Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Wk.33- Nole's Ninth Nirvana

Hi All. Galileo here.

Now that Novak Djokovic has won all nine Masters events we must face the facts. He has had a greater career than Nadal. He is the second greatest player to play of all time. Rafael Nadal has spent 186 weeks as number one. Novak has been there for 223 weeks. Nadal only has two more titles than Djokovic and most of his have come on clay. 19 of his 33 titles have come in Rome or Monte Carlo.

Right now Roger Federer leads the total slam titles with 20. Rafa has 17, Pete Sampras 14, and Novak has 13. But Nadal has won 11 of those on one surface. The problem with Nadal is that he is untouchable on clay but can look very ordinary off it. Juan Martin Del Potro beat him 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in one slam semi-final. He has suffered some bad losses off the dirt. Djokovic has more semi-finals and more quarterfinals than Rafa does at slam level. He has been to only two fewer slam finals total. The French Open skews Rafa’s stats just as Wimbledon did for Sampras.

It goes on - Djokovic has played and won more matches than Rafa at the slams too. In overall titles Rafa has the edge - he has won 80, played in 116 finals and been to 152 semi-finals. Nole is 70/101/139. The Spaniard has the edge but it is getting closer. Overall Rafa has won more than 100 matches than the Serb. It isn’t just Rafa who is very ‘one-surface’. Djokovic has won 52 of his 70 titles on hard-courts. 41 of Nadal’s titles have come at just four events. You know which ones.

So basically we come to the choice. Djokovic has the numbers and the more even spread. He has all four majors and all nine Masters. He does not yet have the Olympic Gold. Apart from that he has won everything. It really is up to you to decide who you like. For me, as much as I detest it, Djokovic has the edge - less reliance on one slam and more weeks at number one are key for this BACKSPINNER. Todd probably disagrees, but the argument is there now. [Ed.Note: Hmmm... I think I made some similar points during one my "numbers guy" slam final recaps a few years ago, but that was mostly an argument for Djokovic's legitimate inclusion in the *discussion* with Roger and Rafa for "Top 2" in this Big 2/3/4 era. I'd probably put him a close #3, but how things look when all their careers are over, I think, will be the real time to do the computations... and it could go either way now that Djokovic has emerged from his it-looks-like-it-might-be-over stretch - tds]

But that is a topic we can revisit. We need more data anyway. [Yeah, and it'll be a very robust discussion when the day comes, I bet. - tds] So let’s look at what actually happened during the week…

By the way, all this business with the Davis Cup is frankly a disgrace. It is absolutely appalling. More words will be spoken on this throughout the season, but ATP BACKSPIN’s official position is that it’s horse manure.

S: Novak Djokovic/SRB d. Roger Federer/SUI 6-4/6-4
D: Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares (GBR/BRA) d. Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah (COL/COL)

...He has won all nine of the Masters events. He has won all four slams and the year ending tournament. He has yet to take the Olympics. He will want to win Olympic Gold so badly in 2020. He will be desperate for it. It is doubtful that Federer is still around, but if either one was to get it it would cap off a remarkable career. It is the final piece that they are missing. Federer will not now win any of the big titles he is missing on clay. Nadal is unlikely to claim any of his missing hard court titles. It looks as if Djokovic’s record will stand for a long time. On the way to the title he saw off Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic and then Federer in the final. It was a good run and he now assumes the mantle of favourite in New York. He has a strange record there. He has made the semi-finals there every year since 2007, though Nole did not play last year. He is 7-3 in those semi-finals, but 2-5 in finals. This should be his best slam but he has only won it twice. Will he make it three times?
...This BACKSPINNER has a sneaking suspicion that the Swiss star, and Hall of Fame lock, is beginning to come back a bit. The results have picked up recently, there have been flashes of brilliance. It may not turn into anything at the final slam of the year but the first slam of next year was always yielded the best results for the Swiss. You get a Drew Brees feeling from Stan, or a David Price feeling if you will. Dude’s old, dude's had injuries issues [not so much with Brees] but dude still has one last run in him. Wawrinka might still have a slam in him. Federer is fading, Nadal’s knees are held together by luck and magic, he has never been scared of Djokovic and Murray is finished as a competitive force. Del Potro is unreliable. Wawrinka could play at close to his best in 2020 or 2021. He will turn 35 in March 2020. If he can stay relevant he could snatch one last slam then. The field would, theoretically, be wide open. He was 263rd in the world after the French Open. Now he is 101st. He is rising steadily. His shots are as crisp as ever and he looked pretty good in his loss to Federer. He was back to his best in a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kei Nishikori in the second round. So, with a wild card into the final slam of the year, and playing with house money, how big can he win?
...This has been a golden era for Polish tennis with stars in men’s doubles and both men’s and women's singles, too. Hurk is just the latest. He beat Tennys Sandgren in four sets as a qualifier at Roland Garros. He qualified for Wimbledon too, but lost to Bernard Tomic. At the challenger level this year he is 1-2 in finals. He beat Taro Daniel 6-1, 6-1 in the final. He can hit some nice shots too. Just look-

He is the world 109 after qualifying in Cincy. He is about right around the slam cutoff point now. Usually if you are ranked 106-116 you are right on the borderline, depending on the slam. Hurk dismissed Ryan Harrison 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of qualifiers. Then he edged Ivo Karlovic 7-6[3], 7-6[4] to make the main draw. He took the first set against Marton Fucsovics 6-4 but lost the match in agonising fashion 4-6, 6-3, 7-6[6]. Still he will get almost 19k in US dollars for winning two matches and his ranking has gone up. So it’s been a good tournament for him.
...Jeremy Chardy spanked Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2 in the opening round. In the same section of the draw, the same eighth in fact, Benoit Paire knocked out David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2. The next big thing to come from Ferrer, sadly, will be a retirement announcement. Verdasco has had a better time of it in the last few seasons but Spanish tennis is, in general, old and out of form. Once Nadal goes, Spain’s days as a superpower, already waning, will be finished. That was a truly superb match, in New York, one of the best five-setters you could ever wish to see. The fact that both men really like each other only added to the gravitas of the match. Ferver came back from two sets to none down to win in a 5th set breaker.

That was eight years ago. Seems inconceivable does it not?
...Yes, we’re mixing it up here on BACKSPIN. One of these editions we will have a proper spotlight on the ATP Challenger. Did you know that a Bolivian, Hugo Dellien, is having a great year on that circuit? Anyway Banes, who looks like a serial killer in this particularly unflattering photo, has won the 2018 edition of the Gwangju Open.
The top two seeds were Marcel Granollers and Henri Laaksonen. This is the third time the event has been played with Ricardas Berankis winning the first event, back in 2016. The Aussie was seeded 6th and, in six matches, did not face one seed. In the final he played qualifier Nam Ji-Sung and won 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The Challenger tour is vital because it acts as the minor leagues do to baseball. You have big powerful young guns cutting their teeth and learning the game mixing with journeymen and veterans. Some of the names you get were very good players 10 years ago but are now broken heroes on a last chance power drive. Anyway at the age of 26 Banes has reached a career high of 218 and he also collected $50,000 dollars. There’s decent money in the challenger circuit IF you can get it.
...Federer was 7-0 in finals in Cincy and Djokovic 0-5. Yet the Swiss lost 4-6, 4-6. How? He is finally beginning to lose to Father Time. It’s a crazy thing to say because he won in Australia, lost a freak match in London, and has had a good result this past week. But he won’t win the US Open. It looks like he can no longer go seven matches, best of five sets, and win them all. He looks old. He looks finished. Of course here is where he goes and wins the US Open and this BACKSPINNER looks incredible foolish. I just don’t see it. He has been overly reliant on winning the Pete Sampras way- holding serve and trying to get a break on the opponent's serve or just winning matches in breakers. Does he have one more trick left up his sleeve at Flushing Meadows?
...They beat Mayer/Ramos-Vinolas in the first round 4-6, 6-2, 1-0[10-4], which is a good result. Then they ousted the eighth seeded Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 7-6[6], 6-7[4], 1-0[10-6] in the second round. Nicolas Mahut was the defending champion and that makes edging them out a very impressive feat. Then they came back to defeat Kontinen/Peers 2-6, 7-6[2], 1-0[10-7]. They had knocked the third seeds out despite the Canadian champions looking great for two sets. In the semi-finals they lost to the underrated team of Cabal/Farah 7-6[5], 6-4. It was a good run from the pair and if they stay together for the upcoming slam they could be a dark horse. Ferver has three doubles quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows.

1. 2nd Rd. - Haase d. Zverev 5-7, 6-4, 7-5
...This is the same Zverev match as every other one has ever played. The Dutchman lost 6-4, 6-2 in the very next round to Pablo Carreno Busta. Zverev has made 11 finals in the past two seasons and won eight. In every Masters tournament except last week’s, in Canada, he has either made the semi-finals or lost in the first match. He cannot find any consistency and his quarterfinal appearance in Paris wasn’t at all impressive. He is in prove it mode in New York.
2. 3rd Rd. - Djokovic d.. Dimitrov 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
...Dimitrov collapsed in the rankings, falling to eighth. He still has a quarterfinal seeding for New York but is there any evidence to show he will get there? Not on his current form. He is having another down year and it looks like he is not baby Fed but just another talented one-hander who will fall somewhere around the Richard Gasquet career mark. Rain interrupted the match but the Bulgarian could not take advantage of it in the final set. He was down a break but didn’t break back. Djokovic is having a renaissance but Dimi appears to have fallen off a cliff.
3. QF - Federer d. Wawrinka 6-7[2], 7-6[6], 6-2
...For the first time in 14 years Fedex had to play two matches in one day. He took the second set just as the heavens opened. He and his compatriot played a compelling match which Stan should have won. Oh and check this out:

4. 3rd Rd. - Cilic d. Khachanov 7-6[5], 3-6, 6-4
...The Russian gets closer and closer to landing that big scalp. He has a win over Goffin but beating Cilic at a 1000 level event might take the cake. Cilic held him off and made the quarters. It’s hardly the result he wants to take into the US Open but at least he has some wins under his belt.

A De Minaur [15] d. [9] S. Querrey
K. Edmund [3/WC] d. [2] P. Carreno Busta
Edmund [3/WC] d. [15] De Minaur

Goffin has withdrawn to try to make a big run in New York, which is the correct decision. He is hurt and the extra week could make all the difference. In his absence the Australian will continue his great season. He will not be seeded at this slam but he will be at the next and that is where he should be aiming. Forget New York this year. He should play freely in Flushing Meadows. In Melbourne he will have home support. Kyle Edmund made the semi-finals last year. This time he goes two better.

Thanks all.

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