts were fairly successful; he swept Canada and Cincinnati in 2013.

This is so complicated because of the other players Nadal was battling for these titles, especially Djokovic, who came along just in time to prevent Nadal from really running amok on tour. That’s another discussion for another day.

Then the 2014 to 2016 swoon (I cleverly added a year 😉 , which is typical Nadal, really. And then 2017, which is brilliant and complicated, as well.

So, where do I come-out on this? What’s up with Nadal? I do think it’s important to put Federer’s time-off in 2016 into perspective; that was his first extended break from tour. Nadal has had several “breaks” throughout his career. When this kind of time-off is granted, players can return full of health, fitness and form. People want to point to Federer in 2017 as a good example, but this has been Nadal’s M.O. throughout his career.

We will see how this informs Djokovic, especially, in 2018.

And we know part of this inconsistency with Nadal is his playing style. This, supposedly, explains his extended absences. But it is also something to consider. When the Nadal fans have been naturally offended by the drug accusations, they’re going to have to take some of that because he’s missed extended periods of tennis, only to return to form and continue to win majors. Either way, that seems a bit unconventional, to say the least.

I am not calling him a drug cheat. But these down-cycles in his career have to be taken into account either way. In the end, I think he really is just injured a lot.

I decided to revisit some of this narrative at this time because of the WTF, kicking-off tomorrow.

In this story of Nadal, this year-end tournament has proven to be a huge problem. One can complicate and reconcile until he’s blue in the face the career of Nadal. He’s one of the greats, no doubt, in all of his peak-to-valley-to-peak complexity and phenomenal competitive greatness and nuance (and obsessive compulsive disorder).

But the WTF has eluded this particular great. There is no argument here.

Which is part of my conjecture that this will be his year, as I think such a mark (zero WTF titles) is a tough pill to swallow in this gargantuan debate and tennis discourse we know and love.

Indeed, the idea is that the tennis gods would provide this vulnerable champion his missing treasure.

My brain says Federer’s form is too good for any of these top eight. He thrives on the indoor court, at this time of year (especially with the Serb on the shelf). Federer’s new and improved offense (and defense, especially that ROS) should prove to be tough for these youngsters and even Nadal to overcome.

I will say, however, which I almost always warned even back in 2015 when Federer found so many deep draws and Djokovic standing between him and the title: he has to serve well. When his spot serve is as brilliant as it can be (110 mph aces), he is virtually impossible to beat at this point.

But stranger things have happened. And now that Moya’s insistence that Nadal is 100% is being countered with Nadal’s own recent suggestion that his knee is not 100% and that he could, in fact, not make his match Monday. . .who is to know.

We will have a much better read as play gets underway.

Nadal and My Stream-of-Consciousness

I’m in the business of trying to explain myself. That’s how this works, this blog at least.
My last post was all over the place, but still an impressive piece of stream-of- consciousness. No? Well, let’s just agree to disagree on that one. 😀

Thanks again to Wilfried for his article on top players’ connections to Paris-Bercy. As I said a few weeks back, I would like to build a little staff of contributors that will only add depth to this greatest tennis blog on the planet. I like the idea of variety since this could discourage you all from getting, perhaps, too tired of my crazy (genius) tennis imagination 😉

We need blogs like this one here more than we can imagine, I’m afraid. Obviously, I write about tennis, but you’ll probably see a move to address more topics and conversations as this lovely world of ours continues to seemingly spin out of control.

On and off the tennis court, what in the hell is going-on?

To stay off-court for a second here (pardon the social commentary), the “world” and its mainstream media are ill, have been plagued with greed and other deadly sins (hence the importance of “other” media even if many social media are, in fact, obnoxious and, as we’re learning more and more, actually a terribly effective sociopolitical tool used against our better judgment, both personally and politically).

America, my home, seems to be leading the way on this theme park-like ride of crazy and reckless political and social themes. I am ashamed of so much of this recent political swill that we’ve all been forced to consume. Politics, from my limited perspective, has always been a corrupt kind of incomprehensible world of people pursuing power often saying almost anything to get votes, more power, attention, people scared, sympathetic, etc. At this point, people are angry, confused, defensive and scared.

With my little voice, I apologize, on behalf of my America. At the same time, we’re definitely not alone in running this horror show, but we have, for awhile, maintained a strong leadership position in this very threatening government-by-the-financially-powerful (which seems inherently greedy and disinterested in living and breathing species and their environments – schools, the actual environment, food, etc.).

To be fair, the system is really the issue, so even Trump, in my humble opinion, in the end, signifies just our latest messenger, or by-product (the horror). In other words, the illness is much bigger than the clown-like, narcissistic orange man who sits in the White House. But enough of this dreary and depressing discourse that almost no matter what you or I say, or how we say it becomes, for readers, a kind of diatribe rife with personal politics, ideology and defensive dialogue disguised as thoughtful debate.

Back to tennis.

Nadal is out in Paris due to injury, the right knee still the issue.
Yes, the old right knee, the one I documented here in Shangahi:

After Shanghai, he didn’t play Basel because of the knee. The knee appears to be what’s kept him out of finishing Paris (unless he suspected the draw would finish him off).

What about London? Curious why not, if the knee was that bad, sit-out Paris and give himself over three weeks of rest to prepare for what is the WTF, where the best-of-the-best square-off. We can defend Nadal until we’re blue and long in the tooth, but this decision to play Paris and put London in total jeopardy (not sure how he can conceivably play London if the knee is that bad that he can’t play a qualifier in Paris QF) seems a bit suspicious.

You can hear the voices: Is he dodging Federer?

Given he only needed one win at either Paris or London to consolidate the YE #1, is that what he did in Paris? I guess that’s a smart move if he’s too hurt to play a single full tournament. Consolidate #1 and call it a year. This has to be what he’s considering at this point. Why even go to London at this point?

How you feel about this set of circumstances depends on who you are. Some will find his move here practical; even the likes of Guy Forget think Nadal was professional in his decision to play Paris (at least a couple of rounds). Some will consider the #1 well-earned, the fruit of a remarkable year of tennis from AO through to the USO, winning 2 of 3 majors, making the final in a third, dominating clay, in the end doing enough to accumulate the most points needed to reach YE #1.

Others will call him out and say he got lucky and that this effort here, skipping Basel, bowing-out of Paris and skipping London is not a very stout representation of world #1.

Hopefully, you consider both viewpoints, and the several in-between, that your position is thoughtful and complicated because this situation is pretty complicated.

#1 is a huge achievement. Nadal and everyone around the sport knows this.

Despite however I feel about the knee and his finding #1 almost by default (although I will clarify Federer’s role in this in a minute), I have to eat a little crow on Nadal and say to everyone out there that apparently ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Are you familiar with my criticism of Nadal? About a year prior to that criticism, my critique of the flawed Fedal H2H hit the newsstands.

Referring here to the articles in which I explained my coined “Nadalism,” I was very tough on Rafa. These were penned in the winter of 2016, where he was still struggling to even be taken seriously on the tennis court of the time. 2015 represents a really low point for the Spaniard, so I had all of that informing these February articles/posts. He was embarrassing. Here’s a quick glance at his 2015, but remember that these numbers, like most statistical analysis, often do not tell even half the story; the eye test almost always proves to be the best discovery. His shot from both sides was short, impotent and his usual on-court aura of intimidation and confidence, gone.

Of course, I remember having a similar thought in 2012 about Rafa: he’s done.

And then we recall 2013.

But 2015 and 2016 were bad and given that the guy was getting into his 30s, I had had enough of the ever-injured, always volatile, always clay Rafael Nadal.

So, I have to be absolutely humbled by the tennis of 2017, no? Yes and no. The resurgence of Fedal has been quite the narrative, one that I have documented consistently on this old blog (#2017Fedal). His Australian Open run was truly incredible and he had the break on Federer in the 5th. He seemed to “normalize” a bit after that on the spring hard courts, leading into clay. And then, of course, he went berserk. We know how this season has panned-out for Nadal. We will always look amazed at his USO draw. But that’s not his fault. The numbers don’t lie.

Watching his run unfold throughout the year, I am not that shocked by #1. Watching the tennis in real time, we were able to see the campaign unfold before our very eyes.

Taking a step back, however, and not hiding from anything I’ve said on these pages of this blog, I am quite shocked how the tennis gods facilitated the rise of a 31 year old Nadal to #1 in the world. I have to acknowledge my very critical commentary on the crafty lefty. Even if you aren’t going to call me out, there you have it.

But as the season winds-down, we also have to acknowledge that this hasn’t ended all that great for the Spaniard (how in the hell do I say THAT after he reaches YE #1 for a 4th time in 2017, tying Johnny Mac, Lendl, and Novak. Remarkable stuff!).

Word is he’s probably not even playing London. We’re still in the land of speculation, but that’s almost certain to materialize in the next few days. More hard courts, along with the top eight players on tour, including one very hungry and motivated five-time WTF champ.

I stand by my assertion that we will know who is truly POY after Paris and London. Roger got that disturbing Basel title out-of-the way and has skipped Paris to prepare for London. Why? Because the WTF is the fifth major, folks. WTFs and YE #1s are practically a combined reward for a season’s dominance.

As I’ve said, Nadal is the player of the year as we speak. Points, No. 1, two majors, a third final. . .tough to argue.

But if Federer wins the WTF, his case will be equally impressive. Look at WTF and YE #1s. They’re quite the parallel, practically synonymous. I thought Nadal would be healthy enough for this ever-important end-of-the-year test after his self-inflicted right knee injury in Shanghai 😉  I thought he’d make London a priority.

At the same time, he’s still #1. . .

To be continued. . . tomorrow, where we qualify 2017, aka the Murkovic disappearance and ATP field implosion, and how a 36 year-old ended-up really playing like a 36 year-old, including his God-forsaken racquet!

Stay-tuned. We have a lot of work to do!

Paris is Burning. . . (A Big Post Coming)!

Rafael-Nadal-Injury-Paris-Masters-Tennis-News-872006

In my comments a couple of days ago, I foresaw this turmoil:

“The draw is opening-up and looks typically terrible. You can only hope for a Del Potro Nadal SF, but Isner probably beats the Argentine. These fields, along with “favroites” (Thiem, Goffin, Querrey, Sascha. . . ) not performing is such a bad look.”

Nadal’s W/D makes my next post even more interesting. Big post coming, folks!

Del Potro, indeed, did go down to the American, and to think Rafa (if his injury is legit) might have been dodging the Giant.

Go, Benneteau?

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.

Up Next: IW Quarter Finals

Well, another quick post because that’s all I have time for. I leave tomorrow night for Indian Wells Semi Final action on Saturday. Not what I had in mind when I purchased the tickets.  I have the potential of seeing:

Pablo Carreno Busta v Dominic Thiem

and

Jack Sock v Nick Kyrgios

:0

That would be less than stellar in my opinion, but know that either way – I will be soaking-up the So Cal rays, hydrating and enjoying the lovely Indian Wells tennis facilities with great Masters 1000 passion!

Quick commentary on the R16 yesterday:

Federer completely outclassed Nadal. Go re-read my discussions of that H2H about which people (who don’t understand tennis) have gotten themselves sloppy wet. Roger’s tennis is so full of variety, depth, net-play, quickness, offense, defense and a great service game. This has pretty much always been the case, but we’ve wondered from time-to-time about his mental strength.

Closing-out Nadal like that was pretty impressive. Go look at the depth of Roger’s shots. That’s where Kyrgios will have trouble. The depth of Roger’s GS is a huge threat, along with the now best BH in the game (sorry, Stan), great ROS and that same silky movement.

Yes, the BH continues to shine in these high-stakes matches. I thought Federer was brilliant in his first match at IW vs. Robert, but thought he’d come back to earth a bit vs. his nemesis.

I was at IW in 2012 when Federer routined Nadal, so I have seen this show before. But this is different, here in 2017. Federer looks fresh, newly “commissioned” to take-care-of-business that a lot of us presume could be the Ivan factor. Ljubičić beat Nadal in the IW 2010 SF, so, again, think of the conversation in the Federer box surrounding this match. Ivan has been an absolute stroke of genius, imho. Which is how we’re describing Roger’s match and form at this point: genius. Again, look at the depth of his groundstrokes. He was painting Nadal’s sneakers with his paintball gun, brought to you by Wilson.

Likewise, Kyrgios outclassed Novak. I’m going to keep coming back to this: the baseline game is limited and lacks creativity, which means it’s not as interesting to watch as the iw-wed1-kyrgios2players simply have to out-hit each other. I watched Kyrgios get disinterested during some rallies, which is part of his demeanor, perhaps, but the rallies are just big BH/FH exchanges that can go on for hours. The other element of Djokovic’s game that has to come up in these discussions is his  serve. He is having to work so hard on both ends. Although he does have the best return game in the business, still, which I love to watch – his serve doesn’t scare many people.

Kyrgios, on the other hand, like Federer, has a deadly serve.  Quick points, easy holds. Intimidating.

This is just an extension of my last post about the Djokovic v Del Potro. Novak’s game is not dominant right now. He’s still looking for that extra step. But the baseline game of his and his more pedestrian serve have to ring of some concern. He’s not getting any younger. Kyrgios coming to net, playing more creatively and athletically is just a more complete display of tennis.

This discussion of style can be applied to the Wawrinka v Nishioka match. Go watch Nishioka. He is a young Nadal, running EVERYTHING down and falling in love with the top-spin. Some of those rallies in that R16 match got really tired, Stan resorting to a balloon ball approach, to limit his errors and try to avoid the upset. The young Japanese star was just staying in rallies, outlasting his opponent in most cases. He’s beaten some decent players of late, but Stan (the other great BH) showed true grit and big boy tennis down the stretch to hammer the youngster into oblivion. This match is good for Stan’s game, I believe. He was forced to reach down and find those huge FHs and BHs to reach the big QF match with Thiem. I get to see one of these two, which is a very solid outcome.

Great to see Stan find his heavy ball and punish another helpless victim (though it took a while to break the defensive mastery of the young Nadal apprentice).

Gotta go, but there’s more to come, folks. Enjoy the tennis!

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!

Thoughts on USO Men’s Semi-finals

Since the first SF was mid-day, most of us in PST were still working, so I tried to stream the match on my computer and was pretty successful. As I tuned-in, Djokovic was already up 3-0 in the first and Gael was just beginning to taint the match with gale-force turds of tennis dishonor.

To the point, his behavior was obnoxious and completely unprofessional. Imagine if you had saved money to head to NYC for some big-boy tennis (perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime event), take the time to travel, perhaps use vacation days from work, pay most certainly an arm and a leg for NYC accommodations, and this guy takes a giant shit on this big SF match that you’ve put a lot on the line to watch and enjoy, to create memories for a lifetime. In other words, it’s almost fraud.

Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit amateur schwag. Then again, isn’t that Gael, the “entertainer”? That’s what the call on the stream was talking about partly, the fact that this guy looked like he was giving-up, flaunting his unprofessionalism, which was anything but entertaining.

And to say he saved face by playing a decent third set is another pile of bullshit. Too late. You’re already down 0-2 to world #1. Actually, that’s almost worse. You mean this how you could’ve played?  He should’ve retired, taken his sorry ass out of there. Oh, that would have been too unprofessional, to quit or fake an injury? A) he had already ruined the match and B) guys have been quitting all tourney with “injuries” (see Djokovic’s draw among other cases).

Play in the first set how you played in the third. And even though he hadn’t faced much of a draw, he was playing well. He hadn’t lost a set all tourney and he’s been playing well for the most part all spring (or during the parts where he’s wanted to play well, I guess).

It’s Gael Monfils, folks. He’s been a pretender on tour for a long time. That’s not an insult. It’s a fact. So has Gasquet, or Simon or Tsonga, Ferrer, Kohlschreiber, Verdasco, et al. These are good players, but they are not major contenders although we want to think better of Tsonga, perhaps. But I digress.

Monfils was a mess. Anyone criticizing him had a right as a tennis fan, a paying patron, or even a legend of the sport calling the match. You heard John McEnroe came down pretty hard on him, and you might have heard Monfils’ response to a reporter pointing-out this criticism in the presser. Look it up. Monfils’ response seemed very humble and genuine, perhaps resurrecting the ethos he’d lost on the court earlier.

But he didn’t. Saying this display of indifference, of mockery, was a tennis strategy is making matters worse. You thought that was a good strategy? You think you got into Novak’s head? The fact that the Serb had a little trouble closing-out that set is beside the point. Novak should have destroyed him worse than he did. The stream of DF and odd ball, mediocre tennis that surrounded this charade was terrible from both men. But Novak gets a pass because he didn’t act like an asshole, and he finally did get around to smothering the Frenchman for good in the fourth. Put us all out of our misery.

He employed that strategy because Nole is too good and he had nothing left to turn to? Get the fuck out of here. I think I’ve responded to that all ready. If you felt some sort of sympathy for Monfils yesterday, please leave a comment and/or become a regular reader of my blog. Please. I think I can help.

Perfect segue to Wawrinka’s classy win over Nishikori. I would pay a lot of money to see Stan encounter that kind of bush-league bullshit “strategy”from his opponent. He would probably slap Monfils at the changeover. Stan would hit that shit right off the court. Novak didn’t quite carry the heavy stick that I know Stan would have wielded at the sorry ass Frenchman’s meltdown.

Do you recall the 2014 AO final between Stan and Rafa? Rafa, in typical fashion, took some MTOs that angered the crap out of Stan. This all followed the news that Stan allegedly came out first in the introductions and took Nadal’s chair (where he would have had better access to his box). Stan proceeded to pound out his first major against the Spaniard.

Stan had a little of this for Nishikori last night. Kei was becoming bothered with his legs, fatigue, etc., and Stan wasn’t having it. Booming aces, giant GS and waving to the crowd while glaring over at Nishikori ensued. You have to love Stanimal.

Indeed, he was the much stronger player yesterday. He looked stronger as the match wore on and the Japanese man faded big-time. If there is no rain in the forecast and they leave the roof open, the court will be hot and humid. Players better be ready for that.

The Final

As for a winner tomorrow, tough to say, of course. I love Stan’s form although what worries me a bit worried me even earlier in the tournament. He is often hitting from about 10-12 ft. behind the BL. He’s practically brushing the back wall and the ballboys and girls. Seriously. I just think that’s less than advantageous.

I know it gives him more time against a big serve and he’s strong enough to overcome that depth, most of the time. I just think the ever-so-smart tennis of Novak will take advantage of that.

I will not buy that Stan is worn-out. He looks solid. Novak’s conditioning seems more the question, whether he’s seen enough big boy tennis this fortnight, or whether he’s battling an ailment of some kind.

As I alluded to in a couple of posts back, this is really in the hands of the tennis gods. On paper and according to the eye-test, this seems like a major that Stan has earned with such quality matches, superb fitness and preparation along with that heavy FH, booming, kicking serve and from the greatest BH in the game (sorry Djokovic and Nishikori fans).

But Novak is tough and ruthless. Fair to say Stan has to peak, has to raise his level to win.

Imagine the irony if Novak is not 100% (wrap your brain around that one, the guy that just floated threw his draw on the wings of opponent “injury” and retirement).

I’m just hoping for a solid five setter. Me thinks that might help the quality and character of this 2016 USO.