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Chariot of Champions 10/20/2008 - 9:55 PM

by Pete Bodo

I went out to the Westchester Country Club yesterday with Tennis.com video producer Betsy Sanner and my colleague and fellow talking head, Tennis magazine Senior Editor Jon Levey. We went for a charity event hosted by Mats Wilander (star attraction: John McEnroe), to benefit DebRA, a not-for-profit organization that raise funds for and awareness of the devastating disease, Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) - an affliction that is borne by one of Wilander's own children, Erik. I'll have a more detailed post on Mats and that issue on Wednesday or Thursday.

John_and_mats It was a gorgeous fall morning, with the maple trees at the WCC ablaze with red and and orange leaves. Although we arrived at 9 a.m., the green har-tru courts were already loaded with tennis players who had turned out to support the DebRA cause - and to hit a few golf and tennis balls with McEnroe, Wilander, and the local pros who fleshed out the roster. Between events, I had a chance to catch up with both McEnroe and Wilander. It was good to see those guys, especially in such a low key setting.

In addition to just catching up and learning more about EB from Mats, I wanted to know what both of those guys thought of Andy Murray's recent arrrival at the top level, rounding out what was once a dominant duo (Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) with a sometimes squeaky third wheel (Novak Djokovic) - a development that's turned the ATP chariot of champions into a four-wheeled vehicle. Their feelings about the game at the top were surprisingly strong and to some degree surprising.

Let me tell you, if you want to talk tennis in a cut to the chase way that blows right through a lot of tangential geekery, McEnroe and Wilander are really refreshing, as well as edifying.

"Andy is better today than he was at the U.S. Open against Federer," Mats said. "But I have to say, Roger Federer is Roger Federer. He's not winning tournaments anymore (anyone familiar with the TW trademarked noun, "Wilanders", may now gasp). . . But he's winning majors, and if he keeps it up he may win another five.

"After the US Open, and those matches against Djokovic and Murray, I got the sense that Roger's not as stubborn as he's been for the last five, six years. Of course, it's easy to be stubborn when you're winning 98 per cent of your matches without changing your game. But I think this summer Roger realized, 'Hey, these guys are as good as I am, let me go and do something different'. (With that) I don't really see how they can beat him.

"But I do I think Murray is the next most dangerous player (after Nadal) for Federer. He's much smarter than Djokovic. He's got a bigger repertoire. Murray isn't as as powerful, maybe doesn't move quite as well as Djokovic, but he'll play the game his opponents hate, whereas Djokovic has that pride, where he's like saying he's a specimen, he's. . . Djokovic.

"Murray, he's more like I was. I knew  was going to be a pain in the ass when I played against a guy, and I didn't care if people recognized me or not. Sure it's fun (to be 'a star'), but that's not why we play tennis. Murray clearly enjoys the problem-solving aspect of tennis, like I did. The name, Andy Murray?  I don't think he cares, he'd play under Joe Schmoe. He's not trying to be a brand, or a label. The other three guys, they're like Superheroes: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. . . Andy's he's just like. . .a guy. But he's going to be posing lots of problems for those three guys. He's my new favorite; I love watching him play."

McEnroe throws his weight behind this sweet little event because he's buddies with Mats, as well as a fellow parent sympathetic to kids with special needs. You want to see McEnroe at his best, put him around children. He's automatically an authority figure to them, without seeming remote or, well, parental - it's probably because children have great radar for baloney, and however you feel about McEnroe, he's not inclined to tell anyone what he or she wants to hear, or to take the moral high ground under the assumption that others need to be schooled.

Anyway, McEnroe has been on the Murray bandwagon since the very beginning, although he had some doubts in that period about 18 months ago when Murray seemed to be spinning his wheels, not entirely dedicated to doing all he needed to maximize his potential.

"I was a little worried when I looked at Andy and the fitness issues, especially in light of the level Nadal took it to in that regard. He's so unbelievably physical - even Roger, who makes it look easier than it really is because of the way he moves, doesn't waste much energy, he's able to maintain great fitness level just because that game of his is so beautiful. Djokovic, on the other hand, was clearly stronger than Murray, and I kept thinking, if Andy wants to get to that level he'll have to get more physical.

"I mean, these guys are bigger and stronger. And I'll tell you, Murray made a decision about that at some point. It seems that when he broke off with Brad (Gilbert, Murray's former coach), he got a team together and he's more comfortable with what he's doing - he's really worked at it, and you can see the difference. I don't know exactly what he's been doing, but I would have told him that was the thing to do, and to keep doing it (McEnroe laughed at his own curious phrasing).

"You know, they say Murray drop shots too much. Even there, that tires the other guy out even more, so even if you're losing points that way, it's not the worst thing in the world. I have Tennis Channel now, and I was watching Murray in Madrid. It was weird. I almost thought there was something wrong with my TV. He was moving so well, playing like he did at the Open (against Federer)-  from way back, but still somehow controlling points. I couldn't really figure it out.

"There's a kind of self-belief working there, the kind it takes to play a little differently. These guys who aren't afraid to give you different looks, they kind of believe in themselves. They're like pitchers who have a fastball, but don't feel like they have to use it all the time. They're not afraid to change the pace."

Mac McEnroe also is bewitched by Gilles Simon, who plays a little bit like Murray. "The guy is incredible. He gives you one of these (McEnroe waved his hand in the air in a desultory manner, as if he's not trying), he sort of stands around, throwing this and that back, and then all of a sudden he really rips one. He does it just enough to make you realize that he's there, and has been all along while he's lulled you into a false sense of security. The only thing with Simon is that he's 6-2 and pretty skinny, so you have to wonder how he's going to hold up over five sets under tough conditions. There may be a fitness issue there, but he's got great feel for the game, no doubt about it."

McEnroe, too, has experienced some reservations about Djokovic's game. "I think he's less consistent now, which leads me to believe that he doesn't want to dig in on some of these points against the best guys. I mean, he had a great chance against Fedrerer at the US Open, set-all and five-all, he had his chances. . . He was right there. But it seemed like, I don't know, maybe he was just bothered by what had happened a few days earlier (his unpopular public chiding of Andy Roddick). That's probably going to affect him a little bit because he dug himself into a huge hole, and I know exactly what he was going through. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth and then digging it deeper and deeper. . .But whatever the case, he didn't really step up there.

"But seeing how that went, it made you realize he's not so happy-go-lucky anymore. He doesn't seem to be having a whole lot of fun out there at the moment, and he's going to have to come right back in Australia to defend his title. Djokovic would be well served if he had a strong tournament in either Paris or Shanghai, it would take a little stress out of his return to Australia. If he doesn't do that, he's going to start worrying about things a little bit."

So there you have it - that's what the Smart Money is saying. The surprising thing to me was that McEnroe and Wilander both drifted into speculations about Djokovic, even though our starting point was Murray. Curiously, something also had been nagging me about Djokovic ver. 2.3. I've thought a few times over the summer and fall that his game doesn't look as tight and clean as it once did. He's been looser ( but not in good way), playing less efficiently, showing glimmers of lack of discipline. A certain degree of exagerration has crept into his game.

I thought it interesting that former  world no. 1 players and ranking pundits like McEnroe and Wilander's connected some of those same dots. Let's see what Paris brings, but I think McEnroe was onto something when he said it isn't the best of times to be Novak Djokovic.


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Posted by NP 10/20/2008 at 04:55 PM

No comment. (You know why.)

Posted by crazyone 10/20/2008 at 05:04 PM

*I mean, he had a great chance against Fedrerer at the US Open, set-all and five-all in the tiebreaker. He was right there.*

I'll make more comments about this article as a whole later but there was no tiebreaker in the Djokovic-Federer match. And if I remember that set properly by the end of it Federer had definitely established the upper hand.

Posted by vetmama 10/20/2008 at 05:11 PM

Spoilsport.

Posted by Mlelly 10/20/2008 at 05:12 PM

Mostly lurker here, but this is another great post Pete...you're on a roll at the end of the year, and, admit it, you want us to miss you while you're gone don't cha?

Posted by Master Ace 10/20/2008 at 05:25 PM

Novak year has been good. Winning AO, IW, and Rome along with a bronze medal, SF appearances at FO and USO. However, when Novak said that he was tired after Wimbledon, that could have been a warning sign that he felt that he was playing lot of matches than he anticipated. Also, his belief to win tough matches may have dipped since Rafael defeating him in a tough match at Hamburg, French Open, and Queens a few months after defeating him at Indian Wells.

Posted by Asad Raza 10/20/2008 at 05:44 PM

Fascinating comments from the Smart Money, thanks for transmitting them, Pete. I have to say, for me the match the really stands out as the beginning of Djokovic's disappointing second half is the final in Queens. I think Djokovic really expected to win that, now that they were back on the fast surfaces, and played really well for stretches. But losing it seemed to take something out of him--suddenly his rise to the top didn't seem so inexorable anymore, and ten days later he was being bounced out of Wimby by the Cap'n.

Posted by 10/20/2008 at 06:17 PM

andy murray is the shiz

Posted by beth 10/20/2008 at 06:18 PM

Asad - that is a very good point
the Queen's match certainly did seem to be a turning point for Djokovic
It was such a great match - and yet it did not go the way he wanted
Things did not go so well for him after that disappointment

Posted by Heidi 10/20/2008 at 06:21 PM

I'm kinda worried for Djokovic.
To me, he's at an upper level than Murray, just because he had that little thing to play great tennis against the top players in important matches (at least, he HAD that... 'cause if we look back at this year's US Open, I must say I'm wrong :D). He may not have all the "tools" Murray has but to me, he's a true competitor (not always OK) as a Nadal is ! I dunno if you follow me ahah.
Those times, Nole seems absent, on another planet. I think his mental strength is one of his biggest problems... sometimes, he can give it all on the court and sometimes, he can totally play as if he doesn't care (that's quite frustrating).
This guy seems so disturbed, maybe he's wondering why he doesn't manage to go one step further. He is too tortured I guess to really be at 100% in his matches.
I dunno why but that's what I feel when I see him play (actually that's what I feel since Wimbly).
I could be wrong... but I'd like to know your opinion about my "analysis".
I'll end by saying that Djokovic's definitely the most frustrating player at the moment. It reminds me of Leconte or even Ivanisevic (why not Safin also ?).
I mean so much talent, so many skills but too much emotions.
I hope he'll get trough all of that 'cause he deserves it.

(Sorry if my english's bad... I'm French !)

Posted by Syd 10/20/2008 at 06:22 PM

Thanks for bringing the word from the Smart Money, Pete. I echo Asad and say these are fascinating comments. "Bewitched by Gilles Simon:—I know I am. As for Djokovic, He has been struggling this year with some negative publicity from Monte Carlo onwards followed by that awful debacle with Roddick at the Open—perhaps it has affected his confidence.

Posted by Kenneth 10/20/2008 at 06:25 PM

Asad,

Right on the money about Djokovic expecting to win that Queens match against Nadal on facts alone. Combine that with Murray's excellent showing at Wimbledon and the USO, and Dokovic was suddenly feeling like an outsider again. He thrives in the spotlight, and unfortunately, there's usually not enough light for the loser as well as the winner.

Murray has been defeating Federer for two years now, so his 'coming-of-age' shouldn't be at all surprising. The only thing left to prove is that sort of performance on the biggest stage, which is shaping up as an early showdown at the Australian...

Posted by aussiemarg {rafa no 1 player,long may you reign} 10/20/2008 at 06:26 PM

pete great article, Novak to me,lacks one important thing,his mental ability,he has a great game,could still become stronger physically,apparently is working on that,i haved watched him play recently,to me,he is doubting himself,there on the court,the self belief has gone,when one looks at say,Roger and Rafa,they have that aura about them,the self belief,the willand want to win..the game i believe is about 80% mental,confidence breeds success in any athlete,their passion sometimes outweighs everthing.

Noavak's first half of the season was great,winning grand slam,master series final,Rome on the clay,went to Wimbledon,beaten in 2nd round,has never got back his mojo really,did well in final of cinncy,won bronze at olympics,but to be there is still something missing? the self belief the one thing every athlete has to maintain to survive,without it one will continue to struggle.

Posted by Sam 10/20/2008 at 06:30 PM

Pete: Thanks for posting Mac & Mats' thoughts regarding Murray. I've been really impressed by the improvement in Murray's game this year, and he has become one of my favorite players to watch. During the summer hardcourt season (I think at Cincy), I noticed that his transition game had improved quite a bit, and he was volleying quite well. He has a great feel for the ball, and he seems much more comfortable hitting the one-handed slice than other players with two-handed backhands.

Posted by J-Block 10/20/2008 at 06:34 PM

I think it's hard to talk about Murray or Djokovic without the other, just as it is with Federer and Nadal and is becoming to an extent with Cilic and del Potro.
Whether you trace it to the Open, Queens/Wimbledon, or the Olympics, it's clear that Djokovic is not the same player he was in the Melbourne. I wonder if it began with Nadal's turn around-Nole was nearly 2 in the world; his and Nadal's seasons both changed with their match in I believe Hamburg. Djokovic had a major and had whipped Nadal in their last meeting and was number one in the points race, but Nadal won that match and didn't lose for over a month, taking the number one ranking, while Djokovic's level of play dropped not too long after.

As for Nole and Andy; I get the feeling that its more important to Nole to be number one, while its more important to Andy to beat the other top players. I suspect that should either Federer or Nadal get injured or retire, Djokovic would suddenly find his game knowing that his path to number just got much easier. This isn't to bash Djokovic, he's by all means a great player; Andy just looks hungrier right now.

Posted by greenhopper 10/20/2008 at 06:40 PM

Joe Schmoe -- love it.
And Simon is 5'11" according to ATP.

Thanks for the post Pete. Interesting thoughts from both.
Murray drop shots much better than Djokovic does. And from the Madrid match, Ernie seems to be learning it too. Nole needs to get his Wilanders back, his first set against Rafa in Cincy was sublime tennis. But he was back to his shoulder-slooping ways in the final.

Posted by Asad Raza 10/20/2008 at 06:46 PM

If you don't love Gilles Simon, I don't know who ya love.

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/20/2008 at 07:04 PM

I think before people criticize Mats they should remember that English isn't his first language and his phrasing sometime come across more harsher than what he really mean. As someone who comes from the same country I understand because I do it a lot. I think he respect Roger and has a lot of admiration for him. I think Mats is great and take a lot of heat for things that people misunderstand. Go Caroline, Scandinavia's #1!

Posted by prince49 10/20/2008 at 07:18 PM

I think the point about the lack of discipline for Nole is a very valid one.. there is a point when you can become too confident/loose and take few too many risks.. esp against guys that you should be beating ..

Posted by naughty T..creating Zen space 10/20/2008 at 07:27 PM

For me the whole Djoker problem is that he is so keen to be loved,to be a star, everyones funny pal and now he realizes he has really kind of cocked that up, he has finally realized his antics are not going over well, it is really affecting him. He makes my skin crawl quite frankly.
Sad because his game is a good thing, I just hate watching him.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/20/2008 at 07:31 PM

ahh great post with this one Pete - so nice to have the pipeline to Mats and JMac! Its been a fascinating year, and just as last year we were looking at Nole / Andy and comparing their games, we're do the same this year. 'Course, they're on a different trajectory this time...

I do think Nole's had a tough time backing up his Oz win and dealing with his sophmore year at the top. Its almost too bad he took Oz instead of working up to a slam. There's a lot of pressure after taking the 1st slam of the year. (And since Andy had none, he could only get better after Oz!)

I think Asad prolly did pinpoint Nole's tipping point at Queens. Its been a bit bumpy since then, with the comment about being mentally tired at wimbledon being particularly telling, imo. It seems that Nole's been slowed down a bit by the wieght of expectations. I also think losing to Nadal in the olympics was truly heartbreaking for him.) End of the year will be critical for him to set up his 2009 season.

As for Murray - its funny, i think he's actually a better mover than Nole. He's deceptively fast, or maybe its his acticipation that makes him look so quick. But he's lost his mopiness. He used to play in fits and starts and jerks of speed; in Madrid he was all controlled power, moving smoothly around the court. Great hands, patience and now one hail of a serve. Just great fun to watch.

Simon, he's deceptive as hail but I've been watching him since the summer tourney's and he's been great fun too. He's got heart, a beauty of a backhand and enormous self-belief that 'on this day, it can be me that wins'.

Posted by Ryan, shopping for omelets 10/20/2008 at 07:38 PM

Djokovic is like the new Kafelnikov. Great timing, talent (but not obviously apparent), good mover. But no knockout punch. When you play so similarly to 96% of guys on tour, but just better, you'll be fine most of the time. Run into a guy on a hot streak, or a bigtime talent like Roger, Rafa, or Andy, and that supergrinder style doesn't do much.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/20/2008 at 07:40 PM

actually samantha - i think mats is spot on about fed changing his game. I think after last year, Fed finally realized he needed to stop being so defensive, playing so passively and just figuring he'd pull it out. Looking at the way he's been playing this year, he's definately changed things up.

Because his loss of fitness etc in the first part of the year, I don't think he could execute properly, but it seems to be coming together more now.

Naughty t - you're right about nole wanting to be liked. He doesn't seem to understand what he's doing that's leaving people with a bit of a 'meh' taste in their mouths. Sigh, I do like to watch him play well, but he's got a bit of growing up to do. Almost too bad his rise was so quick, and he didnt have family or a coach who could have kept him a bit more grounded. That mite have helped him deal with the hooplah.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/20/2008 at 07:51 PM

Has Nole successfully defended any title so far?
At the end of last year there was talk about Nole having a sophomore year. Which might be what this is except it's a not too shabby sophomore year.

Posted by greenhopper 10/20/2008 at 08:08 PM

"except it's a not too shabby sophomore year."
Word: As Syd would say.

Except his 3 sets loss to Kevin Anderson in Miami after winning IW, he hasn't lost to anyone random. Pretty good year, if you ask me.

Posted by Bismar(in)c[ilic]k 10/20/2008 at 08:14 PM

am i too much a fan of nole or why am i seemingly less *concerned* than most others here? puzzling.
maybe i should stop thinking "he´ll be fine" and muster up more of that proper concern...

Posted by ptenisnet 10/20/2008 at 08:17 PM

Bissy
I don't know if that will help Nole, but it will propel you into that long and enjoyable ride into kaditude.

Posted by Bismar(in)c[ilic]k 10/20/2008 at 08:17 PM

oh finally, ptenisnet and greenhopper. word indeed.

Posted by Master Ace 10/20/2008 at 08:17 PM

Ptenisnet,
So far in his young career, the answer is no in defending titles.

Posted by Bismar(in)c[ilic]k 10/20/2008 at 08:24 PM

jejeje, ptenisnet.
i do care for his results, very much so. i just happen to think that he had a very good year - maybe uneven in that most good things happened early on - but still it was very good.
in each of the years 2000-2003 he would have been year-end number one with the number of race points he has *right now* already.
and as i happen to be a huge fan of andy-m too i very much remember not *that* long ago most posts here went along the lines of *he´s crap compared to the big three*.
what a difference just a few weeks can make.

i think last year nole went 0-5 in his last 5 matches. still dominated the first quarter of 08.
he´s young enough and with enough upside in his game to have for sure more brilliant results.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/20/2008 at 08:29 PM

I was one of the ones dumping on murray but I was mostly dumping on the amount of hype he received proportionate to what he had accomplished. Something he has since worked towards rectifying. And really he wasn't underperforming. He was injured.


Posted by CL 10/20/2008 at 08:35 PM

Oh piffle Bismarck -"Most posts"??? I don't recall that. it wasn't so much "he's crap compared to the big three." It was more like "his attitude is crap compared to at least 2 out of the big three." And to Andy's great credit, the change in the whiney/whingey attitude has made him much more enjoyable to watch AND a better player to boot. Keeping his energy focused on winning instead of whining. So there.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/20/2008 at 08:37 PM

Mr. Bodo, I enjoyed this and the ESPN post on Gilles Simon. It reminded me of your writing on Amer Delic, who was trying to "find his game" and decided to "play through it" and find it along the journey, rather than hibernating and finding himself an even lower ranking. I appreciated the recommendation to Gilles Simon who had already "come this far" and how you encouraged him to "see how far the rabbit hole goes" to quote the matrix!

Find your game in the middle of the fight. That's what Federer did: he kept pushing and took some feedback from reality, and then battled his way to US Open triumph.

As for Andy Murray, what can I say. He has really worked hard and made his game work for him. At this point Murray has more momentum and confidence than Djokovic, and in tennis that means the difference between making quarterfinals and winning masters series titles. As for Djokovic' game being off, I would personally put the focus on the extracurricular activities (and how can I blame him...the guy has charisma in spades and seems to attract the women in droves. I cant blame him if he is a ladies man, just cant). If a player is coasting, an idea takes root that they are so far ahead of anyone, that they can do anything they want - even take a month of down time. I think Djokovic is a lot more disciplined than, say, Marcos Baghdatis or Marat Safin (albeit less talented than either of them I believe), and I think he is ferocious as a competitor.

But Djokovic loses steam at the end of the year. He knows that what matters is Australia, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open (the tuning of Andy Roddick at the US Open, which was upsetting to me, was nonetheless a tuning). And he knows that if his game is on as of, say, December 31, 2008 rather than October 20, 2008, that he is in good shape to do damage to other players' games come mid January. I also dont think he is scared of Andy Murray's game (even if he has dropped the last two matches at masters tournaments against Murray).

And perhaps that is what Mr. Bodo is getting at. If Djokovic is only looking at Federer and Nadal as his competitors, and not getting better as a player and throwing different looks at players, than round one and round two are going to be a lot harder to make it through. A lot of hungry players out there!!! But I cant count Djokovic out yet. The guy is just too competitive.

The only way I could count Djokovic out would be if a fourth player gets extremely good (so let's say that JM del Potro turns another corner and turns himself into a grand slam menace, or if Marcos Baghdatis re-re-dedicates himself and puts his uber-talent to use to make shots that only Federer makes in his dreams). So if Federer, Nadal, Murray, and del Potro, Baghdatis, or even Andy Roddick (because let's face it, he works as hard as anyone not named Federer or Nadal out there) are playing well in January, then Djokovic is in HOT WATER.

Posted by CL 10/20/2008 at 08:37 PM

I do love JMac's kaddism for Gilles.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/20/2008 at 08:45 PM

I agree with Bismark. Djokovic prepares well for January - he has done this the last two years and he probably says to himself that he can do it again.

The tennis season is long! I can understand why someone does not "get up" for the indoors season. Look at the last couple of years and who's made it to the final: David Ferrer; James Blake; etc - and where are they now? No correlation between making a strong showing in the Masters finals and winning big tournaments: none.

So why not put the chips where they'll count: steal another Aus Open and aim to get ahead in the new year. Hail. If I had enough $ and were a top 10 tennis player, I might adopt that strategy come late October. The problem: would such a player have enough discipline and practice and match play to make such a big run in January, if they didnt play their heart out during the indoor season?

Survey says: hmmmmmmmmm mixed bag of survey results.

Posted by adicecream 10/20/2008 at 08:47 PM

I'm another one who has been down on Murray in spite of his obvious talent. I hated the mopey, slumpy, whiney little boy attitude. But I saw a different, more mature player last week and found myself pulling for him -- something I thought I would never do. I like his game with its variety and even the drop shots. Now I am starting to like the player himself.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/20/2008 at 08:53 PM

bissy - i don't think nole has had a crap year. its been dang good - but he's slowed down a bit since wimby. its definately a 'sophomore year' to me, as he's definately slowed down his momentum. I guess I expect / want him to be able to compete a full year, not 2/3s of it. I do think he's got to mind his p's n q's and focus, as andy seems to be coming into his own, and there's others out there that will be scuffling to come up.

that being said - he's got quite a secure hold on the #3 ranking. He wants #1 though, so he's got to step up as apparantly, neither fed nor rafa are in any hurry to shuffle down the rankings.

ptenis! *waves* you see kolya qualified for shanghai? Hope he does well there....

Posted by Syd 10/20/2008 at 08:53 PM

CL:

Word. I love J-Mac too.

Posted by ptenisnet 10/20/2008 at 09:00 PM

hey JB
Yep. I saw that. Not sure how he accomplished it, but I am not complaining.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/20/2008 at 09:08 PM

well - he still is pretty far above the rest of the guys. since he went out early in madrid - hopefully he's something in the tank. he could use some matches at this point. Wonder if he's still having problems getting motivated?

Posted by CL 10/20/2008 at 09:09 PM

Andrew M - so what are we then to make of the players who prepare themselves for an ENTIRE season? You know, that Federer guy, or that Nadal fellow or Roddick, 'et just about everyone else al'? Demented? Silly? Don't tell me you think the Djoker is in danger of becoming a Nalbandian clone? Tsk.

Hey Syd. Thanks. I love JMac except when I hate him. lol. But he was just so over the top about the Simonizer, the he really did sound like a KAD.

Posted by Syd 10/20/2008 at 09:29 PM

CL;

Hey. I never have that problem (with J-Mac) it's pure love.

I likey "the Simonizer" though. Perfect, CL., you've coined a name.

Posted by Syd 10/20/2008 at 09:33 PM

Pete,

* At a time of year when stars are more inclined to fade than throb with light and heat, Simon is on fire. *

There you go with your poetry again. :)

Posted by Rosangel 10/20/2008 at 10:12 PM

I think in comparing the 4-2 Djokovic-Murray H2H, it should be remembered that in two of the Djokovic victories over Murray, Murray was well below par physically (one time he was definitely injured and admitted that he shouldn't have played). The first time the two met Murray took the first set convincingly, then succumbed to a fit of headcaseness. He looked played out after a long season of non-stop tennis.

When they met in the Cincinnati final, Murray looked the superior one in terms of physical conditioning and movement.

If Murray can end this year with a strong finish, and improve on his first-round loss to Tsonga in Melbourne, he can definitely threaten Djokovic's number three ranking.

I don't have the exact figures to hand right now, but Murray also has a better career record than Djokovic when it comes to beating Top 10 players. It seemed to be the case earlier in his career that he could score big wins but not string them together, especially in a Slam context. His rate of physical development has been different to that of a Nadal, and he also has many options in his game, which has been taking time to mature. Greater consistency in his first serve has been of notable help to him lately - and he does have a very good serve. It's been a key factor in both of his wins over Federer this year.

I like Djokovic, but I do think he's had a tougher year than he'd have hoped. He started the year with a bang, winning the AO and Indian Wells, won Rome without needing to play any of the other big names, and hasn't won another tournament. He also lost to Nadal on Decoturf, at the Beijing Olympics. It seems to me that Nadal and Murray have both improved their games more this year than has Djokovic.

Posted by Rosangel 10/20/2008 at 10:22 PM

Obviously, Djokovic thrashed Murray in Monte Carlo this year. However, Murray doesn't have much of a record on clay. Whereas depending on your point of view, Djokovic is probably the third-best claycourter in the world. He certainly took more games from Rafa at RG than anyone else did this year, and of course there was that stunning semifinal in Hamburg.

Posted by the baller 10/20/2008 at 11:00 PM

It all comes down to who has the most guts, smarts, and work ethic.
That person will be the next great player in the top 5.
Lets see what happens, bring on Paris, Shanghi, and next year!

Posted by skip1515 10/20/2008 at 11:07 PM

1. "Bring back wood racquets, or there'll never be another McEnroe"

No one's written this in this thread, but it's a common point of view. I've never bought it, though, countering that there's only been 1 McEnroe, even during the decades of wood racquets, so blaming the sticks misses the point.

And the big point is that Murray is probably the closest we'll see to another McEnroe for yet another long time. No, his game's not exactly the same, but the feel for the ball and the intuitive sense for the geometry of the court links them as players.

Anyone who isn't entranced by Murray is, IMHO, missing a big part of the variety of tennis' tapestry, regardless of what you think of his demeanor.

(And anyone who bemoans Murray's old Moan-y Joanie demeanor, and who loves Johnny Mac, should consider that as doubles partners they'd have created a black hole of dark-itude, sucking in all who came near.)

2. I saw Gilles Simon play Gasquet at the US Open 3 years ago (yes?), and was thoroughly underwhelmed. Today he's grown into his unique game which, as someone mentioned above (Pete?), is not unlike Murray's (though it is less deep and inventive).

Given his relative lack of weight of shot, is it any accident that he's thrived on hard courts and at altitude in Madrid, where the court and ball speed lets him finish points with shots that would come back on clay? For once a patient, medium pace guy isn't a clay court specialist. (Not unlike Hewitt, no?)

3. Given how the games of Murray, Safina, Simon, Del Potro and a few others have improved this year, is this The Year of Maturing Wonderfully?

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/20/2008 at 11:21 PM

lol "the year of maturing wonderfully" I'll buy that skip!

I think what impressed me most about simon's game this summer has been his calmness. He continues to go for his shots, fending off break points against him instead of imploding. One can argue that he shouldn't allow that many break points against him, but still - to simply keep his head in those situations has GOT to translate to wins. (and obviously has.) I mean in his semi - Rafa had something insane like over 20 break point opportunities that he couldn't convert.

Interesting about the altitude in Madrid, I forgot about that... We'll just have to see next year if Simon can continue on with his run up the rankings and stay within the top 10 - 15, or he fades back down a bit.

Posted by Pspace 10/20/2008 at 11:25 PM

"""
He was moving so well, playing like he did at the Open (against Federer)- from way back, but still somehow controlling points. I couldn't really figure it out.
"""

Well, if JMac can't figure it out, I'm gonna give up.

Posted by Syd 10/20/2008 at 11:28 PM

Skip:

You sure do paint a compelling picture and I take my hat off to you sir. Almost have me convinced about Murray and Gilles Simon. Agree, that Gilles (anatomy is destiny) Simon is a middle weight in terms of pure power, however, it seems to me that it is he who reads the court like a chess board and defeats those of greater power and maybe even talent. And he has some exquisite timing. I don't think the chips are in yet--to mix metaphors-- whether or not Simon has less "inventiveness" than Murray. In fact, for now, I see it the other way round. Simon has more inventiveness, perhaps more than anyone else in the game. Whereas Murray, is relying as much on his power, as he is on geometry. Whether or not Simon's lack of power is going to limit him, is to me,the more interesting question—and as you say, not unlike Hewitt. But we're gonna see, no?

Posted by Long Le 10/21/2008 at 12:12 AM

I truly think the key to Murray's game is hitting the ball on the rise. That is why he looks so quick out there. I remembered watching him playing Wawrinka at USO and wondered why Wawrinka got pushed off the court so often while they appear to have the same power from the baseline; then I noticed that Murray took many balls JUST off the bounce.

Posted by crazyone 10/21/2008 at 12:19 AM

it's not his fault, but Djokovic had to play hardly anyone in Rome...he played three full matches (QFs and SFs were retirements).

Posted by jewell 10/21/2008 at 01:03 AM

Just out of interest, how does one shop for omelettes?

I agree that Djoko had some of the stuffing knocked out of him with bad losses over the summer - three of them to Nadal, finishing at Queens.

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 01:20 AM

Hello All,
So 3 more slots left in the Shanghai Masters Cup.

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 01:38 AM

I think Djokovic would be back strong next year. This year has been pretty hard on him (not as hard as on Roger) as he was expected to overtake Nadal at the start of the year and at the AO he did justify that line of thought. Think his biggest loss was to Safin at Wimby and it did not help that he lost so many points there (as he was a semi-finalist in 07). He does have a chance to end the year on a high note if he does well at Shanghai winning some matches.

I just can't wait for a Novak-Potro clash (Potro played Roger last week and he would mostly play Rafa in the DC final, hence the interest in his clash with Novak).

Posted by gabriela valentina(ranting for the Tercios de Flandes 10/21/2008 at 03:58 AM

nice post from skip 1515: makes some good points and has a way with words and a nice sense of humour. I think though that he's just a bit wee bit cavalier about Gilles new and improved performance. I'm not sure the French player is less imaginative than the Scot.

I agree with naughty t's diagnosis about what is bothering the Djoker these days(what a lot of us have missed our calling as pop psychologists!! LOL) but whereas Djoko's previous antics made NT's flesh crawl, I just hoped the boy would somehow grow out of it all. He seems to have taken a severe blow to his ego that has shaken up his selfconfidence and his game. I hope it hasn't been damaged permanently .But I suspect we have seen the last of the spontaneous,noninstrospective Nole.

Posted by Maha (Roger Federer = <3<3<3) 10/21/2008 at 04:24 AM

HEY'ALL!!!!!!! Irrelevant as it is, anybody know what time Roger's match starts????
Sorry... But some things simply have to be known. :D

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 10/21/2008 at 04:29 AM

that was really interesting thanks pete, it's nice to get a champion's perspective on things, especially honest ones.
i agree with you about djoker being looser in a not so great way, i sorta get the feeling that since he won the AO he's kinda let it go to his head and become complacent. i think he doesn't really realise that its after, not before you win your first slam that you really have to prove your worth, or that you have the erm, wilanders, to succeed. hopefully next year will be a better one for novak, but to be honset he'll have to sort his head out first. for my two cents, he can be quite safin-esque, and as much as we love the spirited russian, that may not be a great thing.

Posted by Caroline 10/21/2008 at 04:38 AM

Just in case anyone is interested, in today's Daily Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk/sport (sorry to be so clueless about the tiny url), Judy Murray confirms that the remarks that Roger made about Andy after losing to him in Dubai (and got so much criticism for) really hit home. Roger and Andy seem to lead the field when it comes to stubborn 'I'm going to do it my way, work it out for myself and chose the people I listen to...' I was very much struck this weekend by the many parallels in their development - possibly why Roger was so warm in his remarks about Andy growing up last weekend.

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 04:52 AM

Caroline: I did not understand why such a fuss was made after that Dubai match. Roger was asked for his opinion and he gave it. I remember the match. Murray was just putting the ball back into play and Roger made unforced errors and gave away the points (do agre that Murray succeeded in coaxing those errors). this win in Madrid is totally different. Murray just was better and served grand.

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 04:56 AM

Caroline, Thanks for the link. Nice to read Judy's article on her boy.

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 05:00 AM

tinyurl.com/5bk377

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 05:02 AM

Maha: 17.45 UK Time

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/21/2008 at 06:00 AM

About Novak: I agree with Asad and Kenneth. Novak expected to win the Queen's match vs. Rafa based on the matchup on paper. I also think he expected a clear, quick path to #1 after his AO win. While the multiple defeats at the hands of Nadal squashed some of his enthusiasm and confidence, I believe it was the loss to Murray on the HC in Cincy that really shook him up. His rise to #1 had already hit a few familiar roadblocks (Fed and Nadal) and an unexpected one (the Safin loss at Wimby). Now suddenly he had a new one with Murray bursting into the top 4 and threatetning to steal his #3 spot ... and spotlight. On the upside for Nole, he has clearly made the big time when he is criticized for having a down year that includes winning his first GS and reaching the SF of two more. Welcome to Fed's world!

Re: Murray: I'm so glad he's put the moping/whining/screaming profanities at his coach routine behind him so I can enjoy watching his style of play. I don't think it's a coincidence that the results have come since he started focusing better on the match at hand. I've been very impressed with how he's matured this year. His success against Roger speaks for itself; he doesn't have to say much about it. Novak should take a cue from him.

Re: Simon: I'm rooting for him to make it to Shanghai. He is a so fun to watch, and it would be nice to see a few new faces at the TMC.

Posted by Stuck 10/21/2008 at 07:53 AM

Glad about Murray coming into his own.

Could care less about what's been up with Djokovic

Hope Simon makes it to TMC - he'll help to spice things up.

Would like to see Roddick get better - but doubt that is possible

Wonder how Hewitt's doing - too many injuries - but still miss him

Interesting to see how Safin continues - or will he?

Not so excited about Del P - more flavor of the month

Gulbis - now there's a prospect if he can get consistent

Will Gonzo ever get out of his funk?

Here's to seeing Fed begin to actually close out tournaments (as in consecutive wins) and not just stringing a few matches togetehr!

He was indeed looking much better in Madrid - love to see him keep it up!

Beginning of course with today - road back begins with the first step - and voila - today's first match.

GO Mr. Fed!

Posted by rg.nadal (leosash.wordpress.com) 10/21/2008 at 07:58 AM

Stuck, nice musings.:-)

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 10/21/2008 at 07:59 AM

I agree with Johnny Mac:
-Murray has greatly improved fitness and confidence. Like him I also agree with the DS (I think that's what got him the TB against Gilles). And yes, Murray seems more dangerous now then the Joker.

- Roger adapt? That would be good.

- Gilles is incredible and if he can keep it up, especially be a tad more consistent he can be top 3.

- Gulbis seems the most talented but he is abyssimal when it comes to consistency.

Go Rafa! I wish he would flaten out some shots at times (I saw one against Roddick in DC) and lose some weight/bulk :D

Cheers!

Posted by mina 10/21/2008 at 07:59 AM

tangi: i'm pull for a simon appearance in shanghai too (along with JMDP), these two deserve to be there, what with the season they've had...

Skip: "year of maturing wonderfully"... it certainly is for those mentioned!

the points between Djokovic and Murray being abt a Slam's worth, novak had better come up with the goods in Melbourne or all hail may just break loose in the Djoker camp... wouldnt want that to happen;)

Posted by Ade [early bus ticket holder] 10/21/2008 at 08:06 AM

I get a little tired of hearing from all these past old timers, like as if their opinions are engraved in gold or something.

I have seen plenty of times when their opinions were just plain out "a bad guess".

They are ready to pounce on any negativity about any player.

Murray is doing well but that doesn't give them a pass to jump on Novak's current inconsistancies.

I say let's read about how Wilander has a tendancy to put his foot in his mouth, or how about the fact that a lot of people don't care about his current opinions?

These guys are a perfect example of a bunch of "has beens" who just can't retire out of pride to stay in the public eye.

I personally don't care one iota about what they have to say Pete!
Especially those 2.

Posted by Kiwi 10/21/2008 at 08:34 AM

I Have to agree about Queens, I was at that match and there was a real sense that most people beleived Nole would take that match and continue to surge past Rafa and take the no.2 spot, seeing it was quite nerve racking as there was so little in it in the first set. I wonder if being that close but just loosing out to Rafa there and at the Olympics has taken its toll mentally. Some people thrive on being the underdog, its much easier to come surging from nowhere as opposed to being expected to do well. Nole made such huge strides last year but when your that close to the top improvements are going to so subtle and minute that it can be frustrating to keep being so close but not quite close enough. Maybe it is that he is struggling to deal with. Being top 5 is one thing, no.1 is a whole different battle.

That is where I really have so much respect for Rafa. At the start of the year it seemed with Nole playing so well people were saying he may be the greatest no.2 to never make it to no.1. But he kept working making small changes getting closer and closer to TMF while warding off the likes of Nole and has finally been rewarded for his patience and perserverance.

Murray has had a fair amount of time out with injuries and I think is a little fresher and ready for a fight than the others at the moment. He certainly seems to relish stirring things up but can he keep that going for a full season??

Posted by Miguel Seabra 10/21/2008 at 08:38 AM

Hey Pete,

Great post, and -- as usually -- those guys are spot on, especially Mats' analysis.

I'm just dropping by to say this:

In one of my Mats Wilander interviews, he told me something that really really touched me.

He was talking about his son's desease and explaining me the kid's struggles with it and all the care the family had to take regarding his condition.

And then he told me something like this:

«And you know what? He's by far the happiest and most talented of my sons, probably because from early on he learnt that the world is not perfect».

Really touching.

He also said: «If he has problems related to his condition, he solves them with his intelligence».

Mats, if you're reading this... hope to see you here in Portugal come August from the Vale do Lobo Grand Champions!

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 10/21/2008 at 09:21 AM

oddly enough ade - some of us may figure that since these guys have been watching, playing and coaching top flight tennis for decades, they actually DO have something valuable to say...

emma > "i think he doesn't really realise that its after, not before you win your first slam that you really have to prove your worth"

That sums it up for me. Carrying a target on your back all the time is so wearying mentally; next year will be telling in Nole's game, imo.

Posted by yogi 10/21/2008 at 09:39 AM

"The only thing with Simon is that he's 6-2 and pretty skinny, so you have to wonder how he's going to hold up over five sets under tough conditions. There may be a fitness issue there, but he's got great feel for the game, no doubt about it."

Pete, how might JM say above words about the man that was gifted by greatest stamina?

Had Federer has same ability he whould be a player from another planet.

Posted by Sandra 10/21/2008 at 10:27 AM

You want Rafael Nadal to lose weight? Are you kidding - he would look anorexic! He only looks big on tv. When you see him in person, who looks like a normal weight guy.

Posted by Ross (formerly JR) 10/21/2008 at 10:53 AM

Not only is Andy playing like one of the top guys, he's even starting to look like one. Thanks Andy, for losing the mutton chops!

Posted by Rosangel 10/21/2008 at 11:06 AM

I have to agree with Sandra regarding Rafael Nadal and his weight - when you see him up close (as I have done many times, including during the Madrid tournament), he looks slim. In no way overweight. HIs build is a little more burly than that of some other players, but he's not carrying any excess flesh considering his body type.

Posted by Pica_pica (support Nole in hard times) 10/21/2008 at 11:11 AM

Nole is the Anakin Skywalker of men's tennis right now -- exceptionally gifted, but let emotions take over him too easily. His frustrations are growing every now and then. He believes he has the ability to be #1 and is angry about why he still can't get it. Perhaps impatience and successive failures have weighted him down. When you look at him now (his game, his reactions and even his still pictures), you feel that he has aged 3 years over a year. There are dark circles around his eyes. His smiles are less carefree as in the past. He's starting to think that everyone is against him, as evident in his speech after the Roddick match and some other press conferences. He could end up being Darth Vader -- still feared but the negative power to beat others could easily turn onto himself.

I still believe he could turn back onto the right track but he needs a change, perhaps an environmental change. I noticed that his girlfriend, instead of his parents, was with him in Thailand Open. He perhaps need more care from others to find back his happiness. I genuinely wish that he can be through the hard times and come back.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/21/2008 at 11:41 AM

CL - my thoughts on whether Djokovic prepares for the whole year? Well, either he is a bad indoors player (entirely possible) or he just takes the indoors season less seriously than the outdoor (majority) of the season. In that scenario, Nalbandian just likes the end of the season because he feels it necessary to have something to show for the year to accompany a big Davis Cup season.

It could be a sign of surface problem: perhaps Djokovic is more at home on either a "slow surface" or a slowed down surface (medium paced hardcourts), whereas Nalbandian's "picture perfect game" only benefits him when conditions are "completely stable" - which would be indoors, where the "element" of weather is a moot issue. So, Nalbandian becomes less focused in a more distracting environment and needs near perfect conditions, and Djokovic becomes more of a threat as conditions deteriorate and more is at stake.

my 2 cents!

Posted by mint32 10/21/2008 at 11:57 AM

simon is listed at 5'11" mac...that is three inches you gave him, though if he doesn't want them, i'd gladly take them (5'7")...he is skinny/slender at any height

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/21/2008 at 12:07 PM

Pete:

Did you apologize to Mats for comparing him to Mauresmo?

Was any of the old Columbia crowd around? People like Coach Seewagen and Erich Fromm. Unfortunately, Gerulaitis--who had one glorious semester at Columbia, I don't think he made the spring season--can't attend these Columbia get-togethers.

Posted by Jenn 10/21/2008 at 01:01 PM

pete, thanks for this great insight from the Mac and Mats. It is telling that both of them drifted into a Nole discussion without prompting. Someone (Sam?) pointed out that Nole has had a great year by most standards, but it doesn't seem that he has raised his game or staked any further claim at the top in a meaningful way since Australia. You could argue whether he has taken a step backwards or just treaded water and been passed by Murray (and lead extended by Rafa), but no question that he has failed to move forward.
Nole seems like such an emotional guy, and the US Open seemed to reveal someone who is not particularly happy with his place in the game right now. We can only speculate as to why that is, but he clearly does not relish the villain role that some have placed him in (or that he has arguably brought on himself). There is nothing wrong with his game, but emotionally he just doesn't seem to be there right now in the heat of a match. Another factor is the oft-noted truth about how much more difficult it is to stay at the top than to get up there. Now he is not the next great thing/next #1, but a guy who has a target on his back from players and some fans. That's not as fun of a role to play as the breakout young star on his way to #1.

I liked the observation here that Murray's emergence as an elite player "rounds out" the top tier. I agree. If 2 is company and 3 is a crowd, 4 is interesting and just seems more "right" wth the way that seeding and bracket placement is done. Now Fed and Nadal will either get Nole or Murray in their half in every tournament. Which one would they rather see is an interesting question.

Posted by tina 10/21/2008 at 02:13 PM

Erm - Vitas had a semester at Columbia?! Was before my time there, but how is it that I never knew this?!

Samantha: we know English is Mats's second language, but I hardly think there's any possibility of misinterpretation - he's been speaking English on the job for decades. I watched him on those Eurosports segments during the USO, and it was all Federer, all the time. He seemed not to notice that Nadal had won Wimbledon and RG. It seemed a little strange to me.

I suspected Djokovic would peter out in the second half of the year, but I'm not terribly worried. Even if he is unable to defend in Melboune, I don't think he'll go out in the first round.

I don't personally care for Murray - but I do like the idea of it being a tetrarchy in the ATP rankings.

Thanks to Miguel for your Mats story.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 10/21/2008 at 02:44 PM

Tina:

Back in the mid-70s, Columbia, coached by Butch Seewagen, had a very good tennis program. Seewagen had been a top ten American player for several years b4 he got injured.

Back then, the courts were Har-Tru, which gave Columbia a home advantage, cuz the rest of the Ivies played on hard courts.

Arthur Ashe used to come up there to hit with Butch. Saw the post-operations Renee Richards up there at least once.

Butch was a good recruiter. He got Fromm to play for him for two years and Fromm was good enuf to beat Yannick Noah at Wimbledon.

Gerulaitis came out of the Port Washington Harry Hopman Academy. The story I heard when I was at CC was that Gerulaitis stuck around for one semester, either flunked everything or almost everything that semester, then turned pro and never came back.

I still don't get it. Trade an Ivy League education for millions of dollars and the company of many hot women?

Posted by Gaston 10/21/2008 at 02:50 PM

In his mind Djokovic would be a comfortable number 1 today, and he is not. It must get to him. He certainly has the talent to come out of the hole, and he is not Coria, but still...

Nice Piece Mr. Bodo

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/21/2008 at 02:51 PM

To play the advocate of the inferno's chief resident,

What if Nole decides to RELISH the role of the spoiler or the "bad guy" ?

Roddick does on occasion...what's so bad about a little bit of sneering. Not everyone can smile on the tennis court...Roger Federer's victory at US Open came with more than its fair share of facial expressions.

Look at those who smiled in the game and where they are now: Baghdatis’ effusive personality, which screamed “joy of the game” every second of his 2006 march to the AO final, was apparently a one-time only event. Because really, is toughing out near impossible victories truly “enjoyable” ?

Or are hard-earned victories like those of Roger Federer at US Open in 2008, or Roddick's 2nd (and possibly last) victory against Federer in March 2008, or say Thomas Muster’s one and only grand slam title (guts, sweat and all) over Michael Chang really more “realistic”: no suffering, no anguish, no earned joy.

Joy is over-rated. In my opinion this is the era of tough love. We shall see who thrives in the battles ahead! If Andy Murray enjoys the new age of bar fights on the tennis court (I know Roddick likes it, and Federer apparently enjoy’s what Jon Wertheim coined as “street fighting”) then we as fans are in for a new golden age of tennis (rather than the Pax Federiana – which I did enjoy, but isn’t this interesting, too?)

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/21/2008 at 02:58 PM

on the other hand: Marcelo Rios' lack of love for the game ruined his chances. He didnt seem to enjoy anything.

Posted by Hiram 10/21/2008 at 03:50 PM

Djokovic is having an existential crisis where Djokovic "the act" has made a fool out of Djokovic "the real". How funny to act like the number one when you aren't, like a child putting on grown-up clothes! And it's doubly so when the child shows he isn't playing but he really wants to be a grown-up. He wants to wear the crown badly, that's clear, but he also seemed to think he already deserved it, like he had decided he was the king, all ready to exercise noblesse oblige, to tease and display magnanimity the way some who feel their power are inclined to do. But the pretender to the throne wilted when up against the wayward prince at Wimbledon and wilted when up against the steadfast prince at the US Open. At Wimbledon Safin "wasn't impressed" with Novak. It was perhaps the same Novak that apologized to Safin after taking a first-round beating at the 2005 Australian Open. His post US Open comment about Federer being "still there" also had an apologetic air, at least coming from him. But now coming from Djokovic one can really wonder: "Does he really mean it?" And that is probably what he is wondering too, hence, the existential crisis.

Posted by Lleytsie 10/21/2008 at 05:17 PM

rios is a sulky sulky sob

he walked out a kids tennis clinic once for crying out loud

Posted by the original tina 10/22/2008 at 08:30 AM

Thanks manuelsantanafan - my knowledge of CC history sorta jumps from 1968 to 1978, though I entered in '82. And I never followed sports while there, except for an Olympic fencer and a couple of all-Ivy wrestlers. I don't even know where the Columbia courts are!
I don't know if Djokovic is having an existential crisis so much as he's just in his annual fallow period. But if we all knew in advance what would happen, nobody would watch. That's one reason I'm glad there's the tetrarchy at the top now - all Fed all the time became so bloody dull.

Posted by Pica_pica (support Nole in hard times) 10/22/2008 at 09:36 AM

I really like the posts in TENNIS.com
So insightful

Posted by nole 10/22/2008 at 05:11 PM

the problem in novak these days I think has been his emotions. He does not know how to deal w/ the situations at hand. I must say, he is truly a great player. But these days he's been frustrating to watch. He isn't happy, he looks like he's waiting to get off the court. he's not fighting for every point, he's just sort of letting it go. and when he misses he gets so mad at himself. almost like he expects to win every match. he has self-confidence, but it's weird. he can play one brilliant match, and totally screw up the next. I feel he's really had trouble finding his rythm ever since wimbledon. I think that he should enjoy the game more, and fight for it. Stop focusing on being number one, just do your thing, and the ranking will come to you. I think that should be his mentality. Never underestimate anyone else, no matter their ranking, and surely never underestimate ur own ability. I hope he can improve. He has great potential, and HAD a better attitude, but now he needs a little adjustment. he sights the need for improvement in physical health constantly, but I think that if he changes his mentality, the physique won't matter anymore.

I really hope he can do it, cuz i can't stand to see him play like this!


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