Shanghai Fallout

Murray is still rolling. Really he hasn’t been challenged at all through-out the Asian swing, completing the Serb’s favorite little double of Beijing/Shanghai. In a recent interview, Murray, although denying his focus on catching Novak at world #1, says certainly he’s confident and the presence of Lendl has helped. Uh, as we have reported redundantly – Murray is a completely different player with Lendl. Go back to 2012-13 where he won his other two majors: Lendl. In Lendl’s absence: Garbage. Lendl back in charge: Brilliant. Ha.

murray-vs-djokovicSo, while I have been pretty critical of the Scot over the past few years, this has always revolved around a couple of points: his pedestrian offense and his incessant on-court criticism of himself and his box, perhaps the weather and the chair umpire’s shoes. His inability to control his emotions is disaster. You knew a coach (or parent) with any blood in his/her veins would tell him to STFUP and play tennis.

He has responded quite well, in Lendl’s presence and in the absence of much threat on the court. Federer (injured) and Nadal  (finished) aside, Novak’s dip and the rest of the field just haven’t been too much trouble. He won Beijing and Shanghai without dropping a set. This is evidence of both Andy’s form and the field, despite a bit of depth starting to emerge (#nextgen), not doing much to challenge the current world #2.

A popular explanation is that after Novak christened his Slam at the French, he came undone; he did win Toronto in a depleted field, but his WB and Olympics losses resonate and the USO meltdown sealed-the-deal on this thesis articulating fatigue and burn-out. This sounds reasonable as Novak’s run over the last couple of years has been legendary. He won three majors in 2015 and two this year, not to mention his continued assault on the Masters circuit. So, I guess his burn-out was imminent.

Let’s add that the burn-out comes too from an already lengthy and dramatic career. His majors final record speaks to this: 12-9. He’s not a spry 29 years-old. He’s been in wars with Federer and Nadal and even Murray that already speak to his massive legacy.

To clarify, let’s not mislead ourselves into thinking that this run of 5 majors in two years is so critically exhausting that the guy needs a break before returning to his massive form. That’s actually a flawed view.

In my view, which I’ve been writing and re-writing about since the USO loss, he’s played a ton of tennis (a very physical style on top of that), with numbers to lead one who’s paying attention to the idea that he might be reaching that stage in his career where these trophies stop cascading into his lap, where he doesn’t devour draws at ease and dominate like a player in his prime.

The number 29 has everyone confused on this. That’s still young goes the thinking. Roger’s relevancy in his 30’s adds to this. The nutrition, equipment and physical science of today will extend  careers. Indeed, Roger is misleading, as well. He’s Roger Federer. His game has a ton of sustainability (huge serve, feathery-graceful game, fairly composed emotionally, gargantuan popularity, etc.). He’s pretty much clowning around at 34-35 years old. But that’s not the model for the future. That’s Roger.

Even the argument that Novak’s last couple of years have been so stressful both physically and mentally is riddled with confusion. He was playing so well for so long the crash and burn was bound to happen. Really?

Back to Roger: from 2006 to 2008 he more or less played in all four major finals, each year, winning three majors a year twice, two in 2008, I believe. The Masters tournament finals, by the way, were often five-set masterpieces.

The point is: seeing Novak’s 2016 as some kind of dip in form from such an extended high level is true, but exaggerating this cause-and-effect is flawed. He’s an older 29 than you think and this run, although legendary is not so completely out-of-this-world.

After seeing him crash out in Shanghai, we know this to be true: unless he has a miraculous return to dominance, he better win the 2017 AO. I said that a few weeks back, reminding people that at the 2017 FO he turns 30 (we’ve already broken-down those age numbers, what happens at 29-30 historically, etc.). WB and the USO, I argued, will be the most difficult tournaments for him to win.

Not to mention I heard Andy say that his highest priority now is winning the French. Ahh, the elusive Frenchie.

Indeed, this tour is all about the Novak v Andy narrative. Andy chases Novak for #1. I suppose this will be an interesting race to culminate at the WTF, but the real concern for Novak is not 2016 but 2017. I definitely have Andy as a favorite at AO. Sure the Serb owns that major, but that’s a lot to ask that he wins his 345th AO. Andy plays well in Melbourne, too.

Gimelstob pointed out (I agree) that Novak has to rally and win the WTF and secure his year-end #1 for legacy. Gimelstob, although not going into detail, is giving a nod to the discussion of GOAT and that big criterion: year-end No. 1.

Can Novak rally? That’s the question. Andy looks pretty poised, so long as Lendl remains in charge. We’ll see, as play turns indoors.

Right. On. Cue.

Sneaking in a quick quip about Shanghai and touting my blog. Who doesn’t like his or her observations and arguments to be more or less verified by events in the real world.

  1. I wrote that series of articles about Novak post-U.S. Open (the objective look at his career arch) and a week later he announces to the world that he’s burned-out, doesn’t care about majors or even being #1. One can say he’s playing mind-games, but either way, he doesn’t quite seem like a guy who is going to win a calendar slam in 2017, a claim I heard some fanboy jerk off recently.
  2. In my last post about China and Tokyo and a little look at Shanghai said pretty much diddly about Kyrgios. I have made clear his firepower is the real deal and the sport would vastly benefit from his rise in quality and consistency. He won Tokyo. Not only did I NOT wax poetic about that at all (I said congrats); I said let’s see you do something at a 1000. I read that he threw his last match andnickdick acted like a complete asshole. Fuck that guy. Suspend him from the sport. I watched him a bit in Tokyo, playing Harrison I believe, and even in his control of the match, he looks and acts like a piece of shit. His hunched shoulders, weird mummerings to himself or his imaginary friend beside him. . . My blog so I can say these things. And I know what I’m saying seems harsh to some, but I know what I see: a tennis turd. Someone scoop that shit up and toss it over the fence.
  3. Nadal. I have been consistent with my arguments about Nadal. There was that tiny bump in form on the clay this year, but he’s done. I was even uncertain about that wrist injury.  Seemed very odd. Think about Nadal for a second. Granted, if you really go back, watch some old matches or what-have-you, his legacy might shine pretty bright. But in the bigger picture, thinking about the game as it marches on, his legacy is not nadaltroikiwhat it used to be or perhaps will be. Like I have said MANY times: he is not on Pistol Pete’s level. Sorry. Yet as people still want to hold onto that grit and grind of a game, with balloon balls and shallow ground-strokes galore, he’s getting routined by Dimitrov last week and Troiki yesterday?

I call it like I see it, folks. I have a little post in the works about the depth of the draw. Might scratch that and say something here:

Looking at Shanghai revealed a bunch of interesting even early round matches (Kyrgios v M. Zverev and Nadal v Troiki were not part of that evidence, necessarily – those are pretty much just garbage results). How about Murray beating Johnson and now he gets Pouille. I hope that’s a good/great match though I could see Murray winning in two TBs or 4 and 5.

How about A. Zverev beating Isner in R1, then beating Cilic and now he gets Tsonga. Not bad at all. Monfils beat Anderson and now he gets Goffin. The point of the article is that depth can be two things: strength/depth at the very top and talent/depth through out. Remember, Federer ruined tennis😉 He created such a separation at the top, was then joined by the other 2 or 3. The sport lacks that strength at the top (Novak was playing by himself through out 2014 and 2015, really. Only Lendl’s return to Murray’s camp and that odd shooting star called Stanimal have made things a little more interesting). That lack of top strength continues, but a handful of decent players (young) seem to be filling-out the draw. A new era, indeed.

Pre-Shanghai Rolex Masters

Congrats to Murray on his China win and Kyrgios on his win in Tokyo. The only tennis I really tried to watch when I could find the time was Pouille v Dimitrov Beijing R16. I thought this would be good given Dimitrov’s current play and his now mythic ceiling. He has been a massive disappointment career-wise; but his athletic tennis is a good watch when he’s found some form. I wanted to see the juxtaposition of Dimitrov’s athleticism and Pouille’s.

This, for me, is some of the best kind of tennis: guys with all-around games (right, I’m not striking insight gold here). Dimitrov was called baby Federer for a reason. His game is athletic and the OHBH can be a thing of beauty. He was compared to the guy with probably the best all-around game of all-time. The Bulgarian made the SF at Chengdu last week and the finals this week in Beijing. He’s playing well.

So I was hoping to see him play the new kid on the block who also has nice athletic approach to tennis. I don’t buy the arguments that guys like Monfils are the best athletes in the sport. Maybe his length can out-play other players on an obstacle course, or in a 100 meter dash, or mile or something. Tennis is shifty, requires tremendous skill and brain power. Pouille, many of us have noted, has a solid, low-to-the-ground footwork literacy and racquet touch that makes the observant tennis fan a bit giddy about this Frenchman’s future.

All this to say, I watched about four games of this match, couldn’t stay awake because it was quite late, so I acknowledged the score (which I’d learned earlier, before watching my recording) and went about my way. Of course, I saw that Grigor routined Nadal next, got a W/O from Raonic and was beaten, fairly predictably, by the Brit in the final. Sounds like this was Andy’s 40th title, something to that extent, so this is a big win for the big bloke.

Hopefully his win in China keeps Murray motivated to carry that form into this next week in Shanghai for one of the big end-of-year Masters.

Andy has the likes of Pouille in the R16 and Del Potro or Monfils in the QF.

Stan and Raonic are in the above bracket that will complete that bottom SF.

The bottom of the top half has a little bit of Cilic, Zverev, Tsonga and Nadal.

The top includes the Djoker, Kyrgios, Berdych, and Dimitrov (if he has any lunch money left).shanghai

The Djoker starts with Fognini, then gets Gasquet/Dimitrov/Karlovic, then Kyrgios/Berdych before making his way to the SF, if he’s feeling up for it. Tough little draw for the Serb, imo.

The Nadal dismissal in China might have surprised a few. Remember my 2016 predictions. There were some “esteemed” tennis commentators that said Nadal would get back to #2. He’s struggling to stay in the top-5, which is quite predictable.

Indeed, I was not necessarily looking forward to the Pouille/Nadal “rematch” in China. Needlesstosay, that never came to pass. Nadal’s much better in the longer format, as he so eloquently hinted (and here I completely agree with the Spaniard; I’ve touched on this debate already. More to say for sure on the changes some of these knuckleheads are discussing with regards to the ATP).

I still might go watch the Dimitrov Pouille barn-burner. If only Dimitrov had lived-up to some of that early hype in his career. Still, you get glimpses now and then (on the rare).

It’s little match-ups like this that keep me interested.

PS I should say I was looking forward to seeing that early Zverev v Thiem match (Beijing R1), as well. Different kind of tennis there, but the future for sure. Not an upset as some would write. Zverev’s huge breakthrough in St. Petersburg makes him even more of a threat.

PPS The Kyrgios win in Tokyo is not necessarily news, either as we already know he has this in him. He needs to show that kind of poise at a 1000. The future is now, Nick. Good luck in Shanghai.

Good-bye, Legends

If you follow sports, perhaps you’ve heard of Vin Scully and Dick Enberg. As I write about tennis, perhaps some of the readers recall hearing Enberg’s voice call many many big tennis matches. He worked for NBC for years, coinciding with its coverage of Wimbledon and The French Open; later he worked with CBC where he was very involved in covering the U.S. Open. He moved to ESPN and continued to cover tennis for the “mothership.” But Enberg covered so many other sports, as well. His voice is as sports iconic as there is, associated with the NFL, MLB, College Football, horse racing and the Olympics on top of all of the great tennis he’s narrated for us devoted fans.

He finished his career with the San Diego Padres, a baseball team a I grew-up rooting for. Sure his voice is among many great ones in and around the world of sports, but speaking from my own American perspective means recognizing how familiar is that voice (more familiar I might say than any uncle’s or close family friend’s – that’s how much great tennis he called and I’ve watched) its characteristic jovial nature talking me through some of the biggest sporting events (historical events) of my life, and even following me home to call and share in the witness of my team’s perennial futility. Yet he made it always worthwhile.  Thanks, Dick. All the best.

Vin Scully, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ play-by-play announcer for about 67 years (think about that), called it quits today, as well. In the sport of baseball, he’s one of the GOAT announcers. He was quite simply a great story-teller. You have to hear it (again, grow-up on it) to believe it. Farewell, Mr. Scully.

Some examples of the Enberg quality painting to such natural perfection the drama of tennis theatre.


Folks, I will try to post tomorrow regarding the ball and racquet (work is smothering me right now, I’m afraid, for which I’m very grateful I might add).

I hope some of you recall how my discussions of Novak post-USO might seem a little more prescient now, after hearing Novak recalibrate in public. I have more thoughts on this for sure, everything from reiterating what I said a few weeks ago that has virtually come true with regards to his professional arch, to sharing witness with you all some of the realities of this tennis commentary.

I hope you have the understanding that you come here for some news, but this news is almost always couched in my commentary, which may reach on occasion for the forest through the trees (it might be a bit ambitious); but the bottomline is I’m being as honest as I can and nothing makes me happier than sharing any of this life analysis (we analyze tennis, we analyze life) with any of you.

Even I was a bit surprised that Novak consolidated some of my targeted commentary post the USO. On the one hand, a reader could cast some of this commentary as “piling-on,” perhaps even “hating,” as the Serb was down (this of course is lunacy as I have celebrated Nole throughout my tenure on this blog). But now, one/all can hopefully see that I was speaking  from the heart of my knowledge of the sport. And, indeed, the winds of change are swirling around the ATP.

Nice to see “Silent K” win his first ATP title (ANOTHER youngster ((20 years-old)) first time winner!); I saw on Twitter that Brad Gilbert is playing with possible nicknames for Karen Khachanov (the “K” in his surname is silent). That’s what we’re getting, fortunately, in these early indoors: space for the youngsters to compete and grow a pair (some confidence). Of course, congrats to that big Czech, as well.

We’ll take a look, too, at Beijing and Tokyo. Stay-tuned.

The ATP Future in St. Petersburg and Metz

We had a very interesting couple of finals in two ATP 250 tournaments last weekend. The reigning U.S. Open champ, call him the sport’s current champ, Stan Wawrinka, was on display along with three of the future of the men’s game. No question these three youngsters (Zverev, Thiem and Pouille) along with Kyrgios, seem fairly capable of making noise at almost any tournament. Raonic (25) and Nishikori (26) appear in age and experience to lead this younger generational charge that will, believe it or not, finally topple the Big guns we’re watching fade from the sport, slowly but surely. Witnessing the U.S. Open this past month and seeing the tennis in these two finals (Pouille v Thiem in Metz and Wawrinka v Zverev in St. Petersburg) consolidated the change that’s in the air.

Stan kept the power in play, representing the past, by making an uneventful run to the final where he took-on the German Zverev, who’s dad is a former Russian player. I really tuned-in as Stan took control of the second set, having dropped the first, so we had ourselves a nice decider in the third. zverevpouilleThe Tennis Channel call seemed eager to get aboard the Stanimal bandwagon as he jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third, and appeared to have that look; but his inconsistent play allowed Zverev to get back on serve and even break the Swiss again at 5-5 (Alexander was 4/5 on BP, efficient) . Zverev then served-out the match and won his first title on tour. Props to the big guy. His solid BL game and decent creativity at net proved too much for Stan to overcome, which is so Stan Wawrinka.

Tennis fans are used to the God-mode of Fed, Rafa or Djoker. When those guys find (found) their form, they’re virtually unbeatable. Stan is not that kind of animal, as we know. On the one hand, his inability to close-out Zverev in that third set is troubling. He had game points to extend to 4-1. But the future, hopefully, is here; this kind of win could continue to propel this youngster toward the top of the tour, which the sport needs. He’s only 19. Although I think 6’6″ is too tall to be that consistently top notch, this kid has been consistently climbing the ranks. I read somewhere he’ll be the first under-20 year-old to make the top-25 since Djokovic in 2006.

As I watched the Pouille v Thiem final I thought, too, about age. Funny I almost thought these guys are getting old. Ha. Pouille is only 22, however, so he’s pretty green, really only having been on tour since 2014. But again, that’s what makes Zverev and Kyrgios’ (who has two titles on tour) games so interesting. Kyrgios turned 21 recently, but has already made a bit of splash. That is some serious youth with big games to complicate the inexperience.

The Moselle Open final between Pouille and Thiem (23) was marvelous (Thiem has, I’m fairly certain, eight ATP titles, 4 coming in 2015 and another 4 this season). Indeed, Pouille won his first tour title, as well. Pouille’s game is smart and athletic. His ability to work the ball all over the court is a great watch – his angles, his craftiness with the racquet, his serve that had a ton of action; he seems a player wise beyond his years (or between the ears). Thiem, conversely, plays like a dangerous youngster who has and knows his weapons; he’s the stronger of the two, and a bit more temperamental.

This particular match had the genuine feel of the future of the sport. Although the Frenchman seems to have a bit more to work with – a couple of times he finished points with a flattened THBH that absolutely murdered whatever dreamy rally that had going – Thiem is certainly for real and more with his sheer determination to go along with that classic style.  As we know, the longer OHBH does not help on the faster surface. Stan is keeping that shot alive, but I think we tennis fans see the undeniable limitations of that shot. Clearly, this is the more beautiful (and potentially devastating) BH shot, but the safer THBH pays-off statistically. No question. That’s perhaps the biggest difference between these two future stars: Thiem’s game has to adapt to the faster court/game. Having said that, Thiem has played a lot of competitive tennis over the past few years and beaten good tour regulars, so his confidence is growing.

These are both great competitors and we should feel lucky to see them having this success with a chance to see some bigger H2Hs, bigger stakes, down-the-line. How about a few dramatic five-setters just to make the TSQ choke on its wheatgrass. By the way, watching Thiem fade in that second set reminds me, at least, how uneventful are some of these Bo3 matches (finals even). Sure, Pouille could have just raised his level, or Thiem perhaps feeling a niggle, a sore throat, etc. To the point: no question, Bo5 is the life-blood of championship men’s tennis.

In the end, great stuff both on the court and in the grander discussion of tennis’ big picture. Novak regroups, Stan keeps doing Stan, the rest of the top-10 is certainly sharpening their sticks, but these youngsters appear ready for battle.

Matt’s Blog Update

You might have seen that I have a Twitter account attached to the blog now (did this actually during the final of the USO); this shouldn’t be too surprising since such social media parings are quite natural and even smart if one aspires to grow and reach more readers.

The Twitter account is nice because I can now post thoughts during matches, or whenever, with regards to the play, news, etc., and this all gets connected, hopefully, to other tennis fans and/or readers of the blog. I have another Twitter account that I used primarily for news. As you know, opsb-tennis-tennisne gets news in real-time these days via media feeds like Twitter. If you follow interesting sources/contacts, you get interesting tweets (so long as you check the feed now and then). I really haven’t used Twitter in a while; that account has been pretty dormant. I thought with the blog purring right along, and the opportunity to talk more tennis, that I should start a new Twitter account for this blog.

Of course, I’ve been following, since activating the account, other tennis voices on Twitter; this has connected me to more of the tennis discourse. I actually wrote an article for the blog reacting to some of this discourse, to the anti-Best-of-Five contingent to be exact. Indeed, this ought to help me stay even more connected than I ever have been.

I got an email this morning notifying be that I had a comment on the blog, which was on the page What is Matt’s Blog. The comment was from the founder of Feedspot informing me that my blog is among the top 100 tennis blogs on the web. Either way, whether this is totally accurate or not, the guy seemed genuine, the list seems pretty solid (I’m actually #76), so I posted the badge there on the left side. If you click it, you’ll see the list.

I started this tennis focus around the 2015 French Open and have bwordpress-bloggingeen going pretty strong since. I do this for free, really haven’t developed any advertising angle, don’t “sell” anything, make anything, other than some good conversation with some of you; rather, I just like to watch, play and write about tennis, especially the men’s pro game (I definitely enjoy writing about tennis. Ha). To get any recognition like this is tremendous, for me, ALMOST as satisfying as seeing readers visit my blog each day. This small gesture from Feedspot, along with the feedback I get from other readers, certainly inspires me to write more, to invest more in Matt’s Tennis Blog. Getting psyched more and more, as I write this, about this final push toward some decent HC action, a few Masters and the WTF.

I do want to comment on the data-base hack and revelations of athlete “medications,” along with Novak’s burn-out. Stay-tuned

And let’s all see how St. Petersburg and Moselle reconcile. Clearly we have our eyes on Stan and the winner of the Zverev/Berdych match, along with the French fortunes of Lucas Pouille (needing three-setters to advance, though he’s still advancing) as he takes on Goffin in one SF and Simon v Thiem in the other. Looking good, gentlemen!

Thanks for reading, folks!

Follow-up to My “Novak is Doomed” Article

Did any of you think that I was saying in that article a few days ago that Novak would never win another major? That THAT was the end of Novak in Flushing Meadows at the hands of Stan the Man?

Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.

i really wanted to underscore how big of a loss that was for the Serb in his quest for all-time greatness. IMHO, he really needed that USO (for his count and his USO clout, which I also expounded upon).

Here’s where we are. . . (and we do have a lot of tennis history to refer to more or less as we make these inferences while taking into consideration that certain trends are being up-ended, certain spells broken, i.e., history being re-written by the very likes of guys like Stan Wawrinka, 31 years of age, from whom Novak received his latest USO beating). . .

Novak is essentially 30 years old; he turns 30 at the 2017 French Open.

On the one hand, 30 is a very symbolic age in the life a male professional tennis player. This we know as a quasi-tennis truth. If you have kids or turn 30, sayonara. That’s just what happens. The youth of the sport is coming for you, you’re maturing, having babies, celebrating big milestone birthdays (30), and the hangover is just too much (from the babies too, mind you) to maintain that highest level of tennis you had when you were collecting major trophies.

But we also know that tennis players with their 21st century nutrition and equipment have and will become exceptions to these trends.

Still, here is the age of some of the recent greats when they won their last major:

Agassi actually is the current model of longevity (not Ken Rosewall who won his last AO at the age of 37 many many years ago). Agassi, who got very bald and very good late in his career, won his last AO when he was 32 years old. That’s pretty much, correct me if I’m wrong, the biggest major exception to the quasi truth (rule).

Pistol Pete, who quit tennis (only God knows what that guy could have hung-on and done if he was as motivated as an Agassi or Federer late in his career), won his last major when he was 31.

Roger, believe it or not, was 30 when he won his final major, 2012 Wimbledon. Sure he’s remained relevant and dangerous the last couple of years, but he was 30 when he grasped #17.

Stan, whom everyone wants to hold responsible for this new-age history-smashing longevity, won his 2014 AO when he was 28, his FO when he was 29, and because of his March birthday, 31 at this most recent USO. So Stan is in Sampras territory. The rules still apply, really.

What this means is Novak, who turned 29 at the French this year, where he pulled-off the Novak-slam, will be obviously 29 during his beloved AO, but then hit the big THREE OH at the French only to follow that up with WB and the USO as a 30 year-old tennis great.

I do these little hypotheticals in my head in my sleep. We are looking at Pete and Rafa (14 majors) and the Fed Express (17). Play this out with me. Novak really has to win the AO, imho. And asking him to win his 7th is big. He probably wins his 7th, will be the odds-on favorite to do this; BUT I would only say that he needs to win for him to continue to climb that mountain the way a lot of people assume he will.

After the 2017 AO he’s staring at 30 and the other three majors in which he’s been less than masterful unless you want to count reaching SF and F. He has six titles amongst those last three majors of the year. Of course that’s amazing, but remember the greatness context.

Rolling into the FO next late-spring, turning 30, and trying to repeat there will be anything but easy or a given. Will he be the favorite? Probably. This all assumes he’s healthy; no doubt that I’m picking him if he’s in form coming out of the European clay calendar.

But imagine the tour next spring. Folks, despite the lack of championship leadership on the ATP “leaderboard,” there are hungry professionals still looking to take what Novak has. That we can be assured of.

Bottomline: history says that the clock is ticking fairly loudly in the Novak camp. If you think I’m crazy, please do submit your remarks.

No surprises around here. That’s one of our mottos. Novak, like I said in that last post about his trajectory, has played a TON of big tennis. The guy has to be feeling this. Rafa is toast and Roger, despite his old (still) beautiful game, hasn’t won a major, we all know this number, in, essentially, five years. That’s half of a decade. Oh but, remember, just last year he was playing at his career peak according to some Novak Fanboys (LOL). Edit: the idea that because Roger said 2015 was better than ever, we therefore have enough evidence to believe this is like asking a New York Knicks fan if the Knicks are going to be good this (or any) year. Not a ton of objectivity. And in Roger’s case, the case of a great athlete, they think they can beat death.


Elsewhere, on the Davis Cup front, Argentina and Juan Martin are probably the biggest news. Del Potro continues to shine in these 2016 high-stakes matches (Olympics, USO) after what was simply tennis tragedy; we all hope he continues this return to major championship relevancy. Taking-out Murray is perhaps surprising given Murray’s 2016, his ranking, etc., but we know Murray and we know Del-Po. Del Potro is a player with massive championship mettle. Murray is Murray. With Lendl he’s a threat, but even then we saw him stumble in both Cincy and in NYC where he seemed the obvious Novak substitute at the trophy ceremony. Lastly, on Del Potro, imagine if he gets that BH back, to compliment one of the games biggest and best FH. He’s just keeping the points alive, more or less, with that cut and the occasional weaker THBH that really doesn’t resemble his mid-to-late 2000’s artillery. Keep going, Gentle Giant. We’re all rooting for you.

The Cilic-led Croatian team vs. the Del Potro-led Argentines should be pretty nice big-boy tennis. Cilic is certainly showing his ability to rise-up. Big win over France.

Looking ahead, Novak’s foil (whose name is not spelled A-G-E) will be those boys we call Murray, Del Potro (with continued health and progress),Wawrinka, Cilic, Raonic, Nishikori and the handful of youngsters who on the rare occasions in the past have seemed somewhat poised to crash this party (Thiem, Kyrgios ((not really but I’ll still say his name because of the weight of some of those FHs, especially)), Pouille ((now)), various teenagers, etc.).

That’s the theme of this Asian swing and pre-WTF tennis we have before us. I’m not buying that it’s the Murray chasing #1 story; give me a break.

Someone pass a little espresso through the ATP “peloton.” Let’s get crazy!