US Open 2008 In Retrospect
by Dan Martin | September 12th, 2008, 9:33 am
  • 54 Comments

The 2008 U.S. Open is complete. Roger Federer collected his 5th title, and Serena Williams won her 3rd championship in NY. Serena returning to #1 and Federer proving he still draws water in men’s tennis are compelling stories. Andy Murray was impressive. Novak Djokovic demonstrated that he may need better blinders in order to focus on prizes that are within reach. Juan Martin del Potro is more than promising. Jelena Jankovic demonstrated grit. Dinara Safina looks to be a future champion with weapons that might rival Serena’s power if harnessed properly.

Murray Rising and Rafa in NY


Andy Murray should not let a bad Monday ruin a great summer. His return of serve, on court analysis and emerging power game all bode well for his future. Murray’s adaptability is his greatest asset. I would not be shocked to see him win the big prize in Melbourne 2009 where some of the glare of the big stage is blunted by the laid back atmosphere of the Australian Open. Murray’s court coverage and shot making versus Nadal floored me. The players of “the string generation” are going to take baseline tennis to unimaginable levels even if Federer proved that judiciously moving forward still works on fast courts.

Rafa may have an issue with New York. To Nadal’s credit he plays every point with utmost effort and toughness. New York draws out reserves of toughness from more fragile players. Therefore, relative to his competition, Rafa’s intensity advantage declines at Flushing Meadows. The speed and unforgiving nature of the surface undermine his chances. To be sure, Rafa can win on hard courts as his success in Canada, Beijing, and Indian Wells prove. Some great European players have had a love-hate relationship with the U.S. Open. Prior to his 1991 and 1992 U.S. Open titles, Stefan Edberg lost in the first round in 1990 and got rocked in 1989 by a 37 year old Jimmy Connors. Bjorn Borg never solved the U.S. Open. Boris Becker only won the U.S. Open in 1989 despite his game being well suited to the fast courts.

Rafa playing after the Serena-Venus match along with his rescheduled Super Saturday match are part of the brash nature of the U.S. Open. Nadal will have to find his inner New Yorker to climb this mountain, and the likely improvements of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and the rise of lower tier players such as Sam Querrey demonstrate that Nadal’s obstacles are not going to diminish in the coming years. Still, I would not bet against Nadal.

Connors, Sampras and Federer’s 5 U.S. Open Titles

Roger Federer joined Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras as the only men of the Open Era to win 5 U.S. Open titles. Each man has a unique status associated with their 5 titles. Connors won on 3 surfaces: grass in 1974, green clay in 1976, and hard court in 1978, 1982 and 1983. Sampras won 5 titles that stretched from 1990-2002. The 13 year stretch demonstrates how long Sampras was a threat in New York. Federer winning 5 U.S. Open titles in 5 consecutive years is mind boggling. Roger’s final victims of Agassi, Hewitt, Roddick, Djokovic and Murray have combined to win 2 sets versus Federer’s 15.

GOAT of Hard Courts?

Greatest of All Time discussions are always tricky due to the changing nature of the game. Players even 10 years ago did not hit consistently with the type of spin that today’s strings make possible. I remember people in 1988 marveling at Steffi Graf “passing people who are on the baseline” rather than engaging in a back court war of attrition or rushing the net. Regularly pounding ground stroke winners past people is so common place today that no one even makes note of it.

Still, hard courts are a recent phenomenon in major tennis. The U.S. Open switched to hard courts in 1978 and the Australian Open in 1988. The pace of the courts and climate of the two majors are different, but players whose career started in or after 1988 can be compared in terms of hard court achievements. Pete Sampras won 5 U.S. Open and 2 Australian Open titles. Andre Agassi won 2 U.S. Open and 4 Australian Open titles. Roger Federer’s 5 U.S. Open titles, 3 Australian Open titles, 3 Indian Wells titles, 2 Miami titles, 2 Canadian titles and 2 Cincinnati titles give him at least a claim to being the most decorated hard court player in tennis history.

The Landscape of Women’s Tennis has Improved

One final note, the WTA has worried me recently as the general level of play has been spotty and injuries plague the top players. The Serena Williams – Jelena Jankovic match was a great contest between a power player and counter puncher holding nothing back. Both players put on a great show. This was doubly important as many CBS markets did not air any of the men’s final.


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54 Comments for US Open 2008 In Retrospect

zola Says:

Dan,
Thanks for the timely post.
Federer, what an achievement! 5 back to back trophies in two grand slams. As Rafa says”just congratulat him”.
Murray, such a hard worker. very impressive. You see before your own eye, the growth from “boyhood” or”childhood”, to “manhood”, in Murray. The calm on the court, the improved fitness, the willingness to study the opponents and to understand their movements…just amazing .
I would say after Rafa, he is the most improved player this year.
Djoko was a bit flat this summer. but can’t blame him after the olympics. He has the technique. Now needs to work on his fitness and on his composure. He showed in NY how emotional he is ( he is only 21!). He needs to learn to block negativity.He used that negative energy to win over Roddick, but was too worn out in the next match.
and Rafa,…He had the best US Open result, even though he had a very busy summer. I am happy with the results. two GS titles,olympic gold and two master series titles. At 22, I think he has already passed Agassi and Sampras’s records with 12 master shields.won FO/wimbledon/olympics….nothing to complain.

I guess US open will always be hard for RAfa because of all the clay court matches/FO/Wimbledon. He needs to find a way. But if I was him, I would just relax and concentrate on the Australian Open.

I like your idea about the “hard court GOAT”. Better than comparing Lever and federer.

Tennis changes a lot. The surfaces have changed, the equipment,…the game is faster and is more physical. There should be a way to scale all the factors maybe Vulcan can do this!), but till then, I am happy with a bunch of GOATs.

I hav followed tennis for a long time and never been so excited about tennis. All these young guns, the game, everything, has become much more competetive and interesting. Unfortunately can’t say the same for WTA. As if with Henin’s retirement, it lost its fuel. I hope Serena and Venus can give it some life.I am also hopeful about Safina. She needs to listen to her brother “do the opposite of everything I did”!


Jimbojones Says:

I liked the recap. Murray wins a major in 2009 mark it down!


Tejuz Says:

without doubt Fed is the GOAT of hard courts.. and soon will be the GOAT of grass. Overall.. he can lay claim to be the GOAT very soon.


PietjeP Says:

Hi Dan,

I agree with your analysis. There is no point in claiming who is GOAT. Laver had maybe a little less depth in tennis competitors in his time, but missed 5 years of GS tennis. Sampras had the advantage in his days of quicker courts and quicker balls to suit his game. And Federer had (very arguably) maybe a little less great competition in his early days of winning(04-05) in comparison with Sampras. Although your competition is as good as you let them appear to be :)

I think right now is very interesting. Fed the vet ;), Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro, Monfils, Gulbis.

Honestly, although many people seem to differ, I don’t think Nadal will reach beyond 8-9 slams(which by itself already is a huge achievement!) and I doubt if he will ever win NY. His intensity and physical game will catch up with him. Although everybody seems to talk about him winning 8-9 FO’s alone, there is a reason why it has never been done in the past. Sure he is only 22… but he already is at the top for 3 years… And it has to come from somewhere… Therefore I think he will decline earlier then normal (combined with his physical game).

Anyway… I’m looking forward to great tennis at next year’s slams. Should be very, very interesting.

Pietje


Dan Martin Says:

Zola, Thanks. I have tried to put my biases out there by saying how much I appreciate Federer’s play in several posts. The funny thing is my two other favorite players to watch are Murray for his versatility and Djokovic for his brutal efficiency when he is on his game. I hope Djokovic gets his marbles back for 2009. (Gasquet is fun to watch in that he hits insane shots, but …) Nadal is incredibly accomplished and will only add hardware imho over the next 4-6 years.

Jimbo – I think Murray will win a major as well. Look at his results vs. Djokovic last year versus this year. Djokovic mauled Murray in Miami in 2007. Similarly, Nadal ripped him apart at Wimbledon 08 and Murray avenged that just a few months later. Murray is a guy who seems to learn a lot from any trip on court including losses. That speaks well of him. If he can beat guys like Koubek with more ease, it will only leave more energy in the tank for the bigger guns on tour.


Dan Martin Says:

Piet – excellent points. Only a handful of guys ever win 8 majors so if Nadal does get 8 or 9 that would put him elite company. The French Open will be interesting as no one seems close to challenging him anytime soon, but new players always pop up, injuries are always a factor in sports and even a guy like Juan Martin del Potro’s has the height to maybe blunt some of Rafa’s high bounces. Nadal is the king of clay until someone proves otherwise, but 8 or 9 FO’s means he at least doubles what he has already done and that is never easy.


jane Says:

Hi Dan,

Nice post as usual. Except, I’ll bug you a little bit, since as far as I know, 2008 isn’t over. There’s still an entire indoor hardcourt season to go through – and [insert drumroll] what I think may be one of the most exciting Masters Cups in a while!

Rafa is a player who moves in increments – except on clay, which he overpowers – as we’ve seen with Wimbledon. It took him 3 finals before he won on grass. So far, he’s improved on hardcourts this year by going further in both hardcourt slams than he has in the past – semis in both. I wouldn’t bet against him either.

I agree with those who think Murray will win a slam in 09, only I am not sure which one; in some ways it’d be ultra-fantastic to see him win at Wimbledon. For the Brits sake.

I think Djokovic should come away from this slam with some good and some bad. Considering he wasn’t playing what I think is his best hardcourt tennis – though there were flashes of it – he still got to the semis and he lost only to the 5-time winner. So that’s quite an achievement, especially considering the PR blunders. Speaking of which, I think he’s a smart guy and will learn from this. The one thing he should work on in his game, in addition to continuing to work on his volleys, which were markedly better at this slam anyhow, is his serve. He needs to serve consistently well. He has lapses. Similarly with focus/positivity. He could take a page from Murray here.

Fed’s achievement of winning means a couple things: clearly a lot to him since hardcourt is where he’s seemed to struggle most all year. Does it mean “he back”? I don’t know. I am waiting until next year to see what’s up. Obviously he hadn’t gone that far if he’s indeed back. But I do think that the “invincibility” factor he said he’ll have back as soon as he wins a bigger tournament is not ever going to be fully back. That’s just an opinion.

Due to a hectic first couple weeks of the semester, I haven’t even watched the final or the second part of Murray/Rafa! But they’re on tape, so I hope to watch soon.

Anyhow congrats to Fed & his fans.


jane Says:

Duh – just realized you meant the Open in retrospect! Sorry Dan. My bad, as the saying goes.


jane Says:

Just a few last little bits – catching up.

1. Dan, I really appreciate how you put your biases out there, and in a complimentary manner. Seems so civilized. Although I still like Sean’s satire and mocking tone, yours is a nice balance to that.

2. I agree about the Jankovic / Serena match. However, I just think JJ has to add some more offense to her game to win a slam. And like her male Serb counter-part, she needs to serve well and concentrate hard when it matters. She has the variety and talent to win a slam, but she’s not quite there. Had she not choked and forced that 3rd set, it would’ve been interesting.

3. Personally, like Pietjep, I don’t go in for “GOAT” – except, that is, when it comes to “cheese”.


grendel Says:

“If he can beat guys like Koubek” – do you not mean Melzer?


Adam Says:

Just wanted to add two points re. Nadal to the excellent article and comments here.

It is Rafa and his uncle who most want Nadal not to become injured a few times and/or retire early. They are both very intelligent and continuously at work solving problems. I expect that Rafa’s more aggressive game in ’08 stems as much from their efforts to address this challenge as from the process of adapting his game to hardcourts. Which is why I have no clear sense as to who is more likely to turned out to be right in the future: those who say Rafa will fall prey to his demanding style of practicing and competing, or those who (elsewhere) have given examples of other professional players who also worked about this hard and yet whose career had lasted longer than the average player’s. If Nadal lasts and remains relatively injury-free I’d say he gets at least 3 more FO’s over the next 7 years (when he’ll turn 28), as least another Wimbledon, and at least 1 hardcourt slam… despite the incredible competition. This would give him a total of at least 7 FO’s, 2 Wimbledons and 1 hardcourt slam.

I’m curious see to what extent Nadal will solve (not entirely but partially) the Murray challenge. We do know that he always works hard at learning and improving everything he can… it will be interesting.


andrea Says:

men’s tennis is pretty darn exciting right now. i’m a full on roger fan but it’s good when he has to fight for the wins. i’m liking that better.

dan, i too was blown away by murray against nadal. i’ve posted before and said the exchanges between those two were the best tennis during the US Open. those two did play a great 5 setter at the AO 2 years ago, so who knows what 09 will bring?

i’m always a bit sad after the US Open – bit of a denouement to the season….


Dan Martin Says:

Yeah, Melzer is who I meant. I should edit my comments more carefully. Jane you are too kind. I agree JJ needs to add some firepower. I also agree Roger will never be viewed as invincible as he once was. Still, he may be transforming from a tyrant of the tour into an ambassador for tennis. Being #2 is not so bad. Roger played the semifinal and final with noticeably less self-imposed stress. Maybe being among the best lets him go out and take his chances.

Murray and Nadal will push each other. I think the next time Nadal plays a journeyman – expect to see the journeyman standing way back on the return.


JoshDragon Says:

Good post Dan. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Murray win the Australian Open next year but with Nadal, Federer, and the defending champion Djokovic all looking to win another major it would be hard to favor Murray.

Also, I’ll be very interested to see how Djokovic does next year. Djokovic, did extremely well on the hard courts at the beginning of the year and almost took the number two position from Nadal back in May but his results during the second part of the season weren’t all that great. His head-to-head against the top players hasn’t improved either. Djokovic is 4-10 vs Nadal and 2-7 vs Federer. If he can’t improve those stats then he won’t win another major.


jane Says:

Dan -”Maybe being among the best lets him go out and take his chances.” – AH! I love that phrase and could I add “currently playing” to “among the best”?

I like the idea of the tight competition we’ll see in the future between some of the top 10 and some of the newbies. There is so much to look forward to with the wobbles & shifts in ranking, including, yes, more wins from Roger and the rest of the top ten players, Rafa, Djoko, Murray, Roddick, etc.

JoshDragon,

I think Djoko still has a few mental hurdles to jump; he needs to work out how to win against those top guys not by being only confident (though that helps him IF it doesn’t add mental pressure), but by being very focused and having a smart game-plan.

He can do it; I’ve seen it against Roger at the AO, when he shifted and started attacking the forehand and how he stay so focused on the big points – winning in that 3rd set tiebreak on his only opportunity, and then again against Rafa in Cincinnati, where he held fast throughout the second set.

But he needs to be able to do these things consistently and in varying conditions. Thus, as others have mentioned, he has to work on his fitness and/or alter his schedule so he’s not worn out by the second half. This is what I hope to see from him, as a supporter: staying positive & focused both on and off the court; developing a more consistent first serve; establishing stronger physical endurance perhaps coupled with a slightly lighter schedule. He’s a player who should almost concentrate on the big events, imho.


PietjeP Says:

Well for Roger to be as invincible again as he once was would be crazy and maybe not good for the game too… Think about it; he was in 13 of the last 14 slam finals! That is like… wow! Imagine that continuing for 3 more years; 25 slam finals :-P It will not happen!

As far as Nadal being invincible on clay; look at how Roger went this year. A couple of losses, the confidence goes down, guys start smelling blood and boom; before you know it you get beaten by guys like Simon, Fish and whomever.

Yes Rafa has dominated on clay. But he was close to losing a couple of times. Right now he has the invincible aura (he plays best too). But 1 or 2 off days and losses…

That’s why Roger and Rafa deserve so much respect. They performed year in year out, match after match. Pressure on top of pressure.
And both are great ambassadors. Rafa’s reaction after his loss to Murray was absolute top of the bill.


grendel Says:

Tejuz, judging from your post, you think Fed is likely to be favourite against Nadal (should they meet) at Wimbie next year? That is interesting. The Nadal fans, as I have posted elsewhere, seem to think their man has now got Wimbledon wrapped up. Are you basing your optimism on how Fed played this year at Wimbledon – basically, threw it away in the first two sets, and surely he won’t do THAT again sort of thing? Or do you feel he’s got a second wind to his career as it were, and will come back strongly? I do feel myself that nothing, quite literally nothing, will be more important to Fed than Wimbledon next year. I think he’d like meet Nadal there.

Somebody’s got a point to prove……


David Says:

Dan, great post. Zola, I agree with your comment about what a great time it is to be a tennis fan, though I’m still not convinced the WTA is at the level it could be losing Henine, Mauresmo crashing, Sharapova injured- a lot to recover from. Hopefully a resurgent Serena will lead the way; would love to see Amelie and Sharapova return to form as well. That would really bring us to a great place.

In terms of Nadal’s longevity, sadly I agree that he may not have a long career. Did you guys see that slow-mo of his serve?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEL4PBsY_Y8

The way he moves just seems so unnatural- his extreme topspin especially, that I can’t imagine he ISN’T damaging his body. He is like a fastball pitcher. I think his shoulder will wear down. He has definitely adapted his game so that he runs a lot less now, hopefully his knees will hold out. It would be a shame to lose such a talent too soon.

Personally, I think Djokovic needs some real weapons to run with the giants, or he may get passed by Murray, Tsonga, Monfils…

And Fed, ah, Fed. Certainly my pick for GOAT. One thing I really used to like about Fed was that he seemed to be always learning and improving- both in matches and between tournaments. He was like Peyton Manning and the Colts offense- probing and seeking weaknesses early on, then attacking in the late games. As his dominance solidified, I had the feeling he gave that up and just relied on his greatness. But Nadal’s enormous improvement seems to have shaken him, and it looks like he’s opened his mind again. I look forward to a great ’08.

And if any of you are interested in the greatest (fictitious) tennis hero of the underground, I invite you to check out

http://www.TennisVagabond.com

or this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tepi_31yFYA


jane Says:

David,

Could you tell me what, in your opinion, are Murray’s, Tsonga’s and Monfils’ “real weapons”? That’s a sincere question.

People have mentioned before at this blog that Djoko lacks a major weapon like Rafa’s forehand or Fed’s serve, and perhaps that’s true. That’s why I think if he could make his first or even second serve into a consistent weapon, it would help. He’s got an excellent return game, he’s fantastic from the back of the court, his movement and flexibility are great, and he’s working on his volleys. So the serve…

But I wonder what Murray’s weapon is? Or Tsonga’s? Or Monfils’? I can’t think, off the top of my head, what to single out.

Murray’s got such variety it’s hard to narrow to 1 “weapon”.

Tsonga’s got power and touch at the net, but he’s inconsistent and often injured. I can’t see him being in the top five to tell you the truth.

Monfils does have the talent to get to the top, but again I don’t know which weapon to pick, and he has worse focus and motivation problems than Djoko. I’d love to see Gael get it all together, but I am not sure.

Consistency…those Frenchmen, and the other one you didn’t mention, Gasquet, lack it, or don’t care about it, or whatever.

To me, of your list of 3 guys, only Murray is a real threat for over-taking Djoko, and frankly, he’s a real threat to anyone above (or below) him. That’s for sure. I agree 100%.

Threatening to all the top tens are JMDP, Cilic and maybe Gulbis. If these guys have enough desire and consistency, they can be up there; I can’t wait to see what they do next year. Nothing like the gap before, or if, potential is filled.


tennisontherocks Says:

Murray’s weapons: the variety itself is a weapon in against the robotic baseliners. His backhand is already the best 2 hander in world. I think now he just needs to stay closer to baseline and force the issue more.

For Tsonga: its raw, effortless power. But needs to learn to stay healthy and consistent.

in general, you don’t necessarily need ‘the big weapon’ to be a great tennis player. But its a nice luxury that can win you easy points when its on.

About Rafa: he is gradually becoming a more aggressive player on hard courts. Not sure how much better he can get and how many slams will win there as a result, but so far I like his trajectory. I had and still have some doubts about his longevity. But few days back there was Roger’s quote about how he is in better shape now than when he was 22-23 year old. As he grew older, he learned from his mistakes and has taken good care of his body/mind. So I will not worry too much about Rafa’s health for another 2 years and I think he looks good to win 3-4 slams in that period.


Jimbojones Says:

Roger’s serve at the U.S. Open would rank where among great servers on tour now and on the all-time list? His serve does not have the mph of Roddick, but it was deadly last week.


Roy Says:

US Open 2008 was highly exciting as well as hugely disappointing, at the same time. Exciting, because, in retrospect, it was privilege to see some rivetting tennis during this Grand-slam: some of the five-setters & four-setters were really superb, although for us avid tennis fans in India, it entailed becoming zombies by remaining awake during nights of those wonderful two weeks!! Alas, the same can’t be said about the quality of US Open 2008 Final between Federer and Murray : the match started at 2.30 am in the morning as per Indian Standard Time and I had to set alarm for getting up,hoping to see a potentially huge match. And if truth be told, while it was awesome to behold the great Federer display his breath-taking array of shots in far-away New York in the wee hours of that morning here, but the starkly one-sided nature of this particular contest, given that both players count fast HC as their favoutite surface, was a huge dis-appointment and a massive let-down for a tennis-fan like me. Not the way, a year-ending Grand-slam final should end: after-all, it represents the pinnacle of that event.  


Tejuz Says:

Grendel..
Federer will always remain a favourite at wimbledon.. atleast for the next 2-3 years. Sure, Nadal will be the co-favourite the next time they meet at wimbledon.. but Fed would want nothing more than to take that title back from Nadal by beating him in the the finals. In fact.. i think he might have something to prove at next year’s French Open… even though Fed will be huge underdog in that encounter.

Look.. it took a Great Great match to break that grass court streak of Federer.. . So he ought to be the favourite on that surface.. just like how Nadal was the favourite even after losing to Roger at Hamburg.


grendel Says:

I see Simon is in another final. Perhaps his defeat of Federer was not such an anomaly.

He’s creeping forward in the ranks in a rather amazing manner, without anyone really noticing. Del Potro this and Cilic that and Gulbis the other and all very deserving no doubt and meanwhile, Simon slinks into the top 10, still nobody notices, Shanghai comes up – whoa, who’s that playing Nadal, and beating him too by the look of it.

Never seen him before in my life. Pass me that clipping.

Good God, it’s Simon.


zola Says:

A nice article on Andy Murray:
http://tennisworld.typepad.com/thewrap/2008/09/scot-of-potenti.html

and Moya defeats GAsquet in Bucharest semis!


Vulcan Says:

Zola, thanks for the update on Moya. In the last couple of years I think he has started to realize that he can’t run as far around his backhand as he was trying to do. I remember watching some of his matches from a couple years back and he seemed to have a phobia about hitting his backhand…which I didnt really understand because he seemed to have a pretty good one. The former number 1 is well into the twilight of his career now so a couple more titles would be nice…theres always Umag!


zola Says:

Vulcan,
Moya had a fabulous year in 2007 and beginning of 2008 but could not keep it up. I am very impressed by his efforts to keep his ranking up. Same with Bjorkman and Santoro who play well into their 30s…and I wish them all some more titles on the way.
I am more surprised by GAsquet. Is he the tour underachiever? He definitely has the game but for some reason cannot remain consistent.


Vulcan Says:

Zola, yes, I wonder were Rafa would be in the world of pro tennis today if Moya had not been there as mentor for him.


Dan Martin Says:

Moya is a great talent. I wish his health had been a bit better in what are considered to be a players’ best years, but his role in Spain’s 2004 Davis Cup title provided a nice bookend to his win at Roland Garros in 1998. Winning Rome, Monte Carlo, and Cincinnati were big prizes too. Moya is a good citizen. I remember him donating 100% of his winnings at India in 2005 to the Tsunami relief fund.


zola Says:

Vulcan
Moya has been very influencial in Rafa’s tennis career. But it is not like he would not have achieved anything without Moya. They hav practiced and hit with each other, but the one who made Rafa the player he is today is uncle Toni and Rafa’s own talent and willingness to learn.


zola Says:

Dan

***Moya is a good citizen. I remember him donating 100% of his winnings at India in 2005 to the Tsunami relief fund.***

How nice. Reminds me of Pat Rafter who donated some of his prize money to a hospital. They have one more thing in common. Both are really handsome!


TD (Tam) Says:

Hi,

I think the real question here is would Federer have won if the USTA did not go out of its way to give him an extra day’s rest while Murray and Nadal had to play their match over two days? Why didnt they start both semis at the same time? I don’t believe that this was unintentional scheduling. It was plain to see that Murray was nowhere near the excellent form he showed in the previous rounds and Federer reaped the benefits of that. I am suspcious because this kind of blatant favourtism towards Federer has been going on for years now. I am curious to know what the regulars here think.


sangredecristo Says:

think Djokovic needs some real weapons to run with the giants, or he may get passed

David, I don’t know. Sampras thinks Nadal and Djokovic will carry the torch. I trust Sampras’ opinion.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYN9Z59dePM

2:42 minutes


sar Says:

Jane, agree about Novak playing mostly important tournaments. I also think he would like to win one of each GS and one of each masters and that would be fine by him. For him I think it’s quality not quantity. What say you?


Dan Martin Says:

RD – physically Murray played 15 games on Sunday versus Nadal. That should not slow a 21 year old down. Mentally the nerves of the inconclusive semifinal Saturday evening and then pre-final jitters Sunday evening might have worn Murray down mentally. Players work out and practice on days they do not play matches so I don’t think 15 games, even 15 games versus Nadal, ruined Murray physically.

Moya and Rafter’s general attractiveness boosts the average looks of male tennis players as my appearance and that of my league buddies certainly draws the average down.


jane Says:

Hi sar,

I don’t think Novak is anxious to have it all; I think he’d like to be number 1 in the world for a bit; that’s important to him, because it’s a childhood dream. I think he’d like to prove his merit, even further, on all surfaces – I mean beyond reaching the semis of all the slams already.

But as far as I can tell, he seems the type who will have plenty to enjoy in life after tennis; he loves life – seems to want to enjoy it, as he says. He’s passionate about doing well, though, and clearly he’s ambitious, but I think Novak will seek and enjoy tennis while he can – and then he’ll move on. I hope we still hear from him in some capacity after he leaves tennis. He’s a person, with all of his blatant flaws, in fact probably because of all of those flaws and blunders, that I admire. I like hearts on sleeves; what can I say?


jane Says:

Grendel, You’re right about Simon; he just won another title and will move up to #12. There is a chance he could get to the Masters. He flies under the radar; there’s nothing flashy about him, but he’s got a steady game. When he beat Fed in Toronto he stayed very focused, not the least overwhelmed by the occasion. And he gave JMDP an excellent fight at the USO.


David Says:

I saw Simon play Keifer in the semis in Toronto- it was a fabulous match, much better than Nadal/Murray that evening, but what really amazed me was that Simon did not seem to have any weapons at all. I just can’t figure out how this guy stays in matched, let alone wins, but he’s been doing it all summer. It would be neat to see more of him and try to figure out how he does it.

As for the weapons of those below Djokovic- Murray’s is his backhand. Monfils I would have to say his forehand, and Tsonga- to be honest I haven;t really seen him play much, so I’m just going by his results.
I notice a lot of people cite Federer’s serve as his weapon- his serve is great, but not exactly Sampras-like. I think Fed’s forehand, when its on, is absolutely fierce. His inside-out shots in the Wimbledon final were outrageous. In my humble opinion, Fed’s forehand is the best shot in tennis.


David Says:

I notice a lot of folks, myself included, talking about the excitement in men’s tennis right now. I wonder when was the last time each of you was so excited for a new tennis season? I’m stumped, I’d like to hear some ideas.

You always get excited for a new season, after all, but when else have you getten especially excited like this?


zola Says:

David,
I get bored when there is no tennis. So I am always excited about it. But this season is very special with all these up and coming talents.

I think it was after Wimbledon 08 that I realized this is a very special time. I have the opportunity to watch two all time greats. Now with all these talents; Murray, Djoko, Del Potro, Simone,Gulbis,….I think this is an extra special time in tennis that may not be repeated for a log time.

Even as much as I loved to watch Sampras,Agassi, Rafter, Becker, Edberg, … I don’t remember being so excited about tennis. It is partly Rafa, but also the great field as well.


zola Says:

David, there is someone who agrees with you on Fed’s forehand and that’s Rafa. In IW 07 they asked him if he thought Gonzo’s forehand was the best and he said it is great, but Fed’s is the best.


FoT Says:

Personally the best time in tennis for me was between November, 2003 (from the Master’s Cup event in Houston) to November, 2007 (the Master’s Cup in China). Everything in between those times were just fantastic for me, exciting, and I was in 7th heaven. Of course I’m a Federer fan!!!! lol!


Colin Says:

Good stuff, Dan, and as I’ve said before on this forum, it’s great to see the appreciation Murray gets in america – often more than he gets here in the UK. A couple of years ago, in an interview, Murray was aked who he wanted to win some football tournament (don’t know which – I don’t follow football). He said jokingly, “Anyone but England”, and countless English troglodytes have never forgiven him, being too dim to know he’s joking, because of his laid-back Scottish tone. Even the guy who did the interview has said Andy was joking. I am English myself, and a Murray fan.
By the way, I learned another American word from the article – blinders. I assume that’s what we English call blinkers.


zola Says:

***waves to FoT****
How are you doing?
Surely feeling much better after US Open!

Colin,
The British media has been harsh on Andy Murray, calling him many names sometimes. I guess the treatment is better now that he is winning and he has been calmer on court. I read Eurosport and timesonline very often and I can see how proud they are of him.
I started to pay attention to him after his match with Rafa in AO 2007. He played great and yet was so respectful after the match. I also admire the way he worked so hard to improve his game.


Roy Says:

“David Says:

I saw Simon play Keifer in the semis in Toronto- it was a fabulous match, much better than Nadal/Murray that evening….”

Would like to differ from this judgement: saw both the matches, Simon-Kiefer and Rafa-Murray. While the first match seemed to be marred by a series of unfortunate errors by the aging Pro as well as the up-coming talent, in comparison, the second match was more evenly contested.


MMT Says:

Dan: “New York draws out reserves of toughness from more fragile players.”

I’m not sure I agree with this statement. I don’t think you can say his opponents have played collectively better/tougher all these years – more likely his own level is lower at the US Open.

Most cite fatigue, which I suppose is a fair assessment. I don’t recall seeing him take too many injury time-outs in Paris or at Wimbledon, but he seems to do it a lot in New York.

I’d have to say his weakest surface is hard-courts – as evidenced by equal futility in Australia. Maybe he’ll win in Melbourne next year, but it’s safe to say that the variety of opponents he’s lost to in Melbourne AND New York indicate that his level is not as high on hard courts as other surfaces. Masters Series tournaments notwithstanding.


Mike de Paris Says:

Jane: “Could you tell me what, in your opinion, are Murray’s, Tsonga’s and Monfils’ “real weapons”? That’s a sincere question.”

Murray’s closest thing to a weapon is his touch. As much as a out-of-the-blue drop shot or flick-of-the-wrist passing shot can be considered a weapon, Murray’s armed to the teeth.

Tsonga’s weapon is a work in progress…his volley. He could be a more athletic Rafter if injuries don’t plague him (even more than they plagued Pat himself).

Monfils…nope, no real weapons. While it can be fun to watch him scramble around the area behind the baseline which would be the fence in most municipal tennis courts, I can’t honestly call his admittedly-impressive court coverage a “weapon”. He hits a hard, flat serve and he’s tall, so he’ll win free points with that, but it’s not a weapon in the way that Roddick or the giants (Karlovic, Isner, etc.) have often-overwhelming serves. Monfils closes his eyes every once in a while to hit out at a booming forehand, sure, but I would be hard-pressed to say that he is in the top 500 in the world in any “tennis” shot (other than the aforementioned serve). Still, he has the kind of game that should allow him to have a few decent Roland Garroses and keep the partisan crowd happy.


jane Says:

Mike de Paris

Thanks for the feedback.

Murray – his touch seems effortless, as does his movement; both of these add up to speed and in conjunction to that an element of surprise in disguising his shots well. (Thankfully he’s cut down on those drop-shots though!)

Tsonga – not sure I agree. He can miss on those volleys as much as he can make them. Witness the difference between the matches versus Rafa and Djokovic at the AO. Mind you, Djoko had the right strategy of keeping Joe back, but Joe was missing much more than in the semi-final. Thus, I think he’s still too inconsistent to be top 5. But he may prove me wrong.

Monfils – Maybe clay is his best shot to win a major title (MS or slam) because of his movement & flexibility, coupled with that fact that he can really grind from the back of the court too.


Roy Says:

MMT Says:

“…I’d have to say his weakest surface is hard-courts – as evidenced by equal futility in Australia…. that his level is not as high on hard courts as other surfaces. Masters Series tournaments notwithstanding.”

MMT, while talking of success or lack of it on a particular surface for a partcular player, test of fairness prompts one to ask :

Pray, why should MS results be discounted and only GS results counted for passing the extreme judgement such as “futility” ?


jimbojones Says:

Monfils needs to stop being a pusher. Not sure a player can radically change their stroke production this late in their development. However, he has no real dominating attack outside of a pretty good serve and great defensive tennis.


Mike de Paris Says:

Jane, as for Tsonga, I fully agree…that’s why I said his weapon’s a work in progress. Tsonga is not a good enough player right now to win any kind of major tournament unless he just gets freakishly hot (the way he did Down Under), but I do see him having the potential to be a dangerous attacking player who uses his power to get to the net and put away his foe. Right now his volleys are sloppy…sometimes even nonchalant. He could really stand to watch a few highlight films of the Edbergs/Federers/Rafters of tennis to see how it should be done.

Jimbo, I am with you that it’s probably too late for Monfils. To be brutally honest, I just don’t think he’s much of a natural tennis player…he’s a great athlete and a fierce competitor though, so he’ll probably have a decent career, particularly on the slidey stuff!


TennisMasta Says:

Dan,

You are the very best in terms of in-depth analysis and coverage of players. I always learn something new from your articles.

Regarding the GOAT debate, it is one thing what fans of various players say with their clear biases. But it is completely a different thing when players themselves jump into it. We already know what top active players have said about Roger. We already know what all the legends have said. Now here is the latest from Andy Murray. An excerpt from an interview available on his web site.

Q. You said on court that you felt Roger was the best of all time. If you had to boil it down just to one or two things that really allowed him to step up and be a player, what are those one or two things?

Answer:
It’s tough to say, I guess, that someone is outrightly the best player of all time. I mean, Sampras is obviously great, as well, and had some unbelievable runs, but I think –; I mean, I was looking on the –; I was watching on the TV when he was playing against Andreev, and it came up and said when he won the first set and matches and Slams, he’s won 144 matches and only lost 4. And he’s only lost in his whole career I think, you know, 23, 24 matches in Slams.

You know, in the big tournaments, he never has early losses. He’s been so dominant, you know, in terms of ranking for the last five years, even when I think Nadal might get very close to winning the same amount of Slams as Federer and Sampras. You know, even when someone as good as him who is right behind him, you know, he’s still a long way ahead in points, and it’s only been until this year that Nadal has caught up to him.

So I think that sort of five years of dominance, the runs here and at Wimbledon, winning five in a row, and even at the French, he’s definitely a better clay court player than Sampras. He’s coming up against I think the –; well, definitely the best clay court player of all time in Nadal. That’s why I think that, you know, there’s a very strong argument for him being the best player.

I think Murray summed it up very well. It is almost as well thought out as your articles, Dan.


FoT Says:

*waves* back at Zola! Yes, I feel wonderful now. Your boy took 2, Novak took 1 and finally Roger got one! It’s not the 3 that he normally get, but hey – I’ll settle for one! One is better than none!!!! lol!


gulu Says:

Nice and decent article by Dan.Excellent views by all of you too!Hope I shall make a good company as well.

Top story: Coric Ends Nadal's Season In Basel, Federer Overwhelms Dimitrov; Ferrer v Murray In Valencia
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