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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

U.S. Open Early Observations

I didn’t weigh-in on Federer getting put into that top half, but I suppose I did mention the draw was a joke. Murray’s pull-out highlighted the stupidity of the draw; it was lopsided US Open Tennisand a joke even before Murray’s exit. I think we’re all pretty skeptical of there being some kind of objective draw. I am not part of the big “fix” conspiracy, but we know match-ups are desired for the paying audience. This is a business. People cry about draws all of the time, especially when they feel like their player got a bad one.

Why in the world wouldn’t the U.S. Open want a possible Fedal final? They’ve never played in NYC, the tournament is pretty much all about their fate, their race to #1, their rivalry, etc.

Perhaps the tournament thought: let’s put them in the same half so no one can accuse us of playing favorites, doctoring the draw, etc.

Instead, USO, we’re accusing you of being fucking morons. Yeah, the obscenity is needed here because what they did (the Murray scratch only clarifies – the fuck-up was already made) is a terrible dis-service to the sport.

The SF could be epic, if both make it that far, but this makes no sense, at all.

In most tournaments, the 1 gets the 4 and the 2 gets the 3. Does that make sense? Of course it does. If you are the No. 1 seed, you get to play the lowest of that top four. You earned that. At least that’s how most tournament seedings and draws work.

Either way, the draw sucks.

I have seen a bit of tennis, so let’s jump around and have a look.

Couple of things from our Preview:

“Federer:

R1 American Frances Tiafoe, a 19 year-old we’ve talked about a lot; you know we’re excited about this guy.”

This was not as shocking as everyone wanted to say it was. Tiafoe is for real, played Roger tough in Miami in March, beat a flagging Zverev in Cincinnati and basically has the goods to be a very dangerous player on this tour for years to come.

His athleticism, serve and FH jump-out as game changers. Not sure if it was the back, but Roger let go of several of those CC FH from the American.

As I echoed on twitter, we will forgive Federer from going five with this talent, but getting broken at 5-3, serving for match in the fifth? That was abominable. However, Federer breaks back to take the match 6-4. You got me, Roger. Pretty ugly, but a win is a win. If he serves-out at 5-3, the match is almost exactly 2 hours and 30 min. Not a back breaker if you know what I mean.

Even blowing that and having to break Frances for the win didn’t make this the marathon that a five-setter might sound like. This match was good for Federer though he better tighten-up the serve and everything else. It’s now or never for the Swiss king.

Federer will not have Kyrgios in the 4R; the Aussie lost today, which, again, is not a big surprise. I said this about Kyrgios in my preview: “I am not positive that Kyrgios will be in as good a place as Dimitrov, coming off the Cincinnati final.”

Conversely, Dimitrov cruised through R1, but still has to play well, and take care of business in order to find that QF with the Spaniard.

Preview: “Dimitrov, ladies and gentlemen, is the Cilic of WB 2017. Where Dimitrov lands would have been my biggest interest or concern. Think of the context of such a QF [vs. Grigor+Dimitrov+2016+Open+Day+2+ssHYrGqCPWelNadal] given their 2017 AO SF. Dimitrov should react very favorably to the Cincy win, his first Masters title. Given his experience, his early 2017 HC run and his coach, I would not want much of any of Dimitrov in NYC.”

That win in Cincy was big for the Bulgarian. Glad to see my stethoscope is still working.

As for Nadal, I watched some of his match with that Serbian. What did I say there: “R1 with a Serb. . . who looked dangerous vs Federer in Wimbledon, as they went to a first set TB. Or so I heard. Or not really.” Okay, it was a fairly routine match, but it did actually resemble the Federer match at WB quite a bit. A first set TB and then a one-sided affair.

But here’s my concern with Nadal. First, his tennis is not made for this surface even though the main stadium has apparently been slowed-down this year – a travesty if the rumor (from Brad Gilbert) is true.

He’s not as comfortable and secondly, he doesn’t like the roof. Have a look around to find his comments about the roof and this was apparent if you watched the match as he paused and stalled often on serve and at other times, looking at sections of the seats, looking pretty aggravated.

When the roof is closed, aside from that cleaning-up the tennis, the acoustics apparently drive any crowd noise down onto the court. In other words, it’s loud in there. Nadal was quite bothered by this factor.

As for the tennis, his straight-set victory was only slightly marred by a wayward FH, but we won’t read much into that as it’s the first round.

Lastly, I thought it was pretty funny when a reporter asked Nadal and Federer about facing each other in the SF. Federer, ever the buttoned-up PR machine, said he would love to play Rafa in NYC since it would be great for the sport and they’ve never faced-off at the USO, etc. etc. What did Rafa say? Ha ha. I love the honesty. He said he would rather play someone “easier.” Priceless stuff from Nadal.

So, I think he’s a bit uneasy as he normally is this time of year. I still have my eye on that Berdych R16. We do not get the Tommy Paul R2 match as he faded drastically to the Japanese Taro, losing 26 26 in the 4th and 5th sets. WTF. Nadal looks unchallenged until that Berdych match, if the Czech big-man can take care of his end.

As for Nadal’s potential QF with Dimitrov, obviously there is a lot of tennis to play. And Dimitrov actually has some potential difficulty in his next match vs. the 19 year-old Russian Rublev, and then a potential R16 match with Monfils.

Back to Federer really quick, he now has Youzney, a Spaniard (Verdasco/Lopez) and then whatever comes-out of that Kyrgios section, headed now by Kohlschreiber.

Like I said in my Preview, I thought Nadal had the tougher draw on paper because of his potential match sequence of Berdych, Dimtrov and Federer. Federer had a tough R1, but things have opened-up a bit.

Again, lots of tennis to play.

In the bottom half:

Although Zverev seems to have a half of the draw to himself (many picking him to win the U.S. Open), he’s got trouble including right now, down 2 sets to 1 to Coric, in the 2R. If he can pull himself out of that hole, he gets the winner of Anderson v Gulbis (Anderson serving for a 2-0 sets lead). Zverev has his hands full.

Like I said in my preview and I’ll say again now: if Cilic is healthy, he’s going to be very tough, obviously his history here in NYC playing a role the deeper he goes.

I will say the Pouille v Cilic R16 (if that transpires) could be a big match (remember last year when I called the Nadal v Pouille as the potential match of the tourney? And it was? haha).

I just watched Pouille survive the American 20 y/o Donaldson in five sets. Donaldson went down 0-2 and came back to force the 5th set.

But Pouille is finding his stroke. Some big hitting at the end of that match. I hope Pouille can keep that bracket honest down there and reach and represent in that potential R16 monster against the 2014 champ. Keep your fingers crossed.

The other player I’m keeping an eye on is the young Brit Edmund. He spanked Haase in R1 and now looks to be doing the same vs. Johnson right now, going-up 2 sets to zip.

Everyone tune-in tonight to watch Jo-Willy v Shapovalov. The one-hander seems to love the big stage and he’s on the big stage tonight. Look for Tsonga to put-up an early push to crush the youngster. I like the Canadian to stay in the match and feed off the NYC zoo.

Hope you’re enjoying the tennis.

Clarification on ATP Injury

This is an addendum to my last post, I actually just published.

First of all, injury is just part of the sport. I mentioned that many of the players injured are, in fact, older, 30-something to be exact. I guess this isn’t some dawning of a new age of tennis where players don’t necessarily peak when they’re 35 (Lol). Doesn’t happen folks. Father time, not 35-36 year-old Federer, is undefeated.

Secondly, I do need to clarify my comment about that style of BL tennis being “pretty mediocre” and “garbage.”

The 2012 final really is mediocre. Djokovic looks off and the tennis in many parts is so passively defensive. Not a keeper. Certainly some insightful commentary coming from Wilander as the call tries to explain the odd and emotional tennis from Novak.

That, along with the 2013 final evidence some pretty rough patches from the Serb in big matches that could have helped define his legacy in a different way. The loss to Murray I believe made him 6-6 in finals, already off to a pretty tough start. The call brought-up Federer’s record at the time, something like 17-7 then, Rafa’s pretty decent record and even Pete’s, which is 14-4.

In the 2013 final, certainly the ground strokes are almost nuclear, but the tennis is pretty one-dimensional. Rafa shows some of that supreme clutch tennis, showing there really is a separation between his and Djokovic’s mental game; Rafa’s poise is immense.

Djokovic has that opportunity to go up a double break in the third, where they’re tied a set apiece. He ends-up losing that pivotal set, which is so full of massive momentum shifts.

Here’s the big consideration as far as the discussion of injury. I brought this up in the previous post, how the manipulation of surface and the innovation of equipment have both promoted a specific style of tennis and really hurt the sport. We haven’t even gotten into the growing discussion and culture of advanced physio and nutrition, how combined, all of these elements pushed the game in a pretty defined direction: power tennis.

Look at the 2013 USO final especially, throw-in the 2012 AO final, too. How does a 19 year-old, even a brilliant, prodigious talent, compete against something like that? That’s part of the legacy of the “lost boys,” and the delay of other youth movements.

A teenager, unfamiliar with that advanced world of nutrition and physio and top-end equipment, can’t come close to going five sets with those kinds of players. Sure this relates to my HRFRT. One of the chapters is “Roger Created a Monster (or Two).”

So, on one hand, we can look at some of these big matches in the last 5-6 years and say, wow, incredible tennis from these all-time greats (I am not here to argue that they’re not all-time greats). The players have gotten better, these are the GOATS, blah blah blah.

18346-5133zverevvorhandBut this is the price you pay for that HFE. And actually it’s bullshit. Depleted draws? Guys have been forced to push the envelope on all aspects of the game. Look how quickly Sascha has put-on muscle. Mention of his physio/trainer was made recently during a match, a pretty well-known guy (I forget his name, sorry). This coincides with Sascha separating from his own generation, practically, putting himself in a position to even win his first major in two weeks (especially when you consider his draw) at the age of 20.

Guys used to do that, win a major at a young age. Borg was 18, Pete was 19, Rafa was 19, and Nole was 20. Roger and McEnroe were 21. Go back even further. Do you really think the players today are just that dominant and the younger guys are just not up to speed with this last and waning era’s GOATness? Think about that for a minute. zverev-montreal

For sure, Federer done ruined it.

To be clear, I am not an opponent of the two-handed BH. 😀

Instead, I believe these last 5+ years have seen a development of the sport that’s causing people to say ridiculous things (let’s cut majors to a Bo3 jolly-good-time!).

Look around, folks. Look past your little political agenda and/or the shadow cast by your favorite player (we’ve found our way back to the fanboys and girls, sure enough).

Hopefully these last two posts (this one and its antecedent) have raised a few questions (and eye-brows: let’s here it, what say you?).

Mcshow Response to Drucker, Wertheim, and Other Change Agents

Welcome to Mcshow Blog. If you’ve never been here before, this is how we do this. I have original takes on the sport (e.g. HRFRT, Djokollapse, etc.) and like to occasionally enter into certain conversations that need a dose or two of lucidity and/or levity; my crap-detector picks-up the smelly trace, we trap the perpetrator, submit the particular deviant to a “fair” trial, and then air the judgement for all to read and enjoy.

Today’s study concerns the TSQ‘s response to all of these injuries, which, admittedly, are not good for the sport and do indeed diminish a draw’s depth and significance.

I want to go right to Joel Drucker’s recent article where he chimed-in on the changes that he sees fit to deal with the injuries, the immense physicality of the sport. He is among a throng of change agents that, on top of it all, have been advocating for a move to some semblance of Bo3 in major tournaments. But let’s break this down for clarification.

First of all, the title of Drucker’s article does pin-point his particular suggestion: change to Bo3 in the first few rounds of the U.S. Open.

What’s interesting up-front is his suggestion is just for the U.S. Open. Because this is the final major of the year where guys are at the ends of their tennis legs? Because of the nature of N.A. hard court tennis, especially the U.S. Open Series including Canada, Cincinnati and NYC?

Drucker mentions that the Open has been the place for this kind of innovation, where the TB and Hawk-Eye were first used, for instance. He then points-out that the U.S. Open used to actually have Bo3 in the first few rounds. You can see here for yourself: the 1977 Open used Bo3 for the first FOUR rounds, moving to Bo5 for the QF, SF and F.

1977open_ss-slide-VJIW-jumbo

You can scroll through some of those draws around that time (1970s) and see how the tournament played with variations of this more sympathetic approach, for the sake of the players’ health we suspect. Looks like there was Bo3 in the first three rounds in 1975, but prior to this the Bo5 existed for all rounds. So, in the mid 70s they experimented with Bo3 for a few early rounds. 1979 appears to be the year they switched back to Bo5 throughout the tournament.

This means, of course, that this idea is not totally new. The U.S. Open has implemented this kind of match variation before. Drucker is a seasoned tennis writer, enthusiast and historian. This suggestion to move to a Bo3 in the first 2-4 rounds isn’t completely lunatic. 🙂

A few other points from this article that I appreciate:

2. He points-out the hierarchy of the majors. “The Australian Open was by far the least significant Slam for decades. And while Roland Garros has always been extremely demanding physically, such top players as Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors likely devoted less mental energy towards it than they did for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. To be clear: That doesn’t mean these guys didn’t compete hard on the dirt. It just means that they likely pointed themselves even more towards generating big-time results in London and New York.”

This reflects my and most learned professional tennis enthusiast points-of-view; in fact, as Drucker mentions, this is how the professionals (in the past) viewed the four majors. Wimbledon and NYC are the most important majors. That’s just the way it is. Nice to see Drucker clarify something I have been championing, which is men’s tennis 101.

He goes on to point-out that now players are focused on all four majors, so this competitive intensity has to have some kind of effect on the players more recently (injury) and he brings-up the point about the speed of the court and the innovation of the equipment as playing important roles here. No doubt, I and hopefully many others see not an ideal situation here with the homogenization of surface (slowing grass and HC) and the string and racket innovation that enables players to hit and spin harder.

This is poor sport management. Why make it easier to play for more players and slow-down the surfaces that benefit (along with the equipment) only certain players playing a certain style?

Either way you look at it, this is what you have: the rise of the two-handed back-hand and slower surface that advocates for a specific, easier to play style that renders pretty mediocre tennis, to be honest.

I was watching some U.S. Open replays recently on the Tennis Channel. Go look at the 2012 final (Djokovic v Murray) and the 2013 (Djokovic v Nadal) final as perhaps peaks of this certain style.

The tennis, for the most part, is garbage. There are some nice rallies and huge momentum shifts, especially in the 2013 final, but overall, it’s just a couple of guys hitting and spinning (Nadal) the ball as hard as they can.

If you look at these matches, and a few more of this period, you see the peak of this kind of tennis. The Australian Open 2012 final we have to include here. Brilliant competition (like parts of that 2013 final). Nadal and Djokovic going at it is both peak BL grind (a mediocre style too dependent upon physical strength, equipment innovation and surface manipulation) and brilliant at the same time because of their competitive spirit. No one can deny the drama of those matches.

This is what Drucker is referring to, whether he knows it or not.

This is what Jon Wertheim is referring to whether he knows it or not.

Just focusing on changing the U.S. Open and other majors to Bo3 is, by itself, a show of some kind of politics or ideology – meaning it stinks, and ignores way too much history and common sense (there are some like the guy Rothenberg for the NYT who is a big Bo3 advocate, using the length of matches as a deterrent to millennial viewership and wanting to put the men and women on a more even playing field, so to speak. Garbage).

Two reasons I am open to this kind of change for the first two rounds (beyond that is silly): 1. This experiment has been done before, so this is not actually new. The season is brutal (they should make changes there FIRST), so this can help. And 2. I actually think if forces guys to get that shit together early in a tournament. Brings upsets into play, which is a good competitive element, giving younger players a bit of opportunity, weakens the strangle-hold of a complacent hierarchy.

American baseball has this kind of structure in its playoff format, the first round is Bo5, the SF and F are Bo7.

The NBA used to do this Bo5 in the earlier rounds, but switched to Bo7 throughout in 2003.

But I’d think you would want to do this for all of the majors, no? More thought needs to go into this kind of change and “more thought” also refers to looking at other aspects of the sport.

Here’s where focusing only on this change is really challenged. There are other changes to the tournament schedule that can be made so we don’t have to alter the MOST IMPORTANT TOURNAMENTS OF THE YEAR.

The way this commentary sounds (from Drucker/Wertheim/Rothenberg/et al) reads like this: guys are getting injured so let’s make the majors less demanding. Ha ha ha. That’s as ridiculous, really, as it sounds.

Look elsewhere, gentlemen. Look at the 1000s. Evidence of the real issues of the sport are everywhere. The accumulation of Masters titles, now an apparent benchmark of tennis excellence, is problematic. And that’s new. That Murray is higher on that list than Sampras is hilarious (and problematic). Should players have to play in all of these Masters events? What about the length of the season, in general?

The majors are historical, the true benchmarks of tennis excellence. Change those only as a last resort (although I can see some benefit to perhaps first two rounds being Bo3 only to improve competition).

What about the speed of the court? The hysteria of the 2017 AO court is a great footnote here. Some Djokovic fans complained, saying their hero isn’t as good on faster courts. First of all, keep that to yourself, fangirl! You are undermining your hero.

That grass and the HC have generally slowed hurts certain styles of the game.

Variation of speed advocates variation of style. This invites more variety, like S & V. If you are not a S & V fan, go watch American football or roller-blading or MMA. Tennis has historically been a game of variety, skill and class and using the net for crying-out-loud.

Lastly, the equipment. No need to go into this too much here and now, but this is a problem. The rackets and strings are getting absurdly forgiving, with larger and larger sweet-spots, lighter, and more conducive to spin. At what point does the tour say certain innovation is illegal for tour events. Sure, weekend warrior Joe can have his fun with these freak-gimmicks called tennis rackets, but the pros shouldn’t need this kind of advantage. No, this is not the make-them-use-wooden-rackets argument, but the kind of equipment now available is hurting the sport. Period.

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Drucker brings-up the guys missing from this year’s U.S. Open, pointing-out their recent success at the year’s final major. The past two winners (Stan and Novak), and 2014 finalist (Kei) are missing. Of course the 2012 finalist is missing now, as well (Murray). He says the 2014 winner is struggling with injury (Cilic) as is the 2015 finalist (Federer).

I hope he is not trying to say their injuries now are connected to NYC. I’m sure he is merely pointing-out that these stars of recent NYC hot August nights are under the spell of an injury plague that is affecting the ATP.

We hear his concern. The trend can be traced to some of the things he touches-on in that article and that I and others have put a bit more thought into.

But often, too, the injuries are individual and I think jumping to a big (short-sighted) conclusions can be pretty counter-productive.

Novak is a mess; his case is pretty singular and part of that is his recent big run of success. But the way he handled the injury, other elements of his life, that seems a bit more complicated – but again he was on a huge peak that simply wore him out.

Stan has a bad knee. Kei is always injured. Cilic has been playing well, but has come-up with some physical issues. Federer is 36 and has had a bad back.

In other words, let’s not go into some kind of panic. Guys get injured. Some of the things that people are talking about – changes that could be made – are both interesting and ridiculous. Guys also have very specific circumstances that have led to injury.

The fact that this coincides with a bit of a youth movement seems pretty logical, as well. Stan, Novak, Andy and Roger are over 30. Should we change majors to Bo3 because some 30+ players are hobbling? Exactly.

Part of this is the changing of the guard.

The Murray exit from the USO draw is a bummer, for sure. That bottom half of the draw is wild. Actually, the Murray W/D exposes the stupidity of the original draw. It’s almost a lack of class on the organizers’ part.

At first glance I can see that Querrey and Cilic have moved. Any other big moves? I see this lightens perhaps Kyrgios’ draw.

We probably have more injury affect to come, so let’s get this tournament underway and see where the pieces start to fall, literally.

Thoughts on any of this off-court intrigue?

PS
Just saw this comment on the injuries from Federer. Good points, Roger. 😉
Also, I left-out Milos from the injury list. Again, fairly common from this particular player.
Lastly, David Law is another monster change agent. Keep your eye on that spooner.

Cheers!

2017 U.S. Open Draw

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There you have it.

Top Half

Nadal‘s route to the final:

R1 with a Serb. . . who looked dangerous vs Federer in Wimbledon, as they went to a first set TB. Or so I heard. Or not really.

Then my boy Tommy Paul (if he survives and arrives) R2 gets a shot at Rafa with his maturing game – athletic, so can track and return via his American east coast roots of clay (rooting for the American, American tennis actually). Would love to see this match.

Gasquet is Nadal’s reward in 3R if he survives the Serb and American b2b.

Berdych (maybe a lunatic Fognini) in 4R.

Dimitrov in the QF and Federer in the SF.

Federer:

R1 American Frances Tiafoe, a 19 year-old we’ve talked about a lot; you know we’re excited about this guy.

Then a Feli Lopez or Verdasco/Pospisil in R3,

followed-by Querrey or Kyrgios in R16, then a Thiem/Delpo/Agut QF, to be followed by, if history allows such an event to take place, a SF with Nadal (their first meeting ever at the USO).

As usual, so much of any such discussion depends on the form of the players.

All things, including health, being equal, Nadal is more vulnerable. I sure hope Paul tests the No. 1 seed, but really Nadal should get his first big test against Berdych or Fognini, both of which could be tough and/or garbage (pardon the honesty). If Berdych is firing, he could be a handful in NYC. He lost 1R in Cincy to a complicated Delpo, in three sets. Berdych should be that 4R match for Nadal.

Dimitrov, ladies and gentlemen, is the Cilic of WB 2017. Where Dimitrov lands would have been my biggest interest or concern. Think of the context of such a QF given their 2017 AO SF. Dimitrov should react very favorably to the Cincy win, his first Masters title. Given his experience, his early 2017 HC run and his coach, I would not want much of any of Dimitrov in NYC.

In case you’re wondering, that means Nadal’s draw is quite tough. Remember, such a potential threat in the QF puts more weight on the early matches. Nadal needs to get to a QF or SF fresh and raging with confidence. Baby-Fed and Fed b2b will be some serious tennis, for anyone. Again, all of this is dependent upon good health.

Federer’s most difficult situation comes about from a rampant Kyrgios.

But I don’t see the difficulty others seem to be saying about Federer’s draw (other than all of this is difficult!).

A case could perhaps be made for the big serve creating some difficulty. He has the potential of seeing Querrey, Kyrgios, Delpo, and Karlovic; or grinders like Agut or Mannarino. Theses are all potential hazards on HC, but the variety of Federer in Bo5 should be way too much for any of these players.

I am not positive that Kyrgios will be in as good a place as Dimitrov, coming off the Cincinnati final. I could be dead wrong, too. Maybe this is the major where Kyrgios comes-of-age, fulfills that (or more of that) prophecy. I watched Querrey hand it to a hot Kyrgios in Acapulco, so maybe we get that re-match. Kyrgios still has to prove he can weather big-time adversity for two weeks.

I see Federer, if his back is 95-100% good, having a test in this 4R if Kyrgios is manic, but other than that, his ticket to the historical SF should be secure.

Nadal might have, in my estimation, one of the real contenders for this title in his 4R opponent: Dimitrov.

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Bottom Half

Murray‘s 4R match vs. Ferrer or Pouille has some intrigue; Ferrer has been playing well lately, but Murray, if he’s healthy, looks pretty solid in this draw.

The Tsonga/dark horse QF doesn’t pose much threat, either.

We’ll have to wait and see about Murray’s form, but he got a pretty nice draw. Christmas in August we’ll call it.

Zverev, probably a lot of people’s picks here to win it all, has some nice NextGen action with Coric in R2, followed by potential danger in his “hitting partner” Kevin Anderson (they played in D.C. and Montreal) in R3, maybe a Sock or Muller in R4, followed by an Isner/Khachanov/Cilic QF.

We are not sure about Cilic. He could be fighting injury, or he could be healed and rested. He’ll just need to find his HC feet quickly in order to survive that 3R match with Khachanov and the 4R with the likes of Isner.

Is Zverev the favorite from the bottom half? Perhaps, but Bo5 is a big hill to climb for the young German, not to mention the bright lights.

Murray and Cilic have some question marks, so let’s have a look as play gets underway next week.

Health is a big factor here, as it always is, but the subject has even more resonance given this specific draw’s depletion to injury, the 2017 trend with Djokovic, Murray and now Wawrinka front and center (not to mention others missing and Federer’s back). Take this conversation back a year from today and you have Federer and Nadal struggling with injury.

There is a lot of talk surrounding the injury bug.

I will go into this tonight in another post. Some of the changes being suggested to fix this trend are rash and complicated. Mcshow will take-up the challenge, as always.

Conclusion on the draw:

Federer should reach the SF and play either Nadal or Dimitrov (remember our observations of Federer early in Montreal, before he seemed to “find” his form; he looked agitated, pretty poor. We haven’t, then, seen him with any kind of HC form like the one he showed January – March 2017. Between finding that magical form and his back, the more you think about it, the more of a long-shot even Federer seems).

Murray vs. the winner of Zverev v Cilic looks like the other possible scenario.

But things don’t always work-out this way, do they. We’ll continue with this discussion tonight, along with my thoughts on the injury “hysteria.”

Also, have you caught any of the replays of past USO men’s finals being aired on Tennis Channel? You’ve probably scene the matches before, but nice to revisit. They’ve got the last few years on a loop. The 2012 and 2013 USO finals are fairly remarkable, not necessarily in a good way. I will work observation of this tennis into the discussion of injury and other issues of the sport.

Sorry for the delay. Work ramping-up for me, which can be a bit distracting from these other, more interesting conversations. 😀

About a Week Out

I start work, another fall semester, next Monday, but this is only a casual coincidence (or is it?) that the year’s final major about which we are fairly interested also takes-off and hopefulphotoly soars, lifting our imaginations (academic and tennis, to speak of at least two) to ever terrific heights, of which we will be transformed along with those around us (hopefully), inspired, buoying our everyday lives, marching, we can hope, against “the unmistakable tokens of death” (Woolf).

No question that’s what this or any sport or entertainment provides us with – an escape and a metaphoric antidote that, at least momentarily, can move us toward better outcome (and even greater, more specific victory if a tennis result, for instance, carries that much personal or patriotic weight).

One can see the struggle here as I want the blog where I engage in the tennis discourse to coincide and correspond with my real job. Indeed, the two do relate, no doubt. But I want more.

Admittedly, the excitement of a new semester is anxious and intoxicating – the possibilities of working well with others, pushing each other to read and write with more purpose and insight than before, developing perspectives and arguments, growing individually and, we hope, culturally.

There is a lot of hope, even in this post, evidenced by a simple scan of the language above.

I am not only going to hope, however. The work here and there will only become more focused and purposeful. What exactly is the focus, the purpose? To see things more clearly in order to advance more precisely on those meanings and the incredible journeys that reside in the significance of this work.

A lot is at stake next week!

I know you are with me on one account: The United States Open Tennis Championships.

There are several thoughts we all have about the possibilities of this two-week explosion of major championship tennis.

Nadal’s No. 1 seed really prefaces his challenge to end-the-year as No. 1. These sorts of milestones and discussions are great for the historical (and more advanced and accurate) view of the sport.

As one can see from the linked article, Nadal could really add to this phenomenon, we might call it, of losing and regaining the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Look at the second table that provides a list of year-end ATP No. 1, which translates to dominance of the tour, naturally, as the season ends and preparations are made for the next campaign.

I have referenced Pete’s numbers there a few times, even recently. Look at that run, of consecutive year-end No. 1. As I clarified, this streak of dominance really wore-out the American, pushed him to play in ways he would not have had he not been chasing that highest level.

71241675Nadal will now go head-to-head against Roger and Andy through to the WTF for this year’s year-end No. 1 (currently, 1-3 goes Nadal – Muray – Federer). If you listen to the players, most put a lot of value into this distinction. That ranking, as it’s reflected in tournament seedings and especially what it signifies at the end of a year, carries a lot of meaning for players, not to mention what it means to fans and historians alike.

Murray has a few thousand points to defend here at the end of the year. Nadal and Federer have virtually none to defend (Nadal, I believe, has a couple hundred vs. Federer’s zero).

NYC will be an interesting and glorious first stage for this race to year-end No. 1. Hopefully the men are healthy and on form. Will be interesting to see where Federer lands in the draw. You would think he’ll be in Murray’s half, but we’ll have to wait on that and other insights for the 2017 USO draw.

This week some of the men are making last minute claims on entry into the NYC draw, or something along those lines.

Did you catch the play and commentary of Dolgopolov’s R1 Winston-Salem match with world No. 144 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil? Looks like the Ukranian, who lost to Kyrgios last week in Cincinnati R32, threw the match against Monteiro.

What I find interesting relates to the role of the blog in the reporting of the story. Granted, I may not have stumbled across a better mainstream news article that provides detail of this horrifying story, but the blog I did see absolutely dwarfs the few newsy, mainstreamy articles I found.

Trust pops-up as a big-time concern here, not just with players on tour (athletes in all professional sports) and with the sport’s supposed integrity police (the TIU: literally, the Tennis Integrity Unit), but what about those reporting on these issues?

I’d like to think that’s part of what drives the relevance of (and interest in) Mcshow Blog: we’re honest, passionate, analytical, and insightful. We have in mind to (as reader RJ put it recently) “keep it real.” No doubt.

Hence part of that anxiety of next week: back to work when all I really want to do is cover tennis! And true there’s some anxiety, too, in that upcoming announcement of the draw, along with the championship caliber Bo5 that will ensue.

I needed to tie the two back together; you know, about a week out. 😉

Cheers.

Grigor Dimitrov Wins First Masters Title

Here’s What we have already said about 2017 Dimitrov. Those posts pertain to January which include Dimitrov’s Brisbane title, a very impressive start to 2017 indeed, which advanced an understanding of his form in Melbourne. The year began quite well for Grigor, something we noticed and marinated appropriately, given the Bulgarian’s variety, classical style and the tour’s glaring need for candidate contenders beyond the O 5 (old five – Fed/Rafa/Nole/Andy/Stan).

Dimitrov-cincinnati-IV-768x432

The final yesterday in Cincinnati between Kyrgios and Dimitrov had the potential to be a classic, but didn’t quite live-up to that; none the less, we saw some very good tennis at times from both, Grigor proving more certain of his game plan and executing more consistently.

Both sets boiled-down to a break of serve, but many might’ve predicted Grigor as being more vulnerable on serve. Not the case, at all. I believe it was only Del Potro who was able to break Dimitrov the entire week, once. That stat alone speaks to his form and difficulty players had against him.

Kyrgios’ serve is what most might have pointed-to in terms of the Aussie’s advantage in this match. But this just wasn’t the case. Through the first set (this trend almost certainly stayed true through the second, as well), Dimitrov out-paced Nick on serve 124mph to 123mph, on average. That’s a big tell-tale sign. Kyrgios should, one would think, be on average, first serve, in the low 130s. He just wasn’t using that big serve which could speak to health, strategy, or motivation. He threw-in the occasional 136mph or so, but this was rare and probably a fault. His serve was not the monster we’ve seen in some of his bigger matches.

Having said that, as I mentioned in my preview, Dimitrov had handled a big serve in the SF pretty adequately. Nick would need more than just a big serve, but we can suspect that more on that shot would have improved the Aussie’s chances considerably; that threat didn’t manifest in the final.

That post I link to above that I wrote back in January (“The Grigor Potential“) goes into his coach, Dani Vallverdu. This provides some background on this aspiring coaching genius who has worked with Lendl and Murray.

Vallverdu was a big factor in the Cincy final. Recall Murray’s H2H with Kyrgios, which I included in a recent post; Murray is the outlier when it comes to Kyrgios’ success against the O 5 (old five). Murry is 5-0 against Nick and if you look at those scorelines, you will see that Murray hasn’t had very much difficulty with Kyrgios. Why not?

The answer to this question transpired on Sunday in the Western & Southern Open final.

We all saw Grigor focus on two primary strategies to trouble Kyrgios: 1) attack the FH and 2) throw slice at him, keeping the ball off-pace and low.

Those were strategic though the Bulgarian’s serve, defense and offensive variety played huge roles as well.

We know Murray’s game well. He’s very defensive, sits back, does less with pace than the offensive-type. Taking pace off the ball like that is an effective strategy against Kyrgios. Players that use more pace against Kyrgios get into bigger exchanges, which the Aussie, as we can see, prefers.

And the slice from Grigor that kept the ball, in addition, low also troubled Nick. This sort of variety gives many players problems; we know this. This particular strategy kept Nick off balance all day. This had to be part of the discussion in Dimitrov’s camp.

Some of the cause too of Dimitrov’s win, however, has to go to the Bulgarian’s sheer effort, execution and perseverance. He stayed focused, played well in big points. How about the two break opportunities Kyrgios had in the first set. The first one was especially impressive from Dimitrov, who just outplayed and outhit Nick. Grigor loses those two points, just the first, and that’s probably the difference in the match, in the result. So, give Dimitrov massive credit for just playing well when it counted, keeping balls in play, hitting both his FH and BH well, ending points at the net, and even tempting Kyrgios to play to his FH, which Nick did on occasion, only to get in return that Dimitrov running FH that adds so much class to an already heady game.

All of these factors were in store yesterday, but there’s another one we need to consider.

Nick played with a lot of class yesterday; in no way did we get any whiff of a tank or a debilitating tantrum. This is very good news for tennis fans who want to see Kyrgios rise-up on this tour and show us more of what he can do with a tennis racket year-round. His end-of-match exchanges with both Ferrer and Dimitrov (two that I can recall) were gracious and intimate; this is a huge step for the Aussie bad boy.

But one could suspect that Nick didn’t relish this sort of match-up the way he does when he plays one of the top guys like Nadal, Djokovic and Federer. Nick might just relish that underdog/spoiler role more than he does being the favorite.

He could still be battling the hip soreness, which would have hampered his game here in a final after several tough matches. The strategy from Dimitrov didn’t help Nick either; when Kyrgios has to create pace, he’s out of his comfort zone. The Kyrgios BH broke down yesterday, but that had a lot to do with having to deal with the low and slower slice coming at him throughout the match.

But we have to wonder a bit about his engagement, still. He was classy and played well yesterday. But his game lacked that firepower, from the serve to his explosive ground game.

We will not take anything away from Grigor, especially here at Mcshow; his diversity and class (an all-court one-handed game for the ages, potentially) dictated yesterday’s outcome as much as anything. But Nick, some might have wondered, seemed to underwhelm a bit as well (don’t worry: two things can be true).

Here’s the most important take-away. Nick and Grigor have to be pumped heading into next week’s U.S. Open. Both showed some real gritty tennis and we know when these boys are on form, they’re very difficult to beat. 2017 ATP highlights, aside even from Cincinnati, would include tennis from both.

Add Cincinnati to the mix. These gents are tested and ready for battle (get those hips 100%, Nick).

Stay-tuned for some build-up to NYC. This is, year in and year out, the biggest major of the year.