Djokollapse: the final chapter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017. What a story.

Djokeray Can’t Catch a Break

With the build to Roland Garros officially underway, the sport’s pundits (I assume they follow tennis and are more than just Fed, Rafa or Djoker fans) are all excited and really want to start talking about Paris. I suppose they became swept-up in this perfect storm of a slow news day: Roger is off, Djokovic is waiting for Madrid, Barcelona lacks the jazz in the early rounds, so Tennis.com came-up with a doozy, as in a huge turd they can’t flush down the toilet, so we all (if one visits the interwebs in and around such publications) get to smell it.

Indeed, said website has this flashing across their homepage and it surely has readers and even “writers” all excited, I suspect:

TOUGH CALL: WHO HAS MORE AT STAKE AT ROLAND GARROS‚ÄĒMURRAY OR DJOKOVIC?

I believe they provide a “panel of experts” to weigh-in.

This is profoundly naive (I suppose is a nice way of putting it).

I wrote a post after AO and asked a similar question. But I wasn’t asking readers for their opinions (of course, one could certainly comment and offer one). I was continuing to track the Djokollapse, arguing that¬†his¬†loss at 2017 AO (like the collapse in 2016, the loss of #1 and the WTF to¬†Murray)¬†was pretty much dismal for the Serb, catastrophic (I’m happy to elaborate again if you’d like). Djokovic’s AO disaster, my post went, was¬†much worse than Murray’s loss to Zverev in Melbourne. No debate.

This is all much much more about Djokovic.

I’ve shared the run-in I had with the South African spaz who claimed the 2015 USO final was more important to Federer than it was to Djokovic. Wrong again. Folks, see the history. Be the history. This is Djokovic’s time to define. He and Becker getting the silky base-liner to 12 majors has been insane, as in historical. He’s still on the clock.

I am having a hard time believing serious pundits are actually weighing-in on for whom the FO next month is more important.

This article on Tennis.com does seem to suggest (read between the lines here, folks), adding to other parts of these players’¬†parallel lives (the real¬†rivalry dating back to 2012 – two of Murray’s three majors are wins against the Serb) that Djokovic’s legacy may be aligning more and more with Andy Murray.

And the irony of Fedal reemerging in 2017, cementing their conjoined legacies.

I wrote about the Murray and Djokovic narrative back in November, as well.

I’ve been tracking this and Tennis.com and others are, from my point-of-view, only adding another layer¬†to this headstone.

There I go again. . .

Not to change the subject, but join me in fancying a big run from Dominic Thiem in Barcelona this week. Watching some of these guys hit the ball with such vicious intent (only the ball bounces short, and is easily tracked), is quite the spectacle that is clay.

Thiem is murdering the ball and his match today with Edmund showcased some of this go-for-broke tennis.

Enjoy.

Federer is Ruining Tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ha ha ha.

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

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

Where’s Andy in 3-4 years? Dominant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Friday.

Follow Miami Fedal Live – Here!

We’ll be following the match live here if you want to comment on the blog or follow the action on Twitter. My Twitter feed is on the left-side of the blog and here’s a link as well.

Does Federer have enough left in the tank to go three sets with Nadal? Several signs point to a Nadal win and this shouldn’t be hard to fathom. One, he’s almost always played Federer well (ha ha – understatement of the era). Two, Nadal has to be as hungry for a win as ever – he’s NEVER won Miami, he’s playing his 13 year hitting partner, and this is his third final of 2017 (AO – lost, Acapulco – lost). He’s due. Not to mention the last three matches vs. Federer. So, a Nadal win here is certainly in the read of this match.

On top of all of that, Federer has had a brutal draw here in Miami, his last two virtually taking him to a last breath – near death. Berdych and Kyrgios both gave Federer almost more than he could handle. The SF went over three hours. Nadal’s Fognini affair was a Cuba Libre next to the pool by comparison.

We know how good Federer has been playing. If he is a step slow (would seem only natural given the circumstances – age and draw), he needs that serve to keep him in the match.

The one thing that could be a critical element is Federer’s ROS vs the Nadal serve. Let’s keep our eye on that exchange.

Talk to you during or on the other side. Enjoy the match, folks.

Update:

6-3 6-4. Well, that was anti-climactic, which I called in my post yesterday, referring mainly to the QF and SF matches Federer played. But Rafa does make the match stand-out. This was not very compelling, from a point-by-point perspective. I will explain all of this and more in my post later tonight. Need to get outside and smell some sunshine.

Up Next: IW Quarter Finals

Well, another quick post because that’s all I have time for. I leave tomorrow night for Indian Wells Semi Final action on Saturday. Not what I had in mind when I purchased the tickets. ¬†I have the potential of seeing:

Pablo Carreno Busta v Dominic Thiem

and

Jack Sock v Nick Kyrgios

:0

That would be less than stellar in my opinion, but know that either way – I will be soaking-up the So Cal rays, hydrating and enjoying the lovely Indian Wells tennis facilities with great Masters 1000 passion!

Quick commentary on the R16 yesterday:

Federer completely outclassed Nadal. Go re-read my discussions of that¬†H2H about which¬†people (who don’t understand tennis) have gotten themselves sloppy wet. Roger’s tennis is so full of variety, depth, net-play, quickness, offense, defense and a great service game. This has pretty much always been the case, but we’ve wondered from time-to-time about his mental strength.

Closing-out Nadal like that was pretty impressive. Go look at the depth of Roger’s shots. That’s where Kyrgios will have trouble. The depth of Roger’s GS is a huge threat, along with the now best BH in the game (sorry, Stan), great ROS and that same silky movement.

Yes, the BH continues to shine in these high-stakes matches. I thought Federer was brilliant in his first match at IW vs. Robert, but thought he’d come back to earth a bit vs. his nemesis.

I was at IW in 2012 when Federer routined Nadal, so I have seen this show before. But this is different, here in 2017. Federer looks fresh, newly “commissioned” to take-care-of-business that a lot of us presume could be the Ivan factor. Ljubińćińá beat Nadal in the IW 2010 SF, so, again, think of the conversation in the Federer box surrounding this match. Ivan has been an absolute stroke of genius, imho. Which is how we’re describing Roger’s match and form at this point: genius. Again, look at the depth of his groundstrokes. He was painting Nadal’s sneakers with his paintball gun, brought to you¬†by Wilson.

Likewise, Kyrgios outclassed Novak. I’m going to keep coming back to this: the baseline game is limited and lacks creativity, which means it’s not as interesting to watch as the iw-wed1-kyrgios2players simply have to out-hit each other. I watched Kyrgios get disinterested during some rallies, which is part of his demeanor, perhaps, but the rallies are just big BH/FH exchanges that can go on for hours. The other element of Djokovic’s game that has to come up in these discussions is his ¬†serve. He is having to work so hard on both ends. Although he does have the best return game in the business, still, which I love to watch – his serve doesn’t scare many people.

Kyrgios, on the other hand, like Federer, has a deadly serve.  Quick points, easy holds. Intimidating.

This is just an extension of my last post about the Djokovic v Del Potro. Novak’s game is not dominant right now. He’s still looking for that extra step. But the baseline game of his and his more pedestrian serve have to ring of some concern. He’s not getting any younger.¬†Kyrgios coming to net, playing more creatively and athletically is just a more complete display of tennis.

This discussion of style can be applied to the Wawrinka v Nishioka match. Go watch Nishioka. He is a young Nadal, running EVERYTHING down and falling in love with the top-spin. Some of those rallies in that R16 match got really tired, Stan resorting to a balloon ball approach, to limit his errors and try to avoid the upset. The young Japanese star was just staying in rallies, outlasting his opponent in most cases. He’s beaten some decent players of late, but Stan (the other great BH) showed true grit and big boy tennis down the stretch to hammer the youngster into oblivion. This match is good for Stan’s game, I believe. He was forced to reach down and find those huge FHs and BHs to reach the big QF match with Thiem. I get to see one of these two, which is a very solid outcome.

Great to see Stan find his heavy ball and punish another helpless victim (though it took a while to break the defensive mastery of the young Nadal apprentice).

Gotta go, but there’s more to come, folks. Enjoy the tennis!

Nuts.

Folks, I might be burned-out on tennis. Okay, not really. But, what in the hell happened last week? Happened quickly. Is everyone okay? I sense people feel a bit trampled upon, feelings were hurt, confidence compromised, doubt perhaps deflating some of that late winter/early spring hope that had started budding on those flimsy limbs.

A bit dramatic?

Acapulco and Dubai 2017 were like too little circuses that rolled into town and a¬†bunch of crazy shit happened. Sure, the tennis was great; there were upsets and confirmations; the rise and fall of several tour regulars and virtual rookies. That’s tennis, right? Still, I’m gassed, need a few days to recover. . .

My last post, I guess, tried to make some sense, but that was before the Acapulco final, which I thought could be interesting if Sam kept it in, kept it coming. I watched the highlights and heard Nadal’s few choice words afterwards. Querrey was, essentially, unplayable. That was the case in the Kyrgios v Querrey match, as well, which I mentioned. Kyrgios was completely out classed in the 2nd and 3rd. To think that Kyrgios was out-of-reach for Djokovic. Just some nutty circumstances.

Del Potro and Tiafoe. . . then the Slovak/Gentle Giant rematch. Kyrgios incinerates the Serb and then gets dismissed by the Californian, who happens to, on his march to the finals, make short work of Goffin and Thiem. Then he beats Nadal in the final. Are you kidding?

The Federer loss in Dubai is only surprising given the way he failed to close. There’s just a lot of talent out there, so such a high flier isn’t that surprising. But still, several MPs, giant leads in sets, in TBs. . . not sure how this plays-out for Roger in IW.¬†I suppose the lesson we learned last week is don’t be surprised; keep your expectations in check.

andy-murrayI did touch on this one huge point, so let’s reiterate, especially in light of the circus metaphor. The one champion left standing, the leader left unfazed by all the madness, after last week’s heroics and melt-downs, is the world #1. To reiterate, again, this is what we needed from Andy.

Big tennis is on the horizon. Given the train wrecks (multiple) of last week, the survivors are scrambling, getting cleaned-up and readied¬†again for a battle royale, in the desert, Indian Wells, to be exact. Some are coming with desperation in their eyes – what you can see; and fear in their hearts – what you can’t see.

And some players are just excited to be on tour, playing in this golden hour of a golden age, amongst the winds of change, where hope and youth arrive hand-in-hand.

You’re at the helm, Andy. Godspeed.

So, pick yourself up, reader. Last week was nuts. But next week is Indian Wells. Indeed, wake-up.

Speak-up!

(Now you know what I sound like talking to myself)

Early Tournament Activity

Brisbane, Doha, Chennai, and the Hopman Cup are underway.  I have caught a couple of nice slices of tennis, in fact. Watching Pouille close-out Simon in their two-set, two TB match was a good bit of hard-courting, some solid strokes, hard-fought points, 10 minute games with Pouille showing just a little more depth of style and youth than the forever mediocre but competent Simon. The all-French affair saw Simon up 5-0 in the first set before losing that first in a TB (6) and the second set more even before Simon fading in the 2nd TB (4). Pouille has a solid game, can volley effectively and find some nice angles to end points from the BL, as well. We saw it in NYC and here we are with roger_hopmana future star that needs more breakthrough beyond his maiden title last year in Metz. In a Brisbane field that includes Raonic (defending champ), Nadal, Thiem, a charging Dimitrov, Nishikori and Wawrinka, going deep here would be a great way for the 22 year-old to start 2017. Allez!

Dimitrov destroyed Stevie Johnson a few days ago. Not huge news, but Johnson had a decent 2016 for him yet the seemingly surging Bulgarian is continuing to show a pinch of promise. Nadal won as well against the puzzling Dolgopolov.

Brisbane ahead: QFs Raonic v Nadal, Thiem v Dimitrov (top half) and Nishikori v Ferrer (w/Donaldson v Kei test) and Stan v Pouille that hopefully plays-out.  Never know but lucas_brisbanesome solid tennis potentially.

Doha is all about a Novak v Andy final.  Andy should survive to his Berdych or Tsonga SF whereas Djokovic will see, upon arrival, the likes of a Karlovic/Khachanov/Verdasco/Goffin SF (guess is as good as mine). We should see the first of many Andy v Novak 2017 tournament finals. This is all about AO mental-edge.

For Cilic’s sake,¬†I really hope he finds the trophy in Chennai; the field contains¬†some good players but he needs to be looking at a much bigger picture and has to survive that kind of lighter 250 tennis.

I also saw Federer give the Brit Dan Evans a bit of a free tennis lesson in their Hopman Cup match. Federer looked good against a guy who can hit shots on the hardcourt surface, the former squash player who had Stan at MP in NYC before getting eaten alive. ¬†Not going to say too much about this match or Fed’s form, but he looked sharp, accurate, handled some early moments and made pretty quick work of the youngster. Nice shot-making from both. The crowd was 13,000 plus. Yep. Perth, Australia. Roger. The post-match interview sounded like an episode of some celebrity crush, but to defend the Australian media-type, the Maestro was doing his thing. And I think we all know he hopes to find some big matches in Melbourne and beyond this year. Those big matches will be probably occurring much sooner than he or some of his perhaps top-ranked opponents will have¬†hoped. Roger looks to be a 16 or 17 seed at AO. Unless there’s some kind of adjustment, that could make for some interesting draws.

Stay-tuned. I’ll be back soon.