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;

DArfUC-W0AA3Igp.jpg large

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.

18582213_1581458411874154_2693945620085758314_n

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.

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.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

Djokollapse: the final chapter?

The announced split from Marian Vajda, fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic seems to mark a final blast to the Djokovic camp, one that’s been crumbling, according to me and Novak, for about a year. He fired Boris boris-becker-and-marian-vajda-in-djokovics-camp-celinalafuentedelavothaBecker back in the fall and because of his continued struggles (despite what many Novak fans wanted to believe – “he’s fine, but has been the subject of rigged draws!”), he now let’s go of his coach of eleven years and other pieces of his tennis inner circle.

He has gutted the beast and stands alone now to figure-out how in world he can find that top-of-the-sport form that’s eluded him since the 2016 French Open.

He’s alone although Jelena and Pepe are probably still “in the house.”

If anything, this has to confirm what we’ve been arguing for about a year now. Finally, the Serb is on board himself. Who gave him the link to Mcshow Tennis? 🙂

Interesting timing as his FO preparations have a big test starting Sunday in Madrid, where Novak will look to defend his 2016 title.

Who does Novak turn to for a coach? Jelena, pregnant with their second child, will probably have input on these matters.

My concerns for him after the USO included the tennis calendar, which has generally favored Novak early – success at the AO, perhaps the FO (though this is a difficult major for all, other than Nadal). His WB success came as he peaked in ’11 and then under the masterful guise of Becker, who knows The Championships better than most. All this to say, I don’t see Novak having a very easy time on the grass.

The USO has always been a struggle for the Serb where he’s 2-5 in finals (has as many USO crowns as Nadal).

In other words, again Novak has been reading this blog and seen enough to proclaim “panic.” I actually like to see a player make such moves if the going is not going well. If this isn’t panic, it’s drastic.

Novak has been with Vajda since 2006. So, it’s like Novak is doing a little time-travel to where it all began.

Interesting to note who was at the top of the sport back in 2006. The Fed Express moved on all cylinders and a Spanish monster was looking to win his second French Open.

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

2017. What a story.

2017 Barcelona Open: Otra Décima

On a court bearing his name, Rafa cinched his 10th Barcelona title, matching last week’s la decima down in Monte Carlo. He beat Dominic Thiem 6-4 6-1 in the final.

The trend continues: 2017 Fedal. Although Federer had the spotlight early and for good reason, winning the year’s first major and first two Masters, Rafa has been virtually right next to him all along: don’t forget that. Nadal played Federer in two of the three finals. Tennis - Barcelona Open FinalNaturally, on the clay Rafa has found his true comfort zone and the confidence and clay dominance are becoming magnificent, which I’d say captures the mental, nasty and efficient tennis of his dirty highness.

We have much clay still to play, much story-line to read and drama to digest, but Nadal is looking pretty strong heading into the next two Masters (Madrid and Rome) and Roland Garros in late May, early June. Like I said earlier, if I were in his camp, I’d call for an early exit at perhaps Madrid and then bring the armada back to Rome heading into war in Paris.

He’s pillaging the clay season and given his appetite for dominance (with his cousin Roger already sitting quite comfortably on his Swiss mountaintop), he will most likely want to press on, continue to damage the field’s hopes, remind one and all of the kind of clay court carnage for which he is best known.

That’s a lot of physical tennis heading into a major (Bo5). Then again, we seem to be reaching that point of no return for the rest of the field: someone ( I think it was Gimmelstob) said again recently: the toughest thing to do in tennis is beat Nadal on clay Bo5. Rafa is absolutely cruising right now. Everyone knows this. If you don’t, you must be an hysterical Fankovic (they are reaching new heights of misery); more on that in a second.

Let’s first give a nice steady applause to the young Dominic Thiem. He’s got a nice game, the style of which makes those of us who know and appreciate style fairly impressed.

But now the Austrian is dead.

Dominic+Thiem+Barcelona+Open+Banc+Sabadell+N1Z2-83p5zvl-1

Though quite short, his was a brilliant ATP stint, if you ask me.

Seriously though: he hung around for those first nine games, played the Spaniard tough, even had game point to go 5-5 in that critical first set. Then el destino (la decima), a wise (tennis) old predator fowl drew its ominous shadow across the clay, an usually cool Barcelona breeze ruffling the patrons’ whispers before the young Austrian was predictably sacrificed.

In almost ceremonious generosity, the youngster was given a breadstick to snack-on in the afterlife. Godspeed, Dominic. Rest-up and bring your bracket wrecking havoc to another clay tournament soon. I saw his championship edge in R1. Of all the youngsters, I enjoy watching him the most at this point. The OHBH, the fury from both wings, his precociousness on display more often than not. Nadal just wasn’t going to have it.

Here’s where we stand with Madrid beginning in a week: Nadal has complete control of the draw on clay. Murray did not fare well in either MC or Barcelona. Though beating Ramos-Vinolas in a tough three-setter in Barcelona (a match that saw him escape death a couple of times, holding serve at 0-40 4-4 in the second set, etc.) seemed to suggest a breakthrough, he was handled pretty easily by Thiem in the SF, only an odd drop in form from the Austrian prevented a routine Thiem victory.

Murray continues to struggle.  There is no way to deny this. Lendl is missing from the box, the Scot is berating the box, looking like the awkward Andy: bridesmaid by birth. He’s ringing again of that less-than-championship quality and character. Add to that my insistence that people not forget that his run last year, despite the incredible consistency and success, was minus Federer (injury), Nadal (injury) and Djokovic (Djokollapse), and you have a less than legitimate contender for RG (and maybe beyond).

Indeed, the Murray campaign is sputtering.

The same applies to Djokovic, I’m afraid. I have documented this quite well. My theory goes all the way back to the fourth and deciding set at Roland Garros 2016, where Novak eventually closed Murray out. But that was almost tough to watch. Novak, we might surmise in retrospect, was starting to collapse.

Scroll to about 02:35:00 where he completes a second break of Murray to go up in the 4th set 5-2, serving for championship and Novak Slam. We can give the guy a break – a lot of pressure had built to this point. But he barely hangs on here. Immediately, following this match, we now know, he’s in a free fall as far as tennis form is concerned.

You and I know how the Fankovic tribe speaks of the hostile crowds that Novak is subjected to (this boggles my mind since most of these clowns are European, internationals of some distinction and fan rowdiness and even hooliganism is a kind of staple at many such sporting affairs): this crowd was massively pro-Djokovic.

Great Mary Carillo line: “He was similing at the 5-2 changeover, but he wasn’t smiling at this 5-4 changeover.”

Some very safe tennis here from Novak. Look at him work the crowd, especially at 40-15, double championship point. Can you imagine if Nadal or Federer did that? Ha ha. The Fangirls would implode. Djokovic doubles on first CP. Then deuce. Then he pulls it off on third CP. Novak Slam. Indeed an historical achievement. But Murray ran out of gas.

The Djkollapse had begun.

Fast forward to now: both Murray and Djokovic are hurting. The question I ask you is are we at a point of no return yet with Nadal on the clay? He did look a little vulnerable here and there, even against that young South Korean “nextgen star,” Hyeon Chung.

That is the question. I like Federer rested in Paris right now more than I do the #1 and #2 players who are reeling and have been reeling for quite some time.

What a remarkable year, with Fedal resurfacing with a vengeance against this lower tier.

My last post insinuated Murray and Djokovic are taking a beating. Indeed, that is the case on the court.

What’s happening off the court with respect to this downfall? You might have caught wind of the Djokofanclub raising hell with respect to their idol.

Our friend CindyBlack3 is back at it with her “Nole Stats.” Her latest has the Serb statistically verified as the best all-around player (most success on all surfaces, in a kind of pound-for-pound subjectively bullshitter high pitched squeal). This is simply awkward. Not a good look, CB3.

I posted her last “homework” assignment (her audience far and wide love, as do most farm animals, stats) in a post about the peanut gallery at Indian Wells when this throng of flare-ups hissed about the Serb’s draw.

As I said in a recent comment, timing is everything: these folks are seemingly trying to 2015 Australian Open - Day 14write the Serb’s obituary, meaning the timing of this advertisement of Djokovic’s career accomplishments as their sugar daddy is struggling to find his racquet in 2017 is just bizarre and boney (we like meat on our bones at Mcshow Tennis). It’s a bad look.

“Novak is the greatest!” Meanwhile, David Goffin is handing your guy a pink slip.

Oh, and CindyBlack3 and the gang’s arguments, supposedly supported statistically? Novak is the greatest HC player of all time? I’ll take Lendl over Novak in a Bo5 format (I might also take McEnroe, Pete, Federer and Conners for that matter – the common denominator here is Flushing Meadows, folks).

Let’s just say that Slovak Slowcourtovic and HC GOAT don’t really work. If you think the USO is anything but the HC Taj Mahal, relinquish your tennis fan credentials immediately. One can not be 2-5 at the USO business-end of the draw and make such a claim. Of course, Novak isn’t making this claim.

It’s your favorite fangirl blogger and this CindyBlack3 who lead the charge, but there are others just as rabid, just as nonsensical, wailing away about this historical greatness.

Think of the irony, again the timing: Federer and Nadal are making big tournament runs here in 2017 that raise this bar to which these fans refer – and they’re trying to talk about their guy’s greatness. This kind of logic is similar to saying the courts were too fast in Melbourne. Shut-up! I can make a better case for Novak than you can. Let me do the talking.

Of course, CindyBlack3 blocked me on Twitter because I questioned her methods, refused her bouquet of bullshit.

Give her hell, folks!

Sorry to bring-up this garbage, but as the Eye of Sauron here in southern California, writing an international tennis blog, I have an obligation to bring to your attention this debris that might distract, or clutter your view of the glorious competitions. You understand.

We actually root for Novak to return, and Murray as well. This would only be good for the sport. These “fans” don’t understand that kind of logic

Fedal 2017. . .Reader Poll: is this trend good for the sport?

😀

Federer is From a Different Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The year is 2008.

Federer already has 13 majors to his name.

Nadal has 5.

And Djokovic has 1.

A lot has happened since then, no doubt.

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

But it is happening.

How?

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

Cheers!

Federer is Ruining Tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ha ha ha.

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

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

Where’s Andy in 3-4 years? Dominant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday.