Roger Federer

A Word on 2017 Fedal

Fedal-2017

 

Australian Open 2017

Federer’s Draw:
Melzer
Rubin
Berdych (10 seed)
Nishikori (5)
M.Zverev (def. 1)
Wawrinka (4)
Nadal (9)

French Open 2017

Nadal’s Draw:
Paire
Haase
N.Basilashvili
Bautista Agut (17)
Carreno Busta (20)
Thiem (6)
Wawrinka (3)

Wimbledon 2017

Federer’s Draw:
Dogolpolov
Lajovic
M.Zverev
Dimitrov (13)
Raonic (6)
Berdych (11)
Cilic (7)

U.S. Open 2017*

Nadal’s Draw:
Lajovic
Daniel
Mayer
Dolgopolov
Rublev
Del Potro (24)
Anderson (28)

*Since this draw is so unbelievable, for clarification, Nadal could’ve faced:
Gasquet (26) R32, Berdych (15) R16, Dimitrov (7) QF, Federer (3) SF and a host of other players in the final. But that’s tennis; you can only play the survivors of your draw.

With Nadal’s 2017 U.S. Open title, 2017 Fedal at the majors is complete. What started-out as a shocking development down-under in Melbourne, that continued through the sunshine-double, that became La Decima, Federer’s 8th, and Nadal’s consolidation of his rise to #1, by winning his third U.S. Open: these two legends have undoubtedly added considerable weight to their already mammoth legacies.

They’ve cemented further their own association, the use of the obvious portmanteau, Fedal. Has this amazing year of legendary tennis benefited one over the other? How can it when they split the four majors of 2017? I would probably lean Federer because of the victory over Nadal in the finals of 2017 AO, IW and MI and because this year adds more meaning to Fedal. Prior to 2017, most might see the association as reference to that ironic comparison of Federer having the most majors, Nadal second, but the Spaniard ahead in that lopsided H2H.

Now, after all of this, 2017 adds quite the embellishment to this complicated duo; there’s even more to the story.

But the year really belongs to both, and right now, we might actually lean Nadal on the way the year is shaping-up because of a very simple reason. The significance of the No. 1 ranking is for real, and exists almost separately from the consideration of majors and other accomplishments in the sport (the mark carries a lot of clout).

Federer has spoken several times of the importance of this achievement, speaking specifically here of the year-end No. 1 and his desire to accomplish that feat in 2017. I have written about this mark in several posts, in several contexts. Pistol Pete leads that race with 6 year-end No.1s. Federer and Connors are next at 5, followed by Lendl/McEnroe/Djokovic at 4, and Nadal alone at 3.

Think of the race for the 2017 year-end No.1 we have before us. Both Nadal and Federer can make waves on that legacy front, obviously. Nadal is adding to his overall weeks at No.1, as well.

This is exceptional work from both players, which is just mind-boggling when you consider where we were a year ago. I watched a few sets of the 2016 U.S. Open final yesterday, as a matter of fact.

Wow. It was weird watching Djokovic play. I almost forgot about that guy (kidding aside, it was odd, a blast from the past). He still had glimpses of the Novak Slammer on that September early evening, that diabolical baseline witchcraft still going strong (comparing his ROS position to Nadal’s. . .the courts were faster in 2016 and Novak is still returning from atop the BL; not 18 feet back).

Djokovic you can see is really starting to breakdown in that match and still he was a witch with the stick. Stan found that dominant animal spirit, as we recall, and proved way too much for Novak that day, but that was still Novak’s tour, the Djoker still holding-on to that No. 1 ranking.

Then Murray makes his run in the latter part of the year (post-USO) while Djokovic gets-up off the mat and tries to hold-off the challenge. However, Murray is able to finally wrestle the top of the tour for good from the Serb at the WTF.

We moved to the off-season with anticipation of those two re-kindling their fight the following season.

And lo and behold: 2017 Fedal.

What a nutty ride.

Still so much to discuss and still so much tennis to play.

Beautiful stuff, no?

Del Potro Does it Again

us-open-m

Does what again, exactly? He followed-up the brilliant Thiem R16 match by putting it to Federer in the QF. He also prevented, again, a Nadal v Federer USO match. If you’ve seen enough of Del Potro over the years, you know that he has some of the biggest big match balls on the ATP.

His win over Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final was against rampant, peak Federer. That Roger had lost in the AO final to Rafa, but then won RG and WB before swimming through his NYC draw.

At the AO that year (2009), Federer beat Del Potro in the QF 3 0 and 0. But Juan certainly got his shit together because by the final major of that year, he was destructive. He beat Nadal in the 2009 U.S. Open SF 2 2 and 2. Then he shocked the world, coming from down 2 sets to 1 and beating the then world No. 1.

Sure a lot has changed with the Argentine; we’re talking mostly about the string of injuries, mainly to his wrist. But he still has that big heart that can carry an entire nation, seemingly. He’s loved because he’s a class act. A recent example was his humanity in light of Almagro’s breakdown at this year’s French Open.

He’s also loved and appreciated because he competes with deep, clutch desire and passion, which seems appropriate for this South American gentle giant. In this era of top-heavy celebrity tennis, it’s been nice to see a few athletes man-enough to step-up and dismiss one of the favorites.

And he has probably the best FH in the history of the sport.

We all saw the match and have a take or two on what happened there tonight in the final QF match of the tournament.

I picked-up the match in the third set, Federer down 0-3. Looked bleak for the Maestro. Until then, I followed the match on my phone, and could tell very early-on that DelPo wasn’t going anywhere. I think a lot of us had a pretty good sense this would happen.

But of course Federer righted the ship in that third set and survived into the TB, where the match was really decided. Federer at 6-4 with his serve looked pretty solid. Grab the set and try to close-out the match. Even Juan would have seen a pretty steep hill to climb at that point. But Roger couldn’t even close-out the TB. He had three or four set points and either goofed the shot (how about that one back-hand up at the net he probably should have BH volleyed, but let it bounce and hit it long. . . what?), or Juan came-up big. I’m pretty sure Del Potro needed just one SP. And that was the match.

You could see it there in front of you. DP breaking at 5-5 in the first. And then snatching that third from the jaws of down-two-sets-to-one.

One of my readers/commenters with cat-like tennis intelligence called Del Potro in four sets (Well done, Frazier). My response was sure this could be very tough for the Swiss if the Argentine is on the mend from that little bug he had the last couple of days.

But I also said the game plan of Federer’s, certainly delineated by his genius box where Ivan holds the gavel, to keep one’s serve and pound Juan’s BH should put the 3 seed in pretty good shape.

He played to the giant’s FH without pause. Of course, Federer does prefer to go there with his FH. Sure he likes the inside-out, DTL FH which works great, but he likes to come over and hit that CC or inside-in FH that is one of the best FH we’ve ever seen.

So Juan got to use his FH quite a bit tonight and, from what I saw, punished Roger with it. Not sure what the strategy was with that (then again, you can’t not hit to a guy’s FH at all). Rafa will pound Del Potro’s BH, but of course Rafa gets to use his FH to do that. Either way, Federer, unlike almost everyone else I’ve seen play DP this year, did not shy away from that notorious fearhand.

But that wasn’t the only issue. In fact, there were stretches, in the third set as he got back on serve and had the set in hand in the TB, for instance, where playing to the DP FH looked to work. He seemed to almost tempt an over-use, a go-for-broke shot and the Argentine obliged here and there. Still, seems like an odd strategy for a guy who can hit the ball to both sides of the court. This speaks perhaps too to this BH not being completely up to snuff. How was the back tonight? As we’ve been saying for a few days/matches now, he seemed a little off; the back has to have been an issue, especially if we’re talking about that OHBH.

But his net play seemed pretty ineffective, as well. They flashed the numbers of his net efficiency, which didn’t look that bad, but as I watched, when Roger came to net, Juan easily passed. The big guy’s BH even worked DTL on some of those passes. Federer just didn’t seem to have a lot on the ball; he was getting passed pretty routinely, which speaks more to Roger’s timing and his weak approach when these are often easier points.

The big serve of Del Potro and the big FH is a lethal combination. The BH has improved, by the way. Watch Del Potro in Acapulco in February, or in Miami in March. All he had was a rough slice. If Federer had tried harder to expose that, maybe we’d be talking about that vulnerability, but that didn’t happen.

Thiem tried to expose the BH in the R16. That worked more or less for a while.

I think we’re into that land of intangibles, folks. I’ll go ahead and say it: if there’s a tennis god, Del Potro wins his second U.S. Open. This is his domain, the NYC HC, even though it’s playing like a piece of sandpaper.

Del Potro doesn’t have the BH, but I see a similar approach in the tennis of Del Potro and Wawrinka. It’s power tennis, with a flatter ball that can play the opponent into the East River. When Stan has that form, all bets are off.

Del Potro was the Man before they called Stan the Man.

Yada yada yada. I’ll have a bit more to say before the match.

Nadal will definitely be ready for this – he hasn’t broken a sweat. But doesn’t that work against him, as well?

Can’t wait for Friday night.

U.S. Open: Chaos or the New Norm?

No one is safe. Death-toll of the seeds mounts with each passing round. And those who survive fear for their lives. . .

There’s a bit of chaos imagepartly, again, because of the draw. Let’s not dismiss that part of the equation.

But the losses yesterday add to the bad music and offensive color schemes. I was left to check scores through the early part of the day and made it home to catch some of Federer’s clown show. Wow.

A lot of head-shaking. It started with Dog taking-out Berdych (I really don’t want to say Berd shit, but the guy is a giant patsy. Nothing new here with this guy, but damn. Up a set and then shit the bed). You’d think the Ukrainian might’ve even been a little shook from the Winston-Salem match-fixing investigation that involves him. Nope. Good-bye, Tomas.

But to hear about (frankly, I don’t want to see it) Dimitrov going down in straights just added to the pile of debris that is that bracket. Granted, I did say this in my last post about Dimitrov, whom I thought might have a little something to offer the NYC tennis gods: “As for Nadal’s potential QF with Dimitrov, obviously there is a lot of tennis to play. And Dimitrov actually has some potential difficulty in his next match vs. the 19 year-old Russian Rublev, and then a potential R16 match with Monfils.”

So, it’s not like I’m shocked, not to mention the Bulgarian’s career of this kind of collapse. But I thought he might show a little more promise and class, take care of business and give us Nadal/Dimitrov 2.0.

Nadal now has Mayer, the big veteran Argentine, and then probably Troicki, since the Dog most likely rolls-over, suspiciously.

At the same time, who knows. Nadal had a little difficulty with Daniel last night, a match I watched in full. Nadal is pummeling the ball, the FH starting to come around a bit, but one can see he’s still not exactly comfortable. The positives are out-weighing the negatives at this point, but I was surprised the Japanese kid (who lives in Spain) was able to track so much of Nadal’s balls, stay in points you’d expect him to forfeit.

Nadal needed a definitive push in the third to really put that match away. The fourth even had a bit of pressure, but the Japanese player just ran out of gas, almost succumbing to cramps (he played a five setter the day before). Nadal has to be feeling good about the draw and about his health. He seems the healthiest of the obvious threats.

But that’s the theme here in NYC this first week. Nothing is obvious.

The Federer scoreline was bizarre. Up 6-1 and 4-2. . .probably 35 minutes of tennis played and then crazy happened. By the time I got home and found my couch, surprised the match was still going, thinking Federer would retire at some point given the massive turn-around from Youzny, the talk of the match is the Russian’s injury/cramping. I remember hearing “Youzny is at about 67%; Federer, we think, at about 80%.” Lol.

The match was weird. Federer, despite Mikhail’s failing body, could not really grab control of the match. Errors everywhere. I tweeted something about Federer needing an intervention as these UE are taking a toll on his life the likes of what heroin does to many a drug addict.

In the interview, Federer was at ease, talked about how these five setters are fun. Lol.

I see Federer had 68 UE in the match, 12 aces, first serve about 62%, BP at 50% (8/16), but I couldn’t locate the avg. mph on his first serve. The back must not be totally shot, but when one has a bad back, that seems to be enough; even a slight twinge would be enough to sink any sort of professional tennis effort, no?

Like with all of these matches and players, let’s see how they look in the next round.

Federer and Nadal should advance, but no one should be shocked if that future rendezvous is cancelled. From Federer’s end, a nice straight-set win would help and he’s had much success against the classy Lopez, but one should probably expect a pretty tough day at the office for the five-time champ. Pretty odd to see Federer so errant and so clumsy coming to net. Has to be the back, but he just seems off – which is exactly like he looked in Montreal. We said “hungover” about that form. He’s a bit of a mess at this point.

Nadal should probably be advised to establish better court position, especially on ROS. When he drifts so far back, he gives his opponent (even a tired Japanese player from the Challenger circuit) too much.

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But as tennis fans, there’s still some decent bit of ball striking and we’ve got some interesting matches on today’s schedule.

Indeed, this chaos that I advanced above might be more a peek at the new tour, one of legends-in-demise and rising stars. Instead of chaos, perhaps this is more a matter of revised expectations.

Today’s schedule:

Kyle Edmund v Denis Shapovalov. The oldest of the two is 22. These boys like to compete and bring earnest tennis to the contest. This is in Arthur Ashe, so the boys have the big stage. Should be good.

My expectations have lowered for sure, but wins from Pouille and Cilic today would ensure their meeting in the 4R. Cilic has the grinding Schwartzman this morning; Cilic is staying alive here as a potential favorite of this tournament. But I sense Pouille starting to find some form, too.

Yes, the irony. I am rooting for Cilic – to give the draw some firepower.

The night match on AA is Zverev the Elder (the only one left from that family of course) v Isner. That could be good, certainly stylistically.

Beyond those few matches, can Coric continue his run, beating another tall bloke in Anderson? And I presume that Querrey will advance though we probably shouldn’t presume a thing.

On a side note, nice to see Thiem still plugging along (American Fritz secured a set from the Austrian yesterday, a good look, but can we start to Beliem in Thiem?).

And we’re not overlooking Goffin, who toughed-out a five-setter yesterday and gets another five-set survivor in our friend Gael Monfils! Ha.

Enjoy!

Cincy 2017 Downgraded to ATP World Tour 500 Event?

Of course not. But the draw is missing: Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Cilic and Nishikori, at least.

So, let’s see some of these young lads take-up the slack.

We’ve already begun this discussion, previewed the younger field briefly, ahead of schedule. We’re ahead of schedule at Mcshow Blog.

The biggest hiccup in all of this is the loss of Federer, not just his loss to Zverev, but the suddenly very real possibility that he is feeling a bit the wear-and-tear of this 2017 affair.

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

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

The final the same kind of slop. I wrote he’d found some comfort between then (^) and the final, but he really hadn’t. Part of this is the difficulty of his draw (or lack-there-of). I wrote in my preview that Nadal clearly had a more difficult draw (Shapovalov aside). Federer played his draw on one leg. What gave away his trouble throughout was his visible frustration throughout. He looked irritated, tired, hungover (I tweeted this during Ferrer match). In reality, he was bit of a mess.

I imagined a rise in the SF because of a bump in efficiency; he looked more in control. Most of us were a bit deceived as well by his is 2017 form in general, which has been odd, to say the least. His dominance. Other than those 2 losses prior to Sunday (themselves bizarre against Donskoy and Haas), has Roger broken a sweat in 2017 other than some mild perspiration in Melbourne?

In other words, I was a little surprised by Zverev’s dominance. The second serve and FH were too much, especially for an ailing Federer. Zverev’s second serve averaged around 115mph and he had one DF. Good luck with that.

But the injured Federer didn’t give us much of a look in the final at a chance exchange with the strong 20 year-old. A healthy Federer maybe turns this final into a classic? How bad is the injury? When exactly did it surface? Again, I say he looked less than 100% all week (if he was disengaged, not wanting really to press – why play?). We’re left with a few questions.

Some are surmising he should have sat Montreal and come-back for Cincy. I say, if he’s injured — it’s probably not devastating — now he can rest for NYC with some good HC reps under his racket. If he’s hurt, he’s out. Pretty simple and an elderly injury will stand-up to this tour like the final went yesterday. Even worse for an injury, Bo5 September hard courts is tax season.

Good for Zverev, picking-up his second Masters title. I am more interested in the youth development at this point. We need deeper and deeper fields with more danger, more parity.

That Federer and Nadal were advertised as fighting for No. 1 going into Cincy is almost absurd.

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I’m pleased that Tommy Paul beat Donald Young today. Isner next with a chance to play Sascha. In fact, Sascha plays hopefully Tiafoe, who’s up a set now.

Here’s a highlight of the Paul v Young match. DY comes to play usually. This is a physical match. Paul commits errors but has enough serve and athletic tennis in him to beat some decent competition. Good news.

Indeed, how will my American brethren do here.

Maybe that’s really how to grow this blog, become a fan blog. Seems to be the trend, folks. Sure, I have a nice loyal little readership that spans the globe (best part of my audience). But I want to build threw the roof.

And those corny fanblogs do that. Part of that politicized global culture, I suppose. People are going crazy. I suppose my blog should be crazzier to tap into this madness. Sad.

Oh yeah, back to the tennis. Nadal has a tough draw with Gasquet and probably his buddy Gilles Muller next. Then more HC athletes will await the Spaniard’s slightly over-valued chase for #1.

More on #1 later, when I feel crazy enough to write a crazy post about that crazy #1 ranking.

Montreal Final: Federer v Zverev

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what Fed has done in Montreal.

He should beat Zverev today.

Talk to you on the otherside.

Rogers Cup 2017 Draw

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

rogers-cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know what you think.

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

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

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

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

Djokovic’s Highest Form Ever (DHFE)

The summer is a glorious time of year on the ATP since we get a chance to see the year’s strongest athletes outlast those weakened by the long and arduous season that began in early January (or the ones who’s games just tend to wilt on this most even and rigorous surface). The firm quickness becomes more unforgiving, speed presses the point, each exchange more a test of skill and weaponry than of one’s fluency toward the idiosyncracies of a particular surface; and the air temperature rises along with its seasonal bosom buddy, the humidity. Indeed, the North American summer hard courts offer us a candid look at the tour’s best playing on the surface that showcases the best and exposes the rest, I’m afraid.

I think a good place to start with this DHFE is recalling when we tackled that quasi-related claim that Federer won 2017 AO because Melbourne played significantly faster this year (part of the grand conspiracy) and (get ready, I’m warning you, this is an argument advanced by Djokerfans) Novak doesn’t play as well on such a fast surface? Why would one ever make such a claim about their hero? That’s undermining Super Novak, novak_djokovic4_1359023691_540x540pointing-out a flaw in his game (a big flaw if you ask me). Novak’s 2-5 USO finals record and his inability to win Cincinnati (the one Masters he hasn’t won) speaks to this difficulty on the quicker courts; and making this shortcoming into some kind of strength doesn’t bode well; or arguing that his hard court record overall is the best-of-all-time, where the fanclub refers to him as HC GOAT. These we might suggest are Red herrings, squandered on the breach.

As we turn here to the summer N.A. HC swing, all of this bluster about Novak’s HC greatness takes quite a hit. And if you’re going to argue that he has shown the HFE on a tennis court, personally, I would start my argument with NYC HCs to support such a statement, then probably WB, before any sort of legitimate argument about HFE is made. Looking at the competition would be the other factor, or even the people who are making this claim. Many of these Djoker “representatives” are belligerent, of course, but I even heard mainstream media mouth-pieces get a little carried-away, as well, especially back in 2015-16.

I was fairly frank about Novak’s dominance at the time. I had no problem saying that this was an historical run, and that I didn’t quite see the end of it, with Fedal sailing out to sea, Muzzard typically muzzled, etc., yes, thought the competition was pretty poor (argued that Roger – at 34 – gave some of the Serb’s majors added/needed weight since beyond the Maestro, and perhaps Murray, what was really left?). Never did I step into that pile of HFE, however. Too much evidence to the contrary, especially if you’ve been watching the men battle for decades now and you’re not afraid to watch and re-read the history of this great sport.

Before we go any further, might I bring to everyone’s attention that articles like this  aren’t composed, perhaps, if such vehement (and vitriolic) subjectivity toward our fair sport isn’t strewn all over the place like debris after an ill-advised engagement or wedding has occurred. DHFE is a rival faction against all sensible tennis fans.

And how apropos that we’re here, on the eve of the run toward NYC.

The NYC HC, I would argue, is where the best pure tennis is played. NYC has gobs of evidence of this kind of greatness, more so, I will argue, then the other HC major – AO. Part of this is the AO snub from a few greats (Borg, Connors, McEnroe, et al.). Plus, the USO is simply an older tournament; age, location and history all play into suggesting that the USO determines a more significant title that, by the way, builds a more significant legacy than an arbitrary claim about form. One should play best where the best is played.

Indeed, I am saying that one’s form at the USO should be a big part of any argument for HFE (which is so subjective). Saying the USO is more prestigious than the AO because of its history and speed is not arbitrary.

Why haven’t FO champions, before Nadal, ever sniffed the upper echelon of such arguments (careful with Borg as he never won the USO and went away too early)?

Speed kills. The USO has that relentless call for a highest level of fortitude and execution on the tennis court. Quite a cocktail when you have all that history, those brightest lights, the concrete jungle and the lethal speed and precision of the razor’s edge.

As we undermine this DHFE claim, we have made a bit of a suggestion, then, that the USO (even Roger’s Cup and Cincy) should be a part of any discussion of HFE since this is the surface and the venue where such a boisterous and preposterous claim might find its footing.

Fans have been claiming the DHFE since he began his 2015 run (or even before that most likely) and the 2016 Doha final v Nadal gave them a little added lift. Here’s Nadal’s analysis of Djokovic’s form in that final – the Serb pummeled the Spaniard 6-1 6-2.

Two things: This was a tune-up for Melbourne, a minor tournament in early January, a 250; and Nadal wasn’t exactly playing very well. Do we need to recall Nadal’s 2016 results? He was still shaken from his absolutely dreadful 2015. He shows-up at Doha as Novak is still screaming from his 2015 – two players in completely different career points.

Nadal went-on to lose in 1R at Melbourne. All this to say, don’t use this eye-witness (who probably has more credibility than anyone making such a claim) as evidence for DHFE.

To be fair, the Djoker went-on to win 2016 AO, the Sunshine Double, Madrid and then the FO before the wheels came off and he spun into the Djokollapse.

We actually see here the culmination of the case for DHFE. He wins 2015 AO (Murray), WB (Federer), USO (Federer), 2016 AO (Murray) and 2016 FO (Murray).

The sheer amount of success (Novak Slam) in which he’s pretty much unfazed by his competition anywhere (his majors won by beating the perennial ATP bridesmaid and a 34-35 year-old Federer) concocts the rumor that this is the HFE. Many arguments were made about Djokovic’s 2015 being the greatest season of all-time. His numbers that year were staggering, for sure. Therefore, he played the HFE?

But based on what exactly? His W-L record?  This article shows the greatest seasons ever based on W-L:

1. John McEnroe — 1984 — 82-3 (.965)
2. Jimmy Connors — 1974 — 93-4 (.959)
3. Roger Federer — 2005 — 81-4 (.953)
4. Roger Federer — 2006 — 92-5 (.948)
5. Bjorn Borg — 1979 — 84-6 (.933)
6. Novak Djokovic — 2015 — 82-6 (.932)

If we’re basing the HFE on W-L, then DHFE is a stretch. Remember though: the Djokerfan will levy the level of competition tax on our ears. Djokovic was unbelievable, the argument goes, against top-10, top-5, etc. His case here with W-L becomes more formidable.

So then we’re into the level of competition factor of this equation. Which the Djokerfan doesn’t want any part of, I’m afraid. Spanking a trained Murray and a waning Federer doesn’t crack the whip. Throwing around seeds and top-5 opponents, etc., needs more context since this can be quite misleading.

So, is it the play he manufactured on the court? Along the lines of what Nadal said after Doha, a Nadal who had little leg on which to stand?

Ahhh, the 2015-PF argument (2015 Peak Federer). If we can argue that Federer was at his peak in 2015, with Djokovic handling him fairly easily in two major finals (WB and USO mind you!), and Federer is, by many, considered the GOAT, then by simple logic, if we’re beating the greatest at his peak, we’re the greatest!

Doesn’t that sound absurd, especially the use of that pronoun?

How about some 2005 Federer, folks (this is probably two years before his absolute peak when, in fact, he beat Djokovic in straights in a USO final).

This is Federer v Agassi 2005 USO final we’re going to see. Look at the depth and disaster on Federer’s racquet. This is complete bedlam. Agassi is playing well here, even though he’s at the end. I would say this helps us see my point about this surface showcasing the greatest tennis, the purity and cleanliness of the shot, the athleticism, etc.

Look at Federer’s FH and BH. And listen to some of the commentary. Early in the video, McEnroe (at 1:05) points-out that Agassi has the “greatest ROS in the history of the sport.” I remember explaining this truth to a big Djokerfan who didn’t grasp Agassi’s ROS prowess (which undermines much of this “tennis expert’s” understanding of the sport). And remember: Federer wasn’t exactly hitting Andre off the court since the American great had done years of battle with the GREATEST SERVE IN THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT. As I’ve said a million times, give me Novak on Pete’s serve; granted, Novak is supreme in the ROS department, but don’t overlook the rest of the history of the sport, folks. Andre could hold his own, which he does in this match, a bit.

But Federer is simply unplayable, from both wings, on serve, etc. Watch.

Here’s some of the Djokovic v Nadal 2016 Doha final

Ladies and gentlemen, if one goes to the HFE argument, we need convincing evidence, narrative, numbers, etc. 2016 Doha is not getting it done, a 250 in January against a morbid Nadal.

We’re on the eve of the big run-up to the last major, what some would argue is the grandest of the grand slams. I think it’s fitting to approach any talk of HFE by referring to the USO.

Djokovic can play tennis with the best of them; he has a great case as one of the best players of all time. No question. But the HFE argument is just ignorant, lacks context, evidence and is, like many of these GOAT powwows, another instance where one’s bias has him by his ass.

Some of the esteemed readers of this blog have made some great points in the previous post’s comments. Some of this entails the massively flawed 2015-PF claim. If you look at that 2005 footage, search some 2006-10, you’ll probably see a pretty strong game from Federer that subordinates anything from 2013-16, a time in which the man was reaching his mid thirties, playing a brutal schedule and not really adding much to his game.

You know what I think of the Ljubičić hire, how this breathed confidence and execution back into the Swiss’ game plan, along with a very real sense of revenge (which probably best illustrates this fresh breath, this deliverance of Roger Federer in 2017). He had the injury break and the time to tweak his game for this specific run in 2017.

But, but, but. Go back to the 2005 USO final video above. The reason it’s probably easier to say that Federer has a better case for HFE than does Djokovic revolves around the simple eye-test. Ljubičić has been instrumental, but Federer already had some decent tools to work with.

Federer has so many weapons. His BH in 2005, in that video, is so offensive it’s silly. The confidence and execution there make for an insanely formidable day at the office for his opponent; and it’s more fearsome than the 2017 version. The FH is then THE most deadly weapon in the gamd. He’s CC and DTL at will, deep, his athleticism organizing each shot. His serve is, as we know, a massive weapon.

At 4-2 in the first set he delivers two aces in particular here. One is 112mph down the T; the other is 124 out-wide, both from the ad side, both unreadable from one of the best “readers” the game has ever seen from the ROS.

Of course, he finishes points at the net (almost) as well as anyone. Agassi, like so many of his non-clay opponents of this era, has very little chance. That’s four point-ending weapons.

Federer’s real peak has all of this in full view with a much more youthful, threatening persona that few could deal with.

This DHFE pertains to the masterful baseliner, with a brilliant ROS, great court-movement to buttress his great FH and BH. His serve got better under Becker, but it was never in that Federer class, let alone other greats.

I am going to close and say that if you are going to make this HFE claim, you better include in your calculations the prospects of longevity, of one being able to sustain it since “highest” or “best” is only so if one can sustain such form.

And that will be the final chapter here with Djokovic, with DHFE, Djokollapse (and his legacy in general, something I will deal with in the HRFRT eBook).

His is a form that will be tough to sustain, imho. Watching Nishikori today in D.C., I thought about Djokovic. This is such a physical style of tennis, one that requires a long,  defensive stance.

Finishing points becomes even more critical as a player ages.

How does Djokovic finish points? This will be most telling. Nadal, as we saw throughout clay this year, was very aggressive, the FH ending points before anyone could even figure-out what was happening. And Nadal has a great net game, as we’ve mentioned many times before.

But the argument with Nadal has been longevity, as well. Does he have enough for the HC this summer? We shall see.

We’re bound to carry this conversation on throughout the comments and in several subsequent posts.

As I’ve made quite clear, the tour needs a healthy Djokovic and we wish him the best, deepest and quickest recovery. But his fanatics need to clean-up after themselves with regards to much of this unnecessary and unrealistic zoology (GOAT experiments in particular).

This stream-of-consciousness DHFE discourse ought to have woken me from slumber. Thanks for reading.

Looking forward to talking about some of the tennis tomorrow. D.C. is in full tilt.

Cheers.