Impressions of Wimbledon

First of all, congratulations to Andy Murray. Getting that third major does back-up his two odd-ball majors in 2012 (USO) and 2013 (WB) when Djokovic’s form took a long-term dive, Nadal was typically erratic and Federer was in the midst of his steady decline.

I watched as much of the match (taped) as I could, but, frankly, since I had seen the result (I checked my phone while away hoping to see Raonic grab an early set and make this interesting, having a pretty good feeling like everyone else that Murray was going to take care of business here), I watched the first set and a half or so and saw the diagnosis. Plain and simple: Murray was playing on a much higher level than Raonic. Raonic looked terrible, to be honest, but Murray’s return of serve and his general baseline strength were just too sharp, too imposing for Raonic.

Tough to say if Raonic was simply worn-out from playing Federer (emotionally, five-setter, etc.) or if Murray is just that much better than either one of these guys. Perhaps a bit of both.

Murray’s serve was unthreatened and he was all over the Canadian’s serve which statistically was just not as good as it was in the semi-final. The SF had what amounts to one of the greatest big serve displays of all time, where he had something like 14+ serves of over 140mph.

So, his level appeared to have dropped coming off his big SF win, but no question Murray is playing very well. My biggest take-away, other than Raonic seemed a bit out of sorts, was Murray seemed very determined, and the win was never in doubt. McEnroe et al, seemed to find this surprising at first since they had mentioned in the intro that there had to be so much pressure on Murray for this match. As the match began, Raonic looked to be the one overcome by the weight of the moment. The match lacked drama, but nice to see Murray play so confidently and capture that third major and his second Wimbledon.

In terms of some of the actual tennis and strategy, the call (probably Pat McEnore) pointed-out how Lendl and co. wanted Murray to actually go to Raonic’s FH, but push him out wide and open the court. It was brilliant strategy, leaving the Canadian to scramble for his weaker BH. Murray passed well and, again, served well. Just outplayed the younger player thoroughly.

Where most players might want to play to Raonic’s weaker BH, Murray perhaps surprised him and, in addition, pushed him out wide, which enabled the Scot to come to net and finish points easily. This was a huge part of that win. Murray dictated points, pushed Raonic around the BL and kept his serve very professional and unthreatened.

So this take-away of Murray’s form, a player peaking, in his prime, was a vivid contrast to Federer who, despite not being very match-fit because of his weak 2016, looked erratic and ineffective. How many times would Raonic come to net on Roger, and the “Maestro” would hit a soft elevated ball back, only to be put-away easily. Roger, on several occasions, made futile attempts at driving a winner past the big S&V machine. Murray and that great THBH had to have Raonic a little nervous coming to net. This contrast between Roger and Andy was a huge tell-tale that Federer is in over his head at this point. We’ll get a match or two perhaps where he plays very well, but the consistency of Federer is long-gone.

So, Andy’s determination and continued solid 2016 form is my first impression of Wimbledon (the match more about the Scot than the Canadian or anyone else – I thought Novak would drop in this tournament).

My second impression is that Andy’s play made quite obvious how impotent Federer’s tennis is at this point. Those were my first two impressions of the Championships.

But there were other impressions.

Firstly, how about that coaching trend.

Lendl’s presence in Andy’s camp is unquestionably beneficial. One could practically make the argument that this is almost as much Ivan’s title as it is Murray’s. Murray’s form was dominant throughout, and included his best behavior during and between points. Totally different Murray from the petulance and insane immaturity that’s plagued the player in the absence of the tennis great. Lendl never stands in the box, practically never smiles. Murray would look to his box through out the final gesturing for them to stand and fire-up. Darth Lendl would just sit there, emotionless. If you never saw Lendl play, you probably think the Big 4 are the greatest thing to ever put foot on a tennis court. First of all, it’s the Big 3 with out Lendl, if you know what I mean. Lendl’s influence in that camp is so massive it’s quite astonishing. Murray is a completely different level of talent with the Czech in the box. Like they do in other circumstances, Lendl should be given an honorary Wimbledon championship. There, you have another career GSlammer.

This Fedalovicay golden era argument makes me laugh when you look back at some of the greats who played a much tougher brand of tennis, who must laugh at some of the softness of this era. These current champions at the very least have a much cushier tennis existence. The money, the celebrity, the equipment, the nutrition and camp resources. . . it’s a different game today.

There’s evidence of my claim in some of the very success of the Big 4. We just discussed the mind-boggling affect that Lendl’s tennis genius has on Murray. Murray has zero majors without Lendl. You think that’s a coincidence? Murray should be giving the eight major coach of the century a blank check and follow his master’s commands like a dog. How is this latest Wimbledon (and Murray’s legacy in general) not more of a nod to how great tennis used to be. Does Lendl stay with Murray for the rest of the year? I would love to see Murray with Lendl in NYC. Lendl went to eight straight USO finals. Wrap your brain around that statistic. This would be a tremendous development for the final major. It’s all about Lendl.

What about Becker’s influence with Djokovic? Yes, Becker is a great from that forgotten age of tennis, long before the so-called golden era that’s erased the past. Lol.

Look at Djokovic’s career arch and you can see the affect of Becker (unless this is just strange coincidence😉. Djokovic became pretty relevant in the greatness discussion in 2011 when he was actually only being coached by his long-term ally Marian Vajda. The following two years, coming-off that 3 major explosion of 2011, he won two AO, which he wins every year. He basically went away for two years. Pretty remarkable, actually. Boris was brought on in December of 2013, so he’s really been at the helm since the beginning of 2014. Since then, Novak has 6 majors. Yeah, he went from six to twelve, under the leadership of Boris Becker. That’s more impressive than Lendl’s magic. The game is so mental, it doesn’t take much to see how these old school greats might have helped. The game was brutal back in the day with the depth, the lack of resources, match formats, etc. Bringing that kind of tennis toughness and leadership to these players’ games clearly has had a huge impact.

We’ll have to wait and see with John McEnroe, whether or not he can take Raonic’s game to that next level. He already has, but let’s see if the Canadian can grab a major in the next year or so. I think the Canadian will struggle against the likes of Murray and Djokovic at the very top. Their games are built specifically to trouble a guy like Raonic. Time will tell.

Indeed, the tennis genius of the past helping elevate this era’s game is classic irony for all those people popping their proverbial bottles of bubbly, celebrating the greatest level of tennis of all time blah blah blah.

On the other hand, Federer’s coaching experiment is quite inconsequential at this point. His game plan vs. Raonic was awful, but I suspect Roger’s form had a little to do with that dumpster fire.

One final impression of Wimbledon is the look of the game heading into the next few years. We might not think much has changed since Roger made the final four. Djokovic was upset, but that will certainly happen from time to time. Aside from those kinds of unusual developments (I would argue Roger’s success has as much to do with the draw/the field), this is a glance at the tour of 2016-17 and on. Djokovic will continue to dominate, and Murray (depending on his coaching situation) should be able to contend; that kind of focus (from the box) will certainly challenge Djokovic, I suspect. Should. That’s the men’s game in a nutshell. We’ve already talked about the tour without Fedal; that’s already a reality at the very top. Will Raonic progress? Presumably. The USO should be interesting if everyone is healthy and not too burned-out from Rio.

Looking ahead to the hard courts and NYC (I can’t get that excited about Rio), I think Djokovic absolutely needs to win this last major to have a good chance at reaching 17. Not that I put much stock in that conversation, but the reality is that Djokovic is aiming for that specific number, which, admittedly, has a lot of historical significance.

We will continue this discussion heading into the NA HC season. Plus, stay-tuned for my final installment(s) of How Roger Federer Ruined Tennis.

 

More SF Reaction and Final Preview

I wrote the “Roger Wilting” piece about ten minutes after the match, while at work. That post, then, was a quick reaction to the Raonic v Federer match: the image of Roger wilting was as vivid as Raonic rising. This image has almost obscured other images of Federer in our tennis imagination. Of course, even this is complicated by the former champion’s age and consistency; he has made at least the SF in the last four majors he’s played. Not bad for an old man.

After watching a bit more of the earlier part of the match, the “wilt” of Federer’s game was from the word “go,” losing serve so early in that first set, essentially handing the Canadian this huge advantage that really was the conclusion of the match. Sure, he seemed in control after the second set TB all the way into the fourth set late, but the die had been cast. Raonic had already established belief in his prospects for this match.

This is what has to really bother the people who pull for Federer. There is that nonchalance to his game. Raonic is really never troubled on serve in this first set; you will hear people say Fed got Raonic’s serve to deuce a couple of times, but this is not very dramatic or troubling. Raonic wins that first set without much of a sweat, thanks to Roger DF on BP and the rest of his odd less than pressing style. This has to be a clear sign in the first set that Roger is not in SF championship form. Is he content to come back again from two sets down? Is he so confident in his game at this point that he can spot these players a set or two and still come-out on top?

I wrote about this going into the 2015 USO final. Just a few words of wisdom for the Swiss great. Anyone familiar with his tennis has to acknowledge, especially when juxtaposed with the more grittier competition on the tour, his characteristic “flow” or “elegance” that I would argue is more a show of incredible confidence and even arrogance. This “class” remains a big part of his tennis legacy, but he has lost out, in my humble opinion, on a handful of other big wins (including major championships)  had he been a little more urgent, committed and even desperate. Granted, this amounts to inference and interpretation, but I have more than enough evidence to prove my point. The alternative to this read is that Roger is a massive choke.

Federer is right when he says he overachieved here at 2016 Wimbledon. We all know he had very little match play and consistent health to have much confidence in a deep run at the Championships. So, in that sense, this was more about Raonic.

Milos has earned this stage. He has been a monster on tour for a few years, just not quite able to break into that top 8 or top 5. I have written before about his 2015 IW QF win over Nadal; Federer beat him in the SF in tight straights. He has been around for a while and the guy’s professionalism, his intensity and inherent height and strength have made him a handful for anyone.

He has made the move to that next level. We talked about this in our SF preview. Sure Federer had history and all that jazz to play for, but Raonic was the more sensible pick if you were using your brain. I can go nuts thinking about what I would have told Federer in preparation to beat Raonic: “Make your first serve a weapon, be aggressive (come to net), use your slice to move the big, clumsy Canadian around – make him run! Oh, and don’t fuck around!” But Federer came-up short on all of that. His serve sucked, he came to the net about half the time that Raonic did, and he was pretty uninspiring in some of those rallies. Raonic had the form; Federer was lucky to be there both from a look at his season and from the sense we all got – including Federer  – about the Cilic match: he needed a little luck to get through that. Think of Federer’s UE count from the SF. Wasn’t it remarkably low? What does that tell you? He wasn’t really involved.

Raonic has simply been playing solid tennis. His play in the AO was very threatening as an injury in that SF kept him from a place in the final. He made the final at IW, but looked a little injured and was smashed by Djokovic. We can go all the way back to Brisbane (sorry the chronology is a little whacked). The point is this guy has been playing good tennis all season (clay is its own peculiar season for specific styles). Bottom-line: Raonic looks good.

I did not say much about the Murray v Berdych SF because it was such an underwhelming match. Poor Berdych. There just isn’t much to say there. Murray is on a roll, it’s his tournament geographically, historically, and personally (not to mention the personnel perspective of Lendl being back in his box). So, many people see him as the favorite.

Murray’s defense seems hand-picked to match-up with Raonic. The Raonic serve vs the Murray defensive prowess. Given their match in the AO SF, we should have ourselves a bit of an epic, no?

I like the idea that Murray will not allow himself to lose this “at home,” with Djokovic out, Lendl in, and the time simply right for another major championship for this perennial bridesmaid. The stars have aligned.

But this might also be the next step for Milos Raonic. Federer was so bad yesterday I think it’s a tough gauge. But history says Milos might be ready for this. I’m sure Johnny McEnroe has a few words of advise for the 25 year-old. Ah yes: McEnroe v Lendl. This should be good. Lastly, we know that Milos has more than just the serve. His FH is great and his net game is improving. Murray better be on his passing shot.

And do know that I have much to explore with this coaching angle. This is the golden era of tennis, right? At least the last phase of that period of “greatness.” In the end, what affect will McEnroe, Lendl and, oh yeah, Becker have on this era?

Presentism is like fast food. It can kill you, if you know what I’m talking about.

Enjoy the final!

Roger Wilting

Well, he looked to be in control of that match heading to the fourth set and even through-out much of the fourth. But a couple of double faults at 40-0 at 5-6? This was a bit of a disaster for Roger. I thought the match was over once he handed that set to Raonic. You have to get to a  TB there. Even if Federer rallies in the fifth, another five setter?

There’s not much more to say, although I will certainly have a few things to say – you can count on that. Federer had another WB finals appearance in hand. I think getting to a TB in the fourth would have put even more pressure on the Canadian who started to look pretty vulnerable. Instead, Federer appeared to feel the pressure. Again, two double faults?

This fourth set choke along with the fifth set break of serve by Raonic initiated a reading lesson for my twelve-year-old son who was watching with me. Roger, in either case, would save a BP (or SP in the 4th) and let loose his standard “Come on!” The crowd would get excited, my son would feel the energy, move forward on the couch cushion. I would interrupt this nonsensical exuberance by pointing out that he is still in massive trouble, barely hanging-on despite the brilliance of that one point.

One of my astute readers characterized the big 3 once in a comment, months ago now –  sorry to have forgotten who it was. But the characterizations were solid, the one of Federer focusing on his brilliance about the point, playing the perfect shot, the artistry of the game exhibited in that momentary flash of genius. But it’s just one point. That has been, in my humble opinion, part of the problem with Federer’s game – the aesthetics sometimes supersede the competition. The crowd, my son, many tennis fans (even me on occasion) can get caught-up in this artistry. I heard Courier talk about it the other day calling a match, and Cahill brought it up in today’s call. I was not interested in those flashes of tennis intelligence. Roger needed to bear-down, get to a TB, put more pressure on Raonic. Or in the fifth, hold serve. Don’t blink. Roger blinked.

Nadal and Djokovic have become famous by acknowledging that they can’t match Federer’s shot arsenal and athleticism. Instead, they have adopted the more practical game of creating pressure and rising to those moments when one has a break opportunity, has to hold serve, has to jump on the opponent early here, all in order to win the competition.

Sure, Federer is competitive. But this image of Roger wilting in a big match has become a somewhat familiar sight. Solid run from the 34 year-old, but congratulations to the Canadian.

Murray is up a set in the second SF, as we speak. Lendl is licking his chops.

Wimbledon Semi-finals

Greetings!

Wow. What QF drama to wet our appetites for the next few rounds of this grand slam.

Let’s rehash yesterday and preview tomorrow.

I really only got to watch the Federer v Cilic match, but did see good portions of the Raonic v Querrey and a few highlights of Berdych v Pouille. The Murray v Tsonga looked like a great match, as well. You have to love that Frenchman’s fighting spirit.

Quarter-finals Re-cap

The Federer-Cilic match was epic, no question. I was able to see the first two sets before having to get to work, so I was pretty much expecting a pretty poor result from the Maestro, which we actually discussed earlier as a possibility given his season, and the fact that Cilic was playing at a pretty high level (from what little we had seen). Federer looked the part of what I expected: rusty, dusty and old. His inability to break at 2-2 in the first set was a bad sign early. He had 40-15 and two second serves with which to convert and take control early in that match. Otherwise, he was playing pretty well, more or less shot for shot with the 6’6″ Croat though a step or two behind the charging big man.

Indeed, Cilic looked, as many have said, like the 2014 USO version when he dismantled Federer straights. The excerpts from the Swiss of his description of that ’14 affair were pretty interesting: how Cilic hit him off the court. Period. Pretty remarkable and, as I have said, suspicious. Such a high level on that kind of stage, no hiccups, straights against one of the great hard courters in the world was pretty wild.

The first two sets yesterday looked like we were going that direction other than for the fact that Federer was actually in the match, especially in that first set. He just couldn’t rise to the occasion on those pivotal points in the fifth game, nor the TB.

The second set soundtrack included the hymn of the vultures as Roger looked ready to be taken and eaten.

To keep this shorter than I’d like (perhaps I return to this epic later), let’s just say I followed the match and watched the last three sets later in the day; and Roger pulled his ailing game from the ledge and changed the course of the match and perhaps the tournament. When Cilic wasn’t booming nonreturnable serves, Roger was hanging around in those rallies, trading some tremendous grass strokes with the giant despite the multiple examples of the Croat’s stellar BL power, hammering winners from both wings. The tennis was pretty impressive.

Indeed, Cilic did let some golden opportunities pass in the fourth set. He too had break points and second serves with which to regain control of the match and put this thing away, but Federer fought back. In the end, brilliant match. These are the kinds of surprises that we want to see. The unexpected makes the sport just as interesting as watching a great dominate. The huge battles of tennis and wills are always a great watch. Federer moves on.

The Raonic v Querrey match was a serve exhibition. The 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 victory for the Canadian is not a surprise outcome. I am very happy for the American that he won a set; the match was close throughout, which says a great deal about the American’s game at this point. He did not just shock the world and go away. He had belief even in this match.

Berdych v Pouille seemed pretty straightforward. I had not seen the Frenchman play much at all, but the highlights revealed some nice tennis from the 22 year old. I will look forward to seeing him in the future. Berdych likes the grass and has some history here to help steady his confidence.

Semi-finals Preview

Although the Murray v Tsonga match became a lot more interesting than we expected, especially after the Murray 2-0 start, Murray does move-on and I think the Murray v Berdych SF match could be a grand contest between two heavy-hitters. At the very least, Berdych should have plenty left in the tank, moving through his QF in straights while Murray had to expend a bit more than he would have liked. The Scot is still the favorite, for sure, but Berdych is anything but a new-berry; he has played in a Wimbledon final, been around this neck of the woods for years, as we know. In addition, his big hitting and decent net game will surely test Murray some.

This could and should be a quality match. The history at stake, the rankings, and the level of play all season says Murray moves-on to the final to seek his second WB with Lendl riding shot-gun. I agree, but anything can happen and Berdych is certainly prepared (or so we would think).

The Federer v Raonic SF should be very interesting, as well. To make this fairly brief, I like Federer’s chances mainly because he literally had a perfect tune-up for the big serving Canadian. Cilic was pounding his serve and we know Roger generally fairs pretty well against the big serve.

Federer commented yesterday that through the first two sets, he had trouble reading Cilic, so the ace machine was in high gear. But as the match wore-on, Roger began to pick-up the serve better and hence the advantage changed dramatically (Cilic ace count dropped pretty dramatically). Along with this practice against a huge serving big man, Cilic has better ground strokes than Raonic, probably moves better, as well. Cilic’s grand slam winning form is frightening, as we know, almost too good to be true. Federer saw that yesterday but was able to hang around long enough, catch a few breaks, and finish-off the Croat.

The serve will play a big role, obviously, in this SF. Roger needs to serve well, as he did yesterday, and the Canadian needs to serve out of his mind. A huge stat from the Querrey v Raonic match is the American’s success on Raonic’s 2nd serve. I believe it was below 50%, maybe much worse. I saw the number as was shocked. Roger will be much more successful against that 2nd serve, more opportunistic.

We see Raonic’s game plan: Serve big and come to the net. McEnroe seems to have really helped here. But I saw some misses yesterday that didn’t give me that sense that this guy’s S&V is world class. He will be tough and could win this match for sure. But Querrey even had some success against Raonic yesterday (the match was tight) and I suspect Federer will be much more successful trying to pass the inbound Canadian. Although I like Querrey’s run, I just think Roger’s playing better tennis, has more weapons, and a ton more experience. Compare the two semi-finalists’ QF opponents. I think Federer had a better test, especially when you consider the comparison between Cilic and Raonic.

Having said all of that, the Canadian is ready to take that next step. He’s been so consistent in the last year or so, steadily making progress with his game to go with these deeper runs in bigger tournaments. He just missed the AO final due to injury as he seemingly had Murray on the ropes in that SF. He beat Federer in Brisbane this year in that final. He shouldn’t fear the stage as he has Wimbledon great in his box to boot. The comments from Raonic about McEnroe’s influence have centered around his play at the net and better use of energy and attitude, trying to avoid “disappearing” in a match. He’s confident, consistent, has big weapons and he’s improving as we speak.

This match almost seems subject to celestial design. Does Federer have another trip to the final in him? Despite a pretty friendly draw, his work from QF on is very difficult. Can he take care of this kind of business in this twilight of his career? This too was part of my 2016 prediction. This is the only real opportunity Federer has at a major, the HC perhaps being too taxing for the older Federer vessel. Put on your seat belts, tennis fans.

Murray escapes a potential danger in Berdych and Federer, having passed his Cilic test, comes prepared to give the Canadian one last tennis lesson.

Here’s to a couple of great matches, either way.

At the Wimbledon QF

Down goes Djokovic.

Consequently, here we are at the great eight of the 2016 Wimbledon men’s draw. From my point of view, everything is still intact, as Djokovic’s drop in form was predicted and reiterated several times on this blog. This has less to do with insight than it does common sense. Watching his tennis last week only added to my prediction as his game and the genuine grass are not a perfect match. Furthermore, given the calendar (time between slams), events and his history in Paris, Djokovic couldn’t maintain his separation. Despite the fanboys declaring that he was the best ever, erase the history of the game, I couldn’t quite bring myself to champion the flavor of that tennis psychosis. 

Referring back to my previous post, I respectfully disagreed with Annacone, Courier and the rest of the TV pundits on Novak’s early form.

Even his first rounder was chalk full of awkward movement, sloppy hitting and remarkable runs of parody between the Englishman Ward and the world #1. I didn’t see his “cruising” as the great Courier called it, with that overly relaxed and condescending demeanor of his. In another sitting between commentators on the American dominated Tennis Channel, Bill Macatee was lobbing the Djokovic is under-appreciated topic around the bunch and he even added how such subdued recognition is really tough to explain given the extraordinary depth of the tour.

Sorry, I don’t see the same game as these puppets. These are the people I called-out last year who said Serena is the GOAT. Sure, I was questioning her dominance at 34 years of age, but I was really wondering why NO ONE was wondering out loud about the banana land human anatomy lesson we were being given (or the complete disaster that is the WTA). It was all hyperbolic bullshit from this mainly American punditry.

Same thing here. The ATP field is not deep, nor did Novak look that good on the grass. I would argue that his game is not ideal for the grass, especially the lush grass, which is quite different from the dried-out, hardened courts that often grace the second week of the tournament, especially in recent years.

This is a shot-maker’s surface, a tennis that invites the fully developed arsenal of serve and volley, spin, nuance, tricky footing, etc. There is a reason why for most tennis fans (some of whom might have left the game or the planet by now) the best all time are Laver, Borg, Sampras and Federer. Why? Their grass mastery is a pretty telling criterion. Sure, Wimbledon has all the tennis history and aristocracy, but the grass game itself really lends itself to full fluency of the game. Djokovic is a tremendous grass courter, but I think his game is better suited for more of a harder-hitting baseline game.

Last year Anderson had him on the ropes, a big serving bloke a lot like Querrey. So, what is it? The big serve troubles the Serb? Like I’ve said many times before (the lunacy of this situation), Sampras might have given Novak a bit of trouble on this surface, among others😉

So, I did see a dip in form from the Serb following an emotional FO, a major he had to have. And he finally got it (remember: clay might be his best surface).

He is out of this championship a few rounds before I suspected, but he’s gone. And to summarize what I just wrote, I think this will be a tough tournament for him moving forward. Becker, in my humble opinion, did a lot to help him secure the last two WB, and thanks too should be extended to an old, error prone Swiss.

This brings us back to the 2016 draw. Let’s take a look.

QF #1 Raonic v Querrey

I did not see much of Raonic’s tennis, but I did tune-in just as he lost the second set to Goffin. McEnroe and the rest of his box looked like him on the court – bewildered. Raonic’s serve was ineffective and even when he did land one and charge the net, Goffin was making him pay.

I watched as the Canadian began to find his game and go up an early break in the third before I departed. Not that surprised that he came back, only because I see his game as a great deal more lethal than the Belgian’s. Raonic should beat Querrey but we have to respect the American’s serve and his little run here where he knocks off Novak and actually consolidated that by beating Mahut in three. I remember the American playing well early in the year, landing that huge serve and making the SF at Memphis and winning the Delray Beach Open. Having said all of that, Raonic should advance.

QF #2 Federer v Cilic

You know what I think of Cilic, right? I have brought up this guy’s 2014 USO win several times on this blog as an utter joke. Go look at his career numbers. Really not much of a threat ever, then he wins the USO and is suddenly hurt, misses the 2015 AO and throw-in a drug suspension along the way. He has never backed-up this remarkable achievement, of winning in NYC like that.

Having said that, I would not be shocked if he beats Roger. I have seen literally about five points from Cilic in this tournament, but he seems to be hitting the ball really well, cruising, as we like to say. Granted, he hasn’t really played anyone and Nishikori retired early, but I still think the Croatian could be tough. Big serve helps a lot, as we know.

Likewise, Federer has not seen any real threat at all and what I have seen hasn’t been too impressive. I saw a little more confidence in his Evans match, but tough to make too much of that. I will add that I suspected Johnson to give Federer more trouble since he’s decent and recently won Nottingham. But Roger made quick work of him, which is good for the Federer camp, but still not the most telling development.

With our nod to the big picture, the history at stake, if Roger loses, he’s missed a grand opportunity to go deep here and even make a final without the Serb to contend with. There are many, I am sure, who see this as Andy or Roger’s tournament now. But it’s not that simple. Roger has a tough QF to deal with. We will look at the SF after this next round, but most likely a very confident Raonic will be awaiting the winner of this match. I will lean Roger in this match, but his 2016 grass resume isn’t a big boost of confidence.

I will add, in closing, that if the conditions continue to be tricky, Roger should have more of an advantage. His footwork has always been his snake in the grass, so to speak, against lesser opponents, and the cooler, damper conditions could raise the value of his balletic game. But we’re in our mid-thirties here, folks. Tough to expect too much from the old Maestro.

QF #3 Berdych v Pouille

I like Berdych here in that he has had success at this tournament and he looks pretty strong. I did see him break the will of Zverev. The two big hitters went toe-to-toe and Berdych turned the youngster away pretty emphatically. I know Pouille is playing well, and most likely I am overlooking this French youngster (good to see another youngster making noise here, backing-up his run at the FO last month), but I like the Czech to advance.

QF #4 Murray v Tsonga

Sure I said that Kyrgios could beat Murray but that’s something I should have kept to myself. Waiting for the Aussie to do something is just about overcooked, burnt, and discardable.

At the same time, it’s Murray’s form we need to take more stock in. He is absolutely poised to win this tournament. Lendl, as he did to so many courts on which he played, is dictating the proceedings, this time from the box like it’s his pulpit. I, like many of you, see this as the Scot’s to lose. He’s in front of his home crowd, he’s payed his dues (oh my has he ever), he’s matured, seemingly, and he’s got Lendl (which means massive purpose) back in his box.

Tsonga could be tough, none the less. Two sets down and he comes back to beat Isner 19-17 in the fifth?  I did not watch this marathon, but have seen him come back from down two at WB before. We know the Frenchman can be focused, tough, can handle the grass, etc. Let’s hope for a good battle between this two for sure. But Murray should continue his march.

Until the SF preview, enjoy the tennis. And don’t let the conspiracy trolls affect your sobriety (let something more tasty do that). Such is the disposition of the fanboys: the establishment wanted Djokovic out. Lol.

Draw Analysis

Obviously play is underway. My last post about the draw had such disinterest or indifference I probably shouldn’t have even published; but in the end I like that I’m evidencing the problem I have with the ATP at this point: boring as shit. I am going to say a few more specific things about the draw in this post, about some of the tennis I’ve seen, which really only amounts to Djokovic’s match. I have seen enough.

I said in that last post, essentially, let’s not make a big deal out of the draw. The champ will have to play solid tennis, peak late in the tournament, perhaps get a few breaks, and rise to the occasion when it really matters in order to seal the deal. Nothing new here. Making a big deal out of this or that quarter can be more hot air than actual analysis, especially when the field has such parody (mediocrity) and we really have to see players get into the later rounds to conceive of some kind of pattern, sense a specific development (run), etc. There is so much mediocrity (garbage) at this point, making-out some kind of detailed analysis of matches is bullshit. What’s Berdych or Gasquet or Raonic going to do that might surprise you? Exactly. We’re hoping for Christmas in July.

I will offer you in this post my prediction on this tournament because I’ve seen and know enough at this point and A) I think I’m dead on and B) I have nothing to lose. Yes, this conversation can change since we have so much tennis to play; but again, I’ve seen enough.

Let’s first wander through the draw with a little more attention to detail than what I provided in my last post.

First and foremost, Murray has the toughest half. I must have been asleep when I wrote something along the lines of Murray is in pretty good shape. His draw is loaded. I still like him a lot here, but I sensed at first glance (my bad) that he was in cruise control and Djokovic had the tougher half. Wrong.

In the states we’re basically suffocated by ESPN. I stumbled-upon their tennis page where they, I guess, have a number of writers/analysts who have a good take on the tournament. Ha ha.

Everyone had Djokovic but a few have Murray. Okay. The dark horse pick is narrowed down to two players amongst about 10 “analysts.” Kevin Anderson and Zverev. That’s it. Wow. Kevin Anderson? I’m not even pointing this out because he’s already OUT of the draw, loser in the first round to Istomin. I’m saying that’s just awful. And Zverev? Maybe, I guess, but the guy has really zero experience in these big tournaments. At least Kyrgios knocked-off Nadal two years ago, meaning he was about 17 then. Just kinda surprised that “think tank” came up with only those two. Shit, at this point, picking a dark horse is great because he’s really a huge dark horse given that the field is so poor in terms of legitimate threats to the crown. Unreal. Even in the heyday of Sampras, you had a big server who could find enough first serves or an Agassi or Rafter to make a threat or an impact. You and I both know this is the Novak and Andy exhibition.

As a side-note, the idiots (I’ve heard it from a few people) who say the Sampras era was boring, with two-shot rallies, etc., are . . . indeed. . . idiots. Sampras’ athleticism is matched only by Federer. The all-court game is lethal and a buried treasure, seemingly. It’s a finisher’s mentality. This Djokovic/Murray era is quite different. Not the same kind of sublime all-court tennis. Watching some of the early Djokovic, I actually see him coming in a little more than he does now. You see, when the equipment doesn’t overcome the skill, you have to rely more on athleticism and shot technique, manufacturing points, etc. Baseline bombing is the name of the game today and, no, it’s not necessarily a progression of the sport. Sorry.

Where were we.

Let’s go through this as quickly as we can:

Djokovic has the likes of Ferrer in the R16 and then Raonic in his QF.

This is paired with Federer’s R16 against Simon and then the winner of the Cilic/Nishikori bracket in that QF.

So, Federer, we can only hope makes it through. Not a very difficult draw and he should beat any of those weaklings despite the old man playing with his (my new term from my last post) mummy rust.

So, Federer and Djokovic should find that SF. We can only hope. Give us a little prestige, pretty please.

The bottom half is a zoo.

Murray has the following: Kyrgios (R16), Tsonga/Gasquet (QF) and winner of Wawrinka v Berdych/Zverev/Thiem in the SF.

There will be some upsets, but those are your guys. Does Tomic get by Verdasco (tied 2-2 as I write this) and make a run? I like Tomic’s grass game but he’s a toddler emotionally.

________________________________________________

Analysis:

As for that top half, Djokovic is in great shape. His draw is a joke, again. The only hope Raonic has is the intangible that McEnroe brings to his composure. We know the Canadian has made progress, with the start of 2016 as some recent evidence where he beat Federer in Brisbane and was rolling at the AO, but got hurt v. Murray in that SF. In other words, he does have some big artillery for these kinds of tournaments.

I would say Raonic’s IW match against Djokovic is less a indicator than his his play at AO. He does have some game and the question is what can McEnroe do to perhaps give him that extra juice to beat the world #1. Huge long-shot. But if he has a big serve going and gets more and more comfortable on this S &V surface, could put a scare into the Serb.

Other than that, Djokovic is SF bound, no question.

Federer has to find the glory. Period. Do you want to see an absolutely awful bracket? Go look at the Cilic/Nishikori section. That’s where we are today. That’s pretty bad, folks. Does Cilic rise up? Can you believe I just wrote that? Federer has to, for the sake of our interest in this bloody sport, make that SF. Otherwise, check my pulse.

Murray’s quarter is a monster. Listen to this: Kyrgios could beat Murray in R16. Do not be surprised. The Aussie brat has been given the worst draws of late, which he deserves, but this is no better. He has #2 in R16. But the Aussie could be a nightmare for Murray. Beware.

After that, Gasquet you know is going to be very tough and so is Tsonga. Those guys are twins. Good tennis players but poor competitors, especially late. If Murray gets by Kyrgios, and he should, I suspect we get what we want. Murray into the SF vs a beatable Stan or whomever.

Here’s why I like Murray to win 2016 Wimbledon. I like his form, based off the clay season and his familiarity with current venue. Where Djokovic, a much better clay courter than Murray BTW, had his home crowd in Paris, Murray will have his throngs pulling for him. I think this matters.

In fact, I heard a couple of English journalists talking today about the field, the tournament. They made it clear (most of us know this) that Djokovic is still behind Federer and Nadal in terms of popularity (or tennis legacy for that matter). And this bothers Djokovic. Does he use this to motivate his tennis? For sure. He probably wins this tournament because of his form and this disrespect, which has to bother him.

But I think the crowd behind an in form Andy will be a lot to overcome.

Moreover, I think the Lendl factor is big. He never won Wimbledon. Think of the things that probably bug the crap out of Lendl. This tournament and Novak Djokovic, which he’s basically articulated recently. His presence in the box is enormous. He’s Darth fucking Vader. Andy won Wimbledon with Lendl in his box before. Against Novak.

That’s what happens here.

My other prediction is still an Andy win, but I have Federer (a looooong shot) finding his form and going FO SF 2011 on Djokovic, denying the Serb a final appearance, but Andy beating Fed in the final. I know, that’s reeeealllly juicy.

The point here is I see Djokovic dropping his form a bit. He has had a massive 2016 so far. The French was like two weeks ago, basically. This is his let-down. I already predicted this back in January, so I’m sticking to those guns.

And I have to respectfully disagree with Courier and Annacone about Djokovic’s R1 match. I thought he looked very tentative (I know, that’s Djokovic). He does this; he peaks late in the tournament. No question. But I just don’t like his grass tennis.

Winning his fourth will be quite impressive, historical and dominant. But I think we have a different song to sing this time around.

The Wimbledon Draw

Let’s not make a huge deal out of this. We did note that Djokovic’s French draw was cheese cake, but the guy was destined to win at some point, anyways; I am not one to get too caught-up in the luck of the draw.

Obviously, the most interesting development is a potential Raonic v Djokovic QF, but what makes you or anyone think the big Canadian has a chance, especially late, to beat Novak in best-of-five. There are other decent players in the top half, but who knows until we see the ball strike.

Federer is there in that top half (a Novak v Roger SF is in the cards! . . .Big f -ing deal). He hasn’t shown us much more than the injury and mummy rust. He’s on his last gasp, folks (and that includes you Nole-junkies who talk about Federer defending his GOAT status. STFUP.).

The bottom half is Murray/Kyrgios/Wawrinka/Berdych, et al. Murray looks good, but more because of his time and place and Lendl.

We all know what is likely to happen here, the likely final eight, final four, etc. Will there be a surprise or two? Probably. Pray on it. We need as much of that as we can get.

I will say that in my 2016 Predictions, I said Novak has a dip at Wimbledon, having won the AO and FO. I guess I’ll stick to that. Seems to make a little sense. We will certainly be following and discussing the tennis as it happens and is about to happen.

Feel free to share your thoughts.