2017 French Final: La Decima

The last two lines of my preview of this match were:

“A guy can dream 😉

Enjoy the match!”

Dream crushed and not an enjoyable match. Not only was the match a terse rejection of my blog’s final proposal, but Wawrinka has to be thinking the same thing: Dream crushed and not an enjoyable match. Even some losses are “enjoyable” if there are some rafael-nadal_reuters-mredeeming qualities to the experience. Making some kind of stand against Rafa today would probably have given Stan something memorable to carry with his game the rest of the season. This might haunt him like it’s haunted so many players.

Remember the discussion of how Ljubičić would have, had he given Roger meaningful coaching advice earlier in his career, suggested Fed skip some of the clay? Today was a reminder of that; or, I should say: what comes from a day like today, as in Stan has a long hangover from a beating like this.

Rafa wins La Decima at the 2017 French Open 6-2 6-3 6-1. This looks like several other finals scorelines involving the Spaniard. It’s just the way it is. The only hope or optimism surrounding this final was my preview of the match. I looked for a way to make this more interesting, and I still stand by many of those points.

But two things happened today to retard any hope:

  1. Stan played mediocre tennis
  2. Rafa reaffirmed his GOAT clay court genius

Two things can be true.

Stan needed to be more brilliant. He wasn’t. He hit some decent shots, but those were buried in errors, by which time he was buried in the match.

Funny to even say this, but watch the match through the first set at 2-2. Things looking good, Stan’s serve, his deep ball, etc. But that was all she wrote.

Mary Carillo continued to give us some useful background on Rafa, which included how Toni noticed Rafa’s naturally gifted clay footwork at 3 years of age. The footwork is critical, how quickly he gets to balls, but more so how quickly he can run around balls, get to the net, etc., for winners. Winners. Winners.

Vs.

Errors. Errors. That was the difference today between Nadal and Wawrinka.

Many of you will say “Rafa’s offense facilitated those errors from Stan.” Sure. But Stan just looked poor and Rafa just doesn’t miss.

Some of the readers and I have been talking about what makes a clay court specialist. One of the defining characteristics for me is the natural ability to put the ball in play, which comes from a combination of footwork (experience on clay) and ball spin.

Rafa RARELY misses. It’s a natural wonder of the world. Insane.

We have seen the same from other solid clay court players. Ramos earlier this season, guys with that great clay sense simply find the court, continue the point. Rafa is the greatest of these defenders but he has the incredible offense, as well.

Between his unbelievable clay skills and his point-to-point will to dominate, the match is pretty hopeless.

Which makes the tennis tough to really enjoy. We can appreciate his mastery, his all-time clay game, but the contest is without much competition, or hope.

Congratulations, Rafa. You are the true clay GOAT.

Indeed, today perhaps more than any other confirmed the peculiarity of this surface, the specialized kind of tennis that’s played there.

Of course, Stan certainly didn’t help.

I will have a longer wrap later. I’m off to church, to pray.

2017 Roland Garros Final Preview

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We know pretty much the story of this final: Rafael Nadal has put himself into position to win La Decima. People have been talking about this for awhile, sure a bit last year when he seemed to be finding his confidence before pulling-out of the major mid tournament.

The talk has gotten much louder this year, especially as the tour began its clay pilgrimage to Paris in Monte Carlo back in April. Nadal had already laid the foundation of this year’s run with a terrific start to the season on hard courts with finals appearances in Melbourne and Miami. 2017 Monte Carlo offered confirmation of the Spaniard’s confidence, consolidated his early 2017 form and by winning La Decima there along the gorgeous Mediterranean, the clay horizon seemed to open for the king and his entourage to make their steady and victorious assault on Roland Garros.

Keep in mind, the collapse of Novak and Andy have added to this sunny forecast for Rafa, but we’ve sensed, especially after seeing him demolish his draw these past two weeks in Paris, that even their form wouldn’t have been terribly significant.

Rafa is moving the chains, so to speak.

I want to talk of the bigger picture here for a second.

Putting tomorrow or any match/tournament into perspective for me often involves seeing the bigger picture, how history most likely comes into play here. In the end, we can talk and predict and argue all we want about this and that player, but history, the results of these matches on the court over time tell the real story. There might even be a kind of predetermination going on here (inference, interpretation and argument can clarify these perspectives. People who have only been watching tennis for 10-15 years have an inherent difficulty in reading these tea leaves).

For instance, I could venture to explain Novak’s fall by saying that it’s almost predictable historically, forget about his own history of roller coaster form that dates back to 2008. John McEnroe said, during yesterday’s call, as the booth was discussing Rafa’s dominance, that the two best players of all time are Federer and Rafa. Even that has such a presentistic flaw, but tough to disagree completely when you consider 2017 Fedal.

He then added that Djokovic is probably top 6, “depending upon who you ask.”

Folks, history tells the story much more convincingly than any commentator or fangirl writing on her fanblog or twitter feed.

So, does the big tennis narrative include Rafa winning La Decima in Paris tomorrow? Seems almost obvious, a foregone conclusion given the events that have led up to this final tomorrow. In other words, try to think how history will tell this story of tennis. Federer winning #18 in Melbourne seems pretty germane to Federer’s story. He’s been the most prolific, most enduring great of his major-winning era.

Djokovic has always seemed second tier to Fedal (unless you breakdown the numbers and try to excavate a statistical argument, saying he’s been part of some kind of ATP conspiracy, etc.). The Djokollapse, in other words, works with that narrative.

That’s partly how I make sense of some of these events.

La Decima seems to fit historically with Nadal’s legacy; add to that the way he’s playing, the way he dismissed the Thiem obstacle yesterday and we have ourselves a slam dunk prediction.

His form is simply phenomenal. Early in that match, after each player opened with breaks of serve, one could see the two settling into a match that would put the weight and angles of ground strokes at a premium. If Thiem could find the rhythm to exchange with Nadal, use both the CC and DTL effectively, he could perhaps push Nadal back and establish control of the points and the match.

But this is so much easier said than done, as we know. First of all, Nadal had no trouble hitting with Thiem from the BL although very early in that first set there were a few rallies that showed promise from the young Austrian. His ball-striking is difficult to deal with if he’s between the lines and moving the ball, staying forward and not getting pushed too far back.

As we know with Nadal, a break of serve early in a set can be the end of any hope the opponent may have. I felt like Thiem holding serve there in the first, forcing Nadal to serve it out was a good development for Dominic. He seemed to have his whereabouts, more or less.

But the Spaniard’s clay game is so rich. He has so many ways to devour his opponent. What spelled absolute doom yesterday was watching Thiem, as the match wore-on, down a set, try to hold serve as each point was like he was getting beat-up by an older brother or cousin, almost 10 years older than he. This is what, aside from the skill and technique of clay and Nadal’s mastery of those elements, kills the Nadal clay foe: his unwavering point-by-point desperation. Nadal isn’t taking-off a single point. There is no easy hold against Rafa on clay.

Thiem’s attempt to hit through Nadal on nearly every point got pretty old pretty quick. He’s strong, but needs to harness that strength. He needs to mature.

Nadal has been associated with clay and Roland Garros dominance since 2005. Interestingly, someone pointed-out that Roland Garros is particularly suited for Nadal’s defensive approach because of the size of the court. Look at an aerial of Roland Garros vs. Monte Carlo or Rome. One can see the size difference here. More room has given this clay monster scrambler more space to retrieve, frustrate and find his leverage in these marathon points that weaken his opponents’ resolve and stamina.

Clearly, if Mcshow Tennis is putting money on this match, it would seem very unreasonable not to bet on Nadal here in 3 or 4 sets.

However, let’s discuss the crazy alternative of Wawrinka winning this match.

  1. First, let’s start with the number of sets. Nadal could very likely win in 3 sets (you are nodding while reading this). Or Stan puts together a little run, wins a set and extends his demise to 4 sets. Could happen. You agree with this, as well.

    What if it goes 5 sets? Do you see Nadal winning in 5 sets? This would be getting away from Nadal if it goes 5. Stan then would have won 2 sets, have belief, and then we get into a war of attrition, stamina, fortitude, etc. If this goes 5, all bets are off. Most likely it doesn’t go 5; but if it does, Paris is being renamed “Upset City.” Stamina Wawrinka aka Stanimal aka Stan the Man will have achieved the impossible. Even losing in 5 sets to Nadal would be amazing, especially for us as we would witness one of the true great matches of all time, with so much on the line.

  2. Stan’s beaten Rafa in a major final. Nadal did have some injury here, but that wasn’t confusing Stan much: he thought it was some of that gamesmanship the Spaniard employs so strategically. Stan wasn’t buying this. Stan is not (I might argue) intimidated by Rafa. Rafa has had trouble with these types of players (Wawrinka, Tsonga, Djokovic, Soderling, etc). The players who more or less stand up to Rafa have seemed to have at least a more fighting chance. Rafa bullies opponents, and I don’t think Stan can be bullied at this point.
  3. Stan’s form. He’s in zone. Stanimal has arrived. Is this enough to beat Nadal in Paris? Most likely no. But he’s murdering the ball from both wings. What bodes well in addition here is the SF was not peak Stan. He survived that match. He needed that fifth set (and the fourth set TB) to survive. This was not the prettiest match from Stan ala FO and USO finals versus Djokovic. If Stan’s level rises, that’s just more of that heavy clay offense that Nadal hasn’t seen in any other opponent.

    And let’s mention the difference between Stan and Thiem, two players with seemingly similar style. Stan is just so much more mature. Obviously. The mental part of the game, especially. Stan will not get flustered like Thiem did. Thiem was dead by the second set yesterday. Stan doesn’t seem to worry about these parts of the match. He is a slow starter. If he loses the first set to Nadal tomorrow, this is not the same, imho. Stan will not get flustered. Remember, his three majors are against Rafa and Djokovic x2 (during Djokovic’s apparent peak).

    He will have the ability to moon-ball with Rafa; he has a much more stable BL game than Thiem (this is obvious). If Stan is hitting lines, mashing from both sides, which can describe that Stanimal form, Rafa’s hands are full.

  4. Lastly, I have to mention the Magnus Norman factor. Norman coached Soderling when the Swede shocked Roland Garros in 2009. He was driving the Stan bus in 2014 when Stan won his first major by beating Rafa in Melbourne.

    Who knows what those two are talking about right now, but you have to suspect that there is some optimism in camp Wawrinka.

Obviously, folks, Rafa is a HEAVY favorite tomorrow to secure his second La Decima. He’s earned it, he’s focused and seems really pretty much unplayable right now. Even the historical tennis tea leaves say a Rafa win is happening.

But the enigma of Stan Wawrinka has reared its head once again. You have to think Rafa would rather be playing a malleable Murray.

And that’s another factor: Stan had to withstand some world-class defense yesterday to survive Murray. It’s not like he beat some journeyman; Murray rose to the occasion in Paris.

Hopefully the match is entertaining. Stan going away would not be a surprise. But imagine Stan holding his own. Imagine the boys getting out to a set a piece.

A guy can dream 😉

Enjoy the match!

RG 2017: QF Wrap and SF Preview

Djokovic

Hopefully you read my reaction to Thiem crushing Djokovic’s dream of a return to the kind of championship tennis we saw from Novak back in 2016. To be clear, not that any of you are not aware of my general concern for all things men’s tennis, this slump/collapse/decline of Novak is fairly troubling. Though I am not a big GOAT guy (although I am more than happy to chime-in), I do look at the top of the tour in that

djokovic-madrid-2017-player-party
2017 Djokovic. . .

grand historical context. What has happened to Novak, such as losing control of his reign mid-year 2016, losing the USO final, the WTF and his #1 ranking at that point was practically careless. Big picture tennis says you have to close the deal on 2016 there, at least win the WTF and maintain #1. If that wasn’t bad enough, the slide has continued (gotten worse) in 2017: the tennis, the health of his tennis family, etc. What a disaster.

This, as I have been arguing throughout, affects massively his prized tennis legacy. Hearing his fans come forward with all of these claims of most rigged draws, best results overall on all surfaces, etc., is too little, too late (and too lame). If he doesn’t lose his way in 2016 and continue that decline in 2017, he’s in an entirely different place.

We have wanted to give Novak the benefit of the doubt, suggesting he would have enough perhaps to get by Thiem in Bo5, for instance, rely at the very least on your fight to survive and advance in that great Djoker fashion. But he’s, clearly, in so such place.

The slide continues and no one knows what will happen to this tennis great moving forward. No one. He is searching, wandering almost aimlessly it seems.

His tank of the third set was startling and definitive of this lost cause that is Novak Djokovic. Agassi gave him a bump in form, motivation, but to battle deep into these draws and withstand the kind of competitive savagery that is a Stanimal, Nadal or Thiem, not to mention a Kyrgios or a Federer this summerer (ha!), Djokovic needs stability and confidence. Where in the hell did that go?

We have discussed these slumps that are characteristic of Novak’s career. He won his first major in 2008 and the next one in 2011. Following the 2011 masterpiece, he struggled to get to 2015-16. So this is not necessarily an unprecedented drop in form from the Serb; but, at the same time, this is different.

Glance about the court during that QF with Thiem. Djokovic’s box is barren, but for his seemingly perpetually disgruntled parents, the well-behaved younger brother, the sinister wife (sorry, calling it like I see it) and the odd, creepy or dopey (depending upon your view) character that is Pepe, a caricature of some kind of new age spiritual leader, meaning Djokovic is on some kind of spiritual pilgrimage?

Move your eyes to the court and there you have Novak gifting the match to Thiem once he’s fully realized that his dream is crushed, which is probably a good move here in the QF with Rafa and Stanimal (maybe Andy) waiting in two future octagons.

This is sad, folks. I’d welcome the task of resurrecting Djokovic: firing his parents, the wife and her pet Pepe, and putting together a solid coaching and support staff (that he probably shouldn’t have fired in the first place).

Unfortunately, I’m not in that position. Good luck, Novak. Watching you tank the match like that was pretty piss poor. The last impressions I have of the Serb are informed by those two images above.

Semi-finals

Did you see the Wawrinka v Cilic QF? I thought Marin might put forth a bit of a fight, despite the brutal H2H with Stan and the Man’s recent run here at RG. But this was a man playing a child. Everything about this had mismatch written all over it.

Stan’s huge serve (closing-out the first set with a booming ace, for instance) and FH right now are the bread and butter of his dominance and always have been. The problem for his opponents, especially those unlucky to play him in a major final, concerns his adding the BH (blooping and assaulting CC and unplayable DTL) to this hearty fare of bread and butter. Stan keeps things pretty simple and it’s a devastating brand of tennis.

But again: when he’s got both wings going, hitting lines and serving well, he is a mature, potentially angry and punitive sort of opponent.

Nice to see Andy get through the beatable Nishikori; dropping the first set and coming back to win definitively has to bode well for the Scottish no. 1 seed.

So who do we have here? At this end of the draw, we’re in near coin-flip mode. Never the less, Stan just seems so stable and destructive right now. He hasn’t had to work very hard in these wins, meaning he hasn’t dropped a set. However, this is a guy who’s pretty comfortable going 5. He’s fit, which has generally been the case under Norman, who was always one of the fitter guys on tour.

The ball striking seems so pure and powerful – and he wants to avenge last year’s SF loss to Andy. We’ve come to know this version of Stan and believe he’s probably the one to advance from that top half of the draw.

The only qualification would be Andy’s most brilliant defensive tennis showing-up to go along with some flatter ground-strokes that can hurt Stan. If Murray is going to sit back there and lob short balls at the Swiss, he’ll get pummeled. But if Murray can play backboarFrench-Open-2017-results-Andy-Murray-Stan-Wawrinka-813140d and frustrate with some deft use of the drop, effective serve, etc., who knows. I think we’d have to see, in other words, a bit of a drop from Stan. I feel like I’m wasting words here a bit. Wawrinka looks finals-bound.

Think about how this tournament has unfolded:

SF #1 Murray v Wawrinka. (1 vs 3)

SF #2 Nadal v Thiem. (4 vs 6)

All four of these players call clay home (Murray’s welcome mat is only somewhat newer). This is the most ideal final four we could think of, perhaps with Goffin replacing Thiem for those fans of the Belgian out there. But Thiem’s rise has been more dramatic, as he’s younger, has a fantastic style (old school, brash), a tremendously gifted game, especially for this surface. Murray has risen to defend his ranking, finally. Wawrinka finally shows us the goods, which usually does occur when the stakes are highest.

And in this year’s version of the French Open, we get what has to amount to the glorious swan song of Rafa, at his favorite venue, coming at the close of a throw-back and amazing clay court season. Seems like old times, right?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is called — as I would hope you know by now — 2017 Fedal.

Rafa’s run has been obscene. The scorelines are scary. We know this. He’s marching toward La Decima. We know this, as well.

What we do not know is how this SF vs. Thiem is going to play-out. Lets’s cut to the chase.

Nadal is favored and should be. His magic around this court, his experience and incredible mastery of the competitive landscape is legendary. In other words, for all the brilliance and youth that Dominic will bring to this battle, Nadal will probably find a way.

He will need to use the entire court, which is fine since he’s become one of the better all-court players, to be fair. He will need to come to net, actually, vs. Thiem. These will be Dominic-Thiemopportunistic attacks. Watch how this plays-out. Djokovic was dead in the water sitting back there trying to predict and counter the Austrian’s big artillery. Nadal will move.  I am almost certain of this. He has to come to net, keep Dominic off-balance and finish points earlier. Federer will find much pleasure in watching his friendly rival battle this young clay master, using this more mature style. This has been part of my criticism of the Serb: his game, wait for it, is limited. Tough to age in this sport sitting back and retrieving all day.

On the other hand, the Austrian has a bit going for him. He has now, attribution here goes to one of the TV commentators, scalped all 4 of the big 4. He fears no one. He beat the Spanish King in Rome a few weeks ago, in straight sets. This came from a series of matches with Nadal in which he made small adjustments that enabled him to close the gap and finally break-through.

You have seen my take on his use of the DTL. This is CRITICAL to Thiem’s outcome. If he can successfully employ this variety in his monstrous baseline attack, Rafa is in for a long and bumpy ride.

What is the most devastating aspects of Stan’s one-hander? DTL. Roger’s? DTL. The CC shot is obviously effective. But Thiem has to mix-in the DTL, which only finishes most points since he’s probably pushed his opponent off the court wide on the deuce side (speaking of his BH DTL). This is true of his FH DTL. CC is great, and necessary, but he has to use the DTL to wear-out Nadal. Keep your eye on this dynamic.

I don’t have the stats in front of me here, but Thiem is hitting the ball and spinning the ball harder than anyone else at this point, even Rafa.

To summarize, Rafa needs to employ the variety of a more full-court game-plan. Dominic needs to employ the variety of his groNadalGettyImages-692153554_1920x1080_959987267790und-strokes DTL.

Sure there are many many more factors. The serve will be critical. The ROS could be a deciding factor, especially if Rafa can get into Dom’s service confidence. A break of serve here and there could decide this.

And of course many of you are probably saying Rafa will just pound Thiem’s one-hander. Could be. But they’ve played recently. Adjustments have been made. Still, that will be something to watch.

Lastly, although this has been implied throughout this post, the mental framework of this match between Nadal and Thiem will be interesting. Thiem caught a break in the QF because Djokovic is broken and the Serb quit in that match (this is quite disturbing for many out there – that he would tank like that); Nadal will not resort to such a thing. No way. The Spaniard will be a nightmare, mentally, I suspect.

Can Thiem keep maturing before our very eyes? For instance, he has to pick the right times to hit DTL. Not when he’s getting pushed back and trying to stay in the point. He has to be smart in how he employs this variety and his approach in general.

The mental strength of these players, all four, will be on display in these next two matches.

Obviously, there is so much more to consider, but I’ll leave it there for now. Let me know what you think of the matches. I’m afraid to say that my gut tends to side with the tennis great here, so I see Nadal surviving . . . and playing Stan in the final. Holy shit that could be good.

Then again, we have a phenomenal final four (Thiem could be defining his rise to that stature this weekend). The tennis stoke is strong with these four, and with this tournament, which I hope you’re feeling with the help of Mcshow Tennis.

Let’s get it on!

Roland Garros QF Preview

Let’s keep this party bus rolling into the business-end of the tournament. We have big-time top-seeded match-ups as we’ve reached the final eight.

Murray v Nishikori

This leans Murray because he’s gaining confidence, having survived his draw. I would call his a decent draw with the Klizan FH, the gentle giant DPo and a rising talent in Khachanov who we love to see make a R16 in a major at 21. Murray’s isn’t the most compelling argument, but he’s here.

Nishikori has to be feeling the wear-and-tear of the clay. He survived a five-setter in R3 with the help of a rain-delay, but was able to bounce-back and beat the dangerous Verdasco in R16. If Nishikori has all of his weapons in tow, can find the energy and Chang’s winning words of wisdom, we might have a classic. Nishikori, as we know, has potential; his tennis can be lethal.

But we’ll go with the more reliable Brit who appears to have found that bridesmaid outfit (make me eat those words, Murray!).

Wawrinka v Cilic

The easy pick here is Stan, because of his game (though he looked a little troubled by Monfils), his history deep into major draws, his history on clay (a Masters and a major) and his H2H v Cilic: 11-2. Stan seems the obvious pick.

However, Cilic looks fit, getting up well to the too-common drop-shot and defending better (ROS). We know of Cilic’s unplayable, rampant form. Could this be another case of that rare bird?

The problem with this match-up is if Stan, at worst, just stays in the match, he has the fortitude to go long and nasty. Marin’s best chance is probably to hit the Swiss off the court. A tall order. Both seem to have a lot in the tank, so this should be entertaining with Stan continuing to fulfill our dreams.

Nadal v Carreno Busta

Pablo has beaten Dimitrov and Raonic along the way, but this should be a clay clinic from Nadal_hi-res-f6b9bb876bc995a1b88e9fefc63185eb_crop_northhis countryman, a raging bull who seems to have his eyes on a much bigger prize than even La Decima. Nadal is aiming to get off the court, to destroy and bury the evidence. He’s probably respecting his opponent here as he says he respects them all, but even the clay king is susceptible to a little peak behind the curtain (at the looming semi-final).

Djokovic v Thiem

The smart pick based on experience and legacy, on H2H and recent play is Djokovic. I would call this a bigger upset if Thiem wins than if Djokovic beat Nadal. Djokovic is going to be a very difficult out especially if he’s hitting the ball well. If his unforced error numbers are down, look-out.

But if Thiem can continue to murder the ball from the baseline, with his added dimension of more DTL, Djokovic could be in for a long brutal match. Look at the highlights of Thiem’s Zeballos match, for instance. I am sure that his camp worked on more DTL from both wings. The inside-out FH, and the more unpredictable direction of the shot, along with his big serve and decent mobility all add-up to a player on the rise in this sport.

I beliem in Thiem, but he needs a bit of that Chokovic to show-up, become angry and errant to advance to a date with Nadal in the SF.

Bottom-line is this could be a whale of a match. Let’s hope so.

Stay-tuned!

Roland Garros Quarter Finals

In tomorrow’s matches, Murray will beat the 21 year-old “Special-K” (Karen Khachanov) but what a nice run from the Russian who beat Berdych and Isner en route to his R16 date with the no. 1 seed. Murray looks like he’s finding some energy and stronger form with Lendl looking on and the stakes terribly high. Needlesstosay, Murray losing here is rich failure.

Murray will play Nishikori in that top QF, meaning the Japanese guy who survived his match with the 21 year-old South Korean, Hyeon Chung, will beat Verdasco in that R16 andy-murray-cropped_40e0pw88ma4l1ormc5muwl1htmatch tomorrow. That I am picking Nishiouchi means I am insane, but this is all part of the contradiction of me when I called the top half the least reliable draw in the history of men’s underwear.

In fact, I should stick with Fernando here. The only reason stems from Kei’s likely inspiration in pulling-out that 5-setter. He’s probably injured (which again makes the Verdasco call smarter).  Just win the match Nishikori; quit bullshitting everyone.

Stan will play Cilic in that other QF because Stan has no patience for a guy like Monfils and Stan does look deadly with this FH on serial killer mode. Even his exhibition match with Fognini gave him great hitting practice. He seems to be dialing-in his Stanimal zone. God forbid Monfils provides any sort of antics resembling some of his other tank-jobs. Stan gets impatient when an opponent requests medical. He should deliver a solid beat-down to the Frenchman.

Stan+Wawrinka+2017+French+Open+Day+Three+Q5496lgplz6lCilic is rampant like he was at Wimbledon and Cincinnati last year. We won’t bring-up USO 2014, but we have seen Cilic like this before. He can flatten the ball, hit big, and he’s returning serve well. He won the 2005 French Open Boys’ championship. He can play clay for his size; he looks comfortable.

Of course, Anderson has game, too. He beat Kyrgios and Edmund, both young, both big strikers. I just like Cilic, which, like Nishikori, makes me want to take a cold shower with a stiff drink.

The QFs are set.

As for what happened today, I watched most of the Djokovic victory. He looked good today and clean in beating a tough clay courter.

The first set TB, of course, played a big role in this match and the Spaniard got very close to taking that first swig of momentum that could have made this a very different match. He was down 0-4 in the TB before bouncing back and making things quite tense for the Djokovic camp. After securing the TB at 7-5, the Serb was in control.

The one caveat I’ve had with Djokovic through out this slump has been how he handles adversity. He hasn’t handled it very well. Schwartzman doesn’t have the tennis to close-out Djokovic despite leading 2 sets to 1. And that Schwartzman match probably did give Novak more confidence, winning a 5-setter (he said this in his PC).

Deeper in the draw that will be more difficult. Even a guy like Ramos-Vinolas would have been quite the menace had he won that first set. His FH was making the Serb work and his fitness and clay comfort were real factors.

But Novak’s ground strokes from both sides got deeper and cleaner as the match wore-on, partly from the relief of winning that first set, I suspect. Still, the Serb’s chances here boil-down to the obvious, whicNovakhi-res-6490899e4f9264d4e511a9d7939fc512_crop_northh is evidenced in the matches: is he playing into peak; or is his tennis still too inconsistent and given match difficulty, will his emotions get the better of him?

It was interesting to hear McEnroe and Carillo call the match. The commentary is pretty abundant. They talked about how Djokovic’s own antics and unpopular behavior should be seen as an extension of his family’s, which is well-documented. I have pointed to this quite often, mainly to call bullshit on the Nolefruitcakes out there who are at a loss as to why people don’t “buy” Nole (will Lacoste become a more popular brand?).

More to our concern was an exchange where Mary suggested that we ask this question, at the QF: who would Nadal rather face: Novak or Thiem? Mary said she’d caught wind of Nadal’s camp and claimed that the Nadal camp is more concerned with Thiem. Johnny Mac immediately chimed-in: No way. Mac clarified his view that Novak is a much bigger threat to Nadal here at the French.

I’m with Mac. We will never know exactly because Nadal will only play one of them. Despite Thiem’s win over Rafa at Rome, Novak is playing into form here, it appears to me, and in a SF, if Novak takes care of Thiem in the QF, Nadal will have his hands full.

The experience alone says Novak is a bigger threat.

I think with Rafa’s unbelievable run throughout the spring clay and especially here in Paris this week, he’s become a huge favorite (his match score lines, his confidence, La Decima, etc.). Many people think the championship is on Nadal’s racquet.

Which means Novak is an underdog. He is an underdog, should be the underdog in a potential SF. But with his direction of play ->> toward peak and Nadal trying to hold-on to this astonishing level . . . very interesting.

And I am not forgetting Thiem. Of course we recall the beat-down two weeks ago in Rome at the hands of Novak, but this is a different context and the Serb has shown some up-and-down form from match to match.

You know we beliem in Thiem, but the Serb, as we have been predicting over the last few days, might be finding a necessary peak. Necessary for two reasons:

  1. We find it necessary that he continues his climb in form and consistency to overcome his slump demons and his opponents (some of whom are playing at a very high level) for any chance to win this major.
  2. We find it necessary that he find this peak because winning this major (as I have argued since his USO loss) is critical to his legacy. A loss would extend the slide, imho.

The second week of the French Open is here, ladies and gentleman. Enjoy.

Miami Looking Like Indian Wells #Fedkyrinka

The boys that played well in IW are more or less still doing damage in Miami. Just at a glance you have Federer, Wawrinka, Kyrgios, and Sock looking good along with others like Zverev and Nishikori. But that top four are definitely not missing a beat.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned in my last post the legitimate hype around Frances Tiafoe. He played Federer in the 2R and did not disappoint. He is 19 years-old. Athletic and wants to win. First set was worth watching.

He’s the Americans’ most promising future talent right now (Sock is the current go-to).

I lobbed a little prediction at the end of my last post, saying Wawrinka looks to secure in Miami his 2nd Masters title, first on the hard courts. If you look at the IW final, you’ll see not a huge separation between Federer and Wawrinka. Then again, there is.

But Stan looks good, setting-up that big FH. The FH is definitely his biggest weapon right now. He’s playing solid tennis and the later he gets, the tougher he’ll be. Think of how that 1-seed must feel. Pressure for sure, but anyone with a brain wants to represent that distinction. The Murray and Djokovic-less bracket has to put a little extra step in a top 5 game.

He has Zverev next and then most likely Kyrgios in the QF to try and find Federer in the other half of the top SF. If Stan can put both of these big hitting youngsters to rest, look-out. Definitely some must see tennis for Stan coming up.

StanSmartHowever, Federer continues to routine everything on the other side of the net. Granted, the IW final was a tight match, but he never looked really vulnerable. One has to recognize that if that first set in IW goes to TB, and Stan wins a big point, boom, trouble.  However, Federer just continues to out DEFEND, hit, serve, BH, i.e., diversify everyone. He is in absolute attack mode in just about every point. This is really the same kind of offensive-minded Federer we should be used to. Remember SABR? Federer has been looking to re-establish the attacking style of tennis each year because that’s what has always characterized his tennis.

Federer is so much trouble right now for anyone he’s played. He has a tough match today vs. Agut, but the surging Federer (in 2017?) should reach the SF, the winner today getting Berdych in that QF.

And Del Potro is still a #30-something level player right now.

Here’s a quick history of the Del Potro hysteria: He played pretty well last year (2016), with a few glimmers of form, but his Olympics success and Argentina’s Davis Cup triumph were the two biggest highlights. Just having him back on tour gets everyone, even me, pretty stoked for some tennis from this gentle giant.

The Olympic win over Djokovic in early tournament action freaked people out because they saw the Argentine as becoming a monster. But Djokovic was falling. No question.

Beyond that, there was some Del Potro excitement from Acapulco and then a little over-reaction to a draw that involved him and Djokovic again in Indian Wells. People read way too much into the Djokovic matches in Mexico and California. We talked about that a lot over here. Del Potro is a limited player right now, one-handed.

I said in my last post that Roger having not much trouble is very likely the outcome. Federer routined JD. More splendid tennis from Federer, hitting the ball ALL OVER the court. He’s all-court on both sides of the net. Tracking stuff down, and hitting it between your legs. Good luck with beating that kind of fluent genius. Really a pleasure to see Federer playing this well at this point in his career. So glad I got to see him live: the 2017 Federer is what this part of the legend is called.

I like a Sock v Nadal match very much if Nadal can beat Mahut today. Nadal will have his hands full as the American continues to play well. Sock is 15-3 on the season with two titles, one of which was to Federer in IW SF where he made a respectable showing. American tennis fans should be watching this part of Jack’s year/career; he’s trying to make a move with consistent play at a 1000 level tournaments helping make the case. Sock is developing some fitness, too, so the Nadal match could be interesting.

In closing, I particularly want to see the Wawrinka v Kyrgios QF happen only because of the potential fire-works there 😉 That would be a great match-up to anticipate (build Mcshow Tennis readership).

And we would be another step closer to perhaps the Kyrgios v Federer we’ve been anticipating.

The winner comes out of that top half. No one wants anything to do with Fedkyrinka!

I’ll be getting shirts with that hashtag. Start it now all of you social media heathens:

#Fedkyrinka #McshowTennisBlog

😀

Update: Stan looked positive, taking the first set from Zverev, but then went away, 2 and 1. Zverev won his first title in St. Petersburg last summer over Wawrinka in the final. This today is a bad loss. He had a miserable draw, having to beat Zverev, Kyrgios (most likely) and then Federer just to get to the final. But he’s got the seeding and the form right now; he should have at least stayed in the third set. Enjoy the breadstick, Stan.

Federer needed two TBs to beat the ever-present RBA. The grinding Spanish tradition carries-on. Good match, Federer had to work, and the shot-making was stellar.

I have written favorable words about almost every player (even Nadal). I am quick to congratulate and quick to wax poetic about a game in high-flying form. I am quick to call-out, as well, as you know.

If you are not enjoying Federer’s run, at 35 1/2 years-old, I call you to the floor to articulate your case; you know: test your tennis IQ. He’s continuing, as I have said, to ruin tennis.

Wawrinka is testing all of our intelligence and patience. In the end, he had a nice little early hard court season. With his one Masters title coming on clay (Monte Carlo) and one of his three majors (RG), let’s see if he can earn a little interest on this decent AO/IW/MI run over the next several weeks, leading to Paris (SF/SF/R16 – two SFs losses to RF).

So, he laid an egg today in Miami, but applause for Stan the Man from Mchshow Tennis.

Miami and the Blog

We’re into the draw in Miami, so a few thoughts on that along with my continuing exploration of how to get this blog to blow the hell up and become a bigger part of my and your life (I am not kidding).

Quick thoughts on Miami. Nothing too startling. If you were caught off-guard by Pella beating Dimitrov, certainly that’s an upset – but I have to say that I don’t expect too many dramatics at the Miami Open. And this really isn’t that upsetting.

The field is depleted. Missing Murray, Djokovic and Tsonga for starters (especially the first two since the story-lines are pretty intriguing) hurts the top depth. I don’t expect Nadal to win this tournament, nor I am particularly high on Federer, but another IW/MI double from the old Swiss gent would be pretty demoralizing for the rest of the top guys. The points race is a fairly interesting story-line all by itself.

Federer will likely take-in a bit of rest during the clay season as that’s what I’ve heard from Federer in interview and Ljubičić said as much back in early 2016 when he joined Federer (if you remember, we loved that idea and said such a strategy would have aided his tennis self-esteem from 2008 on as the clay is where Nadal gained so much dominance over the rest of the tour, which he carried into non-clay events. There is no question in my mind that this dynamic hurt Federer and alternatively emboldened Nadal’s overall game. However, how do you tell Roger, the 2nd best clay courter in the world during this stretch to sit it out? Exactly. Tough call). But expect Roger to rest a bit during the 2017 clay as he anticipates a run at WB.

Having said this about Roger’s clay abstinence in 2017, this might give him a little extra motivation to try to pull-off the double in Miami. Again, this would absolutely rock the rankings/points race and add to the confidence of Federer, which has to be already sky high. But this is a tough tournament, with slower, wetter conditions, so he has his work cut-out and his draw has big-time resistance.

He gets Tiafoe today, a tough, athletic player who could give Roger a little run; then again, the kid is 19. But I like his game. After Tiafoe, Roger should get Del Potro. I suspect the Djoker fan club has their eyes on this match. Knowing how these folks think, they would use a Del Potro win as a massive boost to their flagging tennis egos. We’ll all have our eyes on this. If Federer is in form, I can’t see this as a very competitive match. But we’ll see.

Then the likes of Querrey, Thiem, Kyrgios, Zverev and Stan could meet a charging Federer, if that’s in the cards.

In the bottom, the likes of Nadal, Raonic, Nishikori, Sock, or Verdasco (seems like a guy who could flourish in Miami) could emerge.

Regardless of who is missing from the field, the tennis will get quite entertaining over the next week.

As for a nice transition from my brief (and superficial) notes on Miami to the discussion of my blog, you can go to the search bar on the top left of my home page and type in “Pella” and see what I have written about this Argentinian workhorse. His #158 in the world will Pellafool you. I have watched him play a number of times and have often been impressed with his athleticism and fight. At 26, he’s perhaps been moved by the same spirit that moves his slightly older compatriot, Juan Del Potro. Dimitrov ran into Pella. According to what I’ve already seen and written, not as big of a surprise as it might appear.

I think we’ll see Dimitrov hopefully find his form for the grass and summer HC. Sure he will continue to compete and do damage on the clay, but his all-court tennis will shine as the weather warms and we set sail for England.

Two more thoughts on young American prospects: Taylor Fritz continues to show almost remarkable ways to collapse in matches he’s got on his racquet, breaks in hand, etc. He was up 5-2 in the third against Kohlschreiber, only to lose in the decider’s TB 4-7. This has been a pattern from the young American. Sure he got a win over 6-seed Cilic in IW, but Marin is an absolute tennis turd stain right now. He’s out in Miami R1, as well. Horrible.

The other American, not as young as Fritz, is Donald Young who continues to show decent form. In IW he beat a tough Sam Querrey, who was playing well, coming off his Acapulco title and then Young just routined Pouille, who has shown all kinds of trouble on tour of late, compared to the flashes of brilliance he showed in 2016. The year is still quite young, so we’ll keep our eye on this Frenchman, but good for D. Young. He continues to play well.

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This blog is a healthy discussion of tennis, which I can only say because of the contributions of readers. I am so grateful for this chance to interact with the variety of readers I’ve had over the almost two years that I’ve been really pushing the tennis analysis and conversation.

There will be some changes to the blog, as I have to make efforts to build a stronger tennis empire 😀 , provide more coverage and commentary, offer more “products” or production, i.e., make this a better experience for tennis fans.

One thought I had was in simply changing the name to “Mcshow Tennis Blog International.” This might be a bit redundant, stating the obvious, only in that tennis is a massively international sport and culture. But this has been probably my favorite part of the growing readership – you all are from all over the world. This is not an American tennis blog by any stretch of the imagination. I even put the Google Translator on the homepage, to enhance this multi-cultural element (I understand that people can make this move on their own: I just wanted to underscore this value). Again, thanks for reading, folks.

I sense that some people build their site’s “strength” by offering some kind of news letter, which readers have to purchase. This seems a bit bold, but I wonder if it would make sense to make people at least become a “follower” in order to access the posts, etc.  I have to continue to explore WordPress to see what kinds of minor, but effective changes I can make.

As the readership grows, you will see things like a Mcshow Tennis hat or t-shirt. You laugh? Look: I want one, so I may as well make a couple of extra to see if they’ll sell. Indeed, I am going to be a bit bolder on some of these fronts.

I have been bold with my tennis commentary. Do you remember what I did to the Nadal/Federer H2H? Search that on this blog. How has that played out?  Not in the actual numbers, but in terms of the legacy, the argument that this weak statistical marquee is unbelievably flawed. It’s embarrassing.

How about my HRFRT series, which I am going to finish very soon (though I may have to continue to update this “book”) and compile in a more complete “package” for readers to enjoy. How has this played out? He is continuing to ruin, smash, destroy and ridicule this glorious sport of ours ;D

What about my Djokollapse argument last summer?  He does recover, I believe, but time is running out on his “harvest,” if you know what I mean.

These are all bigger arguments, chapters 😉 , compendiums, volumes that I need to compile for a more coherent read on these narratives or debates.

In other word, I will continue to be bold in my analysis and commentary. I only want to strengthen the infrastructure, the community and the commitment to Mcshow Tennis International.  Ha!

Continue to enjoy Miami, which looks a bit like Stan’s second 1000 title. 😉

Thanks again for reading.