Novak Djokovic: From Most Improved to Most Dominant
| May 17th, 2011, 12:30 am
  • 158 Comments

By Matthew Laird, Special to Tennis-X.com

Even before Novak Djokovic began his absolutely astounding run of form at last year’s Davis Cup, he already had one interesting honor to his name: he is the only player to win the ATP’s annual Most Improved Player in two consecutive years. Novak first won the award in 2006, when he began the year ranked 78th and finish it ranked 14th, having won two titles and gone 35-17 on the year. In 2005, he had gone a mere 9-9. As if that rise wasn’t enough, the following year, Djokovic moved from 14th all the way up to 3rd. During 2007, Novak made the semifinals at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, followed by a final at the U.S. Open, but his most impressive result was at the Canada Masters event, where he won the title while becoming the first player to beat the 3rd, 2nd, and top-ranked players back-to-back-to-back.

The pinnacle of Djokovic’s initial rise came at the 2008 Australian Open, where he avenged his U.S. Open loss against Federer in the semifinals and then ousted surprise finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to bag his first Grand Slam title. At the moment, it seemed that Novak’s progress was unstoppable. After Djokovic ousted Federer, the Serb’s mother Dijana said in an interview, “The king is dead, long live the king.” That comment turned out to be just premature, if not exactly wrong.

After Djokovic ousted Rafael on Sunday in the fourth Master’s Series final the pair has contested this year, it is very nearly a mathematical certainty that Djokovic will soon ascend to the rarefied air of the number one ranking. In fact, it is nearly a guarantee that he will be there as soon as June 6. As champion, Nadal is defending 2000 points at the French Open, but Djokovic has a mere 360, as a losing quarterfinalist. Even if Nadal does manage to repeat his title, he still won’t be able to hold off the Serb, so long as Djokovic advances a bit further than he did in 2010. So one of two things needs to happen: if Nadal fails to win the title, or if Djokovic makes the final. Of course, as the top two seeds, Djokovic and Nadal can’t meet before the final.

And even if neither of those events occurs in the upcoming fortnight, it’s still only a matter of time. Djokovic has accumulated 6750 points this year alone, and Nadal has more then 7000 points to defend before the year’s done. At this point, Djokovic is only 405 points behind Rafa. There’s just no way that Rafa can hold Novak off for that long. It’s only fair, as well. At the moment, Djokovic is one of three players since 1980 who have won two Grand Slam titles without being ranked number one in the world. The others are Sergi Brugera, who barely ever played except on clay, and Johan Kriek, who won the Australian Open twice in the early 80′s, when the top players simply didn’t make the trip. It may not be official yet, but there’s no doubt that Djokovic has been playing like the number one player in the world this entire year.

I contend that the rise in Djokovic’s level this year is even more impressive, by a pretty wide margin, than his improvement in either 2006 or 2007. Last year, Djokovic was struggling on serve. He had fiddled with the motion, and his number of double-faults went through the roof. He was struggling with confidence, as well. He lost unexpectedly in the first three Grand Slams of the year, to the very talented but relatively unaccomplished trio of Tsonga, Melzer, and Berdych. He came within inches of losing to Roger Federer in the U.S. Open semifinals, hitting two of the biggest forehands I’ve ever seen to save a pair of match points.

Djokovic played well, but not exceptionally, in the remainder of 2010. Federer got him back three times in the post-U.S. Open swing through Asia and the European indoor courts, including a loss in the semifinals at the World Tour Finals, back in November. That was the last time Djokovic lost. He then dominated his matches in the Davis Cup final, winning two of the team’s three points. Some people claim that the Serbian victory in the Davis Cup final energized Djokovic at the start of 2011, fueled his confidence, and contributed to his white-hot run of form in the first five months of the year.

To me, that explanation is woefully insufficient to explain what is quickly becoming a historic streak. Djokovic is two matches away from tying Roger Federer’s longest career winning streak (41), five matches from tying John McEnroe’s best-ever start to a season (42, but keep in mind Novak’s Davis Cup wins in 2010 don’t count toward this record), and seven matches from tying the longest ever winning streak since the start of the Open Era, 46 matches by Guillermo Vilas back in 1978.

This is not just a slight jump in his level. The change between 2010-vintage Djokovic and the man who has blazed through every opponent he has faced this year is unprecedented in such a short time frame. Djokovic is a player who struggled with fitness and breathing, who had a reputation for retiring from matches, who sometimes showed mental lapses in the tightest moments of matches. This is not intended to be a knock on Djokovic; every player has problems like those. But this year, that side of Novak’s game has been conspicuously absent.

That fact was never more clear than on Sunday, when Djokovic returned from a spectacularly close win against Andy Murray in the semifinals, which he pulled through even after the Scot served for the match in the third set. At times, Novak looked physically and mentally exhausted. He was two points from defeat, and then he was back on court, less than 18 hours later. All the evidence would have suggested that Djokovic wouldn’t be able to bounce back that quickly, since Nadal not only had an easier match but more time to recover. Commentators talked about how they hoped that the match would at least be “competitive.” After two tight hours, it proved to be a very competitive match, but Djokovic didn’t just make a good showing of himself, he somehow managed to win.

He had beaten Rafael Nadal in consecutive clay-court finals. He had beaten Rafael Nadal four times in a row. If he felt any effects from the match against Andy Murray, he didn’t show it at all. Nadal came out with a gameplan, to run Djokovic from one side of the court to the other, but Novak would not be denied. He continued to bludgeon his backhands, run down every shot that Nadal threw at him, and simply refuse to miss. His ability to hit enormous shots, to create absurd angles, to paint the lines point after point is not new. He’s shown that he can play at this level before. But in the past, he had been at this level for maybe a handful of matches each year. This year, he has been untouchable every time he stepped on court, 37 matches in a row.

I don’t know how to explain it. The Davis Cup win is certainly a factor. Djokovic’s camp says he is on a new gluten-free diet. Maybe he’s just in the perfect mental state to maximize his level, every time he plays a match. He’s been zoning for five straight months, and it has become a historic run. When Djokovic loses, and he has to lose eventually, whether that occurs during the French Open, Wimbledon, or during the U.S. hard court swing over the summer, it doesn’t matter if Djokovic doesn’t pick up a racket for the rest of the year. He is still my hands-down pick for the Most Improved Player in 2011.


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158 Comments for Novak Djokovic: From Most Improved to Most Dominant

felix Says:

Wow, what a lovely article, good to know.
i think the guy deserved it, hope he will accomplish more grand slam this year


Duro Says:

“He’s been zoning for five straight months, and it has become a historic run. When Djokovic loses, and he has to lose eventually, whether that occurs during the French Open, Wimbledon, or during the U.S. hard court swing over the summer, it doesn’t matter if Djokovic doesn’t pick up a racket for the rest of the year. He is still my hands-down pick for the Most Improved Player in 2011.”

Brilliant.


Huh Says:

nole’s pleasin me very
much with som great tenis right now but Rafa remains my pick for the FO and head says he’s the undisputed king of clay even now n the BIG FAVE; sorry guys but its hard to see how nole can b called a fave at a slam(and dat too FO)until he actualy takes rafa down at one of the 4 greatest stages of tenis. However one thing’s for sure, Rafa’s not playin his best tenis on clay right now, he’s not the aggressiv rafa he used to be previously, and its noteworthy that he’s only few days away from turning 25, and he’s already been at very top for 7 years; time’s catchin up with him perhaps or watever else the reason might be, but rafa for sure doesn’t seem to be as motivated anymor; to me, for the first time he’s showin his vulnerablity n loss of intensity and even relative contentness in accruing victories. That doesnt mean the Matadore De Tennis(are u still there dear jugadore de tennis? ;) com back pleas!) can be stopped from winning more slams, but the will, desire and the fire in his eyes have slightly dampened perhaps or thats what at least it appears to me. Rafa seems content with playing not to lose rather than going for the kill against his biggest immediate threat novak djokovic. How to explain otherwise the really defensiv play vs novak in rome, the level of tennis in the final was still amazin but rafa’s capabl of playin better than that(here I’d like to say though that nole was lookin ALMOST, if not absolutely unbeatabl), may be nole’d have beaten rafa in the rome final even if rafa played at his near best or best, but I’d not bet on a nole win if both clash at their best on clay(I’d give the edge to rafa against anyone on clay if he’s at his best). I m not intending to glorify rafa or put down nole by statin this, but this is what I feel. Sorry to Nole fans if it comes across as a dig against nole, but am tryin to be as unbiased as possibl. Nole may beat Rafa at RG this year, but I honestly dont think the real Rafa can be subdued at RG by even this Nole unless Rafa’s below his best. That said I’d concede beatin a Rafa not playin at his best over 5 sets at RG is a task of Herculean magnitude(almost impossibl) and a REAL historic feat, only Soderling has done it so before, once; so here I hope, my dear nole fans, that for the sake of you as also for the sake of Fed fans(-cum Nole admirers like me), Djokovic creates HISTORY by beatin Nadal in FO 11 final(in case it happens), coz by that Nole would have not just done the impossibl of beatin rafa at RG, but also it’d be happening in final which means Nole’ victory’d be even higher placed historicaly as it’d hapen in final(Sod’s happened only in 4th round and not just even that, it’d also be great to see that he’d be the first player since TMF to hav defeated Nadal in a slam final(that too on his fave clay which even TMF come close to doing in his heydays!!!)!!! TENNIS IMMORTALITY would be bestowed upon Nole in a way beyond anyone else’s reach or imagination! Moreover it’d help a great deal in stavin off Rafa threat to Fed’s record which is so vital for forever Fed fans like me! ;) GOD BLESS NOLE AT !!!


Huh Says:

I of cours mean “which even TMF couldnt com close to doin in his heydays” in my previos post. sory for the typo mistake. ;)


Huh Says:

i m lovin the recent transition of nole from bein the most improved to most dominant, it was long due in his case. but muzza too must join nole in sharin the spoils and making big kills because, a headcase kinda person thou muzza might be, but he’s still an incredibly talented player like nole and has everything in his arsenal to create headache for the rest of the tour(includin good ole mr.fed n rafa :P), much like what nole’ doin right now. Enuf of Fedal/Fedole n Nadole, hope the Nolandy, Delandy n Delole starts soon, it’d be so great, my mouth’s already waterin at d prospect of its happenin soon(HOPEFULLY)!!! :P :D B-)


Huh Says:

DURO: Most improved player of the year’s already old stuff, time for nole fans n admirers to want, wish, hope n pray for a ATP Player Of The Year and a LAUREUS World Player Award for Nole, not to mention the ATP Fans’ Fave Prize too! ;) I coulda given the player of 2011 award to nole already if it were within me! :P
Wel, if(I sure wish it happens) Nole wins at least one more GS this year, expect me to start lobbyin for him to b awarded! ;)


Duro Says:

Huh, if and when he gets to No1-vak, then it will come naturally. Until then…

Do I have to mention that I do not doubt it a bit?

In No1-vak I trust!

Allez alleeeez…


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Great article, and really well deserved attention for the greatest player on tour. Yeah, Novak had all the shots before, but everything now is just a bit better. Add to that “little things” like fitness, health, and the confidence coming from fitness and health (and a clicking serve) and you’ve got a LOT of things adding up to make a big difference.
The shots Novak used to make a few times a match, he’s now making every game. His defense, always great, was never near Rafa’s level. I would have pegged him below Murray and Fed a year or two ago. Now I think he’s at Rafa’s superhuman level or better. When you’re fit, everything is easier. As a rugby teammate used to say, Fatigue makes cowards of us all.


jane Says:

Thanks, a very interestinf article: I agree with Tennis Vagabond that a lot of things have just come to fruition.

And he models too, ;). Here’s a picture from the Fashion for Relief show to support Japan in Cannes:

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/135/001pvs.jpg/


stu Says:

Thanks for a great article, Matthew Laird!

And jane,*swoon*

*faints*


stu Says:

Excellent WSJ article that discusses everything I’ve been saying about Djokovic’s streak vs. Roger’s and others’….

http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2011/05/16/the-dominant-djokovic-streak/


Dory Says:

Wow nice article summarizing his progress. It really is a mix of many factors. The confidence he got from the Davis Cup win and that USO semi win against RF, the improved maturity that comes with actually winning, the diet changes, serve improvements. I have been watching Djokovic at no. 3 for quite some time and he’s been performing very well usually at the end of the season on hard courts. It’s not easy to remain at No.3 for so long either but this year he truly nailed it. I just hope this run continues for as long as possible. I don’t want to even think of when it will stop. Wish he could dominate like Roger did.


Eric Says:

“Moreover, Djokovic has been more dominant in his streak than Federer was in his, and against tougher competition. He’s won 90% of his sets and 65% of games, while serving up a bagel set every 10 sets. In Federer’s first streak he won 89% of sets and 61% of games, with a bagel every 19 sets. His second, longer streak, was closer to Djokovic’s level, with 93% of sets won and 63% of games, and a bagel every 12 sets. Even more impressively, Djokovic has faced and beaten top competition repeatedly. Just three of his opponents ranked outside the Top 100 (and one of those, James Blake, is a former Top Five player.) Federer faced four players outside the Top 100 in each streak. Djokovic’s opponents’ median ranking has been 21, compared to 25 in Federer’s more recent streak and 35 in his earlier one. ”

An excellent example of meaningless and incompetent statistical “analysis.”

Djoko’s streak is “better” because he’s won 1% more sets and had one fewer >100 ranked opponent? LOL. And Blake is a former top-5 player, but he sucks now, so that’s completely meaningless. I wonder if this person actually knows anything about tennis, or is just pushing numbers around.

Djokovic’s streak is just as impressive and remarkable as any of Federer’s streaks – and it might soon get even better. If Nole can win the French I would have a hard time seeing how his 2011 season could end up not being on a par with the most dominant years of Mac or Fed. But how impressive and dominant he’s been has nothing to do with this kind of BS statistical crap.


Ben Pronin Says:

Eric, where’d you get that paragraph comparing the statistics?

Either way, I agree. The numbers are cool to look at for both guys, but comparing them to determine who is “better” is just dumb.


stu Says:

Most of it may be dumb (the 89% vs 90% for example), but I think the author makes a valid point when he says:

“…beating Top Five players 10 times and fellow Top Three players seven times — Nadal four times and Federer three times. That’s more than Federer’s number of matches against competition that good in his two streaks combined: Just nine matches against Top Five players and just two against players in the top three, including, crucially, just one against Nadal, who has won two-thirds of their career meetings. Djokovic had a losing record against both Federer and Nadal before the streak, and still does, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap against both of them.”

One could also argue (highly debatable of course) that the players ranked from 4-6 now could have been top 3 when Roger was TMF.


stu Says:

^^ not that it matters whose streak is better, I just want Novak to get due credit even without having to break Roger’s or JMac’s or Vilas’ records coz really, what he’s doing is already incredible and it’s a pity he has to do more to make the record books.


stu Says:

What’s wrong with him though, why does he have to play an exho the week before RG?!!!

From his homepage:
“Nole will also take part in a tennis team exhibition event, Masters Guinot-Mary Cohr, which will be played on clay the week before the French Open (May 18-20).”


Ben Pronin Says:

Djokovic is already in the record books. What do you mean he has to do more?

It’s not Federer’s fault he didn’t beat as many top 5 guys or whatever. He beat everyone put in front of him. Just like Djokovic has. What’s with all the diminishing of records all the time. Djokovic proclaiming himself a soon-to-be all time great has gotten him into the always dumb Fedal wars.

How about recognizing the fact that Federer had mutliple 20+ streaks?

I think if Djokovic wins the French, he will probably go on to have the greatest season of all time. Better than Fed’s 06 and 05, and McEnroe’s 84. The thing is, how the hell is he going to back that up. Is he going to win his first 7 titles of the season next year? I really think the ATP needs to revamp the points system somewhat because I can already foresee Djokovic, after claiming the number 1 ranking, losing it sooner than he should in 2012.


stu Says:

Nobody is diminishing Federer’s records. Regarding this particular record, i.e the 41-match winning streak, I think Djokovic’s 39 is more impressive. Yet, unless he wins 3 matches more, it will be Federer in the record book for the longest streak of the era. I acknowledge all of RF’s amazing contributions to tennis, I just think Nole deserves to be recognized as well (and not as the 6th-longest winning streak). I agree that if Djokovic wins the French, he will be considered one of the tennis beasts of his era, but it shouldn’t have to take THAT much.

As for losing the #1 ranking, unless the same player (a rejuvenated Rafa?) wins all these tournaments next year, and Djokovic goes through a bad patch of form or injury, I don’t think he has too much to worry about. I’m just hoping he stays healthy, and doesn’t crash out of the second HC season where he usually performs well.


Jason Says:

Most improved player for this year will be Raonic, bet on it. It’s not that Djokovic isn’t massively improved and that going from #3 to #1 isn’t a big leap, they are going to have other awards to hang on him whereas Raonic massive rankings jump is the more typical criteria for ‘most improved’.


jane Says:

“Djokovic proclaiming himself a soon-to-be all time great”

Did he proclaim this? I haven’t read anything of that ilk.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Stu- your guy is doing great. Everyone is acknowledging this. Your weird assertion that this is not enough and that, should Novak’s good year end tomorrow without official record book status, we need to anoint his head with olive oil and laurel wreaths, lest we forget the Streak, is getting kind of weird. What is it you’re demanding exactly in the way of recognition? Should we all sign a letter? Buy a plaque? Get tattoos?


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Sorry for saying “weird” twice in the same sentence.
We’re still on for the Novak tattoos, right?


Ben Pronin Says:

Stu, whether the streak is more impressive or not will always be up for debate. Is McEnroe’s 42 match win streak more impressive than Federer’s 41 wins even though Federer’s included 2 slams and McEnroe’s 0?

These are simply numbers. The record “books” hold numbers. For example, everyone wants to put an asterisk on Federer’s 2009 French Open win. But the asterisk will always only be in a person’s mind. The official ATP records will list Federer as the 2009 French Open Champion. That’s how it’s recorded. They’re not going to put an asterisk there and say “Did not play Nadal in final.” Same with this. The numbers are recorded, there’s no footnotes that are going to say “Djokovic beat Nadal a bunch of times but Federer didn’t.”

Either way, Djokovic is all but guaranteed to break Federer’s streak. He needs to win 3 matches at the French Open. Is there any doubt he’ll make the 4th round?

Jane, perhaps proclaim is the wrong word. I don’t mean he said anything, I mean with the way he’s playing it’s pretty clear that this guy is going to have a spectacular career that could very well land him in the top 10 greatest players of all time discussion (if not higher).


dari Says:

No way on the Mary cohr masters. I guess he just wants to keep the train going, its worked for him so far!
Jane, grendel, totally off topic but I read dfw infinite jest in its entirety finished it this morning. What a ride, will not read the next one for a while, though, that’s for sure!
Hard to flat out recommend a book like that, but I loved it!


stu Says:

Ben, that’s exactly what I was trying to point out. That Djokovic has to work harder because two insanely talented players have set the bar so high in the past decade. I’m sure it will mean that much more for him when he does make his own records, but I’m not taking R4 at the French for granted yet.

TV, I’ve had my Nole tattoo since 2007, when are you jumping on the bandwagon?


Ben Pronin Says:

Why should he have it easy? It’s not like Federer and McEnroe aren’t deserving of their records. If anything, it’s pretty amazing that Djokovic is on the verge of holding a better record than these two. No knock on Djokovic, but it was always expected of Federer and McEnroe to be so great, seeing as how they’re often regarded as two of the most naturally talented players to ever wield a racquet. Djokovic, while talented, was never regarded the same way. Huge credit to him for improving as much as he has (contrary to popular belief, he didn’t have “all the shots” when he first burst onto the scene the way Federer did).


Little Wing Says:

Tennis Vagabond,

LOL. You forgot build a shrine, erect a statue and perform a human sacrifice:)


jane Says:

Okay Ben. I thought you meany something else.

dari, way to go. It is still on my list to read.

stu, what Nole’s done is already fab. No one can take it away. And all that matters is that he stays healthy and keeps enjoying. Also, as MMT pointed out, it is key that once he does lose, whether before or after the FO fourth round, finals, or whatever, that he get right back up and keep on fighting. I can’t believe he is bothering with that exo! Why? He should be saving up.


jane Says:

Damn typos with this ipad. Should be “meant” not meany. :)


Howard Says:

I admire what Nole has done, but when one thinks about the big fitness component upgrade in his matchplay and endurance, the substance abuse question would seem to arise at least as a possibility. This is not an accusation, nor is it meant as a smear. It’s just that, as the writer himself suggests, if indirectly, this improvement in physical conditioning and resilience is simply off the charts.


Cec Says:

What Novak has accomplished so far has been amazing. His hard work is finally paying off and he has shown he deserves the #1 ranking more than any other player this year.

However, all these comparisons to Federer are ridiculous. Roger is not even my favorite player (Rafa is), but there is a hell of a lot more for Novak to do to be considered his equal. One season of dominance is nothing compared to a period of 4+ years of consistently beating every top player on the tour.

24 consecutive grand slam semifinals, 10 consecutive grand slam finals (!), 8 consecutive grand slam finals twice, 27 (and counting) consecutive grand slam quarterfinals… 285 weeks as #1, career grand slam.

He would’ve accomplished the calendar year grand slam at least twice had it not been for a certain fellow from Spain
hogging on the French Open title for 4 years in a row.

So yeah, no one comes even close; not even Rafa with his 19 masters 1000 titles and golden slam and other records. Let alone Nole, as thoroughly impressive as he is this year. Since their careers are at earlier stages than Fed’s, let us take a look 8 years from now to see how our favorite players stack up to the GOAT.


Nina Says:

I will not even address the last comment because it’s so insulting.

Great article, though, agree with everything said that. But they won’t give him the Best Improved Player Of The Year in 2011, they should definitely give him the Best Player Of The Year award. Period.

Stu, jane, kimmi, grendel, margot… i guess you haven’t watched these pics from today in Cannes (Film Festival)? Nole and Jelena looking absolutely gorgeous on the red carpet:
http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/06JG3so5pz7b9/740x.jpg
http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/05k2dFPbzu3Q4/520x.jpg
http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/07q90JU2IIbzl/520x.jpg
http://images.fanfeedr.com/2011/05/17/0/h0b99a5f7ff6c5f669771675aab14b0e9.jpg

Also watch Nole being interviewed alongside Jodie Foster (from 8 min) and asked to imitate Rafa in a tuxedo. Poor Nole, the things he gets asked to do. But he pulled it off with class.
http://festival-cannes.canalplus.fr/festival-cannes/le-grand-journal-de-cannes


Nina Says:

Sorry, I meant Howards’ comment.


jane Says:

Nina, wow a nice-looking couple! Jelena looks stunning. I posted the catwalk shots earlier, and dari posted one of Nole and Jelena. Thanks for all the links, including the video.


Kimmi Says:

WOW! nole everywhere now. lots of french in that video, i was able to get bits of novak interview.

great pics of novak and girlfriend. have not seen her for a while, she used to travel with nole a lot but not anymore? i actually thought they are not together anymore.

great pics..the kiss is good too.


Coke Says:

Great article!


skeezerweezer Says:

@Nina

If they had ” A “Best player of the year” award in a bracket challenge, no doubt I would pick Nole. He should and will win, unless someone can duplicate what he has already done this year.

Hey Fed & Rafa fans, as a Fed fan, give Nole fans a break here for a bit. What might be overzealous in how great Nole is from some, there is no doubt he deserves the praise of accomplishments this year, and it’s not over by a long shot. Just like last year, when Rafa was winning 3 out 4 slams, welcome praises were well deserved. I don’t see anyone claiming Nole as a GOAT, but his run this year WILL be in the history books. Most of Fed’s fantastical records are preserved for now, and no one is going to touch that for a long time ( except the winning streak? :-) ). However, we are in the Tennis of today, and today, Nole reigns supreme.


Kimmi Says:

roddick pulled out of nice due to the same shoulder injury that saw him pulled out of doubles final in rome.


Kimmi Says:

Kim to play at french open..great news. I am excited. Don’t know how good she will be though…


Nina Says:

Exactly skeezer. Nobody’s is saying Nole is the Goat. We’re just ejoying this hell of a ride. :)))


dari Says:

Kimmi- thanks for spr


dari Says:

Whoops. Hit send on phone.
Thanks kimmi for the good news.on Kim c!
Considering Venus and serena aren’t there, this is shaping up to be a great slam still, with Kim there, Maria playing well, gorgeous, kvitova… good stuff. Will do a ladies bracket I think!
I agree with skeeze. There were cries for someone to.mix it up with Rafa for dominance on.clay and otherwise and we got it- and then some!
Most exciting clay season I’ve watched, even with my guy going out a bit early each time.
Mega props to Novak!


Kimberly Says:

http://www.tourneytopia.com/RacquetBracketFrenchOpenATP/tennisxfansforever/Pre-Register.aspx

Mens bracket pre-resister! Already like ten people (as admin. i can tell).

ColinO5 is now ColinO5soon6


Tennis Vagabond Says:

dari- happy you read Infinite Jest. It is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, though the ending bugged me so much I had a hard time recommending it too. If you’re looking for more great DFW, I would say stay away from Broom of the System. Not even same league.
Actually, Infinite Jest is the second best novel about tennis.
The best is about a certain Bacon O’Rourke and his legendary underground tennis caravan, and their enemies in the shadowy Tennis Illuminati.
You can learn more at the podcast here, http://www.TennisVagabond.com, and I’m always happy to email a pdf of the book.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

DFW also wrote an amazing article about Fed for the NYT (I think), I’m sure you can find it on-line. He was a highly ranked junior himself. The focus in Infinite Jest on pastimes, amusement and existence is so intelligently done, with the writing itself so beautiful and sharp, it really is in a class on its own. Except for Bacon O’Rourke, Tennis Vagabond, of course, but I said that already.

DFW’s short stories are very inconsistent but there are some great ones. I think really his non-fiction is the best of his work outside of Infinite Jest.


sar Says:

the substance abuse question would seem to arise at least as a possibility.

A pee and blood test solves everything Howard. I’m sure they have already thought of that.


dari Says:

TV! I Actually listened to the first chapter of your cast I enjoyed it and will definitely go back and listen to more!
Who is your fave ETA character?!
I like Ortho stice ( cf. Darth federer uso 2007!),
Lateral Alice Moore.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

sar- not sure if you’re being sarcastic but it just isn’t so. Before I get spat on, I AM NOT SUGGESTING ANYONE JUICES. What I am saying is that doping technology can be ahead of testing techniques, which are always designed based on past doping technologies. I would never bet the ranch on any of these players being clean. I hope they all are, but suspicion is natural when you look at how many times the public has been lied to, not just by athletes, but by sports leagues and bodies pretending they are addressing the problem when they’re sweeping things under the rug.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Haha, Dari- thanks a lot! Its been a lot of years since I read Infinite Jest, and I can’t really remember the Academy Characters except for the mathematician friend and that amazing game they played on the courts. Also, the older brother “Tell me what kind of man you’d be attracted to and I will affect the personality of that man”.

Also, they accuse Canadians of lifting one butt cheek off the chair to fart and I adamantly… refuse to answer that question. The whole idea of the Quebec wheelchair separatists is also brilliant…or US experialism… Man, there’s a WHOLE LOT of brilliant in that book, I do have to read it again. Maybe in the Year of Glad.


Eric Says:

(a) Nole is not using. Period. This is a stupid question.

(b) As I’ve already pointed out many times and I think we can all more or less agree, there’s a difference between statistics and reality. In this case, I think we can all agree that Djokovic’s streak is absolutely and completely legendary already. If he wins the French, he could lose the rest of his season and it would still be a fantastic streak. But breaking down the numbers to compare Djokovic 2011 to Federer 2007 or 2005 or whatever is a bit silly.

Streaks themselves are partly just a product of luck – even the very best players at the very top of their game have to lose every now and then, and Djokovic, I guarantee, is going to lose a match at some point, probably at the French (okay, my powers of prediction have failed me completely — I keep thinking there’s no way Rafa will let himself lose ANOTHER match, especially on clay! — but I am 51% sure that Djokovic will not win RG) or if not, then surely at Wimby. But even when he does lose, it won’t make his season as a whole any less remarkable. But winning 40 or 50 matches in a row, or whatever, isn’t really any more impressive than winning 25 in a row, losing one, and winning another 25 in a row. It’s a function of luck, the order of tournaments, and a million other factors beyond anyone’s control that have little or nothing to do with someone’s aggregate tennis ability.

(c) One season alone does not a career make. Fedfans, don’t worry: no one is saying Djokovic is a contender for GOAT status. Mac had the most “statiscally” dominant season ever, winning like one more match than Federer, but basically no one would seriously suggest that Mac is better than Roger.

(d) As for the ranking system: I don’t understand what all the sudden noise about it is. Tennis rankings are just that: RANKINGS, not RATINGS. As such, they measure performance, not skill. If you consider the essential function of the ranking system, it is perfectly fair. Personally, I think it would be, at the very least, extremely interesting to have an official rating system (ELO) parallel with the ranking; and I also think the point distribution is a bit whack (I think the difference between an F and a W at slams is way too big, for example). But there’s nothing “unfair” about the system and (contrary to some other WSJ article someone posted), it doesn’t “put a priority on defending points from the previous year” — it puts a priority on having the most points over the past calendar year, which is a better system than anything I can think of for ranking players.

(e) At the end of the season, we’ll all look back at what Djokovic has accomplished and marvel. It promises to be one of the best seasons of all time. Until then, this is all just a bunch of hot air.


Eric Says:

Figures I totally misspell the word in attention-grabbing quote marks. I meant Mac had the most “statistically” dominant season ever…


Ben Pronin Says:

TV is right. It’s not as simple as a blood and pee test. The players know how to avoid getting caught. Cycling down, masking it, undetectable substances, etc. Also, even if they get caught, if they’re willing to cover up a 142 ranked Agassi for recreational use, why wouldn’t they cover up any one of the top players for getting the sport more publicity and making money for all the organisations and sponsors?

I hope none of the players are doping, but the probable fact is some, maybe most, are. To not be at least suspicious of Djokovic is naiive. But it’s up to each individual fan to decide whether or not he deserves the benefit of doubt. All I ask is before any accusations are made, everything is thoroughly analyzed. Think about how many times the US Open champion has won the day after playing a 5 set semi in the past 40 years before assuming it’s impossible for Djokovic to have recovered from the Murray match without an illegal boost.


jane Says:

Kimmi, good news about Kim, and bad news about Roddick, but hopefully he is ready for the FO.


jane Says:

Eric, I really liked your 9:06 post, thanks for “summing” some things up, as it were.


skeezerweezer Says:

^Very true. When guys start winning easily after a USO semi 5 setter and then win the final in 3 sets the next DAY then I will start to wonder. Getting over a tough 3 setter and playing the next day is doable, been there done that.


dari Says:

delpo says ” see you in Paris” on twitter :)


tennis coach Says:

Some people obviously did not watch the match and are passing judgements so easily. For the record, Novak did not completely recover after the match against Murray. He looked really tired and was barely standing on his feet for the most part of the 2nd set. Also he was suffering from severe cramps. It is insulting and ignorant to make such accusations. Just because some athletes have cheated does not mean that everybody is cheating! What, now days you are not allowed to improve your fitness without being accused of doping? If anything, this is one thing in all of sports you can quickly improve on or lose depending how much time and effort you put into it.


Ben Pronin Says:

Skeeze, off the top of my head I recall that’s exactly how Roddick in 93′amd McEnroe in 84 won, 5 set semis followed by straight set finals. It’s possible. This is tennis, not football. Yes it’s a taxing sport and peds can benefit any player, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to be fit and successful. Before I continue, I want to apologize to the Nadal fans for my accusations last year. I can honestly say I’ve become much more educated in fitness related things these past few months and, quite frankly, all you have to do is step into a GNC to understand why pro athletes don’t have to resort to illegal substances to become supremely fit.

To be ready for his Nadal match, all Djokovic would’ve really needed is some advil to temporarily supress any pain and a pre work out drink to boost his energy levels. And a small but sufficient snack to satisfy his hunger.


Kimberly Says:

Now novak fans know how the rafa fans have felt for years with the doping accusations.

To be honest, I heard from an inside source last year during the Miami tournament 2010 that Novak had breathing problems/fitness problems because went out partying a lot and he smoked cigarrettes and drank. Maybe once he cut that out they went away? Of course most likely my source is full of it.


Ben Pronin Says:

Sorry that should say Roddick in 03


Tennis Vagabond Says:

AMAZING NEWS ABOUT DELPO! I think we can safely see DelPo and Fed, and possibly Murray and Soderling, as land mines in the paths of the two favourites. That will make draw day much more interesting.


jane Says:

Good news about Delpo!

Kimberly, lol. I said on the other thread, you know your guy has “made it” when these sorts of accusations surface.

Ben, nice of you @ 10:38.


Ben Pronin Says:

Honestly I don’t get why Nadal and Djokovic bring out the accusers but Federer’s unprecedented dominance never did. Djokovic has his first great winning streak and all hell breaks loose but Federer had like 7 great win streaks and nothing. It’s an unfair double standard.


David Says:

Skeezerweezer

Edberg did that at the ’92 US Open. Beat Chang in a 5-hour semifinal on Saturday and then beat Sampras in the final in four sets the next day. Been there, done that.


skeezerweezer Says:

^ No disagreement here, just validating my two cents :)


Daniel Says:

Ben says: “Honestly I don’t get why Nadal and Djokovic bring out the accusers but Federer’s unprecedented dominance never did.”

That’s simple, because the way Fed plays. No one has never had a game like him and I am afraid no one ever will.

He won a bucnh of matches easy, lile a truck with no breaks. How many times have we seen him win games in 57`, 1 min.

As much as Djoko had some tuff matches, usually his path during th eearlier rounds were practice sessions. Nadal himself must get more tired in his practice them Djoko was during his first 3 rounds in every tourney he played.

Apart from Murray in Rome, Nadal in Madrid, Ferrer in Madrid, and NAdal in IW and Miami, he wasn’t really pushed, was he?


tennis coach Says:

Kimberly, I heard also that Djokovic use to like to party a lot. On one particular occasion after winning his first title in IW he was seen parting in Miami with Maria Sharapova. Couple days later he lost match against Kevin Anderson. Although Novak hired old Muster’s fitness coach to help with his fitness in 2009, it wasn’t until recently that he got serious about his heath and fitness. He hired new fitness coach and doctor who helped him with his diet and allergies. I also heard that he spent few weeks in French alps, cycling on high altitude to improve his fitness before AO. He arrived in Australia 2 weeks earlier to get acclimatized to hot Australian weather and after winning AO went to Dubai where he continued with his preparation for 2 weeks. IMO that’s why he was well prepared for IW and particularly for Miami’s hot weather. Djoker matured, he is all about tennis now days!


jane Says:

One thing Fed and Nole have in common is that both are excellent front runners who can speed through matches. They said a stat during Rome about Nole’s results after winning the first set; it was excellent. i want to say 18-0 in finals after winning the first set but I am not sure?? i cannot remember.The way Fed used to steamroll through matches when he wins the first set, I am sure he has an astoundingly good record. Rafa, however, can start slow, but he works his way into a match and builds momentum. I know this seems obvious, but it does go to stamina issues. I don’t know off the top, but even though Nole’s breathing issues and stamina have often been questioned, I seem to recall he has a very good 5 set match record. So it is not like he’s suddenly had stamina he didn’t have. He has just matured and made some key changes.


Ben Pronin Says:

Right so it’s not like Djokovic is expanding a ridiculous amount of energy all the time to win. Looking at Rome, for example, where his first 3 matches had one decently tough set and then one fairly super quick and easy set. Then he had a tough match against Murray, and then Nadal really just gave the match away with all those moon balls. Nothing outrageously unbelievable here.

I think the reality is that it’s the media that makes Djokovic seem like he’s doing something superhuman by being able to win matches when he’s “supposedly” tired. The commentators and all the pre-match articles said there’s NO way Djokovic could recover. Djokovic himself said he was just going to prepare and do what he can, he never said he was super tired and felt like he’d turn to dust against Nadal. But the fan base sure as hell had that mentality due to all the media hype.

I don’t know about the partying, I wouldn’t doubt it, but I know I heard during the Australian Open last year that Djokovic just didn’t work nearly as hard as the other top 5 or even top 10 guys did. He was a slacker. Obviously buckling down is going to help you get better results.


Ben Pronin Says:

That’s true, Jane. Again the media’s fault because so much emphasis was put on Djokovic’s retirements. How many times did he really retire? I recall, during that Tsonga loss at the AO, they showed Djokovic’s 5 set record in slams to be 7-2 at the time.

Everyone remembers Djokovic retired against Nadal in the Wimbledon semis but no one wants to remember he beat Baghdatis in a grueling 5 setter that ended 7-5 in fifth 2 matches prior. And let’s not forget that awesome match against Stepanek in the 2nd round of the US Open. Again, based on media portrayal you’d think Djokovic was just keeling over whenever he played more than 2 sets of tennis.


Skeezerweezer Says:

Ahhh those were the Fed days, the greatest front runner ever. Once he got in the lead, no looking back. Now …..errr..brain farts. Ugh.

Re; Nole, me thinks we are just seeing that his game/talent/stamina/fitness has matured. In todays game it all has to come together at the right time. You can’t just win all the time on talent, skill and sexiness like you used to…..Novak lacked the physical / stamina/ fitness for whatever reason. He conquered that along with a huge shot of confidence. Technically, the strokes were always there, and the serve he worked out. Heck it’s just plain hard work like he said, I’m a believer in that.


Skeezerweezer Says:

Ben

Hope Nole is partying now, and hard, he deserves it and would be healthy for him to cut loose before he has to get serious about FO.

On another note, something tells me Fed is sipping Champagne and having a nice pasta dinner in France before his run at FO….wouldn’t expect otherwise…..that would be Fed :)


Huh Says:

its completely possible, playin a 5 setter the day before the final and then easily beat any rival for a player, if u r havin a great day or great streak, hav confidenc and are determined n inspired, then its obvious that a top professional can do it. I think accusations must not be made against players, i have never myself even imagined such kind of things wen one guy beats another after a tough match the previos, all that I tel myself’s that the guy was just too good for the other one to handle! ;)


Eric Says:

“Honestly I don’t get why Nadal and Djokovic bring out the accusers but Federer’s unprecedented dominance never did. Djokovic has his first great winning streak and all hell breaks loose but Federer had like 7 great win streaks and nothing. It’s an unfair double standard.”

Just to add to the answers already floating around:

- Nadal’s game is extremely physical; Fed’s is (seems) effortless. It’s hard to see how doping would help someone with Fed’s game (ca., say, 2007)

- Nadal and Djokovic both suddenly burst onto the scene from mediocre to amazing in one season (something Djokovic has now done, well, three times, I guess); Fed took years to mature

So this isn’t that much of a mystery.
(Note: I do not think Rafa, Fed, or Nole have ever used PEDs. The Agassi comparison is totally irrelevant since crystal meth doesn’t exactly count as doping…it’s more like doping. Do you think the ATP would cover it up if their players were categorical cheaters? How long could that possibly go on without blowing up in everyone’s faces? Is there any real evidence? How are they integrating all of this doping with year-long international travel through dozens of countries? Plus, Agassi was a long time ago in a completely different global attitude toward drugs in sports that hadn’t yet been tainted by MLB ‘roids and universal use of EPO on the cycling tour… look at Wayne Odesnik or hell, even Richard Gasquet for what happens now.)


Eric Says:

er, I meant to say meth is more like anti-doping. :)


C!P! Says:

Oh how naive. A pro athlete who lived around gluten for years and not once did anyone think to test until now? And I could hear the journalists laughter as he wrote about this sudden allergy find after all this time. It’s just too comical a claim not to laugh. It’s a classic doper story where his fans who live vicariously through him will never see whats going on and feel as if he’s putting his little nation on the map so he’s the greatest when he’s nothing but a typical pro athlete using some juice to get to that number one ranking.

Instead of listening to garbage about how a gluten allergy can ruin a persons life lets look at a few facts that just don’t add up in Noles sudden claim as the courts new superman….

After all those breathing problems for years ( again never testing for this allergy ) and quitting match’s Suddenly in a short time off in less than a year he comes back as superman? How absolutely improbable. Even with some new found allergy. The level of stamina he has now would take months and I mean MONTHS of training to acquire and before that his body would actually break down first to build itself back up but for some reason this guy was able to do it all in a few months and on clay no less LOL.

Maybe he’s eating the same Yams Usain Bolt eats for all that speed he showed up with at the Olympics hahahaha. Hey Jamaica believes it, or wants to believe it or must believe it.

Although slightly comical it’s actually sad whats going on. I don’t think Djokovic is taking testosterone I think it’s a stamina laced juice. An EPO. Many cyclists take it as well. Very hard to detect but if pushed they will find it. Anyone who honestly thinks this is a sudden change in diet is naive or a die hard fan that will not accept the truth. His natural athletic talent is no greater then others. With a little man made help it becomes much better. This was the same guy quitting matchs for years. It would take a good year of training to build this type of stamina if it were natural. The man is juicing


Michael Says:

Without doubt, Djokovic can be labelled as the most improved player. He has performed a feat which is unthinkable for a great guy named Federer. Nole has beaten Nadal on four consecutive occasions in Masters tournament especially in the finals and out of which two are clay tournaments. That will surely tell something about the excellent run Nole is having at the moment. It is important for Nole to maintain this level for the rest of the year. His job is made easy since has not got too much points to defend. In case of a Djokovic-Nadal final at the French open which every one anticipates, I bet Novak taking the crown.


Michael Says:

Without doubt, Djokovic can be labelled as the most improved player. He has performed a feat which is unthinkable for a great guy named Federer. Nole has beaten Nadal on four consecutive occasions in Masters tournament especially in the finals and out of which two are clay tournaments. That will surely tell something about the excellent run Nole is having at the moment. It is important for Nole to maintain this level for the rest of the year. His job is made easy since has not got too much points to defend. In case of a Djokovic-Nadal final at the French open which every one anticipates, I bet Novak taking the crown.


mat4 Says:

re C!P!:

I remember Madrid 2009, Djokovic playing 4 hours against Nadal. Then, there was a lot of matches in 5 sets he played. His stamina is nothing new for those who watched his matches in the last three years.

Breathing problems: he still has them. He had problems in Rome, against Wawrinka. He showed clear signs of fatigue against Wawrinka, Soderling and Murray. He wasn’t fit enough in the final, neither.

His status has changed. It’s not the AO anymore, when he has to play in heavy heat against Roddick after a match in five sets he finished at 4 a.m. In Rome, he played all his matches in the evening, compared to Rafa who played the semi under 30 C.

About the gluten allergy: I doubt that Djokovic had the same medical care American sportsmen have.

All those stories about his “new found stamina” are unfounded. If he takes PEDs, he does it since the beginning of 2009, when he really improved his stamina. But then, Federer does it too, Nadal takes not only PEDs but steroids also, Del Potro was cycling before the USO 2009, Murray, Berdych are too strong, and there were Vilas, Gerulaitis, Agassi, Sampras (who, just like Rafa, is losing his hair), Verdasco, Querrey and Isner are suspicious…

Maybe I get suspicious too from time to time, but let’s not forget that players, today, work very hard, lift weights, and run a lot. And Djoko is working very, very hard.


Rick Says:

You wanna bet? Someone will beats him pretty soon! He might be playing his best tennis too soon, before the French Open! Not that I dislike him or something. But he would loses pretty soon!


Rick Says:

Nadal beat him in an exhibition match this year. And he might loses soon!


Kimberly Says:

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/tennis/2011-05-16-weekly-net-post_N.htm

Nadal Djokovic and SHARAPOVA all mentioned as strong contenders for dramatic French Open.


stu Says:

“This was the same guy quitting matchs for years. It would take a good year of training to build this type of stamina if it were natural. ”

C!P! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Djokovic has retired from a match since Jan 2009. Last I checked, that was more than ‘a good year of training’ ago.


Ben Pronin Says:

That’s just the poor analyzation I’m talking about. Accusers wanna look back to the Troicki match as an example of how poor Djokovic’s fitness was just a short time ago. Why don’t we look at the fact that he won the Troicki match then went on to outlast Federer in another 5 setter and was still able to push Nadal harder than anyone had prior to the final. Djokovic didn’t improve his fitness over night. It’s been a work in progress for a long time now. It’s easy to see dope when you wanna see dope.

Eric, that’s a huge issue. If they’ve been covering it up for all this time then it is only a matter of time for everything to blow up in their faces and the explosion would be absolutely gargantuan.


Huh Says:

Rick: For your sake I hope Djoko gets beaten soon after winning the FO 11! ;)


Alexander X Says:

C!P! Says:
“It’s a classic doper story where his fans who live vicariously through him will never see whats going on and feel as if he’s putting his little nation on the map so he’s the greatest when he’s nothing but a typical pro athlete using some juice to get to that number one ranking”.

This place is for people first of all who enjoy and watch tennis; it is not for bombastic vagabond styles of fen that knows everything about everything and just speculate. Can I flip the coin that you must be from some great nation on the planet or even greatest ever. This style little nation on the map is very similar to the Olympic Games back in 1936. And the little angry bark is with the reference to what? Guy did not want your BIG passport and what, the end of the world?
No it did not come in one night it came long time ago. This guy bit RF at last USO like a man. He played dissent final with Nadal. RF after all of these years in tennis, a very first time in his career discovered this year that people were playing tennis after midnight. That is the lovely position #3 where NDJ was for so long. He would play up to 2 after midnight and his next game will be at 2 p.m. same day. He would play average 3.5 hours per games, not any more. And no question he disciplined himself, no more crazy New Years Eves in Belgrade at the temperature of -12ºC than following week playing at AO on +52ºC. He learned on the time that he is not Bengal tiger just a human. My prediction here is that regardless of FO output we will enjoy tennis much more with him DelPotro, Murray who are also coming at the speed of light. We will not have any more Borg Kingdom tennis and watching the same guy for decade. There are 70 tournaments each year and all of today’s players are paying very expensive toll.


Ben Pronin Says:

I like that C!P! Is around. This is a place to discuss tennis, and doping is a part of tennis whether we like it or not. I assume he’s a part of the THASP fan club, too, so if you could tell them they don’t know a thing about tennis, from me, that’d be great.

Rick sounds angry at the Djoker, no?


skeezerweezer Says:

Rafa Rick just going through the sour grape phenomenon….

So Djoker is Juicin, Rafa is on Roids, and Fed is now askin for both…;)


Eric Says:

Ben, exactly, and that’s exactly why I am 100% sure the ATP is not complicit in covering up drug use. There’s almost nothing in it for them, and everything to lose. I don’t know the specifics of how the ATP drug tests are conducted (e.g., for cycling there is a completely independent organization and lab that does the testing), but I find it hard to believe that they would be institutionally structured to make it so easy to use.

IMO, the whole idea that athletes must be doping to be exceptional is ridiculous. In a few sports doping can give you an advantage – in cycling, which is basically a measure of pure athletic conditioning and stamina, EPO can make a big difference, but in tennis? I’m not buying it.


Eric Says:

And by drug use I mean PEDs. Again, the Agassi case is completely inapropos since meth is not a PED, so his use of it was not exactly a threat to the integrity of the sport. The image, yes — hence the coverup, but not the integrity — hence the coverup.


dari Says:

“You can’t just win all the time on talent, skill and sexiness like you used to…..”
Laughed out loud skeezer, yes sxin


dari Says:

“You can’t just win all the time on talent, skill and sexiness like you used to…..”
Laughed out loud skeezer, yes sexiness being the key!


Eric Says:

And on a side note, I guess everyone who thinks PEDs are the only explanation for Nole’s improvement also think Raonic was juicing at the AO, Verdasco has been on and off it for his entire career, Melzer suddenly decided he needed some extra red blood cells, Gasquet is back on coke, and Berdych and Soderling just had a few nice pick-me-ups before the midyear slams last year…. after all, they’re the sole explanation for variation in tennis performance, right?


tennis coach Says:

All I am going to say to people like C!P!, Howard ,Dave, Patty and so on, please provide us with some eveidence rather than speculation!


sar Says:

Tennis Coach
I would like to see the proof if they can provide it.


Ben Pronin Says:

How can you prove cover ups? We’ve seen all the busts in numerous other sports, there’s nothing that makes tennis special or above them. There needs to be speculation first, it’s naive to think absolutely nothing is happening.

In any case, I really like what Jon Wertheim has been saying lately. In his past few mailbags, he’s gotten several questions about PED use in tennis and I like his responses. It really is up to the fans to decide how skeptical they want to be and if everyone amazing achievement can only be a result of doping.

Eric, it’s funny that you mention all those names because, if you go on a certain website the answer to all of those is a resounding “yes.” And it’s unfair to the players. They’re basically being punished for the crimes of other completely unrelated athletes. According to THASP, nothing great can be achieved in professional sports without doping. I think it’s a little funny that the people there pick on the idea that, for example, the explanation for Nadal’s physique is that he’s a genetic freak of nature. For them that’s unacceptable, because apparently no one can be so genetically gifted. I guess by that thought process any given person can be a pro athlete because it doesn’t require any unique God-given gifts/talents. Oh, wait…


Eric Says:

Rafa is pretty outrageously muscular, to be fair. He kind of looks like he could have a second career in body-building.

Look, I’m not saying it’s impossible that there is extensive doping in tennis.

I just don’t understand what the evidence is, let alone the basis for suspicion. Is it doing well?

We’re talking a sport where guys like Roger Federer, Gilles Simon, Jurgen Melzer, and, yes, Richard Gasquet have all spent plenty of time in the top 10. Does anyone really believe that they’re doping? That FEDERER dopes? Have they ever watched him changing his shirt during a match? He’s not exactly body builder material.


Ben Pronin Says:

Blood doping isn’t for creating a muscular physique, it’s for stamina.

Melzer is fairly old, his sudden rise is kind of surprising. Again, before everyone yells “DOPE,” things should be thoroughly analyzed. Perhaps Melzer’s sudden rise is the result of him committing himself to the sport more seriously and just generally working harder that’s provided the results he should’ve been getting ages ago.

Nadal really isn’t that buff. If you ever see the guy up close, he’s fairly lean. Maybe he could get bigger if that was his focus, but so could anyone. There are just people out there who, as a result of having a low body fat percentage, look really muscular. Add in the fact that Nadal is a professional athlete, and voila.

You know, Peter Kodra wasn’t exactly busting out of his shirt and he was busted for PEDs.


sar Says:

Tired Djokovic, Hewitt pull out of French exo

Good for Nole


jane Says:

One of the analyses I read on Nole lately brought up such a good point: his balance. It is not even that his footwork is best or that he is the fastest around court, but he has great anticipation, flexibility and balance. When he gets to a ball he can hit it with power because of this innate ability. It is a good read:

http://www.suite101.com/content/novak-djokovic-discovering-the-secrets-of-his-success-in-2011-a371720


skeezerweezer Says:

^His flexibility and balance after a dead run to hit a ball back with accuracy and pace is amazing right now. For sure a superiority over others currently. If you watch some any of the last 2 finals w/Rafa note just watch Noles’ movement, don’t watch the ball. A key componet is how he “resets” after htting the ball and getting himself into position to hit the next ball ( anticipation ). Great stuff


skeezerweezer Says:

PED issue,

IMO ROids is not in Tennis. Rafa looked like he does when he was 17, just comiong on the tour. His biceps and butt have not changed since then.

Anyways, learned from engaging in the PED topic up when Rafa won that it is not great timing to do so. Although it is a worthy discussion, and have stated before that it should be a topic for the WHOLE tour, not after some guy wins a tourney. Hope that the ATP/WADA/ITF get it together (yes it’s regulated by the muddy waters of 3 organizations…go figger ).

For those interested, the info on Doping enforcement for the tour is here;

http://www.itftennis.com/antidoping/

You can see who was has been suspended, etc. It would go a long way for the ATP players council ( yes the players themselves ) to vote on releasing tested results for the public ( only in general, liked passed or not passed ). This would go along way with Tennis fans, no?

Ok done….stfu skeeze….


Kimberly Says:

look, the reality is some of them ARE doing it but who knows who. Wayne Odesnick was and it didn’t help his performance too much.

as an athlete myself i have been around enough high school, college and professional athletes, worked out in enough gyms to say with authority ALOT of people do it, pros, amateurs, and people who just want to look HOT. And yes, a good friend who is a former pro athlete (not tennis) flat out said for a small period of time, HE DID. Not throughout his whole career (and he wasn’t exactly a star player). Was he caught, NO!

SO of course it follows there are atp players using. It also follows that there are a certain number of genetic freaks who can do things that are insane (Lebron James?)naturally, just like others can solve incredible mathematical equations.

But to take the current top performer and say, he’s using, thats silly. I promise you there are players using but its useless to guess who they are (would Wayne Odesnick be your first guess?). All fingering people does is rile people up when there is no way to prove or disprove the allegation.

Now the WTA is a different story. I think its clear that certain players are using and probably pretty obvious who.


Ben Pronin Says:

The players would never vote for that.

Regarding Djokovic’s anticipation: I listened to the podcast over on tennis.com for their post-Rome discussion and they mentioned the same thing. I think Bodo even said exactly what Skeeze said about watching Djokovic instead of the ball. They credited as being a huge part of why Djokovic has been having so much success over Nadal, because he’s anticipating where he’s going with the forehand so well. In all seriousness I don’t think I’ve ever seen a match where Nadal’s forehand looked so average (maybe Delpo 09 USO?).


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Kimberley, well put.


Ben Pronin Says:

“Now the WTA is a different story. I think its clear that certain players are using and probably pretty obvious who.”

Hahaha, I’d bet a lot of money I know exactly who you’re talking about.


Kimmi Says:

is ts sharapova kimberly? she hits the ball too hard for a womna :)


Kimmi Says:

aaagh, typos!

*woman”


Kimberly Says:

Hahaha, I’d bet a lot of money I know exactly who you’re talking about.

_____________________________

Of course you do, but I would still never name names. Meanwhile WTF with all these offensive rebounds. Hasn’t spoelstra figured this out! UGGGH i have a 9am with my trainer who is a bulls fan, if the heat don’t win I will either stand him up or cancel! (of course if they do win I will be there at 8:45 warmed up and ready)


Kimberly Says:

Sharapova and Venus are as tall as men. They are allowed to hit harder and be free of all suspicion :-)


skeezerweezer Says:

Kimberly,

haha no fair you have to fill in the blank….;D


Eric Says:

Ben, sure, but steroids are the go-to drug for these accusations. THASP, after all, not THAEP. :)

Nadal is pretty buff. http://thetennistimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/rafael-nadal.jpg
Okay, granted, maybe this is a fake photo or something (I agree, he never looks that muscled when I actually watch him play)…

If we’re talking about EPO, sure, detecting that would be pretty tough. And it would definitely help.

But if you look at what Djokovic is actually doing better this year than last year or 2009, it’s not like he’s suddenly gotten more physical. He’s hitting the ball with more confidence and making very, very few UEs (real UEs). If they have a PED for that, I’d like some please.


Kimberly Says:

That guy THASP is a Psycho as are most of the bloggers on that site. No class or courtesy. Read it from time to time and just laugh.

And you are right Ben, they know nothing about tennis.


Kimberly Says:

Yeah baby!!!!!! Go heat, series is ON!!!!

Looks like I will see my trainer bright and early and warmed up!


tennis coach Says:

Canucks won tonight! Go Canucks go!


Dory Says:

I just wish all the talk about PEDS and using on this site would come to a full stop!


skeezerweezer Says:

BTW this was an excellent written article, kudos to Mr. Laird.


Ben Pronin Says:

Dory, why? Its a serious issue no one should turn a blind eye to.

Hell yeah, Heat won! All they gotta do is hold down the fort and return to Chicago 3-1.


El Flaco Says:

Not sure if this has already been posted, but Sports Illustrated has a story on Djokovic.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1186004/1/index.htm


skeezerweezer Says:

@EF

Tx for that link was a great read, a novella on Nole.


dari Says:

He’s in Vogue, too! Maybe this was already posted, but its new to me!
http://www.vogue.com/vogue-daily/article/hot-shot-novak-djokovic/
Who is ready for RG?!! Draw out tomorrow!
Now that I’ve embraced watching clay, I think it will be a whole new experience for me. And I am excited about the ladies, too!


Kimberly Says:

Ferrer lost to Dolgopolov, I would take his name off the dark horse list? I give him a QF at best.


Skeezerweezer Says:

Roddick and JCF have pulled out of FO, shoulder…


Kimberly Says:

is that a big loss? Roddick probably resting up for one or two last charges at wimbledon. I wouldn’t bet my lunch money on him having any decent results at RG but Wimbledon may be another story.


dari Says:

Saw that dolgo ferrer result, wondering what that means for the GINORMOUS bracket to be filled out in a couple days… not much considering ferrer was coming back from flu and dolgo has hott days. Wasn’t picking ferrer Tooooo far, maybe justify his seed or lose around earlier, depending on how draw shakes out.
Looking forward to it. Hope for nice road for fed :)


Eric Says:

Roddick’s average showing at the French is like the second round, so his withdrawal is meaningless. Nice to save a few bucks on a hotel room, I guess.


sar Says:

a master’s in Luxury Goods & Services at the University of Monaco.—Vogue

Jelena Ristic degree. Never heard of that.


jane Says:

Thanks dari and El Flaco for posting those great articles on Nole. Enjoyed both! The Vogue one was a little more colorful though, and definitely shorter!

sar, it says she also has an undergrad in Economics, so I assume that Masters degree is some type of advanced Business degree, narrowed to that specific sector, which is fitting, given they live in Monte Carlo, the land of luxury.


El Flaco Says:

I’m not surprised with the JCF shoulder injury. I was watching one of his matches in Barcelona and was thinking to myself how little knee bend he had in his serve compared to before. I assume it was his left knee that had the surgery so he couldn’t do his normal knee bend. He was making up for that by using his arm more.


Kimmi Says:

Wow! djoko is the man of the moment. nice vogue pics. Enjoy man!


Kimberly Says:

Draw is out tomorrow, psyching myself to pick this massive draw


Kimmi Says:

federer vs F-lo first round..ah, tough one. the guy almost beat him in madrid.

go fed..


Kimberly Says:

the tennis channel will open at 9:30.
Djokovic section is the worst draw. Nadal got Isner, a tough open and Soda a tough quarter but Djoko got the man no one wants to play third round and his section is simply loaded with danger players and Berdych, who i think is as tough as soda in the quarters. Fed in the semis.

Novaks quarter the toughest, the Rafa, then Fed, then Murray. IMO.


Huh Says:

nole has his task cut out :(
fed’s 1st rd opponent potentially fatal for him. :( hope fed remembers that he was TMF once upon a time, gets inspired and puts up good show at FO.


blank Says:

can we fast forward to the 3rd round already? :)


Tennis Vagabond Says:

So… Rafa gets Murray and Soderling, Nole gets DelPotro and Federer.

Djokovic gets DelPo 3rd round and either Bellucci or Gasquet 4th round. Easier quarter with Berdych, then Federer.

Novak’s draw is tough, Murray’s is a cakewalk and Fed and Rafa are in-between, Nadal gets an easy first in Isner, then an easy 2nd, but Davydenko, his personal nemesis in the 3rd. Verdasco, with the form he’s shown, should be an easy 4th round, and with the forgetable year Soda is having, he probably will not put up a fight in the quarters.

Fed gets a tough first rnd in F-Lo, then mid-level challenges over the next couple rounds- Tipsarevic then Tsonga or Wawrinka, before a very tough quarter with Ferrer.

Murray’s draw is just a joke. Looks like his toughest one might be Raonic in the 3rd round.


tennis coach Says:

Could it be more difficult draw for Djokovic: 3rd round Del Potro, 4th Gasquet or Bellucci 4th, quater Berdich, semi Federer and final Nadal.


Kimberly Says:

ttp://www.tourneytopia.com/RacquetBracketFrenchOpenATP/tennisxfansforever/Pre-Register.aspx

bracket is open to submit picks, hope to see everyone there


El Flaco Says:

Verdasco has to play Monaco in the 1st round who he has a 2-6 record against.

I agree with your draw assessment TV, but I think Nadal will destroy Davydenko if they meet in the 3rd round. Davy is a shell of his former self and Nadal has easily handled Davy the last 2 times they have played on the dirt.


rogerafa Says:

“can we fast forward to the 3rd round already?”

We should fast forward to the final given the number of out of form players or players recovering from injuries. Murray’s focus remains a problem. Federer is way too inconsistent these days. Ferrer, Delpo and Monfils have been struggling with injuries. Verdasco, Davydenko, Almagro, Wawarinka and Gasquet have been struggling to find some good form. Soderling and Berdych have not looked like serious contenders. Nadal should reach the final without much trouble even though he has not looked anywhere close to his best this season. Djokovic is the hottest player on the tour and, with his miraculous improvement in endurance and stamina, he shouldn’t have much of a problem reaching the final. It is tough to see beyond these two players. Nadal still remains the slight favorite based on what he has done over the years in Paris but recent losses to Djokovic may have shaken his confidence sufficiently enough to make it a photo-finish even in a best of five format.


stu Says:

Thanks for setting up the bracket, Kimberly!


Kimberly Says:

http://www.tourneytopia.com/RacquetBracketFrenchOpenWTA/kimberli252/Pre-Register.aspx

here is for anyone who wants to take a stab at the WTA bracket.


Kimberly Says:

allright, im off to do my first stab at picking the men!


stu Says:

I think Nole can beat Delpo, and it will be a nice scalp to add to his list this year. As a Nole fan, I hope he takes #1 not by default because of an early Rafa loss, but by making it to the final against Rafa, and hopefully winning it. OTOH, if he has to lose before the final, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if it was to Delpo…


stu Says:

Delpo BTW has the worst luck of them all. Comes back from his nth injury to be dealt with a brutal draw – Karlovic, Gulbis, DJOKOVIC, Gasq/Belluci, Berdych, Fed, Rafa?

Can’t think of a worse combination of opponents.


Kimberly Says:

murray matches up particularly well against delpo if i remember right. Even in Delpos biggest days I don’t think he ever could take him out. At least for Delpo fans he doesn’t have to face him.


Kimberly Says:

BRACKET ALERT: RULES—-a scoring bonus will be given from the third round on. The seed number will be added to the number of points. This rewards people who correctly pick upsets.

For example, if someone chose the number 5 seed to lose to the 26 seed and that came through, they would get the allotted number of points per round (say 3) and add to 26. Unseeded players are worth 33 points.

Hopefully this will reward people for having the balls to pick upsets and have some different looking draws.


stu Says:

Bah. Tourneytopia is flagged at work. Picking with iPhone = no fun.


dari Says:

Thx Kimberly! I like the incentive, was it like that for AO, too?
I looked at the draw on RG website, but I’m gonna put off the tourneytopia till after tennis, I’m gonna need some mental and physical stimulation before this one!
Draw looks spread pretty decently- at least for fed and Rafa. Novak and Andy have the extremes with nole harder and Murray easier.
I’m actually kinda glad Murray got a kind draw- and a haircut.
Well, in the beginning, fed needs to make sure it isn’t such a close call with fe-Lo.
Looking forward to it all.
Allez Rog


skeezerweezer Says:

K @ 10:52. Well good thing I read your post I was going prety much by the seeds but now you have talked me out of it…mmmmmmm…place to trash talk there?


jane Says:

Kimberly says “Novaks quarter the toughest, the Rafa, then Fed, then Murray. IMO”

Agree. Fed and Rafa’s are pretty close in terms of potential roadblocks though. But Murray’s is a dream! If he gets knocked out before the semis here I will be mad at him this time, not with a draw like this!! It is a golden opportunity.

Nole, on the other hand, could get knocked out third round and I would forgive him. The tennis gods must’ve not smiled on him when this draw was being selected. But we’ll see.


Kimberly Says:

skeezer—i think it is actually listed under smack talk!


tennis coach Says:

Thank you El Falco for sending the link on the story on Djokovic in
Sports Illustrated.

Nice story on Djokovic, however the author of this article appears to have a political agenda as well, continuing to demonized and vilify Serbs as an nation. I must say very disappointing to see this in a sports magazine.

Top story: Djokovic, Murray Advance At US Open, Azarenka Survives; Federer, Monfils v Dimitrov Tuesday
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Rankings
ATP - Aug 25 WTA - Aug 25
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Rafael Nadal2 Simona Halep
3 Roger Federer3 Na Li
4 Stan Wawrinka4 Petra Kvitova
5 David Ferrer5 Agnieszka Radwanska
6 Milos Raonic6 Maria Sharapova
7 Tomas Berdych7 Angelique Kerber
8 Grigor Dimitrov8 Eugenie Bouchard
9 Andy Murray9 Ana Ivanovic
10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga10 Jelena Jankovic
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