Why I’m Picking Novak Djokovic To Win The French Open; Thoughts On Rafa’s Regression
by Sean Randall | May 19th, 2014, 4:23 pm
  • 209 Comments

According to this poll, I’m not the only one thinking this is the year Novak Djokovic finally busts through to win the French Open. Minus a bum wrist, the Serb has been dominant since the Australian Open collecting three Tennis Masters titles capped by a virtuoso performance yesterday in a scintillating triumph over arch rival Rafael Nadal in Rome.

I had picked to Nadal to win yesterday based on the belief that Djokovic just wasn’t at full strength yet, not after missing time with the wrist. But I was wrong.

After dropping an uneven first set Djokovic hit his stride and find the range. And once he did he was untroubled by Nadal who I thought was actually playing pretty well. But the same old problems recurred for Nadal. As I’ve said for years Djokovic just matches up nicely with Nadal.

Nadal loves to pound the forehand crosscourt to the opponent’s backhand, but the backhand is a strength of Djokovic’s.

Nadal loves to hit that trusty slice serve to the righty opponent’s backhand, but Novak excels on the backhand return.

Also, Novak can go from defense to offense in a blink and he’s got great reach with his court coverage. All that spells trouble for Nadal if Djokovic is on form, and for those last two sets yesterday unfortunately for the Spaniard he was.

So Djokovic, who celebrates his 27th birthday on Thursday, has to go into the French never feeling better. It seems like that wrist injury is in the past and in his future could very well be a Career Slam in three weeks. Who’s going to stop him?

Nadal obviously could, especially with Novak still prone to those concentration lapses. But mentally after losing yesterday for a fourth straight time to Djokovic, these losses have to take their toll. They had to add up. And since the US Open Nadal’s won just ONE set from Djokovic in NINE tries.

And honestly – I still believe this – Djokovic has a better chance of beating Nadal on clay than a fast hardcourt like the US Open. That’s because on clay Novak will get even more time to jump on that weak second serve and more time to track down Nadal forehands. Can Nadal improve that second serve for Paris? Can he become more offensive when his instincts tell him not to?

The question is for Djokovic, will that wrist hold up and mentally when he gets into that position to win can he beat Nadal in what would be the biggest, most important match of his life (he’s getting married, a baby coming, this could be his last best chance)? What awesome is that I think we are going to find out. Because I don’t see anyone else but these two making the final.

Of course there are other threats at the French. Stan Wawrinka could surprise just as he did in Australia. Stan’s more of an offensive player than Rafa, and he mixes up his serve better, but mentally can he sustain it now that he’s a Slam champion? He had a great run in Monte Carlo, but since has been well below ordinary.

Roger Federer is playing well and so is Andy Murray, but over five sets it’s hard to see either of them beating Novak or Nadal.

Despite his poor outing Saturday against Rafa, I think Grigor Dimitrov could pose a risk. Maybe Tomas Berdych can get hot, or Milos Raonic or John Isner have monster serving days and trouble Nadal, maybe Novak.

But bottom line, unless Novak gets tight or that wrist relapses, I just don’t see anyone beating him in Paris.

As for Nadal, he has to be shaken right now. He just got blown out for the fourth straight time by his main rival. And at times their collisions look like total mismatches. To make matters worse, he’s also struggling against everyone else! Why? Who knows. There doesn’t seem to be a physical issue so that means it’s mental (or off court, personal or he’s just older – he turns 28 on the day of the semis – and not as good). And often those issues between the ears are the toughest to get right.

So while Nadal is probably and rightfully still the French favorite among the bookies, to me he just hasn’t been that impressive this season. And really dating back to the US Open. That’s why I chose Djokovic over him in in Paris at the start of the year.

Remember when I said Rafa’s summer hardcourt run may not have been all that magnificent? That his rise was aided by Murray being injured, Federer being old and injured and Djokovic just plain out of it?

And remember when I said at the end of last year that maybe Nadal was overworking himself by taking the money in South America?

Well…

So here are my pre-draw favorites in order:
1. Novak Djokovic – Four straight convicing wins over Nadal is awfully hard to ignore.
2. Rafael Nadal – Until someone beats him in Paris he’s still the King of Clay.
3. Stan Wawrinka – Hard to gauge to the new Slam winner, but the French should suit him.
4. Roger Federer – Father Federer played well in Monte Carlo but got blown away in Rome.
5. David Ferrer – Former finalist could sneak into that Wawrinka semifinal spot, if the draw breaks right.
6. Grigor Dimitrov – Has shown the ability to play with the big boys.
7. Kei Nishikori – Health is a major issue.
8. Andy Murray – Showed some life in Rome, but will he go all out in Paris with a Wimbledon title defense looming?
9. Milos Raonic – If the conditions are dry that’ll help.

The French Open draw I believe will be released on Friday.


Also Check Out:
Uncle Toni Nadal: Rafa’s Body Isn’t That Great, Ferrer’s Is Better!
Roger Federer: It’s Very Clear, Rafa Is The Favorite To Win The French Open, Then Novak!
Rafael Nadal Says He’s OK to Go
What Do We Read Into Rafa’s Return After One Week? It Is Time To Panic Or Time To Chill?
Was Novak Djokovic’s 2011 Season A Total Fluke? It’s Looking That Way

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209 Comments for Why I’m Picking Novak Djokovic To Win The French Open; Thoughts On Rafa’s Regression

Giles Says:

Hope you are wrong again Sean. I’m counting on the “Sean Jinx”
Vamos Rafa!
Stay Healthy!


skeezer Says:

Yep Sean read all those previous entries. It’s not like your write ups are not well thought out. They are.
But you know those types, they’ll keep themselves in denial for ther Love until he is out of the scene. Will get a clear answer imo with Rafa’s results at RG. I wonder what the write up will say if Rafa loses RG career wise? Or he wins?
Btw would pick Nishi higher if he is healthy….


Giles Says:

Sean and everybody else on this forum. When oh when will you guys stop talking about Joker’s “bum Wrist”. He never ever had a wrist injury!
#Fakerovic


Hippy Chic Says:

There is a question mark over Rafa winning the FO for the 1st time,history will be made if Novak or anyone else wins it,Rafa winning it again will probably upset those that want a new champion(fair enough),like Skeezer says it will be interesting to see peoples reactions either way?but i think people will be saying career over,decline,should retire etc etc and all that crap,him losing at RG is inevitable and that i dont mind as im resigned to it happening sooner or later,its the other stuff im not looking forward to,but its tough been a fan and one has to take the rough with the smooth….


mat4 Says:

On the other hand, just read Steve Flink’s forecast: he is certain that Rafa will win his 9th FO.

I wrote myself that Novak could lose before the final. But in the last four seasons, he lost once again somebody who didn’t eventually win the GS: in 2011, against Roger Federer. All his other loses were against the winner. Then, on the other side, while there are a lot of players who could beat him, just like everybody here write about Rafa, five sets is another beast. It is not only almost impossible to beat Rafa in that format, but Novak as well.

That said: I think that Murray at his peak can beat both, even on clay. I am certain that Federer can beat Novak. I am quite sure that Wawrinka could win it all. They all could lose to a big server in the first rounds.

So, let’s see. But if Novak wants to win the FO, it’s now or never.


Hippy Chic Says:

I have always found it strange Novak even wants to win the FO,after all isnt it supposed to be the poor mans GS,the one that players least want,the GS for 1 dimensional players etc?


mat4 Says:

It was the objective me.

On the other side, I feel that Rafa will lose before the final, and will have knee problems.


Rafa better than roger Says:

I did not know till about that “Sean jinx” till now.
It is no doubt certifiable after numerous predictions.

It that stupidly funny or what?

I see Nadal testing different stuff and no shrinking violet of testing it in the big stages! Novak or Federer.

If you are a keen follower of tennis, the tennis estab from announcers to media to organizers all have a strategy of beating Nadal. Roger devotees in Pmac, jMac Cahill evert drydale all have formulated how roger can defeat Rafa but to no avail. So to protect Rogers 17, all have propped up Novak with as much encouragement and strategy to beat Nadal. Meanwhile, nadal and his camp are isolated on strategy plays. Nadal has just been solving his way to win incrementally and wiling to suffer or wait for results. He may yet surprise us with a treble of clay grass and hard court again.

Pundits have short memories. Rafa had clowns if all pro rioger everytime. However, I think it is about time that Rafa get a new coach to complement uncle Toni. He is old world solving rRoger. That’s done! A new set of eyes to help Nadal defeat Novak.

In fact, there is great likelihood that both roger and Novak will lose early in FO.

And to invoke the ‘Sean jinx’, all the better.


Susan Says:

It is completely obvious why Djokovic wants the French. Cause it would get him the career slam! It’s not hard to figure out and there’s nothing strange about it. Same reason Federer wanted to win it and same reason Nadal changed his serve to win the US Open first time.


Gordon Says:

Hippy Chic, do you really find it strange that Nole wants a Roland Garros title, or is this just more of your passive aggressive sarcasm?


Gordon Says:

Sean,

Your write up is pretty dead on. I can’t see anyone taking more than two sets off of either Rafa or Nole before they reach the final. That being written, the draw is going to be interesting. Where Federer, Wawrinka and Raonic wind up could be interesting; not that they pose an individual threat, but should Djokovic have to meet Raonic, then Federer then Rafa it could prove troublesome. Similarly, Nadal starting at the quarters and facing Raonic or Ferrer in the quarters and then a Wawrinka in the semis before Djokovic in the final could be tough.

The best draw for these guys would be if Raonic, Murray and Ferrer wind up in Wawrinka’s and Federer’s quarter. But only two of them can, no? So at least one of Rafa or Nole will face one of these guys before the semis.

And of course with Nishikori seeded ninth if he plays, who knows whose quarter he will wind up in.

Is it Friday yet?


Ben Pronin Says:

“In fact, there is great likelihood that both roger and Novak will lose early in FO.”

Define “great likelihood”.

I’m also curious as to what Nadal is supposed to do to counter Djokovic. If Nadal serves well, plays relentless defense, and his forehand down the line is clicking, then he counters a lot of Djokovic’s advantages. But they’re not always going to click.


mat4 Says:

@Ben:

Rafa served almost 75% of first serves in Rome. Then, in the first set, he managed to hit a few terrifying FH DTL, and Novak changed his gameplan right away. He was relentless in defence, and I am always stupefied how he manages to hit such shots barely touching the ball, in unnatural position.

I also admire the way he channels his adrenaline most of the time, playing the key points and the deciding sequences at an inhuman level.

But: the thing that should worry Rafa is that in the four last matches they played, Djokovic wins almost 60% of the points played. The last four matches were a kind of crescendo, the first part of the first set in Rome excepted. Novak won 24 points in the last two sets. In Miami, which is played of a very slow surface, Rafa won only 39% of all points.

And just one thing more: Novak doesn’t have to play five sets on this level against Rafa. Just three.


mat4 Says:

In this moment, while Novak fans do not have much reasons for optimism — he lost a lot of slams where he was the utterly dominant player until the final — I can’t see how Rafa’s fans can remain optimistic: he is without weapons against Djokovic, statistically he is bound to lose one day or the other, and he just played his worst clay season in the last ten years.

So, we will see. But for me, it is the most open RG in the last 10 years, with a few possible favourites.


Kimberly Says:

I don’t bet against the house, the house always wins. Nadal will get number 9.

mat4-he is not without weapons against Djokovic, he is a better fighter than Novak. He lacked the weapons every time they played, yet he managed to will his way to a few wins by having a better arsenal but by being a better fighter, 3rd set of USO final says it all.

I’m certain he will win this tournament. I’m more concerned that the heat will lose to the pacers than Nadal losing Roland Garros.


Polo Says:

Noooooo!!!!!


Rafa better than roger Says:

Good as Novak is, Rafa is the bigger Showtime player.

Cases in point: 2008 wimby, 2009 AO, Olympics 08, 13 FO semis, both 10 and 13 US open.

The pressure on trying to complete the career Slam will be too much pressure for Novak that he will choke big time.

Sure, the analysis that Murray would have prevented Rafa is getting more titles!! Very funny.

Murray should count his lucky stars, because had Rafa not been injured, Murray most likely would not have won a single Slam!!!

Murray just like Roger are Rafaz whipping boys.
Rafael true rival is Novak nor roger but I look forward to Novak getting. Better h2h over Roger first. Rafa has to retool his game because he has concentrated too much Roger and almost forgot Nivak since for a long time Novak had the reputation of a quitter until 12AO, Rafa made changes but not enough yet. Excellent easily against Murray and roger, but he needs more than what Uncle Toni brings to the table. Rafael dilemma is how to fire a relative.


Rafa better than roger Says:

But probably the ‘ Sean jinx’ is good enough.


contador Says:

Oh…..@Kimberly

We gots to get a bracket game going! lol…coz you say Nadal gets his 9th….I dread the thought, and must pick with Sean for Djokovic.

All streaks got to come to an end sometime. We old Federer fans will be right here to empathize with your pain ; ) :D


Humble Rafa Says:

I am glad I wasn’t picked. Now I can win the FO.


El matador Says:

@rafa better than roger,
good post….i find it very funny that murray is now also considered a threat for rafa…..the only player that can beat Rafa in RG is Novak and i’m hoping someone will take out Novak before the final..


Okiegal Says:

He will never fire his relative…….Roig, Rafa and Uncle T. need to get their heads together and come up with plan B…….plan A is not working, I’m sad to say!!


Michael Says:

Well Novak became the Ceaser of Rome, now the question is whether he can become the French Emperor ? Me thinks, he definitely can and the only worry is the condition of his wrist which seems alright as of now much to the relief of his Team and his fans. I do not think this is his last chance. He is still 27 and although he is going to be married and have a baby soon, still he is in his prime years and is destined for more glory. I am somewhat surprised by Sean’s comment that Novak will find the going easier against Rafa in clay courts more than hard courts considering their H2H track record where Novak has clearly the upper hand in later more than former. However, the reasons forwarded by Sean for basing this presumption seems quite interesting and insightful. It is quite evident that Novak matches up well with Rafa and is not intimidated by his indomitable clay court pre-eminence and supremacy. He just outclassed Rafa in the 2nd and 3rd sets in Rome even though the later was really playing well. That really need some taking. All in all, just may be this is the year, Rolland Garros will see a new Clay court Champion after 2009.


Gordon Says:

Before it was near impossible to take a set off of Rafa on clay unless he was injured of not on his ‘A’ game.

Now not only are players taking a set, some are managing two sets.

The trick at Roland Garros is to win 3 sets. Until Rafa loses in Paris I have trouble thinking Nole can pull it off. However, if anyone can it will be Novak. No one else should hamper Rafa from reaching the final.

The suggestion of firing Toni may be the most ridiculous thing an ESL troll has ever come up with. Acknowledge the fact that like all the greats Nadal is starting to slip as he ages. A change in coaching is not going to help that.

I just don’t think Nadal has slipped enough to not be the favourite at the French Open – at least not yet.


roy Says:

the problem is most people don’t understand nadal’s psychology. they think it’s the same as federer’s/djoker’s/sampras’ etc.

nadal doesn’t rely on ego/confidence as much as most no.1s. he genuinely doesn’t think he’s the favourite in many contexts when he clearly is. it’s not an act. he plays with fear. he admits it. and you can see it the way he’s dealt with federer all these years. he didn’t play fed thinking he was BETTER like djoker did, he played thinking he was the underdog and just FOUGHT for his life on court.

that seems to work for him. and it probably dents his confidence and form less when he’s losing. because he always feels fearful anyway, never on top of everyone.

the point is, whether he’s beating djoker or not, he probably feels djoker is better than him and so it’s not going to make a difference match to match. he’ll just fight, knowing he can win or lose.

the losing streak to djoker didn’t effect him when he came out and won the us open on a fast hardcourt. it was just another fight.

this is why he probably has a better chance of beating djoker at RG than it seems. he’ll just fight for his life, on clay, over five, and nothing else matters on that day. he’ll probably even consider djoker the favourite. and i’d back nadal in that situation although it’s a close call the last few years.

now the problem djoker has is that he’s more vulnerable to others in best of five clay.
remember he’s been taken out by kohl, melzer, federer, and had close 5 set calls against tsonga and seppi!

i think wawrinka,murray, federer, ferrer could beat djoker at RG but i couldn’t see any of those characters beating nadal in five.

if djoker plays nadal in the final, i think it’s probably a pick’em.

just don’t count on djoker necessarily getting that far. how many finals has he made again?

i believe it’s just the one.


Hippy Chic Says:

Gordon@6.59pm May 19th yes it was,as its something we here all the time on this forum how 1 dimensional Rafa is,even though he has 5 GS off clay,which is usually considered good enough,well it for any other player?but not so for Rafa for whatever reason?….


Hippy Chic Says:

Susan @6.58pm May 19th read my above post to Gordon….


Hippy Chic Says:

Michael its not his last chance,to say that would be silly,but i dont think he will get a better chance than this year,time moves on and things change,and Novak himself will be 28 next year,and things will get harder every year not easier as they do for all players,new players are coming through and making noise,add to that Stan has another level to reach, and it looks like Andy is now getting his act together….


Mahatha Says:

Are you really saying and meaning that
(Rafael Nadal – Until someone beats him in Paris he’s still the King of Clay)
weren’t you there when Soderling did it before five years.Don’t you remember how Nadal came back through Soderling just the following year.
Until somebody breaks all these incredible clay tennis records Nadal is still The King Of The Clay Court:
Monte Carlo Master 8 singles consecutive titles
French Open GS 8 singles titles
Rome Masters 7 singles titles
Barcelona Open 8 singles titles
I think no player will ever have 31 titles in his history tennis career records in all of them he stands alone and be reminded please we’re talking about the world top ranked player till this moment.
A defeat in Paris or anywhere else goes away from Nadal with just one title nothing else we’re millions x millions all over the world behind the King>>>VAMOSRAFA


calmdownplease Says:

`Murray should count his lucky stars, because had Rafa not been injured, Murray most likely would not have won a single Slam!!!`

Oh haha,you mean when Rafa got booted out in the first round at Wimbledon last year?
He was `injured` then was he?
No, he had no steam left resisting Novak to go for a channel slam. And don’t be so sure a mature Murray will be Nadal’s whipping boy the way Roger ended up becoming. The key diffrence is age.
Novak also used to have a lopsided H2H against Nadal but once he matured, well, we see what is happening now, don’t we?
Let’s see how things play out the rest of the year shall we?


mat4 Says:

I am not so sure that Nadal is the better fighter. Although he manages very often to channel his adrenaline, we have seen him time and time again DF on key points.

About the USO 2010 and 2013 — he was just the better player. Novak, who was out of shape in 2013, just didn’t have the opponents to rise his form, and finally played a very difficult five setter in the semi.

And then, there are their results in the last three years: 12-6 for Novak, although they played seven times of clay. And while luck is an integral part of the game, let’s say it: Rafa was lucky in that period.

If all things go according the script, if they meet at the top of their form — Novak should win in three, eventually in four sets. He is utterly dominant since his strategic adjustments of last year, and has a response to everything Rafa does.

But sport is sport, and you never know.

My bet: Rafa will lose in the quarters against Murray.


mat4 Says:

Also: Novak could lose before the final too.


Hippy Chic Says:

Gordon also when it comes to sarcasm theres alot of it about on this forum,i dont think im any exception to that particular rule,but if it bothers you i will try to tone it down?


Giles Says:

My bet: joker will lose in the quarters to Murray!!


wilfried Says:

@MAt4 May 20th, 2014 at 6:03 am.
Very good comment. Agree with everything you say.
As far as your bet is concerned, if the past 30 years of Roland Garos slam draws is an indicator of which draw to expect this year, than there is indeed a very good chance that Murray will find himself paired with Nadal in the same quarter of the Roland Garros draw. The last 30 years, the top seed has never been paired in the same draw with the 6th seed, and only a couple of times paired with the 5th seed. In the majority of the draws, it was the 1st seed paired with the seventh seed. And Murray is 7th seed this year.
By the way, I don’t believe in the randomness of the Roland Garros draws.


wilfried Says:

correction: shoud be: the top seed has never been paired in the same quarter of the draw with the 6th seed.


wilfried Says:

Also …Novak was critisized here for hiring Boris Bum Bum Becker as coach.
To me it was a very good decision that particularly shows in the improved level of his net play.


contador Says:

Hello, Mat4

Nice to read you posting again.

I can understand the caution in your posts. Nole could lose early. He has to keep his concentration on the tasks at hand. If he can’t, well, he will be out. That said, I believe in his ability to make it to the pointy end this time …and…win. :D

cheers, mat4


Hippy Chic Says:

I have picked Novak,i think hes playing the best tennis of the top players ATM,however i will be pulling for Rafa to beat his own record of a GS for 9 consecutive years,whatever happens im really looking forward to it and Sunday cannot come soon enough….


Hippy Chic Says:

Mat4 imagine if both loose,before the final oh the irony,especially with everyone saying both are dead certs for the final lol?


calmdownplease Says:

@HC

This is the beauty of this years tournament.
More unpredictability.
Makes it more exciting for most.
I still think it will be a `gun fight at the ok corrall between Novak and that other fellow…
Oh yes RAFA.


the DA Says:

@Mat4 – “I think that Murray at his peak can beat both, even on clay.”

What? Did I wake up in some alternate universe? ;) Seriously though, I always felt he could be a threat on clay – especially after his performances in 2011 and being aware of his tennis brain. I think Lendl was the missing link. Even after losing 3 & 2 to Giraldo (Madrid, altitude skewed things) I still believed. His match against Rafa proved to me he can still be a threat. He had the perfect game plan sans coach – imagine with one.

But both Nole & Rafa in the same tournament? Noe so sure. A lot of planets would have to align – and tiring five set matches played previously. One match I’d love to see is Andy vs Roger on clay. It’s never happened. The best Murderer matches are like chess games.

As for Rafa & Nole, they’re still the top contenders without question. The only thing that will affect their predestined meeting is uncontrollable: luck of the draw. Nole has a 50/50 chance of getting Fed or Wawa. I believe he can beat Fed but an on form Stan could take a lot out of him. Luckily for him both those players haven’t shown any noticeable form going into RG.

I must say, I’m more excited about this upcoming RG than I have been for any in years. So much uncertainty.


Hippy Chic Says:

Disagree with Sean saying untill someone beats Rafa hes still the King Of Clay,even if he looses the FO hes still the King Of Clay,and always will be till another player surpasses his records on clay,and thats unlikely any time soon?….


Margot Says:

@ calmdownplease
now comeonplease it’s my job to go absolutely raving bonkers at statements like RIBTR’s about Andy….;)
OK phew….consideritdone, feel better already!
@mat4
Never thought you liked/rated Andy. Wherefore cometh this epiphany? Or is it because Lendl exited sharp left?


Kathy Says:

Giles Says:
“Sean and everybody else on this forum. When oh when will you guys stop talking about Joker’s “bum Wrist”. He never ever had a wrist injury!”

The 15/05/2014 YAHOO!SPORT
Djokovic: “I probably could have played in Madrid”
Novak Djokovic admits he was close to 100 per cent before the Madrid Masters but didn’t want to take any risks.

If indeed he ever had a wrist/arm injury it must have been very, very minor. At one point he said that he was going to be unable to hit for the foreseeable future . In reality it took a couple of days.

Djokovic had prepared well for Rome, which is the tournament which most closely resembles Roland Garros. He hadn’t played since losing at MC, but he had been practicing, injured wrist or not. He was fresh, meanwhile Nadal had played MC, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. His game wasn’t where he wanted it to be, but by the end of Rome it had improved considerably. He says he was running on zero at the end. I really don’t think the scheduling at Rome did Rafa any favours. He was on court for about 2 hours longer than Djokovic in total, but more than that he played mostly night time matches and on occcasion didn’t get to bed until 3am. His whole practice, eating, sleeping, etc regime was compromised. No night time matches in Paris, so we will see, obviously the weather is going to be a factor. I’ll back Rafa all the way.


Hippy Chic Says:

Mahatha @4.13am May 20th i didnt see your post,as a new poster i suppose it wouldve been in moderation,but very well said….


Ben Pronin Says:

It’s funny that people harp on Djokovic only having reached one French Open final. He’s lost to Nadal 5 times there, once in the final. That means he’s lost 3 semis and 1 quarterfinal to Nadal. I’m not saying he would’ve beaten Federer had they played in 07 and 08, but you never know. He lost to Kohlschreiber the same year Nadal lost to Soderling. He lost to Melzer in a bizarre and embarassing match that was actually the spark that lead to him becoming a force in 2011 and beyond. And he lost to Federer in 2011 in one of the best matches you’ll ever see. 5 other times he lost to the King of Clay. Somehow this is a knock on him only having reached one final. If Nadal didn’t have his dumb ranking last year and they were seeded in opposite halves, they probably would’ve played that epic in the final instead. Djokovic can lose to Federer, maybe Wawrinka. I doubt he loses to Murray in a best of 5 on clay. And Ferrer? What a joke.

This is easily the most wide open the French Open has been in a decade. And it’s really not even that wide open.


calmdownplease Says:

`nadal doesn’t rely on ego/confidence as much as most no.1s. he genuinely doesn’t think he’s the favourite in many contexts when he clearly is..`

But how can he not think he is the favourite on clay when even the grandmother’s dog’s sister’s uncle knows he always has been, till now.
He feels more comfortable being the underdog for sure, that’s a sport’s psych 101 tool he has used to great effect.
Its different to lacking confidence against your present nemesis however, for that is not a tool, rather that is the effect of losing against him rather than winning and I doubt it’s a very helpful feeling at all.
Novak definitely has the psychological edge in their rivalry at this time, but it could swing back as it has done before.


Hippy Chic Says:

I think theres a big difference with what people say,and what they are actually thinking,IMO Rafa is been polite he believes he will beat these players more often than not,but doesnt take it for granted that he will,and doesnt actually say that either for fear of been left with egg on his face,if things go pear shaped,just my take?….


calmdownplease Says:

We’ll its about about taking the pressure off oneself, and if he doesn’t do it, Uncle T surely will do it for him.
Humility works for many people as one of the most difficult things to do is to perform in front of an audience against an opponent in a singular sport.
The whole humble thing has worked beautifully for him in particular as it has stopped him from becoming complacent. But confidence in your ability to do something whether you are the favourite or not is a more fundamental requirement,& it has felt pretty inevitable recently that Novak would win their recent matches.
Still, as others have said, best of 5 in fortress Nadal shall bring its own set of pressures and demands on Novak. It remains to be seen if he will be able to pull it off until he’s actually done it.
Nadal has looked underconfident this entire clay season in my opinion.


Daniel Says:

roy,

I’ve been here for a ling time and this was the best post ou ever poste here, not biasaed towards Rafa and really nailing his mentality. Kudos to you for that.

You are probably right about Nadal’s mindset and fighting spirit and that explainnwhy he can comeback several times and not fold when losing. Federer probably always considered himself better than Rafa and must have felt desperate at times not believing he wasn’t able to beat him more often. In their ricalry Rafa’s fighting win agaisnt Fed’s play and each passing defeat made ir worst.

With Djoko Nadal enter with the same mentality but him losing to him more often and him getting older he may not be able to impose his fighting to the end. It’s like the match is in Djoko’s racquet, if he folds even with him getting a good macth up with Nadal, the high and low will allow Nadal to het back in play, vis US Open 13′. Of courae once and a while Nadal will go for it, RG 13′ final set when he was behind he took it to Djoko but is very hard to see him like that again.
I just feel with his style of play he may not sustain it and the recent losaes can hurt his mentality. Te more you lose the more it dent’s your confidence.

But agree with you. Djoko can be upset before the final bu also can the potential guys who can beat them. They may achieve the final without playing any of the big names as Fed, Murray, Wawa, Berdych and Ferrer can also losing before semis.

The draw come Friday will allow us to evaluate better their chances and path. And when play start anything can happen, even a final without Nadal and Djoko. That would be the most unoredictable outcome in Slams in a decade.


skeezer Says:

Rafa usually gets the “cupcake” draw at RG, so we’ll all see about “the draw” and the impact it will have. The new news here is that there are some guys ranked out of the top ten than have prove this year to give Rafa some trouble……


Susan Says:

To Kathy: “If indeed he ever had a wrist/arm injury it must have been very, very minor. At one point he said that he was going to be unable to hit for the foreseeable future . In reality it took a couple of days.”

Why suggesting Djokovic didn’t have an injury? He won Miami and IW double, that is a rare accomplishment those 2 hard masters in succession, and switched to practicing on clay and injured his wrist. That is why he had protective tape on from the beginning of MC tournie! He is defending that tournie. Why would he pretend to have injury? He tried to play on.

You are wrong it took only a “couple days.” From MC to Rome, by skipping Madrid Djokovic had 3 weeks off. That’s more then couple days! He didn’t start to practice until he was in Belgrade 4-5 days before Rome. He was totally off the court. He also had a hard time finding form at Rome. He didn’t come back to dominate. He struggled in all matches.

Same is for Nadal. He gave much conflicting reports about knees and when he would come back and what problem was. Maybe doctors give different reports and players respond. Maybe first Djokovic thought the injury was more serious. Why say it was not real or suggest? Do think same about Nadal’s injuries?


Voicemale1 Says:

It’s worth remembering that Sean’s sentiments were shared by many heading into last year’s RG, after Nadal took an even worse shellacking at the hands of Djokovic in Monte Carlo losing in straight sets. And this was after Nadal was off winning IW, and all those clay events in South America. They played one of their good ones at RG last year, Nadal squeaking out a 5th set. But truth be told, up until the 5th Djokovic was basically getting creamed. Nadal’s choke job serving for the match in the 4th gave Djokovic new life. This matchup is more interesting than Fedal for one reason: when Djokovic and Nadal play, no matter how much you think one has the upper hand the other is equally able to turn the match on a dime. It’s far more unpredictable.

The format of Best of Five also helps Nadal vs. Best of Three in any matchup with Djokovic. Since Djokovic is the same grinder type as Nadal, and with his fitness as good, and mentally he’s just as tough, he lacks one thing Nadal has over him: the Forehand. Djokovic is the best “Wall” in tennis, but his FH doesn’t do the damage time and again that Nadal’s does, or Federer’s does. In Best of Five that single Killer Shot can get you out of a lot of tough situations. Djokovic is more reliant on his Wall not breaking down. It’s also a lot easier for your level to drop in a Best of Five set match, and that’s another plus for Nadal over Djokovic. Nadal is more consistent at keeping his level higher over a longer period. The Draw is what will tell us a lot. While Djokovic may have found that mojo vs. Nadal on clay again (which he apparently has), it’s not necessarily a mojo that works as well against other guys. Lest we forget, in 2012 Djokovic had to save Match Points and go 5 sets against Tsonga in the 4th Round. And also, on clay Djokovic has lost to a wider number of different players than Nadal has. Novak can face a lot of stiff challenges from guys like Tsonga, Ferrer, Berdych, Dimitrov, Federer, Murray, etc. None of these guys would come close to upending Nadal at RG, but they all can throw a long match Djokovic’s way at any time. In his supreme 2011, Djokovic in fact had TWO wins on clay over Nadal -both of the in straight sets – but didn’t manage to get to the Final, thanks to an inspired Roger Federer shutting Djokovic down in the SF, Novak’s very first loss that year! I’d doubt he’s coming into this RG better than that one 3 years ago.

Just like last year, Djokovic has a big W over Nadal on clay. If they meet at RG, the match will likely come down to Nadal’s Return. Djokovic exploits Nadal’s 2nd Serve, but Nadal doesn’t do the same to Djokovic on clay that he does on hard courts, which is to Return hard and deep. On clay, Nadal stands far back to Return so he can create time for himself. A few times in Rome Nadal stepped in a cracked rock solid Winners of the Djokovic Serve. If he did that more, Djokovic would have more pressure on his First Serve. As it is now, Djokovic serves pressure-free to Nadal because he sees Nadal doing little but standing far back and sending the Return to him with height & spin. If Nadal were to change this pattern by 35-50% more Returns driven harder and flatter off the Djokovic 2nd, the dynamic of the match would change completely by raising the stakes on the Djokovic Serve games. This is how Nadal beat Djokovic last year in Montreal and the US Open.

There is still a LOT of tennis for each of them to play before any talk of a Final needs to take place.


Polo Says:

Nadal-Djokovic match: FUN
Nadal-Federer match : PAIN
…from a fan of you know who.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

The last few years, Rafa’s dominance on clay was unquestioned. There was only one man who can beat him, and we know his name.
Having lost already to Ferrer and Almagro on clay, we cannot say “no one but X can beat Rafa”.
Which puts Rafa in the same position as favourite as, say Roger during his dominant years on hard courts and grass. Yes, he lost here and there in other tournaments, but he was still the best and GS favourite.
So is Rafa. 8 French Open titles. Its insane.
But in previous years (excepting ’11), Rafa was favoured AGAINST THE FIELD, which is outrageous dominance. This year he’s simply the favourite. Novak is not far behind.

I would argue Sean has a very good list of favourites here, though we could quibble. There are three tiers here:
1 and 2) Rafa and Novak
3 and 4) Roger and Stan

The third tier are the potential giant killers: Kei, Ferrer, Andy, and MAYBE Milos and Grigor. Berdych will not take out a Rafa or Djokovic on clay.
I don’t think any of those third tier are going to win a slam- but they might open the door for the 2nd tier.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Roy, good comment on Rafa’s mindset, but I think its a bit more complex: Rafa’s game relies on his doggedness in chasing balls, and that doggedness comes from a self-confidence that he can turn a point around. I think (that’s a sign of uncertainty!) that there is a red line on that self-confidence meter, below which Rafa becomes mortal in chasing balls. I saw that a bit in the Rome Finals.
I find it hard to believe this true champion will allow that to happen at RG, but I think it is possible, and that is when Novak can really get on a roll (or in fact, Ferrer, who will make him chase a lot of balls).


skeezer Says:

The difference this year is Rafa has struggled this Clay season. Mostly in the past Rafa has dominated the Clay season.
Also, Novak has bonified weapons in conparisan, ROS and his BH(would add his serve is better overall also). He probably is the best player out there now who matches up well from Rafa’s FH to the BH corner. Agree I like watching there matches also, there is al lot of on court stroke patterns of strategy by both. fun to see.


SG1 Says:

If Novak can’t get it done this year, then when? I’m with Sean here. If Novak’s wrist is OK, I think he’ll get the job done.

I find Rafa’s form unsettling and inconsistent. He may be able to play his way into form by the second week. There is no way that a champion of Rafa’s caliber can be counted and definitely not on clay. But, sooner or later, he has to lose at RG again. Given the way his year has gone both physically and in terms of results, it would seem at least plausible that this is the year that things will catch up with him. He does however fully deserve to be the favorite.


SG1 Says:

If Rafa and Novak do get to the final, you have to wonder if hospitalization will be required for both after the match given that both of them already come in with physical issues. These two guys play long, brutal matches when paired off against each other.


Daniel Says:

Voicemale1. Don’t agree about Nadal’s FH anymore. Maybe it’s a better shot against Djoko on hard but less two mahes this year Djoko forehand was dictating and e made twice as much more winners than Nadal from that wing. He is hitting DTL with authority having Nadal guessing all the time.
Agree ref ROS. This was the shor that allowed Nadal tonwij in fast hard during North Amerca swing. He was planted on baseline. But seems that shift is exhausting for him and on clay he prefers to return derp heavy with spin center court.


jamie Says:

Oops. He did it again. The Sean Jinx at its best.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

I think these two play more exciting tennis against each other on clay. I find their hard court matches, like the Marathon of Oz, incredibly boring slug-it-up-the middle. For some reason on clay they have infinitely more variety against each other.


Ben Pronin Says:

In 2011, Djokovic had a walkover that, theoretically, threw off his rhythm. I don’t really believe that. What I believe is that Federer played one of his best matches and narrowly edged Djokovic in a great display. Djokovic was never going to go undefeated that year and it really was a big upset relatively speaking. In 2012, Djokovic was playing like garbage leading up to and during the French Open. He made the final because Seppi and Tsonga choked and he faced Federer in the semis who was playing even worse than Djokovic. He finally showed some quality form in the third set of the final.

And then there’s last year. Let’s recall that he won Monte Carlo on a bad ankle. Didn’t play for 2 weeks and lost early in Madrid. Then tanked (or suffered the most bizarre loss ever) in Rome. He still wasn’t playing all that well leading to the French and he played so-so during the tournament. Again, in the semi he only played great in spurts. He was getting rocked for a set and a half before coming back to even things up. He got destroyed in the third set. Nadal served for it in the fourth. The only time he played really well was at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth set. And yet it was still 9-7 in the fifth for Nadal.

This year, the dynamic is different everywhere. Nadal has been, by his standards, garbage pretty much all year. We can go as far back as Doha where he was dropping sets to a bunch of no-names even though he won the title. Same thing in Rio. In Australia, he really should’ve lost to Nishikori or Dimitrov if not for nerves. There’s not much to say about the Federer match (that match-up is set in stone). And he finally lost to Wawrinka (injury or no, he was getting destroyed for a set and a half).

Djokovic is motivated to get back in the winner’s circle at the slams. I think this is being widely overlooked. Forget career slam and all that, he just wants a slam right now. And to me, he’s been hitting the ball as well as ever. Even when he was suffering in Monte Carlo, his ball striking was superbly.

None of this guarantees anything. Nadal is the favorite until proven otherwise. Even if he loses this year, barring a complete drop-off in his results, he’ll still be the favorite next year, and probably the year after. But that doesn’t mean that history will repeat itself. If everything happened the same, then why are they even playing?

Let’s also look at this list of “contenders”:
Wawrinka has a back injury and has played 3 good tournaments all year. His momentum has definitely died down. And even if he gets back to playing well, this guy does not, in any way, own Djokovic. It took him 9-7 in the fifth to finally beat the guy for the first time in 8 years.
Federer is a big question mark. He’s shown that he can really up his game, especially against Djokovic. But it really depends on which Federer shows up. But based on form, I think Djokovic would get over this hump, although I’d say this is definitely his toughest possible match-up.
Tsonga? Really? No offense but he has been floundering for a while now. Even if he gets his act together, he’s not going to beat Djokovic (or Nadal).
Ferrer? If people really think Ferrer could upset Djokovic then they really need to reevaluate how well they understand this sport.
Murray, Murray, Murray. I really don’t know. I don’t think he can beat Djokovic on clay in general, especially best of five, even if he’s playing his best. But his health remains a huge, huge question mark. Playing on clay hurt his back in the first place. I don’t know how much he’ll be able to sustain over best of 5. I could see a scoreline of something like 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-1 for Djokovic, should they meet.


Margot Says:

TV @ 12.42
Yep, agree with that. Would put Andy on 3rd tier, hopefully and also hopefully he makes the quarters and gets lots of points.
@ Think we ended up on Global Tennis Network and here’s a link:
http://www.globaltennisnetwork.com/tennis-tournaments/bracket-challenges/searchChallenges?parentID=486

This is where we ended up and if you scroll down I’m sure you’ll see a pic of dear Colin :)


Margot Says:

@conty
The above link was meant for you! Dunno how you disappeared!


Voicemale1 Says:

@ Ben Pronin…

Ben. Ben. Ben. Lower the raised hackles. We all know how much you love your Novak. I didn’t say Ferrer would upset him. I said Ferrer is a guy who could take him to a LONG match, which he could. Ferrer took a set from him in Rome. Murray actually served for their 2011 SF match in Rome, so he could also take Novak down a very long road this time – especially given how well he played nadal. Nobody here – including me – said Djokovic WOULD lose any match to Nadal at RG. What I did say was that best of Five works better for Nadal against Djokovic, which is why he beats Djokovic at RG every year, to date. It’s just plain fact that Djokovic has more guys in a Best of Five on clay who could stretch him or upend him as opposed to Nadal. And if you’re going to make excuses for Djokovic, such as deliberately tanking, then discussing it is pointless. It’s as though you want to say about Djokovic his wins are definitive, but his losses are irrelevant. You can’t have it both ways.


calmdownplease Says:

`I don’t know how much he’ll be able to sustain over best of 5. I could see a scoreline of something like 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-1 for Djokovic, should they meet..`

They have played before on clay in Rome, in the 2011 semis when Novak was beating everyone including Nadal in straights. And yes, Andy served for it, so I think he is quite capable of causing an upset on the dirt in the RG quarters.
There’s nothing wrong with his fitness now.
Anyway, Andy has bigger fish to fry, but maybe in a few years time it would be worth his while to really go for it.
The Golden Slam & all.


Ben Pronin Says:

I’m just saying, the situations aren’t always the same. Saying Djokovic is in the same place because he beat Nadal in Monte Carlo last year is simply overlooking everything else going.

“What I did say was that best of Five works better for Nadal against Djokovic, which is why he beats Djokovic at RG every year, to date. It’s just plain fact that Djokovic has more guys in a Best of Five on clay who could stretch him or upend him as opposed to Nadal.”

I agree with this.

I don’t think tanking a match is an excuse for anything. Just how I saw it. Doesn’t mean it helped his situation in any way.

“Murray actually served for their 2011 SF match in Rome.”

I don’t think this is relevant. I’m not saying Murray is incapable of winning or playing well. I’m saying, based on current form, I don’t think Murray would upend Djokovic. Don’t you think the Rome quarterfinal between Nadal and Murray just a few days ago is more relevant? I mean Murray was up a break in the third before falling a part. So Murray could extend Nadal, too, right? And therein lies the problem. Murray is falling a part at crucial times in important matches. Whether it’s his body or his mind, he’s not playing with the necessary consistency to upset the two guys who are simply superior to him on this surface.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Murray on clay is the biggest enigma in tennis.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

We wise heads of Tennis-X marvel at enigmas, but we don’t put money on them.


Voicemale1 Says:

“I don’t think tanking a match is an excuse for anything. Just how I saw it. Doesn’t mean it helped his situation in any way.”

Uh…when you say someone lost a match because they “tanked” (which is the player deliberately trying to lose) it is an excuse for the loss. There just isn’t any way else to claim someone tanked the match and that isn’t an “excuse” for the loss. The syntax itself is nothing but a contradiction they way you’re using it. There is no such thing as a legitimate loss via tanking. It’s an oxymoron, to say the least. By the way, when players DO tank they don’t do it from the position Djokovic was in against Berdych that day, up 62 52, four points from the match itself. When you tank a match, you hide it by keeping it close and lost the points that matter; or you do it like Ivanisevic, just let yourself get steamrolled from the start, getting crushed 1 & 1. Nobody tanks 4 points from a match – why bother? The whole point of tanking is to NOT play. For Djokovic to “tank” from that position he was in means he has to go through another 5 games in the 2nd Set to lose it and then play another whole set after that. If you say THAT is a “tank” then what’s abundantly clear is you’ll go to these lengths to excuse a Djokovic loss. We have suspicions about players tanking matches, but that wasn’t one of them. He just lost it. And Berdych is capable – he straight setted Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2010. And really, if he wanted out of the match from that position, all Djokovic would have had to do is retire.
————————————————–
“Murray actually served for their 2011 SF match in Rome.”

I don’t think this is relevant.

Well of course you wouldn’t. After all, once someone describes how Djokovic could lose a match, or did lose a match, you’ve made it clear it isn’t relevant to you. Which is my point about you. You claim to not do what you in fact are doing: taking the position that when Djokovic wins is definitive, and when he’s pushed to the brink or loses, it’s irrelevant. We see that. So given that you think no one really has any chance to beat Djokovic now, should we even bother to play the Men’s event this year? Should we just give Novak the trophy now? Let me know :).

Incidentally, you say on clay in 2012 Djokovic played “like garbage” leading up to the French Open. Really? Really?? Final in Monte Carlo and Final in Rome? This is even more of what I mean. If you are seriously this partial, again, just admit that instead of trying to legitimize the partiality to lengths as bizarre as you have been. It’s borderline embarrassing.


mat4 Says:

A lot to write.

First, @DA and @Margot.

Jane, if she was still around, could confirm that AM was my one of our two favourite players for years, but you both just provoked me after that USO final where I felt that Andy had been very lucky. Of course, it is the privilege of the winner’s fans to make fun of the loser’s fans, to brag etc. so no hard feelings.

But then, I have always been aware of his qualities: an exceptional ROS, the “heaviest” BH in the game, and a very competent first serve. And he is the strongest player on tour. His problem is his mindset: his last match against Rafa showed his best and his worst: a utterly dominant first set, and then, when he had to lose free and continue destroying his opponent, he just folded. I just feel that Andy never played to the bitter end when it matters most, but in stretches he can show us all that he can be perhaps the most dominant player on tour.

@Alison:

Indeed, I feel that 2009 will happen again.

@Conty:

Nice to read you.


mat4 Says:

@Ben:

I completely agree with your post on AM.


calmdownplease Says:

`I’m saying, based on current form, I don’t think Murray would upend Djokovic…`

Sorry, but I believe that Novak will be in trouble if they both make it to the quarters.
Why is not serving for it in Rome not relevant?
Remember, he doesn’t have to beat either, taking them to 5 would still be potentially disastrous & it’s more likely to happen with Novak than Rafa.
Yes on stats both Nadal and Novak are far better clay courters & yet Nadal was flattened in that first set and was asked some serious questions throughout. Don’t agree Andy fell apart.
(But he did let it slip out of his hands,I’ll grant you that).
The top four are more `on` when they play each other & considerations of surface, conditions etc temporarily fade away.
There’s pride at stake. I mean this in particular about Murray who quite often seems to become rather bored when not facing this level of challenge.
So Andy not being a true clay courter becomes less of a factor in these heightened circumstances.
The Nadal match was a sign to me that Andy is almost BACK & will not go quietly to anyone once Wimbledon rolls around.
He’s now going to improve at a quickening pace
& real consistency might be very near now.


Daniel Says:

Agree with Ben and also habe to point out that since the beggining of 2011 Djoko only lost in Slams to eventual champion apart from 2011. He lost 2 times to Federer (RG 11′ and Wimby 12′), 2 times to Murray in finals (US 12′ and Wimby 13′), 1 time to Wawa (AO 14′) and 3 times to Nadal (RG 12′ finals, RG 13′ and US 13′ finals). He lost 4 finals (2 to Murray and 2 to Nadal) and won 5 Grand Slams in this spam beaing Nadal 3 times and Murray 2 times in finals.
On clay Murray may bot pose such a force and Fed ad Wawa are question marks altough their level are high in MC, so I think Djoko won’t lose in Slams to anyone not named this 4. As Ben point out Fed may be the bigest treat for him depending on form.


Ben Pronin Says:

VM1, I don’t know why you care so much about that Berdych match. Maybe it wasn’t a tank job. Either way, he lost. And I don’t think it did him any good as far as French Open preparation went.

I just don’t get why it’s relevant that Murray served for a match 3 years ago. Djokovic was up a break in the second and third sets of their Wimbledon match last year and lost both sets. What does it matter? There were a lot of break in that Rome match. Their matches are generally very close. This is all well known. If they play at the French, I’m not exactly anticipating a beat down. But based on what both guys have shown this year, I think Djokovic shuold be the favorite. Saying that Murray could win is no different than saying a top player might be upset by a lower ranked player. No kidding! But, again, based on current form, Murray belongs in the “might give Nadal fits” camp maybe more than the “might give Djokovic fits” camp. Consider that Djokovic straight setted Murray on Murray’s (and Djokovic’s) favorite surface but Murray almost beat Nadal on Nadal’s favorite (Murray’s least favorite) surface. Does that not carry any weight?

I didn’t think Djokovic was playing particularly well following his AO triump in 2012. He played just well enough to win Miami but struggled with his game for a large chunk of that year. Just because he reached finals doesn’t mean he was playing his best. Nadal played like garbage in Madrid and Rio and those are his only 2 clay titles this year.

I don’t pretend I’m impartial. I clearly see things through the Djokovic perspective. But you see things through the Nadal perspective so I don’t see why you’re giving me flack about it. You can dominate the discussion with your Rafa bias and I can counter it with my Djokovic bias.


calmdownplease Says:

`As Ben point out Fed may be the bigest treat for him depending on form…`

Federer doesnt have any form at this stage of the year & at 33 he is getting on now. I think he will still have some good moments later inthe year, but right now, with the babies and the early loss in Rome, he can’t even be seen as a dark horse.


calmdownplease Says:

`I just don’t get why it’s relevant that Murray served for a match 3 years ago..`

Simply that Murray can and has caused trouble on a clay court against Novak.
The end!


calmdownplease Says:

I think you’re more worried about a Murray spanner in the works for Novak than you’re letting on. However, I would now agree with you that Nadal might have some issues with Andy on clay as well.
The draw shall be a nervy time for some, no doubt lol


Ben Pronin Says:

Why wouldn’t I worry about Murray? Their rivalry has been going back and forth for the past few years. They’re 2-2 in slam finals and I think Djokovic is 3-2 in slam matches overall. That’s why a near win by Murray is just so meaningless considering the guy has not one but several big wins over Djokovic. He can beat Djokovic, no doubt. And he will in the future. I just don’t think it’ll happen at the French this year.

The draw will be huge. Maybe as important as ever.


Voicemale1 Says:

@ Ben…

I don’t care at all about the Berdych match. To me it was Djokovic just losing a match. You were the one trying to excuse the loss as a tank. You care enough about it to look at it ridiculously. That was the point. It’s you who care enough to change what it was. Not me. Sheesh.

I don’t look at things “through the Nadal perspective”. I look at tennis on the court as it’s actually played. The whole point of this is you try to legitimize Djokovic via wins & losses from an emotionally invested standpoint. When he wins he’s king of the world. When he doesn’t, you’re at the ready with all sorts of excuses. Even to the extent that it’s really only when he loses to Nadal you start trotting out the “he played like garbage” nonsense. Mostly.

Can Djokovic win RG? Yes. Does it follow that because of winning Rome he will win RG? No. And if he loses, it won’t be because he plays like garbage. That makes the presumption that every single match is on his racquet. It simply isn’t.


Ben Pronin Says:

Djokovic is better than the majority of his peers so the majority of his matches are on his racquet.

“I don’t look at things “through the Nadal perspective”. I look at tennis on the court as it’s actually played.”

We can argue about this all day but no you don’t.

There are a ton of factors that go into every win and lose by any player. For example, last year’s Wimbledon final. I saw it as “Djokovic played like crap” while my cousin saw it as “Murray played amazing”. There’s truth in both statements but who you’re backing changes your view.

Djokovic has lost to Nadal while playing well and he has also lost to Nadal while playing like crap. The reverse is obviously true, too. But when our favorites win, we tend to want to believe that their opponents played as well as they could and still lost. Obviously saying that Djokovic played like garbage in a loss to Nadal strikes a nerve with you.


skeezer Says:

But….
No one beats a healthy and fit Nadal, no?


mat4 Says:

@skeez:

Wanna bet he will lose before the final with a knee injury?


calmdownplease Says:

^^lol

I think we should also remember that often when one player is playing great then he is not allowing the other to play great as well.
It’s not just a case of getting out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning, you can be put under pressure and end up playing worse due to the excellence & tactics of your opponent.


Daniel Says:

RG 2011 both Fed and Djokovic were playing great. That is one of the most even matches game wise.
If you look the Slam finals Djoko beat Nadal compared to the finals he lost to me is pretry clear he was nor at his best because when he is. Nadal looks ordinary and Nadal basically can’t do that to Djokocic since 2011. Only for a few games. But the convincing victories Djoko gas over the years show the matches are pretry much on his racquet. To me that is the big difference.

The Fed x Nadal is different both made the other look rodinary when they win. Fed gave Nadal some of the biggest beat downs he ever had and same goes around. With Nadal and Djoko Even Djoko’s 80% game is enough to trouble Nadal and rpolong the matches. My take.


James Says:

The Sean Randall jinx will continue ;)

On more serious note, Djokovic has a very good chance to win the French this year. He’s playing very good.

Nadal’s clay game is back despite the defeat in Rome. He played very well against Murray after losing the first set. And also against Dimitrov. Nadal also put Novak under pressure very early in the Rome final. He could’ve won the first set 6-2 after breaking Novak twice in the set.
Novak really upped his level in second and third sets. And Nadal just wasn’t aggressive enough to dictate the points. He wasn’t hitting the ball as hard as he did against Murray and Dimi. Every time he hit deep and played aggressively he was able to trouble Djokovic. I still think he can beat Djokovic should they meet at RG. I’m not worried over his clay form anymore. What worries me more is that Rafa has let Novak in his head again. He needs to play with more confidence against Novak or he’ll lose to him again.

I hope to see Kei Nishikori in Novak’s draw at RG for a change. Despite the Madrid final, Rafa is a bad matchup for Kei. He matches up better with Novak.


Max Says:

To people who think Fed is Rafa’s punching bag because of age you’ve completely missed the whole Fedal conundrum. The match-up heavily favours Rafa: two players whose forehand is their weapon but one is left-handed and has a DHBH…I mean it’s pretty obvious that Rafa will dominate that “rivalry”. It’s hard enough making strong returns to heavy topspin forehands with a DHBH so a SHBH is destined for poor results. There isn’t one SHBH player that matches favourably with Nadal’s game (Even Stan who has a much better backhand than Fed is 13-1 against Rafa)
Just shows how primed to be a champion Rafa is..he learned to make that forehand as formidable a weapon as it is.

I also think Nadal will take out the French. He still doesn’t have an equal in competition when it comes to best of 5 on clay


contador Says:

2013 turned out to be one of the worst years’ , for moi, @ Margot. Not the place to go into any details but ….let’s just say I lost about everything on my computers – including that Global Tennis Network link.

Thank-you, kindly.

Cheers.


Ben Pronin Says:

I’d also like to point out one more thing:

Heading into 2011, Djokovic had never beaten Nadal in a final and had never beaten him after losing the first set. That changed in Indian Wells and the same occurred in Miami. But everyone cried “wait till we get to clay!” So Djokovic straight setted him in Madrid. Then everyone cried “Madrid is fast clay, Rome is where the real clay is!” Djokovic straight setted him again. They didn’t play at the French but heading into the slam season everyone cried “that was best of 3, he won’t be able to keep it up in a best of 5!” Djokovic went on to beat Nadal in 3 straight slams, albeit none on clay.

The point is, Djokovic has answered all but one challenge: beat Nadal in best of 5 on clay (at the French, although this could happen in Davis Cup format, too). So saying that best of 5 favors Nadal and whatnot, well, let’s just wait and see if that’s still the case.


Humble Rafa Says:

Be careful what you wish for.

Let’s assume for one moment that the Egg Lover does win the FO and Boris “The Impregnator” gets the credit.

Can you imagine the ruckus that would cause in the ATP tour, especially among the wives and gfs? It will be babies galore.


Voicemale1 Says:

“The point is, Djokovic has answered all but one challenge: beat Nadal in best of 5 on clay (at the French, although this could happen in Davis Cup format, too). So saying that best of 5 favors Nadal and whatnot, well, let’s just wait and see if that’s still the case”

Exactly what I’ve been saying all day. To you, none of his 5 losses matter. If he beats Nadal this time in your mind that will be all that counts and it will settle “it” for you. Or something.

Djokovic has Nadal back into his worry-wart shell again, just like 2011. If Nadal stays back and does essentially little but start the point on his Return games in any RG match between them, Djokovic will then hold all the cards, and play them at will. Once Djokovic gets into that mode of dictating form the middle of the court, there’s little Nadal can do. If Nadal does not Return extremely well – like he did last summer – the match won’t be close. If he Returns well, it gives Djokovic something to think about on his own Serve games. After losing in Montreal last summer, that was the Djokovic comment afterward: he didn’t believe how hard Nadal was returning his serve. Great Returning from Nadal makes any proposed match between them at RG a pick ‘em, maybe very slight edge to Nadal. Short of that, Djokovic is a clear favorite, only because he can do anything he wants – and that will be good enough.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Well, that was a riveting debate between two antagonists who were essentially in agreement that Novak should have an edge on Rafa, regarding a non-Slam semifinal 3 years ago that didn’t involve Rafa, but perhaps it was a bit unfocused? Maybe concentrate on a couple randomly chosen points. And perhaps including Novak is too pedantic. Pick a match that doesn’t include either Novak OR Rafa next time to really show how far inferences can be drawn. Say, Todd Martin vs Thomas Muster?


Hippy Chic Says:

Tennis Vagabond lol.


leo Says:

I somehow am not sure if the wrist is all good. If indeed he is healthy, Djoko could win. But I see him more likely to lose an early match in Paris than Nadal.

Also, the playing space in Paris is a lot bigger – a lot more space in the back and on the sides. This should work in favor of a more defensive player like Nadal. In watching Rome and even Madrid, it did seem like Nadal at times was in the first row returning serve. He will have more room in Paris.

Hopefully Djoko stays healthy and we will have a great final in Paris.


Ben Pronin Says:

TV, too funny. :)


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Ben, I always appreciate your writing, but I gotta poke fun too.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

It sounds like the crowd here is in agreement that there’s a 90% chance the winner will be Rafa or Novak, with Stan and Fed combing for about 5% and the rest of the field the last 4%. 1%, of course, is reserved for inflationary costs.

So, as much as we have been saying this is the most wide open French Open in a long time, in terms of Rafa having a serious threat, this may be the most odds-on duo EVER entering a Slam.

Do we have an in house expert on historic odds-making? I would love to know the odds for example for Fed/ Rafa as a duo during peak Fedal. For that matter, in the real world, what are the odds on Rafa and Novak separately and combined right now?


Ben Pronin Says:

Nadal and Djokovic played 4 straight slam finals. Until Wawrinka, they held all 9 Masters between them, including the WTF. At least one of them featured in all 4 slam finals last year, and even at the AO this year.

Obviously Nadal is number 1, but it really feels like they’re join number 1s. At least in terms of their swagger on the tour. I don’t think Fedal was ever as joint-dominant in this way. Federer ruled every where except clay, where he was reaching finals. But Nadal was pretty beatable outside of clay. There’s no surface safe haven from Djokovic and Nadal. And point-wise as well, I think there are some records there.


tramlines Says:

Nadal vs Djokovic by the numbers:

French titles: 8-0
Majors won last two years: 3-1
H2H in Majors: 8-3 (three straight for Nadal)

I’ll be quite happy for Nole if he achieves his highest goal here but from where I’m standing, a bird (or eight) in the hand is worth two (or one) in the bush particularly at Roland Garros.

Regardless of who wins between these two deserving champions of the game, Nadal will be considered the King of Clay for a very long, long, long time to come.


Hippy Chic Says:

Regardless of whom wins RG Rafa is still the King Of Clay 8 FOs,8 MCs,8 Barcelona,7 Rome,7?Madrid cant remember the exact number,but unless a player surpasses that number,then he is and always will be the King Of Clay,in this era or any era,there might well be another RG champion,but not another KOC….


Okiegal Says:

^^^^ Right on Chic……couldn’t agree more. I said the exact same thing on another site. RAFA ROCKS on clay……nothing can ever change that fact!!

Vamos Rafa!!


Hippy Chic Says:

Okiegal thanks i get annoyed with the expression new KOC,new champion fair enough,new KOC not till anyone surpasses those records,and if they do,then and only then we can talk about that?


Okiegal Says:

^^^^^EXACTLY

One thing for sure, Rafa is in his comfort zone @RG….He may win and he may lose and I can handle which ever way it goes…….8 titles just blows me away…..not to mention all the others.

I just hope all the players are healthy and we will see a tournament that lives up to our expectations….and I’m not gonna deny that I would love to see my guy lift the trophy for the 9th time!!


Hippy Chic Says:

Yeah enough pontificating,the proof of the pudding,and all that,cannot wait for Sunday,bring it on….


El_Flaco Says:

It amazes me how many players attempt to thread the needle and always try and return serve to Nadal’s backhand. If it gets there Nadal defends better off the backhand when he is stuck on the baseline after his serve. If you don’t get it to the backhand corner or lack pace Nadal will run around it and hit his favorite inside out forehand. Djokovic is one of the few players willing to returns serves(both 1st and 2nd) to Nadal’s forehand and more often than not it puts him on the defensive.


skeezer Says:

Unlike others, for the most part, Djoker has learned how to handle the one shot FH mad man.


mat4 Says:

Although in the last few years we were accustomed always to the same face finishing in the last 4 in slams, in the few last slams there have been changes. But for Wawrinka winning the AO, the same few names were always holding the trophy.

And always the same guys hold the others trophy: the last 10, 15 MS were won by the same players. Although I fear 2009 could happen again, when both Novak and Rafa folded under the pressure, the level of play they shown in Rome, especially in key moments, their mental and competitive resilience, lead us to expect that they will indeed meet, at the end of the fortnight in Paris.

Who will win? First, let’s say that one can never, never write off Rafa. But an objective analysis of his last matches against Novak makes it clear that the winner will be decided by Novak’s level, not Rafa’s.

Since the USO, we have seen Djokovic refocus on his game, found again both his BH DTL and his FH, improve his serve, and make adjustments against Rafa’s improved CC BH. His strategy is simple and clear cut, and we have seen the only man who could beat both of them, Murray, use it effectively in the set against Rafa — a set that almost ended with a bagel. (Muzza’s problem is that he can’t easily change direction with his FH.)

Form match to match, the points difference between Rafa and Novak increases: 56, 58, 61, and in the last two sets in Rome, 61% for Novak. In the best of five sets… it is worst than in the best of three — it leaves not chance to Rafa. The difference between those two, since 2011, was never so obvious.

Luck is a part of the game — but it is time Novak gets his share. The fact that I am a Novak fan just makes me more cautious, but just as it was clear to me that Novak wasn’t in good form leading to the 2012 FO, or USO 2013 and that Rafa will probably win, it is also clear that with such a level of confidence, with a very, very positive match-up that leaves Rafa almost without weapons against Novak, with the fact that Rafa’s game allows Novak to play his best, the balance has tipped, finally, and for a long time.

It is not Roland Garros in question, any more, but every match, every tournament. Rafa will win sometimes, here and there, but if Novak continues to play that well for a few years (which is never certain), their matches will turn in a repeated beat-down. It will be worse than the Rafa-Fed rivalry: on a low rebounding surface, Fed is still the better player, but against Novak, Rafa has nowhere to hide.

He has one weapon, though: his unsurpassed will to win, his focus of each and every point. He indeed is the greatest warrior I have ever watched, and it masks to anybody but himself that difference of level there already is, on the court, in his encounters against Novak.

But WHEN he loses in Paris, and his only hope is that he won’t face Novak, it will be over. The results will be fixed, in advance, in both Novak’s and Rafa’s head, and I guess that there will be another injury, and Rafa will probably retire, since his career has shown us that he just can’t stand defeat on a regular bases, without hope of reversing the score.

I feel that the FO could be Rafa’s last stand. If Novak makes the final, indeed it will be.


Polo Says:

Wow, mat4, very well thought of and beautifully written article.


skeezer Says:

@mat4
Super post.


kjb Says:

@mat4

Great post. Some unique insight. I like it.


Okiegal Says:

Are there any club tennis pros on this forum?? If so, do any of you think a new coach could add another dimension to Rafa’s game? If so, what in your opinion, would it be? Just curious.


mat4 Says:

Okiegal:

Why? Rafa is the complete package. Just like Fed, or Novak, exceptional in every way. It is just a question of match-up.


mat4 Says:

Another hypothetical question:

if, indeed, the H2H between Rafa and Novak continues to develop the way it has started three years ago (2 wins for Novak, one for Rafa), something similar with the H2H between Fed and Rafa (not to mention that Rafa ISN’T six years older than Novak, and that Novak global dominance over Rafa didn’t start when Rafa was past his prime, the way Roger was past his prime when Rafa dominance started), will it change something in the GOAT debate, shed another light on the H2H factor?

If Novak manages to win 10 slams (which is very improbable) I will probably argue that he is the real GOAT, with positive H2H against Fed and Rafa ;-)


mat4 Says:

Not to mention that Andy too, with a few successful years, could be in the mix: with a positive H2H against Novak (they are not so far apart), who will have a positive H2H against Rafa (the trend is clear), who has a positive H2H against Fed… Could Andy be the real GOAT?

But I forgot! Safin too could be the real GOAT!


Okiegal Says:

@Mat4

I just read lots of comments by tennis enthusiasts that seem to know the game and state that Rafa shouldn’t stay so far back from the baseline and return the serve quicker. Well, I guess I’m thinking that if everyone else sees what he’s doing wrong, why doesn’t his coach? I don’t know whether he is or not. The commentators have all the answers, I find it odd that his coaches don’t. Regarding the match up……Rafa is still ahead in that department…..for now, anyway. Thanks for the response, Mat4!


Margot Says:

@mat4 1105
Really interesting post and I so agree about Andy’s difficulties on FDTL. I hope a new coach can address that. Just heard Martina on radio being very enthusiastic about the prospect. Do hope Andy was listening.
Could he be the “real GOAT?” No alas, too old, too injured.
Once a back problem, always etc


solomon Says:

djokovic this djokovic that, if he’s so great as some people suggest, how come he’s won just 2 of 6 slam finals he played in the last 2 yrs when he’s supposed to be superman and in his prime. he has as many slams as murray in the last 2 yrs.

most of people wanting him to beat rafa are federer fans so rafa won’t surpass federer in slam count, but don’t worry it doesn’t matter if rafa loses FO, he will surpass federer in slams, it’s a destiny that can’t be changed despite how long its delayed. you’ll be surprised

and for people yapping about rafa is getting older, so is nole, nadal is just 12 months older than novak.


mat4 Says:

@Margot:

“The real GOAT” is just a joke, to show how an unfavourable match-up can skew respective places in tennis history. You can’t really compare generations, but one could judge a player by his game and his overall dominance of his epoch, the complete field, not over one specific player.

Murray will be remembered as a complete player with an incomparable and versatile BH (his slice is a thing of beauty), who managed to win slams and MS against an intimidating competition, with at least two, perhaps three all time greats in the field. A power player who always preferred finesse over power.


harry Says:

mat4:

Really interesting posts; while I like what you say about Rafa-Nole match up, I think Rafa’s serve has become weaker (for some unknown reason) from the same period last year (against the field, not just Nole) — it is something that he can likely improve. For instance, just to make the comparison across years fair (ie surfaces, tournaments), I am listing Rafa’s serve performances (FS%, FSwin% and SSwin%):
2013 — 70.8 — 72.9 — 55.5
2014 — 70.0 — 70.5 — 53.0

(so he was winning 68% of his service points last year vs just 65% this year)

Given that each set is about 50 points (on average), and he would serve roughly 25 points each set, he is losing nearly 3 more points this year in a 3 set game.


mat4 Says:

Do I notice that Rafans are nervous?

Do I read all the time that Novak won’t make the final?

And now that he has lost to Murray on hard, a foot soldier of tennis who just happen to bagel Rafa in their last match on that surface? (Pure luck, I guess. Oh, that Andy…)

And that he lost to Federer in Wimbledon, the guy who just by pure, pure luck won only 7 Wimbledons?

Oh, and he also lost a few times against Rafa on clay, a tourist, at best, on that surface?

And that Stan… yes, I forgot, although he beat Novak 10-8 in the fifth, he was lucky enough that Rafa was, as always, injured in the final…

Poor Djokovic… won only 6 slams, 19 MS… second rate player…


Hippy Chic Says:

Mat4 i agree with your above posts intelligent stuff dont get me wrong,Rafa is facing the inevitable law of averages,im not nervous and im ready to accept whatever happens,but please no pushing him off into retirement,when he stated that he wants to play Rio in 2016….


mat4 Says:

Hi, Harry.

We should go to Tennis Abstract to check. But just a few matches can distort the stats, so one can’t be certain. I feel that Rafa serves about the same way he did from 2011 (although not the way he did at the USO 2010).

My take is that mostly, he has two problems: a very unfavourable match-up against Novak (with a lot of psychological consequences, and I write this having read Rafa’s book), and then, the fact that you can’t always win, for obvious reasons.


harry Says:

^^– this post got sent accidentally before i wanted to.

(so continuing on…)

Admittedly, he lost by larger margins to Nole (than 3 points) in the last 4 matches. But looking at the last match, he broke Nole 4 times (once again showing his return game is still good), but he got broken 6 times. Till 3-all in the third set, the match was even. If he had served better late in the third set, the match would have been even tighter.

While Nole gives Rafa more trouble than others do (and will probably end up with a better H2H), I think we are seeing Rafa in a rough patch. So I think extrapolation based on the last few matches is a bit unfair to Rafa. I think it is quite possible that he may come up with a slightly better serve or serve strategy — we have seen both: the former in USO 2010 with a rocket serve, and the latter last year, when he seemed to have better serving patterns. I think he may have a trick or two for RG. But, Ajde Nole ;)


mat4 Says:

Hi Alison. Nice to read you.

Come on, you know very well that the psychological warfare among fans has already started. After that disastrous 2013 for Novak fans, let me make fun of rafans a bit, now that I sense that they are very, very… afraid?

Who knows, after the FO, things could change.


harry Says:

@mat4, yes, i should look into the stats too ;)


Hippy Chic Says:

Mat4 hi fair enough,just no retirement talk though please.
Hi Harry nice to see you posting again ;))….


mat4 Says:

Harry,

The second and third sets were very uneven. Novak won 12 points more in both of them. And there was that 0-40 at 4-3 in the first. You can’t always escape.

That’s why I believe that a five setter is EVEN more unfavourable to Rafa. He can escape once, maybe twice, but not three times. And Novak won’t be that nervous. If he manages to break early (he was very close this time too at 1-1) the match could be already over.

I see a repeat of the USO 2011 final: Novak winning easily the first two sets, losing the third, and finishing the match in four.

But the difference in level is more pronounced that it was then.


harry Says:

Thanks HippyC. Nice to see you too!


mat4 Says:

How faith is cruel…

When Fedfans hope that Novak will beat Rafa and preserve Fed’s legacy, Rafans hope that Fed will beat Novak and preserve Rafa’s legacy…

And what about us, poor Nolefans… who can’t we count on?


harry Says:

mat4:
yes, perhaps this comes from Nole picking Rafa’s serve better again now (like 2011)?

Last year till fall, I felt Nole had a bit of trouble breaking Rafa’s serve. I checked the statistics once before (but I don’t remember them exactly now. I will check them again).

Did you notice anything in that regard?


Hippy Chic Says:

I wonder how people would feel if niether Rafa or Novak at the FO?i mean niether won the AO earlier this year,and niether won Wimbledon last year,a bit too much gets taken for granted sometimes?


mat4 Says:

@Alison…

If Tsonga wins it, I will feel great!


Hippy Chic Says:

Mat4 or Murray ;P,but i want him to defend Wimbledon,anyway hes under less pressure at RG so can hopefully put in a good showing and gain some points,and go up in the rankings,i want to see him and Rafa on opposite sides of the draw to have a possibility of them meeting in a GS final,we have never had that match up in a GS as yet….


Hippy Chic Says:

If Novak doesnt win RG,and Andy does defend Wimbledon,then im hopefull Murray can surpass Novak in terms of GS achievements,you want mind games Mat4 well two can play at that game ;P,LOL….


mat4 Says:

@Alison:

Me too! Andy 16, Novak 15, Rafa 13…


Hippy Chic Says:

HA HA Anything is possible,maybe you should get Jamie to align the stars….


mat4 Says:

@alison:

I found the site Jamie was reading. The stars are aligned for Novak… for the next year and a half…


Hippy Chic Says:

Mat4 Novak aint winning RG according to Jamie,May 20th 1.07pm,the Sean jinx at its best….


Hippy Chic Says:

Personally i have never believed in jinxs or curses,its all an imaginary concept that people want to blame bad luck on….


mat4 Says:

@Hippy:

There was a big error with his time of birth, which is now corrected. His best period started in march.


Margot Says:

@Hippy Chicky 4.42
Can I play these mind games too lol ;)
@mat4 6.04
That reminds me of those religious groups that go to the tops of mountains to await the end of the world. When the appointed day comes…and goes, they come down from the mountain, say they have miscalculated the date, then they go up to the top of the mountain all over again and wait…and wait… Hippy and I are as one on astrology.
“The fault dear Brutus lies in ourselves not our stars.”


Hippy Chic Says:

Margot course you can lol,Andy will beat Novak then Rafa in the final,as i believe in a 1st time for everything otherwise why have the saying,so why not?i do study astrology,but i dont think it has in placing in sport,its more a case of the better player winning and the form they are in at the time,simple as that really….


mat4 Says:

@Margot:

Come on… Don’t you see that it was a generous offer to blame the stars when Rafa falls?


Hippy Chic Says:

I predict that the world will end in ten minutes time,so if none of us post after 12.20pm BST then we will know why,shame really as i have holidays booked for this year?


calmdownplease Says:

`Could he be the “real GOAT?” No alas, too old, too injured.
Once a back problem, always etc`

Don’t believe in GOATS, too many arguments against them to be sure & much of it can only be supposition anyway. It’s all rather crass & only Nadal has the unbelievable stats to merit that possibility in my view. And for one surface only.
You probably need them for all surfaces to be truly the no question all time great.
But then it was all Grass surfaces in the 50′s and round & round.
I believe in GOTTs however (Greatest of Their Time). GOTTs are more straight forward to qualify. And one can still compare immediate mini eras convincingly enough.
Both Roger & Rafa have been the Greatest of Their Time (a short period of a number of years)
It will probably be a straight shoot out between Novak and Andy over the next 3 years to see who will be the greatest of the next mini era.
Maybe Novak’s been there for a while already & Nadal’s sterling 2013 was only a temporary, last gasp postponement of the inevitable Djokovic ascension & confirmation. Time & slam wins will tell.
Going on `Nolandy` are clearly Fedal’s heirs apparent, there will be no one else to take the game forward other than these 2. As at present no one comes close to them in terms of achievement and dominance.
Oh, and Andy Murray’s best is yet to come I’ll wager.
The back problems & surgery took away his momentum after Wimbledon, which required some processing anyway. But he now shows signs of finally being ready to crank it up a level & pick up from where he left off last summer.
He wouldn’t have had the surgery if it wasn’t a decisive measure so I’m willing to be hopeful that on Grass & HC at least, it won’t be an issue.
Who’s to stay he won’t have a multiple slam year like the others? I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but I’d be far from surprised either.


Margot Says:

@Hippy Chick
Damn, 12.25 so I’ll just have to come off this little ole mountain and re-caculate…;)
@mat4
Is that a generous two losses for the price of one excuse offer? ;)
@calmdownplease
Like your style….but like you not betting on it either. If he stays healthy, and that really is the big “if” could get 5 I guess.
BTW I’ve been supporting Andy since he was about 17, and he remains an “enigma” to me. You really don’t know which Andy will turn up, especially at RG. Could go out R1, could make the quarters. Who knows?
But I love puzzles! Andy is quirky, talented, funny, surprising, one moment can play like he a genius, the next like a dummy.
Andy rocks!


Margot Says:

^ Lol that’s 5, not 51, in case anyone thinks I have caught a very bad infection of fan insanity!


Hippy Chic Says:

Margot yeah still here,you can come dont from that mountain,anyway thats the whole point in the adage 1st time for everything?i was exactly the same regarding Andy,the moment i saw him force Nalbandian to come through in 5 sets all those years ago,i just knew he was GS winning meterial,much more appealing than the overated Tim Henman whom flattered to decieve,i was also a big Federer fan then somthing in me just changed my way of thinking when i saw Rafa for the 1st time,i like Novak im just not a fan,i was delighted last year when Rafa and Andy won GS last year,as i love them both,and i couldnt have asked for anymore….


calmdownplease Says:

Okay Andy hasn’t achieved even close to what the other 3 have in tennis, but!
He still has a bit of what they now do not have, & that’s fresher legs & a bigger chunk of unrealised potential.
Andy’s played quite a bit less than even Novak has on the tour (583 to Novak’s 702 & Nadal’s 827) so I feel, health permitting, that yes we are in for some kind of surprise from him.
The talent is there after all.
He was always the juniour of the big 4, let’s see what he does when graduation day arrives.


calmdownplease Says:

`Like your style….but like you not betting on it either. If he stays healthy, and that really is the big “if” could get 5 I guess`

5 more you mean?
I’m not putting a nubmer on it.
If he retained Wimbledon this year he’s already on 3 and he’s as good a bet for the US Open than anyone. As he well actually won it 2 years ago.
Has there been any health problems since he had elective surgery to stop a heath problem Margot?
I think I’m less worried about it than you, although any back surgery is big, it wasn’t a major back problem/surgery.
He won Wimbledon while enduring it FFS!


senorita Says:

Predictions are predictions.

It’s not just about Nadal and Djokovic. There are 128 players in the draw.


Okiegal Says:

@calm

I too am not a fan of the GOAT debate…….but do like your GOTT aspect better……..that makes much more sense. There are so many variables regarding “greatest of all time” imo……yeah, GOTT title I can go for!

@Chic and Margot

Andy is a guy you gotta love. I’ve said many times, Andy is his own worst enemy, so to speak. I’ve seen him do some pretty amazing stuff……and I personally think there’s more to come. I’m happy that the back seems to be coming along…….which is great since he will be in dire need of defending his Wimby title! Andy is definitely my second fav. Oh, and Margot, he still had a major surgery……


senorita Says:

Let’snot get carried away; It was not a MAJOR back surgery. Still it does take time to get over any surgery.

PLAYER NEWS 2013
MURRAY TO UNDERGO MINOR BACK SURGERY
London, England
by ATP Staff | 19.09.2013

Andy Murray will have surgery on his back next Monday, causing him to sit out the upcoming Asian swing.

“Next week Andy is set to undergo MINOR back surgery in an effort to clear up a long-standing back problem,” said a statement from Murray’s management team. “He will definitely miss tournaments in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai.


Daniel Says:

After RG, one side or the other will rise victorious: Rafa camp or Djoko camp. Most likely!

But also hoping form some else winning as well:

Imagine Wawa winning RG back to back with AO? Or Murray to shock everybody and stay only AO (Slam he reached the most finals ) to do a Sharapova and win one of each for a Career or Slam? Or even Federer, winning a second career Slam when basically none is given him any chance, me included? Or even some one outside this top dogs, as Kuerten did in 1997? But those days are over, the level of consistency required to succeed a=in todays men’s game is unprecedented. In Smapras days, he play 2 good tourneys and than lose next one second or third round and it was perfectly normal. Nowadays this guys (Fed, Nadal and Djoko) set the standard so high that Nadal being #1, reached 6 finals this year, winning 3 tourneys and some (me included) considered him in a mini slump. We truly are spoiled by this generation:-)


Okiegal Says:

There is nothing minor about any surgery especially if your are put to sleep…….there have been people who have died having minor surgery…they never woke up…..anesthetic is a side effect for any surgery, major or minor…..just saying…..I have been through this argument before and won’t change my mind!


Okiegal Says:

U R so right Daniel, we are spoiled!


Hippy Chic Says:

Okiegal eek ive had minor surgery twice,i had my thyroid gland taken out in my throat, and a growth removed from behind my right eye,i had a very sore throat after the 1st one,and a very sore eye ater the 2nd one ,like someone had hit me,they actually asked me before both ops about next off kins,thankfully im still here to talk about it though….


senorita Says:

If Andy says it’s was a minor surgery, I’m not going to argue with him.

Still as I said, there is no doubt that full recovery does take time even from minor surgeries, especially for a sport like tennis. I fully understand why it’s taken Andy so long, but let’s call a spade a spade.


Hippy Chic Says:

I see Andy winning a fair few more GS IMO i think he could win 5 or 6?i never talk about this player surpassing that player,or that player surpassing this player,as things change all the time in this sport,so i find it all unrealistic and of no relavance until/unless it actually happens,winning GS isnt easy it took Andy all his career to win the two he has,Novak won his 1st in 2008,and it was another 3 years before he won another,if it was that easy many more players would do it,theres many players on tour past and present whom are very talented that have not and probably will not win a GS in their whole careers?


Hippy Chic Says:

Senorita theres 128 people in the draw exactly,im sure one of them would like to have a say?


calmdownplease Says:

Senorita is correct.
Andy had a minimally invasive procedure removing a small piece of portruding bone that was causing the pain. It’s something serious enough to recover from for a sportsman of course, but in the grand scheme of things (ie in the world of spinal surgery) not too major an undertaking.
And not all back problems are created equal.
He did’t have Spinal Fusion for example.
Any major spinal surgery would have meant an end to his career.
No one so far has not woken up from local anesthesia either if he was out at all.
Right now Andy is in the process of regaining match fitness.
I think he is fully healthy now.
Better than before.
He’ll just have to watch it a bit.
My only beef with the wonderful Lendl (dare I say it)is that he apparently convinced Andy not to have this surgery immediately after the hysteria of Wimbledon,and carry on to defend the US.
He would have been ready for some time already had he not had it done then.


calmdownplease Says:

^I mean when Andy was clearly emotionally spent achieving the holy grail and could have used the time to take a breather anyway.


Okiegal Says:

@Chic

I have had two surgeries and when the doctor asked me to sign the “in case I don’t wake up paper” got my attention too! LOL I did and all is well…….

Lots of talk about the potential FO champion…..we will soon see. I am looking forward to it. I wonder who the upsets will
be? ummmm…………..


Okiegal Says:

I understood he was put to sleep, if not, and a local was used, totally different scenario.


calmdownplease Says:

Very glad you did okie!
`Minimally invasive` usually means local.
The disclaimer is a legal requirement regardless, as there is always a risk with surgery, however slight, at the statistical level.
Doesn’t help one get in the mood for some surgical assistance however.
But at least they don’t ask if you would like a nice wreath from the clinic should you not wake up, lol!


calmdownplease Says:

You can also have `twilight anesthesia` which is a much smaller amount of general and you are basically out of your wits but not unconscious.
The effect is easier to recover from and quite pleasant, they say.


Hippy Chic Says:

CDP are you glad i did?


TennisVagabond.com Says:

A few posters here seem under the impression Rafa is going away, either from fear of Novak or age, and Andy-Novak is the future.

Don’t count on it. If Rafa could come back, and keep coming back and getting knocked down and coming back again in 2011, he won’t suddenly pull a Borg because of an RG loss. Yes, he may take time off to regroup, but he’ll be back. There’s only a year between he and Novak and Andy. Andy is not going to inherit Rafa’s spot until Rafa chooses or his body forces him out, and we’ve been waiting for that to happen for years. Just as Rafa is resilient in the micro (point by point) so is he in the macro (career level).

And by the way, sports fans, how wild will Wimbledon be? As excited as we are for this two-horse race at RG, at Wimbledon we can legitimately count Fed and Andy as serious contenders, and Berdych’s stock will be much higher there as well.

Mat4 did a great job dissecting the match-up, but much of it hinges on Rafa’s second serve being attackable, and Rafa has had periods of his career where he’s really elevated that serve. Its not ridiculous to imagine he can do so again.

For all that Mat4 “proved” Novak to be invincible, somehow Rafa still has 8 RGs to ZERO. I am sure Rafa will prefer the hardware to the formulas and stats proving he shouldn’t really own them!


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Rafa is the bumblebee of tennis: science proves he shouldn’t be able to fly, and yet…


calmdownplease Says:

Yes HC,
I’m glad you did too :)


Hippy Chic Says:

Tennis Vagabond fantastic post,you understand perspective as always,anyway i think some of us Rafa fans myself included are seeing it for what it is in that the inevitable will happen sooner or later,and are simply ready for it whenever it does,not scared or anything just all matter of fact about it?


Hippy Chic Says:

LOL Tennis Vagabond nearly burst into song,im thinking Chumbawumbas one hit wonder,i get knocked down but i get up again,your never gonna keep me down….


Margot Says:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/tennis/24217149

Andy was “out” for 3 hours. When he “came round” the first thing he said was, “Did I win?” Bless :)
We’ve been over this and I don’t want to revisit. just stating the facts. Remember peeps, Andy downplays everything.
@calmdownplease
Recently Andy has said the op was not as successful as he’d hoped. But he seems so much better than he was. Clay makes it worse because a) doesn’t move with the fluidity of Raf/Nol/Fed/Fog etc b) he rotates his body in order to hit shots, rather than just use shoulders/wrists. This is not so effective, is more knackering and stresses his back.
However, this time last year he was having treatment on his back in clay court matches and couldn’t play RG. so that’s a reason to be cheerful.


Giles Says:

https://mobile.twitter.com/ebruna1973/status/469495879783960576
French President watching Rafa practice.
Vamos Champ!


calmdownplease Says:

`There’s only a year between he and Novak and Andy..`

Rafa is a pretty old 28 with 244 more matches on the tour than Andy. His one year age difference is secondary to this.
I’m sorry but I just can’t imagine him tottering about like Federer at 33, with his health issues and style of play.
It’s possible, but unlikely.


calmdownplease Says:

`Andy was “out” for 3 hours. When he “came round” the first thing he said was, “Did I win?”

Twilight maybe, rather than general?
Really, about the op’s success?
Oh well, at least it has improved things.
Just as well he is not focused around clay court tournaments then I would add.
Only one more to go Margot!


Hippy Chic Says:

Rafa is intent on playing Rio in the 2016 Olympics,highly doubtfull he will still be a factor,but as long as he wants to play then i am happy to watch him win or loose,Federer fans say the same about their guy,so im of the impression why shouldnt Nadals fans feel exactly the same?


Hippy Chic Says:

^So please Rafa might win or loose,let him play,and lets have no retirement talk,let the players themselves decide that.^


tramlines Says:

Everybody knows that Nole is one of the best players the game has ever seen however much of the analysis here is based on best of three ATP level events.

He hasn’t won a slam in the last four so how is he supposedly a heavy favourite suddenly?

At the French Open, as oddsmakers show, Nole is even with Nadal at best. He is not a clear dominant favourite on clay in Paris no matter how one spins it. As Raonic would say, “Hypothetically yes, technically no.”

Nadal has won the last three slam meetings between the two. Nole won the three prior slam encounters in 2011-12 when he was at his peak but has only one a single major in the last eight since.

It will simply come down to who executes better on that day in those conditions should they meet (an important qualifier).

For that matter, Federer could knock off either of them given recent form of all three players considered amongst other considerations.


Okiegal Says:

@Calm

Thanks for caring……lol

Regarding the French Open, I think there will be a few surprises, as always. Fasten your seat belts everybody, we may be in for a bumpy ride!! LOL…….and I for one, can’t wait!! Que sera sera…….


calmdownplease Says:

`For that matter, Federer could knock off either of them given recent form of all three players considered amongst other considerations…`

What a curious sentence after a rather sensible post.
Federer has no form whatsoever coming into RG and will not be knocking Novak or Nadal off of anything.
Unless he runs up behind them on the podium after the final and pushes them off it!


calmdownplease Says:

But of course okiegal.


tramlines Says:

CDP, need I remind you of who beat Nole in Dubai and Monte Carlo this year?

Nor is Nadal playing at the same level and consistency he showed in Melbourne when he beat Federer. Far from it.

It all comes down to a matter of match ups and execution between the three.

I believe my post was all rather sensible.


Okiegal Says:

My thoughts on Rafa’s regression……..we Rafa fans are gonna have to put our “big girl panties” on and see what shakes down. Our Rafa is in a very delicate situation……#9 on the line. The situation being the law of averages……can he do it? I think he can. He’s in his comfort zone at RG. The main thing is……does he think he can?? Vamos Rafa!! If he do, he do…..if he don’t, he don’t! He’s already
done great with 8!!


calmdownplease Says:

No you don’t.
Dubai is almost the exact opposite of RG and as a non Novak fan I will take the liberty and say he was…compromised at least, in MC and out for some time afterwards.
Since then Fed has just had more kids and was out round 2 in Rome.
Come on.
The level was pretty high in that Rome final,
by the second week of the French they should be ready.
Will Roger be, doubtful, and no he is not beating Nadal at RG.


Hippy Chic Says:

I could just see it now,shock,horror,panic Rafa looses at the FO,my goodness he should just retire,my goodness what a complete failure as a tennis player lol?


mat4 Says:

@Alison:

I hope Rafa won’t retire… not now that he is losing so easily against Novak… certainly not before Novak starts leading in the H2H…

@TV:

1. Don’t take my posts too seriously.

2. To quote master Oogway: the past is history, the future is mystery…


contador Says:

After watching reruns of the Rome Final, I have to say:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOVAK DJOKOVIC!

——————————

As for Rafa going away, I don’t think so. Even if he gets beat at FO, he is not going away. There, that is my prediction.

If Rome is any indication of what we may get in the FO final, I say it will be another tough five setter. The momentum in the Rome final was swinging like a pendulum – it was not a surgical display, starring Nole, like in Miami.

But there are many obstacles along the road to FO. Depends on who is strongest. Nadal was injured and too worn down by the final at AO this year, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, and Delpo were no where to be found, and STAN the Manislaw Wawrinka was still standing and swinging!

In whose draw will Nishikori land? There will be some great matches coming at FO – that is for sure.


mat4 Says:

On a more serious note, we can look at their stats from 2011 here:

http://www.tennisabstract.com/cgi-bin/player.cgi?p=NovakDjokovic&f=Acx2011011720140512qqo1&q=RafaelNadal

The results of the last matches are disheartening for Rafans. Even in 2011, Novak wasn’t close to the level of domination he shows now.

@Harry:

It seems you were right about the serve.


mat4 Says:

Hi, Conty! Glad you’re here.

It’s almost like in ol’ good times on this blog today.


mat4 Says:

Conty,

I haven’t watch Nishikori lately (almost a year). He was a fine player then, but his results look more and more impressive. What do you think he has improved?


Hippy Chic Says:

Yeah i cannot remember if i said it at the time,but HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOVAK anyway….


contador Says:

@mat4 *waves*

You did not watch Nishikori this spring on clay? Catch some of his recent matches on Youtube. Not sure what it is, maybe Michael Chang influence, but Kei has taken his tennis to an ever better level. The question is whether or not the pain he was having has had time to resolve. He could be a threat to everyone and anyone if he is feeling good.

Raonic has maybe had the most transformation in his tennis on clay. Milos has improved his movement a lot. There is a good chance that neither top seed get to the final ….not that I don’t want a Nole vs Rafa final. Rafole is exactly what I hope to get in the final with Nole winning! :D


Hippy Chic Says:

Nobody wrote Novak off when he didnt win the AO earlier this year which is his best GS,but i bet they do with Rafa,should he not win the FO this year,i dont actually see the difference,however we will see?


contador Says:

@ Hippy chic. Rafa has dominated the clay season and the FO in ways that turns himself into a monster that many of us want taken out in the final by someone. The effect on Rafa personally of losing the FO may not be as dramatic to him, as it is to us tennis fans. It is a way bigger deal to take out Rafa at FO than Nole at AO. That is the difference.


Hippy Chic Says:

Contador yeah but what i meant was i didnt think it mattered when Novak didnt win the AO this year,and i dont think its a disaster if Rafa doesnt win the FO this year either,but thats just my take?


contador Says:

Congratulations to the second seed in Nice making it to the semi-finals. GO Gulbis!

Gulbis vs Montana match tomorrow….just in case anyone out there other than me, cares…

Maybe we get a Gulbis v Simon final in Nice.

Jiri Vesely doing well in Dusseldorf – could he win an atp title?


mat4 Says:

@Alison:

You are perfectly right: one tournament is just this — one tournament. Life and tennis go on.

In my case, as a Connors fan, I liked to watch him even when he was 39, far from his best, and I am so disappointed that there are no better clips on youtube (although a few more appeared recently).

I do hope that Fed, Rafa, Novak continue to play the longest they can. Especially if Novak continues to beat Rafa the way he did in Miami ;-)


contador Says:

Oh @ Hippy chic. Yeah, but to Rafa himself? Losing the title at FO will not signal his retirement, even if some tennis fans think so. That guy Rafa has had his knees changed to stay in the game. He is not going anywhere. Nothing on him that cannot be fixed.

In fact, I have been imagining him going out early at FO and going on to win Wimbledon! Nothing surprises me, is the point.


Hippy Chic Says:

Contador lol i wouldnt mind him losing RG and going on to win Wimbledon or the USO,i just hope for a better showing than the past two years at W though urgh….


Hippy Chic Says:

Mat4 i have looked for clips of the late great Fred Perry on youtube been a Brit and also an all time great, which are also very scarce,anyway im positive Rafa will turn it around against Novak sooner or later ;-))….


Okiegal Says:

I’m sure non Rafa fans hope he never retires so it’s possible that he will get beat up on like Fed has. I am pretty sure Rafa retires before he lets that happen…….jmo. Rafa do hate to lose…..but who doesn’t?? It is a mystery what the future holds.

#luckistheticket??


senorita Says:

Steve Flink: The Plight of Rafael Nadal
4/29/2014 1:00:00 PM

“Those who succeed most frequently in the world of sports are held to the highest of standards. They are expected to win almost every time they compete. Most of their victories are taken for granted, while their defeats are examined excessively by many observers through a magnifying glass, and often blown way out of proportion. In many ways, the great players can be prisoners of their triumphs, judged harshly even by their most ardent admirers, asked by their vast legion of supporters to perform above and beyond what may be possible. The reality is that sometimes champions fall into unfamiliar patterns, losing their way psychologically, questioning their own credentials, becoming their own harshest critics.

And so it is with Rafael Nadal at the moment.”

Djokovic is not in this category, so his losses are not so spectacular.


mat4 Says:

@Okiegal:

Seriously, no provoc, no jokes, no “psychological warfare”, etc.

When you like a player, you first care about his results, you want him to become a part of the pantheon of that sport. But with the years passing by, you are just happy he is still around, he plays, he gives his best, he is not injured.

I like Mecir and I was so unhappy when he retired so early. Safin, one of my favs (you will notice that it is always the same kind of tennis players, power baseliners with a two-handed BH), was more interested by life than by tennis, and in fact he retired while still playing.

Not everything is in results, trophies. The game, the art, our youth probably too.

So, while I am not a fan of Rafa, I really hope he stays healthy and plays win the same inner energy for years to come, just like I enjoy watching Fed at 32 and hope to watch him at 37, playing a 250 somewhere, or Novak, even playing qualies in Casablanca at 38.


Okiegal Says:

@mat4

I too hope he plays on like Fed has. I really admire Roger for playing on because it’s obvious he loves the game so much……but having said that I know that there will be lots of the die hard Rafa haters that would love to see him playing on and watch his demise…….just like the die hard Roger haters love seeing him getting beat more often. I, like you, love to watch this sport and I hope these great players play on as long as they are physically able…….win, lose or draw! I LOVE TENNIS and we’ve been so fortunate to have had these awesome players to watch. I agree with everything you said in your last paragraph.


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