Why Novak Djokovic Will Win the French Open
by Sean Randall | May 21st, 2011, 7:05 pm
  • 127 Comments

I often say tennis is a mental sport, but it’s also a momentum sport and right now no guy on the tennis tour has more of that going for him right now than Novak Djokovic. No one. And perhaps no one in the modern era of tennis has had such an impressive run.

The Djoker has been stunningly strong in compiling his recent 39-match win streak and there hasn’t been any sign of it slowing down.

Once a player of questionable fitness, Djokovic’s physical makeup has suddenly become a strength. The birthday boy (he’s 24 on Sunday) is now outlasting the indefatigable Rafael Nadal (Miami) and Andy Murray (Rome) and as we shift to a best-of-five format, that’s vital for any Paris hopeful.

And we know about Novak’s machine-like game which seems to be peaking at just the right time. Let’s face it, the Djokovic playing right now would beat the Djokovic who won the Australian Open in straight sets. Seriously!

The only issue he may face at the French is the pressure of being a first-time Slam favorite and perhaps some over confidence.

In Paris it’s not just tournament he’s never reached the final at, but he’s also chasing the No. 1 ranking and the streak, which if he wins would climb to 46 tying him with Guillermo Vilas for best in the Open Era.

So there is a lot at stake and his draw really doesn’t help him any. But the way he is playing I just don’t see anyone taking three sets from him these next two weeks (what’s he lost all year, nine?).

Novak’s 2011 French Open journey begins with the capable Thiemo de Bakker who’s no pushover followed by recent Nice finalist Victor Hanescu. Those are too good early round matches – Monday and Wednesday – which should get he acclimated to the court speed and the new balls.

All eyes will then look toward a third round clash with Juan Martin Del Potro in what could very well be his most dangerous match. If the Argentine is playing the way we know he can Djokovic could be reduced to a spectator. But after that hip injury I’m not so sure well see the best from Delpo. And I don’t think he’ll have the legs for best-of-5 either.

After that, it’s Richard Gasquet. I think the talented Frenchman actually plays well in this year in France and comes through. But once again the pressure will get to Gasquet against Novak. But it should be a great match.

In the quarterfinals Novak will likely face Tomas Berdych. But Djokovic owns the Czech and on clay he should be able to comfortably manage.

His second major test (after Del Potro) will come in the semifinal against Federer. Roger hasn’t been playing great but I like his draw. Lopez is tough in best-of-3 but in a five setter I don’t think he can snatch three from Fed.

Tsonga-Federer fourth round would be a test however, like Gasquet, I think the pressure of playing in Paris gets to Tsonga. And clay just isn’t his best surface. In the quarterfinals Federer should run into Ferrer, but Roger has had his way with David and I’ll take him even on the slow clay.

So a Federer-Djokovic semifinal it is. And in that match the pressure will be squarely on Djokovic’s shoulders which I think gives Federer a decent chance to pull the upset. Sure, Novak’s dominated Federer this year but not the same way he has Nadal. Against Rafa, Novak’s also gained the upper hand mentally with those crushing losses in finals. With Federer, I don’t think Djokovic’s wins (Miami, Dubai) has left that deep a scar. And if they meet I’m sure Federer will have some tricks in the press aim to get inside Novak’s head.

But I still like Novak to beat Roger who just hasn’t looked that great this season.

In the final, it’s hard to bet against him facing Nadal. Take away the two Djokovic losses and Rafa still may not have had his best clay campaign. That said, it was better than just about anyone else’s except Djokovic’s.

Nadal’s draw is tricky with his main obstacle coming in the form of Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals. His first round opponent, John Isner, can be nasty but not on clay, and Nikolay Dayvdenko has enjoyed a rare edge 6-4 but this match comes on the dirt.

And I don’t think Fernando Verdasco (like a Wawrinka) has it in his fiber to take out a national hero like Rafa in the fourth round.

So Soderling could very well be Rafa’s big bugaboo. But can lightning strike twice (or even thrice?). Can Soderling really beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros? Can Soderling really beat the world No. 1 three straight years at the French Open? Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? It does. Sorry, Robin.

In the semifinals I think Nadal gets Jurgen Melzer who surprises everyone by getting back the French Final Four. That Murray-Melzer section is a complete crapshoot. Nicolas Alamgro is arguably the best clay court player but he’s also a guy who never can win the big one. Murray’s looked good in losses to Nadal and Djokovic but otherwise he didn’t really beat a decent clay courter (Simon? Mayer??) in between his elbow injury – and now there’s some groin concern. Alexandr Dologpolov could get hot and run the table and even Milos Raonic could be a threat if he gets his serve rockin, but they are longshots.

Meanwhile, Melzer did beat Albert Montanes, Almagro and Federer in the last month. Those are three good clay court wins and his draw this week couldn’t have been any better. So I’ll take the Austrian to get out to the semifinals.

And if it is Nadal v. Melzer, well we’ll have a lefty in the final and I’ll go out on a limb and say it won’t be Jurgen!

So as it is seemingly destined I think we’ll get another Nadal-Djokovic showdown. Everything is point that way. And like the previous two on clay, unless Nadal amps up his serve Djokovic is going to win. He’ll gets his third Slam, his No. 1 ranking and he’ll get in the record books. It would be a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest first half of a season any pro tennis player has ever had.

Now let’s see if Djokovic can complete the task. I think he will.


Also Check Out:
Tennis on TV — June 2007 Schedule
Poll: Who Wins The French Open Final, Rafael Nadal Or Novak Djokovic?
Poll: Novak Djokovic Or Rafael Nadal, Who’ll Win Their French Open Semifinal Showdown?
French Speaking Lessons from Novak Djokovic? [Video]
Poll: Rafael Nadal Or Novak Djokovic, Who’s Your Early Favorite To Win The French Open?

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127 Comments for Why Novak Djokovic Will Win the French Open

tfouto Says:

The show is about to begin…


mat4 Says:

There is an excellent article in French on Eurosport.fr, about the attitude of the main contender to the title (Sous Roland-Garros plage, les pavés, for those who understand French, Jane, maybe? since you are Canadian).

Grosso modo: while Nadal and Federer look quite serious, Murray and Djokovic are jocking around and are relaxed. P.e.:

“Alors le Festival ?, demande Andy. C’était vraiment fantastique, réponds Novak. “J’ai fait des choses incroyables. J’ai monté les marches”. “Là au moins c’est sûr, je ne suis pas en compétition”, conclut Murray et tout le monde se quitte dans un éclat de rire.

(~ “How was it at The Festival [Cannes]?”, Andy asks. “Really fantastic, answers Novak. “I’ve done unbelievable things. I walked up the steps.” “It is sure I can compete there”, says Murray and everybody goes laughing.)

So, my picks are: a final Murray – Djokovic. Andy has prepared that crosscourt FH to beat Rafa, and I think he will make it. If the balls are really faster, he could serve well, too, and his backhand is maybe the best in the game.

Then, I think they will make a deal: Murray will let Djoko win, and Djoko will have to lose at Wimbledon. ;)


tfouto Says:

i truly believe that if Murray can step up his game (mental), both Djoko and Murray will be no. 1&2 in the future… I would also add Del Potro, but he seems injury prone, sadly…


mat4 Says:

… I can’t compete there…

Sorry.


anel Says:

Sean, it would be so good and if it happens I will forget and I will forgive You for everything bad that You said about Novak before three years.I hope that You will not bring to Nole bad luck with Your predictions.
Hajde NOVACE……


Kimberly Says:

thanks for the famous jinx!

Vamos Nadal!


mat4 Says:

No way Sean will bring bad luck to Nole. Steve Tignor has predicted Rafa to win, and everybody knows that Steve is unbeatable.


blank Says:

“…Can Soderling really beat the world No. 1 three straight years at the French Open?…”

I guess you think Soda beat Rafa last year, do you? ;)

Everyone expects a Nadal-Djoko final, but picking the winner is akin to a calling a coin toss. Sure Djokovic is superr hot, but something tells me Nadal ain’t going like taking 3 clay final losses to the same guy consecutively…so he may produce something special!

Anyways, Good luck with your pick Sean!


mat4 Says:

… when bad luck is in question, of course.

(He writes well, afterward, too, to make us forget his bracketology.)


mat4 Says:

@blank: I think Roger was number 1 last year at the French.


blank Says:

Thanks for the clarification mat4. My bad, sorry Sean.

Roger was no.1 last year…sure feels like that was 5 years ago!


grendel Says:

“it’s also a momentum sport and right now no guy on the tennis tour has more of that going for him right now than Novak Djokovic”. Ah, but momentum is finite. The only question is: where and when does it finally run out?


grendel Says:

Christ, I hope Vincent Millot beats Maxime Teixeira on court3 tomorrow! Nighty-night, don’t let the bedbugs bite..


ckr Says:

Jurgen Melzer as the semi-final pick is kind of outrageous. He is playing really bad this season and has some back problems. I don’t think he will cross 4th round. It is Murray’s to take the semi-final spot. But, Murray disappoints when he has cup-cake draws. 2010 US Open comes to my mind where he lost to Wawa. Djoker has the toughest draw and I think he is up for it. Let’s see..it’s going to be awesome 2 weeks.


lynney62 Says:

NO WAY…..ain’t gonna happen! The streak will be broken at RG!


mat4 Says:

I re-watched the Rome final. What shocks me is that Rafa was running much more than Djoko. He often barely got the ball on his backhand.

About the Djoker: what’s really knew in his game is that running forehand. Impressive.


mat4 Says:

… new…


felix Says:

Agree with the prediction
i but really pick ferrer than federer for the semi
i think, once, ferrer will come up good, but still come short againt Novak
But, agree to put novak to win the FO, he is juts too good at the moment


tennis coach Says:

My pick in semis is Nole over Roger, Andy over Rafa and final Nole over Andy.


Colin Says:

Much is being made of Nole’s new-found fitness, but it seemed to me that, in the closing stages of the Rome semi, he looked more fatigued than Murray. I don’t believe in “ifs” generally, but IF that had been a 5-setter, then a)Murray would have been serving for the set only and wouldn’t have double-faulted, and b)in the 4th set (never mind a 5th), Djokovic would have run out of steam.
Contrary to general opinion, in a 5-setter I believe Murray could perfectly well beat any of ‘em.


jamie Says:

Good article.

I think Fedal are “done” winning slams.

From now on, Nole, Del Potro and Murray will win the majors.

Thanks for the memories, Fedal. *smooch*


Kimberly Says:

Of course they are only 22 slams short of fedal.


jamie Says:

Slams this year:

AO was won by Nole.

FO will also be won by Nole.

Wimbledon will be won by Murray.

USO will be won by Del Potro.

We have entered a new era . :)


Kimberly Says:

Sorry, but nadal is winning this one, and prob the next one too. If not rafa at Wimbledon its fed.

Maybe one of the other guys will get USO.

But even if they did sweep the other three, they would then be 19 slams short of fedal. Basically five years worth. Wow! Shows you how impressive fed and rafa have been.


mat4 Says:

All thanks, of course, to Clare, from nolesnews.blogspot.com


Skeezerweezer Says:

Mat4,

Looking at that pic re: Nole extending pretty much explains why he is a little different. Who else can stretch there body that way and still make a play?

Regardless, the top 4/6 have there attributes, still picking Nole, but hoping Fed gets on a roll. Rafa has a challenging draw for ONCE, and he seems a litlle fragile mentally coming in. However, he is the Beast, and get real it’s Clay, King till dethroned.


jamie Says:

BTW, have you noticed how winning the Career Slam is followed by a huge decline? With the exception of Agassi…. But Federer and Nadal after winning the Career Slam went on a serious decline.


Kimmi Says:

OK Kimberly, thanks for the link you provided in the other thread. I completed my picks earlier but i think i might have sent them to the main pool. I just submitted another on tennis-x pool. I am sure they are on tennis-x pool now.

Lets see what happens! good luck everyone :)


Ben Pronin Says:

It hasn’t even been a year since Nadal completed his Career slam, a little too soon to call his recent results a “serious decline.” Nadal isn’t playing as bad as everyone wants to make him out to be, Djokovic is just at another level right now.

And Federer won 2 more slams after completing his Career Slam, and also hasn’t really declined so much as the guys ranked in front of him are playing that much better.


jane Says:

Thanks mat4 – really enjoyed that article!! :)


mat4 Says:

@Skeezerweezer:

Basically, I think that the result of the FO will depend on the following factors:

1. will Djokovic and Nadal make the final – the pressure could be to much, especially for Djokovic, although Nadal looked anxious in his last interviews;

2. the semis, I mean the state of physical fitness for the final.

Re-watching their matches since the beginning of the year, I noticed that Djoko is playing better and better. He has flatten his strokes, especially his forehand, hitting with more self-belief and conviction. In Madrid and Rome, Rafa looked without answers. Moonballing was perhaps a tactical try, but also the sign that Rafa can’t keep up in the rallies.

Will the new balls make a difference? I read that they are making the lift more potent, and that could be an advantage for Rafa.

If they were to play tomorrow, well rested and prepared, I would give Djoko an edge. But the final is in two weeks, and there are six matches to be won before.


jane Says:

Is there a link for the women’s pool, or is it too late? Kimberly? Kimmi? dari? Anyone?


Kimberly Says:

ColinO5soon6 bracket is tragic but he is very stubborn and insists on his picks. I believe Raonic is in either thebquarters or maybe even semi and fish deep too.


Kimberly Says:

Actually a friend of mynhusbands who is a really good player said he was watching the 2006 final of Roland garros and said nadal is so much better now that its ridiculous. I think the entire level of the game is highernthan it was five years ago. And this guy is a major fed fan.

On the flip side I watched the Wimbledon 4 round with sharapova and Venus from 2007, and I haven’t seen quality aggressive womens tennis like that in a loooooong time. Caroline wozniaki would have been so blasted off the court.
Also watched the 2010 serena azarenka match from Australian open, Serena sleep walked through the first set and a half but she turned it on, wow!!!! I hope she does come back and she is just a prodigy and exciting and great forth game (except when she is threatening lines people) But in the meantime can Maria please win this tournament.


Kimberly Says:

Jane, I think its on the other thread, the djokovic most improved to most dominant. I cant pull it from iPad.


Eric Says:

Sorry guys, but there is no way in hell Murray is a reasonable pick to make it to the FO final. It’s his worst slam, he’s been playing like sh** all season since the AO except for the last two sets against Djokovic in Rome, and, oh yes, he would have to get past Rafa. Does that sound very likely? The only way I can see it happening is if Soderling does somehow pull off the upset again – which he well might, but… – and even then Murray has to get past Melzer (which I would expect him to, contra Sean, but it’s by no means given — as Sean points out, Melzer did just beat Federer and a few other excellent clay courters).

Melzer as SF is less outrageous than Murray as a finalist, in my opinion.

Raonic has yet to show he can play with the big boys on clay. Or in a month not named January.

Ben, I think you’ve accidentally slipped on your rose-colored glasses again. In many ways, Federer’s play is demonstrably worse than it was a few years ago. Maybe it’s just because his opponents don’t give him as much — that certainly accounts for some of it. But not all. (Of course, he has also improved in some ways.)

And Nadal is undeniably in “serious decline” given that he is nearly mathematically guaranteed to lose the no. 1 ranking within the next 2 months if Djokovic keeps playing well, has yet to win a real top-level tournament this year (MC didn’t have the man of the moment), and can generally be agreed to be looking shockingly un-dangerous.

No one is saying it’s “terminal decline,” but it is “serious decline” — just as Federer has been in “serious decline” a few times since 2008, while still enjoying periods of recovery and brilliance.

My bet: Rafa wins the French and probably Wimbledon. Sometimes fairy tales have to end.


sar Says:

“It is going to be interesting to see how Rafa deals with the
situation mentally.

“When all is said and done he has lost his last four straight Masters
1000 events to Djokovic,”

“That must have some effect on him. Maybe he lost in Rome because of
what happened in the three previous finals ?

“I am not going to worry about him, but there is no doubt that he is
facing an important point in his career. Mentally it can’t be that
easy for him.

“For myself I don’t think it is the same as regards Djokovic. Even if
I have lost my last three games against him I don’t think he was
dominating me.

“In Rafa against Novak that could count – worth keeping an eye on
it.”

Read more: Tennis: Nadal losses could hurt him, says Federer
http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/60jdfid-2/Article/#ixzz1N2QvcoOO


marrisv Says:

Can’t wait for the it to begin. I get the feeling there is going to be a major upset in the first week,….


Ben Pronin Says:

Federer is in decline, but he’s played a lot better leading into the French this year than last year.

And, Nadal isn’t declining, Djokovic is ascending. There’s a difference. Nadal hasn’t lost to anyone except Djokovic (and Ferrer) this year. He might look “vulnerable” and that’s especially emphasized when he continues to look worse and worse against Djokovic, but he’s still beating everyone else. If Djokovic wasn’t playing so amazing, he may have lost to Nadal at least 2 times and there would be no mention of a decline.


Eric Says:

Sar, mat4, both giving some more examples of Roger’s ever-classy, oh-so-modest commentary on the other players…

“Je n’enlève rien à ce que Novak vient d’accomplir mais je crois qu’il lui faut encore faire davantage. Rafa a neuf Grands Chelems, moi seize, lui deux. Il lui faut en faire beaucoup plus pour créer le fameux monstre*. (…) Moi, j’avais crée un monstre extrême, j’avais des dizaines de records en cours, les demies en Grand Chelem d’affilée, les finales gagnées d’affilée, etc. Je ne sais si Rafa ou Novak évoluent dans la même catégorie de “monstre”.


Kimberly Says:

Eric, can u translate, por favor, solamente hablo ingles y espanol! Muchas gracias!


Eric Says:

Ben, I agree with everything you say, but I would still contend that (a) even if he is still winning, Rafa is NOT playing nearly as well as last year, and (b) going from being the world no. 1 by like a 5,000 point margin and being the heavy favorite favorite at every tournament to facing the prospect of losing your favorite and best tournament and the no. 1 ranking simultaneously while being considered the underdog in many circumstances, constitutes a “decline.”

Maybe “serious decline” isn’t the best way to describe it. But Rafa looks vulnerable in a way that, frankly, he never has since he first got to world no. 2.

I probably shouldn’t have compared it to Roger. Roger’s decline is characterized by the ever-growing erratic and undependable nature of his form, whereas Rafa just somehow looks less uniquely able to WIN, to achieve pure victory, by the sheer force of his will.

That said: we’re heading into the French Open. Rafa is going to figure out how to deal with Djokovic and his own issues, and he’s going to win, and I think we’ll return soon enough to the “normal” world order where Rafa is expected to win every match.


Eric Says:

Kimberly, sure, he says:

I am not taking anything away from what Novak has just accomplished, but I believe that he still needs to do more. Rafa has nine Slams, I have sixteen – he has two. He still has to do much more before creating the famous “monster.” As for me, I had created an excessive monster, I had dozens of records in progress, the semifinals in a row, the finals won, etc… I don’t know if Rafa or Novak are moving into the same category of “monster.”


Ben Pronin Says:

Conceited much, haha. Gotta agree, though.

I think Tignor picked Djokovic to win in Rome with the logic that he’ll start picking against him once he actually loses a match. I guess he went back on that but I’m sticking to it. It’s a little hard to understand that Djokovic hasn’t lost a match in 6 months. It sounds like a fun cliche to say he’s forgotten how to lose but it’s true, just look at the Murray match. Even the Nadal match, where he was visibly more tired than Nadal, but basically unable to drop his level of play.

Nadal looks vulnerable but he’s still winning all of his matches. And I don’t really know what you’re talking about because I haven’t had any doubts about any of his victories, only his matches against Djokovic have changed in dynamic. And I’m absolutely sure that he looked a LOT more vulnerable in the second half of 2009.


Eric Says:

Ben, well, okay, yes — after he was coming back from injury. Anyway, I will agree it was hasty to say he is in “serious decline,” I guess you are right that it is mostly just Djokovic’s astounding level of play. But you mention the Rome match, and that’s sort of what I’m talking about, because Nadal should have been able to capitalize on that fatigue and push Nole hard… well, maybe Djokovic is doping after all. ;)


Ben Pronin Says:

There’s two ways of interpreting the Rome match (imo):

1) Nadal tanked on purpose. He played an atrocious match with an idiotic game plan that didn’t even involve capitalizing on Djokovic’s fatigue. And this was done to give Djokovic a false sense of confidence so that, come French Open final, when Nadal busts out big serves and backhands, it’ll throw Djokovic completely off guard.

2) Nadal is just that mentally stumped by Djokovic right now that he simply couldn’t come up with the right way to play him even though he wanted to. So, come FO final, there’s no reason to believe Nadal will suddenly have the confidence and solution to beat Djokovic.


jane Says:

Thanks Kimberly.

Rafa said recently: “The big champions are not just those that are able to win every week but those that are able to wait until the right moment” “‘I have to wait for my moment to win and I know that”

So, I guess he means the French Open is his time to win? ;)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/tennis/article-1388678/Rafael-Nadal-ready-French-Open.html#ixzz1N3SwBs2h


margot Says:

jane@9.54 tee hee :):) :)
Felt such a wuss having two tries at challenge, but now I see other folk have too, I feel SOOO much better ;)


margot Says:

mat4: really interesting article about Novak, thanx……even if it is in The Mail ;)


Dory Says:

The hype is at its maximum but I still think the time has come for Nadal to lose FO.


mat4 Says:

@Ben:

What’s the right way of playing Djokovic now? Wilander, commenting the AO semi, talked about playing “dirty”, changing the pace, throwing some slice etc. But when I analysed the sequence when Roger made two breaks in a row, in fact Novak had a slump with his serve.

You can’t possibly argue with Roger, who didn’t try to play that way till the end of the match, and still lost.

What about Rafa? It looks to me that he is tasting of his own medecine, and it is interesting to see someone playing over and over to his backhand. And just like Roger, he is helpless.

And honestly, I do believe that Murray, with his high rebouncing crosscourt FH has a terrible weapon against him, and could win. I also think that against this new Roger, and the Djoko, he doesn’t stand a chance in Wimbledon too, especially if he doesn’t win Paris.

What’s left to him? He’s mentality, a mentality of champion, and his strenght. But we have seen at Miami that Djoko could have more stamina than Rafa. Rafa has a problem. And there’s the streak, and the pressure on Djoko. But will it be enough?


mat4 Says:

…His mentality…


Dory Says:

Really a shame I have to endure women’s crap at the Slams. Women’s tennis is at its worst. Never been so boring before.


margot Says:

Pictures of Andy being mobbed for autographs on RG site. Looks as if he’s more popular in France than UK :(
Am doing another bracket and it’s still open although they’ve started playing…seriously weird..
kimberly, can we talk to each other on tournytopia or is it only possible to post a comment under one’s name?
Good luck everyone :)


madmax Says:

Ben,

Here is something for you. It’s interesting and factual from his personal trainer pagnini.

Eric,

Federer is ALWAYS complimentary about rafa and novak, most recently, ‘they are both playing better than me right now’. That goes without saying. It’s not clear whether you are trying to be sarcastic? Apologies if you weren’t.

Why age is no barrier for Roger Federer

swissinfo.chSwiss

tennis star Roger Federer, in a new role as underdog to both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, is looking to win the French Open for the second time after 2009.
On the eve of the Roland Garros tournament in Paris, Pierre Paganini, Federer’s physical trainer, tells swissinfo.ch that the holder of a record 16 grand slam titles is still at the peak of his form and reveals some of the reasons why he has succeeded for so long.

Paganini, 53, has toned the muscles and legs of 29-year-old Federer for more than ten years. He follows him for about 140 days a year and also works with Swiss number two Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded 14 in Paris.

Federer, seeded third, has a tough first match against Feliciano Lopez, ranked 41 in the world. Although the Spaniard has never won in eight encounters, their most recent match – in Madrid earlier this month – involved Federer having to save a match point before eventually winning 7-6, 6-7, 7-6.

swissinfo.ch: How is Federer’s physical form before Roland Garros?

Pierre Paganini: He is going from strength to strength. His game and legs are better than last year at the same time [12 months ago Federer lost in the quarterfinals to Robin Söderling, ending his six-year streak of consecutive grand slam semifinals].

After the Monte Carlo tournament, he trained intensively for two weeks. During the season, physical preparation can be divided into three periods. There’s one in December, one between February and April, and the third in summer. Sometimes there’s a fourth in the autumn. This helps Roger sharpen up constantly for key moments.

Each period lasts for a minimum two to three weeks. The emphasis is on the fundamentals at the physical and tennis levels. The different types of training are spread out appropriately so that he can deepen [his knowledge of tennis] and recuperate from this work, and especially put this into best practice on the tennis court. Between these periods, there are intensive weeks of maintaining physical condition and prevention of injuries.

” Roger is one of those rare people who will do their utmost to achieve their goal. ”
Pierre Paganini

swissinfo.ch: Is there any special training before Roland Garros?

P.P.: In order that he can adapt to different court surfaces, he has special training for muscles and the heart. On hard courts, the thigh muscles have to work more because of slips. On other surfaces, the muscles of the feet and calves are more important. But at the end of the day, it’s still tennis.

swissinfo.ch: Is a hard court more demanding physically?

P.P.: Some players say it’s harder, other say the opposite. There are fewer shocks on a hard court and it’s sometimes less harsh on your joints. On the other hand, the muscles, notably the thighs, are put to the test. Every player has his way of moving around in this situation. Roger has proven that he can play the game on any surface and knows how to use his legs.

swissinfo.ch: Do you work differently with someone who is 20 than with someone who is 30?

P.P.: Tennis is not a sport that makes you old at 30. On the contrary, it helps those who are more mature. At that age, details make the difference. Tennis demands intensive and differing efforts at the physical level, but pauses of 25 and 90 seconds and help partial recovery.

Let’s not forget that Roger already has 950 matches taking its toll on his legs and years of hard work behind him. As he hopes to play for several years to come, the proportion and distribution of training are extremely important. Every training session calls for a different approach: speed, nimbleness and endurance. As far as Roger is concerned, we do it so that he can benefit from slots of necessary recuperation in every type of training. We did it before, but it’s more important today.

Pierre Paganini (swissinfo)
swissinfo.ch: What do you think of the “theory of decline” which pops up regularly in the media?

P.P.: I do not understand how people can write such things. Let’s judge Roger’s performances seriously, but objectively. On the courts, he has come up against four generations of players. Seven years ago, he was already the world’s number one. In 2011 and approaching 30, he is ranked third in the world but he continues to play extraordinarily.

It’s unprecedented.

Between 28 and 30, it’s impossible to progress at the same rhythm as when you were 22 or 25. Put simply, others are progressing too and that is the charm of this sport. I have enormous respect for Djokovic and Nadal but even more for Federer because his longevity is incredible. He is very near them and always has a chance to beat them.

swissinfo.ch: How does the continual travelling affect the players?

P.P.: There’s never much talk about this. The players have to put up with jet lag during the whole season. It’s essential to know your body to fight this as best you can. Roger manages to do this thanks to his exemplary lifestyle and his experience.

To give you an example, when he goes to the United States, his pulse rate goes up by ten beats a minute more during some efforts than in Switzerland. It’s vital to take note of these differences. Roger not only has an objective view of his body but also an uncanny feeling. It’s very useful for communication and planning.

swissinfo.ch: Federer has said he wants to regain the world number one spot. Is this realistic?
P.P.: That goes without saying, and it would be stupid not to believe it. That does not mean it’s going to be easy. If you look at the almost impossible things he has achieved in his career, you can only have confidence in him. It’s in the character of a champion to say what he will try to do. Roger is one of those rare people who will do their utmost to achieve their goal. That’s why he has every right to say things like that.

Samuel Jaberg, swissinfo.ch
(Adapted from French by Robert Brookes)


dari Says:

With all that monster talk, wonder if fed has lady Gaga on his brain?
But Rafa made his own little monster with winning the 3 major in a row last year, and djokovic has made a monster in this streak he has brewing.


dari Says:

You haven’t been watching lately Dory, it has picked up!


dari Says:

Ugh, cilic!
I think I had him goin far!


Dory Says:

If only Cilic were to maximize his potential. He is very talented but can’t seem to get his act together since last year.


Kimmi Says:

Yes, Cilic..what the heck, losing in straight sets too..


Kimmi Says:

so excited french open started. LETS GO GIRLS AND BOYS!

Go Rog!


jamie Says:

Nadal has not won a big title since the USO….

Barcelona and Tokyo are mickey mouse.

Monte Carlo is not compulsory and many of the top players don’t show up like Nole this year…


Kimmi Says:

wawrinka lost first set..doing well in the second. he better win this.


Kimmi Says:

Gulbis lost set 1 and 2. not looking good. hmmm, i dont see him coming back in this.


jane Says:

I should do another men’s bracket if it is still open, but it would seem weird since they’ve started. I guess I’ll leave it. Cilic is really having an abysmal year. And Gulbis? Ugh.


Djerker Says:

Nole Awwwwww….. are you sad you’re not getting the same respect as the other two despite having less than one quarter of Nadal’s slams and a full one-eighth of Roger’s big cups? 

Do you want to be icon at two slams? I guess that’s not so bad given Murray wants to be icon with no slams.

Ok, I’ll give you some secrets if you want more fans (ones whose last names don’t end in -vic)

Hands pounding chest no good.

Hands can go above chest or below waist and that’s fine – example – Roger likes to play with his hair. That’s good. Goes well with the ladies. Rafa likes to tickle his posterior. And that’s good – goes well with the ladies. Just keep them away from the chest area. Only WTA players can fiddle with the chest region and get more fans.

Second, leave dad, mom, brothers, friends of brothers, cousins Iscratchich and Ibeatvich home
… in front of the big screen TV. Tell them to invite the neighbors, get some party poppers and leave dad in charge of the grill. You don’t put out your trash in the front yard if you’re trying to sell the house.

Hold it in
Third and last, remember the time you were a kid and daddy took you to the game? In the middle, you had to go and dad took you to the stadium restroom and there were people lined up to go as well. Remember what he told you? “Hold it in”. We know you want recognition like you want to go peepee urgently. But what was true then is true now. Wait your turn, the guys in front of you are not done yet.


Kimmi Says:

it shouldnt be open jane. if it is, then you will be cheating! we know few results already :)

watching georges but my steam keeps buffering…wish live matches were on TV today :(


grendel Says:

From Mat4′s Mail link:”When I lost to Nadal in Madrid in 2009, after an incredible three-set match lasting almost four-and-a-half hours, I lost my self-belief.”

That’s very interesting. Djokovic is clearly telling the truth. I don’t know what he said in his presser after the match, but I bet it was a great deal more positive. Certainly if it had been Murray or Federer, what would have been stressed is the closeness of the match, could have gone either way, was playing very well and so on – therefore every reason to feel good about self. The interesting thing about this type of response is that every claim could well be true (WAS close, etc) and yet the response itself would likely be deeply misleading.

This suggests what I’ve always thought, that postmatch pressers are (generally)strictly pr jobs, and it is not sensible to take them literally. The other thing is the honesty of Djokovic – even a year after the event, it is still a startling admission. I don’t know too much about Djokovic, so I don’t know whether his honesty is typical of the man or whether he is now so confident, so self-assured, that he can afford to admit to weaknesses. A bit of both, I’d guess. But if anyone wanted a clue as to where Djokovic’s mind is right now, that admission tells you straight away. The man is superconfident. Conversely, the almost comical comments of Federer which Eric quoted shows you a man trying to gain with words what he can’t gain with his racket. Personally, I find it kind of sad – and I mean sad, I’m not being sarcastic.


jane Says:

I picked Goerges to the final! ha ha. With the WTA, you just never know, so I whipped through my picks without much thought. It’ll be interesting to see how badly I do.

Kimmi, I know. I didn’t do another one. :) But margot said above that the bracket challenge was still open even after matches began. I did only one men’s bracket, but wish I had done a couple, just to see.


Ben Pronin Says:

Grendel, I think Djokovic has always been very honest. And yeah, now that he’s super confident, it’s easier for him to come to terms with a time when he wasn’t, and he has no qualms about admitting it. I love how in one of his interviews where he says Nadal is still the favorite, he even points out that he’s not trying to be falsely modest or anything, it’s how he actually feels because Nadal has beaten him at RG all those times and he’s won the whole event all those other times.

As for Federer’s comments, I’m finding less and less wrong with them. He’s also very honest and, at least to me, it looks like he’s coming to grips with reality. Federer is a master of seizing opportunities (see 2009 French Open). He knows better than anyone that this is not his best slam and he would need several things to happen for him to reclaim the title. And he’s pretty much fine with that, as long as he’s peaking come Wimbledon, because there, you gotta boost his chances significantly.


Kimmi Says:

Go goerges! hope she does well!


Kimmi Says:

jane- canadian rebecca marino wins her first round match, beat kateryna bondarenko. lets see how far she can go :)


leo vixen Says:

How does anyone know how badly Nadal’s losses to Djokovic have affected him? Sure it has to be a bit of a bummer, but if anything that will fuel the bull in Rafa to come back fighting even stronger. He’s been there before and he is known to be one of the mentally strongest competitors of all times. It’s anyone’s guess how this will turn out, but I think Djoker will get knocked out even before the final, just don’t know by whom. Just the way everyone thought there would be a Rafa slam; we all know how that turned out. And Soderling taking out another world no.1? Don’t think so. Seems as if his level has dipped lately. Sometimes you can’t change the spots on a leopard.


jane Says:

Kimmi, woot Rebecca; I picked her for a few rounds, actually. I know clay is likely not her preferred surface, but she has buckets of potential.


Kimmi Says:

mattek-sands could lose in the first round, she is down a set and a break right now.


Eric Says:

Ben, I agree that Federer always gives props where they are due, but he also has few scruples about being immodestly honest. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it’s definitely kind of amusing and jarring to read all of his quotes where he talks about how awesome he is and how he’s not sure Rafa and Djokovic are as awesome as him yet, which also happens rather a lot.


Eric Says:

gulbis and cilic already out? man, what the heck…


dari Says:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO NOVAK DJOKOVIC,
JURGEN MELZER, TOO!
yeah, I don’t know how to take all of fed’s comments. If i think about it too much, its sad, but its also rolling eyes funny, and then its also all kinda true.
I liked fed in the beginning cause I thought he was a speak softly carry a big stick kinda guy- maybe he was back then, maybe i wasn’t reading the interviews and he never was, but I just want those words to match what’s happening on court right now.
Allez Rog
Big day tomorrow, fed, novak, delpo!


jane Says:

Yeah, Happy 24th to Novak.

dari, loved this; you capture the complexity: “its sad, but its also rolling eyes funny, and then its also all kinda true.”


Eric Says:

dari, it’s all true. He’s not talking about right now — he’s saying that Djokovic doesn’t have the same “monster” that Fed did back when he had the “monster” – in like 2007, say.


Kimmi Says:

dari – thanks for reminder. did not know djoko shares bday with tuna melzer.

happy birthday to both.

ah, for those who did women bracket challenge. another upset for you. flavia panetta is out.


Kimmi Says:

just ready hewitt pulled out due to ankle injury. i saw his name on the draw and i thought i should give him one round.

he has not played for a while..haven’t seen him in all the master series.

Nice to see tommy haas in the draw though. hope he wins a match.


Kimmi Says:

should be “just read”..brain cramp


madmax Says:

Eric,

I could post so many fantastic comments fed has said recently about rafa and novak, but I feel..somehow..they would be lost on you. You obviously like to believe everything the press print.

In case you didn’t know, federer IS awesome. 99% of the tour believe it, why shouldn’t he? Only last week Novak was saying, ‘I’m the best in the world. I can beat anybody’. And why shouldn’t Novak say that? He IS playing the best in the world right now and he HAS beaten the best in the world right now – rafa.

I don’t find anything wrong with Novak saying that at all. Awesome. He believes it.


jane Says:

Interesting comments about the new babolat balls the FO are using this year. Nole said “Maybe it’s going to favor the servers and the big hitters.”

More here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-22/new-french-open-balls-by-babolat-bring-complaints-from-novak-djokovic.html


jane Says:

More comments on the ball change from Murray: ” I don’t mind the ball but I would just rather we played with the same ball throughout the clay-court stretch and the same throughout the hard-court stretch.”

http://www.sportinglife.com/tennis/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=tennis/11/05/22/TENNIS_French_Murray_Nightlead.html&BID=553


Andrew Miller Says:

“Will believe it when I see it” – Djokovic win.

Until then Nadal is king of Paris.


Eric Says:

madmax, erm… As I just said many times, I am well aware that Fed is often complimentary and gracious — but he is also (VERY DESERVEDLY) conceited, which is a little jarring since most athletes pretend to be modest. So when you take many of his quotes out of context without considering the questions asked and his character,they often sound – as the one I quoted does – as if he is being unbelievably arrogant. But like I said, I know he is also very complimentary (plus, he is 100% right and just telling the truth in response to a question). So I’m not sure what the heck you’re on about.


dari Says:

Thx Jane.
I like Murray assertive statement about keeping balle the same, even if that’s never gonna happen.
Balls flying may equal- more winners/aces or more shanks from.fed?
Higher bounce good for raf and the tall boys.
It does seem kinda fast from what I’ve seen, David was just killing it on the forehand.
And what a thwack/POP I’m hearing on the tv! We got a new tv, maybe that’s it or are other people hearing it?


Voicemale1 Says:

What will be worth watching for is if any cumulative effects begin to show in the Djokovic game at this tournament. Of the Top 4, his Quarter looks the toughest. He may, or may not, get through a match with Del Potro. If he does, it’s likely to be a long brutal one. What’s least likely is a straight set triumph by Djokovic over JMDP. Assuming he gets out of that one, guys like Gasuqet or Bellucci can get a set from him, further extending his time on court in the first week. If the seeds hold, he’s scheduled to get Berdych in the Quarters, who was a Semi Finalist last year here, and Federer. To think Djokovic can escape both of these without a lot of effort seems unrealistic to me. At some point the Djokovic legs are going to start to feel the effects of such an outstanding 2011. He’s played a lot of tennis to this point, and a number of his matches have been long, grueling brutal grinds. We know Nadal can go through the whole clay season, show up at The French Open and crush everyone on the way to the trophy. When I see Djokovic do that too then I’ll believe he can.

Oddly, this is one of the rare times Djokovic is slated to meet Federer here before a Final and not Nadal – who always sent Djokovic home setless at The French. On clay I think Federer matches up a whole lot better with Djokovic than he does with Nadal. And my gut says Federer is itching to have a crack at Djokovic here. All three – Nadal, Federer and Murray – were asked about the Djokovic streak when they arrived in Paris. What’s surprising was how independently uniform they were in their judgements. They were respectful, and said his confidence is what’s largely responsible for what he’s bagged so far. But they also noted nothing technically has changed in the actual Djokovic game, with Murray being the most emphatic about that point. They all say Djokovic is playing just like he always was; the confidence of winning is keeping him winning. Yet none of them sounded especially fearful of him in their answers. If they’re right (and they would certainly know) that the Djokovic game is largely what it’s always been and is sailing on the Ship of Confidence, then Djokovic can’t afford to lose anything from where he is. He can’t afford something like a 5-8% drop in First Serve Percentage (which can happen to anyone at any time), and expect get the same results. Or at the very least, he’s going to have to work harder to get those same results. Nonetheless it was interesting to read their take on what Djokovic has managed up to now.

The barn-burner match is likely to be a Nadal-Murray SF. After Monte Carlo Murray is likely to think he’s got chance to upend Nadal, especially if Nadal is a little shaky on confidence. But if seeds hold to the Semis, it would not surprise me – or a lot of others – if we get another Fedal Final at a Major.


Skeezerweezer Says:

Jane

Thanks for that. Always been a rough topic with me. Changing GS surfaces and now the balls, ugh. Totally agree with the players about keeping consistent with the balls / surface. I mean, do they ever ask the players opinion before they do these changes?


mat4 Says:

@Eric: I read the whole Fed’s interview in l’Equipe, and I can assure you that the few sentences cited everywhere are out of context.

For those who can read French, you can find it on 15-love tennis. @Djita posted it in three parts.


mat4 Says:

I could copy/paste here, but only in French, since I am certainly not able to translate it in English.


Kimmi Says:

ah, i guess a fedal final will be ideal for rafa and his fans.


jane Says:

Part of me feels like Djoko’s draw is just too tall an ask for him to come through it all and win: de bakker, hanescu, delpotro, bellucci/gasquet, berdych, fed/ferrer, then rafa? That is quite brutal, imo. That is why when I first saw the draw I could almost see a Fed-Murray final. Maybe the fast court will keep points shorter. And if it favours big hitters and servers, maybe players like Tsonga, Soderling and Berdych will go deep. Anyhow we’ll see. Only saw some scores today, no action.

dari, it is interesting to hear you take on how things looked and sounded today. Hopefully there is some coverage here tomorrow!


Eric Says:

Djokovic and Fed are both in action tomorrow (i.e. tonight) at 3.30 and 5.30 am (Pacific, so 6.30 and 8.30 Eastern) respectively. Too bad I’ll be sleeping…


grendel Says:

Nobody seems to have mentioned Kuznetsova. She’s so wildly up and down. But if her game is on – likely, I think, at her favourite tournament – she’s as good a bet as anyone.

Nice read, Voicemale 1.


mat4 Says:

@Jane:

At the AO Djoko had Almagro, Berdych, Federer, Murray. Troicki retired, but Dodig played an excellent match. I don’t see why this draw should be much worse.

Then, Gulbis is already out, Del Po is recovering from an injury and he still has to beat Karlovic, Belucci has just one good result on clay, and now that everybody is expecting something from him, he could misfire (not to mention that Djokovic now knows his serve), Gasquet, just like every Frenchman (Monfils excepted) usually doesn’t play well at RG…

I wouldn’t be surprised if this draw – very hard on paper – becomes a walk through the park. The other way is possible too. But, usually, only the top three perform well at almost every tournament.


Eric Says:

Djoko’s draw is tough, but it’s not noteworthily rougher than Rafa’s – you can’t go around talking about guys like de Bakker and Hanescu, ranked in the 60s, as tough draws. Okay, de Bakker is a fine player, but I don’t think anyone quakes in their boots about having to play him. Meanwhile Rafa has to open against Isner, who is like 150 points away from being seeded, and then back it up against Giraldo or Andujar, who are both fine clay-courters (Andujar has a recent clay title, and Giraldo was just runner-up to Robredo a few months ago at some South American clay tournament). Then he faces Davydenko, who has a winning record against him (not on clay, of course, but always a nice psychological bonus) and then Verdasco, who nearly kicked him out of the Australian Open the year Rafa won.

Djokovic and Del Potro got, the both of them, rather unlucky in having to play each other so early, but otherwise Djokovic has a standard draw – i.e., appropriate and not cupcake-y like Rafa’s draws usually are. Although I bet Nole would rather face Andy than Roger in his semifinal, that’s for sure. If not, he’s crazy…


jane Says:

If Davy or Verdasco weren’t having horrid years, I would agree with you Eric. But I think Nole’s draw – on paper – overall is tougher. Having said that, you never know how the matches will transpire.

Mat4, hope you are right; you make two very good points. First, Nole came through a fairly tough draw at the AO (little devil on shoulder says, yes, but he was fresher then ;)) and second, that while a draw can look tough on paper it often plays out differently.

Just need to wait and see, hope for the best.

Unfortunately, now that Eric has posted the match times, it seems unlikely I will get to see either Nole or Fed play tomorrow!


jane Says:

Mind you, Rafa has Soda – the FO upsetter. And if the court is playing really fast…


Eric Says:

Jane, I agree. The way a draw looks on paper and how it actually turns out are often shockingly different.

But the thing about outstanding players is that they can suddenly start showing their true colors. Just look at how Murray went from looking like he was going to lose 6-1 6-0 in Rome to coming within a winner or two of the match.

Davydenko of course is 100% not going to be a threat to Rafa, but he recently had his first good tournament in months and could always give Nadal a handful. And the same is true even more so for Verdasco, who has certainly been in an extended slump but shows occasional signs of life.

And as you say, Soderling is a dangerous QF opponent. Far more so than Berdych, whose ranking is massively overinflated by his bizarrely good showing at Wimbledon.


Eric Says:

(It’s worth keeping in mind that Soderling is the ONLY player who has EVER beaten Rafa at the French open.

So any draw that puts the Swede in Nadal’s way has to be considered a pretty tough draw for Rafa. I just don’t see even Del Potro or Gasquet giving Nole that much trouble on clay.)


dari Says:

I’m done with gasquet. His beating fed left poor taste in my mouth. I’m ready for him to start flaking again.
I have not a clue how delpo is playing now, love him to death, but I don’t see him as reliable for an upset too big these days.
I would be very happy if he made it happen though. Maybe he can get past the first couple rounds and then smack the cover off the ball against novak. Who knows!
Well, Eric, when you put it like that ( soda is the only one EVER to beat Rafa at FO) it sounds pretty scary.
I think Rafa is gonna make it happen this year, but I feel like the longer people are holding on to streaks and undefeated records, the sooner those will get disrupted. Monte Carlo does not apply.


Eric Says:

One thing is for sure, if we see a major upset in the first week, someone will be blaming the new balls… :)


dari Says:

For those who couldn’t watch matches, tennis channel is streaming matches.
http://bit.ly/lqcxKp


Eric Says:

dari, that’s awesome! thanks!


grendel Says:

dari @1.07 pm. I like what you say, and feel gently rebuked. For me, Federer comes across much more sympathetically on screen than in print. What can seem outrageous or absurd in cold print is different somehow when you see and hear him – that’s easy to forget. The twinkle in the eye, the thoughtful modulation in the voice, the impression of fatigue, ebullience, sadness, irritability, whatever it might be, all serve to set his words in context. And there is this thought, too: everyone talks crap from time to time,and you might well be suspicious of someone who, in his public utterances, is unfailingly bland and correct. Federer can never be accused of that.

About his prospective semi-final meeting with Djokovic – by no means a given for either man. But say. I personally find it impossible to watch Federer without wanting him to win. And yet the prospect of a Fedal final, especially on clay, fills me with gloom. Whereas a Djokovic/Nadal final is an enthralling prospect. There is a contradiction here which looks more or less irresolvable…


Skeezerweezer Says:

Eric 2:47 yeah u called it..lol

Re: Fed lets not forget he is the most interviewed tennis player in history. He doesn’t repeat the same old thing, and tries to come up with intelligent answers. Even though he has given a zillion interviews. He represents the Sport well.


mat4 Says:

A few things I do not agree. And a long post, sorry.

The only question in the lower part of the draw is: will Djokovic be able to keep his current level?

Because if he can, if he plays the way he did in Rome, with a day of rest between two matches, there is nobody who can stop him till the final. Against the best player on his side – Roger – he has an effective and clear cut plan. The thorn in his side, when he plays against Fed – the sliced backhand that Fed uses to prepare a counterattack, is ineffective on clay. I watched them in Rome, in 2009 – the year Fed won RG – and it was obvious, when Djokovic settled down, that Roger wasn’t able to keep the pace, to hold in the rallies, especially from the backhand side. Djoko will just repeat what he has done time and time before: press Roger’s backhand, and wait.

Roger’s backhand is now better, and, overall, he has improved his game, but I have the impression that the changes he made are for Wimbledon, not for RG. He is good on clay, and I enjoy watching him, but his one hander is a liability, especially under pressure.

Del Potro, Berdych… when you watch Djokovic decimate Soderling, or Wawrinka (who was playing quite well), I don’t see how they could win more than one set: they just don’t move well enough against a guy who changes the direction of the ball all the time. The serve, that could help, after some long rallies starts to fade, and then, there is pressure, and long rallies, longer rallies, and UEs.

The danger is on the other side. Without a day off (and all the bets are about this: will Rafa, or Novak have a day off), the final will Rafole.

Andy Murray has a chance, against Rafa, but it could be slim.

On one side, his crosscourt FH, who lost him the AO final, is very effective against Rafa. Then, he puts a lot of weight in his backhand, which is more powerful than Djoko’s. He can serve well, and, basically, he can play the same plan Djokovic is playing against Rafa: to pin Rafa on his BH side, than to finish the point with a crosscourt backhand.

He has two results giving him confidence: the one from Monte Carlo, and the other from Rome.

But those results are misleading. At MC, Rafa didn’t play very well. Since then, he rose his level. And the courts in Paris, since it hasn’t rained for two months, are very fast. It will be a completely different game.

Then, at Rome, another thing happened. I noticed a few years ago that Djokovic, when he was tired, had problems to start the match, to get in. It was obvious against Wawrinka and Soderling. But against Andy, he found his range in the first, just to start missing in the second. We all know how that match finished, but, if Novak was fresher, it could have been a second set copy/paste of the first.

Of course, we will never know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we are overestimating Andy’s chances, just like he is. It could be a good thing, to believe make miracles possible, but he could pay it before the semi, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t make the semi, neither would I be surprised if he makes the final.

But for me, although I would love a good result from the Scot, Rafa is the pick.

We get back to the question from the beginning of this post: will Djokovic be able to sustain the level of play from Rome? Because if he can, Rafa will have to play at his apsolute peak to have a chance. Otherwise, he won’t take a set. In Madrid, and then in Rome, it wasn’t an affair of a point here, and another there. It was utter domination by Djokovic, and the result – especially in Madrid, could have been far worse than it was. It is not a question of game, or game plan, neither of physicality: it will just be a question of nerves, because the stakes are so high.


mat4 Says:

@Eric: Is it only me, or somebody else has the impression that the top 4 semi is, in a way protected? Sod landing in Rafa’s quarter, Del Po in Djoko’s… Blockbusters but the favorites go through. What if Sod and Del Po were somewhere else? Could we have 1-4, 2-3 in the semi?

Andy’s quarter is a piece of cake, but, at first sight, in Roger’s quarter: at first sight, he never lost against any of his virtual opponents (he’s 11-0 against Ferrer, 4-0 on clay).


mat4 Says:

@Skeezerweezer:

About that last Roger’s inteview: I read it, and it is a balanced and intelligent interview. But a few sentences are quoted out of context. That’s not what he really says.


mat4 Says:

It is also a difference of culture. Europeans are just starting to learning what censure is, what it means to be “politically correct” in the American sense. Roger is just open and frank.


mat4 Says:

And, sorry, about the draw, it was really at first sight: Benneteau and Monfils have won a match against Roger.


andrea Says:

whoever is in the FO final, i’m just glad that this year i won’t be at the banff TV festival having to watch it in my hotel room….an extra week squeaked in this year. now, the only difficulty is whether the canucks can finish off tampa or the bruins before i have to leave town….can’t believe we are 1 win away from the final round!!!


grendel Says:

mat4 – if I may make a couple of responses to your excellent and informative post. ” will Djokovic be able to keep his current level?” that’s the key, isn’t it. And nobody knows. It’s tantalising, like an endlessly delayed execution – the chop has to come, but when?
I don’t think your comments re Wawrinka and Sod necessarily apply to del Potro – he is simply a class above them. If he has finally found his form, he has got to be a danger. As of now, del Potro’s main problem is lack of match tightness, not Djokovic I should have thought.

Murray is always a surprise – he wins, or at least puts up a good show, when you think he’s going to lose badly, and he loses when you assume he’ll breeze through. It’s a bold man who bets on him.

Re Nadal, the question in my mind is – will the loss in Rome critically affect his confidence, or will it galvanize him into renewal? There doesn’t seem to be much precedence, so I am going to plump for the latter. You’re right about the stakes being high – mainly for Nadal, imo. Djokovic will recover easily from a loss which is semi-expected. Nadal, his kingdom gone, will surely be shattered. So he is, in a sense, going to be fighting for his life. Personally, I find it very hard to see his being beaten in such circumstances. This is going to be bear-pit stuff, hour after hour of it.


skeezerweezer Says:

@mat4

Thanks for the clarification, it wasn’t so much for you but others :)

Sod is not in great form right now, based on earlier tourneys this year, so saying he can test Rafa is kinda iffy. The difference here is Rafa doesn’t seem so supremely confident either, having to desperately throw in MB’s against Nole to stay in the last match. However, don’t forget despite losing to Nole 4 times, he has also made it to 4 FINALS. Sod needs to get through the draw to Rafa first, then we’ll see about that. Me thinks Rafa will be runnin through the draw as usual and then IF he meets Nole this will present a big problem, but Nole has to get to the final also, and there is a lot of “ifs” along the road.

I like the fact that Fed is not the big story in this tourney. If he gets by f-lo, it’s gonna be a very interesting tourney for him…look out for the dark horse…thought I would never say that about Fed…


grendel Says:

Worship. You just can’t get away from it, wherever you go. It seems to answer some pretty deep human need. Baffles me, all the same.


skeezerweezer Says:

grendel,

Your opinion of “Worship” baffles me, and to what ends?


marrisv Says:

Interesting to see the new babolat balls on television. They definitely seemed faster and jump higher with spin.

Darren Cahill on ESPN said that Rafa and Andy practiced and played a set and Rafa won easily. And especially that Rafa’s spin made the balls shoot higher.


skeezerweezer Says:

@marrisv

Interesting find and will be a keen observer of that as the tourney goes…

So now it is documented that Nole and Murray do not like the change but Rafa is mum on the change…..interesting….and it will be interesting on who benefits from the new balls….no?


tennis coach Says:

It won’t matter to Novak, he will take all Rafa’s shots on the rise!


Possum Says:

After that, it’s Richard Gasquet. I think the talented Frenchman actually plays well in this year in France and comes through.

Is this a trendy way of writing about sports because I am starting to see it a lot? Is it proper grammar?


truefan Says:

Rafa has been very lucky so far – the one guy 3 years younger to him who could really beat the heck out of him (Del Po) flamed out with an injury post USO 2009, and is still not near his peak, also physically. Murray (1 year younger) has just not stepped up on important moments against anyone so far. Djokovic finally stepped up and is now exposing the weaknesses in Nadal’s game, and now also his physical level, since Nadal is not how he was a couple of years ago (25 will do it for most tennis players).

Would be very interesting to see the rest of the season. I still think Nadal is the favorite at the French this year. But not so at Wimbledon, certainly not at the USO. And by next year he may be visibly in decline. 2010 was his peak year.

A lot depends on whether Djokovic can hold it together, and whether Murray steps up and Del Po recovers. Would be terrific USO this year if Del Po is fit, Federer has won Wimbledon, Djokovic is still crushing everyone, and Murray wins a hard court masters before the USO (all of these have happened before, so nothing very improbable about it!).

Tiger Woods seems to be done at 14 Majors. Roger might be done at 16 – may just add one or two more, max. I hope Djokovic wins a few more. Nadal may find it very tough to cross 12 (two more French, and one other seem doable).

Just like winning puts one on a roll, it suddenly stops too – there is no such thing as a gradual decline. Federer made it a bit gradual by hanging in through 2008 and 2009 (made all slam finals in both years, won 3 majors along the way). But now he will struggle to even get to finals. Will need some luck to win one.

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Rankings
ATP - Sep 15 WTA - Sep 15
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Rafael Nadal2 Simona Halep
3 Roger Federer3 Petra Kvitova
4 Stan Wawrinka4 Maria Sharapova
5 David Ferrer5 Agnieszka Radwanska
6 Milos Raonic6 Na Li
7 Tomas Berdych7 Eugenie Bouchard
8 Kei Nishikori8 Angelique Kerber
9 Marin Cilic9 Caroline Wozniacki
10 Grigor Dimitrov10 Ana Ivanovic
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