ATP Youth On the Rise

The complicated discussion of the ATP youth took a more positive spin last week (for which I will provide a more positive spin), which naturally follows from play earlier in the year and is actually part of a basic cycle of life: the young grow, mature, become stronger and more refined in order to overcome their elders. However (and this has become pretty redundant over the last ten years or so), the this discussion has been suffocated by the delayed/nonexistent fulfillment of the youth (the lost generation) on the ATP.

This is really a discussion/essay/thesis all to itself. What the fuck has happened to the younger generation of players who should have been poised to make more headway into the Masters and major level tournaments? Most will say that’s because the big 3 (or 5) have been just too strong/great/wonderful/heroic blah blah blah. But that doesn’t excuse a more genuine effort from players not named Fedal or Djokeray or Wawrinka. The emptiness of challenge from the field against these top dogs as been bewildering.

We saw glimpses of the Dimitrov talent in January where he swept a solid field at Brisbane and then made a solid run in Melbourne, finishing with a stand-up effort against Nadal in that classic AO SF.

But it wasn’t just his results. I wrote a bit, excitedly, about his all-court game showing so much promise early-on. He’s baby-Fed for a reason, but does have his own style and it’s an ascendant style that should frighten the stationary, defensive status quo of the tour. But he’s failed to break-through, whether that was in Melbourne vs. Nadal or afterwards, at IW, Miami, on clay or even the lawns of SW19 where he gave the tennis world all sorts of hope back in 2014 when he made the WB SF, losing to Djokovic in a tight four-setter 64 36 76 76. This is merely trivia at this point. His consistency has been an issue certainly, but his loss to Federer at WB this year seemed to really expose the Bulgarian’s glaring weakness: his serve. At 6′ 3″ he should be much more imposing on that feature of his game.

Nishikori makes perhaps the best case of this era’s “youth,” but despite this rumor based only on consistency (ironically, given his investment in injury), he’s without a Masters title, and only one major final appearance (’14 USO). This we’ll find pretty much describes most youthful candidates.

Raonic? WB final appearance, some major SF appearances, as well. But I’ve never thought he was much of a challenger beyond a big serve.

Cilic and Del Potro are perhaps the two that really do symbolize this group’s short-comings. Cilic captured his one major (’14 USO), but has had massive consistency issues since (though has looked quite good at times this season on multiple surfaces deep into draws). Del Potro is just a sad story. Hopefully he can rebound in the near future (saw signs of an improved BH), but by winning his first major at 20 years of age, and showing all kinds of character in big matches against the big 3 early-on, this legacy will have tennis fans scratching their heads, and mumbling the shoulda coulda woulda eulogy in their tennis dreams.

There are just too many Dolgopolovs and not enough Del Potros.

But there’s a new era in town. It’s about time, right?

This youth includes these gents:

Dominic Theim – 23. He looks poised, especially on clay. Some strategic changes to his game will open-up success on the other surfaces, as well. We have followed him closely. His heart is in the right place; he wants to play, compete and win. It should be just a matter of time.

Sascha Zverev – 20. Has a Masters (Rome), comes from a good tennis family and added a coach (Ferrero). He’s the most serious, it seems, with a very serious game, big ground strokes, serve and mettle. Will continue to get better and at 6′ 6″ we have our Del Potro second-coming.

The Russians – Andrey Rublev (19), Karen Khachanov (21), and Daniil Medvedev (21). Khachanov has made the most noise, perhaps, but Medvedev has challenged all year and Rublev won Umag a few weeks ago, his first ATP title. Lots of potential here.

The Australians – Kyrgios (22), Tomic (24), Thanasai Kokkinakis (21) and Jordan Thompson (23). The first two are well known, and we’re getting to know the other two. We can delete Tomic based-on his continual failure in the professional ranks. Kyrgios has been documented by us all, in terms of his talent and his emotional instability. He’s arguably the most talented/gifted of this next class, but he has to find some deeper draws, some finals and some titles. He needs to keep growing along the lines of the commitment shown from Zverev.

Kokkinakis has all kinds of potential. He made the Los Cabos final last week after beating Berdych. A fine run from this youngster who’s been battling some injury the last couple of years.

I enjoyed watching this highlight between Taylor Fritz and Kokkinakis as this is potentially what the future of the tour could look like. This is a QF in Los Cabos.

This is a close match, especially that first set which more or less is decided on a ball hitting the top of the tape. Good stuff.

The Americans – Taylor Fritz (19), Frances Tiafoe (19), Jared Donaldson (20), Reilly Opelka (20), Ernesto Escobedo (21), Tommy Paul (20) and there are a few others like Frantangelo (24) and Mmoh (19). This is a good group, a lot of youth here. But, we’re seeing a lot of inconsistency (naturally) and/or just the lack of experience (strength) to muster a significant breakthrough.

For instance, I was really looking forward to a Tiafoe v Kyrgios Montreal 2R, but the American lost today to the Lorenzi 67 60 26. That just seems a lack of focus. This may be the brightest of the group, with some nice showings over the last couple of years (he played Federer pretty well in Miami ’17 early rounds losing 67 26). He’s an athlete at 6’2″ and, again, only 19.

Fritz has seen the most press given his small pedigree from Juniors and he has some tennis in the family. He became the youngest American to reach an ATP final (since Chang) with his run at the 2016 Memphis 250. He lost to Nishikori in that final. This showed all kinds of promise. He’s backed-off that a bit with some untimely losses, lack of consistency.

Donaldson beat Pouille in 1R play here in Montreal, but it looks like Pouille is having a bit of a sophomore slump. Either way, the kid Donaldson does have some fight in him and he gets Paire next.

Indeed, Pouille is having a tough time against these younger Americans. As I pointed-out in a recent post, Tommy Paul took care of him in straights in D.C. Tommy Paul has some pedigree as well from Juniors, which I clarify briefly in that previous post. He’s a clay courter by way of American east coast tennis where he grew-up playing on mostly clay.

This translates into a lot of top spin, but speaks to his ability to chase balls, keep points alive and use some of that athleticism and stamina to challenge and beat an opponent. I saw a lot of him from last week. After beating Pouille, he was asked about his next opponent, Gilles Mueller, who spanked the American in Atlanta the previous week. Paul hadn’t even been looking at the draw, didn’t really care. The demeanor was a very good look. He was brimming with confidence, which he explained grew as he found his feet and the longer rallies against these higher ranked players. A bit of that defensive tennis mentality but overall just a way to build confidence: stand your ground; get the ball back in play.

He had three MP against Nishikori in the Citi Open QF. He beat Pouille, Mueller and then had Kei at MP in the second set. The Japanese player looked fragile, actually played a bit of gamesmanship, apparently, as he looked at the end as the young American tried to close the door (Kei was not at the end). But, imho, that loopy clay-groomed top-spin came back to bite him; Paul has a ton of game and the future looks quite good for this guy, but he needs a flatter ball on this surface. At least so he can hit through the court at those critical points in the match. Three MPs.

Still, a solid week of work for the youngster.

The Rest: Canada’s Denis Shapovalov (18), Croatian Borna Coric (20), South Korean Hyeon Chung (21), France’s Quentin Halys (20), and, of course, Canada’s other bright youngster, 16 year-old Felix Auger Aliassime. Among others, of course.

As these veteran greats take tournaments and parts of seasons off, opportunity becomes rich for one or two of these youngsters to rise-up. We all want to see it. Believe me. Even if one of them beats your hero, the sport needs this young blood in a bad way.

Did I miss anyone or anything?

Another discussion that bounced high amongst the tennis crowd was the discussion of court speed. We’ll take this up in another post, but D.C. pretty much blew some minds as the center court and the Grandstand 1 court (especially) measured off the charts fast. Jim Courier weighed-in on this information and some overall views he has on court speed.

Hope you’re enjoying the tennis and the discussion.

Mexican and American Tennis

Of course, I am referring to the tournament in Los Cabos and the popular Citi Open in Washington D.C., two hard court tune-ups for the gentlemen this week.

I’ll keep this short, just wanting to give a nod to a couple of trends that I’m watching. Taylor Fritz is playing Los Cabos, the American NextGener for which we started to develop a couple of expectations last year as he was in the news for his decent play, breaking into the top 100, reviving the American tennis heart beat, perhaps. But he’s had a bit of drop-off, just not getting beyond R1 in bigger tournaments. Been a bit of a disappointment.

He survived Kukushin in 1R yesterday, coming back from losing the first set TB to take the final two sets 2 and 2. Well done. He followed-up that with a victory tonight over #23 Ramos-Vinolas, a difficult assignment, in straights. We get a Fritz v Kokkinakis in R16 tomorrow, which I will have to watch. Certainly an advantage to the Aussie who has played pretty well over the last few months; he beat another decent American youngster in Tiafoe in 1R.

Querrey, Feli Lopez and Berdych are also still playing south of the border.

The other American I’m watching is Tommy Paul, advancing today in D.C. by beating 7-seed Pouille. Brilliant result for another NextGen, who’s now 20. He survived Casper Ruud in 1R, due to a retirement in the third set the American led 3-0, a solid match of young athletic types before the 18 year-old Olso resident waved the flag.

I watched most of the Pouille v Paul match and though this did not have much memorable tennis through much of the first set, the TB heated things up until Pouille DF at 6-6, giving Paul serve and his second SP, which he converted. Paul broke the Frenchman in the 2nd game of the 2nd, and looked to serve-out this match.

At 3-1, Paul had a tough hold, needing some strong ball-striking to keep 17 in-the-world Pouille from taking back control of the set and probably the match. He held, but was then broken at 4-2 in a fairly dramatic game in which Paul managed to save 5-6 BPs before succumbing. With Pouille putting the set back on serve, Paul immediately broke back and served-out the second set 6-3. Really solid work from one of the American youngsters we haven’t seen do much at all on tour.

He and Fritz brought a bit of flare to their professional prospects having done well in the Juniors. In 2015, in their last year in Juniors, Paul beat Fritz in the French Open Juniors final and Fritz answered back in the Jr. USO final.

So, nice to see these two, this week, gaining some confidence, advancing. Paul has the lefty from Luxembourg tomorrow, who beat Paul easily last week in Atlanta if I’m not mistaken. Good luck against that veteran’s wily serve and volley.

Sorry to focus so much on the Americans here, but perhaps one might understand the broader appeal – we need the youngsters to grow-up and play some ball (any youngsters!). This dearth of talent or maturity from the younger players has been pretty astonishing.

At the same time, I did find myself, admittedly, imagining a Davis Cup American side with some winning depth in the future (if we’re lucky). Americans have had some depth over the years, as you know. How about that one DC squad made-up of Pete, Andre, Jim and Todd Martin. Any surface, any day, anywhere. Ha ha.

The rest of the draw in D.C. looks fairly appetizing. Although defending champ Monfils has been dismissed, as well as Zverev the elder by the pesky Pella, tomorrow’s matches include: DelPo v Nishikori and the younger Russian Medvedev v Dimitrov, which should be interesting. Zverev the younger, Raonic, Thiem and Sock also have matches tomorrow.

Speaking of rooting for the youngins’ to get their crap in gear, Sascha, who needed a little work to get by the young Aussie Thompson today (tough match), has added the almost forgotten Juan Carlos Ferrero to his coaching staff. He will work with Alexander Sr. and imrs.phpcontinue to develop the tour’s strongest younger threat, who already has a Masters title, as you know. This is a great sign that the young German isn’t wasting time, nor does he appear to have an over-bearing parent/coach. The relationship in the box appears to be great, though this is the first week they’ve worked face-to-face; Ferrero was tapped in Madrid a few months ago, apparently.

More needs to be discussed in terms of this next generation’s progress, possibly a sequel to the Lost Boys (Raonic, Kei, Grigor, et al.). 2017 Fedal only magnifies the tour’s insecurities as far as the golden era after-life is concerned.

Folks, sorry if the tinkering-with-the-look-of-the-blog is annoying. I am trying to do as much of this on my own as I can, and you can probably discern that I am not one of these youngsters who masters electronic devices and their social media as if they’re programmed to do so from birth.

Any feedback you have is welcomed and appreciated. Hopefully this will all be seamless, with minimal distraction.

Be sure that the tennis conversation will continue, unabated, and begin to ramp and boom as the boys start to rattle their big HC engines, destination NYC.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s matches and discussing these matters and more, so stay-tuned.

And, yes, of course we will continue to explicate the DHFE jeremiad.

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.

Third Round at 2017 Indian Wells

Indian Wells 2017 R3 is where, we’re told, the drama begins. Most tournaments see some solid matches at this point, anyway. Of course, this is all about the bottom half, the “quarter of death,” to be specific, or whatever it is people are calling this tournament draw.

Jon Wertheim a pretty respectable tennis scribe and talking head was the latest I saw/heard go very awkward (and challenged) championing the MOST UNBELIEVABLE QUARTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT!

He interviewed Nishikori and Nadal today in the studio after those two had each won their matches. Wertheim brought-up the “loaded” quarter, asked how they reacted to the news, you know, the terror of it all. Both players downplayed the entire conversation. After pressing Nadal awkwardly, he got the Spaniard to say, chuckling artificially, how he might have wished he was in another quarter, but it was really to appease and shut-up the American. Wertheim actually referred to Kei’s draw, in front of Kei, as “easier” than those whom have to face the terror of the quarter of death. This is embarrassing. Wertheim is better than this. I think.

This could have been Ruan interviewing Kei and Nadal. The popular media is really no better than a fanboy blogger, which is what I reacted to when I wrote my Serena article: the terrible mainstream media tennis narrative. Are you really trying to sell shoes mainly, or racquets, or tickets to an event, or eyeballs for the television? Part of my Serena article was pointing-out how overrated she is, in my humble opinion, given the vast talent of the women’s game historically; the other, perhaps more important part was my reaction to how challenged the mainstream media was in their coverage, calling her the GOAT (before she’d actually completed the calendar slam, which she never did accomplish), OMG, blah blah blah.

That’s why this blog exits, really. So I can temper the status quo (the TSQ). Remember that series of articles?

As long as we have this garbage coverage, misinforming, failing really, innocent tennis fans, we have Mcshow Tennis Blog. Smarten-up out there and maybe I’ll go away. 😀

R3 in the Top Half:

Wawrinka v Kohlschreiber

Thiem v Mischa Zverev

I’m pulling a tennis snobbery and saying that we need Thiem or Wawrinka to represent here. The rest of the top half is pretty deplorable. Murray really shit the bed, but this is on the Indian Wells organization. The bottom quarter is irresponsible, not because it’s the most loaded quarter in the history of the universe, but because dropping one or two of these blokes into the top half would have given the brackets a bit of integrity. Beyond Murray, you’re looking at a pathetic list of semi-finalists. Goffin is the most qualified for the later rounds. That’s it from the top quarter.

The second quarter has Stan, Monfils, Isner (who plays well at IW, but I don’t think he has much in the tank), Berdych and his R3 opponent, the young, talented Japanese kid Nishioka, Thiem and Zverev.

A Stan/Thiem v Agut/Goffin is about the best one can hope for in the first SF. Pretty thin, folks.

R3 in the Bottom Half

In the bottom, the matches really begin in this next round. A.Zverev v Kyrgios, Djokovic v Del Potro, Federer v Johnson, Nadal v Verdasco, Dimitrov v Sock, and Pouille plays, as does Nishikori. This should be interesting. Verdasco is playing well so this should be good. Djokovic should beat Del Potro, but if the Serb is, indeed, hitting a plateau, we could see more trouble for the 2 seed (but he should advance). Dimitrov still looks very confident. I see him getting out of that third quarter. 

TaylorFritzI just saw Taylor Fritz (whom I have written quite a bit about) beat Cilic. I actually feel bad for Marin Cilic. He is awful. Fritz closed-out the match brilliantly, by breaking the Croation; Fritz served for the match at 5-3, was broken, looked in a bit of trouble, but the break was clean and decisive, finishing the #7 in the world with an over-powering FH. Really good to see the young American, 19 years-old, newly married and now a father, get a win like this.

Tennis should be quite good over the next few days.

Stay tuned.