Roland Garros 2017 Draw

  • The French Open draw is out and it looks like most of the other clay draws of 2017.
  • Wawrinka and Murray in the top half and Nadal and Djokovic in the bottom half.
  • The bottom seems to have more contenders, but this is clay, so you never really know.
  • Tsonga is my guy to shake things up in the top. Sascha Zverev is too easy of a call.
  • Murray, for God’s sake, do something, anything.
  • Oh, you like Wawrinka, who’s in the Geneva final, to reach the SF here? Murray, Wawrinka and Nishikori have to be the most unreliable top seeds in the history of men’s underwear.
  • Nadal has a pretty straight shot to the SF. Sock nor Dimitrov can hang with him for 5.
  • Djokovic, to win the FO, will have to beat Thiem/Goffin, Nadal and then whoever comes out of the top. If he’s flying, playing like he did against Thiem, he could pull-off a great run. If he wakes-up and it’s a Zverev kind of day, uh oh.
  • Mischa Zverev is in the Lyon final against Wawrinka this week. Serve and volley — love the look and feel of his game. Novak could see M.Zverev in R3, Ramos-Vinolas/Pouille in R4, then Thiem/Goffin in the QF.
  • Remember, folks: despite La Decima, this is all about Djokovic.

Thoughts on this avant-garde mystery theater that is the 2017 French Open?

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The War to End All Wars: Djokovic v 2017 Fedal

This is already a crazy year of tennis with 2017 Fedal taking aim at whatever Djokeray had planned for this new year of our Lord. If Nadal wins the French that begins this Sunday, then the shit has officially hit the fan. Really, if anyone other than Murkovic wins the FO, the Kingdom will have officially been ransacked and left for (near) dead.

I think Djokovic will redeem himself, perhaps even play with real purpose, renewed passion and focus at RG 2017. Agassi is an engaging guy, a great tennis mind and one hell of a fighter, so he should be able to give Djokovic a real boost in tennis motivation and its related execution.

Agassi fought and won many battles against seemingly more athletically gifted players. Though as talented as many of his peers, he often seemingly played the underdog role;

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he dominated stretches of his career, beat guys like McEnroe, Becker and Sampras enough to enter the great pantheon of the sport. But most of us in our mind’s eye probably see him standing next to Pete, holding the runner-up trophy, definitively subordinate to Pete’s indomitable rule of that particular era.

Djokovic finds himself in a similar predicament, playing the underdog, looking up, despite whatever his gang of fans want to proclaim.

The Djokovic support groups (NoleFam, FanGirls, FanBoys, BlogBags, et al.) have taken this particular period of the Serb’s career to really bolster their cause of elevating him above the rest of tennis history. From sound bites, to saber metrics, the congregation has upped the ante of their idolatry by solidifying their position that Nole rules them all despite the fact that he’s in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

I have to hand it to them: there is no better way to show one’s support than to bleed the fanatic’s blood in the face of seeming decline.

The Serb himself told CNN recently, published in an article yesterday: “I am experiencing a little bit of a crisis, if you want to call it that” (CNN).

Sorry: here I go again. I called crisis after his U.S. Open loss through which he had the easiest draw since my kid’s 3rd grade two-square tournament at recess. He looked beaten, utterly weathered and at wit’s end despite getting 2-3 W/O, a match retirement or two and then having the honor of facing a disgraceful Monfils in a major SF. He was sacked by the Stanimal decisively in the final. The decline continued through to the WTF where he lost to Murray, lost his #1 ranking and any and all control of his ATP stewardship.

Djokovic hasn’t been his dominant ’15-’16 self since about a year ago (my team of forensic anthropologists have traced the emergency back to the finals of the 2016 FO). His Dubai title in January was misread; his 2R collapse in Melbourne was pretty predictable, etc., etc.

The mob cried rigged draws (Acapulco and IW) when all along he was struggling and actually running into a surging Kyrgios.

The mob began picking-up steam with efforts from Twitterland from a big FanGirl whose statistical analysis declared Novak the best because he has faced tougher draws at Masters and Majors than Fedal, and that the French draws through the years have been rigged against Nole. Another marvel of professionalism declared Djokovic the best all-around player based on his accomplishments across the different surfaces. There are more of these sorts of statistical renderings aimed at elevating Djokovic, whose career, imho, does not need such dramatic and practically contrived research to justify his legacy. Just recently there appeared another “argument” that at 30 years of age, Novak appears, based on some numbers scratched-out on a napkin, to be the GOAT.

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Needlesstosay, this lacks all kinds of historical perspective and context. Indeed, this is presentism running around with his head cut off.

So, I have to ask you as I’ve asked myself: why this surge of “evidence” to support Djokovic’s GOAT candidacy in the face of a year-long slump?  I guess the logic is right there, as a kind of defense mechanism. What better time to support and celebrate someone than when he’she is down.

The timing is interesting and I will still ask why such an effort is being made by, practically, an entire community?

With a player of Djokovic’s magnitude experiencing a slump like this, still relatively young at 30, why not wait patiently for him to return to form? This return could, believe it or not, be as soon as next week when the balls are tossed at RG.

Let me give you my answer to this question of timing.

First, Novak is not “only 30,” “which is the new 25,” something I’ve heard the likes of Brad Gilbert proclaim. We’ve all gone over this before: even if for the first time in ATP history the top-5 are all over 30, or that 30+ year-olds have won the last two majors (Stan and Roger) and that more and more 30+ are playing with viability (F. Lopez, Karlovich, et al.), this age is still a harbinger of decline. Agassi himself seems to have had this late, post 30 run at the majors, but he only won 2 after he turned 30 (which is incredible, actually).

And Wawrinka is a total outlier. He, I would argue, is “younger” (even at 32) than Novak. Novak has massive mileage to contend with. There’s a price to pay for winning 30 Masters titles. He’s been to a lot of Major finals, as well.

His mob is clamoring for acceptance (more so than transcendence, I would contend – they have to know their argument is pretty flawed given some obvious number disparities) because they sense something. They sense a couple of things.

FanGirls and Boys sense there’s an incredible exchange occurring in men’s tennis, as we speak. This has been Novak’s time to shine, since 2015 – the latest Novak peak. Roger is mid 30s and Rafa has been succumbing to his own mile(age). Fedal has been shrinking in Novak’s rear-view mirror the last couple of seasons, presumably getting even smaller as the clock has continued to tick and the calendar talk.

Then came Djokollapse at the mid-point to end of 2016.

Then came 2017. Here we are in what should be the midst of Novak defining his legacy, chasing Nadal and Pete at 14, Roger at (then) 17. Sure, Novak slumped following his personal calendar-type slam, but he’d recover even though Murray had brilliantly taken advantage of this seemingly small window of opportunity.

Melbourne turned into Fedal XXXV. Federer’s win there shook the tennis planet. He won #18, he beat Nadal, he’s 35 years-old, he then won the sunshine double (don’t even need to mention he beat Nadal twice in those title runs). Federer eclipsed 2017.

Then Nadal returned (having already made his mark on the difficult early hard courts) to his dominant clay form.

Here we are on the verge of Roland Garros, Nadal trying to win La Decima, looking as confident as he can at close to 31.

Three weeks after the FO, Federer, if healthy of course, will be waiting at The Championships for his scheduled run for that esteemed crown, an unprecedented #8 and #19. He’s even skipped RG (let Nadal handle that battlefront) to preserve his energies, and await that highly anticipated and prestigious (grass) turf war.

Then the boys are onto the quicker hard courts, destined for NYC.

Re-enter Novak Djokovic. Do you see what’s at stake here? Novak is playing not only for his 2017 form, to maintain his place in the top 2 or 3; he’s battling history here, literally, a resurgent Fedal, who’s legacies Novak, whether he wants to or not, continues to battle in hand-to-hand combat.

The FanClub’s persistence is quite telling of this tennis world war. If Nadal wins the FO with Federer lying in wait at Wimbledon, the crisis will only intensify.

What about Murray, Wawrinka (who looks to be finding a little more form in his defense of Geneva this week), Zverev, Thiem, Kyrgios (whose reaction to Zverev’s win was quite favorable), Sock, and Tsonga, et al.?

Just to clarify: there is panic in the Paris spring air.

As far as I’m concerned, the mob should wait. Be patient. These Twitter and Facebook arguments are trying too hard; most sensible tennis intelligentsia knows better. And most of us are too impressed with Agassi (at least as a tennis player) not to think that Novak does respond positively to this coaching and mentoring.

I’m certainly waiting. Novak, imho, can’t slump much worse. Look for a surge from the waning Serb.

I forbid myself to entertain the predicament of the Djoker if he continues to lose ground in Paris. The road to tennis glory only gets steeper after that.

PS
This is a short but interesting article providing some context to the hiring of Agassi.

5 Reasons Djokovic Fans Should Avoid Sharp Objects; or Shit or Get Off the Pot

Rome Fallout

Zverev Wins first Masters (first guy born in the 90s to win one ((sad))) and Djokovic Confirms Bizarre Form

Sorry for the delay in writing about the Rome final, Agassi, etc. To be honest, part of the delay was due to needing to watch the final on replay (my life, dear friends, is not only watching and writing about tennis 🙂

In watching this Rome final I had to pause (for perhaps hours, along with sipping my deserved adult beverage) to thank the late night forces that drove me to write “Djokovic Bullshit” on the eve of the final. That was as good a prediction as I’ve ever made. Between my pre-view/re-cap of the SF and defending the fortress against the Fangirls, I called bullshit on the whole thing.

I did not buy the semi-final between Djokovic and Thiem. Sure Thiem apparently doesn’t match-up well with Djokovic, which we discussed a bit and has been confirmed by Dominic himself (thanks for the link, Nambi), but Djokovic’s sudden heated animation and aggressive antics to go along with a near flawless tennis was just not quite making enough sense. In other words, if we read the tennis as an argument, a player making this or that “claim” in form or strategy, building a case throughout a tournament, season or even career, we can analyze these different “moves,” “claims,” and the evidence he or she provides to assess the strength or weakness of the argument.

That Thiem v Djokovic SF failed the narrative. Thiem’s position is reasonable in that he doesn’t match-up and he is out-of-gas: the result, from his perspective, was “logical.” That clears-up part of the equation. But why the exaggerated madman antics from Pepe’s pupil? Novak has been struggling; but he’s been more reserved, and classy in his work to regain his confidence and form.

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If you watch the final, Novak seemingly tanks the match. Either he simply had nothing to resist the 20 year-old German’s brilliance, or something is totally rotten in Belgrade (or Monte Carlo). What explains such a rise and fall of the Roman second seed? Just inconsistency? Pretty bizarre stuff.

The end of the match is very much a tank job. The Serb’s joker-like facial expressions, along with the agitated body-language we grew accustomed to last summer, contextualized him hitting meekly into the net or sailing match point sincerely long. In the end, this was a tank job.

So, what do we have here? Send a message to Rafa (Thiem SF) of the Serb’s clay superiority, but then show-up to the final drunk?

The television call of the match (Ted Robinson, Paul Annacone and Tracy Austin), the crowd and even Zverev were at a loss watching Djokovic’s horrific championship display unfold and implode at Foro Italico yesterday.

If I at all didn’t trust my gut on reading the ATP before (which isn’t the case 😉 , I certainly trust it now. I waved all kinds of banners and warnings after that SF; the tennis was incoherent. I don’t trust Djokovic right now on several levels. The final only confirmed my distrust.

Of course, the point of “Djokovic Bullshit” was also to call-out Nolefam. I have been charting this Djokovic crisis for so long now and their inability to see the light is a tragicomedy. This blog will be around for a long long time because I have so many points to make about BH, surface, style, player superiority, the highest level of tennis ever played and on and on.

Question:

Better form: Federer 2017 (let’s take any number of highlights such as his AO run, or parts of his sunshine double, say, for instance in the Miami SF v Kyrgios

or

Djokovic v Thiem?

More on all of that in another post.

This leads me right into the center-piece of this post:

5 Reasons Djokovic Fans Should Avoid Sharp Objects

First let me point-out that I appreciate the great legacy of Djokovic, his remarkable runs through the years, his ability to hold his own and even overcome Fedal on several occasions. If you have missed this, read some of this work as it may give you more of an appreciation for my criticism of him (and others). I am calling it like I see it. Those who write me off as a Djokovic-hater have something resembling only a poor primary school education or are such Djokerfanatic fangirls and boys that even perhaps despite an extended post-secondary education, they’re rendered incapacitated. I am fair and I am honest.

Without further ado:

  1.  The Djokollapse. For more foundational discourse and clarification of this, search “djokollapse” on my blog or scroll through some of the articles from September 2016, which takes us to the commentary following Novak’s 2016 U.S. Open final loss to Wawrinka. The collapse began, of course, after the 2016 FO (I have even suggested that the fourth set of the FO final got a little shaky despite the crowd shouting “Nole!” in unison almost throughout, only encouraged by his seemingly desperate gesticulations). Here’s the real concern here: THIS HAS BEEN DJOKOVIC’S TIME to dominate the proceedings and at 29, he should have. Granted, he did dominate, winning the Novak Slam, winning 6 of 8 – but he has more of that mountain to climb when you look at the sport historically and the discussion turns to GOAT (which it always does). This is an inherently flawed argument, as we’ve said – with the likes of McEnroe, Borg, Lendl and now Sampras getting the short-end of an almost meaningless argument. But it’s still an argument people have everywhere about this glorious sport and this golden-age in particular. When I coined “Djokollapse” I meant to accentuate/highlight the historical significance of this fall from grace at this most inopportune time. He flew too close to the sun, I guess. He lost the chance to add to his year-end #1s (with only Murray to beat), his WTF titles, and his general but powerfully significant position as the tour Don, the one who would still control the draw going into 2017. He lost all of that at a time when he could not afford to. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: this 2016 collapse would have devastating consequences on his legacy.What is important to point-out, however, is that this collapse was not unprecedented from Novak. One of the more decent Djokovic fans I’ve encountered and had several good discussions with about the game is Mat4. He pointed-out early in our discussions, as Djokovic solidified his latest run in 2015, that he believed Djokovic would not necessarily win that many majors, not of that high-teens count at least, because he’d already missed some of those opportunities. I had noticed the same thing, for example his losses to Murray at the US Open (’12) and WB (’13) finals. Losing to Stan in that 2015 FO final was tough, not to mention last year’s USO final. We’re talking about a guy who’s won so many big matches, 12 majors, 5 WTF, 30 Masters, but he’s had some dramatic misses. Some of these are forgivable. But the Djokollapse at the end of 2016, imho, is haunting.
  2. His inner-circle. Something seems off in the land of Novak, and I’m not talking about Serbia or Monte Carlo. I am not here to dig-up some kind of social media rumor garbage. His wife used to have a kind of cute, almost innocent smile that defined her visage; now, she looks sinister. The little brother sits beside her and on occasion we’ll catch Pepe, a few others and then the parents. With Marian and company along with Boris gone, executed, bye-bye, I just think as Annacone says over and over, “His problem is not tennis.” I agree although I am going to qualify that statement below.Folks, firing the entire coaching staff, but keeping Pepe, with Jelena now looking-on with that “I’m not amused” expression on her face, we hear she’s pregnant again and appears to building Novak’s matriarchy.

    By the way, people who wonder why Djokovic is not as popular as Federer or Nadal? Consider how his parents (especially his father) have behaved at matches when Novak was merely trying to compete, and the way Novak himself has and is acting.

    All this to say, the inner-circle seems to have some complication that could be obstructing his clarity and coherence.

  3. Fedal. Not sure how long this is going to last, but Federer and Nadal have arisen from the dead. The year could not have started-off worse for Djokovic. Think about it. Let’s say Djokovic actually does find a way to win Roland Garros. He’ll have survived the most stressful, pressure-packed couple of weeks that another implosion probably ensues. Think of the consequences for Novak (and especially his fans) if Nadal wins the French in a few weeks. 2017 Fedal, with Wimbledon on the horizon, will be in all of its glory.This is a massive by-product of Djokollapse. Finishing last year #1, winning the WTF and coming into 2017 feeling refreshed and ready to continue his charge would have probably prevented 2017 Fedal. But the king was dead, and Andy has clearly not been up to the challenge. The crown has been under siege.
  4. The field. There has actually been some solid evidence that legitimate talent is rising to the occasions on the ATP. They’re fairly young (some quite so) and talented. Let’s start with Nick Kyrgios, not only because he seems to have Novak’s number (under these 2017 conditions, at least). He is going to be (at last) a monster in many future draws. I should have started with Sascha Zverev. He won his first clay 1000, but he’s going to be solid on grass and HC, as well, presumably better given his serve, ball striking and creativity (he was hitting 134 mph body serves at Novak in the Rome final). This youngster is way ahead of the curve. Thiem will continue to grow and hopefully find some adjustments to handle quicker play, certain match-ups, etc. Goffin and Dimitrov will continue to compete. I see Grigor finding that early 2017 form during the second half of the season (hopefully getting over a couple of really tough losses –Sock in IW and Del Potro in Rome.Wawrinka has made a run the last three years. Raonic and Cilic can be dangerous off clay and Nishiouchi has a good match in him every other waning gibbous phase of the moon.

    There is trouble through out the draw now for Novak. We all know this because he has allowed that confidence to permeate the locker room. A year ago it seemed pretty thin at the top. The tour is turned up-side-down in 2017 and Djokovic has a lot of work to do to fight his way back to the top to stay there consistently.

  5. Age. Today, ironically, is Novak’s 30th birthday. We have (everyone has) gone over this age as a harbinger of decline in tennis (that particular age and having kids are the two death knells of the men’s game). Sure, these signs of age have been overcome by certain players, but such cases are still much rarer than otherwise.Sampras was 31 when he won his last major, a U.S. Open in 2002 that was pretty much the stuff of legend, conquering NYC as a 17th seed. Indeed, this wasn’t expected.

    Federer, 35, as we know, was also a 17th seed in Melbourne this year. This wasn’t expected. He beat four players from the top-10. Not an easy task. He’ll have an easier draw most likely at Wimbledon and the USO this year having raised dramatically his world ranking. But this was pretty remarkable.

    Federer won his first post-30 major at 2012 Wimbledon. #17. Then he went dry for almost five years.

    Nadal has not won a major since turning 30.  Although he looks perhaps primed to do so in a few weeks, this still will be a very challenging endeavor, if you ask me.

    Of course, the other name we need to mention in this group is Andre Agassi, who has agreed to work with Novak beginning in RG.

    Andre won 2 majors after turning 30. At 30, he beat Clement in the AO final in 2001 and Rainer Schuttler in the AO final in 2003, as a 32 year-old. He did make the USO final in 2005, as a 35 year-old, where he lost to Federer, but Andre, just to be clear, only has 2 majors past his 30th birthday.

    The argument that this relationship with Agassi is going to magically breathe life into Novak’s post-30 tennis seems a bit far-fetched. He is apparently inspired by Agassi, has been for years while the American has shown interest in Djokovic’s game, as well.

    Here is an unembeddable video that helps illustrate the connection Novak has with Andre.

    Sounds good, but will this pay dividends on court?

    People talk of the style similarities. Look: as great of a tennis player that Andre was, he was limited. His baseline style was a bridge to the future of the game, perhaps, but this, as we all know, is a grinding style of play and at 30 and beyond, you’re getting into some no-man’s land.

    Novak-Djokovic-Andre-Agassi

    And as I have said repeatedly, Djokovic’s style will not necessarily benefit him as he continues to grind this out, hoping to out-hit and out-run his younger and stronger opponents. We know how his tennis fares on the quicker HC. Cincinnati is the only Masters title missing from his trophy case and he has struggled on the HC of NYC in September.

    What if the grass is quicker!

    Becker was right to encourage Novak to come to net to shorten points. It’s advantageous on a few different levels. Although he did absolutely embarrass Thiem in the Rome SF, trying to sit back there and trade ground strokes with the Austrian, or Kyrgios or Zverev will be more and more difficult.

    This similarity in style may not be the match-made-in-heaven that some predict. There are so many other factors. Their careers have been different, their competition different, so a lot of this charming narrative of two distant relatives joining forces is flawed.

    Andre had fairly big breaks in 1995-97 that gave his body a rest from the tour and the grind of that base-line style. 1995 was one of his best years, reaching #1, but he took time-off toward the end of the season, allowing Sampras to pass him for year-end #1. Things got worse in 1996 and by 1997 he was ranked #141 in the world.

    That helps explain his formidable tennis past the age of 30, not to mention that the likes of Becker, Edberg, Sampras, Rafter, Courier and Chang had retired.

    Different set of circumstances for Djokovic and Agassi. And, again, Andre only won 2 majors past the age of 30.

    If Agassi can help Djokovic, this will be more from a mental stand-point. That’s where they are alike: both are brilliant competitors. We hear that the coaching will be quite limited, Andre only visiting Paris for a part of the tournament. But Agassi’s cerebral approach, his knowledge and experience could help calm the Serb.

    I would add, the point of this entire post, hopefully the American can make clear to Novak that the time is now! Taking an entire year to finally find your form is almost amateur; Andre will hopefully get Novak back on track. But it better happen sooner than later.

    Don’t believe the hype, Novak: 30 is not the new 20; Fedal and the rest of the field sense your instability; and, your family, for the sake of your tennis legacy, needs to understand the historical stakes.

    That has to be Andre’s message. In other words, shit or get of the pot.

Djokovic Bullshit

“I started noticing an improvement in Djokovic’s game against Lopez in Madrid, especially in his backhand. It could be the greatest backhand of all time and it is a key shot for him. When he hits it will full confidence it is an absolutely devastating shot like it was today against Thiem.”

–Bullshit . . . Lopez is a below average clay guy; and Djokovic’s backhand is 70% equipment and court speed (see: Slovak SlowCourtjovic).

“As for Nadal, he sure has good timing with his losses. Almost as if he recognizes what is coming. In the form Djokovic was in today he would have defeated Nadal in any form. It’s the highest level of tennis ever seen and probably can’t be defeated.”

—Bullshit . . .This highest level BS is hilarious. Try a wooden racquet, Djoker.

“It will also give him the sole title record for Masters events again after Nadal equaled him at 30 in Madrid. So that would be a nice way to go into the second major of the year and if he keeps his current form up Nadal won’t be able to stop him at the French.”

–Who Cares . . . No one cares about Masters titles totals, you idiot. Should we discount Borg or McEnroe, Conners, et al.? STFUP.

The South African bloke like the rest of the Djokofanclub is a hooligan at best, a piece of glass at worst. I’m so sick of this fanaticism. I feel like I have to take this rubbish to task.

Speaking of, where’s that imbecil “Bottle” or any of you other Djoko commenters? I want some softballs to throw at the readership.

We appreciate Nole on this blog and simultaneously neuter you under-read folk.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Djokovic v Thiem in Rome SF – Edit

This is the perfect match-up for Djokovic and Nadal fans. Ha ha. Djokovic gets a legitimate test on clay (against the guy who finally did beat the incomparable Rafa), but we still have the mystery of Djokovic’s game against the current French favorite. Note the use of “current” here to leave open the door that Djokovic could use to heighten his chances in Paris with a dominant win over Thiem and then Zverev in the final.

Here we are: the future vs. the present. This is Djokovic’s time, which makes 2017 Fedal so significant. This is not Murray’s time (he got there in the absence of Federer, Nadal TENNIS-FRA-ROLAND-GARROSand Djokovic, which I’ve pointed-out a million times. Andy is a pseudo #1. He was incredibly consistent and opportunistic last summer/fall, but his ascension wasn’t really certified by the powers-that-be).

Can Djokovic knock-off the two leaders of the next generation in today’s SF and tomorrow’s F? That is the second story-line, behind the one that revolves around the Serb finding that peak form he’ll need to win a major.

Djokovic celebrates his 30th birthday in two days, Monday, the day after the conclusion of the last warm-up to Roland Garros, which happens to be a Masters, so this would be a big win either way.

Looking at the Thiem SF that starts in 20 minutes, follow along on Twitter as we watch this match.

First, let’s go back to the QF vs Del Potro. This is a perfect match-up for Djokovic. The Serb’s pin-point BH can simply pin the ailing Argentinian. It’s not even a good watch. Del Potro has ONE weapon: his FH.

Compare this kind of one-trick pony to the likes of Federer who has a dangerous serve, BH and FH, net play mastery, solid defense (5 weapons). Or Nadal, who has the magic (intangible), along with a really balanced game, obviously, the under-appreciated net play, etc.

Thiem will certainly be a bigger challenge for the Serb.

Del Potro plays handicapped with that BH and the fact that he beat Dimitrov and Nishiouchi – not a good look for those lost boys (Grigor will find some rhythm on grass and HC, mind you).

Thiem’s ground stroke game should give Djokovic all he can handle. Both wings. Can’t pin the Austrian. I hope the Austrian can mix-in the volley to affect the Serb’s comfort-zone.

Watching Djokovic play Del Potro exposes the limits (style and longevity) of Djokovic’s game. Most players throwing the kitchen sink at Del Potro’s weak BH will come-in and finish at the net, since some of those weaker slices are like lush grapefruit at a glorious summer picnic. The Serb stays at the BL and finishes. That’s limited play. His accuracy and quickness will continue to diminish. He will have to rely on other weapons. Djokovic is still just a baseline tactician. Even Nadal is more and more coming to net.

We’ll see what happens here in this second SF. Djokovic is going to stay back and trade with Thiem. Let’s see how that plays-out.

Hopefully, both players are at their best.

Can’t you smell the French?

I could see this as a preview to a French SF, with Nadal in Murray’s half.
Just saying.

Edit:

That was cringe-worthy. I said a while ago that the smiling, “happy” Djokovic was not the one who would return to greatness. The “madman” is the Djokovic who can determine the outcome of matches with his aggressive, relentless defense-to-offense tennis. That’s what this was, but here’s the thing.

This match was troubling in that such a stark difference in tone manifested itself from the beginning. This includes his form, his level of play, but it’s the whole character change I’m talking about.

What in the hell was that? Is he really sending a message to Rafa?

The depth of his return (on the BL), the focus of his hitting, his serve. . . I don’t buy these drastic changes. Why play so angry now?

I love all of the talk of Roger doping. Ha ha. The only change we see in Roger is an improved BH, some better defense, perhaps.

But this kind of angry perfect tennis from out of the clouds is just bizarro. Good luck explaining that.

And good luck to Zverev. Angry Nole might eat him, his brother and his whole family.

The Madman is back. Oh where did he go in the first place?

I did follow the match on Twitter, identifying the flaws in the Thiem game: his predictability. If you go back and watch, it wasn’t until the 2nd game of the 2nd set, where Thiem started to add some variety, some loopy FH, more strategic slice. He needs to develop the DTL BH and FH. The cross-court weaponry is great but predictable. This kind of tennis plays right into Novak’s game. Predicting, court positioning, retrieving and hitting safe, defense-first ground-strokes. If he reads you well, the defense-first becomes defense-to-offense.

0 and 1 is an outlier. Unless we have just a bad match-up here. But then again we have the angelic/demonic Djokovic dynamic. Compare the Madrid SF to the Rome SF. Ha ha.

Did he get a new batch of gluten-free tortillas? Did he hire Agassi? Are he and Jelena in a fight? Why you mad, bro?

Indeed, the madman is the Djokovic we know and love. But seeing “it” scare the crap out of Thiem and the Rome tennis faithful was quite the pageantry of tennis “quality.”

Rome (the city and the verb ;). . .Breaking: Federer is Out at the French

I know how to spell “roam,” ladies and gentlemen. The primitive emoji, as you can see, clarifies this play-on-words, being playfull (only to balance all the F-bombs and vitriol I lob at my opponents – stay on the good side of me, folks! 🙂

Let’s check-in with our Rome correspondent (glancing at TennisChannel and reading scores) and “rome” through some of the tennis discourse at this point in the season, given the absolute fireworks of 2017 where you have Fedal going absolutely blitzkrieg on the ATP, the history books and your uncle Doug; to steal a line from my post-AO 2017 commentary:

“For a second (or several), you might even have forgotten about Murray and Djokovic, the early favorites to make this final, two players who have dominated the tennis world as of late. However, the weight of Fedal is a heavy intoxicant; they crashed and trashed this 2017 Aussie Open like two warlords from time elapsed who’d returned to relive their glorious past.”

Hyperbole, sure. That’s the intoxicant of #2017Fedal (of the sport of tennis, 30+ years of advanced spectatorship 😉 and genuine fondness for the use of language, as a musical and analytical instrument .

But I digress. 2017 has been utterly wild. Let’s “rome” about those sorts of topics, as well.

I saw the score of Querrey over Pouille today in two TBs. Thought to myself this I want to see. TennisChannel is bit behind so I just caught a bit of the match where Querrey is up 7-6 4-2, and the tennis is pretty bad, actually. The announcers were mentioning that the Frenchman is giving away a lot of points. It’s just bad tennis, including what I saw. Guys can’t string together 2 points – this is clay in general, as  you know. Breaks of serve, double faults – happens anywhere but that’s my beef with clay. Just slow and choppy tennis. Just stepped away and watched the second set TB. Pouille got it to 4-1, had a few SPs later, but like the first set TB, Querrey from way back refuses to go away and beats the Frenchman. Pouille got the SF here in Rome last year.

Pouille is having a B- season, off the top of my head (not staring at any stats or video, but I watch a lot of tennis). I suspect he’ll play better on the grass and HC.

They call that an upset, but Sam is having a nice little 2017 himself. He spanked Kyrgios and Nadal in Acapulco to take that title. But even he didn’t look very impressive today in Rome.

Almagro continues to hit the ball hard, beating the local fellow Seppi in straights 😉 But that was my point with the Djokovic v Almagro Madrid match – this was watchable tennis because Almagro was going to make the Serb win most of that match. That’s what makes this Pouille Querrey exchange so disappointing. Both played with themselves.

Nice that Goffin came-back to beat Bellucci in three sets. Looked troubling for awhile, as if the Belgian’s tank was running low, perhaps, given his recent nice run on the red clay.

When I’m done with this post, I have Dimitrov v Del Potro starting-up.

Let’s “rome” on a few thoughts of this season some more.

NOTE: I was in the middle of writing this post, to make these comments on the Federer/Roland Garros proposition, when Federer announced (2 minutes ago, literally) that he is skipping the French.

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Let’s get this out of the way: Federer better play Roland Garros, or his 2017 is cut in half (in my eyes). Get your ass on the competitive court, Roger the dodger.

What’s probably happening is he’s practicing intelligently (would be really smart if he’s mixing-in some clay) under the guise of the new head of his Office of Strategic Services-like command: Ljubičić.Lubjicicafe7d5066b14fc3c4c373d1987245746c6f474cc-tc-img-previewThe last time Federer played RG he made it through to the QF where the eventual champ (Wawrinka) beat him. Federer is no slouch on clay (ha ha), so this tour desperately now needs him to show-up to Paris to play well in this thinly planted tennis landscape under siege of another Spanish Inquisition (note all of the war reference!).

Who has stepped-up on clay this season to really challenge Rafa at the French Open? Murray and Djokovic have this week to find any kind of momentum. Not looking good, but maybe history plays a role: since 2005, either Nadal or Djokovic have won this event (that’s twelve years) though Murray won this tournament last year. Can a title defense give the Scot a little inspiration? Didn’t help Djokovic last week. But we can hope.

Federer was in the Rome final two years ago. Federer, if healthy, should bring some very purposeful tennis to RG.

One of the little whispers this season has been the shock of Federer playing so well, coming-off such a long injury break; you know the rumors. There are conspiracy theorists that talk of the Fedal corruption (some kind of tennis capitalist corporatization). I guess anything is possible these days.

Problem with Roger’s case is this is the first big break he’s had.

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So much for that (that means I better end this post):

This is very disappointing about Federer. I have to wonder, based on his comments at the end of the AO, when he tells the crowd, if he isn’t back next year, to take care, or something like that. He got his 18th, so now he’s going to just roll the dice on grass and HC, see if he can pick-up another major here in 2017 before he really does hang-up the career?

That has to be his plan. Skipping the French (along with all of the clay) seems a bit of a tell because it’s a bit obnoxious. You’ve heard me say that Ljubičić has said publicly that roger-federer-announces-he-will-miss-the-french-openFederer should limit his clay schedule, was talking about this in early 2016. I supported the reasoning only in that the clay weighs so heavy to Nadal, that this affected that rivalry. I stand by that thinking, that rationalization.

But to skip the clay entirely? Including the French? I’m a fan of your thinking, Fed, but this is unfortunate. For the draw, for the audience, the history.

In Federer’s first 17 years on tour, he missed only two majors, that was last year. We were going to talk about how this come-back of his is unprecedented because it has never happened to him.

In Nadal’s 14 years on tour, he has missed 10 majors.

Novak, though he hasn’t missed any majors in his 13 years on tour, he has a bit of a pattern of highs and lows, like Nadal.

Djokovic won his first AO in 2008 and not another major until 2011. Wins a major and gets blanked the following two years. He wins three majors in 2011 and then three majors over the next three years! Three in one and then three in three. That’s dramatic. Then he won five majors in two years and here we are in slump city once again.

Indeed, Federer has been pretty consistent over the years, just had a big drought in his 30s. But he kept representing: WB final ’14-’15 and the SF in ’16; USO SF in ’14, F in ’15, AO SF in ’16, FO QF in ’15, etc.

Federer’s break and resurrection is unprecedented in his career. Up until last year, due to injury, following the AO SF loss to Djokovic, he never missed. The wheels are coming off now.

The point of this section of the post was that one can’t be that surprised that Federer’s is playing so well. He always does. Could Djokovic maintain his top form? That was the question. As the tennis went, if Djokovic wasn’t there, Fed would probably grab one of these majors here. Nadal and Murray have not been factors up until pretty recently.

Now, Federer is just getting greedy, ironically. He’s avoiding the French to do what I think is two final majors before he calls it quits. This pull from the 2017 French is a tell that says he’s folding. In a way, it’s weak and perhaps a bit depressing for fans. But the announcement and it’s meaning might be insightful to a competitive fire burning inside that he wants another WB and USO for his quiver: the two most prestigious majors of the grand slam.

Wow. Sorry about the oddity of this post. Began writing about Rome and wanted to throw some Djokerfan rumor-mill into the garbage. Then Federer pulls the plug on Paris. Wow.

Again: this reads true farewell tour. This is it, folks. London and NYC, WTF and that’s all she wrote. The only explanation.

I’ll be back.

Madrid Final and Rome Draw

Madrid 2017

The SF and F matches went pretty much according to form. Though Cuevas played well, knocking-off Zverev in the QF (playing well of late, generally), we figured the future of clay would advance. Though a lot of people are critical of Thiem’s scheduling, he’s been learning how to win for a few years now, so these deep runs are becoming more and more common place. He belongs. He’s podium material.

I only saw highlights of the Nadal v Djokovic SF. My own scheduling got in the way here. However, his tennis is not “moving” me; I’m not really looking for a Djokovic match these days. 14nadal1What I tell people often, who are trying to reach an audience: if you don’t feel it, nor will your audience. Djokovic is only going through the motions. But we knew this going in. Those who think Djokovic made things difficult for the Spaniard to close. . . come on.

I don’t trust Djokovic right now because I don’t trust him under pressure. He had nothing to lose down a set (2-6) and looking at the shower and an early flight to Rome. He has to play well to see adversity. He isn’t playing well enough to see any real drama in a match. Nishikori went running (Djokovic needed that match), so he had, really, no chance in the SF. Djokovic is all smiles. We need the madman.

Thiem, on the other hand, played brilliant today. How about some progress on a week-by-week basis? Last week, he crumbles at 4-5 in the first and the match is gone. Today, he’s at 4-5, down 0-40 to Nadal – three set points!

The Austrian fights back to even it at 5-5. The TB is even better. Nadal saw a total of 5 SPs before finally closing. The Dom is pop corn pop-star stuff. He got another clinic from the master today, but showed much improvement. The TB got to 5-3 Nadal, looking pretty grim for Thiem, but he fought that off, got it to 5-5. Just brilliant stuff from both players.

The actual tennis analysis takes us straight to, as I said in my last post, court positioning and ball depth. Thiem likes to play from the men’s locker room, scorching one-handers and his big (fallible) FH like a street-fighter from about 100 feet behind the BL. He actually got more offensive today, moved in, enabling him to engage his BH eaNadalandThiem-1rlier (ala Federer) and pin Rafa a bit to his own BH. That’s how these guys try to escape Nadal attacking their one-hander: feed his BH. Thiem went toe-to-toe with the clay GOAT today. Much growth in the young man. Back-to-back finals on the red clay vs. El Rey de la Decima (sure Madrid wasn’t a 10 spot, but you know what I’m talking about).

Of course, kudos to Nadal. What a throw back. Watching Thiem and him battle today was a bit of that Federer v Nadal of old – work with me here. Thiem has a bit of that raw offensive big serve/first strike/one-hander attack to counter-balance the soccer mid-fielder’s strength and athletic pitch mastery of Nadal. One of the biggest take-aways from this month-long clay master-class from Rafa is his court fluency, how to read and execute the drop shot, or the nasty BH, running around that short ball to end the point on his inside-out FH. He’s the chess master. Have always been perplexed by the fact that I truly believe clay is a less sophisticated surface and game, yet the king of clay is perhaps the smartest guy out there in shorts and tennis shoes. Bravo. Much respect to Rafa.

2007 or 2012?

We’ve been relishing this 2017 Fedal phenomenon since January. What a remarkable season thus far. As if we’re in a time machine. I said something to the extent of how ironic: Fedal is on top of the sport and there is no sign of the Djokovic-Vajda project. As Djokovic bid his ~10 year-old box good-bye, Roger and Rafa are destroying the tour. Flash-back to 2007, right?

Or is this more like 2012? What’s the connection? Well, Rafa did win FO and Roger did win WB, but the bigger deal was the massive drop in form (relatively speaking) from Djokovic. 2011 many will argue was peak Novak, where he blitzed the ATP for three majors and numerous other titles. The following year, however, other than the AO (which he wins almost every year), he went away. That appears to be the case this year, following his incredible ’15-’16 run. In fact, even 2013 was pretty rough by Novak’s standards.

What explains these giant peaks and valleys of the Serb’s dominance? In other words, we’ve been here before: not only with Fedal taking hold of the men’s game, but with Djokovic almost vanishing. If you think about it, sounds pretty natural: sustained dominance is difficult.

Or is it 2009?

Here are some videos of Madrid 2009. Nadal had the epic SF with Djokovic, which he survives, of course. Federer pretty much routines Nadal in the final 4 and 4. Look at the S&V Federer employs on MANY points. If he’s serving, he’s coming in. Brilliant stuff on the clay. Sure Nadal passes, but that’s pretty relentless stuff from the Swiss.

Thiem doesn’t have the S&V of Federer, but you saw him use it a bit today, which was pretty effective. Watch the Fed/Nadal highlights. Some of the S&V is all-time. Federer goes on to win Roland Garros that year (The Djokers say but he didn’t have to face Nadal. When Djoker won RG, he didn’t either). Compare Thiem today to Federer. Certainly different, but glimpses and he’s going nose-to-nose (new body part) with Rafael.

Lastly, I did want to get another shot off at Nishikori:

Asked what are his plans now, Nishikori replied: ‘I’ll take couple days off, for sure. I will plan to play Rome, but we’ll see. I cannot promise to play or pull out right now. I feel a chance, you know. I just need couple days, I guess, to recover well. But French is more important. We’ll see next couple days.’

It was inflammation‘, Nishikori explained furthermore. ‘Now I think it’s getting better. It was my first tournament. So, you know, I was feeling a lot of little bit issue everywhere. I think that’s little bit causing to get little bit of pain. But I was expecting to have some pain. I tried to get used to little bit of pain. Yeah, hope I can get better.’

Inflammation? Kei needs to find a good spot in the top 20, say 15 or 16 and ride-it-out.

Source.

Rome (link)

Novak has Nishikori again in his Rome quarter. There are a few other interesting names in that quarter that the Djokerfans might not approve of. Yawn.

Nadal has Thiem in his quater. Really? That’s the best you can do, Rome? A Nadal v Thiem QF?

Wawrinka and Cilic have their own little irrelevant quarter.

Then the Murray/Raonic party in the top quarter. Does he even beat Fognini in his first match?

More to come as this plays-out.

I’m in tennis watching and writing mode so stay-tuned and feel free to chime-in. Interesting stuff for sure.